UKIP Politics

Future Leaders Series 2: Who Will Succeed Nigel Farage?

6 Apr 2015 at 21:51

This is the second in a series looking at the runners and riders in post-election leadership contests. You can read my article about the runners and riders in a post election LibDem leadership contest HERE. I’ll be looking at the other two parties over the next few weeks, but now it’s UKIP’s turn.

Nigel Farage has already made clear that if he loses South Thanet he will stand down as party leader. He thinks his position would be untenable, and he hasn’t given himself any wiggle room. Some will say this could well mean the end of UKIP, as it is still seen as a bit of a one man band. That’s a little unfair because over the last 18 months several other leading lights in UKIP have made the grade and appear often in the media. Some are more recognisable than others, but even so it is less likely now that UKIP would implode without Farage. In a potential UKIP leadership contest there is genuinely no front-runner. It really could be any one of half a dozen or so contenders.

UKIP LEADERSHIP ELECTION RULES

A postal ballot of all paid up members of the Party shall elect The Party Leader. The Leader’s term of office shall run for four years. This term may be extended by the NEC passing a motion by a two-thirds majority to enable the Leader to stay in post in order to fight a General Election or European Election.

A leadership election shall be called in the event of the Party Leader’s death, incapacity or resignation; on the passing of a vote of no confidence in the Party Leader by the NEC if this is endorsed by an Extraordinary General Meeting of the Party; and on the Party Leader’s completion of his term of office.

Persons wishing to seek election to the post of Party Leader shall pay to the Party funds a deposit equivalent to that demanded of candidates in elections to the UK Parliament, such deposit being returned to the candidate only if the said candidate obtain a percentage of the votes case similar to that required for return of deposit in UK Parliamentary elections. Nominations for the post of Party Leader shall require the signature of a proposer and 50 assentors, all paid-up full members of the Party who are not subject to disciplinary action, drawn from at least 10 different constituency associations or branches. They must be submitted in writing to the Party Secretary within the time specified by him. A Party Leader wishing to resign must communicate this decision in writing to the Party Chairman, who must then summon an emergency meeting of the NEC.

If there is only one valid nomination for the post of Party Leader the candidate nominated shall be declared Party Leader without the need for a ballot. Any contested election for the leadership shall be decided by a simple majority of the votes cast. Those eligible to vote shall be paid-up members of the Party 14 days before the last date for the receipt of ballot papers.

When a vacancy in the leadership occurs due to the Party Leader’s death, incapacity or resignation the election procedure shall be initiated by the Party Secretary.

LIKELY RUNNERS & RIDERS

If Nigel Farage resigns after May 7th, these are the most likely leadership candidates…

PATRICK O’FLYNN
Age: 49
Political Record: MEP for East of England 2015-
Likely to Stand: 85%
For: Knows how to work the media, kept his distance from Farage without being seen as an opponent,
Against: Ridiculed over his idea of a turnover tax, a little uncharismatic, would be seen as UKIP’s John Major to Farage’s Thatcher
Verdict: A serious candidate
Odds: 8/1

SUZANNE EVANS
Age: Unknown
Political Record: Former Merton councillor, Parliamentary candidate in Shrewsbury & Atcham 2015, Former UKIP Communities Spokesman, now Deputy Chairman
Likely to Stand: 70%
For: UKIP’s best media performer behind Farage, seen as the thinking person’s UKIP leadership probable, on the party’s sensible wing, one of the party’s few thinkers
Against: Maybe too Tory for the party’s northern powerbase for 2020, non-elected status may be a disadvantage
Verdict: If the party want someone who’s the opposite to Farage in almost every way, Suzanne Evans should win. But her lack of elected status may count her out.
Odds: 10/1

PAUL NUTTALL
Age: 38
Political Record: MEP for the North West of England since 2009, Deputy Leader of UKIP since 2010.
Likely to Stand: 100%
For: Authentic northern voice and perspective, effective media performer, appeal to Labour voters, built a powerful election machine in the north with an eye to 2020
Against: Hasn’t built the national profile he ought to have given his position as Farage’s deputy, not tested under fire
Verdict: Given the fact that UKIP is likely to come second to Labour in most of their northern stronghholds, and become the main opposition to Labour, Paul Nuttall will be a very strong candidate, but how genuinly popular is he within the party? Does he have enough supporters in the right places?
Odds: 6/1

DOUGLAS CARSWELL
Age: 43
Political Record: MP for Clacton since 2005
Likely to Stand: 20%
For: Clever, knows his own mind, willing to think the unthinkable, knows his own weaknesses and abilities
Against: Doesn’t want the job, odd appearance, would lack the support of Faragistas
Verdict: Unlikely to stand and would hate the job. But he may be UKIP’s only MP and may come under a lot of pressure.
Odds: 25/1

DIANE JAMES
Age: 55
Political Record: Fought Easleigh by-election, MEP for South East England 2014-,
Likely to Stand: 25%
For: Seen as a good media performer, fought a good by-election, like Suzanne Evans she’s seen as the acceptable face of UKIP
Against: Carer for an ill relative it may come at the wrong time for her, slightly chippy and doesn’t suffer fools gladly
Verdict: She’s almost ruled herself out of a contest but left herself some wriggle room in a recent interview. She needs to develop some charisma and smile more if she is to win people to her cause.
Odds: 33/1

STEVEN WOOLFE
Age: 48
Political Record: MEP for the North West since 2014, candidate in Stockport
Likely to Stand: 50%
For: Bright, personable, not afraid to disagree publicly with Nigel Farage, good speaker
Against: Slightly inexperienced, only been involved with the party for five years, seen as a moderniser
Verdict: Could pitch himself as the David Cameron of UKIP i.e. a moderniser who would ditch the party’s authoritarian right tendencies. Could be a dark horse.
Odds: 25/1

CONCLUSION

In some ways none of these candidates can ever match up to the charisma of Nigel Farage – all could pitch themselved as an antidote to what came before. Each is likely to be more inclusive and less dictatorial. Who will win? It’s very hard to say. Paul Nuttall ought to be the favourite, but in theory any of the others could overtake him. I’ve always rated Suzanne Evans and Diane James, but could they command the grassroots support to mount a serious challenge to Nuttall? Patrick O’Flynn has had a huge amount of publicity in the last eighteen months but hasn’t captured many UKIP hearts, and in the end that counts for a lot.

If it were me, I’d go for Suzanne Evans.

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Labour Politics

Who Would be in A Miliband Cabinet After May 7th?

