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Month: May 2013

Nigel Farage set to take on Nick Clegg in Sheffield Hallam in 2015?

A cabbie has tweeted that he has ‘reliable sources’ that Nigel Farage will take on Nick Clegg in the Sheffield Hallam constituency in 2015 in what would be the most eagerly awaited battle since Tatton in 1997 when Neil Hamilton faced off against Martin Bell. The official announcement will come shortly before the summer recess says said tweeter.

The tweet has sent the twitter political sphere into meltdown but it is the Lib Dems on twitter who seem to be smiling most – and it is no surprise. If UKIP are serious about winning seats in 2015 then they have to ensure they target certain seats with the right candidates. In the local elections in many seats they did no campaigning and won based solely on the strength of the national tide. This of course is far easier in local elections when you can win with a few hundred votes. Getting 15,000 odd though without lifting a finger is slightly harder to muster.

Nick Clegg might not be the most popular person in the country. I won’t sit here and say he is but he also isn’t hated in his own constituency. The Lib Dems will struggle with the national vote in a couple of years but what we have seen is that where the Lib Dems have MPs embedded and a string local party then they are resilient. The Lib Dems could easily lose half of their votes in 2015 but could come away with 40-50 MPs. That isn’t an unrealistic look into the future.

So I have to ask myself why Nigel Farage would want to take on Nick Clegg? He is far more likely to win a different constituency and if he was serious about being an MP and leading his party into the House of Commons then surely he would find a far easier seat to run in? I think though that the previous sentence showed up an important piece of information, is Nigel Farage serious about being an MP? Lets be honest here. Had Farage run in Eastleigh then he may well have won. Not saying he would have but there was every chance.

Facing Nick Clegg would cause a media stir and would focus the campaign strongly on Farage himself and not his party. Is that what he wants to do? Does he want to ensure that the media solely focuses on him and the UKIP party in general are relegated to a secondary issue? If he does then that would be a pretty poor show on his behalf but secondly for the Lib Dems putting up Clegg mano a mano with Farage is not a situation that would phase the party.

So I think most Lib Dems would say ‘bring it on’ but as I say this was all sparked by one tweet so take it with a pinch of salt…

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Are flowers on a first date appropriate?

Well folks. I am straying back into dating blogging but before anyone gets any ideas – I don’t have any first dates lined up or on the horizon so just chill. This is more of a blog inspired actually whilst surfing the interweb and I saw the question, ‘What happened to the gesture of flowers on a date?’ and it actually got me thinking. So I thought I’d do some interweb surfing on this topic and the general consensus was pretty split. Some think it is a sweet move that shows that someone cares and some think it is creepy. Some think a single red rose is the way to go but others say that is too full on. Oh this dating lark is hard but anyway I thought I’d blog my thoughts on the subject.

I have never turned up at a date with a flower or flowers. In all honesty the thought had never even crossed my mind. Not even for a fleeting second. My thought is that would be a bit too creepy and full on for a first date but opinions seem divided. Something that I have slowly got my head around is the hardest part of the whole dating process is actually getting the date so if you ask a lady out and they agree to go on a date then that is actually the biggest hump overcome. Should you get over this hump then it all comes down to the date itself but there is at least some intrigue from the other person to give you some of their time.

At this point I think it is probably fair to say that internet dating and dating someone you’ve previously met are two different things. I would attest that to some degree there is a larger comfort level having a date with someone you’ve already met – no matter how briefly – than there is having a date with someone you’ve not actually met yet from the interweb. When meeting someone for the first time there are slightly more moving parts than having a date with someone you’ve actually physically seen. As we all know you can meet people from the interweb who don’t look like you believed and people that meet you might think you look decidedly worse in real life than via a photograph.

So with that in mind I’d say that flowers – or a single flower – and not a red rose – might actually be a rather sweet gesture at a first date if you have already met said date. If it is someone you’re having a date with from online then it is slightly more problematic. Rightly or wrongly we are all tuned into people on the interweb could turn out to be a right weirdo. Look I’m on the interweb right now and I’m a weirdo, whilst I’d say a harmless one others may disagree.

So a flower on a first date from online is to me a more dangerous first move as it puts a lot of pressure out there. You don’t know whether you’ll even get on (I know its the same when you have a first date from another source but there is less chance you’ll just not get on at all) and therefore the first thing on a first meeting being giving someone a flower is both sweet but also can be misconstrued as a bit creepy.

Now of course this is a Point of View from a guy with probably less than ten, no wait I’m not that pathetic, we’ll say less than 15 first dates under his belt. So my views my not exactly be right on the money and they may be influenced heavily by the years of low self-esteem that still scar me to this day but it is an honest opinion. Thoughtful gestures are certainly never a bad thing. Certainly if the lady has mentioned something in passing that you have remembered and showed that you listen but a flower might not be the way forward. Originality is key and remember every women is different.

