A New Diagnosis

Goodbye Bipolar, Hello Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder

Earlier this week, I visited my psychiatrist for the first time in about a year. The last time that I saw her, she gave the diagnosis as “likely Bipolar II”. My Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN) who was my care co-ordinator (until December 2017) and I were both pleased to have a diagnosis and I proceeded to educate myself in all things Bipolar Disorder Type 2. I have been on a combination of an anti-depressant and a mood stabiliser since that diagnosis. However, on Tuesday, I was given a new diagnosis. Before he left, my CPN had left notes to say that he disagreed with the diagnosis of Bipolar, and instead believed it was more likely that I had Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder. The psychiatrist explained why she agreed. So, now, after a year of believing that I had Bipolar Disorder, I now must understand and get used to this new diagnosis. 

So, what is Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder?

Before I continue with describing how I feel, and generally ‘blogging’ about my experiences, I first want to do a little explaining of what the disorder is. This next section might seem a little bit encyclopaedic in nature. I apologise.

In the World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10), the disorder is called ‘Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder’ (EUPD). However, in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) classification system, which is mainly used in the USA, terms the condition as ‘Borderline Personality Disorder’ (BPD). So different professionals use the different terms to describe the same condition. So, yeah, sometimes it can be a bit confusing over what to call it. Despite this, EUPD or BPD is the same thing.

The name isn’t important. Instead, let’s discuss the symptoms. Getting a diagnosis of EUPD/BPD requires at least five of the following symptoms to have been experienced for a long time and to have a major impact on the sufferer’s daily life:

  • A fear of abandonment and doing anything to stop that happening;
  • Having intense emotions that can change very quickly;
  • Not having a strong sense of identity and that this can change depending on who the sufferer is with;
  • Relationships are difficult to make and difficult to keep stable;
  • The sufferer frequently feels empty;
  • Acting impulsively and will do things that could cause harm to self;
  • Self harm and suicidal ideation;
  • Struggle with very intense feelings of anger and difficulty in controlling this;
  • The sufferer could experience paranoia or dissociation when very stressed.

So to get a diagnosis of EUPD/BPD, the sufferer must have suffered with at least five of the above symptoms. I can put a tick next to all of them.

So, how do I feel about this?

Honestly, I feel like I have been lying for the last year. I have told people that I have Bipolar Disorder Type II. I have written articles about it. I have recognised similarities in fictional characters who have portrayed Bipolar Disorder. I have become friends with people who have Bipolar Disorder and we compared our symptoms and medication. Suddenly, everything I thought was true has now become untrue. And my biggest fear with this? That people won’t believe me. That people will judge me as an attention seeker. That people will believe that I have lied.

That was the initial feeling and the one that is still hanging around. But, how else am I feeling?

That it makes sense. I have had recognisable patterns of rapid fluctuation between times of confidence and despair. I have regularly been fearful of abandonment and rejection. As for self-harm and suicidal thinking? Yeah. A lot. I struggle with my emotions and I struggle with social, psychological, and occupational functioning. EUPD/BPD makes sense.

It makes sense and, because it makes sense, it means that my whole life is suddenly making sense. Everything that I have ever done that has been unexplainable, is now explainable. I know understand why I do things, why I think things, and why I keep screwing up with relationships, employment, and my finances. Everything makes sense. 

What next?

My psychiatrist has referred me to an organisation based in Cornwall that helps those with mental health issues. She has also promised to put me on the ‘urgent’ list for allocation to a new care co-ordinator. I am also awaiting emotional coping skills therapy and other Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). My medication regimen is also changing.

I am also keen on finding ways to help myself. I can’t keep waiting on a system that is broken to help me to fix my mind. I need to find ways to help myself. This might mean joining a gym to exercise more; eating three healthy meals a day; regulating my sleep pattern; or to come up with techniques to use in certain emotional states. I’m going to try everything I can to help me to live this life with a full understanding of my condition and with a determination to not let it hold me back. 

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Gender, Language, and Democracy

Gender, language, and democracy

by Matt Coot

 

In July 2017, I wrote an article about gender and how gender specific terms need to be replaced with non-gender specific terms. In that article, I wrote about how Saltash Town Council had been debating about the future of the “Mayoress’ Chain” and how it was my belief that the argument was in the wrong, as it was about whether a male mayor’s consort could wear the “Mayoress’ Chain” and how this was a breach of the Equality Act 2010. The debate was concluded with the decision to retire the chain. However, it was come to my attention that the controversial issue has been reopened but without a debate being granted.

Why do non-gender specific terms matter?

Language has been something that has fascinated me for my entire life. At every level of my education studies, I have embarked upon the exploration of language and I have been interested in how language has changed over time. Language changes for many reasons, including: societal changes, technological advancements, and the influence of other languages. Contemporary times and shifting attitudes towards different sections in society has resulted in certain words becoming redundant and replaced with terms that can be used equally for a wider range of people. We have done this most clearly with the changes regarding gender specific terms.

Gender Specific&Neutral Jobs1Policeman/police woman, landlord/landlady, actor/actress; there are, of course, many other gender specific terms that we could discuss. With the changes in language, we now refer to those working in the police as police officers. This avoids the use of gender and includes every gender with a non-specific term. Those who own land are, in the majority, still referred to with the gender specific terms, but there has been a growing change to calling them ‘land owners’ instead. As for those who act, their profession is now known as ‘actor’ no matter the gender. We change these terms for inclusion and for equality. We change these terms because that is the right thing to do.

Of course, gender specific terms are also outdated, because we are aware of gender no longer being a binary thing. Gender is non-binary. As discussed in my previous article, there are over one-hundred different gender identities that people identify themselves as being. We are no longer male or female. Gender is no longer something that is an enforced binary decision. In fact, it could be argued that “gender is not a straight line… it is a spectrum”. Therefore, why should we continue to use gender specific terms for roles that can be carried out by anyone, no matter what gender they identify as? We need gender specific terms to go the same way as the dinosaurs. Gender specificity is archaic, discriminatory, and wrong.

The Saltash Town Council “Mayoress’ Chain” Should Stay Retired

Further to the argument surrounding gender specific terms, and how society should be proud of liberal values of equality, we come to the current issue that is being stirred back up with Saltash Town Council: the “Mayoress’ Chain”.

I have been notified, by unnamed sources close to the council, that the Mayor of Saltash, Cllr John Brady, has sent an email to all councillors to inform them that he is reopening the debate that the council had less than a year ago. The debate, however, will not be a debate. Instead, the controversial mayor has declared that there will be no debate, but only a vote. However, the vote will not be carried out during a meeting, but over an online poll and for this result to be read out during the next council meeting. If you’re wondering, like I am, for the reasons behind this bizarre decision, keep reading as I will analyse the mayor’s actions later in this article. For now, I would like to keep discussing what should be the main issue here: the term “mayoress”.

EqAct2010

In 2017, Cllr John Brady was one of the main instigators behind the debate about the “Mayoress’ Chain” and the use of it by male mayor’s consorts over the last few years, when the mayor had been female (Cllr Jean Dent and, former Cllr, Hilary Frank). The argument was that the chain should not be used by male consorts as it had been originally, and historically, gifted to the town for the use of the mayoress. This argument, however, would be a breach of the Equality Act 2010. If a mayor’s consort is forbidden the use of the chain because of their gender, it is a form of direct discrimination. There were other arguments offered, but to me this was the main problem: you cannot exclude someone from something based purely on their gender. It would have been my suggestion to change the outdated title of the chain to “The Mayoral Consort’s Chain” or simply “The Consort’s Chain”. However, the council decided to retire the chain.

The term “mayoress” is outdated. It suggests that the mayor should be male and that their partner be female. This, not only, excludes those of other genders, but it also excludes those of different sexualities than heterosexual couples. This would be a discrimination against two protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. All this from the use of one word. Change that word, and these problems vanish.

Last year, the Saltash Town Council decided to retire the “Mayoress’ Chain”. They could have renamed it, but for reasons of “historical integrity” they decided instead to have the chain retired and gifted to the local heritage centre to be put on display. This decision, therefore, literally put the chain (and, therefore, the name of the chain) where it belongs: in a museum. For as long as it continues to use that outdated and discriminatory name, it should stay in the museum.

