Not Mid Morning Matters

JD in the Morning, off air…

What M.E?

In the last few weeks I have seen the best and the worst of what we are capable of. The worst was on a beach in Tunisia and those who died at the trigger of an Islamic Extremist gunman. This is only the beginning of this story from the country that seeded the Arab Spring. Tunisia and Europe will struggle to come to terms with the consequences of summer of 2015 and the biggest problems may have already begun. Any country that relies on tourists spending money for a significant part of its GPD is going to hurt as this cash tap is turned off. The financial pain that Tunisia will feel will be very easily harnessed by those who have no desire to encourage the West back with their flabby white bodies to its turquoise seas and sandy beaches. Maybe this is part of the terrorist plan? As ever social media will have its dark, digital hand in all this.

Yet something else has kept my hope alive and well.

Two weeks ago I went to see a 38 year old woman called Naomi at her home to interview her for my BBC radio programme. I don’t like doing what are known as a ‘pre-rec’ after a three hour live programme. I always feel ‘flat’ and feel I lack the ‘spark’ a live show and red ‘ON Air’ light gives me. After this interview I will never be so pathetic again.

Naomi has lived with M E, Myalgic Encephalopathy, for 25 years of her life. She went from being a bright, vibrant young girl to seriously ill in a matter of weeks. Now Naomi is barley able to get up from her bed for 20 minutes a day because of a virus and how her body reacted to it. When I knocked on the door to interview Naomi I knew little about M E. other than its dodgy reputation and the questions about whether it was actually a real illness. When I left Naomi’s parents home where she lives, having spoken to her, her mother and brother for an hour I cried.

I played the recorded interview out on my radio programme, put the video of Naomi’s story up on social media, lovingly made by her brother Tom, and thought that was it. I was wrong.

I am not a big fan of social media. It seems to be little more than a platform of inanity and fantasy. At it’s worst it is a vehicle of anger, hatred and allows those who delight at taking offense at anything to hide behind their made up names and say hurtful, stupid and ill-informed things without real consequence or responsibility. This is not to be confused with free speech. Free speech is saying what you feel or believe and having the courage to be seen standing up to say it. At its very worst social media is full of narcissists and the delusional with a worrying need ‘followers’ or ‘friends’, a mob of cowardly, unidentifiable cockwombles hiding, carping and hating.

Social media can also be a huge force for good; a force for change and it can give voice to those who don’t have one. Naomi’s story on the radio and  Naomi’s video story has revealed thousands like her who are suffering, thanks to social media.

I never knew how big a problem M E is. It is only through Naomi’s courage in giving what little energy she had in telling her story and allowing me to share her story that others now have a voice too. Thanks to Naomi others can get help and have hope. This includes my own stepsister who I never knew has M E until this week.

I will now do more to help others with this condition. M E is dreadful, debilitating illness that when it takes hold it never lets go. For Naomi, for all those living with chronic pain and M E, I will do more while I can. I will also use social media too because I can finally see what it can do rather than what it seems all too capable of doing now.

Take it home you tosser

In the last month the city of Bristol, European Green Capital 2015, admitted that it collected 18% more rubbish from residents homes in the last year than it did in the previous year. This is the rubbish residents of the city through out every day that doesn’t go in one of three recycling boxes. This is rubbish, in every sense.

The result is the city council has decided to take the refuse collection contract off the current provider, who were clearly struggling to make it work, and are going to now collect the rubbish and recycling ‘in house’. Residents have been told there should be not ‘noticeable’ change to the service when this happens in August and it will all be reviewed after a year. Are you worried about bin day? Let’s just see how it goes. There is one thing we should seriously all be worry about though. Where is all this rubbish coming from that can’t be recycled and where is it all going? A hole in the ground? Packed up in bales and stored on a dock somewhere causing a fly infestation?

Bristol’s excess rubbish is now being processed at a plant in Avonmouth. Cleverly this plant turns our none recyclable rubbish into pellets and these shipped on a slow boat to Sweden to be burnt and turned into energy. Quite why that can’t be done in the UK is confusing but it is probably down to the usual ‘yes we want renewable and sustainable energy, of course we do, its very important to the future of the planet, so long as its not generated anywhere near me’ attitude.

