The family whose 16 year old son William Jordan killed himself at the Priory Hospital last year have written to police calling for a criminal investigation into the group. Earlier this year the Priory Group was fined £300,000 for breaching Health and safety laws in connection with the death of 14 year old Amy El Keria at one of their hospitals. My report was a headline on BBC1 TV and and BBC Radio 4.
The CEOs of homelessness charities Shekinah and Thames Reach have strongly criticized the government for not raising duty on super strength white cider which they said is killing more homeless people than heroin and crack.
The CEO of Thames Reach Jeremy Swain said “the evidence showing that the drinks are killing people is beyond dispute and each month that goes past leads to further deaths.” John Hamblin CEO of Shekinah Charity said “we see daily examples of people just killing themselves from consuming very large quantities of ridiculously cheap super strength cider”. Both said they were “very disappointed” by the decision.
The decision has also been condemned by Joanne Good, the mother of 16 year old Megan Craig Wilkinson who died after drinking 1.5 litres of super strength cider Frosty Jack. Joanne Good has lobbied MPs to ban or raise duty on what she called “pocket money” cider. Professor Sir Ian Gilmore Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance said super strength white cider is almost exclusively drunk by children, street drinkers and the homeless because of its sweet taste and low price.
It is possible to buy a 3 litre bottle of super strength cider which contains as much alcohol as 22 shots of vodka for less than £3.50 or $4. Cider which can be up to 9% alcohol has the lowest duty of any alcohol product in the UK at only 5p per unit less than a third of the rate for beers at the same strength. Conservative MP Fiona Bruce wrote in the Huffington Post that the Chancellor needed “to call time on the ability to buy a can of cider for cheaper than a bottle of water.”
Joanne Good told The Mirror: “I felt disappointed that there’s no immediate rise on the cheap cider that is causing so many problems in society. Hopefully this would put children off from drinking it and maybe a life could be saved. If it was up to me, I would like to see ciders like these removed from sale.”
Both Joanne Good, Thames Reach and the Alcohol Health Alliance welcomed the fact that the government would be consulting on introducing a higher rate of duty on cider of 5.5 to 7.5% volume. But John Hamblin CEO of Shekinah Charity said “they have been consulting for years there’s been lots of evidence presented to government about the harms of super strength cider but there just seems to be a reluctance in government to tax people’s leisure. But you and I don’t go round to meals at friend’s houses on Saturday night when someone brings out a bottle of White lightening. But there’s somehow a perception that higher taxes on super strength cider and lager will impact on Joe Public that’s not the case.” Conservative MP Fiona Bruce agreed saying “80% of cider sales would be completely unaffected by such a move.”
Cider has had an artificially low rate of duty since the Second World War to encourage people to plant apple trees. But John Hamblin said “We are not targeting people drinking craft ciders which are made from apples this super strength cider should not even be called cider. It’s an insult to call it cider as its never seen an apple in its life it’s just a concoction of chemicals.”
When Joanne Good’s MP Labour’s Mary Glindon brought up the issue of super strength cider at Prime Minister’s question time Theresa May said the government had already dealt with it. “We have taken action through the duty system so these high-strength ciders and beers are taxed more than equivalent lower strength products.We have also, of course, taken action on the very cheap alcohol by banning sales below duty plus VAT.”
But Alcohol Research UK director of research Dr James Nicholls said “The price per unit for strong ciders is considerably lower than beer at the same strength. There is a lot of evidence it is drink by people with serious alcohol problems.”
Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said: the government needed to “move the tax system towards a more sensible scheme where the stronger alcohol is, the more highly it is taxed. By taxing these drinks more strongly, the government will also encourage producers to lower the alcohol content in the drinks.”
John Hamblin of Shekinah said “people won’t stop drinking because you put the price up we are working with very vulnerable complex people when you increase the price they come off the super strength lager and cider and switch to lower strength say 4%. We not only see a rapid increase in their health but it makes it far easier for us to engage with people.”
The managing director of Aston Manor, the firm that makes Frosty Jack’s, was, perhaps unsurprisingly, very unhappy with the government’s consultation on the issue.