So Why Is The Mayor Of Saltash Making Such A Bizarre Decision?

The answer to this question is a rather simple one: vanity. The controversial mayor, who is currently facing censure, has made this decision purely out of the vain choice that he and his wife should look the part. There is no other factor at play here.

From an unnamed source close to the council, I have received a copy of the email that was sent to all councillors. It is an interesting read:

“Dear Councillors
Please find below a message from the Mayor. I will set up a survey poll on this which will run from Friday 25th May 2018 at 3.30 p.m. to Friday 1st June 2018 at 3.30 p.m. You will receive the separate poll email with link shortly and can vote immediately from receipt.

Please note it is your vote in the poll via the link that counts so please do vote.
Thank you.
Fiona

Message from the Mayor:
The Mayor is asking Council to approve the return of the Mayoresses Chain to use by the Mayoress of the day. The Mayoress will be the only wearer of the chain in the future.
Dear Council Members,
Being 2 weeks into my term as Mayor, I have been amazed at the number of people Jackie and I have met who have asked why Jackie is not wearing the Mayoresses chain.
We have responded to the question by saying it is ‘ political ‘. Some people had seen and heard the media coverage surrounding the withdrawal of the chain, expressing a variety of comments from ‘ how sad ‘ to ‘ that is stupid’.
I will freely admit we were ridiculed at the time, and I was as involved as anyone else in the decision to retire the chain.
However, due to the interest from people we meet I feel it is reasonable to request approval for the chain to be returned to use by the Mayoress ONLY.
I have discussed fully with the Town Clerk my proposal. The Town Clerk has assured me that the process is correct as it is now 6 months since the item was last considered by Full Council.
I intend to put the item on the Agenda of FTC on 7th June.
A survey Monkey will be set up on Friday 25th May to run 5 days. You are asked to vote yes/no only.
The result will be announced and recorded at FTC on June 7th. There will be NO debate.
Councillor John Brady
Mayor of Saltash.”

The interesting factors within this email are that the chain would only be used by whoever is the “mayoress” and only the “mayoress”, and that the mayor has decided that there will be no debate of the matter only the online poll.

I should also note that the mayor has described that “some people” have “expressed a variety of comments”. When I was a councillor, I experienced many occasions when Cllr Brady quoted unnamed and unverified sources, who just so happened share the same views as him. When he has been asked for additional information regarding these sources, he had refused to give the information. I cannot confirm for certain that Cllr Brady makes up these opinions, but the terms of “how sad” and “this is stupid” has been used many times in the past by many of these ‘sources’ and by Cllr Brady himself. It does call into question the reliability of such statements. Perhaps if people felt strongly enough about the “Mayoress’ Chain”, they would write to the council directly.

“The Mayoress will be the only wearer of the chain in the future”

As discussed above, the term “mayoress” denotes the use by a female partner of the sitting mayor. Declaring that the use of the chain only be that of the “mayoress” is declaring that only a female partner can wear the chain. This, as already argued, is a breach of the Equality Act 2010. It is excluding those of different genders and, could be argued, as excluding those people, of different sexualities than heterosexual, from putting themselves forward for the role of Mayor. This whole issue is discrimination and should be stopped.

Why Is The Lack Of A Debate A Dangerous Thing?

As discussed, in the email quoted above, the Mayor of Saltash has decided not to allow a debate on this matter, but instead has demanded that the councillors vote on an online poll. Firstly, the online poll is fallible and could be misused by anyone with access to the link. Secondly, the lack of debate doesn’t allow for amendments to the matter, amendments that may change the use of the chain from a discriminatory one to a fair and equal one. Thirdly, this could be a slippery slope for the mayor to issue future issues like this so as to force through unpopular decisions.

Let’s take the first point of the poll being fallible. My source, who will remain unnamed, also sent me the link. I have opened the link. I am offered the opportunity to cast a vote. I didn’t cast a vote, but I could have done. The source who sent me the link is not a member of the council, they are not a member of council staff, however they followed the link and they cast a vote. Therefore, the poll is at danger of being corrupted. I do not know who else this source had shared this information with, or whether more people have a copy of the link. However, the fact remains that someone who isn’t a councillor has placed a vote on this online poll, and, in effect, has been responsible for making this online vote unreliable. On the other hand, a vote during a meeting is public and members can be held accountable for their decisions. A vote during a meeting also ensures that only members of the council vote on the matter. An online vote cannot be relied upon as a safe and secure decision made only by the council members, this has been proved. Therefore, I would urge the Mayor of Saltash to change his decision and to allow there to be a debate and vote during a public meeting.

The second issue of a lack of debate not allowing for amendments to be made is reckless. There are sixteen members of the council. Sixteen people with a variety of experiences and knowledge. Sixteen people who have been granted their position by the people of the town of Saltash. Sixteen people who should be allowed a voice to discuss matters. By shutting down debate, the mayor is shutting out the experience and knowledge of fifteen other fairly elected officials. This matter needs a debate as it can be changed to make it fairer and less discriminate. Therefore, I would urge the Mayor of Saltash to change his decision and to allow there to be a debate and vote during a public meeting.

The third point of this being the first step towards further acts of matters being taken to an online vote to push through unpopular matters is a dangerous one. Meetings of the council allow council members to debate and vote in a fair, open, and transparent manner. They can be held accountable for decisions made, and they can engage in a debate that can evolve issues to better conclusions. Meetings also allow input from members of the public, who can make a comment or ask a question by lodging it with the town clerk prior to the meeting. Therefore, again, I would urge the Mayor of Saltash to change his decision and to allow there to be a debate and vote during a public meeting.

What Can You Do?

Write to Saltash Town Council with your views. Write an email, letter, or a social media post. However you do it, just make sure they are aware of how you feel about this matter.

Also, share this article with everyone you know so that more people are made aware of this problematic issue.

 

I will be contacting Saltash Town Council to see if they would like to make a comment with regards to this article. I will update the article with their comment as and when I receive one.

 

OTHER MEDIA AND JOURNALISTS:

If using this article as a source, please quote and refer to it within your article. I can be reached, for further comment, on: matt@rallidaeproductions.co.uk

Local Election Results: The Winners and Losers

When we examine the result of the local elections, who do you believe is the winner? Headlines seem to be focused on the Labour and Conservative parties. The BBC seems intent on painting a picture of the results being close between Labour and Conservative parties. But, when looking at the data, which party is the true winner of this election?

If you consider who has gained councils and councillors, then the only party to come out on top is the Liberal Democrat party. The Liberal Democrats has gained four more councils and gained 75 more councillors. This is the only party to see gains in both of those columns.

Screen Shot 2018-05-05 at 12.10.41

As for the ‘big two’ parties, Labour has control of the same amount of councils as in 2014, but gained 77 more councillors. In total, Labour have control of 74 councils and have a total of 2350 councillors. Conservatives have lost control of two councils, and have also lost 33 councillors. In total, the Tories have control of 46 councils and have 1332 councillors. So, out of the ‘big two’, it seems that Labour has been more successful than the Conservative Party. Labour has over one thousand more councillors elected than the Tories. Labour also has control over 28 more councils than the Tories.

The party that has suffered the most in these local elections is UKIP. The party of Brexit has lost 123 councillors. A massive defeat for the controversial party.

As for other gains: the Green Party has gained eight more councillors.

What is my analysis of these results?

These results suggest anti-government and anti-Brexit beliefs are affecting the way that the electorate vote.

Analysing the data shows that the main losses come from parties that are leading the Brexit brigade. The party in government, the Tories, has lost both councils and number of councillors. UKIP, the party of Brexit, has also lost a huge number of councillors.

On the other hand, the parties who are against government policies and against Brexit have made gains. Labour, the opposition party, has gained 77 more councillors. The Liberal Democrats, the party fighting for a referendum on the final deal for Brexit, gained control over 4 more councils and gained 75 more councillors.

The results are resoundingly clear: the Tories have failed this country and the electorate are letting them know. For Theresa May to call this a success is bizarre and factually incorrect. They have lost control of councils and lost numbers of councillors. Target seats don’t matter when you’re looking at the big picture.