Let’s get back to that increase of the amount of rubbish collected, up by almost a fifth in twelve months. Why so much? The jury is out on this but I have an idea. For one week I put every bit of plastic and every bit of paper that passed though my hands and home into two bin liners. The plastic was mostly unwanted and unnecessary packaging and paper was mostly unsolicited mail and leaflets. In 7 days both bin liners were full of packaging I didn’t want and paper I didn’t ask for. This has to stop and we have the power to stop it.

For the record I am no ‘knit your own underwear, lentil eating, tree hugging’ Green but I am sick of companies and others making me throw away stuff I don’t need and I didn’t ask for. It is this excessive rubbish that is in our control. Maybe its time to leave it all at the shop or send it back to the company or send it back to those who deliver it like Royal Mail with a note saying ‘no thanks, you deal with it, I don’t want it’.

All this rubbish also leads to the litter that is all over our streets. Bristol City Council spends over 5 million pounds a year on clearing litter and chewing gum off the streets. Or, to put it another way, the annual budget for libraries, which is facing a 20% cut, goes on clearing up the detritus that we leave all over Bristol. If nothing is done we will still have dirty streets and we will have less places for people to read and borrow books. There are many ‘reasons’ that this rubbish is on our streets; not enough bins, bins not emptied enough, recycling not collected properly and blowing out of the boxes. The list is endless but these are all excuses not reasons. The time has come that we all pick up litter when we see it up and put it in the bin at home. Initially there will be another increase in the rubbish collected but if we have cleaner streets and say to companies giving us packaging and leaflets we don’t want it will eventually change. There will be less rubbish, less litter and we can make this happen.

I will be starting a campaign soon called #takeithomeyoutosser and it is going to be very simple. From crisp packets, to takeaway wrappers, to dog doings in little black bags that dog owners arrogantly think is okay to leave on a public path my message is going to be very simple. Just take it home you tosser. I have had enough of my council tax being wasted on litter and living in a city that is dirty, the streets strewn with rubbish and bags full of dog poo. We can all do something about it that does not involved a committee or money or anything other that each of us picking up the litter, taking it home and making not acceptable for anyone to litter anywhere.

Polls apart

For the last six weeks I have honoured the BBC’s request of me to step aside from the daily ‘phone in show I love and present the afternoon show, which was great fun and I really, truly enjoyed. It reminded me that radio and broadcasting is to inform, educate and entertain and I thank the BBC for this.

I also took this chance to positively step away from all the news I could. I avoided reading the newspapers, blogs, magazines, linked articles, opinion pieces or listening to podcasts. I just listened to the local news when I was on air and other news when it came to me, rather than me actively looking for it. I haven’t watched a news programme in over 6 weeks apart from the election night coverage. In the last few days, minded I am going back to my topical news based radio show on Monday 18th May, I thought I should get ‘up to speed’ on things and start to cram. I need not have bothered. Hardly anything has really happened nationally or locally apart from a change of government that the media failed to see coming.

I have learnt a great deal this year about many things. Firstly, the real kindness of people in contrast to how foul and depraved others can be for no real reason other blind stupidity, misplaced loyalty or actual mental health issues that could happen to any one of us at any time. Secondly, there is a real contrast between reporting and actual journalism in our papers and in on our broadcast media. There is plenty of the former but very little of the later. Thirdly, the news really doesn’t change that much at all. You might like to think it does but, in reality, nothing much happens other than the constant reporting on reports.

Here is a prime example of this. According to one study by a leading University on how the general election was covered by the main broadcasters, over a third of the coverage was based on reporting the polls. Broadcasters reported how close the polls were and what would happen if the polls were the actual result. There were lots of talking heads about red lines, coalitions, compromises and so on. The press followed this too. Nobody asked the question ‘what if the polls are wrong?’. In contrast the NHS got less than 2.5% of TV news coverage and according to other polls the NHS was a key issue in the election. Were those polls wrong too? In the current post-mortem of the election with the Left is complaining the Right got biased coverage and vice versa, we should all be complaining that our news was dominated by polls and surveys but very little actual journalism.