“We are very surprised that in the detail of the Budget Statement there is mention of a plan to consult on a new duty rate ‘to target white cider’,” Gordon Johncox told the Mirror.
“We often point to the inaccurate mythology that exists around white cider and we are disappointed that without evidence this announcement has been made. We will participate fully in the consultation process and provide evidence that dispels the myths that exist”
But MP Fiona Bruce said “opinion polling for the Alcohol Health Alliance indicates 66% of the public support higher taxes on white cider. Perhaps most importantly, Public Health England’s recent report clearly states that tackling affordability would be the best way to reduce alcohol harm. Market leader Frosty Jack’s is consistently ranked among the top brands consumed by underage dependent drinkers. .A quarter of patients in alcohol treatment services drink white ciders, and of these nearly half drink them exclusively.”
She added “such measures have worked in the past: consumption of super-strength beer fell by a quarter in response to the creation of a higher rate duty band in 2011.”
Not on mental health according to leading charities Sane and Mind. They say this money is partly being spent by NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups to plug gaps in their funding for physical health problems. They say less money is actually feeding through to front line mental health services, dealing with people in crisis and suicidal than before. The Chief Executive of SANE Majorie Wallace says the number of people calling their helplines is higher than at any point during the helplines 20 year history as people cannot access crisis care
The government is keen to stress it’s spending more on mental health. The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt says its spending £10 billion more and 1 billion more than 2 years ago. The £11.7 billion budget for mental health in 2016/17 is double what it was 5 years ago. But the government has refused to ring fence the money it allocates to mental health which means charities say the money is being diverted. Two thirds of mental health trusts said recently that their budgets have been cut and 57% of Clinical Commissioning Groups who responded to an Freedom of Information request in 2016 said they planned to reduce the proportion they spent on mental health.
Extra investment has been promised. “The NHS has committed to investing an additional £1bn in mental health services by the end of 2020-21.” said the Chief Executive of Mind, Paul Farmer. “This is welcome but we need to make sure that it materialises and reaches the front line. The same goes for all the other pots of money announced over the last couple of years,” he said.
Although the government has put money into non urgent services such as the talking therapy provider IAPT, SANE says that crisis care had been cut. Its Chief Executive Marjorie Wallace SANE said that 4000 adult psychiatric beds and 1500 Child and Adolescent psychiatric beds had closed in the past few years. The Chief Executive of Mind agreed that crisis care had been cut saying “NHS mental health services have been subjected to significant cuts over recent years, more so than the acute sector, at a time of rising demand. This has left some parts of the system struggling to cope, which of course has a huge impact on patient care.”
Suicide rates of people being treated by Community mental health teams have doubled in recent years which SANE say is a sign that community care is massively overstretched and not working.
Labour say spending on mental health fell by 8% in real terms during the coalition government and a report in January 2015 said spending on Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services had decreased by 6%. The government says this has now been corrected and that has invested £7 million more in CAMHS psychiatric beds in 2015/2016.
Due to the shortage of inpatient CAMHS beds 47% of CAMHS patients are now treated in private hospitals often many miles from their home. The average cost of a child staying in a private psychiatric hospital is 800 a night. Theresa May has pledged to end out of area placement for CAMHS patients by 2021. But SANE Chief Executive Marjorie Wallace cast doubt on whether this would happen as no significant new funding had been announced.
The Prime Minister’s speech earlier this week promised a raft of initiatives to help children and adults with mental health problems. It said that teachers in schools would receive mental health “first aid training” to spot signs of mental illness and that links between schools and local NHS mental health services would be strengthened. It also promised extra support for people with mental health problems in the workplace and £15 million extra for “crisis cafes” and clinics. All this was welcomed by SANE and MIND but MIND said “our job is to ensure that the commitment is met. We need to see sustained leadership to make sure services and support improve for all of us with mental health problems. Having been neglected for decades, we need to see it made a priority for decades to come”
If politics is Rock for ugly people then the party conferences are like going on tour. Rumours of sleeping around and extra marital affairs are rife. But in this febrile sexual and political atmosphere is it possible to find love?