So to round this off my advice as a single gentleman who can see middle age on the horizon is flowers are ok but you have to be careful. If you’ve met the person before then I’d say that a single flower is a sweet first sign and shows thought. If there is one thing I know about women (and lets be honest here – I only know a few things) but one thing I do know is women like thoughtful men and thoughtful gestures.

Look you might not get a second date but a thoughtful gesture will at least make the woman think something good about you in the future when they say things like ‘I had that date with (name) we didn’t hit it off but he was sweet and brought me a lilac, he’ll be a nice catch for someone’ or whatever. Same goes for online dating but I’d always recommend doing something more original. However all in all showing sweetness coupled with some thought is rarely a bad thing.

Happy first dating boys n girls 🙂

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Banning takeaways from serving hot food until 5PM? Excuse me…?

Just checking the date folks. Bear with, bear with, bear with…wait it’s not April 1st. What the hell? Seriously what the hell? Ok I suppose I should probably explain what I’m going on about. Well Salford Council are proposing not allowing takeaways from selling hot food until 5PM in the vicinity of a school in an attempt to force children to live a healthier lifestyle. In a way it is a noble cause because as a nation we eat worse and have less exercise than we used to. The health of us all should be a huge concern but where do we draw the line between individualism and the state dictating what we can eat and when?

Cllr Margaret Morris, assistant mayor for health at Salford Council, said: “Takeaways create jobs and provide a service but these ideas are to make sure that they are opening in the right places and not having a negative impact in our city.

“We don’t think they should be serving hot food over the counter before 5pm near schools, as children should be encouraged to eat healthily, so we have made this clear in our proposal.

“Public health and helping to reduce obesity levels are a top priority, and while planners cannot control the food that is sold, we would like every new premise to offer well promoted healthy alternatives so people can have an informed choice about the food they eat.”

Now the debate about whether takeaways have a negative impact is a fair one to have. Just today I saw a video from the local police appealing for help in identifying a man who decided to kick off in a local kebab place. There is certainly only a finite number of these establishments that should be in any single area. That is plain for all to see and dictating what hours they should be open is a legitimate issue for the local council but linking it to the health of our nation’s youngsters is something I can’t go with.

Children should be encouraged to eat healthily but at what point do the council stop? Do they stop newsagents from selling sweets? Do they rip out the tuck shops in schools? Vending machines? Should students bags be searched for chocolate at the gates? It is a slippery slope when you start saying that certain foods should be accessible to people at certain times but others should not be.

The problem with public health and obesity levels do not lie at the feet of local Councillors. It lies in educating people about being healthy and looking after themselves. Focusing on young people is all well and good but where do they learn from? They learn from us adults. If we don’t take good care of ourselves then why would the little ones? As a nation we need educating but we also have the right to choose how to live our lives.

I hope this idea never makes it into practice as all it does is open the door to Councillors to dictate far more than they ever should. People should have an informed choice about what they eat – the lady makes a fine point but also if they choose to eat the less healthy option then that is their choice and not yours. It just reminds me of the day when I was the foreman of a jury and the key witness was an 11 year-old girl and there was a mother in her 40s in the jury room who kept on saying, ‘I don’t think my 11 year-old daughter would lie’ and we’d constantly retort that it wasn’t her 11 year-old that we were having to decide whether they were a credible witness or not. Sometimes people think they should run other people’s lives how they would like to run their families and that my friends (and I suppose foes) is not the role of local Councillors.

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Attention Politicians: Where is your leadership?

When did we get to the point where the seemingly marginalised viewpoints of society stopped being so out there? Over the past few years as the economic downturn has gripped the country, people have looked for someone to blame and the easiest people to blame are those who are different. So politicians are easy to blame but the problem with that is of course someone has to govern so whoever gets voted in will be a politician. Bankers have seen blame laid at their feet but yet again bankers aren’t going away any time soon so the problem has been who can people blame who they can a) get rid of and b) don’t understand.

Step forward religion and foreigners.

The term, ‘I’m not racist but…’ has become a bit of a running gag, albeit not very funny. People say this with a completely straight face. The people that are saying it are not the people that you would generally look at and think they are racist either. However a spectre of what I won’t call hate, but will call intolerance now hangs over far more people than I’ve ever known in my 29 years on this Earth and that spectre is becoming an ever bigger presence in society.