6 Apr 2015 at 13:01

Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to look at a few post-election scenarios in terms of possible cabinet line-ups and who might stand in any of the various leadership contests the election result might throw up. I’ve already covered…

Who would be in a Cameron Cabinet?
Who will succeed Nick Clegg?

Let’s look at who will be in a Miliband Cabinet if Ed Miliband becomes Prime Minister. I’m going to compile it on the premise that Miliband is running either a majority or minority administration, with no coalition partner. The first thing to say is that Ed Miliband has far more room for manouevre than any of his Labour predecessors, all of whom under Labour Party rules were obliged to appoint their entire Shadow Cabinet to become Cabinet Ministers. Tony Blair finessed this rule slightly, but his first Cabinet was almost entirely made of of his previous Shadow Cabinet. Ed Miliband managed to persuade his colleagues and party to abandon this rule so he has a completely free hand. In theory. In practice, if he doesn’t win an outright majority his hands will be somewhat tied.

Ed Miliband has three key decisions to make. Does he make Harriet Harman Deputy Prime Minister or not, does he keep Ed Balls as Chancellor, and who to appoint as Foreign Secretary in the event of Douglas Alexander losing his seat? These three decisions could well define his premiership.

If Harriet Harman doesn’t get the job Gordon Brown so famously denied her, there will be tears at bedtime. I can’t imagine she could accept another job, unless it was Fotreign Secretary. If Ed Miliband leads a minority government I predict he will indeed appoint Harriet as Deputy Prime Minister. If he has a majority I think he may feel feel strong enough to decide not to and appoint a Labour elder statesman like Alan Johnson to the role. Similarly, Ed Balls will retain his Treasury role in a minority administration. The only way he would lose it is if Labour went into coalition with the LibDems and Vince Cable laid claim to the role. The appointment of Foreign Secretary is trickier. If Douglas Alexander loses his seat it’s actually quite difficult to see who would be nominated for the role. Could it be Ed Balls? It would kill two birds with one stone, I suppose.

Ed Miliband is perfectly able to wield a knife. Although I expect most of his cabinet appointments to replicate his existing shadow cabinet, he will be keen to promote one or two loyalists. Emma Reynolds may be one, Lucy Powell another. And will he find room for Liz Kendall? Or possibly even Tom Watson…

So, here goes…

Chancellor of the Exchequer: Ed Balls
Deputy Prime Minister: Harriet Harman
Foreign Secretary: Yvette Cooper
Home Secretary: Alan Johnson
Business Secretary: Chuka Umunna
Education Secretary: Tristram Hunt
Chief Secretary to the Treasury: Chris Leslie
Work & Pensions Secretary: Rachel Reeves
Transport Secretary: Michael Dugher
Leader of the House of Commons: Angela Eagle
Defence Secretary: Vernon Coaker
Justice Secretary: Sadiq Khan
Energy & Climate Change Secretary: Caroline Flint
Culture Secretary: Gloria de Piero
Health Secretary: Andy Burnham
Local Government & Communities Secretary: Hilary Benn
International Development: Mary Creagh
Leader of the House of Lords: Peter Hain
Minister for the Cabinet Office: Lord Stewart Wood
Chief Whip: Rosie Winterton
Defra Secretary: Maria Eagle
Scottish Secretary: Whichever Labour MP is left
Welsh Secretary: Owen Smith
Northern Ireland Secretary: Ivan Lewis

Part of me thinks Ed Miliband will be rather more daring than that and take a few risks. He may also bring back one or two more greybeards to give the cabinet some experience and ballast. Alan Johnson and Peter Hain are the two most likely but there could be a couple of others.

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Books

Want to 'Be Your Own Politician'?

5 Apr 2015 at 17:11

During the next month of over-familiar political sound-bites and opinion-slinging some fresh perspectives from outside politics could be a refreshing antidote, especially if those perspectives come someone informed and politically active rather than yet another armchair critic.

This week, Biteback are publishing “ Be Your Own Politician” by Paul Twivy who started life writing comedy with the likes of Ian Hislop and Chris Tarrant, became one of the most colourful figures in British advertising, set up marketing at the BBC and ended up working with the last 3 UK Prime Ministers on their big initiatives to develop a new partnership between Citizens and Government.

He has co-founded ground-breaking social action campaigns including TimeBank, Change the World for a Fiver, The Big Lunch and Your Square Mile and spent 25 years advising Comic Relief. He also helped to lead the ill-fated but important “Big Society” initiative having also worked on some of Gordon Brown’s preceding initiatives on the “Good Society”.

Paul argues that in an age where people can interrogate most companies and products on-line as well as elsewhere, Government still remains largely remote and inscrutable. He suggests that politics needs to move beyond left and right, which for many are no longer the dividing lines, just as Green should no longer be a party but rather a universal strategy. He argues powerfully for the need to ‘re-dimensionalise’ politics and make it much more participative.

In practical terms, his ideas include a North of England and a Midlands Assembly; English-only sessions in UK Parliament, not an English Parliament; a merging of MSP’s and Scottish Members of Parliament into one body of representatives who sit in both UK and Scottish Parliament; citizens’ juries on key policy issues; involving coal-face workers in improving public services e.g. nurses, porters, cleaners and technicians in the NHS, which has seen transformative results in some American hospitals.

He also argues for frequent referenda on local issues as in the Swiss Cantons, using digital technology including voting at Bank ATMs; much further devolution of power to local government; education about the international impact of mayors on cities followed by the election of many more UK city mayors; and breaking down all tax bills to precise figures at a household level so that people know what they pay and become more engaged in the value and priority of public services.

If you want to think about a post-Election landscape of politics-not-as-usual then “Be Your Own Politician” is a provocative and ideas-packed place to start.

Buy the book from Biteback for £8.49 or from Amazon for £9.99.

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Radio

LBC to Host Women Polical Leaders Debate on Thursday Evening

5 Apr 2015 at 00:01

Four of the most senior female politicians in Britain have signed up to a live election debate on LBC.

Nicky Morgan for the Conservatives, Labour’s Harriet Harman, Lynne Featherstone representing the Liberal Democrats and UKIP’s Suzanne Evans will clash on Thursday April 9 at 7pm.

Chaired by Iain Dale, the 90-minute showdown will be broadcast from LBC’s brand-new high definition studios.

The first all-female broadcast debate of the election will cover the key issues of the moment and include questions from LBC’s audience.

The format also includes a strand called ’Ask Me Anything’ with each politician given the chance to quiz their rivals on any election issue.

