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Month: July 2012

The growing rate and the damaging impact of false rape allegations

I have been writing away from here again. Bad Neil. Expanding my audience. Today my début piece on The Periscope Post went up. I’ll be writing weekly over at said site on a variety of issues. I chose to have a nice upbeat topic for my first piece – about false rape allegations. Yeah all sweetness and light eh? Anyway here we go…

There are very few things everyone reading this piece will agree on. One of those things will be that rape is one of the most disgusting (if not the most disgusting) crimes that any human being can perpetrate. However is someone claiming rape when in fact no crime has taken place just as bad?

When thinking about what I should write for my first piece on The Periscope Post I threw out the idea of writing about this subject to a couple of friends and to say the response was cold would understate exactly what they thought. However it is something that has been growing (or at least the reporting of it has been growing) in recent years.

This week a 27 year-old woman from Aberbargoed, Caerphilly in South Wales was jailed for two years and eight months for making up a rape claim. She claimed rape because she was late home from a night of partying and thought that her parents would shout at her unless she had a good reason. So instead of apologising for staying out longer than she planned to she decided to cry rape.

Luckily for the two men arrested this girl cracked quite quickly and admitted that she lied in just her second interview with police. There will always be those who won’t believe them though. Mud sticks as they say and a rape allegation and arrest will always produce some stigma.

Two months ago 20 year-old Hannah Bryon made up a rape allegation in an attempt to win back an ex-boyfriend. The student told her ex of the alleged attack and then claimed that the story snowballed out of control. Yet again the police arrested a man who was detained and subject to all the usual DNA probing but when nothing untoward was found he was let go. This young lady though didn’t even get sent to jail as she received a 12-month suspended prison sentence and 150 hours of community service.

Just a quick Google search brings up many stories that are similar to the two above. I remember several years ago of a man who was remanded in custody for nine months of accusations of rape only for evidence to come out that he had never even met the victim. It was two years after he was released that the interview was conducted and he couldn’t hold down a job and had basically been suffering from depression since his arrest.

Quoting from a story written on the thisisessex website we see exactly why false allegations of rape are a serious crime.

The 18-year-old victim was kept in custody for 16 hours and intimate medical samples were taken.

The couple’s false claim unravelled when a witness and CCTV backed up his account.

However, as a result of the allegation the victim lost his accommodation, his job and the trust of his family.

So someone lost their accommodation, their job and the trust of his family and the two people that accused him and led to his life essentially being destroyed was a nine-month sentence. That seems pretty pathetic to me.

In another case the defence team said that the defendant used the false rape allegation as a ‘cry for help’ and that a prison sentence would leave her unable to look after her daughter so therefore she should be spared jail. The judge disagreed and Jessica Day of Corringham, Essex was jailed for two years in 2008.

If I had time I could give you many more examples. These cases are starting to become more commonplace but the sentencing is all over the shop. In September last year Rebecca Howard from Deal in Kent got a four month sentence suspended for two years and ordered to carry out 200 hours of community service. It was the same crime as Jessica Day in the paragraph above and yet the sentence was wildly different.

Considering what a disgusting act rape is to falsely accuse someone of such an act is reprehensible. It makes real rape victims think more than twice about coming forward. I often wonder how these people who make false allegations sleep at night or how they feel when they read about real rapes in the newspapers or watch reconstructions on Crimewatch. Do they not realise what they are a) putting an innocent person through and b) doing to real rape victims?

Going back to the case at the very top of this piece about Emma Jones from South Wales. This is in part what was said in the judge’s summing up.

Judge Stephen Hopkins QC told her: ‘Every false allegation of rape increases the plight of those women who are genuinely victims of rape.

‘It makes their allegations harder to prove as juries are concerned at the possibility of convicting an innocent man.

‘When a rape allegation is made it’s often very difficult to prove but also very difficult to refute and those accused can suffer from the stigma attached.’

He is spot on. A false rape allegation is not a victimless crime. In fact there are two distinct victims, the innocent party and all the real rape victims out there. I think there should be a new crime that specifically targets false rape allegations. Not the type where a jury doesn’t convict but ones where it is found out it was completely made up. It should be punishable by a serious sentence not suspended jail sentences.

Are false allegations of rape just as bad as rape itself? The answer to that is no but the gap between the two crimes isn’t exactly chasm either. A false rape allegation can easily ruin a life and when it is done by someone with no mental issues for reasons such as not wanting to get shouted at by their parents or to try and win back an ex partner then people should face real consequences.

So yeah my first piece on this site about false rape allegations. Hopefully the next piece will be a bit more lighted hearted…

This was originally posted over on The Periscope Post and this is the raw unedited version.

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The (well one of the) main problems with journalism these days…

I know most of you don’t care about the Penn State scandal but it has given us not only a chilling A-list story on child molestation alongside the Catholic Church but it has also given us a glimpse of how sports writers work these days. Being right has always been at the forefront of journalism with being first a hair’s breadth behind. These days though being the loudest voice in the room is by far the most important thing.

Let me just give you two prime examples. Stephen A. Smith is a well known writer and broadcaster in the United States who specialises in basketball. When asked on ESPN’s First Take programme whether Penn State should receive the death penalty he reiterated that it should – and not just the death penalty – it should get it for a minimum of five years. Got no problem with that as we all have opinions but then he went on to say the following, ‘I have only glossed over the Freeh Report but I’ve read what I needed to know.’ So he has just a strong opinion based on glossing over a report. That is enough for him to have an opinion. I know one man who I wouldn’t want on my jury…

The other example comes from Sally Jenkins who is one of the very best in the business, long time columnist for the Washington Post so she really isn’t any mug. She wrote a column last Thursday after the release of the Freeh Report where upon she felt comfortable enough to say that Joe Paterno was guilty of perjury and of being a liar. Ok again that is her opinion but she says this due to what is in the Freeh Report.