Any journalist should ask questions, get answers and then question those answers, regardless of what he or she might actually think. Thinking is not knowing and when you hear or read the phrase ‘I think’ it should be a warning to us all. Reporters are not journalists and journalists should not be reporters. To report and not to question is not news. To have an agenda and report it is not news. If you want this then buy your daily newspaper of choice just to confirm you were right all along.

Here’s a thing to try. Buy a newspaper you don’t usually take and see how you feel once you’ve read it. Listen to and watch other sources of news. Find local bloggers writing about where you live. Go beyond the lazy reporting and ask questions of those who just rehash press releases or report what they have been given without asking a single question about it.

The biggest lesson I have learnt over the last six weeks is to question everything and believe me I will, starting now.

Election Predictions

There will be an election, there will be a result, there will be a government and there will be a lot of coverage, an awful lot of coverage. Reporters will be standing outside doors and buildings talking about what is, isn’t or might be or not be going on inside. Or not. Old political faces who are not ‘in the room’ will be talking about what is going on ‘in the room’. All this, which could go on for weeks, will happen while we the voters wonder what was the point of our X marks the spot on Thursday 7th May. Please vote though, it matters. It really matters.

There will also be winners and losers, careers made and careers destroyed. From 10pm on Thursday 7th May until around 5pm on Friday 8th May it will be theatre and reality at its most brutal, without gallons of Kensington claret. Yet shouldn’t there have been something more to this whole General Election thing? It was briefly touched on during this ridiculously long and terminally dull campaign. The world beyond our shores.

Our world is in a parlous state and that world is part of our country whether we like it or not. We can no more shut the doors on our boarders and then ride around in a fantasy 1950’s England with baskets on the front of our bikes, doffing our hats to the vicar from the church we all go to on Sunday, than we can ignore what is actually happening in the world we all live in and on. And least we forget that the 50’s ‘Kath Kidston’ ‘I could leave me back door open’ ‘we was poor but we was ‘appy’ image was forged from two conflicts that cost us dearly in every way but required us to step up and be.

We can and we should influence our world today but this requires statesmen, stateswomen and statecraft. This requires real political will. It also requires our commitment to do better, to be better and to stop dwelling on the mistakes made in the past or use them as an excuse for our inaction to influence the future. Our duty, because of our history and our place in our world, is to do more and be more than just anxious bystanders claiming ‘its not my problem mate’ or that we ‘are not the worlds policeman’.

As a nation, as a people we are better than that and it’s about time our leaders, all of them, faced up to what is actually happening in and to our world. Our leaders, what ever combo is ultimately in government (NOT power), need to actively take part in our world to help sort it out. Why? Because I have four children who I want to grow up safe and happy.

Since the recession we have become insular and inward looking. Our national leaders have followed this. They have amplified this tune and, as a result, our politics have become the ideas of the niche. Political parties have sprung up like dandilions each with a ‘solution’ for a ‘thing’. There are no grand ideas, no proven track records, no statecraft of statesmanship just a lot of little parties dealing with ‘immigration’ or ‘equality’ or ‘pay’ or ‘rights’ but beyond their founding principles they fall apart once questioned and scrutinised.

Democracy is not easy. It’s not supposed to be. It is about the elected majority bringing the minority along with it and not leaving them behind while they are ‘in power’ to feel there is nothing in it for them. If any government uses that ‘in power’ phrase we should all be very scared. If the majority fails the minority then anger sets in with that minority and they do stupid things like hide in the shadows, graffiti cars and try to scare innocent people. They act like 13-year-old boys yet to discover masturbation.

The politics of the majority seems be about telling us what is wrong and who is to blame for it, usually the minority. That is an easy hit but it’s not so easy to actually do something about it. We have a generation of evidence for that. Politics must change and if there is a low turnout in this general election, say below 63%, that could finally be the tipping point toward that change.