James Rea, managing editor, LBC said: “For the next few weeks, the voters are in charge. LBC is putting them at the heart of the debate and I’m delighted that some of Britain’s leading female politicians have taken up the challenge.”

Harman said: "Women’s voices need to be heard in this election and this LBC women political leaders debate will be a big part of that.”

Morgan said: "Nine million women didn’t vote at the last election. I hope the four of us can use this debate to persuade them that voting can change things.”
Featherstone said: “The Lib Dems have made a real difference to women’s lives and I look forward to being quizzed on what we have achieved.”

Evans said: “It’s brilliant that LBC are holding this debate for women political leaders. I’m looking forward to it hugely.”

Last year, LBC successfully staged the first historic debate between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage on Britain’s relationship with Europe.

The women leaders’ clash will be fully visual and interactive and made available to other broadcasters.

LBC has turbo-charged its political programming in the run up to May 7 to include a daily ‘Election Call’ with senior politicians where listeners can question them on their policies and pledges.

In the final two weeks of the campaign, breakfast presenter Nick Ferrari will hit the road in the LBC Battle Bus broadcasting live from the battleground seats that will decide the future of the country.

About LBC:

LBC (Leading Britain’s Conversation) is Britain’s only national news talk radio station. It tackles the big issues of the day, with intelligent, informed and provocative opinion from guests, listeners and presenters, including Nick Ferrari, James O’Brien, Shelagh Fogarty, Iain Dale, Ken Livingstone, David Mellor, Beverley Turner and Tom Swarbrick. LBC made history with ‘Call Clegg’, as the world’s only radio station with a Deputy Prime Minister as a host. Nick Clegg’s show, ‘Ask Boris’ and ‘Phone Farage’ allow the audience to hold politicians and people in authority to account. In March LBC hosted the first leaders debate on Britain’s future in Europe between Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, and Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party. LBC reaches 1.3 million people across the UK, and Nick Ferrari hosts London’s number one commercial radio breakfast show by market share. LBC is available on DAB digital radio, online at lbc.co.uk, through mobile apps, Sky Digital Channel 0112, Virgin Media Channel 973, Freeview channel 732 and on 97.3FM in London.

Media enquiries:

John Chittenden on 020 7054 8843 or at john.chittenden@thisisglobal.com

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LibDem Politics

Future Leaders Series 1: Who Will Succeed Nick Clegg?

4 Apr 2015 at 19:56

This is the first in a series looking at the runners and riders in post-election leadership contests. I’ll be looking at the other three parties over the next few weeks. This is the first election after which there could be scenarios where all four party leaders are replaced within months. I’d say the LibDems are the party most likely to see an immediate change. Unless the Libdems get more than 40 seats and renew a coalition with the Conservatives, I can’t see many scenarios which involve Nick Clegg staying on. In addition, it’s entirely possible that he could lose his Sheffield Hallam seat. If he does, it’s very difficult for him to lead the LibDems in any coaltion negotiations. Who would do that is a matter for speculation since his deputy isn’t even standing again. I would imagine Vince Cable would lay claim to doing this, as the senior MP left, but it could be very messy indeed. The LibDems haven’t, so far as I know, got any mechanism for electing a leader very quickly, so it may be that their MPs have to elect a temporary parlimentary leader pending a proper leadership election.

LIBERAL DEMOCRAT LEADERSHIP ELECTION RULES

The Liberal Democrat members elect the United Kingdom Liberal Democrat Leader and the Members of Parliament elect the Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader. Under the federal constitution of the Liberal Democrats the leader is required to be a member of the House of Commons. In the event that the leader dies, resigns or loses his or her seat in Parliament, the deputy leader serves as interim leader until a leadership election takes place. Liberal Democrat leadership elections use the Alternative Vote system, the single-winner version of the Single Transferable Vote, assuming there are more than two candidates.

LIKELY RUNNERS & RIDERS

The runners and rides in such a leadership election will clearly depend on who is re-elected on May 7th. From the current crop of MPs, these are the ones I expect to consider standing…

VINCE CABLE
Age: 71 (72 on 9 May)
Constituency: MP for Twickenham since 1997
Majority:12,140
Ministerial Office: Secretary of State for Business 2010-15
For: Popular among LibDem members, seen as the keeper of the LibDem flame in government, hugely ambitious
Against: Age (declined to stand in 2007 because he said he was too old), hangdog demeanour, ego.
Verdict: If he decides to stand (and he will, won’t he?) he will be seen as the man to beat, but his opponents will point to his age and make compariosn to the last time the LibDems selected an ageing statesman as leader.
Odds: 6/1

NORMAN LAMB
Age: 57
Constituency: MP for North Norfolk since 2001, which he won at the third time of asking
Majority: 11,626
Ministerial Office: PPS to Nick Clegg, Minister for Post Office Reform, Minister for Social Care
For: Seen as hugely competent, proven constituency campaigner, on the sensible wing of the LibDems, good record as a minister, likeable
Against: Seen as close to Clegg’s style of Orange Book politics, slightly Eurosceptic.
Verdict: His best chance is if the LibDems are more or less wiped out. Liked by virtually everyone, he would be a unifying figure, if not very exciting. However, he’s tenacious and isn’t easily shaken in the face of adversity. Exudes competence, but it would take a lot for the left of the LibDems to support him.
Odds: 8/1

TIM FARRON
Age: 44
Constituency: Westmorland & Lonsdale
Majority: 12,264
Ministerial Office: None
For: Charismatic, popular with activists, good turn of phrase, hits the conference g-spot, well connected with local parties
Against: Lack of top flight experience, refusal to accept ministerial office, unpopular with senior colleagues, seen as disloyal and too ambitious
Verdict: For Vince Cable to accuse Tim Farron of being presumptuous in his ambition says a lot about how OTT Tim Farron is seen to have gone in setting out his stall for a post Clegg environment. However, there’s nothing wrong with ambition in a politician, it’s just how you channel it. His two years as party president means that he’s plugged into all the local parties. His best chance will come if the LibDems get under 20 seats.
Odds: 5/1

DANNY ALEXANDER
Age: 42
Constituency: MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey since 2005
Majority: 8,765
Ministerial Office: Chief Secretary to the Treasury 2010-15
For: Successful tenure as Chief Secretary, increasingly high media profile, high priest of Orange Bookery
Against: Highly likely to lose his seat, seen as too close to George Osborne, too close to Nick Clegg, unfairly viewed as slightly aloof, high priest of Organge Bookery
Verdict: Alexander’s best chance of succeeding Nick Clegg is if the LibDems retain most of their seats and Nick Clegg decides half way through the next Parliament he has had enough. The chances of either happening are slight. His main challenge is to hold his seat. If he does so, he will undoubtedly be a candidate for the succession. A losing one.
Odds: 20/1

