Wednesday, 28 July 2010

making the change

My life has always been political. My mum was a regional councillor when I was young; she has since got a degree in politics and worked for various labour politicians. My dad is currently a labour councillor. One of my sisters used to teach modern studies and the other used to be an organiser in the Labour Party. It’s hardly surprising that I too have ended up leading a politically based life.

In April 1997 I was an 11 year old who would tell anyone that listened about why you should voted labour. I could name all 5 labour pledges and things can only get better was my favourite song. Now at 24, 13 years later not much has changed, well I can only listen to D-ream in small doses but politics still dominates my life.

Living in my political bubble I recognise that I am different to most people. Most people don’t see how politics affects every aspect of their lives, from how much they pay in tax to whether the pot holes in the road will get fixed.

During the election the thing that frustrated me most was not those who were voting Tory (in Fife that was more of a comical shock than anything else) or those voting Lib Dem/ SNP no it was the ones who didn’t care. What continually got me down were those who never vote, who didn’t see the point and who believe politicians were all out for themselves. We as those who are active in politics are the ones who need to address this, to show people than you can make a difference and to show them that most politicians are striving to make a difference in their local communities.

I first came across the idea of community organising in Barack Obama’s book Dreams from my father. The idea essentially is local people getting together to tackle issues that affect them. That is why I signed up to become a Future Leader as part David Miliband’s movement for change.

I truly believe that in order to win again the Labour party must become a movement again. We have to be able to show people what we stand for. We have to take those in the community with us and this means working together with them about the issues that affect us all. It’s only through doing this that we will be able to stand with our local communities against the cuts that are already starting to take place. It is also only by doing this that we will win back those who voted against us.

I went to my training session on Saturday in Glasgow. I left feeling inspired. It wasn’t all about David Miliband it was about how we can take forward issues and build a movement. In fact right at the beginning it was said “it’s great if you’re supporting David but that’s not what today’s about”. I am supporting David but whether he wins or loses I am going to be thinking about issues in my local community and who I can work with inside and out of my political bubble to change them.

The Big Problem with Megrahi

Last August when the Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill released Al Megrahi there was no denying that it split both politicians and the public alike. The one thing they may have been united on is that they are glad that they personally didn’t have to make the decision.

While personally I don’t agree with the decision. I think it’s really hard to justify letting someone who has been convicted of such a horrendous crime go home to their family. Where do you draw the line? I can also see the opposite point of view and understand why the decision was made even if I don’t agree.

The issue has been bubbling away quietly and I imagine that come August people would have been asking questions if Megrahi is still alive. However due to a multi billion pound oil company springing a leak in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico the issue has now erupted (excuse the pun).

The problem is that with such an emotive issue the facts are getting confused. People are talking about one thing when meaning other. Take the two different issues the Prisoner Transfer Agreement (PTA) and the release on compassionate ground. Two separate issues. The PTA was going through at UK level and BP has said that they did push for the PTA to go through quicker but they did not have anything to do with the release on compassionate grounds.

To me it has also exposed the lack of understanding of the Scottish/UK political/ judicial system by American Senators. Most people who understand the UK political system understand that a deal with BP would do nothing for the Scottish Government. Any money from oil goes to the UK Government. Also I just can’t see the Scottish Government which is SNP bowing down to any pressure from the UK Labour Government. I just don’t see it.

I could be wrong I guess, maybe the tide will turn and some evidence will show that there is some BP influence for now though I just don’t see it. I do believe that the conditions for his release were wrong and that the medical evidence was flawed. Under the terms for a release under compassionate grounds the prisoner should have less than three months to live. I think we can safely say on this part of the decision that mistakes have been made but I guess thats another issue.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

A change in the media

I havent had computer access so this post is a little bit late, nevermind.

Raoul Moat’s brother has described the scenes that we saw last Friday as a public execution. I have to say in some ways I agree with him.

Twice in the last week I have had conversations with people on this exact subject. These people hadn’t watched the news coverage that night and said that they couldn’t understand this. The guy was a murderer that shot a policeman who sat in his car unarmed and could have killed him. Now I don’t have much sympathy for the man, he did murder a man and attempt to kill two others. However the media coverage that night was quite icky.

I was checking twitter at about 7:30 that night and everyone was talking about the coverage. I had to turn over. So I started to watch. I found viewing uncomfortable yet at the same time I couldn’t stop watching. It was like a movie. But it wasn’t a movie, it was real life and at any point he could have shot himself or a police man. Can you imagine if you were Raoul’s brother, sister or friend? It must have been horrific. Or if you were a sister, borther, wife or husband of one of the policemen or women on duty? Is that something that you would have wanted to see, I imagine not.

The journalists were so excited it was transparent. Who knows what affect this had on procedures? Never before have I seen a news story relayed in this way and with the accompaniment of twitter updates it was completely surreal. Yet I suppose at the end of the day I am just as bad because I sat and watched and tweeted for the best part of three hours.