I was extremely excited about attending my first ever Tory Party Conference where I was trying to advance my political career – I am applying to stand as a local Councillor and want to become an MP. But there was another reason for my enthusiasm. My efforts to find Mr Right through online dating have been as successful as a polar bear trying to find an ice floe in the Sahara. And when I announced on a recent date with a promising man on lefty website Guardian Soulmates that I was a Tory he immediately ordered the bill. I need someone intelligent and interested in politics – as since I became one of the London Team leaders for Britain Stronger in Europe during the Referendum campaign I have been mildly obsessed. Before the campaign I had never been involved in politics as no issue had moved me enough.
I had worked out long in advance my agenda (and outfits) for the Conference to fulfil my dual purpose of communicating that I am a serious politician in waiting but also, of course, look hot. I was obviously, going to attend all the main speeches by the Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer. But I’d also selected a host of fringe events where I was likely to meet Mr Right. My Conservatives friends say it has long been received wisdom in the party that joining the Young Conservatives is a way of finding a partner and were optimistic at my chances.
The first event I attended was the Prime Minister’s and Foreign Secretary’s speech on Brexit. This required a demure outfit and rapt attention to the speakers with no obvious ogling of men. I have to say I was slightly disturbed by the emphasis on controlling immigration. I do not want my cleaner or builder to go home. I then went to the Conservative Group for Europe reception as I am positively allergic to boyfriends who voted for Brexit. In fact my primary chat up line at the Conference was “which side were you on Leave or Remain?” Unfortunately there was no one I fancied at the reception. Next on my tour was the Conservative Friends of Cyprus reception – I have limited interest in Cyprus but a great deal of interest in Greek men. This required a slight change of outfit to show a hint of cleavage. As the Tories are now more egalitarian since the demise of David Cameron I had left all my designer bags at home. The Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was there prompting frenzied adulation and shouts of “Boris Boris Boris” from the audience a sort of Tory version of One Direction. Apart from obviously me who blames Boris for Brexit.
On the Monday I was going to attend the speech by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But at the last minute I decided this was a waste of time as the Chancellor is married and not really my type so I went to a meeting of pro-European Tories instead.
Then came the absolute crack pipe of my political and dating plans “How can Conservatives win the Black and Minority Ethnic votes they need to win in 2020.” The constituency I am interested in standing in as an MP has a high number of ethnic voters but also, as I am half Jamaican, I think my political soulmate would be another ethnic Tory. The Conservatives secured over a million black, Asian and Minority Ethnic votes in the 2015 elections and are closing the gap on Labour. Alas there was no one I fancied at the meeting but I did get a picture with a black female Conservative MP who said she would help me get elected.
My primary interest in politics is to work with the government in addiction and mental health so I went to an event about supporting families with these problems. I pitched my idea to help everyone who goes into a doctors surgery with an addiction or mental health problem to the chief executives of two of the largest charities in Britain and they were very interested.
On Tuesday I got up at the crack of dawn to attend a Conservative Group for Europe breakfast meeting. I hate getting up early but as openly pro-European Tories have been thin on ground since the Brexit vote I had to set my alarm. Alas most of the men there were not my type so I sat playing with my phone. I was then cheering various Celebrating the Union speeches in the main hall (ie England Scotland Northern Ireland and Wales) – a union which seems to be remaining intact, despite the Brexit vote, as the Scottish cannot afford to leave.
There was then the photo with my local Conservative Association where there were some rather attractive men. Obviously I gave them my business card saying “we must campaign together.”
My final event of the night was a Conservative Friends of Bangladesh reception which required a slightly sexier outfit. I have never been to Bangladesh and my knowledge of the country is purely based on what I have seen on the BBC news but I am very interested in getting to know some more Bangladeshi Tories. My local Conservative Association has strong links to the Bangladeshi community so I made sure I appeared in all the photos. There was a rather attractive mixed race man at the Bangladeshi event who despite the fact that he was 20 years younger than me I managed to engage in conversation. I am sure I am not the only cougar at the Conference.