JO SWINSON
Age: 35
Constituency: MP for East Dunbartonshire since 2005
Majority: 2,184
Ministerial Office: Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Business
For: Bright, chirpy, media friendly, popular with activists
Against: Almost certain to lose her seat, few know what she really believes in
Verdict: If the LibDems wanted to signal a shift to the next generation, Jo Swinson could be a good option. But sadly, this is almost academic as this higly popular politician is virtually certain to be drowned in the SNP surge.
Odds: 33/1

ED DAVEY
Age: 49
Constituency: MP for Kingston & Surbiton since 1992
Majority: 7,560
Ministerial Office: Minister at the Department of Business 2010-2013, Secretary of State of Energy & Climate Change 2013-15
For: Solid, dependable, has appeal across the party, a uniting force
Against: Unexciting and perhaps a little boring, overseen a pro-nuclear energy policy, seen as insufficiently green by some LibDems
Verdict: He declared his candidacy on my LBC show recently, much to my surprise, and he would be a strong candidate. At the moment I’d say he was the third favourite behind Cable & Farron, although the betting markets have Norman Lamb ahead of him. He needs a bit of a charisma injection, but if he can get some high profile support, he could pull through.
Odds: 7/1

STEVE WEBB
Age: 49
Constituency: MP for Thornbury & Yate since 2010, LibDem MP for Northavon 1997-2010
Majority: 7,116
Ministerial Office: Minister for Pensions 2010-15
For: Solid, clever, able to get his head round seemingly impossible policy issues
Against: Never escaped his policy wonk image, one trick pensions pony, unfairly seen as boring and a plodder
Verdict: Steve Webb is said to be far more ambitious than he lets on and although some may be surprised if he stands for the leadership, he could emerge as the candidate of the left and if Tim Farron implodes, Webb could be a very serious contender.
Odds: 20/1

DAVID LAWS
Age: 49
Constituency: MP for Yeovil since 2001
Majority: 13,036
Ministerial Office: Chief Secretary to the Treasury May 2010, Minister of State for Schools 2013-15
For: Clever, media friendly, sensible
Against: The expenses scandal, perhaps too cerebral, not seen as a ‘man of the people’.
Verdict: If it hadn’t been for his resignation as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, I’d venture to say that he would have been the best performing LibDem Cabinet Minister and in an ideal position to succeed Nick Clegg. But it wasn’t to be. I’d be astonished if he was a candidate but the possibility is there, so he belongs on this list. If it were up to me, he’d be on eo fthe favourites.
Odds: 25/1

SIMON HUGHES
Age: 63
Constituency: MP for Bermondsey & Old Southwark since 1983
Majority: 8,530
Ministerial Office: Minister of State for Justice 2014-15
For: Popular in the party, especially on the left, adapted to ministerial office better than most thought he would, effective on the media
Against: Serial failure as a leadership candidate, too disorganised, a little holier than thou, maybe a unifying force after an apocalypse
Verdict: He might be tempted to run again in the event of an apocalypse, despite his age. That’s assuming he holds his seat. He would be fishing in the same lake as Tim Farron and Steve Webb. His biggest appeal would be as a unity candidate.
Odds: 25/1

CONCLUSION

I can’t see there being any other candidates beyond this select group. So who would win? I still think Vince Cable and Tim Farron are the two favourites, with Ed Davey and Norman Lamb. In any election you have to bear in mind the electoral system and the electorate, which in this case are LibDem members, all 44,000 of them. They are significantly to the left of the LibDem Parliamentary Party, and this is yet another reason why Cable and Farron must be considered favourites. In my view, if Vince Cable runs, he wins. If he doesn’t Tim Farron wins, unless during the campaign he self combusts. That would leave room for Ed Davey or Norman Lamb to come from behind.

If I were a LibDem, I’d vote for Norman Lamb. Not sure he’d welcome my endorsement though!

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Diary

ConHome Diary: I Must Learn to be Biased Towards the Liberal Democrats

3 Apr 2015 at 14:31

‘David Cameron was the clear winner in last night’s debate. He clearly showed the difference between the Conservative long term economic plan and the chaos that would ensue if Alex Salmond put Ed Miliband into Downing Street. Only with a Conservative government can hard working families be sure that their taxes won’t rise and that we will pay down the deficit.’
*
Now obviously I am writing this before the debate has actually taken place, but I can absolutely ensure you that those words above, or a version of them, will feature in all the post-match spin and press releases. Because they all do. Always. Five times a day, like all other journalists and commentators, I get a CCHQ press release into my inbox. I have almost got to the wrist-slitting stage. Why? Because it’s the same boring message. Over and over again. If we were in Germany it would be called the Goebbelsprinzip. Say it often enough and they will come to believe it. The trouble is, it is being said so often, ad nauseam, in every single wretched interview that people have stopped listening. It’s not as if the phrase ‘long term economic plan’ is snappy. It isn’t. You can be ‘on message’ without repeating the same mantras word for word.
*

I got a blue tick on twitter last week. For some reason I was ridiculously pleased by it. I still don’t really know why. Because I am an egotistical knob?
*
Wednesday was April Fool’s Day, and as usual I did my best to hook a few people in. I wrote on my blog…

“It’s being officially announced later this morning, but I wanted my esteemed readers to be the first to know, that I am being raised to the peerage to replace Michael Ashcroft in the House of Lords. It’s a great honour and I am very grateful to Michael for resigning his seat and allowing me to take his place. I’m told it was a close run thing between me and Tim Montgomerie, but I’m told the Prime Minister so enjoys Tim’s almost nightly appearances on Newsnight that I got the nod. I have chosen Lord Dale of Leicester Square as my title and I want to make clear that joining the House of Lords will have no impact on my LBC show, although it will be retitled Lord Dale at Drive. Listeners will not be obliged to call me Lord Dale. Sir will do.”

