Why the Lib Dems should vote for all-women shortlists – from somebody who used to oppose them

(…Or how I stopped worrying and learnt to acknowledge my privilege)

[NB: I realise I'm not in the Lib Dems anymore and therefore I don't have an internal vote/say on the matter. If you've come to this article solely to tell me that, here's a handy link for you to skip the entire thing and go to the comments section where you can angry-fart words to your heart's content.]

As a Lib Dem, I was vociferously against AWS and tokenism in general, so much so that I joined with others to oppose it at Conference at every opportunity. There’s a video of me doing just that at Liverpool just over five years ago. I’ve kept it on Youtube because I feel like there’s a sort of dishonesty in deleting speeches or rewriting history on past views. Suffice to say that I no longer agree with a word I said back then and I’ll try to explain why.

First and foremost, this debate brings out the worst in people – me included. However you push it, it relates to the exclusion or preference of individuals based on what, from the outset, you would consider irrelevant attributes and that gets people’s backs up. From my fluffy liberal and idealist mindset, I was opposed to discrimination in all its forms back then – why should you fix discrimination in one direction with discrimination in another direction? Surely if discrimination is wrong, it’s always wrong?

The simplicity of that argument works because it wins people over – you can take the moral highground about being anti-discrimination and indirectly accuse those who support all-women shortlists and the like of being as bad as those who oppose women in politics. I cringe internally when I remind myself of how often I used that argument and, with the benefit of hindsight, I am doing my utmost to describe to the sort of person who was like me 5 years ago why I now consider myself to have been wrong.

The truth is that you enjoy natural preference or obstacles depending on whether you identify as a man or a woman. It was first communicated to me with the term “male privilege”. I heavily objected to that term, publicly on the basis that basic rights shouldn’t be considered “privilege”, but also that as a gay man, I felt a vast amount of said privilege would be cancelled out by being in another minority group that finds it difficult being elected. The truth there of course is that it’s very easy to hide that attribute in an election and it’s rare that you need to disclose it amongst the pothole photos. Internally, I honestly was just hurt by the suggestion that my testicles were helping me through life.

As a white male, despite being gay, I will be immensely more likely to be employed, to get a good salary, to be appointed to executive boards, to be elected to Parliament and to become Prime Minister. In the very unlikely case I am raped, nobody will ask me what I was wearing at the time. In exploring sexual freedom, I’ll never be called a whore, a slut, a hussy, or a ho (and if I am, it’ll be because there aren’t as many words in the English language that denigrate a man for fucking lots of people). Whatever word you want to give it, by the merit of being born a male you will have societal boosts throughout life in almost every area. I call it privilege and, despite the anger I felt when first being told to “check it”, I now accept it.

It’s all well and good to say that the solution to this is not to prevent men from getting somewhere and instead to try and help women, but nobody seems to have come up with a solution that works (and, I’ll be entirely honest, those of us who used to spout that argument spent a lot more time opposing positive discrimination than we did discrimination against women). From the perspective of the Lib Dems, they struggle holding seats in general because their MPs win on the personal vote. AWS won’t be a magic bullet, but reserving the 8 seats currently held by MPs for women when said MPs stand down seems like a very sensible starting point.

You can be pro-equality as much as you like, but insisting that the world should instead elect by merit (which it never has and never will – that’s why it’s called democracy and not meritocracy), that local parties select by merit (they don’t) and saying that we should, as I worded it in that speech, “concentrate on the cause and not the symptoms” means you are content in the meantime for gender inequality to be OK. By all means, work on the cause, but ignoring the symptoms leaves women behind. I would also like to tackle a more repugnant point I used to make (and others still do) – that AWS necessarily means that women who are incapable of being MPs will suddenly be hoisted into Parliament. Considering how difficult it is to get selected in the first place in a target seat, be assured that women who got there will be damn good MPs; and if you want to play the card about rubbish MPs getting elected, I have a whole deck of white male MPs in the Commons now who sure as hell didn’t get there by merit.

AWS corrects an injustice, it doesn’t create one. I hope the Lib Dems don’t make the mistake I did five years ago and I’d urge any member unsure on the matter to vote for all-women shortlists at the upcoming Conference.

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A depression-suffering Labour member writes: Ken’s “apology” is not good enough

I’ve suffered from depression for about two years now. I have a similar story to most – some days are better than others, but the treatment does wonders and helps me identify triggers that are not always so evident. I had a late diagnosis and spent much of the early part suffering the typical debilitating symptoms. My personal hygiene dive-bombed and my confidence was severely chipped. I used to be a councillor, I spoke at national party conferences and I was no stranger to the heated and cut-throat nature of politics, yet suddenly I found myself unable to take the bins out on a Tuesday.

Rightly, political leaders are starting to take mental health seriously. Gone are the days when the remedy to illness was to “pull yourself together” and legislation now protects those who are suffering. Defending those with mental health is slowly becoming in vogue and not a moment too soon.

Ken Livingstone’s comments today towards Kevan Jones MP, a Parliamentarian who suffers from my affliction, have not just highlighted his attitude towards mental health, but the Labour leadership’s disparity in how they treat stigma. Had this been a homophobic comment, Ken would be suspended. Had it been misogynistic, he’d be suspended. Had it been racist… you get the point. Yet Ken is not suspended, he had to be dragged kicking and screaming before made an apology and he will still hold a key role in the upper echelons of the party.

I’ve experienced a lot in my years involved in politics, even homophobia. Today was the first time a politician said something that went beyond inciting my passions. Ken Livingstone’s comment wasn’t just something that made me angry, it’s the first time in a long time that a comment has actually made me feel hurt. There are many reasons for this, some of which should be obvious, but mental health is my weak spot. It’s the one impediment that is constantly with me, that gets in my way in my every-day life, that even occasionally makes me lose control. Yet according to Ken, insults attributed to people suffering from my condition are fair game.