The Freeh Report was 267 pages long and took me the best part of four hours to read. The report was released at 9AM local and yet her scathing column was posted at 9:31AM local. She hadn’t read the Freeh Report when she wrote her column. She had written the column, then when the Freeh Report came out flicked to a section in the Freeh Report to check that her narrative hadn’t been blown and went for it.

When I was plodding my way through Journalism at university I got to the stage where I to be blunt felt so disillusioned with the whole profession that I pretty much decided not to pursue a career in the industry. From what I could see there were a lot of very lazy journalists about who liked the sound of their own voice far more than they did informing the public of what was going on. That is even more evident to me now not just through the Penn State story but about politicians, bankers, foreigners etc… – a newspaper has a narrative that they want to get across to the public and they’ll fit the facts around the narrative. Not only that but they’ll change the narrative depending on what the public want. The most important thing isn’t to be right or fair or balanced but to check most boxes in a focus group.

I find this scenario extremely depressing but it is what it is. I know I’m just another pointless voice in the world that in the interweb but I at least choose to be a pointless point that has no narrative. I write what I think even if it is against how I thought I thought. I don’t care if 99% of the people who read a specific blog disagree with what I wrote. I write this blog as a place where my own personal thoughts on issues can come out.

It is like journalism just without being told what to write. It is a type of liberation. Maybe I had a lucky escape from journalism as I’d no doubt be too much of a loose cannon. I have opinions and I won’t swallow them. I think people knew that and so instead of working in the fast-paced action world of news or sports here I am doing internet type stuff to pay the bills and write my blurb on the side.

Maybe things didn’t work out too badly on that front after all…

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I have taken my time but now I think I’m ready to react to the Freeh Report

Last Thursday afternoon was not the most comfortable experience that I have ever had. Reading the Freeh Report and somehow not throwing up all over my desk and surrounding carpet is I think an achievement in itself. There will be many people who don’t even know what the Freeh Report is – well I’ll tell you this – it is a 267 report into the Jerry Sandusky child sex scandal and more importantly it is the report into how Penn State as a university dealt with a paedophile on campus.

I didn’t go to Penn State – I went to the slightly less well know Surrey Institute of Art & Design University College which doesn’t even exist any more as it is part of the Universities & Colleges for the Creative Arts but there is a reason I have drank at the foot of Penn State – and that was a curmudgeonly old man who ran the football programme at said university. Well that old man died earlier this year mere months after the biggest scandal ever in American sports and possibly only Watergate can trump it in modern American history happened under his watch. It is that big.

Bob Ryan said last week that Joe Paterno was the most famous and important person to ever come out of Pennsylvania with the possible exception of Benjamin Franklin but that it was probably a push. So this isn’t some unknown guy. However now the Freeh Report has decided that he was as culpable for Jerry Sandusky’s action as three other men everyone is ready to spit on his grave. This is a sad symptom of the reactionary culture that we live in. The Freeh Report is full of holes and did not speak to many of the important people involved due to various reasons. Basically if I was using another American scandal I’d say it was the Mitchell Report which was ready to bury people based on just one source – Brian McNamee.

This time round Louis Freeh is ready to bury people on the strength of 14 and 11 year-old e-mails that may or may not be out of context. We all know that if this was a prosecution case in a criminal trial then no-one would be found guilty but the court of public opinion is a very different one to that of a court of law.

One thing I have learned in my 29 years on this Earth though is that going against the herd is not what you do unless you want to stick out like a sore thumb. One other thing I have learned is that going against the herd when a paedophile is involved in tantamount to signing your own death warrant. The voices are just so loud that rational thought processes are not allowed to prosper. People want justice – but not real justice – they want vigilante justice. This is what is happening in this case.

The other three men who Freeh says were involved have kept their counsel. The two with criminal cases to answer still believe that when their side of the story is told that they’ll be proved to have not done anything against the law.

The counsel for Gary Schultz release the following statement last week:

When the complete factual story is told before an impartial jury, it will be clear that Mike McQueary never told Mr. Schultz that he witnessed Mr. Sandusky engaging in anal intercourse with a young boy, that Mr. Schultz did not possess or maintain any secret files about Mr. Sandusky, and that there were no efforts between and among Messrs. Schultz, Curley, Paterno and Spanier to conceal Mr. Sandusky’s behavior.

The council for Tim Curley released the following statement last week:

Thus, the conclusions reached in the Freeh Report are based on an incomplete record.

A complete record can and will be made in a court of law, aided by the power of subpoena, where all of the witnesses are subject to thorough cross examination. Fortunately for Mr. Curley, the Constitution guarantees that the criminal charges pending against him will be decided by twelve citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania based upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and not upon mere opinions drawn from limited sources.

Now I am still what you call old school. You are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law and deserve to be treated as such. You are not innocent until a report into your conduct which only looks at a small portion of the evidence deems you as such. That isn’t how we do it in the democratic world – well it isn’t how it should be done anyway. However the court of public opinion has spoken and even if Curley and Schultz are found not guilty their names will only be cleared legally. Their names will never be cleared in the minds of most people.

Unsurprisingly away from the lives that have been damaged so cruelly by a man so evil that you just hope the rest of his life is a sheer living hell, my thought process is about Joe Paterno. The criminal cases will play out and I like to let these things play out before saying anything due to my aforementioned crazy ideal of innocent until proven guilty. Paterno has since passed on but his legacy is still up in the air. People have made judgements already without seeing how things play out. There are some horrific pieces of journalism around – flat out horrific – not just from bums like me but people who should know better.

Sports writers are just like any other journalist or indeed any other person. They want to be the loudest and the most veracious when it comes to showing moral outrage. The problem with most of them in this instance is Joe Paterno was beloved until what was it eight or so months ago. Many journalists wrote so many amazing things about the man but now Louis Freeh says that Paterno knew everything – not only that but he covered it all up – then that alone is enough to change the minds of everyone.