My problem is working out where this has come from? It must have come from somewhere and looking around the most obvious parts of society I can point my finger at and believe they are the reason is the media and politicians. The media will always tap into whatever the mood of the nation is and then play up to it. If the nation are happy then the media will be happy. If the nation has a sense of unease then the media will portray that and start to feed off it. If we are being told constantly about bad things people are doing then it will seep into the public’s consciousness and I believe this is what has happened.

Look at the media coverage yesterday. It was by a person who seemingly was a Muslim. Now was he described first of all as a terrorist or was he first of all classed as a Muslim? You bet it was the latter and not the former. Whilst so many bleat that the English Defence League do not speak for us we must understand that just because people do terrorist attacks are of one faith, they do not speak for an entire religion. When the IRA where blowing things up left, right and centre did they speak for all Catholicism? I’m pretty sure they didn’t.

We though as a nation are far more scared of the unknown than we ever have been before. In this modern age where people can interact with anyone, at any time, people get disturbed. If you are on a tube and two people are speaking to one another in a foreign tongue then instead of being calm and ignoring it, more than ever people are worried because they don’t understand and there we get it the crux of the issue. People in general are far more afraid of what they don’t understand than ever before and we have to ask ourselves, ‘why is that?’

However I want to point a very stern finger at politicians because I see a distinct lack of leadership. In all honesty the last person who displayed leadership qualities was Tony Blair. Like it or not he led this country. Ever since politicians have been too scared to truly stand for what they believe in. As a friend put it to me last night, ‘they pander to the lowest common denominator’ and he was right. Politicians are afraid to say what they really think in case the most vocal of critics attack them. This needs to stop.

I would love to see David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband at a joint Press Conference where they said that intolerance would not be accepted. We live in a multi-cultural society and I love that. Great Britain isn’t just for those who were born here, it is for people who want to live and work here. Should people not be allowed to move from place to place to live with different people, different cultures, experience a different way of life? Should we go back to the day of ‘If you were born in Essex then you’ll live and die in Essex’ and so on? I certainly do not believe so. No-one owns the Earth or any country therein and people should be free to move around.

As we all know though this isn’t the way the tide is going. People think there is always someplace greener and those greener pastures might be to leave the European Union. Some want to leave the European Human Rights Act and have a British Bill of Human Rights instead. My fear though is what if we do this and still things are no better then who do people blame? Do they blame themselves for pushing this through or do they find another scapegoat? What if we started turning on all blondes? Would that be accepted in society the way that intolerance towards people of foreign backgrounds and different religions seemingly are?

The crux is no matter how hard David Cameron wants to bang on about fixing our broken society – the more he says this then the more people will look for where the cracks and the problems are. It is a bit like saying how terrible the economy is, the more you say it the more people will believe it. Society is not perfect. We all know this. However society is not perfect throughout the globe and there are bad people all over the world doing bad things every day. This isn’t just confined to us in the UK, it is a far larger problem than that and one that has to be addressed through education for the next generations coming through.

No matter what our differences are we all bleed when we are cut. We are all but one race – the human race. We all broadly want the same things for our loved ones and for society as a whole but the problems are some believe there are short-cuts and scapegoats to why we don’t all have what we would like.

Immigration is not a problem to the degree that people believe it is. People can live with people of different religious backgrounds. Not all people who are different are our enemies. The vast majority of people who practise the Christian faith are good people. The vast majority of those who follow Islam are good people. The vast majority of those who are Jews are good people and so on and so forth. Being different isn’t a reason to be scared of someone.

Our leaders need to step up to the plate here and now and stop this going forward. Do not pander down to the most vocal in an attempt to win votes. Stand for what you truly believe in. If you stand together and say that this type of intolerance will not be accepted then you’ll start drawing a line in the sand. This whole situation has meandered on for far too long. People can have different views on anything but still not persecute one another. Until such a time where this is the strong and constant viewpoint from our politicians (and in turn our media) then I fear the culture of intolerance will only grow and slowly shatter any illusions we have that we are a progressive society.

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An ode to Classic FM TV

As some of you may know I am involved in local Hospital Radio. For the past few weeks I have been recording some extra standby shows for when a presenter is unable to present his or her show and two of them I am extremely proud of so I thought I’d speak about them here on the blog and provide download links in case you wanted to hear them.

Years ago there was a channel on the Sky EPG called ‘Classic FM TV’ which featured modern classical music from opera to instrumental. I used to listen to it a lot when I felt a bit down or a bit up tight as it would relax me and chill me out. This might surprise a few people but I found this music often inspiring as well as relaxing. Alas it stopped transmitting in December 2007 and a lot of this music became lost to me.

One thing that I personally enjoy about radio and in particular doing these types of shows is I get to (re)discover lots of different music. Being part of a radio station really does open your eyes to so many different genres of music and on this occasion it allowed me to reminisce about many tracks that I had completely forgotten about over the past few years.