In the coming months lets hope we can really consider our place in society and our place in the world. The coming months must also be about Governments first responsibility to all of us. To keep us safe, in everything that means.

One last thing. After the results and the pantomime, politicians please leave us alone.

The lack of NHS Mental Health Care is madness

In the last few months I have met someone, fallen in love, moved home, got engaged, been forced to ‘go public’ by one of my main employers about my relationship to protect their values while totally compromising mine, lost a job I loved to my bones, again found myself in the papers for something I said that I didn’t actually mean, been the victim of some pretty shoddy journalism and, to cap it all, I been the subject of death threats.

I am now getting some counseling and support for all this. Having suffered Depression before I recognized the signs of what was beginning to creep over me again. I am paying for this support myself because I can and I don’t want to burden the NHS. There are many who can’t access or won’t get the help and support they may need because Mental Health Care in the UK is appalling.

Imagine that someone threatened to kill you, to actually kill you. In my case the individual wrote to my partners place of work and threatened to run me over, then called to say that it would happen, then wrote again and included the newspaper articles I never wanted to be in with my face burnt out implying this is what would happen to me. The police were called. They came to our home in the evening and took a statement. My partner then took the two police officers to her office and gave them what had been sent threatening me, complete with their name and address. I was left at home shocked and I had never been more scared in my life for my children, for those I love and for me too.

Later that night the police went to the individual’s home and made an arrest, finding further evidence of their intent. Within 24 hours the individual was sectioned under the Mental Health Act. A few days later another threatening phone call was made from the secure unit the individual was being held in.

Please read that last paragraph again.

For anyone to threaten another’s life and really mean it is extreme. The threats to me were not the threats or thoughts of a sound mind. It implies that they are under some form of mental distress and it’s likely they have needed some help for some time. The individual who threatened me was failed by their family, friends, society and, most worryingly of all, Mental Health Care in the NHS. How can any individual get to the point that they send threats to kill anyone and they not be protected or be offered support from their mental state?

The answer is simple. For far to long Mental Health has been the very poor relation in the NHS and it now needs serious money. Mental Health is not sexy, it’s not glamorous, there’s no money in it, it’s full of stigma and, because its not easy to ‘cure’ or diagnose, it is very easy to ignore. A broken limb or a little girl with cancer are some of the things the NHS are brilliant at. Good luck to you if you have a Mental Health problem. The reality is that one in four of us who WILL suffer with some form of Mental Health problem in our lives. We are told to ‘pull ourselves together’ get a ‘stiff upper lip’ or we just ignore it, until it all gets too much and then we do something ‘nuts’ like threatening to kill someone. Only in a crisis does the NHS help those with Mental Health problems.

My hope is that the individual who threatened to kill me is now getting all the help, support and treatment they need and have probably needed for some time. Mental Health and those who need real help must be given the support and treatment they deserve. We all need to be be more aware and do more to make this happen for those we know and love should they be in distress. You wouldn’t leave a fractured arm to fester, so why leave anyone with a fractured mind to break and potentially do something that may harm themselves or others?

Mental Health needs the real investment and respect it deserves. Nobody should ever get to the point that they threaten to kill anyone. I hope that you never suffer any form of Mental Health issue or problems with your mind because if you do the NHS is not the body fit enough to help you.

It’s election time, there’s no reason to be afraid

It’s less than a month until the nation decides, until we get our chance to have our say. Excited? No, me neither.

The Fix Term Parliament Act has taken all the excitement and fun out of ‘the election’. We knew when this election was going to be, if we actually gave a stuff, years ago. So did the politicians and so did the media. All this nonsense about TV debates not happening and candidates not being ready or prepared is utter tosh. If any of them are not ready then, frankly, get off the stage preferable pursued by a bear. That would make great TV. Channel 5 would make a series out of it.

There was a time, not in a good ole days ‘Gorr blimey, ‘ave a banana, we use to leave all our windows and doors open’ way, when elections were called and you got three weeks of campaigning. Out would trot the political candidates wearing oversize rosettes like podgy gymkhana ponies asking for your vote. Then, after polling day, they left you alone again for another four years or so. Now Politicians seem to have it in their heads that we want to hear from them all the time. Politicians should be like the bank manager, the Doctor or the police. You never, ever want to hear from them because when you do it’s usually bad news.