An e-mail that said that Joe had been spoken to and they decided they weren’t comfortable with going to the police any more is not enough to convict Paterno on any charge. He may have talked PSU out of their plan but it is also feasible that Paterno told them that it would cost the university millions of dollars but it was the right thing to do. No-one knows. As of today there is no record of that conversation but apparently that is enough for Louis Freeh. This was a man who was head of the FBI for eight years mainly through the Clinton administration so he isn’t some chump. Surely he knows you can’t essentially convict a man based on not only second-hand evidence but when that evidence is supposition. He doesn’t know what Joe Paterno said to Tim Curley. I don’t know what Joe Paterno said to Tim Curley. Rick Reilly certainly doesn’t know what Joe Paterno said to Tim Curley. One man does and that is Tim Curley himself and he’ll take the stand at some point so we’ll see what comes out.

There is surely plenty of blame to go around. We just don’t know where the blame should be laid yet. We all have opinions but opinions and knowledge are two very different kettles of fish.

I want to save my final blurb for the aforementioned Rick Reilly. Who I have never been a fan of but heck at this point he’s just trying to scream the loudest like many of his brethren:

I hope Penn State loses civil suits until the walls of the accounting office cave in. I hope that Spanier, Schultz and Curley go to prison for perjury.

What happens Rick if they haven’t committed said crime of perjury? Do you just hope that they get done for perjury because it will fit in with your narrative? What the rational person will say is that they hope justice is carried out. If they are guilty then we hope they get found as such. If they are not then we hope that they are found not guilty. Obviously being rational is beyond Rick’s comprehension – or indeed most people when it comes to crime of this nature.

If anyone believes that the Freeh Report is an 100% accurate representation of what happened at Penn State then they are morons. Rick Reilly and others seem to believe that it is and therefore they are morons. A report can never be 100% accurate when it doesn’t speak to the vast majority of the people with first-hand evidence of what went on. It might be accurate but we don’t know that and we shouldn’t take it as gospel. To do so is irresponsible journalism and irresponsible on a human level.

The fall-out from Jerry Sandusky’s actions haven’t even scratched the surface yet. As depressing as that is it is the truth. When people like Mike McQueary, Graham Spanier, Tim Curley, Gary Schultz etc… start speaking publicly and/or under oath then we might start getting the full picture. Until then we have seen half the story and to form an opinion based on half a story is not much further elvolved than what happened at the Salem witch trials.

Update 25/08/12: Lots of people have read this today after being linked to on the BWI Rivals message board. For all my thoughts on PSU please click on this link for all Penn State blogs on this site

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‘Plenty of Lib Dems (MPs) will join Tories’

In a move that will crush the spirits of most true Liberal Democrats it has emerged that plenty of Lib Dems are ready to jump ship and join the Tories before the 2015 General Election. This is the shock announcement that the Shadow Health Minister Jamie Reed MP made today. I know I’m as stunned as everyone but who are we do think that a Labour MP is going to lie and make up stuff for political reasons?

Jamie Reed MP tweeted at lunchtime:

Lib Dems say no to Labour but yes to the Tories
Lib Dems say no to Labour but yes to the Tories

So yeah no Lib Dems will join Labour. Not even the ones who are on the left of the party but ‘plenty’ are going to switch to the Tories full-time. Now I have to admit that I was sceptical when I first read this so I decided to do some investigative reporting and play detective. Otherwise known as I sent this MP a tweet…

Jamie Reed MP Tweet
I question his motives…

But don’t worry folks he replied and allayed all my fears:

MP do talk
MPs do talk!

I am now convinced. MPs do talk to each other and that bombshell has conformed the news in my eyes. Moves are already being made and feelers are being put out. With evidence like that I don’t think we need a justice system.

So there we have it. What a shocker for a rainy Monday lunchtime. Plenty of Lib Dems are going to join the Tories but none of them will join Labour. This isn’t conjecture. It is fact. Jamie Reed – the Labour MP for Copeland has spoken. Of course if this turns out not to happen then we have documented proof that he is a liar but that won’t happen. Now we wait to see how many Lib Dem MPs amount to ‘plenty’ – with what 57 MPs I’d say plenty would need to be at least 10% at a minimum so we need 5.7 MPs to move over for Reed to be proved correct and not shown up as a liar who was lazily throwing out a tweet for political reasons.

So who wants to guess at who these MPs who will leave the Lib Dems for the Tories will be?

I’ll start us off…

and I’m done.

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The online dating world and the real world accidentally meeting…

Whilst we wait for my piece on false rape allegations to be published elsewhere lets go a bit more light-hearted here on The Rambles of Neil Monnery.

We all know of my fun and games in the world of online dating but last night I realised something that some might just say is a little bit awkward. As you all know I have been perusing online dating for donkey’s years but recently I have been blogging about it. Well one other thing I have been doing for years is hospital radio. Never have the two world’s met until a few weeks ago – and I’ve only just noticed.

I messaged a girl on an online dating website several weeks back but got no reply but thought very little of it. It isn’t exactly a rare occurrence. Well anyway last night one of the nurses that I see every week as she works Wednesday nights on one of the wards that I visit to collect requests from the patients on was called over by one of the other nurses. I had never noticed her name before. I had a good look at her (as to be fair I had many times before) and suddenly it all twigged. I had messaged this nurse weeks ago.

At this point I have no idea if she has twigged that I am the same guy. She may well have done. She may well not have done. I have no idea and I can tell you this for sure – I am certainly not going to be bringing it up any time soon. Luckily even if she has it hasn’t been awkward. She’s as friendly as she always is. Luckily for us all the nursing staff are friendly as we see the same faces pretty much week in, week out every week so they are used to us but yeah – that coulda been awkward.

So always remember that the real world and online dating can at times mix. It has happened once before but the other way around. I met a patient on my rounds and only to have them message me on an online dating website a couple of months later when we realised we had actually met (albeit briefly) before.