So if you were a fan of Classic FM TV or just a lover of modern classical music then feel free to have a listen. The links are below. Or if you just want to hear just how bad I am as a radio presenter then feel free to do that as well. I’d recommend just ignoring my waffle and enjoy the music.

An Ode to Classic FM TV part 1.
An Ode to Classic FM TV part 2.


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Equal Marriage is a baby step towards a Utopian society.

So MPs are currently discussing Equal Marriage and as is custom for MPs they have differing views. Some more extreme than other. Some think that this is just a starting point for something more in a sinister way and some are just flat out barmy. Happily many others are more middle of the road and don’t think that same sex marriage is the first strep to gay people taking over the world and enslaving and discriminating against straight folk.

A lot of this debate is revolving around what teachers should and shouldn’t be allowed to teach. If same-sex marriage goes against a teachers religion then should they be allowed to not teach it? Now last time I looked I’m pretty sure some science teachers come from strong religious backgrounds. A lot of science flies in the face of religion. Just start at the fact God created the Earth. There is a thing called the Big Bang Theory that is now widely believed to have been the way the universe was created and teachers if religious backgrounds teach this. How about the whole Adam and Eve thing and the fact that genetics has shown that human life developed in six separate places across the Earth. Are there five other Adam’s and Eve’s that they just couldn’t be bothered to write about in the bible? I doubt it somewhat.

Teachers are not employed to pass on their own personal opinions to the children they teach. They go into teaching to help young people understand either a subject or an overall view of the world. Minds are never as impressionable as they are when they are young. If a teacher disagrees with a topic they have to teach then they have to just put their personal beliefs to one side and teach the subject as it written. If a teacher teaches that homosexuality is wrong in their opinion then I fear they are not doing their job of teaching young minds about the world with open eyes.

I am positive that some teachers will struggle to teach something that goes against their fundamental beliefs and I can understand why it might be problematic. However that pales into insignificance when I look at how parents entrust teachers to bring up their children according to the curriculum provided.

If a teacher had a gay child in his or her class (which pretty much every teacher has in every single class if you look at the odds) and said teacher tells the class that homosexuality and same-sex marriage is wrong then how is that child going to feel? Do teachers really think that putting a child through such turmoil is a positive? I can’t believe that any teacher in good faith would want to do that. An adult can swallow their beliefs far easier than a young person can overcome prejudice.

I have my beliefs and I don’t think it will come as any surprise that I am pro equal marriage because I am pro equality. Equality is a core principle that I live my life by. I am not religious in any way, shape or form and my views of the world are not scoped by any religious conviction. This is despise being brought up in the church and spending two years at a faith school. Marriage is a way of expressing love between two people and to pigeonhole it between a man and a woman is not helpful or equal.

The best way forward is to give young people as much information as possible and give them help and guidance as to what it all means. I truly believe that the more information young people have then the more tolerant we’ll get as a society. I don’t want any young person to not be able to fully explore who they are because they feel that they are not ‘normal’ or ‘wrong’ or anything of that ilk. Exploring who we are is one of the most vital parts of the journey we all face of being a human being.

If someone has religious views that are opposed to equal marriage then I have no issue with that. That is their right and freedom as long as they do not actively force that views on to others. When it comes to teachers then they have a decision to make. Do they want to teach children about all different aspects of humanity and thus allowing children to understand the differences that we all have but that ultimately we are all human or do they just want to teach them about the parts of humanity they agree with? If it is the latter then that isn’t the type of person I’d want my (non-existent) children to be taught by.

Last point is this. Love is the hardest thing I think humans have to find. You love your offspring and in turn you love your parents but when it comes to love is the romantic sense so many people struggle to find true love. I’m 29 and I haven’t got even close to finding love – not even close – and yet if I were to love a member of my same sex I’d struggle in the knowledge that some members of society didn’t see that love as worthy of being of equal value to if I loved a woman (No mum, before you ask, this isn’t me coming out, still going down the female path…)

I think if two people love each other then there should be no boundaries that show that one set of love is worth more than the other in the eyes of both society and legally. To me it is pretty simple. As for how teachers or members of the clergy should deal with it then I think with teachers it is open and shut. They are not employed or paid to put their own opinions on to their students. If they disagree then teach the kids and say nothing bad about homosexuality or equal marriage. As for members of the clergy then things are different. The ‘sanctity’ of marriage being between a man and a woman is something important but so is not cheating on your partner and that happens all too often in marriages.

I hope equality wins out. I desperately believe that equal marriage and the teaching of all ways of life and love is vital to healing our society. Equal marriage might be crushing the older generations but as a race we need to become more open and tolerant to other ways of life and love and I genuinely believe that this is a big step for that. If the next generations are actively taught that homosexuality isn’t wrong but not just that – is actively fine and welcome in society – then I think we’ll go a long way to leaving a great legacy for the next generations to build on.