Ken initially excused his lack of apology by pointing out that people in South London grew up to be rude to people who are rude to them, yet an experienced politician such as he must know that it wasn’t just Kevan who would have been upset by what he has said. A black person being rude to you would not excuse being racist; a gay person being rude to you would not excuse being homophobic. This is because that by using such language, you’re not just attacking them, you’re attacking every member of that group. You are abandoning your personal individual objection and committing an assault on an irrelevant attribute that person happens to hold. With his incendiary language, Ken has nonchalantly insulted every person suffering from a mental illness and he didn’t care about that, because the one person he directed it at wouldn’t say sorry to him.

An apology is not good enough. I don’t accept it, because it isn’t sincere. Ken said sorry because he was told to, not because he was. An apology would not be good enough if a senior party member had used racist or homophobic language, so why should it be good enough for those who use stigmatising language on mental health? If Corbyn is truly serious on mental health, or equality in general, his Labour party will put Ken Livingstone under the same disciplinary process that any other member would be subjected to in the same situation. If he doesn’t, then not only does that emphasise how he has one rule for his friends and one rule for everybody else, but it will make it abundantly clear that his words on mental health and equality are nothing more than hollow rhetoric.

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Hackathons: they’re fun, but they need to change

I’m very lucky to have a (current) winning streak when it comes to Hackathons. At Intertech LGBT’s hackathon in 2014, we were joint winners of the first prize and a couple of weeks ago, we grabbed the 2nd prize at the wonderful Hack Cancer event. These were both good fun and worthwhile. Normally to do things that make a difference in the world, you need money – but the ability to code and the ubiquity of Internet-enabled mobile devices is changing that, even in developing countries.

That being said, Hackathons in the typical format they’re currently offered are inaccessible to some. Normally, organisers get the fundamentals right – we code for free, so we’re well fed, kept warm, and given a reasonable environment to get on with coding. However, I realised at the Facebook Hackathon that I’m simply not cut out for coding for 24 hours straight and at the Hack Cancer Hackathon, it became impossible due to my medication so I did manage to get some sleep. My medication is mild, but 24-hour Hackathons make the assumption that everybody there is able to keep going for a minimum of a day straight. Which leads me on to my singular proposal…

Make Hackathons a weekend event. 10am-6pm Saturday and 10am-6pm Sunday.

In reality, Hackathons are already a weekend event. Speak to anybody who did the full 24-hours non-stop and they’ll tell you they got home and went straight to sleep.

Another aspect to this is the Hackathon sponsorship. Companies paying for the Hackathon to take place often send representatives to try and promote the company and/or to try and recruit new developers. I have experienced at Hackathons these representatives doing the rounds, chatting to all of us to find out what we do and whether we’d be interested in applying. However, we were busy coding to get an MVP complete before the 24-hour deadline – we had no interest in talking to those representatives and I feel that those representatives probably didn’t get their money’s worth. Insisting that coding stops on the Saturday means attendees can go to a company-sponsored food/drink event, where they a) can socialise and network with each other and b) they can be wined and dined by recruiters who have their full and undivided attention.

When I floated this, one very valid response is to ask about those who sneakily code outside of the permitted times? Well, Hackathons normally rely on trust and integrity in pretty much every way – we aren’t checked for plagiarism, there’s no real way to check if we’d done some of the work before the day and we are not really monitored in any particular way except for the final presentation. If people want to break the rules, they can already do so.

There is also a very valid argument to allow and encourage remote workers to join in when it comes to Hackathons. This gives people the opportunity to pick the environment in which they work. I’ve never been part of the Shoreditch Clique and when I’m trying to code, I get agitated when people are messing around with skateboards or making vast amounts of noise – it’s not conducive to a productive engineering environment. I get far more work done from the comfort of my own living room than I do in a hall with 60 other people. From a more important perspective, some devs would love to take part, but can’t afford the train ticket if they live a considerable distance; or perhaps they have a disability that inhibits them from attending in person. Remote working creates accessibility.

I do not know one developer who produces their best code after 16 hours of straight non-stop coding and I heavily suspect that the graveyard shift of Hackathons are horrifically unproductive. End it, allow developers to be much more productive, to socialise and network and of course, ensure that your sponsors get as much out of them as they can.

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How do we hack cancer?

On Saturday, Josh, Hereward, Chimeren, Liudas, Adriana and I will be hacking once more, this time at the Hack Cancer event. It’s being held at Google Campus near Old Street and we’ll be coding away for 24 hours to produce something that helps in the fight against cancer.

Although there are lots of things we could come up with, my personal goal is to produce a mobile app that in some way helps the process of cancer treatment. In my view, this means pursuing the following possibilities:

An app that aids diagnosis

This is the absolute holy grail of what we would want to achieve, but it is also the most unlikely. We only have 24 hours and without the benefit of peripheries that could attach to the phone and/or expert knowledge, we probably don’t have the means of helping diagnosis. That being said, there may be rules-of-thumb or basic analyses that medics perform or computers perform within the setting of a hospital that could be transferred to a mobile device. What we absolutely do not want to do is to produce something substandard that could be counterproductive in cancer diagnosis and we must be aware of that if we manage to find something that falls into this category.

An app that aids awareness and encourages people to get screened

This is a difficult one because awareness is normally spread via viral ads, images, social media posts, etc. People need a real reason to install an app on their phone and cancer has become such a ubiquitous cause that if we didn’t give them that reason, it’d just become one more app in a sea of other worthy means of fighting cancer. In my view, if we were to pursue this option, it’d have to have a very specific cause with a very specific goal (i.e. chase after a very specific cancer). Users would perhaps be rewarded for encouraging their friends on social media to get screened. There is another danger here that a gamified app could be seen as trivialising an important issue or it could come across as patronising. It’s difficult to get it right.