What I have found in recent years is that many people only read the first few lines of a blogpost before they move onto something else so if you make something half believable in the first couple of lines, they fall for it hook line and sinker. The rest of the post was very clearly a windup, but even so, many people were taken in, including my LBC colleague Beverley Turner. Mind you, this doesn’t really compare to my April Fool in April 2010 when I made out that returning officers were going on strike to protest about being made to work on election night. (Read it HERE. So successful was this that the Government’s Media Monitoring Unit sent it all round Whitehall, believing it to be true. The Ministry of Justice began taking calls, and the Justice Secretary Jack Straw’s Spad protested that I had mentioned him in the blogpost without even having had the politeness to talk to him. Read about the aftermath HERE. Oh well, it made me happy anyway. And then there was the time I said I’d be running for mayor of London. Oh how we laughed.
*
This election will be the first for 36 years that I haven’t been able to campaign in. It will be the first time since 1979 that I won’t be donning a rosette or knocking on a single door. I’m not even putting a posterboard in my garden. No doubt some of you will be outraged, but seeing as I am talking about the election on the radio and co-presenting LBC’s election night extravaganza I just don’t think it’s appropriate to be an active participant in this election. I know that sounds a bit po-faced, but there you go. Mind you, it doesn’t stop my listeners from accusing me of bias towards the Conservatives. Or Labour. Or UKIP. “Why don’t you just have done with it and come out as a UKIP supporter,” is a regular taunt on Twitter. “You’re such a lefty Liberal, you must so in love with Ed Miliband,” is another. “You always give your Tory mates such an easy time,” is another one. I have never worked out why, but no one ever accuses me of being biased towards the Liberal Democrats. I really must try harder.
*

This election needs an injection of excitement. It needs a Prescott punch. Or a Mrs Duffy. Or a Sharron Storer. Something. Anything. Most people I speak to inside the beltway reckon they are a tad bored by the election campaign, and it’s only been going four days. Or three months depending on your perspective. I have to say that I haven’t contracted my usual bout of election fever yet. Call me old fashioned but I hanker after the days of pasting electoral rolls onto canvass cards, and typing up the NCRs. If you’re under 40 you probably have no idea what I am banging on about. But that sort of thing added to the whole election experience. Computerisation of elections has taken a lot of the fun away for people with a slightly OCD attitude to canvass returns and the Get Out the Vote operation. Those were the days.
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Each day in this campaign LBC is doing an Election Call phone-in with a leading politician. So far this week we’ve had Sadiq Khan, Patrick O’Flynn, Michael Gove and Nick Clegg taking calls from listeners. As a presenter, though, you’re always aware that political parties encourage their own members to call in and ask “So, Mr Gove, would you like to tell us more about your riveting long-term economic plan?” Or “Mr Khan, isn’t it true that David Cameron will introduce a law forcing Labour voters to eat their first born?” Obviously we have people sifting the calls before people get on air, but you can never be 100% certain that the caller isn’t a party stooge. I well remember back in 1992 when I was working on the Tory campaign in Norwich North for the then MP Patrick Thompson, he was due to do an hour long phone-in on Radio Norfolk. Unbeknown to him, his agent Deborah Slattery, and I had already cooked up a plan to ensure that he bettered his Labour opponent Dr Ian Gibson. In short, every single call that got on air on that phone-in came from Tory Campaign Headquarters. And it worked like a dream. Needs must, and all that. We won that seat by 266 votes. Of course, it couldn’t happen now. You couldn’t phone from the same phone because of Caller ID, and in any case we never put people straight on air. They are phoned back. Withheld numbers automatically raise suspicions. So in short, don’t even think of trying to do what we did in 1992. It won’t work!
*

I’d love to do a comparative study of the number of professional party agents that have been appointed by each party in individual constituencies in this election. I suspect it’s under half what it was in 1992 and probably a quarter of the number that were employed in 1979. In legal terms, the job of agent is probably far more onerous than it was a quarter of a century ago, and yet complete amateurs are expected to get it right first time. Good luck to all the agents in this election. Some of them are going to need a lot of it.

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Iain Dale to Replace Lord Ashcroft in the House of Lords

1 Apr 2015 at 07:00

It’s being officially announced later this morning, but I wanted my esteemed readers to be the first to know, that I am being raised to the peerage to replace Michael Ashcroft in the House of Lords. It’s a great honour and I am very grateful to Michael for resigning his seat and allowing me to take his place. I’m told it was a close run thing between me and Tim Montgomerie, but I’m told the Prime Minister so enjoys Tim’s almost nightly appearances on Newsnight that I got the nod.

I have chosen Lord Dale of Leicester Square as my title and I want to make clear that joining the House of Lords will have no impact on my LBC show, although it will be retitled Lord Dale at Drive. Listeners will not be obliged to call me Lord Dale. Sir will do.

The Prime Minister has kindly agreed that I can miss any votes that take place between 4 and 8pm for the time being, although discussions are ongoing about allowing me to vote remotely from the brand spanking new LBC studio. Apparently adding one more button to the several thousand already being installed won’t cause too much inconvenience.

Once the appointment has been ratified by the House of Lords Appointments Commission (which could take some time…) I will be introduced into the Lords by Christmas 2018. I will be introduced by Ray Allan and Lord Charles. I intend to sit between Baroness Trumpington and Lord Camberwick Green.

I reject as totally untrue the rumour that my elevation to the peerage is any way linked to the forthcoming publication by Biteback Publishing of my next book “David Cameron: Hero, Adonis, Possibly the Best Prime Minister in the History of Prime Ministers”.

Meanwhile I shall make preparations to avoid being caught up in another Channel 4 secret camera sting.

I thank you in advance for your sincere congratulations.

UPDATE: April fool!

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Guest Post

Football Mad: The Story of Mental Illness & Suicide in the Beautiful Game

30 Mar 2015 at 09:20

NOTE FROM IAIN: This is an article written for my West Ham Till I Die blog by one its readers whose pen name is ‘Iron Liddy’. She has written several articles for the site before, but none which has attracted the level of interest or comment that this one has. When you have finished reading the piece below, click HERE and read through the more than 300 comments. By dint of her writing this article ‘Iron Liddy’ has allowed other West Ham fans to open up about their own experiences of depression. She should be very proud. By copying the article here, I hope to bring it to a wider audience.

Guest Post by Iron Liddy

When I look back at the past two seasons as a West Ham fan in years to come sadly the word that will define them for me will be ‘abuse.’ I feel as though my senses have been battered by an incessant stream of vitriol aimed at our owners; our manager; some of our players, one in particular; and at fellow fans.

I looked at Carlton Cole’s face as he sat on the sofa on Goals on Sunday last weekend and I saw a very unhappy man. His mouth was smiling but his eyes weren’t; his time at West Ham has extinguished some of the spark in of one of the sweetest, funniest men in the game. Football’s Mr Nice Guy was forced to sit there and admit that he has been fined £40,000 for losing his temper and retaliating in kind to an abusive tweet from an opposition fan. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Although he is a favourite among many West Ham fans he has also had to endure constant criticism and abuse from other factions of our fan base and beyond. You really hope that the love that he receives from his supporters helps to cushion the pain of the virtual blows that he’s subjected to on social media; a subject which brings me on to our most vilified player in the past couple of years, Kevin Nolan.

