The Way Forward? Life after GE2019

Having to step down from standing in Uxbridge and South Ruislip, on 12 November 2019, was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. My mother was critically ill, a key member of my team was rushed into hospital, and the continued ramifications of the fraud against me created a perfect storm that made it impossible to carry on as a candidate in any impactful way.

‘Liberal Democrat candidate hoping to unseat Boris Johnson withdraws from election race with a emotional blog post citing her mother’s illness’

(I’ll be honest: I never expected to have the Daily Mail cover my departure…)

Daily Mail, 12 November 2019

Back in June/July, 2019 I reported an seemingly most pernicious fraud against my data, personal and fiscal wellbeing, which the Police have been investigating with no tangible results to date. Since then, however, things became more malevolent, hitting me with their full force right at the time life necessitated my being near family. I now know the source of these latter problems, and it’s not something open for discussion here. Let’s just say I’m dealing with it, and one person will never, ever be part of our circle of friends again. And so we move on…

It’s been tricky, and I’m not going to deny it’s hit my ability to manage my permanent pain for a while; anxiety really does not help. But I refuse to be one of those people who doesn’t own their disability or talk about mental health. (A former colleague repeatedly told me it was ‘career suicide’ to admit a disability. He’s ancient history now too.) It’s taken me a bit of time to regroup but out of darkness there always comes light, if you look for it. When we own being low, the highs are so much more precious.

My husband continues to be my rock in the face of adversity – we really are a team – AND, as some of you have noticed, we have a new bundle of joy in our lives: a rescue puppy, named Errol. I think we’ve rescued each other. He now sits in his bed on my desk, looking out at the fields, while I type. He’s there right now, and never fails to make me smile. (Be prepared for lots of puppy posts on my Twitter feed now, as well as political observations…)

Errol: our rescue puppy. He’s blind in one eye but he doesn’t let that stop him…

So what next?

New book

I’m back to writing, and am close to completing a book about spin and its relationship with the media. Here’s an extract from the Introduction:

This book will help you understand the origins of political ‘spin’ in the UK, as witnessed through lens of printed and visual multimedia. We will explore its inauguration and function in the dissemination of political ideas and claims, from the rise of the press through to the digital age, ending with the 2019 General Election campaign and outcome. Technologies may change, I will argue, but human nature and needs do not. Spin doctors (those who create the spin, usually for others to apply) are adept at utilising human psychology and specific, identifiable techniques in order to make other people think about something in the way they want them to think about it. After all, politicians only take office because people, in the main, believe what they and their party are telling them more than others.

Throughout this book we will encounter specific terminologies and analysis techniques, which I outline in brief below, and in a brief glossary of key terms at the back. We will explore key moments in British politics: the rise of political spin as synonymous with the rise of the press, and in contemporary politics in the UK – moments when spin and spin doctors have played a pivotal role in forging this country’s political narrative, actions, and identity, on a domestic and international level. So yes, this will include Brexit – lots about Brexit, and how spin has contributed to the divisions we now see around us.

“As part of this analysis of the use and impact of spin in the lead up to and after the EU Referendum, I will include incidents and examples from my own experience as a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, and as an academic commentator on the social impact Brexit. I’ve witnessed – and at times fiercely rebuffed – the rhetoric applied by different individuals and organisations.

Sometimes challenging the creators, users and even recipients of spin comes with a backlash. This book is as much about how to spot spin as how to challenge it. So hold onto your hats; this is going to be a bumpy ride…

The book takes you from the rise of spin in the UK, which was synonymous with the rise of print, through to the 2019 General Election. A key point to note (if you’re interested) is that I consider not only the way in which spin is created and promoted but also the impact it has on those whom its intended audience are persuaded to scrutinise.

The very first spin doctor (the subject of Chapter 1) worked hand in glove with the government of his time, and disseminated materials that glorified the government but so often wrecked the lives on those on the receiving end of their propaganda and blame game. Printed media, along with its use of images, has always had the capacity to provide heroes and villains, particularly at moments of national crisis.

We should always ask ourselves why this person or group wants me to think about a certain thing or person a particular way. What do they have to gain from doing so? The final chapter of the book also details contemporary accounts from individuals and groups who have been the target of reckless spin from figures in the political arena. As with their counterparts nearly 500 years ago: the impact can be horrific.

New website

I’m also setting up a website to give individuals and groups materials to help them discuss, understand, and challenge the darker side of political and media rhetoric and behaviour – in particular, the use of political spin, misinformation, disinformation, and hate speech.

I am preparing a series of downloadable posters and booklets, suitable for different age groups and uses, along with some recorded materials. I aim to offer online, live tutorials, and workshops in the future.

If you’d like to help support this work financially (to cover costs in launching this start-up initiative), you can do so here. Your help will be very much appreciated.

So I’m back, and here to do what I always do: try to be the change I want to see, to help others see when they are being manipulated, help others challenge hurtful behaviour and language towards others, and to build bridges where so many have been burned in communities since – in particular – the EU Referendum of 2016.

This website was set up when I was the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Uxbridge and South Ruislip. I will move my blogging over to the new site, which is currently under construction, as soon as possible.

My best wishes to you all.