The 2015 General Election has been going on since the party conference season last year, and look where we are in the polls? It’s neck and neck and not a cigarette paper (to be found behind a screen and soon to be in a plain packet because nanny knows best) between the two main parties in policy terms. At least some of the smaller parties have more radical or wacky, far out, sensible or stupid policies. Please delete or use the words you feel fits your politics.

Politicians have got to stop thinking we care about them and are actually interested in them. Politicians have a job to do and we have our life to lead. Our electoral contract should be as simple as this. I elect you as an MP or Councillor and then you go away and do your job. You don’t get in my way or tax me too much. You are fair to everyone, not just those who support your party and you keep me safe. And stop asking me what you should do as I elected you to do it, as I have my own life to lead.

A sensible, liberal democracy should allow us the right to vote freely and then to be left alone. If Politicians or political parties are going to muck about with our local schools, healthcare, energy bills or the tax I pay (and tax IS the price of civilisation) then it better be for the REAL benefit of my family, friends and me. If not then you’re out next time.

A few last points.

If you are a political party member or standing for election don’t think most of us give a stuff about your party’s ‘vision’ or ‘policies’ because we don’t. Have you ever read a manifesto? More people are members of the RSPB than are members of all the main political parties. We like birds more so maybe politicians should more like birds? Maybe, if you want to get elected, you should dress up as a chicken or a cock.

TV debates are for a presidential system not for our constituency based electoral system. You and I should be voting for the best person to represent us where we live, not a just a leader and a bunch of party lemmings to do their bidding.

Any politician who says they want ‘power’ or ‘when we are in power’ or ‘when we get into power’ must be denied that power at all costs. You are not voting anyone into power. You are voting for someone to represent you, your family, your friends and your neighbors. You are voting for someone to keep you and yours safe and well. Any election candidate who wants power is in the wrong country. You and your vote is the power and those you elect are your servants.

The General Election is all well and good and when you have your MP you will either desperately need their help (and I hope this never happens to you) or you will want to avoid them like a bad smell emanating from an old dog. Please remember the local elections too, as this matter more in your everyday life. Local Councils and your local councillor are more important than your MP.

Finally to that vital democratic cross you have. It’s yours to use. It is real power that you give in majority to your elected representative. Many have died for you to use your vote. Your vote is not free. Your vote comes with responsibility and reason. If you decide not to vote that is your absolute right in our democracy, but if you don’t vote then you can’t moan about the ‘bloody government or council’.

No place like an afforable home

Today the average house price in the UK is over £190,000. That’s the average, the mean and for many this mean means they will never be able to afford to buy and own their own home. Almost a third of adults in the UK now do not own their own home and they will never be able to afford this dream, even with a 20% discount. The great British aspiration of home ownership, which we all long for, has been central to government policy since the 1960’s. With home ownership comes your stake in society and its forward march to a better tomorrow. You will have something to leave to the next generation. You will be safe and you will be part of the great and the good. The trouble is that this is nonsense and part of one of a number of very controlled and calculated cons.

The first con is that you buy your own home. The reality is that unless you have the cash to do this you don’t buy it. You borrow to buy it. You take out a huge debt to ‘buy’ your own home and, if you are very lucky, you will pay it all off in 25 years. The bank owns your home and, until you pay them back, they own you too. The debt you have will get smaller over time if you choose repayment over interest only, but this is assuming you don’t move, you don’t borrow any more against the property as its value goes up and you keep up the repayments. The average age of the first time buyer is now in the mid thirties and this means if you don’t move, win the lottery or have an inheritance you will pay off the mortgage when you are 60. That is just 7 years of paying nothing before you retire. The average age that mortgages are paid off has increased by a decade in a decade.

The second con is that your home is an asset, an investment and your financial security. None of this is real. The reality is that successive governments have controlled the building of new homes and applied the basic economic principle of supply and demand to control property prices. By controlling the number of homes built and keeping this significantly smaller than the demand the prices rise. An increase in property prices is good for business, whatever your business is, including power.