So luckily I don’t think is going to be awkward but I know that casually complimenting her on her hair now might be a bit more out of place…

PS: I really need to add a dating tag to this blog…

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‘What day is today? It’s Neil’s birthday. What a day for a birthday, let’s all have some cake’

Well that headline is a lie because yesterday was my birthday but I have a tradition where I don’t talk about my birthday online on the actual day itself. I also wanted to use the birthday song from Futurama so I had to use the headline even though it was a lie. I also didn’t have any cake yesterday *sad face*

Well yes folks another circumnavigation of the sun completed and survival has been met which is the first thing I look at when reviewing that trip. I always like looking back and having a birthday in the middle of the year makes me it easy to do reviews on my birthday and at the end of the calendar year. So let’s look back at my 29th circumnavigation of the giant ball of fire that we orbit around.

Obviously there is only one place to start and that is the sad news that my dad didn’t complete his 71st trip around the sun. He passed away after a stroke earlier in the year and whilst it was extremely hard – what is harder – far harder is that his last resting place is still up in the air. He wanted his ashes spread in a certain place but for reasons that I’m not willing to go into in a public forum these wishes may not be carried out. That is hard and hopefully this can be overcome but I fear this will rumble on for many more months yet and that is painful.

Away from that sad note though my 29th trip around the sun was mainly a positive one. I achieved one of my biggest life goals by commenting on a live football match on radio. Something that I achieved in August 2011 by calling the Southend United v Leyton Orient Carling Cup match. I have subsequently done several more matches and I’m in line to takeover one of the commentary seats on all Southend home games whenever one of the commentators moves on (his house is up for sale and he’s moving out of the region to be nearer his kids/grandkids) so that will happen at some point soon. So that is something that I will be looking forward to going forward.

Last September in the wee small hours of a Friday morning I got a tweet asking me if I was going to Liberal Democrat Party Conference. I had no plans to but when it came out that I had the opportunity to interview Nick Clegg those plans quickly changed. I interviewed the Deputy Prime Minister and it was quite a surreal and interesting experience. Other notes from that weekend include losing four lbs in weight in just two days (didn’t exactly eat a lot and my hotel was a good two miles from the venue) and being accosted by a prostitute. Oh the hilarity. An interesting experience though.

Another interesting experience was running for local office. Seriously had you told me a couple of years back that I would be running for local office I’d have laughed. Laughed a lot. Laughed manically to myself and then been taken away by those nice men in white coats. However I did and despite finishing sixth out of six, it was an eye-opening experience and one that should stand me in good stead should I ever want to stand again (that decision is certainly up in the air).

Also in this trip around the sun I did what they all thought was impossible. Oh yes folks I only went and got myself a girlfriend (cue lots of whistling and hollering) but don’t worry folks it was not to last. After just a few weeks it was decided that the (un)lucky lady didn’t like me as much as she liked her ex-husband (or as it turned out – her still husband) and me in a few weeks hadn’t done enough compared to what he had in the best part of the decade. She kept comparing me to him and decided that the man who text her saying she wanted a divorce was a better man than I. Yeah the ego took a small hit on that one.

She said that it wasn’t me (*scoffs*) but it was her and she just had to sort herself out. Luckily for her she met someone else and suddenly she was fine. What a minute… and she is as far as I know very happy with her new man. Last time we saw each other she asked me if I would look after her cats whilst she went on holiday in August. We’ve not seen each other since. I suspect my cat-feeding services are no longer required and nor is my friendship. Ah well. Been there before and the old female not having single male friends (at least at the start of a new relationship) thing unless they are in the same social group rears itself again.

Of course there will be other people in my life in time. I have had a grand total of two offers of a date since but I said no to both. No wait actually three but the third was a blind date. I did actually have a couple of other dates late last year but one thought it was a booty call – yeah it really wasn’t and subsequently didn’t speak to me again and the other turned out to be my kryptonite in turns of women – clingy. Way too clingy. Clingy and Neil do not mix so that ended quick sharpish too.

I think one of my proudest achievements has been my new patio area that is now adorned with herbs and fruits. I am seriously chuffed about all this and every time a new fruit shows signs of growing I get a semblance of a smile across my face. I already have strawberries and peppers growing and I have gooseberries, winter squash, rhubarb, tomatoes and cucumber all in soil waiting their turn to make me happy. My herbs are also developing well and they are giving off a lovely smell out there although this new greenery has made my patio a new home for snails.

Lastly I have been approached to take on a couple of new writing jobs which is always nice. My ramblings here have been read by over 300,000 people in the past twelve months which I think is quite a staggering number and makes me happy. My radio stuff is still the same and is good fun with the football a huge added bonus.

Overall I’d say the past twelve months have been a success and I have made more progress towards being happy and diverse than I have in many years. In the final trip around the sun before I hit the big 3-0 I wonder what will come up but a lot of what happened in my 29th year wasn’t exactly on my radar this time last year. Also my first full day as a 29 year-old has started with a tax rebate from HMRC so maybe this will be a good one?

We’ll see and whatever happens no doubt it will be written up for all to see here…

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Do you remember Tony Blair’s last day in office…?

Away from the fun and games of online dating this blogs other prominent subject seems to be politics. Well it has now been just over five years since the day Tony Blair left office and I came across a video in the annals of my YouTube list that gives the highlights of his final day in office and it was an interesting viewing. Certainly the highlights of his last ever PMQs.

Notes from this video:

Sir Menzies Campbell was a nice chap.
Richard Younger-Ross really didn’t get it.
Tony Blair’s reply the euro sceptic Tory MP was genuinely funny and the fact his MP also genuinely laughed showed this.
Cherie Blair really can’t keep her gob shut can she?

I just thought it was a decent reminder that back in the day a personality really could carry his own weight. The Prime Minister nor his opposition leader have a personality to stand on. Tony Blair would cream either just on natural charisma alone. Politics is shifting and as we’ve seen in London with Boris Johnson the good old fashioned dull politician who is quietly effective isn’t the be all and end all any more. If you can naturally talk then you can actually do something in politics no matter what your policies are.