As for Labour, the gain of 77 more councillors puts them ahead of the Tories by over one thousand more councillors. This is a success for Labour and for the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

However, the real success is with the Liberal Democrats, with gains of councils and councillors. The Liberal Democrats have been gaining councillors and councils in by-elections since last year’s abysmal results, and now this most recent election is seeing them being the only party to gain both councils and councillors.

What should this do?

These results should give a voice to Vince Cable and the Liberal Democrats. The media has been neglecting them for far too long, opting instead to focus on the two ‘big’ parties and the more extreme parties, such as UKIP. This election shows that the Liberal Democrats are fighting back and they are winning hearts and minds. The media should begin to reflect this, but probably won’t.

This election should also provide Jeremy Corbyn with the mandate to be a stronger and more forceful opposition leader. Jeremy Corbyn should change Labour’s stance on Brexit to demanding the people have an opportunity to make a decision on the final deal. This will be supported by the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party, and potentially SNP. This will be an opportunity for the Opposition parties to work together and defeat the Tories.

The Tories will see the swing from UKIP to Conservative, and this will provide them with the reasoning to become more extreme in their views and to be more controversial with ‘populist’ views.

As for the BBC coverage…

Screen Shot 2018-05-05 at 12.21.37

Can anybody explain how Labour and Tories are neck to neck? The results just above this headline disproves that by showing losses for Tories and gains for Labour. The results show over one thousand more councillors for Labour than the Tories. Neck and neck? Bizarre.

Is “highly likely” really enough?

We need evidence and a democratic decision before launching our nation into war.

An opinion piece by Matt Coot

Syria

The Prime Minister has met with the Cabinet to discuss potential action in response to the alleged chemical weapon attack in Douma, Syria. Ministers have agreed that the Assad regime was “highly likely” responsible and that action should be taken to “deter the further use of chemical weapons”. I don’t think anybody is in any denial that this will also lead to conflict with Russia, who has been supporting the Syrian regime.

“Highly likely” was the term used by Theresa May when blaming Russia for the nerve agent attack in Salisbury. The phrase “highly likely” means that it isn’t for certain. In fact, we could replace those words with “probably”. There is absolutely no evidence that can be provided to show that it happened or, if it did happen, who was responsible for the alleged Syrian chemical weapon attack. Just like there is no evidence – or very little evidence – to prove that the Salisbury attack was the actions of the Russian state.

Is “highly likely” enough to start a war? For the Cabinet of the UK government, it seems to be that it is. “Highly likely” is enough to take military action. But, why isn’t parliament being allowed to decide whether this nation goes to war?

Could it be because there’s an election coming up and any loss of this important vote will show that Theresa May’s leadership is weak and wobbly? After all, the last time Parliament voted on air strikes on Syria, the government lost the vote.

If this nation goes to war without parliament being consulted, this nation will no longer be living in a democracy. We will be living in an autocratic regime. Theresa May will be an autocratic warmongering dictator.

Our elected representatives need to be presented with evidence that can prove that a chemical weapon attack took place, that the Assad regime is to blame, and that military action will stop further use of chemical weapons or an escalation to a larger war involving Syria’s allies (Russia and Iran). They then need to make the decision as a democratic body – and this needs to be done without the vote being whipped. MPs need to be free to vote with their conscience and not with what they are told by their party leadership.

Russia

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has announced that it agreed with the UK government on the identity of the nerve agent. They didn’t name it as “novichok” and they didn’t identify the location of the origin of the nerve agent.

“There can be no doubt” Boris Johnson, Foreign Secretary, said in response to the findings of the OPCW. “There remains no alternative explanation about who was responsible – only Russia has the means, motive and record.”

Boris Johnson is wrong because there are many “alternative” explanations. Maria Zakharova, from the Russian Foreign Ministry, has offered “alternative” explanations. So have many (so many) conspiracy theorists on social media. Some “alternative” explanations consider the attack as a “false flag” event, and some even accuse Theresa May of being responsible because she was down in the polls prior to the election in May. I don’t believe any of these conspiracy theories, but to state that there isn’t any “alternative” explanations is factually incorrect.

Just because you refuse to look for alternative explanations, it doesn’t mean that it is proof. Just because Boris Johnson and the Conservative party refuse to look for alternative explanations, it is not proof that Russia did it. This statement that the Foreign Secretary has used means that the government is still working from a hypothesis based upon prejudicial opinion and guesswork. Johnson might as well say ‘We have no proof but we can’t trust the Russians so they did it”.

“Only Russia has the means, motive and record” – actually, if we are talking about “means”, then perhaps we should admit that Porton Down, the UK’s chemical weapons laboratory located close to the attack site, also has developed Novichok agents. The USA is reported to have developed Novichok agents too. And, of course, Iran successfully synthesised the agent in 2016.

As for motive, what motive? Yes, Mr Skripal was a former Russian spy who was accused of spying for the UK, but Putin allowed for Skripal to be exchanged in a prisoner exchange. The question remains, why would the Russian state want to attack a British city and target someone who was no longer a threat to them? Why would they risk this escalation towards conflict? The argument for Russia being the only one with the means and motive is rather shaky and lacking in hard facts.

However, yes, there is a record of Russia using chemical weaponry against a former spy on UK soil. However, they are not the only threat to the UK that has a record of launching attacks on our cities. Most recently, we have faced attacks from Daesh and other terrorist organisations.

Simply pointing the finger of blame at the Russian state and saying they are the only ones capable of doing this, the only ones who want to do this, and the only ones with a record of doing similar things… well, it just simply isn’t good enough.

Now, I am not saying it isn’t Russia. I’m not a conspiracy theory believing lunatic. However, I am someone who believes in the concept of being innocent until proven guilty. Proven guilty without a shadow of a doubt. A chemical weapon attack against a nation is an act of war. If the Foreign Secretary, and the UK government, want to continue blaming Russia, then it needs to provide evidence that proves, without a shadow of a doubt, that Russia is the guilty party. “Highly likely” is not good enough.

The Foreign Secretary went on to say that the UK government has “nothing to hide”. He also said that “in the interest of transparency”, that the UK government has asked the OPCW release the executive summary of their report. Well, if the UK has “nothing to hide”, and “in the interest of transparency” can we be shown all the evidence that the government has against Russia so that this country can – without a shadow of a doubt – be confident that the government is acting in the correct and reasonable manner against the correct enemy? If not, back down until you can provide such evidence.

How to stay safe on Facebook

I know what you’re thinking. All this nonsense on the news about Facebook and people’s data is nothing to do with you. You don’t do enough on Facebook for there to be enough data on you to be able to manipulate you and the way you vote.

I know how it feels to be overwhelmed with news reports about data being given away, about Zuckerberg answering ridiculous questions from politicians in the US, and about a company you had never heard of before a few weeks ago – Cambridge Analytica. What has any of this got to do with you?

Well, actually, quite a lot. I did a quick audit of accounts on Facebook and found that most of the ones that I looked at showed me enough to be able to socially engineer a way into the majority of the accounts that I looked at. I’m in no way an expert, but someone who has done a lot of research for the novel that I am writing. I can spot ways that social engineering can be done. I can also see how small amounts of information can be used to develop a working psychological profile on the account holder. I can also see how these small amounts of information can be compared to other account holders to build up a picture of sections of society. It can easily be done, even by an amateur investigative journalist like me. So, imagine what a company with masses of resources can do. You think you’re safe? Believe me, you’re not.

An example of how easy it is to harvest data…

Screen Shot 2018-04-12 at 10.33.28

One of many obvious data mining posts on Facebook. This one was commented on by one of my friends and so appeared on my timeline.

The above post has had a phenomenal amount of comments and shares despite it being an obvious tool to mine for people’s data. As many commenters put, this post can give people one of the answers to the most common security questions that people set for account security. It is also one of the most common security questions for bank account security.

I did a little investigation myself by seeing how much I could find out about someone who had commented on the post. I found a substantial amount of data that I could use to socially engineer my way into the person’s life. He had seemed to try to keep his account private, but hadn’t updated his privacy settings in quite some time. Not only did I find out where he went to school, I also found out the level of education that he got up to. I found out where he lived and where he grew up. I found out names of friends he grew up with, names of teachers that had taught him, the names of pets, and information about his toddler son. Looking at his reviews and check-ins, I found out places he had been – either regularly or as a one-off. I found out his job and his employment history, as well as names of colleagues. I even found out what road he lives on. With this amount of data, I could setup a fake account and socially engineer my way into this guy’s life. This is just information I got by clicking on his name under the comments to the above post and then clicking on the freely accessible information from his profile. Oh, and I should mention, this was someone who was finding it frustrating that people would give away their data so easily under this post. He didn’t actually post his primary school name. I found that elsewhere on his profile. This suggests that even those who think they are safe and are being smart online, are just as likely to be giving away vast amounts of data without even realising it.