The final day was the troop rousing speech by the Prime Minister and the leader of the Scottish Conservatives “A Country that works for everyone.” This was the busiest day of the Conference as many members come on a one day pass and I had therefore held back my most flattering outfit. The Prime Minister was wearing a rather sexy crimson dress and said the biggest challenge of the conference was whether the colourful Boris Johnson would “stay on message for four days.” The conference ended at one o clock but I had not booked my train until early evening in case I bumped into a likely husband and wanted to meet him for lunch. Alas I didn’t find a husband, but after four days of high octane excitement, decided I want to stand as an MP. If I became an MP my past is so colourful that Boris would look bland.
Having been in charge of the campaign to keep the UK in the European Union in one of the largest boroughs of London I was devastated by the result. The polls, the bookies, the markets and we ourselves all thought Remain would win. The fact that the Leave camp went back on every major campaign pledge they made within 24 hours of the results just made this defeat more galling.
Almost all liberals, progressives and outward looking people had supported Remain. The fact that we lost the vote said something pretty depressing about my country. Imagine waking up to a Trump victory? There’s been a 57% rise in reported xenophobic and racist attacks since the results of the vote were announced.
The Brexit vote has left the future of the UK very uncertain. The pound hit a 31 year low earlier this week, UK bank stocks have fallen by up to 24% on fears that they will no longer be able to operate across Europe and the FTSE 250 which covers the domestic economy is down almost 10%. Several firms have said they are making plans to move staff out of the UK. The City of London, the world’s largest financial centre and a source of massive tax revenues for the UK government is under threat.
There are strong parallels between supporters of Donald Trump – white mainly non college educated men who feel their jobs are threatened and wages depressed by immigration and global trade – and those who supported Vote Leave here. Although during the campaign Vote Leave carefully paraded their ethnic minority supporters when the results came through in the counting halls you could see most of their supporters were white. Brexit, opposed by every major political party, is a massive f**k you from the white working class vote to the political establishment.
The only good thing that has emerged is that a cross party alliance of politicians, trades unionists and the general public, many of them young, was formed which supported us being in the EU, transcending the tribalism of British politics.
And from my personal point of view, the Referendum campaign – which involved me organising up to 70 events a week and in charge of a team of 100 volunteers – has been incredibly good for my recovery. I was described as a brilliant organiser and great with people by my bosses at Britain Stronger in Europe and discovered I had management skills I never knew I had. Although unsuccessful nationally, my local area voted 60% Remain, as did London as a whole which my boss said I had played a part in.
I have been extremely disorganised for most of my life. The only management job I had while I was working at the BBC was failing to organise a tea round. While I was training to be a reporter I made an incredibly poignant documentary about the bombing of a Jewish Centre in Argentina in 1994. Unfortunately I left it in the back of a cab in Buenos Aires and never saw it again. I then went on a reporting trip to cover the war in Sudan leaving half my equipment on the plane that went back to Kenya. I didn’t notice this omission for two days. When I was doing showbiz reporting in the late 90s I would have a curling tong crisis and would often miss the start of an event. Then I would be so keen to get the right library pictures for a report that it would be ready a week after it was due on air. In Jamaica I scored a massive coup becoming the only foreign journalist allowed into the country’s one women’s prison. But I did no preparation for this expose and when I got into the prison my microphone was as dead as a goat’s testicle floating in a Jamaican stew. The last documentary I did for the BBC collapsed as my mind was turned into confetti by snorting cocaine 22 hours a day.
For the past eleven and a half years I have been in recovery I have supported myself from the income from my rental properties. I have done many building projects, some very large, but have spent most of the time writing about mental health and addiction. I have never worked for anyone.
But I have now decided that my organisational skills are wasted on just blogging, writing novels and going to meetings and therapy appointments. I was never involved in politics before the Referendum campaign. But I was passionately concerned about Britain’s relationship with Europe and had to try to stop Brexit. The Referendum campaign, with its constant interaction with voters, has shown me that I love politics and I have now been asked to stand for office by a major political party.
I am not joking when I say my ultimate aspiration is to become the UK’s Minister for Mental Health – the first government minister to openly admit they snorted cocaine 22 hours a day. I have written a bio and brushed up my CV. But given the political chaos the UK is now in, with leadership contests in both major political parties, I do not know if now is the time I can start working with the government. I will probably end up working for a mental health charity.