In his recent interview with Dave Evans in the Newham Recorder Kevin said:

“It has been a tough couple of months ….. people talking about me and saying things about me, it has been hard, I am not going to deny it, but the only thing I have ever known is playing football. That is the only thing I can do now. I have got nothing to prove to anyone. I have done a lot in my career and a lot of what has been said has been unfair, but that’s life I suppose.”

Anybody who regularly follows West Ham’s fortunes will know that Kevin Nolan’s response to the vicious and personal abuse he has been subjected to for months on end is an understatement. For somebody not in the public eye it’s difficult to comprehend what it must be like to be exposed to a daily barrage of abusive and crass criticism. As a woman I also feel for his wife and try to imagine how upset I would be at having to watch my husband endure such hatred and venom simply for trying to do his job; not to mention the stress of trying to ensure that it didn’t reach the ears and eyes of my children.

Nolan went on to say:

“I’ve come to the stage in my career with all the negativity surrounding me and I have just taken it on the chin. It’s water off a duck’s back for me. Sometimes it hurts of course, but I’ve got a fantastic family, fantastic support system and not just with family and friends but also within the club.”

So Kevin is still smiling and still coping, at least he seems to be. Anyway, isn’t he fair game for all the critics and abusers given his dream job and huge salary? Maybe, maybe not. A popular consensus seems to be that professional footballers, as well as other people in the public eye, are exempt from the consideration afforded to ‘regular’ people. It’s as if a proportion of society considers that their wealth and celebrity makes them somehow immune from the frailties of the human condition and that they can either just absorb or repel any abuse without it affecting their mental and physical wellbeing.

As the cruelty and contempt that they have had to tolerate reaches its height both Carlton Cole and Kevin Nolan have also arrived at a stage in their careers as professional footballers where they need to take stock and ask themselves the question “what next?” It sounds like a lovely problem to have doesn’t it? All that money in the bank, not too many medals granted, but scrapbooks filled with memories of a job that most people can only dream of, what have they got to worry about? In fact they are probably at a very vulnerable stage of their lives and you can only hope that they have the mental strength and support networks that will enable them to navigate it successfully as they continue to deflect the scorn and bile that is heaped upon them every day.

For the majority of these relatively still young men football has been the only way of life that they’ve known since they were children; it defines them as human beings and shapes their self-worth and self-identity. When they come to the end of their footballing career they are in danger of losing so much more than a big income and the chance to play football in front of thousands of people. Unfortunately no amount of money, fame or privilege can protect mentally vulnerable people from the irrationality and despair of depression and mental illness; conditions which are exacerbated by external circumstances and the stresses of abuse and criticism.

A few weeks ago Clarke Carlisle, the former Burnley and QPR defender and one-time Chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association, left hospital following his second suicide attempt.

He told The Sun newspaper that he had been left severely depressed by the end of his football career, financial problems and the loss of a TV punditry role. Seeing death as the only escape from his despair Carlisle stepped in front of a lorry on the A64 on the 22nd of December and hoped for oblivion. As it turned out he survived the impact and was airlifted to Leeds General Infirmary suffering from cuts, bruises, internal bleeding, a broken rib and shattered left knee. On Christmas Day 2014 he was admitted as an in-patient to a psychiatric unit in Harrogate before his release in January this year.

Carlisle’s battle with depression has been well documented in the media and in 2013 he made a poignant semi-autobiographical documentary for BBC3 called ‘Football’s Suicide Secret’; which told the story of his final season before retirement – a season which, like much of his playing career, was marked by periodic bouts of depression. His first suicide attempt came at the age of 21, just as his team Queens Park Rangers had been promoted to the Premier League. Here was a young professional footballer apparently approaching the zenith of his career and about to enjoy the prestige, accolades and wealth that entails, when he decided to take his own life with a handful of pills on a shabby park bench. In an article that Carlisle wrote for the BBC in 2013 he said:

“Everyone else thought I’d made it, that I had the dream life. And I did. I was a 21-year-old professional footballer for QPR and the England Under-21s. I had a nice flat, a nice car and a loving family. My irrational mind had made me think suicide was a rational action though. So I went to a park near my home in Acton armed with lots of painkillers and thought “I’m going to take all these pills and kill myself, because I’m no use to anyone”. I’d just suffered a severe knee injury and had convinced myself that without football people would see me for what I really was, which was nothing. I sat on a bench in that park, washed the pills down with a can of beer, and waited for it to happen. In the end I was incredibly lucky, because my girlfriend found me and I was rushed to hospital in time to have my stomach pumped. I survived and didn’t tell another soul about the incident for years and didn’t ask for any help. I just locked this suicide attempt away in Pandora’s Box.”

The film also highlighted the tragic and shocking death of former Premier League and Welsh international player Gary Speed. Despite his glittering playing career and his recent appointment as Manager of the Wales team Speed’s wife Louise found his lifeless body hanging in the garage of their luxury home in November 2011. At the inquest into his death the coroner reached a narrative verdict but stated that cause of death was by “self suspension.”

On the morning of his death he had appeared full of smiles as a guest on the BBC One TV programme Football Focus, with presenter Dan Walker later describing 42 year old Speed as being in "fine form.” After the programme finished Speed joined former Newcastle United team-mate and friend Alan Shearer to watch their old club play against Manchester United at Old Trafford. Although he never discussed any possible mental health issues with anyone, he had told Shearer that the pressure of management had put some strain on his marriage and that he and Louise had argued the night before his death. Four days before he hanged himself he had also texted Louise about the possibility of suicide, but he dismissed such an action because of the importance of his wife and two children. At the inquest his mother Carole Speed described him as a “glass half-empty person.”

During his documentary Clarke Carlisle spoke to Speed’s sister Lesley and she said that if somebody had asked her whether Gary was suffering from depression before that, she would have said absolutely not. She went on to say:

“He hid it from us and it stopped him asking for help ….. we were just so sad that we couldn’t help him through….. that’s a huge regret that I didn’t get him to one side and say ‘is everything alright?’”

Carlisle commented:

“I know only too well that most depressives are great actors who can put on a different persona, a facade. What you need to be able to do is open up, yet the cruelty of the illness is that it won’t let you.”