An app that helps those affected by cancer

The two groups affected by cancer are, of course, those who have been diagnosed but also those around them who may find themselves offering emotional support, but perhaps even ending up caring for them. Cancer affects loved ones hugely and an app that helps provide a support network for them might be useful. It sometimes helps to share advice and maybe just to simply talk to those going through the same situation. Perhaps somebody has just had a loved one diagnosed and has questions about the process and things to look out for, whereas somebody else who has been through it may be able to advise and to give a few tips. Alternatively, you could have an app for those living with cancer that aids their treatment.

An app that encourages people to act

This could be a simple fundraising app, it could be an app that encourages people to run events (coffee mornings etc) and it could provide a list of fundraising events going on near you so you can attend. Still, this falls under the same point above – people must have a reason to install it on their phone.

I would particularly welcome suggestions from medics who work in diagnosis and treatment – what could you do on your phones that you currently have to do on a machine in the clinic? I’d also welcome suggestions from those affected by cancer – what can we make that would make your lives easier?

Answers on a postcard. Or on Twitter. Thanks! :)

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Offlining your apps and passing the Tube Test

It’s moving slowly, but offline apps are happening. The times when your app would be a glorified reflection of your website in native code with barely any functionality without an Internet connection are no more. Your app should work offline as well as it does online and it should pass the Tube Test.

The Tube Test is a simple concept. For those who live and/or commute in London, perhaps the most prolonged period at which they stare at their phone during the day is when they are on the bus or the underground. When it comes to the latter, they experience sporadic connectivity – they scramble to connect their devices to the wifi at each station, download whatever it is they need for the duration the train will be in the tunnel (and without any connection), enjoy the content whilst offline, then any actions they perform whilst offline are executed once connectively is reached at the next station.

This is important for a simple reason – surely any mobile developer aspires for their app to be the one people open on their way home from work without a second thought? If it’s not usable on the tube, or if it frustrates users when it has poor connectivity, you’re ruling out the one period of the day where users have absolutely nothing else to do but stare at their screens (commuters don’t talk to each other… come on!). Facebook is offlining, Twitter is offlining, the Guardian is offlining, any app worth its salt is offlining.

You don’t even need to do it all in one go. If you have an app that allows users to interact with each other, why not just offline the messages? Then maybe later you can offline the public feed. In fact, why not make it really simple to begin with and just flush the SQLite database (common to all Android devices), refilling it entirely when the app loads? Then have offline as an insurance policy – if the user is online, call the API. If not, load from the database. It takes such a basic change and you can migrate slowly, giving users immediate benefits from the smallest amount of initial work.

If you want a simple tutorial on using the SQLite database on Android (which is a lot simpler than it sounds, I promise!) then I can heavily recommend the excellent book by Commonsware – which every Android dev should have a subscription to. It’s kept up to date with the absolute latest on Android and costs pennies for what is a very comprehensive online resource. Just write a simple database helper to create the schema and get/set the data, accessed from background threads, then you’re done!

When I was preparing a presentation on this for my workplace last week, I tried sending the mandatory photo of my cat standing in front of my PC monitor (purr programming… No? Nothing?) from my Gmail app on my phone. After wondering why it hadn’t turned up in my work inbox five minutes later I realised that I’d turned mobile data and wifi off to test the dev work I’d been doing that day on our own app. The experience with Gmail was so seamless I didn’t know whether I was offline or online. That has to be the goal for any app developer in 2015: to provide an experience so smooth that the user cannot distinguish when your app is running online or offline. This is the criteria that will decide which apps survive and which get left behind.

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If political parties want to embrace the best of tech, they need to open up their data

Being insular on tech wastes the talents of many party members who can code. The huge change in the ubiquity of APIs over the last ten years provides endless opportunities to harness this talent.

Political parties, despite what you may hear about stinking-rich non-dom donors, don’t have money to throw at anything they’d like. On tech they find themselves with the dilemma of any charity or non-profit organisation: do we have a non-committal rolling agreement with a consultancy firm, spending a lot more money but getting the security of a contract in delivery without HR costs? Or do we invest for the long term and get an internal team, albeit not quite at salary market rates?

I was the latter for the Liberal Democrats for a couple of years spanning across the 2010 general election. It was a point in my career where I’d just finished my first graduate job and I was expert in some areas (SQL, namely database transaction efficiency and the earlier versions of .NET) and weaker in others. The salary was certainly not market rate and, to put it into perspective, was roughly half what I am on now in the private sector. It was a deeply rewarding job, but it was very consuming, both in time and energy. As well as being the party’s solely employed developer, I was also the party’s solely employed tech support for the products I developed. I slowly realised that as I created more and more products, I was in turn creating more and more support calls from the less tech-savvy volunteers from around the country who used these products. Anybody who has worked for a political party can attest to the fact that members are demanding and seem to be under the unfortunate belief that they are each one of your line-managers. The ever-increasing bottleneck is something that will impact any organisation with limited funds – either they employ more developers or they throw more cash at contractors; often neither is possible.

Things were different back then. Collaborative coding was in its infancy. Github (a source-code versioning system that eases the notion of multiple developers working on the same code base or even hobbyists submitting improvements) was nowhere near the huge success it is now and the business case for fully-open APIs wasn’t properly realised until non-web applications such as smartphone apps started requiring them. Now, with the dawn of libraries like AngularJS which brings the application fully into the front-end and the back-end code simply dealing with the business logic and the interaction with databases, APIs are commonplace. [NB If you don't know much about APIs, I wrote a lay-friendly article about them here when Moonpig had a small issue with theirs]

The culture on the storage of data has changed since then too. With the absolute need to access data from remote apps, e.g. on your smartphone, and the increasing use of cloud storage for images, contacts, emails, etc. people have become less and less bothered about personal data being accessible online. Convenience now trumps hostility. Also, most political parties now have their data online. When I worked for the Lib Dems they still used the old EARS system for electoral data which was installed on singular PCs and did not communicate, except via manual data exports, to instances on other devices. Now they have the much praised Connect system which can be accessed from anywhere at any time. Labour has Contact Creator and the Tories have long had their own online system to track voter intention.