The Referendum campaign has also been good for my recovery in other ways. Despite oodles of treatment, meetings and therapy I have struggled to love myself in Recovery. But after the Referendum I was so pleased with my achievements I thought “I do actually love myself.” After existing in a bubble of non drinking 12 Step Fellowship people for most of my recovery, I have now had heavy exposure to people who drink. Every meeting and get together during the campaign took place in a pub or a bar. Everyone was drinking around me and I was not affected at all. When offered a drink I said to most people that I didn’t drink. There were only a few I told about my former alcoholism and cocaine addiction. But now I know I can happily socialise, work and even date people who drink without any problems at all. Politics is a heavy drinking culture but I am confident I can manage this fine. This opens up a wide range of jobs and opportunities to me. The new job whether in politics or a charity will be my “bridge to normal living” which AA talks about. My only stipulation is that I don’t want to have alcohol in my home.
On the romantic front things are a bit less rosy. Despite being 11 and a half years clean I still only seem to be attracted to addicts who have a background in drug dealing or drug smuggling. I have been searching, unsuccessfully, for Mr Right for the past four months. But when I did actually meet him, another volunteer in Britain Stronger in Europe, although I fancied him at first I went off him as he wasn’t dangerous or unavailable. I am going to do an intensive two week work shop with my best friend in recovery trying to work through and free from my attraction to these unavailable men which has plagued me all my life. I am also determined to pursue a friendship with Mr Right. As they say in AA I will fake it to make it, hoping I start fancying him again.
You may notice that my hair looks different in the initial photograph. After decades of covering my hair every time a speck of rain fell from the sky and amassing a collection of 10,000 hats I have now said goodbye to what Jamaicans call “Dry wedder ‘ead” and have let my hair go into its natural Afro state. For those of you unfamiliar with the politics of black hair this is not a small thing. Apart from when I had a nervous breakdown two years ago and couldn’t do my hair the last time I had my natural hair was when I was 16. Water and damp once the enemies of my hair are now my friends creating greater “definition” in my curls. I was very pleased when someone asked me if I was Jamaican the other day.
Despite my romantic problems, (and because of my new hair) the future looks brighter for me than it does for the UK. The options for the UK seem to be leaving the EU and its single market of 500 million people entirely in order to have complete control of immigration, an option favoured by the hardliners of the Leave campaign. It was controlling immigration that was the single issue that won Vote Leave the Referendum.
The other option for the UK, favoured by Remain campaigners, is the Norway option. Norway and Switzerland are not members of the EU but have full access to the single market and accept freedom of movement from other EU states. Freedom of movement is impossible for the UK to accept because of the results of the Referendum. The UK is therefore trying to negotiate a deal involving membership of the single market but controlling freedom of movement. This would be a first in Europe and might prompt other states like Switzerland to demand the same possibly causing the break up of the EU. It is therefore being resisted by other European states.
As the Prime Minister resigned when the results of the Referendum became clear, some of the potential Conservative Party leaders have even said they want a second referendum. And there have been protests throughout the country against the outcome of the vote. Well over 4 million Remain supporters have signed a petition calling for a second referendum on the basis that Vote Leave won the vote based on lies. The claim emblazoned on Vote Leave’s Battle bus that the alleged £350 million pounds a week we send to the European Union (actually £140 million a week) will be spent on the National Health Service was retracted immediately after the vote came in. Vote Leave now say they may allow anyone who has a job offer to enter the UK which would mean the hordes of cheap Eastern European workers who’ve flooded into the UK could still come in. British firms, claiming they cannot recruit British workers for low paid jobs now recruit directly from Eastern Europe. But this would enrage Leave supporters.
But the leading contender for the Conservative leadership Home Secretary Theresa May who will likely be the next Prime Minister has said there will be no second referendum and no deal to stay in the EU through the back door. I think a second referendum is highly unlikely.
The big news of the Conservative leadership race is that Boris Johnson leading leave campaigner and former mayor of London has ruled himself out of the race. This was after he was stabbed in the back by fellow leave campaigner, Justice Secretary Michael Gove, who said he was not fit to lead. Theresa May is now the clear front runner which could mean a female leader in the United States, Germany and the UK, something I would welcome.
