Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Asda’s gaffe shows mental health is still a ‘joke’

THIS blog was going to be about football or some other mundane thought rattling in my head, but thanks to Asda, it’s an angry rant.

You may have seen that the store has apologised this evening for trying to sell a ‘Mental Patient Halloween Costume’.

Oh it gets better... it even came with the strapline ‘Everyone will be running away from you in fear in this mental patient fancy dress costume’.

Oh it gets better again....the costume is a blood soaked shirt with meat cleaver! Yes because Asda’s wonderful creative department think everyone with mental health issues has been on a rampage recently.

For crying out loud it’s 2013, we have hybrid cars, TVs the size of a small country, we manage many diseases, we deliver babies in women’s homes, we send humans into space so why the F*** is it acceptable to a) make sick jokes about mental health and b) still not have serious discussions about the subject.

Why on earth can a major supermarket sell costumes like this but people even with mildest depression are told to ‘cheer up’?

Why on earth can we make jokes and sport stars with depression are told to ‘grow up’ and why do people still back away from those with any form of mental health problem.

I haven’t shared this with many but my mum is slowly succumbing to dementia and over the last 2 years I have seen people, friends even, back away from seeing her because they don’t understand what is happening.

That is not to say they are bad people, far from it but an example of how uneducated we are about all mental illnesses; from depression, personality disorders, ADHD and bi polar to Alzheimer’s and dementia.

None of it can be cured, just managed, the sufferer doesn’t pick the illness, the illness picks them. Many have a brush with depression, I hit rock bottom one January night and all sorts of very dark thoughts came to me.

Only by speaking very quickly about how I was feeling (because I was so shocked at the thoughts) to my wife and her gentle affection and listening ear pulled me back sharply.

Some are like me, the lightest brush and a quick scare, some are not. We should not mock, we should listen, we should not joke, we must support.

If you read this and agree with me, great more power to you, if you read it and realise something is wrong then talk to someone.

Plenty of people are walking and talking today, living with an illness, but guess what they aren’t hacking people to death!

Shame on you Asda, f****** shame on you.

Visit or type mental health into a search engine.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Time to freeze the Tories out now Ed

I GOT it, three years after he was elected, I now know Labour made the right choice and picked the right Miliband.

What Brighton and the country saw today wasn’t socialism, a return to the 70s, a union manifesto, the same old Labour (some of the Conservative criticisms I spotted) but common sense.

Why can’t the big six energy companies, whose profits are in the billions, take a price freeze for 20 months to ease the burden on home-owners.

Why can’t we build houses? Why can’t young people aged 16 help decide on the nation’s Government? Why should un-used land remain un-used land?

Commentators have said there was no mention of Clegg and the Liberal Democrats and they are right, but Miliband nicked their fairness theme good and proper!

Let’s make this energy freeze clear, it’s a freeze from May 2015 until December 31 2016, what happens after that god only knows but Miliband didn’t stand there and promise prizes would be fixed forever.

It’s about putting money in people’s pocket and could be nothing more than an election bribe, Conservatives will do everything to get you on a cheap tariff, Labour will ensure you pay that tariff for a fixed period.

On voting, politicians talk every day about engaging young people in politics, Miliband has suggested actually doing something about it.

On forcing people to give up land they own for development, well look at the derelict buildings in your town, ask yourself, could something be done with it?

The Conservatives have introduced a mortgage scheme making it easier to buy a home, Labour suggest building new homes and getting the UKs flagging construction industry moving.

There is some flesh on those bones now, it’s a good start and certainly the mention of ‘My Government’ was sporadic and far from presumptious.

And the macho cabal...I mean challenges to the Prime Minister were clever, Mr Cameron now either has to answer back and risk being accused of having nothing to say re policies or risk saying nothing and being accused of backing away.

Labour have cleverly took away a lot of attack weapons from the Prime Minister and Chancellor George Osborne this week and created an impression they could form the next Government.

But, having made the weather, Miliband and his team must ensure they make it rain on the Prime Minister every day from now until May 6, 2015 – the date of the next General Election.

If they don’t then Ed may have to grab an umbrella himself and prepare for a deluge....

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Ashcroft poll highlights PM's problem

POLITICAL sage Lord Ashcroft has delivered another piece of enthralling research, this time on 40 key marginals across the UK.

A total of 32 seats are narrowly held by the Conservatives over Labour, eight by them over coalition partners the Liberal Democrats.

The good news for Mr Cameron is that the Tories will hold those eight seats from their Liberal Democrat partners.

The bad is Labour would take the 32 seats AND a further 66 should the party notch up the 8.5 per cent swing Ashcroft has found in these marginals, enough to put Ed Miliband in Downing Street with no need for deals...

But this is no 1997 landslide in the making, more chronically worrying for Mr Cameron is Labour is so strong in these marginals because the Conservative vote has jumped ship to UKIP with Lord Ashcroft recording a rise in eight points since in the Farage vote since 2010.

In my professional life (professional? me? lol) I saw first hand the UKIP threat covering the local elections in Worcestershire in May. While UKIP did not win a seat in my patch they reduced some pretty hefty Tory majorities almost to dust.