Allowing coders within your party to develop tools that interact with your data is just common sense. This doesn’t mean they have unmitigated access to everything you hold – in fact, you might even just want to give them access to test data and insist that anybody who signs into their app to use the party’s data does so via an approved authorisation mechanism (I’m happy with OAuth 2, but I’m not getting into that debate here) so no login details ever touch their application and thus only those who are entitled to see the data do. If you’re extra concerned, you can even code-review their contributions on Github before you allow their apps access to live data.

What would you want them to develop? Well why not leave that to them? They work on the ground, they might have the ideas as well as the means for implementing them, but these might include:

  • An Android/iOS app for your party members with the added benefit that your CLP/local party/association could send members push notifications to remind them there’s a meeting tonight or that there’s a deadline for sending internal ballots in. Or, more importantly for the party coffers, when their membership is about to expire and allow them to extend it.
  • A caseworker app that extends existing canvass data so that when councillors are knocking doors at election time, they can also see the communications they’ve done for that specific voter or the casework they’ve succeeded in doing for that road. It makes for a much better conversation opener to remind people you’ve done stuff for them.

Political parties have long wondered how to manage the number of well-intentioned volunteers who want to develop things for the party. It’s now possible to just let them get on with it. The government have done really well with opening up their data to developers, with startups creating all sorts of weird and wonderful transport apps for example. It’s time the parties got on board with that too.

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So I developed an election results app – Download “Election Night” here

I’ve knocked together a little something on Android for people to get election results this evening.

“But why? We have the BBC and various other outlets.”

Well yes. Firstly, I did it for the challenge. There is a USP however – you can add seats to the “My Seats” feature which will give you a notification to your device when that result comes in.

It’ll be on the Play store in a bit, but you can download it directly here and install it on your Android device.

Known bug: For some reason some people on mobile data have an issue with one screen (where you drill down to the candidates for a specific seat). I’m aware of it, but don’t have time to fix it tonight whilst I’m speaking to various people at counts around the country and entering the data. The rest of the app works fine… and if it doesn’t, it’s free, so tough. :)

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Tories unwittingly reveal seats they consider “non target”

Hat tip to @PhilRodgers for this one.

The Tories have, unwittingly (I presume they didn’t do it purposefully) revealed the candidates they consider to be “non target”. The URL for a number of their candidates’ images points to directories highlighting in some cases whether they are “target”, “non-target”, or for the lucky ones, merely “prospective candidates”.

A quick scrape of all the images from the Conservative website for their candidates gives the below.

NB: Raw data below. I’ve added names in where I’ve noticed the filename/alt tag does not identify the candidate. I’ll tidy it up into a more viewable list later.