If you can make people listen to you and not switch off then you have done 90% of what is needed. You just need to ensure that the final 10% of what you actually are trying to get across is good and you’ll do ok. This is in part why no-one won a majority in 2010 in my opinion – neither Brown nor Cameron had a personality. This is why I think Clegg actually saw the Lib Dem vote go up nationally – he seemed a breathe of fresh air at the time. He’s not exactly Boris Johnson but he was by far the most natural with the camera and that is more important now than ever before.

For example if Nadine Dorries did leave the Tories for UKIP then it would do wonders for UKIP. Nadine may not be everyone’s cup of tea but heck put her in front of a camera and for every 100 people of twitter bashing her they’ll be 250 people out there in the real world agreeing with her. It isn’t just about talking sense it is about making the electorate agree with you. Use buzzwords and be something a bit different. Nadine is certainly that and I’d hypothesise that if Nadine was the leader of UKIP they would comfortably to the fourth party in UK politics in 2015 and might even win a few seats.

Nigel Farage has no personality. People look at him and listen to him and switch off. If Nadine was saying exactly the same things I reckon more would lean towards her than Nigel just because she is just so belligerent that she wouldn’t care what the twitterati were saying. She believes so deeply in herself and her PoV that she would just plough through the insults and people would respect that and she would just never quit.

It would be an interesting thing to see but I doubt we’ll ever see it. Tony Blair won three elections mainly on two principles – he was a better showman than his opposite numbers and all he had to say was ‘look, we’re not them’ and that was enough. He won an election even after Iraq when everyone supposedly hated him and his party. He did that because the opposition was such a shambles but because he could still stand up and whether you liked him or not, whether you believed him or not, you always felt he was telling it how he saw it and not how some spin doctor wanted him to spin it. He may have been talking rubbish but he was selling it so well and depressingly I think that is the future of politics. It is style over substance and Tony had style.

I do wish I could go into a parallel universe and see how the 2010 GE would’ve turned out had Tony not resigned and had he kicked Brown to the curb like he wanted to do for so long. I suspect the result would’ve been significantly different and even if Labour hadn’t have won an outright majority then they would certainly have been the dominant party in a Lab-Lib coalition. Sadly I don’t have that power (yet…) and for now it will just remain a hypothesis.

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The day I became a woman for 12 long hours…

I love that title. It is going to weird out a fair few people before they actually get into the meat and drink of the piece. As a significant number of readers of this blog will have previously read I have blogged about the bizarre world of online dating. The first installment can be found here and the second can be found here. However I was always looking at from a male perspective – which might not exactly be surprising – but still there is another gender out there.

Last night I was at my PC showing a female friend of mine the profile of the girl covered in marmite (which she thought was awesome – it is) and also I found the girl that ditched a second date with me because she decided that she had too much washing up to do so I was showing her that girls profile. Anyway whilst we were doing this she commented that 40 people had clicked on the ‘meet me’ feature saying they wanted to meet me and she asked me how many guys had clicked on the ‘meet me’ feature for her in her three or so weeks on that dating website. I said 117 and she shook her head. I said 27 and she said no but it was higher. Eventually it turned out that it was around 310 in three weeks. I have had 40 girls say that in what nine odd months? Maybe more…?

I was stunned. I put it out there on twitter and I was told that there are more guys on these dating websites than women and that was a fair point. I remember being told that someone had received 28 messages in her first day on the site. I thought this was crazy and several girls who I know in real life have told me about some of the awful messages that they get from men on these sites so I decided that I would try it out.

I know it is dishonest and not good. I did not message anyone that messaged me or anything and deleted my profile after 12 hours because it was just so insane. I think I had more than enough research for this blog after just 12 hours and I am starting to get a feel for how hard it is to be a woman on these sites. I’m going to share with you some of the messages and some of the facts behind my 12 hours of having a fake profile on a dating website.

I just googled for a random picture of a girl and then produced the following profile:

Not really much to say about me really. I like doing some things but I don’t like doing other things. I’m a private person until you get to know me so don’t expect to find out everything in just one profile.

I have a job that keeps a roof over my head and wine in my throat. I’m not sure what exactly makes me unique but my flatmate has decided to give this a try and I’m game for a challenge.

My goals in life include to have a profession. At the moment I have a job which isn’t exactly a profession but as I said it keeps a roof over my head and wine in my gullet.

I am not expecting anything from this and I am here under protest as my housemate did challenge me as I have been moaning a lot recently – and not the type of moaning that keeps him awake at night – more the type of moaning that annoys him when he’s trying to watch football.

So in short. I’m very cynical and probably very difficult. If I were you I wouldn’t message me as I’m a pain in the backside. Just hoping one day a guy will think I’m worth all the earache!

I wouldn’t say that is the most overly positive profile ever. The picture (which I won’t post here) was of a girl looking pissed off at a camera. So anyway how did the men of the UK react to this profile?

Well in 12 hours no fewer than 109 men had messaged this profile. A grand total of 60 of those men did not even write more than 15 words. 23 of these messages were only one word. One word. Why would anyone ever reply to a one word message? The word was usually Hi or Hello but also Pretty, Beautiful and Sexy were used. Another point I want to make is of the 109 men, a grand total of 17 of them were showing their torso in their man profile photo. 16 men had selected the profile as a favourite and in just 12 hours no fewer than 383 men had viewed the profile. To put that in context that is more than the amount of women that have viewed my profile since I joined the site at some point last autumn.

Now to me that kind of stat just blows my mind. It has little to do with my looks but it goes to show just how many men are out there looking for women online. Out of the 109 men that messaged the profile I think only two messages were decent enough to warrant thinking about a reply and one was actually good enough that I think most people would say was interesting enough to probably reply:

I’m a pain in the bum as well! But I’ve just about managed to convince myself it’s down to meeting the wrong people, it’s all their fault i’m sure!

Your right to be cynical about this place, there are some very socially inept, peculiar people around, I’m probably one of them, but in a good way!


Hello 🙂 I like your profile, you honest, straight forward and speak you mind. They seem to be very rare traits these days. How are you faring on here? Is it as bad as you thought?

And for the good one…


I like cynical and difficult. I would have chosen “challenging” though just for a positive spin. But I have a few questions (if I may).