That Utopian society is a long way off but this is a baby step that could turn into a giant stride towards that idealistic goal.

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Thank you Mark Halsey for both being inspiring and for being a darn good referee

In 2009 the Premier League returned and Mark Halsey refereed at Goodison Park on the opening Saturday of the season. Nothing interesting here despite the 6-1 scoreline to the visitors Arsenal but the referee that day had just been given some pretty horrendous news. Mark Halsey had been diagnosed with a Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and had a cancerous tumour in his throat. This was removed and the battle started not only to return to full health but to also to return to his previous career of a full-time professional football referee.

He would do so and would referee for two more complete seasons as well as the end of the 09/10 season before announcing his retirement a couple of weeks back. Speaking yesterday after his final game the 52 year-old said the following:

‘It’s been a fantastic career for me, with ups and downs.

‘I have had three great years since I have come back from my illness and hopefully I have been an inspiration for all those men, women and children out there living with cancer, and shown them we can beat this, that we can get back out there.

‘Hopefully I have done a lot for them.’

What I have to say to Mark is that anyone who survives just an illness and returns to their profession in full health is an inspiration – certainly one that involves such a level of physical fitness. His performances on the field of play have (for me) still at in the upper echelons of Select Group referees and no doubt had he wanted to continue then he would have had another year (at least) in him. However he has decided to move on to a rather interesting new position.

As a long time fan of the NFL I have seen both FOX and latterly ESPN have had an expert that can use to talk about decisions of the referee in charge of a game. Mike Pereira and Gerry Austin have been these two gentlemen and it has added an extra insight and level of broadcasting a game. Mark Halsey will be providing this role for BT Sport when they take over one third of the Premier League TV rights next season as well as FA Cup for at least the 13/14 season.

On British TV we aren’t used to this so it will be interesting to see how BT Sport use Halsey and if the public like it. It has worked great in the States on the NFL so I see no reason why it wouldn’t work well in football over here. I’m excited for Mark that he has such an interesting job to go to but still a bit sad that a good referee has decided to leave the Select Group and the sport.

Graham Poll thought he should retire because he was getting old and didn’t see Wigan’s Callum McManaman’s horror tackle in the match against Newcastle earlier this season. Now I’m no expert but I’m pretty sure referees don’t have x-ray vision and if a player runs in front of you at the crucial moment and you are blinded then what can you do? I’m positive Graham Poll would have got it spot on as he never made a mistake. Honest guv…

One last thing on why I think Halsey was a good referee. He had played the game at a non-league level so understood the game. I have always said that bringing through referees who have played either at semi-pro or low league level can only improve the game. One of the best referees I’ve ever seen was Steve Baines who had played professionally at Chesterfield amongst others and always had the lowest rate of yellow cards in the football league but his games were always handled professionally and the players seemed to react well to his style of officiating.

So from me it is thank you and good luck to Mark Halsey. I shall miss you in the middle but your insight in the commentary box should hopefully take football coverage to the next level.

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Why we all need to rally round and stop the changes to legal aid – sign the petition today

Last night whilst perusing the interweb I was sent a link to the A Barristers Wife blog and promptly spent the best part of the next hour fully taking in all the content on said blog. I won’t lie when I say it was an eye-opening read however it is one that doesn’t surprise me.

The blog is (unsurprisingly considering the title) the blog of the wife of a Legal Aid lawyer. She is writing about some of the cases that her husband has dealt with and why it is vital that changes to the Legal Aid system as proposed by Chris Grayling do not succeed.

The first one I saw was Exhibit C – the “paedophile”. This is a case her husband worked on where a young boy had claimed that his daddy had been abusing him. It seemed a pretty open and shut case until it came out in court that the young boy in fact called both his dad and his stepdad daddy and that he hadn’t seen his real dad in over a year (because of the charges) and wanted to see him and cried. That doesn’t sound like the actions of a kid who had been abused by this man. The lawyer had worked out that it was in fact the stepfather who was the abuser.

Had the lawyer not taken the case diligently and not strong-armed his client into accepting a guilty plea (because the evidence on paper was pretty clear cut) then a completely innocent man would have rotted away in prison only to leave the real abuser still in control of the young boy.

As an aside here I have been the foreman on a jury in a very similar case. The similarities are uncanny and we fund the defendant not guilty due to essentially we didn’t trust the mother’s account of what happened. Her behaviour didn’t add up to us and that was the key. It is strange that evidence counts for so much but behaviour of witnesses do have a real impact. In the other case I sat on during my spell as a juror we didn’t trust the account of the two alleged victims in a GBH case because of the elaborate way they acted in court.