The coverage was pretty tense and dramatic. I just feel like we have gone to far. Is this what we are to expect everytime there is some sort of police stand off?

Looking back I find myself feeling sorry for the man and his family. Don’t get me wrong he was a murderer who deserved to go to jail for the rest of his life. We don’t know what made him get to that point and now we will never understand. I really feel that having the whole situation relayed by excited news journalists was just in my opinion wrong and inhumane. The actions of the police will be investigated (normal procedure) but I also hope that the journalists take some time to reflect on their actions.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Thoughts on the Leadership

“This campaign can't only be about me...It must be about what we can do together." – Barack Obama February 2007 Presidential Announcement

When casting our votes in the Labour Leadership election we should perhaps give some thought to the words above. We have 5 capable and intelligent candidates who all believe in the Labour Party and its values. No matter who is elected they will do the party justice and will strive for a fairer society. Therefore it’s not simply about who they are it’s also about what they and the party can do together.

Obviously everyone will have a personal reaction to each candidate. When the campaign started I had no idea who I was going to support. I was still getting over the elation of winning in my own constituency of Dunfermline and West Fife and then the disappointment that there was now a Tory Government. I therefore had an open mind and waited to see who inspired me.

Lets face it the party needs that inspiration, particularly now. I along with many others have, every weekend for the last two years, been knocking on doors, phoning people and persuading them to vote Labour and to help keep the Tories out. I did this because I have been brought up to believe that we need is a fairer society and I know that only Labour is dedicated to achieving that goal. What we need now is someone who can once again unite the party and those who support us so that we can be in a position to deliver that goal.

It is for this reason that I am supporting David Miliband. I was lucky enough to get to see him speak to Labour MSP’s in the Scottish Parliament. He spoke with passion and conviction and I truly believed in what he was saying. He came across as open, honest and approachable. I felt that he truly wanted to engage and to hear what people had to say and I am sure that he will have taken on board what were some tough questions on the day. I then watched the leadership hustings in Glasgow and the Newsnight hustings and still believed both in him and what he was saying.

What particularly struck a chord with me was his vision of training 1000 community organisers across the country. This I believe has to be at the heart of our party. We cannot move forward if we don’t take our communities with us.

As I have said I have been inspired and I believe that no matter who wins this Leadership campaign is good for the party. It allows us to debate and deliberate and not only is this healthy but I think it is needed.

I live in hope that the next general election it will be a victory for the Labour Party like the one in 1997. I was a bit too young at the time to apprieciate it fully. My memories are of my mum opening the windows and doors in the house at 2am and blasting “Things Can Only Get Better”. Whatever the outcome I know I will be there again knocking on doors rain , sleet or snow because as Barack said it's about what we can do together.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Being that 1 in a Million

My boyfriend once said to me “You’re one in a million but there are 10 billion people in the world” nice huh?! Well if you have leukaemia or another blood related disorder then you might be looking for that 1 in a million for a much more serious reason. A stem cell transplant is often the last hope for someone suffering from this type of disease.

30% of matches are found within the family but that still leaves 70% still looking for a match. When a match cannot be found within the family hospitals turn to stem cell registers like that of the Anthony Nolan Trust, which is the largest and most successful stem cell register in the UK. Currently there are 400,000 on the register but the sad reality is that for every person that is helped there is another that they can not find a match for. It is for this reason that I have decided to join the register.

Joining is simple. You fill in an online application and they send you a pack to your house. The pack contains a medical questionnaire and a saliva kit. All you have to do is fill in the questionnaire, spit in the tube and send it back, simples! So literally you could be saving a life by spitting. I have just filled in my online form and I should get my application in a few days.

When most people are asked why they don’t join the register they say “I’m scared of needles!” If you are matched with someone you become their chance at survival, surely when faced with that reality being scared of a needle is nothing in comparison. Personally my own reason for delay was that before the system was quite complicated with blood samples having to be sent off but now as I’ve said it’s much simpler. I'm a pretty lazy person so the simpler the better!

I know that there are lots of myths around donating mostly from TV so it is widely misunderstood. Firstly there are two ways to donate: peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation or a bone marrow harvest. Most health conditions respond well to PBSC with only a few needing a bone marrow harvest.

Is it painful? Well for those donating through PBSC many will have flu like symptoms lasting roughly about 24 hours and for those donating through a bone marrow harvest there will be some lower back pain for a short time afterwards. However your pain is minimal and again you that one person in a million giving hope to another. Surely it's worth it?!

The Anthony Nolan Trust has three main aims:

To grow the register to 1 million donors
To meet 80% of transplant requests
To bank 15, 000 umbilical cord blood units

You can help by joining the register. Its really simple if there are more people on the register, more matches will be made giving hope to people every day. We all strive to make a difference in life this is one way to achieve that aim. I'm doing my part what about you?

To find out more about The Anthony Nolan Trust visit their website