Why are you a “random” girl? I dislike the word “random”. It’s over-used. Very little in life is random.

Who actually keeps wine in their throat? I keep it in my fridge (white) or a rack (red) or my stomach. But I’m going to try the throat tonight and see how it holds.

Stop moaning to your flat mate. He jut wants to watch football in peace (that is a guarantee).

Anyhoo, enough rambling. Maybe take a nosy at my profile and if you like what you see/read, it’d be nice to hear from you.

Take care

Not saying either of those messages are exactly great but they were genuinely the cream of the crop. If that is what women have to deal with then I wonder why they bother. I also happen to feel a lot better about my opening messages and the quality of them. The fact they rarely get a reply is just a sign that I’m not the most beautiful creature on the planet. I can deal with that but this blog isn’t about me but more about the calibre of men that seem to be on the free online dating websites (I suspect those that are paying for eHarmony, Match et al are probably of a slightly higher calibre).

Shall we get on to some of the short sharp messages that depressed me? Go on then…

Congratulations you have just won a date with me lol,so please don’t be shy and reply asap!!! this is a free service,and you won’t be charged by your network,and I know this message is guaranteed to put a smile on your face,hope to hear from you soon.xxX

Yeah I’m won a date with a guy. I didn’t even know I had entered that competition but wow…yay!

Hey there!! I know I’m prob not going to get anywhere cos tbh you look absolutely stunning and I really dunno why your single but I thought I’d say hi and hope that you’ll reply and let me get to know you better! I’m a lovely guy trust me, i hope you give me a chance…that’s all I ever ask for! Hope I hear back from you x

Can we say too needy…?

What sort off bait do I need 2 chat u

A decent grasp of the English language possibly?

Well being as attractive as you are im guessin a bloke would put up with earache on your looks alone..xx

Yeah. It is all about the looks…

A man got arrested the other day for being suspected of stealing hay. He has been released on bale……

Boom, Boom!

Hey gorgeous,how’s your weekend going ,Thor I’d drop by and show some live ,xxx

Is Thor, the hammer-wielding god associated with thunder, lightning, storms, oak trees, strength, the protection of mankind, hallowing, healing, and fertility really involved here or does this guy not know how to spell ‘thought?’ and live and love are two very different words and what is that comma doing floating about?

Hi (username),
Well im not messaging you because your profile didnt catch my eye and in not hoping you will message me back so you cant get to know me to find out how much of a pain in the arse I am.So you probably like my profile and will message me back as you will be interested lol xx

Reverse psychology and the use of the term ‘lol’ – not for me…

Hi. I look nice.

Do you? That’s nice. This is from a profile with no picture as well…

fancy a sugardaddie 😛


Oh wow.bit of a hottie we have here.usually just click click click through profiles but I had to say hi.x

Is that it? What is a woman going to reply to that?

So yeah there are a few of the short messages that really made me wonder if these guys ever get any responses. It is just a typical mix of what I received on this profile and remember this was just in half a day. There is no way I could have ever replied to everyone who messaged me. No way in hell so I can see why women pick and choose who they reply to extremely carefully. I logged in this afternoon and by the time I had read the 14 unread messages there was already seven new ones in my inbox just in that time. Imagine if I had tried to reply properly to one or two? I’d have had 20-25 unread messages clogged up in my inbox easy.

Therefore I can say this – I will never moan if a woman doesn’t reply to me ever again. Having a profile on a free internet dating site would be hard work if it was a full-time job let alone if you are just someone who doesn’t spend their whole life at a computer. I am trying to imagine if I could only log in once a day. Imagine having 109 messages waiting for you from guys in one day for you to read in an evening? Of course you are only going to reply to those who write something interesting and do it for you physically.

At this point I want to mention the worst message I received and is was from a profile with a username of ‘one night stand or two’ but with a couple of spelling errors. I’m not actually going to publish any username as I think that isn’t fair but I had to give you an inkling of this guys username because it is important in the context of the message:

“Please ignore my screen name 🙂 ”

Ciao , my name is (redacted).
I read your profile and I’m interested .You seem like a lady I would want to get to know and spend time with and your the prettiest girl I found on this site 🙂

I think we should be spontaneous together , what’s the worst that can happen 🙂

So the receiver of this message should forget about the username that implies that he wants either a one or a two night stand. Ok then…

I must say that message really made me despair about my fellow males. I have no issue with people wanting (or having) one night stands – each on to their own – but to have that as a username but tell people that they should forget about it is flat out dumb.

Here is a message that shows that he had not actually read the profile and just has a generic message that he sends everyone:

how are you?

Nice profile….

I’m in a In a silly mood so how about some random nonsense to break the ice….

When was the last time you played air guitar?

What should never be on a pizza?

Favourite crisps make and flavour?

That’ll do for now haha.

Anyway, hopefully speak soon


It has potential but at least show that you have read the profile surely? With my male hat on I always try to say at least a couple of things from the profile to show that it has actually been read. Just sending through random nonsense is meh but compared to the last piece I’m going to copy&paste then it’s way better. This is a genuine opening message that I received today on this profile:


I saw your profile and thought I’d drop you a note as I’m sure you’re not a pain in the backside really. I’m not really one for batting one liners back and forth and discovering weeks later that we’re not compatible, and so will make some effort to give you a reasonable insight into who I am now, so I hope you don’t mind reading.

I’m a successful professional, with my own consultancy business and am well educated, confident and intelligent. I’m very easy going, good fun, good company and easy to get along with. It’s fair to say that I’m also quite dominant in nature and so am decisive and like to take the lead, and perhaps a little rough around the edges, but not in an uncouth way.

I have a good social life and enjoy the usual things like films, theatre, reading, nice holidays, good restaurants, having fun, laughing, relaxing over a cocktail or two and generally trying not to take myself or life too seriously. I have a nice life and a happy and optimistic outlook, and wake up happy (hungover) most days and so generally consider myself a lucky person.