“Non target candidates”
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/0912/Ben Adams.ashx” alt=”Ben Adams”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/Bim Afolami.ashx” alt=”Bim Afolami”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/1411/festus.ashx” alt=”Festus Akinbusoye”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/2310/Heidi_Allen.ashx” alt=”">
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/2212/Valerie Allen.ashx” alt=”Valerie Allen”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/2310/Sue_Arnold.ashx” alt=”">
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/2212/Liam Ascough.ashx” alt=”Liam Ascough”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/Andrew-Atkinson.ashx” alt=”Andrew Atkinson”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/2212/Anwen Barry.ashx” alt=”Anwen Barry”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/26012015/Peter Bedford.ashx” alt=”Peter Bedford”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/Scottish Candidates/Huw-Bell.ashx” alt=”Huw Bell”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/0912/James Bellis.ashx” alt=”James Bellis”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/2212/James Bird.ashx” alt=”James Bird”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/Will-Blair.ashx” alt=”Will Blair”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/2310/Alex-Boulter.ashx” alt=”">
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/Scottish Candidates/Miles-Briggs.ashx” alt=”Miles Briggs”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/1410/lbdons.ashx” alt=”"> Louise Burfitt-Dons
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non Target MP/Alex_Burnett_web.ashx” alt=”Alexander Burnett”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/Kim_Caddy.ashx” alt=”Kim Caddy”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/James-Cartlidge-SouthSuffolk.ashx” alt=”James Cartlidge”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/2212/Jo Churchill.ashx” alt=”Jo Churchill”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/0602/James-Clerverly.ashx” alt=”James Cleverly”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/Rebecca-Coulson-2.ashx” alt=”Rebecca Coulson”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/2212/Peter Cuthbertson.ashx” alt=”Peter Cuthbertson”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/James-Daly.ashx” alt=”James Dics”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/0311/Chris Daniels.ashx” alt=”Chris Daniels”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/2310/Dehenna_Davison.ashx” alt=”">
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/0202/Keith-Dewhurst.ashx” alt=”Keith Dewhirst”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/0602/Oliver-Dowden.ashx” alt=”Oliver Dowden”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/2212/Sarah Downes.ashx” alt=”Sarah Downes”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non Target MP/Spence-1.ashx” alt=”Spencer”> Spencer Drury
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/Luke-Evans.ashx” alt=”Luke Evans”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/Chamali-Fernando.ashx” alt=”Chamali Fernando”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/0602/Peter-Fortune.ashx” alt=”Peter Fortune”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non Target MP/lucy.ashx” alt=”Lucy”> Lucy Frazer
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/0202/Fraser-Galloway.ashx” alt=”Fraser Galloway”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/0202/Nusrat_Ghani.ashx” alt=”Nusrat Ghani”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/1411/Laetitia (2).ashx” alt=”Laetitia Glossop”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/GeorgeGrantProfile.ashx” alt=”George Grant”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/0311/Fiona Green.ashx” alt=”Fiona Green”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/CharlotteHaithamTaylor.ashx” alt=”Charlotte Taylor”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/26012015/Ed Hastie.ashx” alt=”Ed Hastie”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/26012015/Darren Henry.ashx” alt=”Darren Henry”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/2212/Garry Hickton.ashx” alt=”Garry Hickton2″>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/ClareHiscott.ashx” alt=”Clare Hiscott”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/KevinHollinrake.ashx” alt=”Kevin Hollinrake”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/PaulHolmes.ashx” alt=”Paul Holmes”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/0912/Marc Hope.ashx” alt=”Marc Hope”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/0202/Sajjad-Hussain.ashx” alt=”Sajjad Hussain”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/russelljackson.ashx” alt=”Russell Jackson”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/0311/Ranil Jayawardena.ashx” alt=”2222″>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/Meirion Jenkins.ashx” alt=”Meirion Jenkins”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/0602/Gillian-Keegan.ashx” alt=”Gillian Keegan”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/0311/SeemaKennedy.ashx” alt=”Seema Kennedy”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/Resham-Kotecha.ashx” alt=”Resham Kotecha”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/1410/Pearl-lewis.ashx” alt=”">
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/1411/Michelle.ashx” alt=”Michelle Lowe”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/0202/Alan-Mak.ashx” alt=”Alan Mak”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/26012015/Rob Manning.ashx” alt=”Rob Manning”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/0202/Lindsay-McCallum.ashx” alt=”Lindsay McCallum”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/0602/Robert-McIlveen3.ashx” alt=”Rober McIlveen”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/1410/Johnny-Mercer.ashx” alt=”Johhny Mercer”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/2212/Huw Merriman.ashx” alt=”Huw Merriman22″>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/1410/amanda-milling.ashx” alt=”Amanda Milling”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/Dominic_Morris.ashx” alt=”Dominic Morris”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/2212/Stefan Mrozinski Tottenham.ashx” alt=”Stefan Mrozinski”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/0311/KeiranMullan.ashx” alt=”Keiran Mullan”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/2212/David Nicholls.ashx” alt=”David Nicholls”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/2212/Luke Parker.ashx” alt=”Luke Parker”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/0311/LindsayPaterson.ashx” alt=”Lindsay Paterson”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/2212/Suria Photay.ashx” alt=”Suria Photay”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/26012015/Alex Pierre Traves.ashx” alt=”Alex Pierre Traves”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/26012015/Beth Prescott.ashx” alt=”Beth Prescott”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/Mina-Rahman.ashx” alt=”Mina Rahman”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/0912/Paul Ratner.ashx” alt=”2″>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/Scottish Candidates/Alastair-Redman.ashx” alt=”Alastair Redman”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/0311/KatieRedmondLutonSouth.ashx” alt=”Redmond Katie”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/0602/Bill-Rees.ashx” alt=”Bill Rees”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/0912/Joe Rich.ashx” alt=”Joe Rich”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/0311/David Roach.ashx” alt=”David Roach”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/2212/Dean Russell.ashx” alt=”Dean Russell”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/0311/Molly.ashx” alt=”Molly Samuel-Leporte”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/Matthew-Scott.ashx” alt=”Matthew Scott”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/0311/OliviaSeccombe.ashx” alt=”Olivia Seccombe”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/2310/Isabel_Sigmac2.ashx” alt=”">
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/26012015/Matt Sleat.ashx” alt=”Matt Sleat”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/MatthewSmith.ashx” alt=”Matthew Smith”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/AnnSteward.ashx” alt=”Ann Steward”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/0912/Rishi Sunak.ashx” alt=”Rishi Sunak”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/0311/JamesSymes.ashx” alt=”James Symes “>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/Scottish Candidates/ross_thompson.ashx” alt=”Ross Thompson”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/2310/KellyAnnaChosen_BIO.ashx” alt=”Kelly Tolhurst”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/2212/Clark Vasey.ashx” alt=”Clark Vasey”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/2212/Mark Vivis.ashx” alt=”Mark Vivis”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/26012015/1MattWarman1.ashx” alt=”1MattWarman1″>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/0311/Christopher Wilford.ashx” alt=”Christopher Wilford”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/1410/evonne.ashx” alt=”Evonne”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/2212/Tom Williams.ashx” alt=”Tom Williams”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/2212/Simon Wilson.ashx” alt=”Simon Wilson”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/0202/Mike-Wood.ashx” alt=”Mike Wood”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/2212/Scott Wood.ashx” alt=”Scott Wood”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Non target candidates/26012015/1jacobyoung1.ashx” alt=”1jacobyoung1″>