Quizzes and Apps

It isn’t just the posts that we comment on and share that can be used to harvest your information. The Cambridge Analytica story involves the use of quizzes and apps on Facebook to develop a working psychological profile of users and to use this to manipulate portions of society to vote a certain way.

Quizzes and apps are still being used on Facebook today. The ones used by Cambridge Analytica – and other data companies embroiled within this issue – have been taken down, or at least those known about. However, there are still a large number of ‘personality’ related quizzes being used. I saw one earlier “What Lost character are you?”. These quizzes are used to build up a ‘personality type’ that, as discussed, can be used to build up a psychological profile to be used to give an average idea of portions of society. When you embark upon these quizzes, you usually give away your consent to use your data without you even really knowing you had done so.

FBQuiz

Example of how quizzes and apps on Facebook trick you into giving away vast amounts of data.

“I’m not racist but…”

There are so many posts out there that can give information as to your political beliefs. Not only that, but these posts are designed to get you to share them because you would feel like the outsider not to share it.

Britain First Facebook 1

Nobody is offended by the Union Flag. There have been minor instances where flags have been advised to be removed, but this has been all flags and due to the potential of hooliganism and violence in areas where football matches have triggered such violence. There has also been misunderstandings where tenancy rules have forbidden anything on windows or any alterations to buildings without the landlord’s prior permission, and where this has been enforced with requests for flags to be taken down. Nothing to do with being offended, but rather it just being against tenancy rules. However, these minor unrelated instances are used by groups like Britain First and UKIP to rile up the xenophobic feelings within certain sectors of society and try to convince people that there are those out there who have immigrated to the UK and who are offended by the flag. This is simply untrue, but by playing on the fears of these sections of society, they can encourage the sharing of such posts as the one above. This gives the pages of groups who do such a thing a legitimacy and a mandate to continue. Not only that, but by commenting on or by sharing such a post, you have shown that you can be easily manipulated by right-wing views. And, this is how you can be manipulated into voting a certain way during elections and referendums.

I know what you’re thinking: “I’m not racist”. I also know that there’s something that follows that, “but…”. I used to hear it a lot when I was canvassing for elections. If you don’t believe yourself to be racist or prejudiced in any shape or form, then I politely request that you stop commenting on, and sharing, such posts as the one above.

So, how can I stay safe on Facebook?

I’ve been preparing a list of advisory measures that my parents can take to make sure their Facebook is as secure as it can be and for them to stop engaging with posts that can be used against them. I am going to post this list below. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but rather the foundations of how to secure your Facebook account. Keep alert, keep aware, and keep actively securing your data.

General rules to stay safe on Facebook

  1. Do not comment under any post that is from a public page if you do not know the source. This is especially important if:

    • The post instructs you to comment with some sort of personal information;
    • The post says that 1% (or similar percentage) won’t comment or share;
    • The post is xenophobic, Islamophobic, homophobic, racist or generally prejudicial in any shape or form;
    • The post is trying to get you to post with details about when/where you grew up.
  2. Do not share any post from any unknown source. This is especially important if the post matches any of the above mentioned criteria.

  3. Do not take part in ANY quizzes on Facebook or Apps associated with Facebook.

  4. Do not play ANY games on Facebook or games associated with Facebook.

  5. You MUST go through the settings on your Facebook account to make your account is as secure as possible:

    • Turn on two-factor authentication;
    • Turn on alerts about unrecognised logins;
    • Turn on the ‘trusted contacts’ option by adding your close relatives or trusted friends to be sent a code if you find yourself locked out;
    • Only allow friends to see your future posts;
    • Limit the audience for posts you’ve shared with friends of friends or public;
    • Make sure only friends of friends can send friend requests;
    • Change the setting to make sure only you can see your friends list;
    • Make sure only friends can look you up with your email address and phone number;
    • Make sure you cannot be seen on search engines;
    • Make sure only friends can post on your timeline;
    • Make sure only you can see what others post on your Facebook;
    • Make sure only you see posts that you’re tagged in on your timeline;
    • Turn on the reviews option for being tagged.
  6. Setup your Ad Preferences (under ‘settings’) to make sure you’re sharing only the data you want to the audiences you approve. You can also hide certain ad topics (alcohol, pregnancy, etc).

Boris Johnson should be fired

How is Boris Johnson still the Foreign Secretary?

by Matt Coot

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, or as he is most commonly known ‘Boris Johnson’, was an odd choice for Foreign Secretary when Theresa May announced her Cabinet in 2016. This was a politician who had spent the Brexit campaign insulting many of the European nations, and had spent the majority of his career making inappropriate slurs against many nations and their leaders. At the time, people laughed. It wasn’t long before it became accepted that Boris Johnson was this nation’s Foreign Secretary. But why? He continues to lie, continues to show his racist nature, is sexist, uses offensive comparisons and descriptions for people and nations, and has questionable links to the Russian state as well as a possible connection to the perpetration of electoral fraud during the referendum campaign. Now, he has been caught in a very serious lie about how this country was led to take the most serious action against Russia since the end of the Cold War. So, how is he still Foreign Secretary? How has he not lost his position and been suspended by the Conservative Party?

His lie about Porton Down

When asked about the evidence that pointed to Russia as being the responsible party for the nerve agent attack in Salisbury, Boris Johnson said ““I mean the people from Porton Down, the laboratory..and they were absolutely categorical and I asked the guy myself, I said, “Are you sure?” And he said there’s no doubt.”

However, during an interview broadcast yesterday, the Chief Executive of Porton Down told Sky News that they were unable to identify the source of the nerve agent.

This doesn’t mean that it wasn’t Russia. It does mean that Porton Down scientists were unable to give the source of the nerve agent. They could not be “absolutely categorical” or absolutely sure with “no doubt” because they were unable to identify the source. And what does this mean?

Boris Johnson lied. He did not have a scientist at Porton Down tell him that there was “no doubt” it was Russia who was behind the attack. Boris Johnson lied. He misled the public into believing there was categorical proof from the Porton Down laboratory. Boris Johnson lied.

It wasn’t just on this interview that he lied, but the Foreign Office also Tweeted this:

FOPortonDown

Since the interview between Sky News and the Chief Executive of Porton Down was released yesterday, this Tweet from the Foreign Office has mysteriously been deleted. However, they forgot the golden rule of social media: don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your electorate to later see, especially once they’ve found out that you’re lying.

So, Boris Johnson lied. He was acting in the capacity of the Foreign Secretary when he gave that interview. It can be assumed that this Tweet had also been given the okay by him. Now, they are trying to cover up their mistake. Or, specifically, the Foreign Secretary’s mistake.

This is not the first time that Boris Johnson has been caught in a lie:

  • In 1988, he was fired from The Times for lying about a quote in an article (he made up the quote – a bit like making up the quote from the scientist at Porton Down).
  • In 2004, he lied about his extra-marital affairs and was fired from his position as Shadow Arts Minister.
  • During his time as the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson made promises and broke them. Eradicating rough sleeping in London was a failure as numbers doubled during his leadership. Manned ticket offices at every station? He closed all of London’s ticket offices.
  • During the Brexit campaign, Boris Johnson proudly stood in front of that big red bus that promised £350 million per week would go to the NHS. It seems after the referendum, there were “no guarantees”.

Boris Johnson is a compulsive and serial liar. He should be fired for this alone, but there’s more of Johnson’s sins to show yet.

His blatant sexism

On 27th March, Boris Johnson was forced to apologise for “inadvertent sexism” towards Emily Thornberry MP. There is no such thing as sexism that is “inadvertent”. The Foreign Secretary was purposefully sexist, rude, and out of order.