I’m quite open and direct, which although I believe is a good thing, is not always to everyone’s taste. I’m a long way from being a metrosexual so if your heart yearns for someone in pink trousers and a floral shirt, who cries more than you do, then you might want to stop reading now. However, if you prefer someone who thinks a man should be a man and open doors, pay the bill and say what he wants, without faffing around, then we may well get on.

Lookswise I’m 5’9, medium build, with short dark brown hair and green eyes, and am confident enough in my appearance to say that I’m nice looking, but in any case I’m happy to send a picture if you want.

Hopefully you’ll like what you’ve read so far, but if not then I hope my message, if not entirely welcome, is a little less unwelcome or intrusive than idiots just sending you shirtless pictures and asking for casual sex. Unless of course you wanted casual sex, you’re perfectly entitled, you’re a modern woman, so it doesn’t mean you’re a slut, just “free spirited” and “independent”.

If however if you do share a similar outlook and are more drawn to a man who’s decisive, knows what he wants and can express it without dithering and, after a few exploratory messages, are open to a drink ot two, can handle a bit of banter, no doubt inappropriate flirting and the odd less than sober attempt at putting the world to rights, without any promises or expectations, then I’d love to talk to you some more and hopefully get to know each other a little better and see where it takes us.

I should point out that if we did meet then drinks would be on me, whether you’re unemployed or a millionairess, but that doesn’t mean I have any expectations or am trying to get in your knickers, assuming you’re wearing any (I so hope not, and so please don’t feel obliged to on my account). It’s just that I have a more traditional outlook (I’d say chauvanistic but I think political correctness has clouded it’s once positive and more caring meaning), and believe that it’s up to the man to pay on a date. I’d therefore prefer to say I was somewhat dominant, but that conjures up images of someone way too serious and in black leathers, which isn’t really me. But I have to admit that I missed the meeting where a bit of lovingly applied domestic discipline suddenly became domestic violence, and can only imagine just how many women are equally missing the odd spanking when they push their luck a bit too far:) Thankfully though, having previously found that women tended to hide, suppress or feel guilty about any submissive longings, along comes 50 Shades of Grey, which has made being open about submissiveness more popular than zumba (whatever the fuck that is), and made things so much simpler.

Anyway, if you’re sane(ish), easy going, playful and even a bit cheeky at times then I’d love to hear ba

Yes. It is so long he ran out of characters and didn’t even notice. I have to admit I didn’t even bother to read it. It was the only opening message I didn’t read in full but knew I wanted to quote it because of its sheer length. I have now just read it back and he talks about domestic violence in some capacity and that he thinks many women miss ‘the odd spanking’ which is an interesting theory. Also he says he wakes up hungover most days – is that really a good thing? Really…? So many things about that message irk me but mostly I know that very few women would even bother reading it. It came from a profile with no photo and is clearly something that is sent en masse. It just seems like a giant waste of time.

So what have I learned from this experience? Well I think it is very clear that there is a vast difference between men and women when it comes to online dating and vast is possibly understating it. Women have it a lot harder to sift through the messages they receive but quantity and quality are two very distinct things. The messages with quality really did shine through mainly because so few messages were anything more than ‘how are you?’ or ‘you got a nice weekend planned?’ or just ‘hello’ – if that is the quality of messages then it is no surprise men don’t always get replies.

I have also worked out that every single message needs to be unique just to even have a chance of a reply. I know that women might not even have time to look at every profile of a guy that messages them let alone look at every profile of guys who have viewed them or clicked ‘Yes’ on the ‘Meet Me’ feature. There is aren’t enough hours in the day so if someone actually looks at your profile after the opening message then it is a good sign as it isn’t as much of a gimme as you’d expect.

Mostly though I have a newly-found respect for women who even dip their toes into free online dating websites. Guys are crude and in the majority of instances aren’t even interesting and don’t even read the profile and just look at the photos. I will never moan about people not messaging back ever again (unless they explicitly say that they reply to everyone or reply to everyone who uses a codeword to show that you’ve read their profile etc…

Being a woman in the free online dating world is just crazy. It is absolutely insane. I don’t know how they deal with it. I know there is no way that I could. If I had to deal with that then I’d delete my profile straight away and runaway and cower in the corner. Men need to understand just how many messages women get on these sites and just how hard it is to read the same rubbish and the same mind-numbing messages over and over again. The message really does matter and you just have to hope your profile and photo can back up a quality and interesting message. Saying ‘Hi’ or ‘Hello’ or ‘You’re gorgeous’ and that being it is just not going to do it guys. It just isn’t going to cut the mustard.

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Are All-Women Shortlists really a good thing for women in the long term?

Ah the old chestnut of All-Women Shortlists. It is a fun one. I posted the following over on SpeakersChair yesterday. I am posting this and then I plan to hide under the duvet for the rest of the day (well I don’t as the Grand Prix and Wimbledon are on and the big HD TV is not in my bedroom) but still you get what I mean. Saying you aren’t in favour of AWS generally doesn’t go down well but I think I have pointed out the reasons relatively fairly.

Oh well as Kel would say ‘awh here’s goes…’

Around the Southend based Labour blogosphere the talk of women in politics has resurfaced and the old ‘positive discrimination’ lark with regards to all women shortlists. It is always an enjoyable topic to blog on because I get shouted at a lot because I’m a man and therefore I am an idiot that can’t see the real picture. If I was a red-headed lesbian trying to break into politics and seeing what I was up against I’d know the real issues out there. Lucky for me I’m not because if I was red-headed (straight or not) ‘d not get anything done because I’d probably die of starvation looking at myself in the mirror (seriously why are all red-headed women hot – like all of them?) Anyway I have massively digressed and already pissed off 92.7% of people that will ever read this.

So here are the pieces that have inspired this piece – firstly Politics is sexist and I found that via a piece just called Women. I must say Julian’s title is rather simplistic but I think it gets to the point. Jack’s is quite blunt and has more than a ring of truth to it. Politics is sexist. I am not denying that (now only 88.1% of those reading this hate me) but the question is whether AWS is the way to fix this issue. I think it is well known that I do not believe that it is.