Speed’s sister Lesley also made the telling point that now that she knows more about the condition she knows that people suffering from depression are not just fighting an illness but also dealing with the stigma that comes with it. During a short interview for the film, Aidy Boothroyd, Carlisle’s manager at Northampton, reinforced the view that depression and mental illness are not something that you admit to in professional football. He said that he had tried to protect his player by telling the team and the press that Carlisle was suffering from flu when depression had forced him to miss work.

Carlisle spoke to other young footballers about their experiences with depression, including Simon Jordan, Lee Hendrie and Leon McKenzie and he tried to show that depression, just like a physical illness, can strike even those who have found their dream jobs and adulation. While it may not always be helpful to view depression as something triggered by circumstances, there is no doubt that a footballer’s career cycle contains plenty of triggers. Carlisle investigated the effect of that first rejection with a visit to an academy full of young players who hadn’t begun to consider that they might not hit the big time; and also looked at how injuries and defeats can drag a player down and what awaits them after retirement.

As my research continued I was shocked at the prevalence of suicide and attempted suicide within the professional game. No doubt most football fans are aware of the tragic case of Justin Fashanu, Britain’s first million pound black footballer and the first professional footballer in Britain to openly ‘come out’ and admit he was gay. His courage drew many admirers among the wider audience, but some observers said it was less appreciated in parts of the football world. He suffered both homophobic and racist abuse during his time as a player, with even his own manager, Brian Clough, labelling him “a bloody poof” His personal torment took its toll professionally and his promising football career had already nose-dived by the time he came out in 1990. Fashanu embarked on a new career coaching the US football team Maryland Mania but in 1998 he fled back to England amid allegations of sexual abuse by a 17 year old youth. On the morning of 3rd May he was found hanged in a deserted lock-up garage he had broken into in Shoreditch, London, he was 37. Fashanu’s suicide note denied the charges, claiming that the act was consensual and that he was being blackmailed by his accuser.

Whatever the truth of those allegations, Justin’s suicide was a culmination of a lifetime of rejection. That rejection began when he was given up by his parents as a child and placed in a Barnardo’s Children’s Home. It was compounded by the racist jibes he suffered on the football pitch, and by the homophobic abuse inflicted on him at Nottingham Forest by his manager Brian Clough.

A more recent high profile case is that of the former national German goalkeeper Robert Enke. On 10th November 2009 32 year old Enke committed suicide when he stood in front of a regional express train at a level crossing. In this highly emotive video Robert’s widow Teresa Enke describes how the pressure of being a professional footballer contributed to Robert’s depression and death. She says:

“Sport will always be important but you should always see the human being behind the sports person, you shouldn’t just reduce them to a performance. It’s nice if he performs well but you should respect that people make mistakes. I wish there was more understanding of [being] a professional sports person.”

Sadly self-awareness is no guarantee of protection from the effects of mental illness. Another former German professional footballer committed suicide in July 2014 after a long battle with depression. Andreas Biermann, who started his career at Hertha Berlin, took his own life after struggling against the illness for five years. The 33-year-old last played for FSV Spandauer Kickers, based in Berlin and he had published a book called ‘Depression: Red Card’ where he discussed his struggle. Biermann had initially revealed that he was suffering from the illness after the death of Robert Enke and he had previously tried to take his own life on three occasions.

You might be forgiven for thinking that suicide within professional football is a relatively modern phenomenon due to media pressure and the added stress from the abuse inflicted by fans via social media. You may also think that suicide has never touched West Ham. Sadly neither is true.

This list of professional and ex-professional footballers and managers who felt driven to take their own lives makes very sad and shocking reading. Footballers who committed suicide

Among them you will find Syd King, Thames Ironworks’ and West Ham’s star full back from 1899 – 1903; who went on to become West Ham’s manager, a position he held for 30 years from 1902 until 1932.

Syd King was considered one of the best full backs in the Southern League and he recorded 16 appearances in Thames Ironworks’ first season in the Southern League Division One in 1899, also making seven appearances in the FA Cup that year, an impressive run that ended in a 1-2 home defeat against arch-rivals Millwall Athletic. In 1900 he was retained as a member of the squad after the club’s transition to West Ham United, and continued to play for them until 1903, recording 59 league and 7 FA Cup appearances in total.

At the start of his last season as a player he was appointed club secretary, although he was already considered to be a ‘manager’ of the club. His tenure at West Ham included our election to the football league in 1919 and in 1923 he took West Ham to the FA Cup Final for the first time, losing to Bolton Wanderers but also assuring our place in the top division finishing as Division Two runners up. An edition of the local newspaper East Ham Echo proclaimed in 1923 that:

“Syd King is West Ham and West Ham is Syd King.”

Following promotion King implemented a period of consolidation for West Ham in the First Division, the highlight of which was the 1926-1927 season when West Ham finished in 6th place in Division One. This performance was not equalled by the Hammers until the 1958-1959 season during Ted Fenton’s tenure. This consistency was partly made possible when King signed players who went on to become West Ham legends and record holders, as well as England internationals, including Jimmy Ruffell, Ted Hufton and Vic Watson.

Syd King was appointed a shareholder of West Ham United in 1931 but the team was relegated in the 1931-32 season back to Division Two. On 5th November 1932 West Ham lost their ninth game of the next season, against Bradford Park Avenue, and at the same day’s board meeting, according to one board member, during the discussion of the team King was “drunk and insubordinate.” It was no secret that King ‘liked a drink’ but he had already appeased the board many times over the issue. On the following day they announced that:

“It was unanimously decided that until further notice C. Paynter be given sole control of players and that E. S. King be notified accordingly.”

It was also suggested by the board, but never confirmed, that King had been syphoning off West Ham funds for himself. He was suspended for three months without pay and also banned from entering the Boleyn Ground. Following a board meeting on 3rd January 1933 his contract was terminated permanently, and he was given an ex-gratia payment of £3 a week.

Although comparatively rich for an ex-player working in football, King’s reputation and career were in tatters. Within a month of the sacking he sadly committed suicide by drinking alcohol mixed with a corrosive liquid. The inquest into his death declared that he had taken his life ‘while of unsound mind’, and had been suffering from persecution delusions. According to his son his depression had begun when West Ham were relegated in the summer of 1932, and that his paranoia had followed on from that.

In his book ‘At Home With The Hammers’ (1960) Ted Fenton, West Ham United player (1932-46) and manager (1950-61) wrote:

“The boss at West Ham was Syd King, an outsize, larger-than-life character with close-cropped grey hair and a flowing moustache. He was a personality plus man, a man with flair. Awe struck, I would tip-toe past his office but invariably he would spot me. “Boy,” he would shout. “Get me two bottles of Bass.” Down to the Boleyn pub on the corner I would go on my errand and when I got back to the office Syd King would flip me a two-shilling piece for my trouble."