The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow was visibly angry at Johnson’s sexist rant that he gave the Foreign Secretary a telling off. “First of all, we don’t name call in this chamber.” He then gave a stern instruction for the Foreign Secretary to listen to him as he would “benefit from listening”. He continued with his ‘teacher to naughty schoolboy’ telling off with, “Secondly, we do not address people by the titles of their spouses. The Shadow Foreign Secretary has a name. And its not ‘Lady Something’. We know what her name is and it is inappropriate and frankly sexist to speak with those terms.”

This isn’t the first time that Boris Johnson has displayed his sexist side. He once described Hilary Clinton has a “sadistic nurse in a mental hospital”. Not only is this offensive in nature, but it also has a sexist element to it. Would he have described a man in this way? Absolutely not. This was an offensive and sexist statement to make about a candidate in a foreign election.

Boris Johnson’s sexist behaviour should have been condemned on 27th March. It should have been condemned by his leader and his party. In fact, his party – who have been promoting a “Respect Pledge” – should have suspended him. Instead, nothing occurred. He got away with it, apart from for some minor outrage in the press.

Boris Johnson is Racist

BorisjohnsonRacism

On 28th March, it was revealed that Boris Johnson attended the launch of a local Conservative campaign that has been accused of “dog whistle racism”. The “Keep Havering Safe” campaign was launched in December 2017, and Boris Johnson was there. There should have been outrage. There should have been condemnation. There should have been a firing and suspension from party. There was nothing.

This isn’t the first time that Boris Johnson has shown his racist side:

  • In 1997, he said that South Africa has a “majority tyranny of black rule”.
  • In 2002, he said that “the problem [with Africa] is not that we were once in charge, but that we are not in charge any more.”
  • Again, in 2002, he wrote that touring the Commonwealth, the Queen would be greeted by “cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies”.
  • Again, in 2002, he wrote that on Tony Blair’s visit to the Congo “tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles”. He described Tony Blair as “the big white chief”.
  • In 2003, he wrote “Right, let’s go and look at some more piccaninnies”.
  • In 2008, he wrote “Orientals … have larger brains and higher IQ scores. Blacks are at the other pole”.
  • In 2006, he had described Barack Obama as “part-Kenyan” with an “ancestral dislike” of Britain.

His racist attitude is disgusting. Any sort of racism is vile and there is no place for it in our modern fair and open society. Boris Johnson, as a representative of this country, has displayed ignorant and horrible opinions with this racist behaviour. He should never have been promoted to such a level in government and he should be instantly fired from his position.

How is Boris linked to the Cambridge Analytica story?

Boris Johnson was one of the figureheads for the official Vote Leave campaign (alongside Michael Gove). A Canadian digital firm, AggregateIQ (AIQ), was pivotal in the Vote Leave campaign. Whistleblowers have spoken of links between AIQ and Cambridge Analytica. These same whistleblowers have explained how Vote Leave channelled money through the campaign BeLeave so that AIQ was paid more by the campaign than electoral laws allowed. It is all a mess and confusing, and I will write a more in-depth article once all evidence has been released, but what this means is simple: Boris Johnson is linked to a campaign that is under suspicion of breaking electoral laws and is further linked to a data company that may have broken laws to influence the referendum vote. There needs to be an independent inquiry and a criminal investigation. Can two high ranking politicians really escape unscathed? They should be removed from their positions and suspended by the party until investigations can be carried out.

How is Boris linked to Russia?

Just read this previous article.

In conclusion

Why should Boris Johnson be fired?

  1. He misled the public with a lie about Porton Down,
  2. He has displayed sexist behaviour,
  3. He has displayed racist beliefs,
  4. He has questionable links to potential electoral fraud,
  5. He has questionable links to the Russian state.

 

 

We need a new word for ‘anxiety’

Today is a bad day

by Matt Coot

What scares you?

fear

Imagine if you wake up and you’re scared of everything. You’re scared of opening your eyes for fear of what is going to be there. You’re scared of not opening your eyes for fear of what might attack you if you’re not looking.

Your heart is beating faster and faster. You’re scared that something is wrong with your heart because it is beating so fast. Your breathing increases too, and you’re now scared that its your lungs that have the problem. It isn’t normal that your heart is beating this fast. It isn’t normal that your breathing is so fast. You’re not normal.

You talk yourself into finally opening your eyes, because you now you have to get help because your heart and lungs are going to explode, you’re going to die. You need to get help. But then you’re scared of lifting the duvet off of your body. Your body is weak. You can’t even lift a duvet. What kind of man are you?

You’re pathetic, weak, ridiculous. And now, you are trapped inside your bed. Fear has trapped you. Fear of the unexplainable. Fear of the illogical. Fear of the most inconsequential of things. You’re scared and you’re trapped.

This is what it was like when I woke up this morning. Ironically, I was getting up to go see the GP about my mental health. The problem was that I couldn’t leave my bed, so I couldn’t get across the room to the bedroom door, which meant I couldn’t make it to the bathroom, which meant I couldn’t get ready, and that meant I couldn’t do anything else with my morning – such as breakfast, a mug of tea, check the news, check social media, leave the house, walk to the health centre, see the GP – all of that, everything to do with my morning, was now impossible to do. Why? Because of anxiety.

Anxiety

We need a new word for ‘anxiety’. People say “I’m anxious” when they feel slightly nervous. That isn’t anxiety and it gives the general population the wrong opinion of what anxiety is. Anxiety is crippling. It stops you from doing the most simple of activities. I explained, above, what it was like waking up this morning, but maybe people think “that’s just what getting up is like, we all have it”. However, imagine a shower. You get in, the water cascades around you and you wash your body and hair, yes? A simple activity, right? Not with anxiety. The very process of getting into the shower turns into a more complex mission than trying to gain peace in the Middle East. And that’s just the process of getting into the shower. Honestly, simple activities become impossible.  Brushing your teeth, making a mug of tea, drinking the mug of tea, walking from one room to another, going outside, answering the phone, making a call, sending a Tweet, opening a message, writing a Facebook status, checking Snapchat, talking to someone, taking medication, preparing food, anything and everything. Anxiety isn’t just feeling slightly nervous. Anxiety is crippling. Anxiety is ruining my life. Anxiety is a curse.

I eventually managed to get out of bed. I managed to write a list for my mum. The list was calls that I needed to make, but couldn’t do myself. Before she read the entire list, she had a go at me. She was annoyed that I missed my appointment with the GP. She was off sick from work, recovering from a recent illness, and she was mad that she had got up earlier to make sure I was awake. So she was angry. She didn’t know that it was the crippling anxiety that had stopped me. She judged me, my own mother judged me, for what she believed was laziness. It wasn’t until I explained, it wasn’t until she realised I needed help from the mental health team, that she apologised and realised what I was going through. This was one of the people in my life who know me best, and her initial judgement was negative. If my mother can judge me, and – without meaning to – make me feel smaller and weaker than I already was, imagine what my perception of what other people, people who know me less than my mother, would think of me.

Anyway, I love my mum and she is compassionate and caring, but this was a rare moment when she didn’t understand. Please don’t get the wrong opinion because of this rare moment. My mum is extraordinary and has been going through a lot lately. She’s brilliant.

Anyway, proving her awesomeness, my mum contacted the GP surgery for me, and then she called my mental health team. I need help. I can’t keep going day after day paralysed by fear. I need help and my mum was asking for it. A grown man relying on his mother to make calls for him. Imagine how pathetic I felt.

It was when all of this was going on when a couple of things happened:

  1. I vaguely heard something from the TV in the living room about male suicide. I turned my attention to it in time to hear about CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably). All those sculptures of men on top of tall buildings in London? They’re the ones leading that project. Anyway, between 5pm and midnight every night, they have phone lines and a webchat available for when you’re feeling low and needing someone to talk to. This was the first time I heard of a webchat being available for people with mental health issues. Not only that, but this was from a charity that was there for men with mental health problems. I can’t talk on the phone, but I can take part in online conversations. This was brilliant. Next time I need to, I am going to make use of the provisions that CALM have in place.
  2. Jeremy Corbyn asked Theresa May about the government’s poor performance regarding mental health care. Her answers angered me. I got onto Twitter and I sent the Prime Minister several Tweets about how she had failed me:

Screen Shot 2018-03-28 at 12.37.33Screen Shot 2018-03-28 at 12.37.21

Anyway, today is a bad day. Anxiety is getting the better of me. I feel pathetic. I feel weak. I feel ridiculous. Today is certainly a bad day.