When Zadok Day blogged a piece about Ed Davey replacing Chris Huhne as a Liberal Democrat member of the cabinet he probably didn’t choose the best headline in the world of Opinion: Calm Down, Dears!. It was never going to lead to him being lauded as the face of a diverse Lib Dem Party. However large parts to what he wrote was pretty fair. I think there are certainly Lib Dem MPs who would make excellent cabinet members. I have no doubt – and I mean no doubt – that Jo Swinson would – and should – be the Scottish minister instead of Michael Moore. No offence Michael but I just think Jo would be brilliant in that role. However it is not me who makes these decisions.

In the case of the Lib Dems – and our all pale male cabinet members – it is Nick Clegg who decides who is best suited to the role. He knows all his MPs a lot better than I do. So either I have to think Nick Clegg is sexist or he isn’t. I choose to believe the latter. This of course may be wrong but I’m pretty sure I’m not although that might be the arrogance of another white male talking.

So anyway back to AWS and whether they need to used to create a more representational balance. The argument that is strongly used is that women need to see a plethora of other women being elected before they’ll think about it themselves. I just don’t get this. I won’t say I never will but the likelihood of me getting this argument is slim. I’m inspired by many women as well as men. I don’t feel the need to see a man do what I want to do before thinking that I can do it as well. The thing is many women are MPs and we’ve had a female Prime Minister and a female leader of the opposition (albeit briefly).

More needs to be done and the make-up of top-level politics is not fairly balanced but is a way to make it fairer by forcing certain parties in certain constituencies to only consider women? Now I’m against the quota system as a rule but I can see merits for it in certain situations – i.e. when South Africa returned to the sporting world and they ensured that at least one rugby player had to be black and two cricketers had to be black for a few years. This is because a group of people had been oppressed against. However there is no oppression against women in politics. It isn’t easy for many women but it’s not easy for many men either. Most people in politics have a lot of time and money on their hands.

I ran in Westborough here in Southend earlier this year and if everyone had an equal time, money and resources then I think there is no doubt Kevin Robinson would have won for Labour. As it turned out Kevin working insane hours and his independent opponent Dr. Vel being able to afford to take time off from work to doorstep and canvass enabled him to hold on to his seat. Is that fair? Does that need to be looked at?

One line of Ms Jack Monroe’s piece screamed at me though. It hollered and rattled by bones, ‘As a woman in Southend politics, I am surrounded by a lot of men and a few very good women.’ Did you see what I saw? There are a lot of men, ok that is fair and a few women but wait, there is an adjective thrown into that sentence. Yes the women are ‘very good’ whereas the implication is that men are not. If you want to press my buttons on feminism (and to be fair she describes herself as not a feminist in her blog post) but that sentence screams out the type of feminism that gives feminists a bad name. There are bad men, there are good men, there are good women but do you know what? That are also bad women in politics. Yes folks not every woman in politics is a benefit to the political world.

This is why I can’t abide by AWS. What happens if there are good candidates who get passed over for worse ones due to their gender? This happens. The problem is what if all the women who apply are terrible? What happens if these women win? (as usually AWS are only in safe seats where you could put a chimp with a red rose/blue rosette on and they would win). Does having a terrible MP so out of her depth do anything positive for the female cause? I know that is an extreme situation but it is also not one that is completely beyond the pale.

Good women will get into politics as will good men. Bad men will get in too as will bad women. That is the nature of the game. A friend of mine is currently relocating as it looks as though she’ll be a Lib Dem PPC in a winnable seat. I won’t name her in case she doesn’t want it to be public knowledge yet but she is set to get the nomination because she has worked bloody hard and spent a lot of time in the constituency doing what politicians have to do. Should she get the nomination then I know she’ll work just as hard and if she wins then she’ll be an asset to the country. I’m positive she wouldn’t have wanted it to be handed on a plate to her – and if it was then I doubt she’d be as good of an MP as she potentially can be.

I firmly believe that if things are in essence handed to you on a plate then you aren’t going to be as equipped to handle what is thrown at you. I think that it is far better for women in politics to work hard and slowly get more and more hard-working MPs in than to throw in a lot of people who have been picked and might not be ready. I think exactly the same about male MPs. MPs who have had to work hard will be better MPs who don’t. I just think this. Is it better to have lots of female MPs quickly who may or may not be the cream of the crop or is it better to slowly get women into the House of Commons who have earned it and shown that hard work and dedication pays off? I know I think the latter is the best way forward.

As an aside as I have waffled on for a fair while. If the House of Commons should reflect the make-up of the UK fairer then at what point to we draw the line? A 50/50 balance or so gender wise but what about sexual orientation? What about ethnic minorities? A significant number of the UK population are racists do they need to be represented too? It isn’t an easy one of that I’m sure but I just don’t think AWS are the way to go. All they’ll do is artificially inflate the amount of women in the chamber, what AWS doesn’t do though is ensure a better calibre of MP.

This was first posted on the SpeakersChair website

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Non essential highway maintenance at gone midnight? Are you freaking serious? (with video)

I’m trying to sleep however the highway maintenance department have decided that sleep isn’t for the people living in my apartment block. They have decided that non-essential highway maintenance is what they need to be doing at gone midnight. I have videoed about 20 seconds of it out on my balcony and as you can hear it isn’t exactly soothing background music…

If it was essential work for a burst pipe or whatever then you can deal with it. These things happen. However they were busy out there last night as well and they weren’t around during the day so it is pretty clear that isn’t essential work.

I just wanted to blog my frustration at how ridiculous it is. I’m guessing Southend Council know all about it and think that it is better to disturb the people after midnight instead of shutting down a small road for a couple in the day.

Not amused.

I know it’s not all that important in the grand scheme of things but still. I like sleep and if my neighbours get pissy with a few people drinking at 11PM then I wonder what they’ll think about this and way gone midnight on now two successive nights…

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