Isn’t it sad and unthinkable that a man with such a big personality and who had achieved so much at West Ham felt compelled to take his own life when he lost the support of the board and consequently his position? It really highlights the fact that nobody is immune from depression, even those with long and successful careers.

Given the stigma that often comes with mental illness, it’s perhaps no surprise that footballers and managers who suffer from depression often do their utmost to hide it instead of asking for help; and there are undoubtedly current and former professional players and managers still suffering in silence today.

In 2013 Football Association chairman David Bernstein admitted that the issue of mental illness in the sport has been “badly neglected in the past.” He said:

“This is not something that’s been high on my agenda – maybe it should have been higher.”

A spokesman insisted that the FA regards the issue as "vitally important” and Scott Field, the FA’s head of media relations, said:

“The mental well-being of players, managers and indeed all participants in football is vitally important to the FA, from grassroots to the professional game.”

He said that the FA had helped to produce a handbook for professional players tackling the subject of mental illness, as well as organising awareness workshops for coaches in 2011. The FA has also provided financial backing to the Sporting Chance Clinic, which treats sportsmen with behavioural problems.

Let’s hope that they’re taking it as seriously as they say. The latest suicide statistics reveal a disproportionate rise in the number of male suicides. In the UK, the male suicide rate is approximately three and a half times higher than the female suicide rate and the highest rate of male suicide in the UK is in the 40-44 age group.

The circumstances behind the depression and suicides of these professional footballers and managers are as varied as their careers but the one thing they all have in common is that their status within the professional game didn’t protect them from their mental torment; they were just human beings with the same vulnerabilities as the man on the street. In fact they may be more vulnerable than the average man on the street. FIFPro, the World Footballers’ Association, conducted an international study into the extent of Mental Illness in Professional Football More than 300 current and former professional players and six national unions participated. The first paragraph of the report’s conclusion states:

“The results of our study show that mental illness seems to occur among former professional footballers more often than in current players and more often than in other populations. Consequently, mental illness among former professional footballers cannot be underestimated and should be a subject of interest for all stakeholders in football. Attention to career planning in an early stage of a football career might significantly help to prepare the post-sport life period and to avoid potential problems after retirement (Alfermann 2007).”

If you’ve reached the end of this article then you’re obviously a thinking West Ham fan and probably not prone to outbursts of personal abuse where only professional criticism is required. You’re probably also already cognisant of the issues surrounding depression and mental illness and understand the fragilities of all human beings, including professional footballers, and how unwarranted and spiteful personal attacks on a player or manager could contribute into pushing a vulnerable person over the edge. The point I’m trying to make probably won’t reach those who could benefit from it the most. Those who won’t read have no advantage over those who can’t; so there’s little hope of educating either.

I’m not suggesting that professional footballers and managers should be wrapped in cotton wool and that they shouldn’t have to bear professional criticism but I wish all football fans would stop to think of the words of German goalkeeper Robert Enke’s widow the next time that they feel compelled to write an abusive comment and ask themselves if it’s really necessary or fair and to consider the impact it could have on a mentally vulnerable person struggling to cope with a barrage of abuse.

“Sport will always be important but you should always see the human being behind the sports person, you shouldn’t just reduce them to a performance. It’s nice if he performs well but you should respect that people make mistakes. I wish there was more understanding of [being] a professional sports person.”

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UK Politics

Tales from an Edinburgh Taxi

29 Mar 2015 at 22:51

I was in a taxi in Edinburgh this morning, and got talking to the driver, as you do. “Who are you going to vote for,” I asked after a while.

“I’ve always voted Labour, but I don’t think I’m going to this time,” he replied.

“I imagine it’ll be the SNP then,” I suggested.

“Never, ever. No, I think Cameron has done a good job in turning round the economy, so I might go for him.”

“Well I wasn’t expecting that,” I said. “Which constituency do you live in?”

“Gordon Brown’s.”

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Should I Go To A&E For Something That Is Neither an Accident Nor an Emergency?

28 Mar 2015 at 11:54

I’m in Edinburgh this weekend to attend a wedding. I’m in a very nice hotel and they let me check in early. So far so good.

You may recall that a couple of weeks ago I had to have an unexpected operation. It all went well, but every day I have to go to my doctors to have the wound dressed. I will spare you further detail. But it’s a very simple two minute procedure, but it’s important it’s done every day to keep it clean, allow it to heal properly and avoid any risk of infection.

Obviously I can’t go to a doctor’s surgery in Edinburgh on a weekend, I mean God forbid they should open when people want to use them. So I just googled “NHS walk-in centres” and couldn’t really find anything. Odd, I thought. Anyway, I eventually located a minor injuries unit at the Western General Hospital. On their website they say “Clinic staff treat adults and children over one-year-old for a wide range of injuries, including minor cuts and burns, infections and stings, suspected sprains and small bone breaks (from shoulder to fingers and knee to toes).” Excellent, I thought, that’ll do. So I called them and told them what I needed done. “No, we don’t do that. You’ll have to go to A&E”. I protested that this was neither an accident, nor an emergency, that any nurse could do the procedure, that I had even brought the dressing with me, but they were having none of it. “We don’t have any walk in centres, you’ll have to go to A&E”. And there’s only one A&E in Edinburgh, the Royal Infirmary.

So this is my dilemma. I’m not sure I can face A&E two days running and potentially having to wait four hours and then miss the wedding, but on the other hand, if I don’t go I risk the wound getting infected. And for the (English) NHS that would involve more treatment over a longer period of time.

So far I have praised the NHS to the hilt for the hospital treatment I have had and the care provided my both GP surgeries I go to in London and in Tunbridge Wells. But today, I feel frustrated.

It’s so clear what the answer is, as well.

UPDATE: So, an hour later, I’ve phoned NHS 24, which is the equivalent to 111 in Scotland. Very nice, helpful lady. She suggested I go to the minor injuries unit at the Western General (see above). I explained I had already phoned them and they wouldn’t see me. She then phoned them and they said they would see me, but they couldn’t pack the wound because they don’t have any dressings. This is a hospital we’re talking about here.

I then phoned three private GP clinics, none of whom could help either. They either didn’t have the staff on to do this sort of thing, or they refused to see me without a formal GP referral, despite me explaining quite clearly what needed to be done.

If I go to A&E now, I miss the wedding, which I have come all this way for. If I don’t I risk infection. Thank you NHS. Thank you very much.

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