“Prospective Candidates”
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/Jan14/Azi-Ahmed.ashx” alt=”Azi Ahmed”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/Jan14/Parvez-Akhtar.ashx” alt=”Parvez Akhtar”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/August 14/peter-anthony.ashx” alt=”Peter Anthony”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/Jan14/Natasha-Asghar.ashx” alt=”Natasha Asghar “>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/Jan14/Victoria_Atkins.ashx” alt=”Victoria Atkins”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/Jan14/Stephen_Bates.ashx” alt=”Stephen Bates”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/Jan14/Finlay-Carson.ashx” alt=”Finlay Carson”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/Jan14/James_Adams.ashx” alt=”James Adams”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/August 14/Andrea_Clarke.ashx” alt=”Andrea Clarke”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/August 14/Theodora-Clarke.ashx” alt=”Theodora Clarke”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/Jan14/Lisa_Cooke.ashx” alt=”Lisa Cooke”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/Jan14/Alberto-Costa.ashx” alt=”Alberto Costa”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/Jan14/Duncan_Crute.ashx” alt=”Duncan Crute”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/Jan14/Gonul_daniels.ashx” alt=”Gonual Daniels”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/August 14/Mims.ashx” alt=”Mims Davies”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/Jan14/Dave-Dempsey.ashx” alt=”Dave Dempsey”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/Jan14/Kishan-Devani.ashx” alt=”Kishan Devani”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/August 14/Neil-Fairlamb.ashx” alt=”Neil Fairlamb”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/Jan14/simon_fell.ashx” alt=”Simon Fell”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/Jan14/Isobel-Grant.ashx” alt=”Isobel Grant”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/Jan14/Amy_Gray.ashx” alt=”Amy Gray”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/August 14/Matt-Hartley.ashx” alt=”Matt Hartley”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/Jan14/Richard-Holden.ashx” alt=”Richard Holden”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/Jan14/Nigel_Huddlestone.ashx” alt=”Nigel Huddlestone”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/Jan14/Altaf-H.ashx” alt=”Altaf”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/Jan14/George-Jabbour.ashx” alt=”George Jabbour”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/August 14/Craig-Mackinlay.ashx” alt=”Craig Mackinlay”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/Jan14/Melanie_Mcgee.ashx” alt=”Melanie Magee”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/Jan14/David_Montgomery.ashx” alt=”David Montgomery”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/Jan14/Greg-Munro.ashx” alt=”Greg Munro”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/Jan14/Suhail_Rahuja.ashx” alt=”Suhail Rahuja”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/Jan14/Gary_Ridley.ashx” alt=”Gary Ridley”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/Jan14/Nicola-Ross.ashx” alt=”Nicola Ross”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/Jan14/Selaine_Saxby.ashx” alt=”Selaine Saxby”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/Jan14/Sanjoy-Sen.ashx” alt=”Sanjoy Sen”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/Jan14/richard_short.ashx” alt=”Richard Short”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/gurcharan-singh.ashx” alt=”Cllr Gurcharan Singh”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/Jan14/Alexander-Stewart.ashx” alt=”Alexander Stewart”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/August 14/jACK-tINLEY.ashx” alt=”Jack Tinley”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/Jan14/Derek-Wann.ashx” alt=”Derek Wann”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/August 14/Nick-Webb.ashx” alt=”Nick Webb”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/Jan14/Martin_Williams.ashx” alt=”Martin Williams”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Content Images/People/Prospective Candidates/Jan14/Edward-Yi-He.ashx” alt=”Edward Yi He”>

“Target seats”
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/LUCY_ALLEN_TELFORD.ashx” alt=”Lucy Allan”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/PHILIP_ALLOTT_HALIFAX.ashx” alt=”Philip Allott”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/AFZAL_AMIN_DUDLEYNORTH.ashx” alt=”Afzal Amin”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/CAROLINE_ANSELL_EASTBORNE.ashx” alt=”Caroline Ansell”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/JOHN_BELL_WIRRAL_SOUTH.ashx” alt=”John Bell”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/ALEX_CHALK_CHELTENHAM.ashx” alt=”Alex Chalk”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/Graham Cox.ashx” alt=”Graham Cox”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/TONY_COX.ashx” alt=”Tony Cox”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/HANNAH_DAVID_HARROWWEST.ashx” alt=”Hannah David”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/BYRON_DAVIES.ashx” alt=”Byron Davies”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/CHRIS_DAVIES_BRECON.ashx” alt=”Chris Davies”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/JAMES_DAVIES_VALEOFCLWYD.ashx” alt=”James Davies”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/MICHELLE_DONOLAN_CHIPPENHAM.ashx” alt=”Michelle Donelan”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/STEVE_DOUBLE_STAUSTELL.ashx” alt=”Steve Double”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/FLICK_DRUMMOND_PORTSMOUTHSOUTH.ashx” alt=”Flick Drummond”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/KEVIN_FOSTER_TORBAY.ashx” alt=”Kevin Foster”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/WILL_GOODHAND_MIDDLESBROUGHSOUTH.ashx” alt=”Will Goodhand”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/CHRIS_GREEN_BOLTONWEST.ashx” alt=”Chris Green”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/DOUGLAS_HANSENLUKE_WALSALLNORTH.ashx” alt=”Douglas Hansen-Luke”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/JAMES_HEAPPEY_WELLS.ashx” alt=”James Heappey”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/PETER_HEATONJONES_NORTHDEVON.ashx” alt=”Peter Heaton Jones”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/JANE_HUNT_NOTTINGHAMSOUTH.ashx” alt=”Jane Hunt”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/MARK_ISHERWOOD_DELYN.ashx” alt=”Mark Isherwood”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/ANDREAJENKYNSMORLEYOUTWOOD.ashx” alt=”Andrea Jenkyns”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/JULIAN_KNIGHT_SOLIHULL.ashx” alt=”Julian Knight”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/ROB_LOUGHENBURY_CHORLEY.ashx” alt=”Rob Loughenbury”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/RACHEL_MACLEAN_BIRMINGHAMNORTHFIELD.ashx” alt=”Rachel Maclean”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/Scott Mann.ashx” alt=”Scott Mann”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/SIMONMARCUSHAMPSTEADKILBURN.ashx” alt=”Simon Marcus”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/TOM_PURSGLOVE_CORBY.ashx” alt=”Tom Pursglove”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/WILL_QUINCE_COLCHESTER.ashx” alt=”Will Quince”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/MARY_ROBINSON_CHEADLE.ashx” alt=”Mary Robinson”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/LEE_ROWLEY_NEDERBYSHIRE.ashx” alt=”Lee Rowley”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/PAULSCULLYSUTTONCHEAM.ashx” alt=”Paul Scully”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/ROYSTON_SMITH_SOUTHAMPTONITCHEN.ashx” alt=”Royston Smith”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/AMANDA_SOLLOWAY_DERBYNORTH.ashx” alt=”Amanda Solloway”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/DEREK_THOMAS_STIVES.ashx” alt=”Derek Thomas”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/Maggie Throup.ashx” alt=”Maggie Throup”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/MICHAELTOMLINSONMIDDORSETNORTHPOOLE.ashx” alt=”Michael Tomlinson”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/Craig_Tracey.ashx” alt=”Craig Tracey”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/ANNEMARIE_TREVELYAN_BERWICKUPONTWEED.ashx” alt=”Anne-Marie Trevelyan”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/DAVIDWARBURTONSOMERTONFROME.ashx” alt=”David Warburton”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/giles2.ashx” alt=”Giles”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/CRAIG_WILLIAMS_CARDIFFNORTH.ashx” alt=”Craig Williams”>
<img src=”/~/media/Images/Site Redesign/Profile Pictures/Target Seats/WILL_WRAGG_HAZELGROVE.ashx” alt=”Will Wragg”>