Whoever takes over will have to find a deal that allows control of freedom of movement while trying to retain access to the single market. Otherwise our economy is f*****d.
Shock and horror as wake up on the day after the Referendum to decision by the UK electorate to leave the European Union after vigorously campaigning for us to stay. Before I even switched on the news, I received a text message from a volunteer in Britain Stronger in Europe to say we had lost. I was not expecting this, insulated by living in the Remain bubble of London which voted 60% to stay. My local borough, Brent, where I organised almost a hundred events in the four days of polling week, voted overwhelming Remain. Feel out of step with the rest of England and am dismayed by what this decision means about my country. The liberal progressive outward looking forces have lost this argument. The Bank of England had warned that leaving the EU could cause a recession, higher inflation and unemployment. Almost every major British company came out in favour of Britain staying in as did the IMF, the WTO, and the institute for Fiscal Studies an independent think tank. The fact that all these voices, and that of the Conservative government which campaigned strongly to remain, were rejected suggests the British people value controlling immigration above their own economic self-interest. The job losses have already started.
I can see that a flood of Eastern European immigration since the European Union expanded may have depressed wages and that this could have been the deciding factor for people on lower incomes. And that people feel there is too much pressure on public services caused by migration. But EU migrants contribute far more to the economy than they take out. This extra money could be used to alleviate the pressure on public services. I fear the belief that leaving the EU will allow us to escape EU regulation will be proved to be a fallacy. If we want to export to the European Union, which takes over 40% of our exports, we will have to comply with their regulations.
And what does this mean for me? I have devoted my entire life to the campaign for Britain to stay in the European Union in the past few months. At its height I was coordinating and organising almost a hundred events a week. Before I got involved we were doing zero events a week. The campaign has changed my life. Before the only thing I was in charge of was doing occasional maintenance on my rental property and re-stocking my fridge. But during the campaign I have been responsible for organising and leading the campaign in one of the largest boroughs in London with a team of well over a hundred volunteers. I have been so efficient in organising all these events and people that no one knew I had any mental health problems. The only management job I had while I was working at the BBC was failing to organise a tea round.
I cannot go back to my old life of just blogging and going to recovery meetings and therapy appointments. Since I have discovered these organisational and management skills I have to get a job in mental health. You might have thought it was a joke when I said I want to be the Minister of Mental Health but it wasn’t at all. The referendum will make this much more difficult as now the Leave camp have won their will be a purge of pro-Europeans from government. All my extensive activities for Britain Stronger in Europe will be anathema to the Leave Camp. But maybe as the Leave camp was accused of being racist and Xenophobic by its critics they will try to employ ethnic minorities to counter this claim.
Diary of polling week
Saturday before Brexit: all is quiet on the campaign front as it has been suspended after the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox a prominent Remain campaigner. Spend the day publishing and promoting my blog on Facebook and Twitter. When this is over switch my attention to refining my plans for polling week where we will put on an unprecedented number of events. My house is now so full of leaflets it now looks like a Britain Stronger In Europe distribution factory.
Sunday before Brexit: A bloginhotpants type disaster as I am due to attend a Stronger In event for a thousand people to form the words IN in Hyde Park.
As the email invitation says that the nearest tube is Queensway in Bayswater I spend an hour trying to find the event which is actually at the other end of the park. Arrive at the end of the event as everyone is leaving. Decide will keep this quiet from contacts at Conservatives In as will tarnish my new found image of promptness and reliability. Spend rest of day planning activities for polling week. Pre-polling day activists meeting goes on till 10pm and is very well attended. Excitingly a posh attractive Asian looking volunteer is at the meeting and I wonder if he could be Mr Right. Then see that my unavailable man antenna are clearly in force again as he is wearing a wedding ring..
Monday before Brexit: Refining plans for polling day and polling week. This is complicated by the fact that I have to drive about 50 miles across Brent to leaflet at a school and am due to spend 3 hours at a meeting of councillors in Harlesden to make a speech about the European Union. Am now so blasé about public speaking because of the campaign that I spend not a second preparing the speech. Speak to the Muslim Labour leader of Brent Council who though not particularly tall is very attractive. Also, despite the White Man Apocalypse in which I’ve stopped fancying white men, I also thought the Prime Minister David Cameron was hot when I met him a week ago. I wonder whether I am attracted to power? Stay up till midnight refining plans for polling day and do not eat till after midnight. This obsession with the campaign is almost as bad for my eating habits as my previous 10 hour a day OCD.