 

Opinion: Council Controversy

Controversial Council Chooses New Leadership

An update to a previous article

by Matt Coot

Regular readers will be aware that I have been leading a campaign against a particular town councillor and his desire to be mayor. I discussed my reasons why I was arguing against him, and I launched a public poll to gauge public opinion. Yesterday, during a very short extraordinary town council meeting, councillors chose to ignore public opinion and instead voted for Cllr John Brady to be the new Mayor of Saltash.

Local businesspeople, former councillors, and general members of the public had all taken part in the poll. The poll had been posted on many different Facebook groups and pages, all to do with Saltash, in an attempt to get as many people to take part as possible. Altogether, two hundred and nineteen people voted on the poll. 86% did not want Cllr Brady to be mayor.

Screen Shot 2018-03-27 at 16.06.38

There were many comments under the poll from both sides of the debate. Some were  offensive, unpleasant, and discriminatory, and attempted to deride the attempt to gain a democratic viewpoint. There were many comments that shared concerns and added to the debate in an intelligent manner.

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In support of Cllr Brady, Alana Breakingbury, critical of the poll, tried to use the stigmatism of mental health against me with the rhetorical: “Is this because of his mental health issues. Who knows?”. Lauren Challen, daughter of town councillor Gloria Challen, resorted to insults with calling the poll “petty playground behaviour”. She also argued against the human right of freedom of expression, as well as a citizen’s democratic right, by telling me to, “Get a grip, does it really matter what you think?”. Also forgetting the fact that I had resigned from the council, a decision made due to my health but also due to the unpleasant culture that a few councillors had created, Lauren Challen also commented that I had “failed to even be” a councillor and called me a “sad man with too much time on his hands”. These unpleasant comments heightened my levels of anxiety and could have led to my spiralling depression to worsen. However, it was the other comments from people – both public and private – that kept me fighting.

On the other side of the debate, the side against Cllr Brady, concerns were raised with examples given to support the concerns. In other words, an intelligent addition to the debate. Local resident, Teresa Lindeyer, commented, “I just wonder why an elected town councillor who is NEVER seen at civic events wants to be Mayor??! Weird”. Another local resident and business owner, Hannah Hepton, said, “He has a history of making the lives of those who have worked tirelessly for Saltash in this role miserable”. Another local resident, Dave Waters, thanked me and had this to say, “Unfortunately you are against the Saltash Trumpalike” comparing Cllr Brady to President Donald Trump. A comparison, I must say, that I have heard many times.

Another comment on the poll is one that confirms and strengthens my concerns that this council is losing the respect of the people it is elected to represent, “Well done for putting your views across in such a clear and precise way. It’s such a shame that some have responded without the same ability and think by throwing in comments on mental health they will discredit you. Sadly i think a lot of people have lost faith in our council”. This comment, from local resident, Dean Blackett, first of all helped to strengthen my resolve in what I had set out to do, but also – with the final line – saddened me. People have lost faith in this current council and the public perception, outside of the circle of people who know councillors and regularly engage with them, is one of derision and distrust.

In fact, on the Saltash News Network page (on Facebook), under their post announcing that Cllr Brady was the new mayor, there were many comments saying the same thing, “never heard of him”. There were also comments such as “They never listen to the people. Why i ask? Do they care?” and “as per normal the councillors did not take any notice of what the voters wanted”.

I will continue to stand up against elected representatives who break the rules. I will continue to argue against our new mayor, who refuses to respect the council’s code of conduct, who refuses to respect the very office that he has been elected to, and who refuses to apologise when he has done wrong. I have been witness to, and victim of, offensive, unpleasant, and disrespectful emails sent by Councillor Brady. I have also seen how he creates a culture of unpleasantness and stress amongst councillors. And I have seen how divisive he has been – not only in he council, but also through the town (as can be evidenced with the social media referenced to within this article).

A little earlier this month, I had submitted a second complaint with the Standards Committee at Cornwall Council regarding Councillor Brady. He had refused to carry out the sanction, as instructed, by the monitoring officer. Therefore, he ignored and disrespected the accountability process; ignored and disrespected the advice/guidance of the monitoring officer; and ignored and disrespected someone he had wronged. This complaint was submitted before I knew he was standing for mayor, and was submitted in response to understanding that he had hypocritically called for the resignation of the mayor after she had been found to have broken the code of conduct. I received a letter yesterday saying that the investigation into the offence will be carried out by the monitoring officer.

Yesterday, I submitted another complaint. This complaint originated as a concern that I had sent to town councillors and the town clerk prior to the meeting. The concern was that Cllr Gloria Challen had made it clear on the online poll that she was supporting Cllr John Brady for mayor. Her family were also rather vocal about their support of Cllr Brady for mayor. This, by itself, could be seen as a breach of the council’s Code of Conduct, specifically Part 5B (non-registerable interests) “ii) the interest is such that a reasonable person with knowledge of the relevant facts would consider your interest so significant that it is likely to prejudice your judgement of the public interest”. In addition to this, as Cllr Challen was voted in to be the Deputy Mayor, an argument could be made that the public support could have had unfair influence upon Cllr Brady, and other councillors, to vote in favour of her nomination. The complaint is currently awaiting consideration.

Less than 24 hours since the new mayor and deputy mayor have been chosen for Saltash, and already there is controversy being uncovered. There is also an enquiry made to the Electoral Commission with regards to the local elections of 2017 which may, or may not, include details that may, or may not, affect these councillors. More on that might be revealed in a future article.

Should there be a second referendum?

What is more democratic?

by Matt Coot

In June 2016, 51.2% of the entire population of the UK took part in the most important vote of the nation’s recent history: do we remain as part of the European Union? We all know the outcome: 51.89% voted to leave and 48.11% voted to remain. A democratic decision showing that a slim majority of the nation wanted to leave the European Union. End of the story, right?

Well, not quite. On Friday, Owen Smith was sacked from the Labour front bench for speaking his own views on there needing to be a second referendum once the final deal has been finalised. This has also been the constant view of the Liberal Democrats since the referendum result. Is this just moaning from the losing side? No, it is actually a sensible democratic option that should be taken seriously.

Remoaners Referendum

Let’s first get the typical argument out of the way. People may argue that the first referendum was representative of just over half of the population, and that just over half of that electorate voted to leave. Therefore, these people may argue, the first referendum isn’t the nation speaking and that we should do the vote again! Well, no, you see if this was the only argument, I would be the first to stand up and defend the democratic voice that spoke on that fateful June day in 2016. Yes, 48.8% of the population didn’t vote in the election (that’s around 32 million people) but that isn’t any reason to have another referendum and I don’t think any of the political figures are arguing for a second referendum for that reason.

Another reason that people throw around is that people have changed their minds after the result. They realised the error of their ways and regretted the vote. This isn’t a genuine reason to hold a second referendum.

A second referendum isn’t a referendum for ‘remoaners’ who want to try to get another referendum that will show a different result. A second referendum is the sensible democratic solution to this situation that this country has found itself in.

“Nothing is more important to a democracy than a well-informed electorate”

It is true that circumstances have changed. The referendum was only the start of the debate. We now know more than we did before. We are now a better informed electorate.

During the campaign prior to the vote, we were shown buses that declared that the country spends £350 million a week on our membership to the EU. The bus advert said that it should be spent on the NHS instead. This was a suggestion that many took as a promise: vote to leave and we will give £350 million a week to the NHS. Days after the vote, those responsible for these claims admitted that it probably wouldn’t happen. Instead, the Centre for Economic Policy Research has estimated that we, as a country, have lost £300 million a week because of the Brexit vote. We stand to lose a lot more as time goes on, with the Office for Budget Responsibility downgrading our growth expectations for the next five years and the Prime Minister agreeing to an EU exit bill which will cost between £35 billion and £39 billion.