Others
<img src=”/~/media/Maria–294.ashx” alt=”Maria”>
<img src=”/~/media/CHARLIE_DEWHIRST.ashx” alt=”Charlie Dewhirst”>
<img src=”/~/media/MARCUS_FYSH.ashx” alt=”Marcus Fysh”>
<img src=”/~/media/cand.ashx” alt=”Gartside”> Iain Gartside
<img src=”/~/media/LINDSEY_HALL.ashx” alt=”Lindsey Hall”>
<img src=”/~/media/LUKE_HALL.ashx” alt=”Luke Hall”>
<img src=”/~/media/BEN_HOWLETT.ashx” alt=”Ben Howlett”>
<img src=”/~/media/i-Images_adp_boris_portrait-568.ashx” alt=”Boris Johnson”>
<img src=”/~/media/LAURA_KNIGHTLY.ashx” alt=”Laura Knightly”>
<img src=”/~/media/David-Mackintosh-standing.ashx” alt=”David”>
<img src=”/~/media/Tania.ashx” alt=”Tania”> Tania Mathias
<img src=”/~/media/mms.ashx” alt=”Matthew”> Matthew Maxwell Scott
<img src=”/~/media/Clarence.ashx” alt=”"> Clarence Mitchell
<img src=”/~/media/ANN_MYATT.ashx” alt=”Ann Myatt”>
<img src=”/~/media/REBECCA_POW.ashx” alt=”Rebecca Pow”>
<img src=”/~/media/Tom.ashx” alt=”Tom”> Thomas Tugendhat
<img src=”/~/media/DAN_WATKINS.ashx” alt=”Dan Watkins”>

No picture
Robert Alden
James Berry
John Lamont
Naomi Newstead
Chris Philp

 

So why does this matter? Well, it’s no secret that parties have seats they target and don’t. However, they often keep up the pretense that they “fight every seat to win”. There are numerous reasons for this – namely that second-placed parties may take votes off the other in a squeeze message. Basically, no party wants to name the seats they know they won’t win.

Little tip. Always be aware of the content you’re putting on your website and never, ever copy-and-paste without checking what you’re copying-and-pasting first.

Posted in Uncategorized

Letter to the Prime Minister on Humanist Weddings

Dear Mr Cameron,

Throughout my life, I’ve found my very existence being at odds with the society desired by the Conservative Party. I went to school under Section 28, where I was unfortunate enough to be told that being gay was wrong not just by fellow students, but by adults too. I never really understood the pragmatic reasons for your predecessors believing that my “persuasion” was an evil that needed to be stamped out by threatening teachers with the sack if they even discussed it with us, but I know it had a little something to do with the book we all had to read and study at length at my Catholic school.

With that in mind, I have to say I really meant it when I emailed your office and told you (or whichever staff member reads your emails) that you should be proud of your work in helping to bring same-sex marriage onto the statute book. I’m sure it’s not easy feeling the uncomfortable warmth of Peter Bone’s breath crawling down your neck at Prime Minister’s Questions and despite protestations of others, nobody would ever have expected that such a measure would be brought in under a Tory Prime Minister. I didn’t believe Michael Howard when he said sorry for Section 28, because he qualified it by saying it was a different world back then – an insincere comment designed to alleviate responsibility for such an odious piece of legislation without actually expressing any remorse for bringing it in in the first place. With you, the words were matched with actions.

As somebody who believes in the importance of freedom of speech, I remain committed to defending the rights of those who believe that I am dirty, wrong and bound for hell to be able to express such within the bounds of the law. I do not wish to gag them in the same way they wished to prevent me from marrying; but I did wish to ensure that they and their organisations could continue to go about their own internal business in their own way. No religious organisation, in my view, should be forced to marry same-sex couples. Although I am content as a miserable atheist I recognise that even if I consider the beliefs of others to be wholly wrong, that does not change the sincerity with which those beliefs are held and it does not remove their absolute right to believe those things.

Yet, despite your principled words about the importance of marriage and the respect for belief, word has it that you’ve decided to push back on the idea of allowing humanists like myself to have a meaningful and personal ceremony. I listened to your speech at your Downing Street reception where you said you were so proud of the Act receiving royal assent that you wanted to expand the franchise. You wanted to export it to other countries. Your enthusiasm for gay weddings would radiate through every nation, rallying every gay couple to the altar (or civil equivalent, of course!) until not a single unwed homosexual remained. Such was your enthusiasm that when I heard humanist weddings were unlikely to happen under your watch, I wanted to know why. Apparently one quarter of the country are “fringe”. This was not your opinion of course, but that of one Lynton Crosby.

I don’t know much about Lynton Crosby except his slimy we’re-not-racist-but slogans that lost your party the 2005 election. He’s got a sort of Karl Rove-esque reputation of being some sort of dark lord, which I’m sure he enjoys having, which in turn makes him much much worse of a person. His intervention suggests one thing about your enthusiasm for marriage – that it has morphed from its previous “I will not be popular in my party for this but it’s the right thing to do” incarnation to one of “This won’t win us the election, sod it”. But whilst I’m sure you’ve got many other things on your plate at the moment, like personally defending our borders from those dastardly immigrants who want to stimulate our economy, I do wish to remind you of that one thing you can take away from your time in politics where people from every party stopped for a moment and said, “you know what, give him his dues, on this he did good”.