The third con is that rising property prices makes those who ‘own’ their own homes feel better. The rise in property values is not real. The money is not real. You can’t hack out a brick from the back wall of your home and take it to Tesco to buy your shopping with it. The only way the rise in property prices works for you is when you sell your property and buy something smaller. Successive governments have manipulated the building of homes to make the middle classes feel better with rising property prices. Pick up any black top tabloid newspaper and you will see the obsession with property prices, freak weather, wonder pills and Princess Diana. Tabloids and TV are constantly feeding the beast that is the property market.

The truth is that successive governments since the 1970’s have failed to build enough homes and, most importantly, the right sort of homes for people to live in. Council houses, social housing, starter homes (that you will have to move from if you start a family thus increasing your mortgage debt and its duration) family homes and, most importantly, homes where they are actually needed have all been lacking for a generation in any significant number.

The truth is that the Green Belt that everyone gets so precious about is little more than a foolish aspiration born in the 1950’s. The Green Belt is steeped in a myth of rolling fields and gambling lambs. In reality the Green Belt is strangling families, towns and cities from building the homes needed.

The truth is that we all need to accept that building homes is not only needed but essential for everyone and stop being ‘not in my back yard’ about it. Yes there are brown field sites, old shops and commercial buildings that can be converted into homes but our friends, family, loved ones and you deserve a home that you can afford, where you want to be and that you can afford.

The politics of greed and aspiration with home ownership has caused a very real housing crisis. It has hurt those suffering under welfare reforms who don’t have a smaller home to move to through to those who can’t have the home they need because they simply can’t afford it. Not building homes is bad politics, it’s bad planning, it’s bad socially and, most of all, it’s nonsense.

Kermit The Frog is right.

Muppet and philosopher Kermit the Frog sang the truth. It’s not easy being green. For some it is a political belief and it’s fair to say that there are more political Greens now than ever before but, for the majority of us, what is being Green?

Is being Green about having low energy light bulbs, sorting our rubbish into the many, various boxes for collection, turning off our electrical equipment rather than leaving it on standby and trying not to waste our valuable resources that we all know are finite? There has to be more to it than that. Maybe it’s about picking up litter and looking after our own environment? I’ve done that recently where I live and I’ve seen the results of other litter picks and, frankly, the amount of rubbish we leave behind us is shocking.

The big problem with ‘going Green’ is that we have been told we must do it, we sort of get it but we are not entirely convinced that what we are doing will make any real difference to us or anyone else. It all comes down to cost for most of us in both money and time. If being Green means we save money, time and the planet then that’s all good then. If going Green protects the environment then that’s nice, so long as it doesn’t cost me or inconvenience me. Selfish? No. Realistic? Yes. Take away the politics and going Green is, in many ways, a better way to live so long as we all do it.

I do recycle, turn off lights when I’m not using them, I try not to use packaging or bags if I can avoid it, which is hard when they even shrink-wrap individual bananas in one supermarket, and I want the environment to be better for my children than it was for me in the past. The trouble is I’m just not convinced that what I am doing is making a jot of difference. I worry that being Green is more about other’s agendas than it is about my actions. How can covering our green fields with solar panels possibly be Green?

Bristol is the European Green Capital for 2015. This is something for Bristol and the country to be proud of and for us to get behind, but what does this actually mean beyond a great headline? The website says ‘A year celebrating Bristol’s leadership in creating healthier, happier cities’. No clues on the website telling me how they will do this.

What does Green Capital really mean? Honestly I don’t really know. I have asked many, many times for a clear definition and what it will mean to individuals. There are, of course, events, conferences, talks plus a giant whale that will be made out of recycled materials and some old boats in a wood that isn’t even in Bristol. Will any of this make us more Green?