We were told that we would “take back control” and “defend” our borders. These passionate declarations were given without any plan of how to actually do this, or with any evidence at all that we had lost control in the first place. In fact, the Bar Council (the legal representative body) has stated that the UK “has not given up sovereignty over the terms and applications of its own laws within the United Kingdom”. It did, however, explain that with the EU, the UK has a “pooled sovereignty”, which can be compared to that of membership to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). A former judge of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), Sir David Edward, explained that the ECJ has no jurisdiction in the UK “other than to answer questions put to it by UK courts”. In fact, according to the Institute for Government, the UK has achieved the highest long-term rate of successful judgements out of all of the EU nations and has never been referred to the ECJ for a fine. We have never lost control of our country, our laws, or our sovereignty. We do not need to “take back control” because we are already in control.

As for defending our borders from immigration, 80% of EU migrants come into the UK with a firm job offer already in place, or actively looking for work, or to study. In fact, as argued in a previous article about the NHS, many of our industries and economy rely upon EU migrants. 62,000 nurses who work within the NHS originate from other EU nations. 80,000 nurses working in social care also originate from other EU nations. Who exactly are we defending our borders from? It seems like we are pushing away highly skilled workers who we desperately need.

There were people on both sides who told lies, some bigger than others, and both sides didn’t really prepare the public for what it would mean either way. However, it was quite obvious that it was the Leave campaign who had the most emphasis on an emotive ‘story’ to win the vote. They used fears, stereotypes, and false promises to encourage people to want to leave. We don’t have control! Yes we do. Our borders aren’t defended! Yes they are. We have too many immigrants! Who are coming here to work hard and save lives, but shall we talk about all the “expats” abroad…?

The decision we made in June 2016 was a binary choice: either leave the EU or remain in the EU. Nobody argued about the Northern Ireland border and we didn’t choose whether to have a hard border or not. We didn’t make a choice about the single market or the customs union. The Leave campaign argued about the money that could be spent on the NHS, but didn’t mention the thousands of NHS staff who would leave. They also didn’t mention that we would still be paying a massive amount in our ‘divorce’ from the EU. The fishery industry were misled by the Leave campaign, and now they’re upset with the deal that has been made. There are so many other examples, including how we are heading towards an economic crisis with our eyes closed and the mass exodus of businesses that has only just begun. Trade deals with other countries? If the past few weeks are anything to go by, that isn’t going to happen as easily as was argued during the campaign. The choice we made in June 2016 was a binary choice, but the decision should never have been a binary one. The decision we made was the start of the debate. A second referendum would be the end of that debate.

Two years after the referendum, and one year before the date that we are scheduled to leave the EU, and the Brexit negotiations aren’t yet over. However, we are closer to an understanding of what Brexit would mean. I am not talking about the soundbites that we’ve heard from the government: “Brexit means Brexit”; “red, white, and blue Brexit”, and the “bespoke economic partnership”. No, we know actual facts because the EU spokespeople aren’t as reserved as the Tory government over what their red lines are. For example, we know that if this country isn’t in the single market and customs union, then there will be a hard border for Northern Ireland (which nobody wants). We are also aware of so much more than we were before the referendum vote. Time has given us clarity. Time has pushed through the emotive stories and given us cold, hard facts. We now know the long-term effects that Brexit will have on this country – and if we don’t know, then we have proper experts who do know. Not politicians spouting crap. No, we actually have experts who know what the long-term effects will be. Spoiler alert: it isn’t pretty.

However, despite my opinions on what Brexit will mean, the fact that we have more facts is important. It means that this nation is a well-informed electorate. A better informed electorate than we were in June 2016. When the negotiations have come to an end, we will know for certain what the final deal will be. We will have those cold, hard facts. We didn’t have these before the referendum, because nobody wanted to start negotiating a potential end to the membership of the EU if there wasn’t the real chance that we would leave. But, the referendum was the nation’s voice saying “we give you permission to start the negotiations. We want to leave. Begin the negotiations”. So, that’s what our representatives started to do. It wasn’t the loud voices of Nigel Farage, David Cameron, and Paul Dacre (editor of the Daily Mail) who would be negotiating, but rather those who stuck around and accepted responsibility when the proverbial hit the fan. And now, the negotiations are nearing an end. We will soon have the exact details of what leaving the EU will mean for the UK. Do we leave this decision with those who have a political (and potentially personal financial) agenda? If Parliament are granted a vote on the deal, then this would be 0.00099% of the population deciding on an issue that is far too important to leave in just their hands. It is this kind of issue that referendums were made for, and therefore, there should be a second referendum for deciding on whether the people of this country want to accept or deny the deal, and whether to proceed or to change our mind about the Brexit vote. And why is this important? Because we are a better informed electorate now than we were in June 2016.

Respecting democracy

People try to argue that a second referendum isn’t respecting democracy. But, here’s the thing that I just can’t get my head around: why is asking the public a question again not respecting democracy? Why is asking the nation to tell the politicians what they want not respecting democracy? Isn’t democracy all about the electorate making a choice? We don’t just vote once and then forevermore be stuck with the same parliament and government. No, we vote and then a few years later, we vote again. If we’ve changed our mind due to new information or experiences, then the vote changes. This is democracy in action. So, how exactly is a second referendum non-democratic? It is the most democratic thing that could happen in this situation! What is more democratic: asking the population once, with limited information, and acting on the decision; or asking the population once, at the start of a debate, and for a second time, at the end of the debate, before acting on the decision? It is obviously more representative of a democratic society to ask a second time once all the information has been given.

However, I do hear those shouting “but it disrespects the will of the people!”. My response to you is simple: no it doesn’t. The will of the people showed the government that we wanted to leave our membership of the European Union. We have, since then, been given more information about exactly what this will mean. We have respected the will of the people, but we need to know if the majority of the electorate still believe that the right choice is to leave. We need to have a second referendum to respect democracy and to respect the people of this nation and the nations in the European Union. We must vote again.

I also hear those who are saying that a second referendum would be opening up a dangerous precedent of votes not being permanent. That a second will lead to a third, and the third lead to a fourth, etc. That we will have never-ending referendums on our membership of the European Union. This is scaremongering rubbish. As I’ve already argued: the first referendum was the start of the debate, the second referendum would be the end of the debate. No matter what, this second referendum would be final.

Why would the second referendum be final? Why wasn’t the first? Because, as I’ve argued, we have more information now. We are a better informed electorate. It is the end.

(I hope you don’t mind me repeating a few points there, I just know how difficult it is to persuade people who are against a second referendum. I can guarantee that the above arguments will still be sent to me, despite my answers being in this article. Just stop me from hitting my head against a brick wall.)

Anyway, I digress, another argument against a second referendum seems to be that it will reopen, or deepen, the divides that the first referendum created. Not just in politics, but also in our communities. I don’t think this is the case. Yes, divides occurred. It showed that the traditional age of politics was over and that our nation’s politics is much more diverse – as are our communities. This is a good thing. The referendum also engaged the population in politics and political issues. This, again, is a good thing.

However, I agree that the divides shown could be managed better during the second referendum. Instead of allowing emotive stories to lead the media and public, the politicians need to present the cold, hard, facts of the matter. They need to explore the actual facts and what the actual effects will be on the nation. They need to persuade the nation why it is right to either remain or to leave, based on facts. We need a more ‘grown up’ debate. That way, a well-informed electorate will go to the polling stations and mark their voting slip with their opinion on what this nation needs to do. We will then have a final decision based on facts and knowledge, not on emotive lies and guesswork.

Democracy is the “rule of the people”. In 2015, the electorate made a democratic decision that the Tories should remain in government, that the Lib Dems should be punished for their role in the coalition government, and that Labour should lose a massive number of seats too, and that the SNP should have more seats in Parliament. In 2017, the electorate made another democratic decision that the Tories remain in government – but with a reduced majority; that Labour gain a huge number of seats; that SNP lose a huge number of seats; and that the Lib Dems gain a few. Two years after the democratic decision of what the House of Commons should look like, the public voted again and changed their mind. The rule of the people. The democratic decision in June 2016 was that the UK should leave the European Union. Why not have another democratic decision two years later? Let the people decide, again.

 

 

 

 

Opinion: Why I am protesting against the mayoral candidate for Saltash Town Council

Where’s my apology?

by Matt Coot

“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters, cannot be trusted with important matters”

Albert Einstein

On 7th July 2017, I resigned as an elected representative from the Saltash Town Council. For several years, I worked alongside other town councillors in being responsible representatives for the people of the town. We made decisions that directly affected the lives of people, and we worked hard on projects to improve the town as a whole. Yet, in July 2017, I felt that I could no longer continue on the council because of the unpleasant nature of a minority that was making the work of the council a horrific experience.