Anyway back to the case in hand. I continued to read the blog.

Next Exhibit B – the “murderer”. This case was a major national case including a Crimewatch reconstruction. The defendant spent over a year on remand awaiting his trial. The lawyer had to spend two weeks (unpaid) to read through all the background information and on the tenth day found the nugget that showed his client could not have been the murderer. In fact in time the Crown’s own evidence would prove he was incapable of being at the murder scene at the time. If we see the proposed changes of legal aid go through then we’ll get to a state where lawyers are just in the business for profit and not to act in the best interests of their client.

At the end of the piece she writes a summary of ‘Why this story should matter to you’ and if you haven’t clicked on the above link (which I would thoroughly recommend) then here is the summary reproduced in full:

Police & CPS procedure – it is clear that the officer in charge of the case had not done what my husband had done, and sat down and read everything. Evidence is collated and summarised in reports, which are passed up and up through the police rank structure. By the time it gets to the top it is a case of “Chinese whispers”. What the top guy reads is not always an accurate reflection of the evidence.

Performance targets – it is unrealistic to expect the police and prosecution to read all of the evidence in every case under the current system. It certainly won’t be possible, even for the defence, under the proposed system. The allocated defence lawyer will be working to targets, working for profit. He won’t have the time to take two weeks out to find the golden nugget. He’ll take a quick look at the evidence, see that it looks pretty damning, and advise the client to plead guilty.

The real scumbag criminal got away with it – as far as we know the real murderer is still at large. The proposed system will lead to more of this. Because if lawyers are to be paid the same whether clients go to trial or not, there will be less trials. Less trials mean less opportunity for upcoming solicitors and barristers to cut their teeth. Less practice on the more simple cases will lead to less proficiency on the complex ones. This will hold for both the defence AND the prosecution. The end result more innocent people going to prison, more guilty people getting away, quite literally, with murder.

It could happen to you – Exhibit B got picked up for this because he had happened to be in the right place at the wrong time. The Crown’s own evidence showed he could not have been at the murder scene at the right time. He served over a year in prison on remand waiting for trial for something he didn’t do. I’ll spare you the details of what happened to him while he was there. And even though he was found not guilty, mud sticks. He was a young man, just starting out. His life was ruined.

Innocence is not interesting – there was a journalist in court for Exhibit B’s trial. Every day there were articles in the local and national papers saying what a nasty piece of work he was. Once the case was thrown out my husband collared the journalist and demanded that he write the story up, listing the points as the judge had directed the jury. Guess what? He didn’t do it. No wonder the public always believe people are guilty until proven innocent.

Innocence is not interesting. Arguably one of the most damning indictments of modern society and she is right. Do we care about people who are falsely accused? Do we heck. The only time we do is if it happens to us or someone that we know. Until that point in general we couldn’t care less and that is something that saddens me. I’m proud to say that I don’t sit alongside those people and think innocence should be as big a news story as guilt. If a defendant is found guilty of a serious crime it will be front page of the local papers but if the same person is found innocent then it’s a snippet on page 17. That isn’t fair but not only that, it isn’t right.

Next up we have Exhibit A – the “child pornographer”. A tale that starts with a granddad’s computer going wrong and taking it somewhere to be fixed. On the computer were images of naked children and the computer repairer called in the police who then arrested the granddad and charged him with possession of level 1 child pornography. Until the trial no-one (including the CPS barrister nor the defence) had seen the photos and the defence lawyer would not advice his client to enter a guilty plea until he had seen the photos. They were eventually granted access to the photos and the CPS barrister upon seeing them offered no evidence and the case was closed.

The whole incident came about because someone pointed a finger (which in this day and age is pretty standard and we all want to be vigilant on these issues) but instead of the police going to see the accused and going through the case properly they just went for it. It turns out the children were his grandchildren and they had come over one day and had forgotten their bathers so were playing in a paddling pool and shooting water pistols naked. A perfectly innocent explanation and one that could have been nipped in the bud before any serious cost to the public purse. Instead police hours, CPS hours, legal aid hours, the court’s time and costs were all incurred when there was never any need for any of it.

On another blog we see the blog post So you’re a football fan, and think the legal aid cuts won’t affect you? which tells of a common tale that could happen to anyone. As a matter of fact a very similar thing happened to me in my teens and it was only the fact that the copper’s colleague really couldn’t be bothered that I wasn’t arrested.