I’m immensely lucky in having found somebody I get along with very well. Last year, after equal marriage received royal assent, I asked him to marry me and much to my delight he said yes. We don’t want to do so with an anonymous registrar, we want to celebrate it with a humanist leading proceedings. As a Christian, you must understand the value fellow members of your faith place in the celebrant of their weddings being a minister of their own religion. You can’t necessarily rationalise as to why that matters, it just does. Similarly, being forced to read from the stock civil script when followers of religions can write their own vows, mould their own ceremony and enjoy it in their own buildings does not make marriage very equal at all. I know and you know that were somebody to refer to the needs of the religious as “fringe”, you’d be utterly outraged.

If it makes you feel any better, I’m really unsure as to whether your grassroots members will give the slightest of damns about extending the franchise to humanists – after allowing those gays to do it, this won’t even register on the radar. But what it will do is provide a much more meaningful ceremony to those of us who, despite not believing in a god or a supernatural being, still have beliefs that are held as sincerely.

We deserve the same as everybody else. Please take the small step to making that happen.

Chris Ward

Posted in Uncategorized

Why depression is shit, how I dealt with it, and how you can help others suffering with it

I’ve been pondering writing something about this for a few months now, but always stopped short of actually doing it. There’s this nice snuggly thought in the back of my mind that somebody with depression might read it and it might do some good and provide a little comfort. Conversely somebody who has never experienced it and cannot comprehend it as an illness might have a read and realise how debilitating and immobilising it is. That the downward spiral is not merely you failing to “get a grip”, but that it has a profound effect on your mental and physical capacities. That it’s not that you’re failing to drive the car, but that the steering wheel is not available to you. Most importantly, I feel I can write about it now because I’m glad to say it’s pretty much gone. Primarily though, I suppose I’m doing it because it’s deeply therapeutic to write all this nonsense down. Anyway, whoever you are, hello and this is my (hopefully short) account.

Depression really does have an unfortunate name. The word has become overused, assigned to mere feelings of boredom or grumpiness in addition to a serious medical condition. The association leads people to consider it to be little more than an excuse not to take control of your emotions at best and attention-seeking at worst. Because, like all mental illnesses, it is invisible, people also consider it to be easily solvable. If you can’t see a wound, surely it’s not there, right? I have accepted that there are a number who just don’t get it because they consider themselves to be so confident and successful that they wouldn’t let a silly thing like depression get in their way. Some of these people are well-intentioned, some less-so. I do hope those who fall under that category take something away from this, because how you react to a friend suffering from depression can make the world of difference. You can’t cure them by “cheering them up”, but you can support them and help them on their way as best you can.

I’d heard many differing accounts of those who had suffered from depression. A few aspects of mine don’t fall along the traditional specifications so sadly I didn’t realise I had it till it started getting better. I noticed various improvements, both in my general wellbeing but also my physical health. With the power of hindsight and Google, I was able to find other cases where those suffering with depression had simultaneously suffered physical symptoms too. Mine were fatigue and severe pains, particularly in my joints. I was unable to lift heavy things without severe discomfort and walking long-ish distances (> 1 mile), something I used to enjoy and do regularly, exhausted me and caused enduring physical pain.

Once it finally clicked that I might be suffering from depression, I had an odd moment of realisation where a load of factors that should have been bleedingly obvious hit me at once. I was a confident and (reasonably) successful chap – I had fought elections before and had an immensely thick skin. How on earth I didn’t realise that this confidence had slowly ebbed away and the smallest tasks suddenly faced me with a painful shot of anxiety might have meant something was up I really do not know. I used to doorknock three streets an evening in an election, yet suddenly taking the bins out became the most terrifying obstacle. I used to walk to and from work every day, yet now took the tube. I regained a lot of weight and although depression doesn’t need a reason, I was working in a very unfulfilling job that placed ridiculous demands on my time and energy. I have frankly no idea what caused my depression, but I know exactly what helped and what certainly did not.

In December I started a new job. I like this job. The people are great and supportive, the work is fascinating and I really enjoy it. I’m also very lucky to have an immensely awesome partner, without whom I’m really not sure I’d have managed getting through all this. These things aren’t cures for depression, but they help. The “getting better” bit is hard to explain. The mental obstacles on certain tasks (very) slowly disappeared and I started enjoying things a lot more. I began to feel a lot healthier physically – my strength returned and the pains went away. In terms of anxiety, most of you know I tried standing in PPC selections. I felt that as I was getting better, doing something I enjoyed and I found rewarding would help me on that way. By the third of the selections, Aldershot, I was phoning members, turning up to meetings and knocking doors just like I used to. Although I lost the selection, I walked away immeasurably happy that the anxiety that stopped me from even taking the bins out wasn’t stopping me anymore. It was at this point I could honestly say I was feeling quite better.

The timescales are estimates, but I believe this all started at around mid-2013. I only realised it late December/early January and the first 9 months were the most severe. I considered myself all better end of July. So all in all, this impacted me for just over a year.

The biggest point is that depression isn’t something that can be willed away or fixed immediately. It can hit the most confident person for no explainable reason. Here’s a few suggestions as to how to help friends with depression.

1. Ask how they are. Ask them if there’s anything you can do to help. Don’t force the issue, let them accept support from you on their own terms. Company made a huge difference for me.

2. Be patient and understanding. They’re as keen for it to go away as you are and they can’t speed it up. Some days they may not want to leave the house and some days may not answer the phone or texts. That’s just the way it is.

3. Read this: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/adventures-in-depression.html

4. Read part 2: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/depression-part-two.html.

5. Realise (and this is very important) that even if they don’t show it, the fact you’re there if they need you makes the world of difference.

I really do hope this helps somebody, even if it was just for the therapeutic writing down for my own benefit. Always happy to chat to anybody about this, so if you have any questions, do get in touch.

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