The truth of the matter is that I felt like I, along with other members of the council, were victims of bullying and malicious allegations. I was witness to, and victim of, regular offensive and ridiculously rude email correspondence and would also witness campaigns of hatred towards leaders of the council due to petulant reasons of jealousy.

Failing in following statutory duties

In August 2017, my complaint against a councillor – who had been one of the main perpetrators of the above problems – was judged by the Cornwall Council Standards Committee, who oversee the conduct of the councils throughout Cornwall. My complaint was that the councillor had sent a series of emails that were hurtful, unpleasant to read, abusive, and failed to treat the recipient with respect. I had included that I felt bullied, intimidated, and discriminated against, with regards to my mental health and age. A ‘Decision Notice’ was administered against Saltash Town Councillor John Brady.

“The Subject Member has breached the Code of Conduct for Saltash Town Council. The recommended action is that the Subject Member should apologise in writing to the Complainant for the tone and content of his email within 28 days of this notice.”

Decision Notice dated: 16th August 2017

At the time of writing this article, 219 days have passed and no apology – verbal or written – has been given by the councillor.

Within the Decision Notice, the Standards Committee stated that Cllr Brady “failed to adhere to the general principles of public life” and that he had “conducted himself in a manner contrary to the Council’s statutory duty to promote and maintain high standards of conduct”. As those are the judgements of the Standards Committee, it is unclear why the elected representative has refused to apologise.

Hypocritical Behaviour

There was recently a furore over what the current mayor of Saltash said in a private conversation prior to a meeting of the town council. According to the witness who complained, the mayor was heard to say a racial slur. In contradiction to this claim is the defence that the mayor, a former teacher, was having a private intellectual debate about how language has changed over time, explaining how certain words and phrases are no longer allowed. Despite this understandable defence, the Standards Committee of Cornwall Council investigated and told the mayor that she would have to apologise and attend training. The mayor has apologised multiple times and is awaiting the training. She was also the victim of an attempted coup to oust her as mayor when a group of ‘independent’ councillors (the oxymoron of a ‘group of independents’ is one that I may explore in a future article) worked together with a vote of no confidence. However, with support from members of the public and from the majority of the council, she remains the mayor of the town.

This seems like a straight forward issue of there being a problem and those watching over the conduct of the elected representative investigated and took action, right? Apart from the fact that not many people are aware of: the Standards Committee has no power. It cannot force anyone to follow through with the “required actions” that it sets out in its Decision Notices. It cannot hold the representatives to account. If a representative decides not to do as the Standards Committee judges as the best course of action, then the Standards Committee has no power to punish that representative. They get away with it. The Standards Committee, which is there to oversee the councils of Cornwall and to ensure that the elected representatives are following the rules, is a shark with no teeth.

During the recent furore, Cllr John Brady gave an interview from his home with the local TV news. He gave his opinion that the mayor should have resigned following the decision made by the Standards Committee about her wrongdoing. This is a councillor who blatantly ignored the Standards Committee when he was found to be guilty of not adhering to the “general principles of public life” and failing to conduct himself in the manner of the “Council’s statutory duty to promote and maintain high standards of conduct”. This is a councillor who ignored the recommended action of issuing an apology, which furthermore demonstrates his complete disregard to the Code of Conduct and his statutory responsibilities as an elected representative. This is hypocrisy at its most obvious.

I sent a letter to the town council asking why Cllr Brady had ignored the Decision Notice from the Standards Committee. The letter was not read out during the meeting and went largely ignored by all. I’m sure you’re wondering why the vocal group of ‘independent’ councillors, who were so adamant that the mayor should resign over a similar matter, wouldn’t be so similarly vocal over this matter. Well, the answer is quite simple: Brady is one of them.

Being Mayor

From the Latin adjective ‘major’, meaning ‘greater’, and the Old French ‘maire’ for ‘primary’ or ‘principal’, the role of mayor is “the head of a town, borough, or county council, elected by council members and generally having purely ceremonial duties.”

(Oxford Dictionary).

In Saltash, the town council votes for a new mayor-elect each spring. This mayor-elect then becomes the mayor during an official ‘mayor choosing’ event. On Monday 26th March 2018, the next election of the mayor and deputy mayor will take place.

I have been informed that there is only one candidate for the mayor of Saltash: Cllr John Brady.

In my opinion, as someone who has watched very closely, this is an elected representative who: has failed to apologise after failing to comply with the rules regarding the conduct of councillors; creates a culture of unpleasantness and stress amongst councillors; hypocritically called for the mayor to resign; has orchestrated the votes of no confidence in the last three mayors (all of which had failed); and fails to make an appearance at many civic events. In fact, during 2016/17, when I was a councillor, I checked the attendance levels of each councillor throughout that year: Cllr Brady had been present for only 56% of full council meetings, and had left early during two of those meetings. During the same time period, he only attended 24% of all committee meetings. He also never attended any ‘Meet your Councillors’ events, during which members of the public could meet with councillors in the town centre to ask questions and raise issues. I haven’t checked this year’s figures, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he has made a concerted effort to improve his attendance figures to make this a key point in his campaign to become mayor.

As mentioned, Cllr Brady has flat out refused to attend many town events. When I was the Honorary Secretary of the Saltash May Fair Committee, we had invited all councillors along to the civic parade. Cllr Brady responded saying that he was too busy to take part in the civic occasion, and to attend the community event, because he would be playing golf. I have also discovered another email, Screen Shot 2018-03-23 at 13.48.45in which Cllr Brady refuses to attend the town’s remembrance service and parade because of a disagreement he had with a matter being debated. He uses the word “again”, which shows that this wasn’t a one time thing. Councillor Brady has also refused to attend many of the Civic Services that have taken place over the last few years. So it begs the question, if Cllr Brady becomes mayor, will he attend functions and events to support the community? Taking evidence of his commitment so far, it is my opinion and judgement that he won’t.

Another problem that there will be for Cllr Brady, if he does become mayor, is his dislike and disrespect for a large proportion of the council and the town’s representatives to Cornwall Council. Mayors need to be able to lead and, simultaneously, give support to councillors. I’ve already displayed evidence that Cllr Brady was not supportive during my time as being a councillor – especially when I was struggling with mental health issues – but there is another issue that Cllr Brady dislikes Liberal Democrat councillors.Screen Shot 2018-03-23 at 13.10.39 In an email sent on 4th May 2017, Cllr Brady said that the Liberal Democrats were “sad and sick”, as well as “smug and spiteful”. He declared that “if I am re-elected to Council I will make it my mission to ensure the Lib Dems are shown up for the spiteful crowd they are”. Interesting, then, to consider what kind of mayor Cllr Brady would be with almost half of the councillors on Saltash Town Council being affiliated with the Liberal Democrat party. Can Cllr Brady be trusted to represent the entire council? Or will his “mission” against the Liberal Democrats stop him from being able to lead the whole council?

As for the ‘election’ of the mayor, it is an interesting point that Cllr Brady has previously made his views on the role of mayor known to other members of the council:

Screen Shot 2018-03-23 at 14.27.46

He had followed this email with another reply where he set out his plan for the mayor to be elected by a public vote and for the mayor not be one of the elected councillors. His plan was for there to be an elected member of the community to become mayor. This direct election of a mayor is interesting, but one that hasn’t been explored further.

However, as Cllr Brady was the one who first spoke of having a public vote for the mayor, I thought it was only right that the public get a voice in the election of the mayor this year. So, I posted a poll on my public Facebook Page. I explained my position, but asked for people to give me their views. After all, as seen above, Cllr Brady does believe in the public vote. The poll can be reached following the link below:

https://www.facebook.com/MattCootWriter/posts/597907630563908

To me, a mayor should be a role model to all of the town. They should lead by example and attempt to always abide by the expectations laid out in the code of conduct. They should be always working towards raising the standards of the council, and should always be working towards promoting the positive steps taken by the council. It saddens me to think that the town of Saltash is about to be given a mayor who doesn’t deserve to be in that much respected position.