Tuesday before Brexit: Still juggling last minute changes to events this week and trying to cram in more schools leafleting as they will almost all be closed on polling day. As I am spending 6 hours a day at events this is holding up the publication of my polling day plans. Have secured a ticket to the Great Debate between prominent Leave campaigner Boris Johnson and the leader of the Scottish Conservatives and first muslim mayor of London Sadiq Khan who support Remain. David Cameron is not taking part – critics say he is scared of losing to Boris Johnson. Am already late when get a call from one of the bigwigs at Conservatives In whose ticket I have saying that I must leave immediately as the doors are about to close. As me providing his ticket is great opportunity for hobnobbing with Conservatives and anger could be provoked if I fail to turn up, I sprint to the station and hold my breath for most of the tube journey. Run to the arena faster than Usain Bolt on speed. Have been hoping that can use the debate to find ethnic Mr Right but rush there covered in sweat with hair looking like a hedgerow. The debate is partisan so we only cheer those speakers from our side and try to compete with the extremely noisy leave supporters. Boris Johnson head of the Leave campaign finishes the debate with a call for 23rd June, the date of the Referendum, to become our “Independence Day” in which we “take back control.” The Media and pundits say leave have won the debate.
Wednesday before Brexit: Still juggling current week’s activities and attending several events and have not published my polling day plans. Have therapy session via skype in which we reflect on the new managerial and organisational skills that this campaign has shown I have. Also that putting my head above the parapet by writing the blog and exposing myself to criticism has started to prepare me for the rough and tumble of a career in politics. Rush off to a school and do not finish my polling day plans till midnight. But have already confirmed with those volunteers who will be active what they are supposed to do. Again eat at crazy hour of 12.30 am which is just as bad as during my nervous breakdown. Debate about what time to set the alarm the next morning but eventually opt for a lie in. Need to be at my local tube station at 7.30 am and set the alarm for 7.29. Do have slight fear that if I do this the entire morning’s activities will fall apart but decide I have mental health problems and need my sleep.
D-Day Polling day: Wake up at 4.30 am as I cannot sleep and decide that, if I am going to get myself together for polling day and then coordinate everyone else, I’d better get up straight away. Start hassling people at 6.30am by text to make sure they are going to turn up to the morning’s events – leafleting at all the major tube stations in Brent – and have all the campaign materials. Disaster looms over the morning as there is torrential rain. But after I send an encouraging text to the volunteers only one person out of dozens who have been deployed fails to turn up. When I call several of the primary schools we are supposed to be leafleting later that day they appear to be closed. We have to do a quick reshuffle to visit those that are open. Vast numbers of people turn up to the campaign HQ to volunteer so we have loads of extra people for our activities. Although I had imagined that I would be campaigning all day, to use my persuasive campaigning skills, realise that cannot do anything apart from being on the end of the phone to coordinate people who cannot find each other. Disaster strikes at 4pm as my internet goes down just as I need to email everyone the canvassing sheets for the night to go around door knocking and “get out the vote.” Eventually sort this email problem out but not till after some heated rows with other volunteers. As everyone starts with the door knocking my day starts winding down and I start to think about dinner. All the feedback from the door knocking is very positive so I go to bed shattered but optimistic.
The next day after the result feel like I am hallucinating in the gym as my life has gone back to normal. There will be no more meetings for me with the Prime Minister and the Mayor of London now the campaign is over. Indeed the Prime Minister has resigned. Instead of being in charge of organising a hundred volunteers and almost a hundred events a week I am now solely in charge of confronting my fears of terrorists on the tube to get to my therapy appointments on time. Have various conversations with political bods about future career in politics and am asked if I will stand as a local councillor. But get no reply from my voicemail message to Nicolas at Conservatives In. I guess I’ll have to take a rain check on being the Minister for Mental Health.