Saturday, 4 October 2014

Standing Up to Cancer

As you will probably know, if you have encountered me on Twitter or Facebook, I enjoy a good campaign.

You may also know that I am a breast cancer survivor - especially if you have read my post, Healthcare: A Bus or a Taxi? which describes my first cancer diagnosis and initial treatment, as well as my other posts about it and news stories I have been involved in.

These two things came together when Tina Harrison of Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity asked me to be involved in Funny Business 2014.  This involves getting up on stage and doing stand-up comedy.  At Sheffield City Hall.  On the very stage where I saw John Bishop a while ago. Nothing major then.... !!!!!

Now, I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, my children were 8, 5 and 3.  It was a hammer blow to us all and even more so, in 2011, when we received the news that the cancer had come back. Both times, Weston Park Hospital was responsible for my treatment, delivered in Barnsley.  It is because of Weston Park that I am surviving today and still here for my children, husband and family.  

Of course I said yes to Tina; I know I will never be able to repay the debt I owe to the amazing team at Weston Park, but I will do my very best to give a little bit back to make sure that more families are able to have the care and hope that we have.

Yes, stand-up is terrifying, but it's nowhere near as scary as cancer.  If you can support me, please do.  Any amount, no matter how big or small, whatever you can afford; every single pound means a lot. My sponsorship page is here.  Thank you very much.

Monday, 22 September 2014

There Should Be No Doubt About Recall

If the past three weeks in politics have taught us anything, it surely should be that recall of our elected representatives is a vital part of the democratic process.

Being an elected representative of the people is a privilege and I'm not sorry if that sounds corny, because it is true. For someone to be elected to parliament - or any other public office - and to forget who it was that put them in that prestigious, (and not to mention well paid) position is a betrayal of the trust instilled in them by voters. In South Yorkshire, the defiant stance taken by the Police and Crime Commissioner, in the aftermath of the Jay Report, demonstrated perfectly why recall should be a fundamental part of any electoral process.

I'm not talking about one person having an axe to grind and bringing all manner of vexatious complaints forward, I'm talking about when someone completely loses the confidence of the majority of the electorate, as the South Yorkshire PCC clearly did.

Yes, before you ask, I was the deputy PCC in South Yorkshire.  I was under no illusion about the feeling of the public.  One only had to look at social media and at comments on local newspaper websites to get a general flavour of public opinion - not from one or two online trolls, but from hundreds of ordinary members of the public. I overheard conversations about it in supermarkets, outside school, in the park, while watching my children play football and at Slimming World. It was without a doubt, the foremost local news story on everyone's mind. (I am not going to go into my resignation, being asked if the panel could consider me for the interim PCC role or their subsequent decision to select someone removed from politics for the temporary post, that's for another blogpost, this is about recall!)

Recall is all about making those who represent us accountable to the electorate, more than just once every four or five years.  This means that MPs would not be able to cling on in the event of a major public confidence or misconduct issue, they'd have to be seen to be acting properly and doing a good job throughout their term in office. Thankfully, the vast majority of MPs do just that, but we are all aware that during recent years, there have been some who enjoyed the status of the role, whilst working more on their own career prospects and personal fortunes, rather than their casework. 

I know some fantastic constituency MPs, whose first priority is their constituency and constituents; I don't expect they would have anything to be concerned about with a proper recall process.  It would increase the credibility of our parliament and parliamentarians and would reinforce the fact that elected politicians work for the people. 

Recall should be about giving more power to the electorate, which is why the government's current proposals are woefully inadequate. They do not give the necessary power of recall to the people, they keep it within the establishment. Again, in light of a scandal, under the Government's proposals we will see politicians policing themselves and that is something that is just not palatable to the public.  

As Sadiq Khan, the Shadow Justice Secretary says, "We don’t want a system of recall that is solely in the hands of MPs as this will struggle to have the public’s confidence." I am delighted that this view is shared by a cross party group of MPs who are working to get the Recall Bill to a point that will demonstrate a commitment by our elected politicians to repair the damage that has been done by those who relished elected office for all the wrong reasons.