Now I do not know how I’d have reacted as a what 14/15/16 year-old (I can’t remember exactly how old I was) but the context was it was a school INSET day so we were walking through town towards Seaclose Park to play a bit of football. I was saying to the guys something along the lines of ‘I bet we get pulled over by the police asking us why we aren’t in school’ and literally as I said that a cop car drives past eyeballing us. I point and laugh and say to the guys ‘just like that’ and then about 30 seconds later the car has swung around the block and young copper wants to talk to me/arrest me. Older copper (the driver) just stood there leaning on the car and I saw him just shake his head of the younger officer and so I was told to go away. He said I had sworn at him. I knew I hadn’t. However it was effectively my word against his so I’m hypothesising that the advice given to me would’ve been to accept a caution and not taken it to trial had he in fact done what he wanted to do and arrested me.

Of course it didn’t come to that and it was one rather small run-in with the law but I’m not going to lie. Even that incident affected me for quite a while and even years later it would blindside me and I’d think about it. Essentially it was one coppers decision that he couldn’t be bothered with the paperwork that stopped me potentially having a criminal record. How insane is that?

If the proposed changes to legal aid come in and the emphasis changing from putting the clients best interests first towards providing the best value for money and creating profit for the legal aid accredited companies then something has gone seriously wrong in our justice system. Seriously wrong. The cheapest contract is not always the best. I could say that I could school a whole school for ÂŁ50 a night but that doesn’t mean I could clean it to a level that they expect and the same goes for lawyers.

We can all find ourselves in legal strife through no fault of our own. It can happen to any of us and that is what is so vital about not only the ability to have legal aid but also quality legal aid. Not all defendants are criminal scumbags and until they are found guilty by a jury of their peers they should be allowed the best possible representation from a diligent lawyer who puts the best interest of their client ahead of their own personal views or profit.

If you believe that everyone has the right to a good level of defence when they are only accused of a crime then you can sign the petition here. I did so last night. I would implore you to do so and if this blog post hasn’t convinced you then please read all the pieces that I have linked to. The right to a good standard of defence and advice is something that we all deserve but because of the way the media like to portray all accused as guilty scumbags until proved otherwise and the way society in the main has moved from innocent until proven guilty to suspicious presumed guilty until proven otherwise then it is all the more important that we defend quality legal aid for all who need it. I don’t use libraries but I can see many people that do and therefore don’t mind my taxes being used to keep them open. The same goes for quality legal aid.

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Theresa May tells the world that she thinks all human life isn’t equal – and Labour agree

My blood is boiling folks. There is one thing that I hold dear and that is that we are all created equal. One human life is of the same value as the next. So if I get murdered the person who killed me should get the same sentence as if they killed anyone else in exactly the same way. Now of course not all murders are equal, some are premeditated, some involve sexual crimes, some include torture before killing their victims but if I am killed in exactly the same way as another person then I’d expect sentencing to be the same.


Theresa May today outlined new proposals that will mean any police officer or prison officer slain would see the perpetrator given mandatory whole life sentences. This is because we ask them to put themselves in harms way to ensure that society are safe. However last I saw Army, Navy and Royal Air Force personnel did exactly the same. What about the coastguard who risk their lives to safe others? What about the Fire Brigade? Are we seriously saying that one section of society deserve more retribution than others?

What about when police officers kill members of the general public? Do these people deserve less time in jail and the opportunity of being free one day? Isn’t that kinda mad?

I am not a ‘lock ’em up and throw away the key’ person. In fact I am quite the opposite. I believe there is a better way to deal with criminals but when it comes to serious crimes such as murder and rape then prison very much has its place. However mandatory life terms for a crime against one section of society to me seems wholly wrong and only goes to show that we are not all equal. All crimes are not equal. That is why we have judges who have leeway to use their judgement to decide on how long a guilty person should spend inside. Mitigating circumstances have to be taken into account.

This policy seems to me to smell strongly of the Home Secretary trying to get the police back onside and trying to sound strong on crime. That is what everyone seems to want. Labour have welcomed this policy and I don’t know what the Liberal Democrats think but I’d be disappointed if they are happy to say that one persons life is worth more than another’s. It goes against our very principles of equality.

Should people that kill police officers and prison officers face heavy sentences? Darn tootin’ they do but you know what – so does anyone who takes another human life deliberately. Whether that person is a police officer, a member of our armed forces, a teacher, a student, a homeless person or whoever. Taking another human life is a despicable act but you won’t convince me that killing one person is less reprehensible than killing another.

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Disney has sexed up Brave star Merida but at what cost to young minds?

‘Individuality in people is what makes them beautiful’

Words of a very special young man, oh wait, no, scratch that, I said those words this morning. You see I was speaking (well typing) in response to the petition surrounding the ‘glammed up’ version of Merida by Disney as they have made her look more ‘beautiful’ as they prepare her for the US market. They clearly think that by making her look more sexual then they’ll sell more products but isn’t this yet again an attempt by a big money corporation to follow the dollar instead of standing up for what is right?

