Not Mid Morning Matters

JD in the Morning, off air…

Tag: referendum

Decisions, decisions

Life can be seen as series of choices, right and wrong turns, decisions. We, as a nation, face a few in the coming weeks and months. Like all choices, turns or decisions they will have consequences and outcomes that we can never fully predict. Change is good thing and it is, mostly, a positive part of life. To not embrace change is to not embrace all life is or can be. Change is possibility realised.

It’s been a while since my last blog, before Christmas last year, and much has changed. And yet much more remains the same, constant, continues. Living with the loss of a child is dreadful. It’s not in the natural order of life. Having lost a parent, close family and friends both older and younger than me, this particular loss is consuming. At times it is all-consuming. Yet from this you have to change, evolve, make new turns and make decisions to combat it, to try to ride it or it will beat you.

This week I made the decision to take two days off work. I was tired, my mind is not as sharp as I want or need it to be (and has been this way for some time now) plus I could feel the hands of depression on my shoulders. I recognise these hands from times past and I am scared, truly scared of them grabbing me again. Work, my role, what I do with and for the BBC is a privilege and it has been my anchor since Polly was killed. For a few hours each day I can take myself out of my own porous wallow and help others, maybe. My fear of taking time off was that I would end up in my wallow with no escape. I was right. Yet I have made a couple of decisions to try to turn my one life around.

Firstly I have begun counselling. My fear of this was that I would end up popping the lid off the container of my life and may not be able to get it back on again. I liken it to a forgotten Tupperware container of leftovers at the back of the fridge that you should never pop the lid off to smell the contents, you should just throw it away, both container and contents. Well my lid is off and I shall see (and feel) what comes next. The hardest thing of all in counselling for me is answering questions, not asking them, and my not trying to control the conversation to arrive at the story’s denouement. I have no idea how this story will end and that is both frightening and comforting at the same time.

Secondly I have joined a gym. I don’t like gyms. They are not my tribe. Why would you run on a machine and not get anywhere? I needed to exercise though, lose a stone and paying to be a member of a gym means I have to actually go or I will fall into what gyms really want from their members, which is their money but not their attendance. I have often wondered what would happen to a gym is every member turned up at once? A week in and having been four times, including a great session of boxing, I can say that it is having a positive effect on me. I have only joined for three months so being a member of a gym has a beginning, a middle and an end.

And this is my biggest challenge.

Memberships, life, relationships, work, love all have a beginning, a middle and an end. The reality is that most of the time we don’t know where we are along this trio of progress and reality. Ends can happen unexpectedly. Sometimes you can see them coming and sometimes you can even avoid facing them. Sometimes you can even pro-activate them, such as our EU ‘in or out’ choice we all face on the 23rd June. But an end, any end is never as simple as that. Never.

The only thing we can all do is to try to make informed choices, to decide based on what we know and try to realise what we don’t. To blindly follow others, to make choices just based the past, on others or plain ‘leadership’ is both foolish and naive. Others choices are not our choices. You own your decisions and choices much like you own your vote.

My aspiration this year is to have the dullest year possible, to react rather than pro act (not ever my natural state) and this proving harder than I thought. I have some big decisions coming over the hill that may surprise me and others in their outcomes. One thing I have certainly learnt since my daughter’s death is that change comes in many guises. It is what you do when change comes that makes the next moment, the unknown, both challenging and revealing.

Here’s to the next choice, turn, decision and revelation.

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The United Kingdom? Why the majority needs a say NOW

We are still a United Kingdom, or Queendom if you prefer, as the vote in Scotland has given the whole of the UK a real chance to consider its political future. But will it? Not as I write. It seems that big P politics is set to get in the way, again.

The result from Thursdays referendum in Scotland was decisive, if not slightly born out of Westminster panic based on one Sunday Times poll. The real winner was democracy and the Scottish people with a voter turn out of 86%. The engagement of 16 and 17-year-old voters must mean that they are enfranchised on all future votes but the total turn out proves that when it really matters ‘we the people’ will get involved, listen to the arguments on both sides and vote. Politics in the UK could learn a lot from the experience of Scotland. This vote may also finally kill the ‘centre ground’, which has done more to damage democracy than anything else in a generation.

Yet as one question is answered many others are posed and one of those questions is very big. What of the rest of the UK and its governance? Scotland has it’s parliament, Wales and Northern Ireland have their Assemblies but England has, err nothing. That is not entirely true. England has councils, lots and lots of councils. There are parish, town, district and county councils plus unitary authorities and there are local enterprise partnerships, MPs and lets not forget MEPs too. The South West has six of those. All those people, elected and doing what? We are not short of governance or politicians to do it. They all cost you money and they all have their agendas.

If you have ever watched a council meeting or been part of this level governance at any level you can see why so little actually gets done. It’s a miracle that anything ever gets done. So does England need is own Assembly or Parliament as well as councils various or does it need to look at all the layers of government it currently has and make it more effective?

First question. Do we really need all the various councils we have? It is hard to get good Councillors, even harder to get people to vote for Councillors. Local government and governance is the one that actually affects us more day-to-day than anything else. Why not have one single level of local government rather than three or four? And why not pay those who do it too? No amateurs, part timers, parish pump types but local politicians dedicated to public service and paid properly for it.

Second question. Does England need a parliament too? The simple population statistic is that 85% of the United Kingdom … phew … Is English, in that they live in England. Minorities have their voices heard and constantly championed through assemblies, parliaments or pressure groups who are often shouting about how hard done by they are and why the need more money/representation/say/rights. The English majority have nothing. There is real need for an English parliament for English governance.

This would lead to an English and Scottish parliament, a Welsh and Northern Ireland assembly. Add to this a single tear of regional assemblies, and a House of Lords replaced by an elected Senate for UK wide issues and governance and Robert’s your father’s brother, it’s a new way of doing politics and running the UK.

The single tear regional assemblies plus a Welsh and a Northern Ireland assembly would deal with the day-to-day services we all use including education and health. An English and Scottish parliament would deal with law making, Police, Crime, Defence etc, oversight of regional assemblies and would have the ability to set and raise taxes. An elected Senate would deal with international policy, with oversight over parliament, National parliaments and assemblies and regional assemblies, and all this would be held in check and balance by select and scrutiny committees, both regionally and nationally.

This means you only have to vote three times; locally, nationally and for the senate. It might also arrest the real danger that government by consent of the majority is slowly heading for government created from the apathy of the majority and narrow politics of the minority. Change is needed as we are increasingly getting the Councillors, MPs, party leaders and government we deserve.

One last thing. We need to teach democracy in schools.

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