A podcast for the many, not the few

 Greetings, electorate! This is just a quick blog post to say that I’ve been part of the writing team on a BRAND NEW (yes THAT NEW) election podcast called Strong And Stable.

It’s funnier than a pre-rehearsed joke at Prime Minister’s Question Time, it’s hosted by the wonderful David Schneider, and the guests on episode one are James O’Brien, Josie Long and Bob Mills. Oh, and it features special appearances from Jonathan Pie and Rory Bremner. I know!

You can listen & download it here in the iTunes store. Please listen, enjoy, subscribe, leave feedback… and then, of course, vote Labour. 😉

Hope you like it!

I’m privileged to live near Westminster – and we’re all privileged to live in Britain

I live just half a mile from the Houses of Parliament. I wasn’t sure what to write about this week’s horrific attack… So I thought I would just post what I wrote on Facebook about it…

I wouldn’t normally mark myself as ‘Safe in an attack’ but I live just half a mile from the Houses of Parliament – and this afternoon was working just around the corner from them, doing my regular Wednesday afternoon shift at the wonderful Abbey community centre (named after Westminster Abbey): a hub for local residents and workers in the area, just yards from Parliament Square.

I always think I’m lucky to live so close to Westminster. I can’t get over the fact that on a very still night, we can hear Big Ben’s chimes from our living room; that I can walk less than 10 minutes, and there it is as I turn the corner: the mother of all parliaments, in all its gothic glory. I walk past it – and over the Westminster Bridge crossing to Whitehall – a dozen times a week, at all times of the day or night. It’s no coincidence, I’m sure, that I’ve got involved in politics since going past this place so often: I’ve seen MPs and advisers and staff and others coming to and fro from what it surely the most beautiful office building in the country, and our Parliament has thus become very real and tangible.

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What A Difference 29 Years Makes

parliamentWhat were you doing in 1988? Apart from enjoying Rain Man, A Fish Called Wanda and Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’? I was 17 years old and also enjoying all of the above – as well as studying for A-levels at a comprehensive school in the West Midlands, wearing clothes which ran the full colour palette from black to grey, and sporting a frankly spectacular perm.

In 1988, my perm and I also spent a week at the Houses of Parliament, shadowing my local MP, the ebullient Tory Patrick Cormack. This was as a result of winning a sort of competition that he ran every year for sixth-formers in his constituency, and despite me blurting out in my interview that I didn’t like Margaret Thatcher. I can only assume that, in that moment at least, his admiration for youthful chutzpah overrode his admiration for the Iron Lady.

It’s safe to say that the Rt Hon Patrick Cormack and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on political matters, but he was a perfectly gracious host. I spent my week shadowing him and hanging out with his parliamentary assistants, watching the action in the Chamber and, on one memorable evening, being lucky enough to sit next to the brilliant, funny Tony Banks at a posh parliamentary dinner.

But while it was a fascinating week, it was one that also totally and utterly put me off going into politics.

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Never Too Late

wedding

Life is what happens while we’re busy making other plans, as Allen Saunders (and later John Lennon) said – and that’s my excuse for not having posted a blog post for a while.

Coming into 2016, I didn’t realise this would be the year I’d get engaged, let alone married. And here I am in October, with a ring on my finger and a spring in my step and a feeling of true contentment – at the age of 45 – that I’m still getting used to.

I’ve just written about this for Standard Issue – tying it in with my joy at watching the former Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls on this year’s Strictly Come Dancing.

There is a connection, trust me. Because whether it’s a ballroom dancer or a bride, I hope that both my and Ed’s stories can show that it’s never too late to be what you might have been. And that we all have it in us to write wonderful new chapters in our life.

The inspirational Jo Cox

I never met Jo Cox. But like most people now, I wish I had.

Learning now, as so many of us, about all her work both before becoming an MP and while she was in Parliament, it’s clear that Jo was an extraordinary person whose compassionate world view ran through everything she did, and how she did it. She was loved and respected by her constituents and on both sides of the House; and she used her power and position to help those in need, whether that was in her humanitarian work for Oxfam or as an MP, helping refugees, chairing the all-party parliamentary group on Syria, and championing measures to help immigrants, women and children.

As Conor Costello of Oxfam said: “She had an amazing capacity to inspire and lead, and a soul-deep commitment to equality and justice that she acted on, every single day.”

And in her death, Jo continues to inspire.

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