The creator of Merida – the star of the film Brave – is unhappy with the new version of her character. Speaking in The Guardian she said the following:

The redesign of Merida in advance of her official induction to the Disney Princess collection does a tremendous disservice to the millions of children for whom Merida is an empowering role model who speaks to girls’ capacity to be change agents in the world rather than just trophies to be admired. Moreover, by making her skinnier, sexier and more mature in appearance, you are sending a message to girls that the original, realistic, teenage-appearing version of Merida is inferior; that for girls and women to have value – to be recognised as true princesses – they must conform to a narrow definition of beauty.

By jove she has a point. Now I’m a man so did not face half the issues that women – and in particular young women face as they grow up. Still I see all the magazines and read all the stories (ok that is a lie, I don’t but I know they exist). I know that we are spoon fed by the media what to look for in role models and alas looks is right up there. I was standing in the shower earlier working through this blog post in my head (yes this is the type of thing that I do) and I wondered to myself if we asked 1,000 teenage girls and 1,000 teenage men who they would aspire to be like (and for the men would like to share dinner with) – either Dame Helen Mirren or Kelly Brook who would get the most votes amongst both genders?

I think it is safe to say the vast majority of teenage men would be hot blooded and say Kelly Brook but I also fear that an albeit smaller majority of women would prefer to be like Kelly Brook than Dame Helen Mirren. This depresses me. The tabloid media will follow Kelly Brook’s (or anyone else of that ilk) every move so they can show a photo of her in an attempt to boost sales. Good looking women sell copies but photos of a respected, Oscar winning actress would not.

Michelle Obama is the most known First Lady of all time I suspect and is it a coincidence that she is the most glam? I had Carla Bruni shoved down my throat in both the written and broadcast media when she was the wife of the French President but I had to go and search for the name of her successor in that position. ValĂ©rie Trierweiler is her name for the record. Whilst I don’t begrudge the media presence of Michelle Obama as she clearly uses her position to further many great causes – it says a lot that other First Lady’s have done just as much good which were not as widely recognised due to being less in the media spotlight.

The media and society have a view on what is beautiful and they try to promote people who fall into that venn diagram of who they believe is beautiful. The media do this to make money (similar to what Disney have done with Merida) and society gets dragged along with it. You ask anyone who they think is the most beautiful person and they’ll say their partner if they have one and then if you say ignore their partner they’ll pick out someone famous. However they won’t all name the same person, in fact quite the opposite, if you asked 1,000 men and 1,000 women who they thought the most beautiful famous person was and I’m willing to bet we’ll get at least 100 names for both men and women.

You see the thing is we all look for something different and see beauty in an unending number of ways. If someone asked me what I thought makes someone beautiful then I would struggle to answer. This is just this je ne sais quoi that some people have and some people don’t in my eyes. There is no one thing that I could hang my hat on and say ‘that is something all beautiful people have’ because I just don’t think there is that one thing.

I would love to live in a world where beauty isn’t dictated by society or the media. I know as we all get older we start to see this for ourselves but when you are young and impressionable you don’t see this. When I was a teenager I saw what the media dictated as the most eligible bachelors – David Beckham and Jamie Redknapp – marry two pop stars. Every young women (ok not every young woman, that is a lie) but the amount of young women who wanted to be pop stars increased with this because they thought that is what eligible bachelors go for. A lot (although not as many as some in society would claim) of young women would like to be a footballers wife. Is this really an aspiration we want to pass on?

The best way to tackle this is to promote individuality as beauty. If young people can see that beauty is not just want society tells us it is then they would start to feel less pressure to conform to what society wants them to be. We are all different. This is what makes us a wondrous race. I’m lucky that I have reached a stage where I am comfortable in my own skin but heck in my teens and early 20s I had so much disdain for how my looked it was insane looking back.

If I had my way then schools would promote individuality far more than they do. In our education system you aren’t prepared for the real world. Instead you are forced into a mould to achieve the best possible exam results for both yourself and in turn your school. However whilst being academically successful is important, so is the process of discovering who we are and how we can be the best person we can be. I think our education system fails on this and is one thing I’d love to change. The more young people are allowed to explore themselves the more tolerant we would be and the more comfortable we would be with ourselves and others – no matter how different we were.

Back to the original point the petition is here and if you believe that young women need a vaster array of role models then I would implore you to sign. I don’t blame Disney for what they did because they are just trying to maximise their revenues but I am disappointed by it. They don’t have an obligation to any section of society but it would be nice to see them promote a larger selection of role models and not just do what they think is best for them in the short term profits wise.

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