Maybe the answer to Bristol 2015 European Green Capital is to get us talking about being Green and understanding why. If this is the case then I look forward to talking, hearing and learning. I fear though that it will be more about a lot of worthy nodding and agreeing that ‘something must be done’, talking about ‘community involvment’, harnessing ‘cultral diversity’, ‘learning lessons’ and having a ‘meaniful dialogue’.

My biggest fear is that by the end of the year we will still be sorting our own rubbish, maybe picking litter up from our own streets but, most of all, being none the wiser or Greener and feeling like a bunch of muppets.

If in doubt make it up, just like the papers and bloggers

In the last few days I have had a taste, an amuse bouche as to what it’s like to be the subject of a press story rather than being a commentator on them.

The news of my engagement to Charlotte Leslie ‘broke’ late Wednesday night on-line. First it was on the Bristol Post site followed by The Times 2 article. This second article was the one we did together, where they asked us questions to do the story. No other paper asked us anything.

Why did we do it? The BBC asked me to be overtly open about my relationship with Charlotte, me having told them in early October that it was serious. I had certainly not hidden it. I had been see out many times with Charlotte and told anyone who would listen we were together but the BBC wanted me to let the listeners know, to do a press article and to be open to everyone. Why? Impartiality. To protect the BBC’s impartiality, to protect me from accusations of partiality, to protect the audience and to make sure that I can’t be accused of being partial in the future. So be it and so it was done as I love my job and feared losing it.

What has been interesting in 48 hours since the original article was published is the response and the subsequent reporting in other papers and on-line. It was not what I was expecting in any way. The comments where lovely. Some were nasty but that says more about them than the story. Freedom of speech is a right we all enjoy, so long as it is based in truth. Ed Miliband and Lord Fink may have found this taking to their lawyers on Wednesday afternoon following PMQs.

I am a private person who has a personal life. I am with Charlotte because I love her but I was dreading the reaction to our going public about something very personal. The real prospect of some putting 2+2 and getting 22 was scary.

The fact is that I’m not card-carrying member of any political party, I’m not a union member nor have I ever been one of those who follow one political party or its ideals. I question those who are as I question those who follow a single faith. I have political views and I have faith but I have many questions on both. Those who claim they follow or believe without questions or doubts worry me greatly. They should worry you too. As Billy Connelly once joked ‘never trust anyone with just one book’. What will be interesting in the coming days and weeks will be those who will claim I have ever been politically partial. Find it, prove it and I will happily admit it.

My biggest concern has been the reporting of the story. The original article in The Times was fine, with a few odd points and some odd bending of the facts. The other articles and reports were frankly full of bollocks, not least of which that I am in my 50’s. I was born in 1966, I am currently 48 and will be 49 in October. That makes me in my 40’s. On the face of it a mistake? No. It was a lie to make me older, to make the age difference between me and Charlotte bigger and therefore make her look bad. Disgraceful, partial and just wrong. So much for press accuracy post Leveson.

This was the first time in my life I have been in the papers and they got it wrong, with a partial agenda. Other on-line sites also blogged and wrote some utter tosh too. The result is this. I will never trust what I read in any paper ever again and I urge you to do the same. As for blogs they are fine for thoughts and ideas. Blogs that claim facts with out source and evidence or are partial in any way Please read them with a large pinch of salt at the ready, much like the bible, The Daily Mail or any book by Jeffery Archer.

My politics are mine, my job is to question everything as is my personal persuasion. The fact is I was born on the 2nd October 1966 and I look forward to being 49 later this year, and, if I’m very lucky, married to Charlotte too.

The NHS is not safe in anyone’s hands.

The NHS is in crisis. It’s probably been in crisis since it was founded in July 1948. It will be in crisis no matter how much money you throw at it or who runs it. It doesn’t matter which political party comes up with yet more policy or politics on the NHS or who changes it or who blames the other for what they did. Politics has put the NHS in crisis. They are all at fault. They are all to blame. To blame each other is naive and utterly insulting to us, the voter.