They even kicked Tory councillors out in some parts of the county and there's the rub for the Conservatives. Accept UKIP is a problem for predominatly them to handle, they may yet win in 2015, deny it and they lose.

While Ed Miliband floats along, the Prime Minister would do well to turn the attack away from Labour and on to UKIP to try and tempt his waivering voters back. Strong leadership, real signs the economy is back off its sick bed and a concentration on core Conservative values would help.

A business focused PM, one that looked after the pennies and made people feel wealthier again and Labour are quite possibly knackered.

While I applaud the PM for his gay marriage legislation, that was a second term issue and something rushed into, a charge you can level at Mr Cameron rather a lot since 2010.

And the truth is, he really ought to tell the backbenchers to simply put up or shut up, Major did it with Redwood in 95 and was thrashed in 1997 but Miliband is not proving to be Tony Blair, at the moment.

David Cameron is already the Conservative Prime Minister who lost the unloseable election, will he be the Conservative PM who lost the country to Labour thanks to UKIP?

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Goodbye, goodnight and thank you - Sir David Frost 1939 - 2013

THE death of Sir David Frost last Sunday provoked tributes from across the world, not surprising really for a man that has interviewed most of the famous faces around the world.

One of the saddest feelings was that a man who made such brilliant television during his career was not in a high profile role at the time of his death.

From That Was The Week That Was, to the Frost Report and from Frost on Sunday to Through the Keyhole, there was a charm and panache to whatever Sir David did.

And of course there was the legendary interviews with disgraced former US President Richard Nixon, dramatised in the film Frost/Nixon.

Watch the film yes but watch the actual interviews as well, a gradual and forensic disection of a man about to fall from grace.

His BBC One show Frost on Sunday set the agenda on a Sunday like no other political show has since, people like Marr and Andrew Neil can only emulate what Frost achieved.

But they were journalists from day one, Frost was a satitrist in the early days and actually made TV shows not just plonked in front of a camera. I think that is what set him apart and allowed him to get to the heart of the policy and spin.

Reading a number of political memoirs shows how feared Frost was, in the nicest possible way of course. Politicians feared an interview because they knew whatever message they wanted to convey would be subjected to the severest possible scrutiny.

Something which is missing now, too often programmes have been briefed in advance by Number 10 or the opposition meaning our elected officials are exposed to the lightest possible scrutiny.

His programmes often included an element of comedy as well and often showcased the talents of Rory Bremner, a satirist as well as impressionist.

I always admired him and his interviewing style and the fact he was a huge cricket fan and Arsenal supporter helped greatly!

So it was only right his beloved Arsenal beat Spurs 1-0 on the afternoon Sir David left us!

Goodbye, goodnight and thank you Sir David, may you rest in peace.

In defence of Ed Miliband and Labour

David Aaronovitch's piece in The Times today has convinced me that as far as our national news media is concerned, the 2015 General Election should be shelved in favour of a continued coalition or a Conservative government.
For those of you lucky enough not have read it, it is yet another attack on Miliband for taking a position on something.
Aaronovitch brands Miliband 'a vulture' and deplores him for not racing to support the Prime Minister's initial view Syrian should be blown to bits.
On Syria, there is no doubt Miliband played politics in the sense he knew the Conservative were hardly fully united behind their leader.
One of the roles of the opposition is to make the incumbent Prime Minister look weak and feeble, if you need proof look at at the sustained assault on Major by Blair for three years.
But Miliband has to define himself as leader, many in the UK think of Labour in relation to Iraq, is there anything wrong with a Labour leader urging restraint and diplomacy?
We have no CATEGORICAL proof Assad gassed his own people and we do not know what the tyrant would do in the event of any strike against the country.
Could he fire on Israel? Would Israel then retaliate? How would Iran respond? - can you see how quickly one strike against Assad could trigger even more tension in an already heated Middle East.
But Aaronovitch's piece is no surprise, Miliband simply cannot win with anyone in the national media at the moment.
  • He doesn't take a position on something – we are told we don't know what he stands for
  • He takes a position on something – he's not a natural leader, he is so wrong etc
On breaking Labour's historic link to the unions, Miliband proposed a change to let workers opt in rather than be forced to see some of their subscription go to the party.
Modern idea for modern and austere times, there may be people in unions who don't actually support Labour, so why should they help fund them?
But what did we hear, oh it will never work, Miliband won't do it he was voted in by the unions, etc.
And of course the economy, Tories blame Labour for reckless spending while in office (Conservative Party under Cameron supported Labour's spending plans until 2008).
I won't pretend I agree with everything Miliband has done, his rampant support for Leveson and closeness to Hacked Off annoy me.
I am also one of those who feel Alistair Darling must be brought back as Chancellor next year to add experience to the Shadow Cabinet.
And the party conference this year should not be about vision and hope, it needs to give a first glimpse of a future Government.
A 'vulture' then? No, just the leader of the opposition trying to end this cycle of long periods of opposition once a party has been kicked out of Government.