The most naive part of the NHS was the founder himself. Bevan’s devastating mistake was not to have the foresight to factor in the likelihood that medical advances and an ever progressive medical profession would render a health service free at the point of need impossible to deliver. If you marry medical advances and science to an NHS promised in our low taxation economy, as pledged by our two principal political parties, the NHS as promised is, frankly, little more than a big fat lie. It just can’t be done and all political parties should come clean and tell us the hard truth. Neither Labour or the Conservatives will give the NHS the £8bn it has asked for.

Let’s deal with the basic principle of the NHS being free at the point of need. This is a worthy aspiration and it is achievable, if it’s not confused with free at the point of want. ‘Need’ really means this: if you are fat and want a gastric band because you want to be thin then you pay for it. You can be treated for any mental health issues that make you eat excessively so you stop eating so much. But it is for you get off your arse, reduce your food intake and exercise. It’s not the state’s job to make you thin, that is down to you.

An NHS free at the point of need is about the heart attack, the broken leg, a stroke or Ebola. It is not for want as in ‘I want a nicer nose as my nose is to big’. But what about the heart attack due to smoking and drinking or poor diet or lack of exercise? That is why *in a world where the NHS is free at genuine ‘need’* you must pay more tax to fund your *own* failings in you not looking after you. You either pay more tax under they current system or you don’t get anything free at the point of *immediate* need, let alone at the point of want.

What of the future of the NHS? As it is now it can’t survive? There isn’t the money or the resource to deal with an ageing population who can be kept alive thanks to costly medical science and its continued advances. It is medical science that defies nature and keeps us going long after nature should have taken us.

So here is my prescription for an NHS worthy of all.

1. All political parties need to stop blaming each other for the NHS in crisis. They have all caused it and they have failed us by not being honest in what is needed. In simple terms, you and I need to pay more tax for the NHS to work. We need to pay for a GP appointment, much like those who can pay for the dentist and optician now. The same exemptions would be applicable. If we don’t turn up to the appointment we must to be fined £10 before we can see a doctor again. Personal responsibility starts with all of us treating the NHS with respect and responsibility.

2. We need be more responsible for our own health and not expect the NHS to pay for what we knowingly do to harm our health. If you want to smoke, drink to excess, go rock climbing, skiing, caving, ride a horse, surf and so on then you need to take out some insurance to protect you if you come to some harm. Don’t expect us all to pay for your choices.

3. It is a bit late for many of us but our children need to be educated about health and wellbeing at school, as part of physical education. They need to be taught how to exercise throughout life, what to eat, first-aid and life-saving, how the body functions and how to take care of it. In a generation, through education, we may have a healthier society than we have now. *If we achieved that,* they *might even* be fortunate to pay less for an NHS free at the point of need.

4. The current NHS needs to be split into the following basic groups. Acute Care, Chronic Care, Social Care and Elder Care. You will fall into one or more of these categories and will be treated accordingly.

5. Pharmacies need to be empowered to deal with sniffles and basic ailments with the power to prescribe and, if needed, refer accordingly.

6. GP’s need to be open 7 days a week, 9am to 7pm. Outside these times you wait or if it really is an emergency you go to A and E. This is THE last port of call on the NHS not the first stop in our ‘I want it sorted now’ society of today.

7. 111 must be scrapped. Like NHS Direct before it, it is a fundamentally flawed idea, thought up by a bunch of Whitehall wonks who didn’t think it through. If you’re ill you need to speak to someone medically trained, not a call handler.

8. Most importantly, we all need to be educated to take responsibility for our own health. It’s not the government’s job to make you better, it’s your responsibility to do everything you can to keep you well in the first place. If you take risks or make choices that impact on your health then you must be responsible for the consequences, regardless of income or social standing. Being rich or being poor is no excuse for poor health.

Being fit and well is all of our individual responsibility. Paying tax for those who are genuinely unable to be fit and well in our society, so they can be cared for properly, is the mark of a civilised society. Tax is the price of civilisation. We all have a responsibility to do all we should to look after ourselves in the first place so the NHS is only used when we really need it.

Finally, as this is an election year, perhaps our politicians can be honest about the NHS, its cost, its failures and its future rather than blaming each other for their collective failings since its inception back in 1948. That would be start to saving the NHS for all of us.

%d bloggers like this: