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Monday, 4 November 2019

Veterans Issues - November 2019

It’s that time of year again where parts of the nation reflect upon the sacrifices made by the few for the many.  I’d like to share some thoughts from a Veteran’s perspective.

I served a 2 year tour in County Down, Northern Ireland from 1983 -1985.  I remember experiencing symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as early as December 1983 as a result of my duties.  By the time it was time to leave the province my Senior NCO knew I was suffering from PTSD but no one ever told me that I was afflicted by the condition.  In those days, people in the forces weren’t given much support, if any; we were expected to cope, do our jobs or face ridicule and stigma if diagnosed with a mental health condition.

I left the RAF Police in 1985 and then served with the Metropolitan Police from 1986 – 1989.  My career was cut short owing to an incident that triggered my disability relating to PTSD and military service.  Again, senior officers knew that I was suffering from PTSD but no one told me or even entered into a discussion with me about the condition or my history, so as to provide help or support to me.

From 1990 to 2000 I worked in various roles with the Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CAB) service as it was then.  I was a Guidance Tutor responsible for providing support and training to advice workers, I managed a social policy unit in Newquay, carried out casework and represented on tribunal up to Commissioners Decisions level.  I spent the last 5 years managing Truro CAB in Cornwall. 
While interviewing clients with disabilities, I would sometimes recognise my own symptoms in their accounts but I would hide my feelings and continue with delivering the service.  The recognition of having a mental health condition generated fear.  What if I had a disability that would stop me working?  How would it affect my relationships with friends and colleagues?  I suppressed my emotions and got on with the job; after all, that’s what I had been conditioned to do since the age of 17 in the Armed Forces.
In 1995, I was hit by a stolen motor vehicle.  I was told that I was lucky to have survived.  I was still very fit from martial arts training and I wasn’t aware that Karate acted as a good coping mechanism for PTSD…the road accident changed all of this.  I couldn’t train anymore and my symptoms became much worse.  So much so that I visited my GP in Bristol.  I’d left Cornwall in 1994 to be with the mother of my son and support her in raising him.  I was diagnosed with PTSD in 1996 and eventually received appropriate support from Combat Stress; 11 years after I was discharged from military service; 13 years after contracting the condition.

Combat Stress (CS)
5 years or so ago, Combat Stress changed the way they operate and many Veterans like me were left unsupported.  They now operate the NHS 20 week support model and then discharge you.  The older system of care that allowed Veterans 4 weeks or so of respite a year has gone; these breaks benefited both employed and unemployed Veterans.

Help 4 Heroes (H4H)
H4H was initially set up to only care for Veterans that had served in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Most evidence of this has disappeared from the internet now.  H4H marketed themselves brilliantly and captured the attention of the general public.  As a social policy issue, I contacted H4H about this many years and it was confirmed.  This was at a time when we were still supporting Veterans from WW1 onwards.  The suicide rate of Falklands Veterans has been high and is continually increasing; the same applies to Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan engagements.  I raised the question about who supports Veterans for all of the other operational theatres before Iraq.  There was no response.  H4H were, at that time, only providing other projects with buildings.

On a side issue, you’re not a hero for putting on a uniform and doing a job.  You’re no different to a refuse collector or and IT Engineer.  You do the job you’re paid for; we define a hero as someone that did something over and above what was required of them.

Homeless Veterans
Not all homeless Veterans want a home.  I’ve worked with many in the past that have taken a conscious decision to break away because they don’t fit in with civilian society and over their lack of faith in human society coupled with the corruption involved in governments at local and national levels.

Please bear in mind that some of these Veterans have served in theatres where they have first hand experience of the existence of governmental collusion with opposing countries and terrorist organisations.
They therefore found themselves unable to trust society and want to live apart from it.  So before attempting to assist a homeless Veteran, they should be asked if they would like help and then which level of help they would like.

Armed Forces Charities Squandering Funds
Some of the largest military charities are sitting on £277m - while veterans struggle to cope with various disabilities and trying to make ends meet in civvy street.
Annual accounts show the 10 wealthiest armed forces charities have cash reserves totalling £277m.

There needs to greater accountability as well as mandatory networking for charities in any sector, which is something that has to be proven for any charity start up application or project application.  The requirement to network with relevant statutory and voluntary agencies must be ongoing and enforced by legislation or, at the very least by the funding body, with the proviso that those refusing or failing to network adequately, will have their funding removed and will have to repay any funds issued.

I have found that charities and organisations won’t network with each other for fear of creating competition for the same funding pots.

From my own experiences and having talked to people from my generation of service, racism was rife in the Armed Forces in the 80s and 90s and while there has been an improvement, there is still much racism in the Armed Forces and in the Veterans’ Community as a whole.

A lot of it is hidden in the term ‘banter’.   Racism is racism.  It is ugly, hurtful, demeaning and illegal.  Racism in the Paras came to the fore earlier this year when 2 black lads took the regiment to an Employment Tribunal.  The hearing started a few months ago.  As I haven’t heard anything about it in the press, I’m assuming a settlement was reached with a gagging clause attached.

During the course of the hearing I posted articles about their experiences of racism in the armed forces in various private Armed Forces groups on Facebook.  Some of the comments from the Veterans’ Community were filled with hate and racism towards myself for posting the article and asking the questions and towards the subject of the post – the 2 black paras.  However, there were positive, supportive comments from some Veterans which, to me, suggested that attitudes are changing.  The split between negative and positive comments was roughly 50/50.

The originating article is

It’s fair to assume that BME Veterans who have experienced racism will avoid regular Veterans meet ups in case they’re subjected to discriminatory ‘banter’ because such behaviour was deemed acceptable and even encouraged by some leaders of different ranks.  The first sergeant that I served under in Northern Ireland was an outspoken racist who would openly use racial slurs at social occasions.  He would ensure that I got more than my fair share of the jobs people didn’t like doing.

During my service I witnessed sexism and homophobia too and I saw how people were treated just for being themselves.

Veterans Suicide Support
Approximately 71 Veterans have committed suicide over the last year.  In addition, another youngster has committed suicide this week.

We have some decent projects operating at local levels nowadays but a lot of Veterans won’t access the support.  I can relate to this and the reasons are complex and the majority of civilian society remains ignorant of them.

From the moment that we start basic training, we’re taught our most basic of duties – to kill other human beings.  We’re pushed, re-programmed and moulded into people that will do their duty … even if that means dying.  If we get knocked down, we get up.  If we’re wounded, we still find a way to fight.  If we see a brother or sister in danger, we’d lay down our lives to save theirs, without hesitation.  We were proud people that continually exceeded our expectations.  Of course there was always a small percentage that didn’t meet the mark.

The way we coped with traumatic incidents was to lock them down in a compartment and bury them deep inside.  It took a long time for me to remember all of the incidents that I’d been involved in or had witnessed.  My reactions to the most serious one only came to light around 2010 … some 25 years after the event.  I had buried the event so deeply that I had forgotten it.  We get up, we face the day and we carry on.

Most Veterans that have been helped have come to notice because of an incident and someone has been switched on enough to connect the dots and get the support ball rolling.  However, even then, the journey is a slow and perilous one because there’s no telling how the process will affect each individual.

When I first visited Combat Stress, it took 30 minutes to drive through their gates and into the compound.  I was sat there remembering incidents, shaking and fearful. Fearful of my own feelings and reactions to the incidents that I’d been involved in.  The person on reception that was using the intercom was very patient and eventually talked me in.

When I started my first individual therapy session with my key worker, I couldn’t sit inside the building.  I needed to be on a piece of nature.  I had been coping by disappearing into the wilderness with my cameras and just being with the Earth as often as possible when on leave. 

Eventually I found a hollowed out tree in the grounds that I could fit into.  My Key Worker was happy to sit outside and work with me there.

That level of therapy is the hardest thing I have ever done but it didn’t cure me.  I don’t feel there is a cure for PTSD and I don’t feel that the medical community understands the condition properly.  The NHS deal with the mind and the body.  PTSD is also a wound to the spirit of the person.  To understand this fully, I embarked on a few trips to different Native American (First Nations) tribes in North America and experienced some of their healing rituals and ceremonies … and while I’m not cured, I am better equipped to deal with PTSD through the things that I have been taught by them.

It’s a scary thing to face yourself in the mirror and see everything that life has done to you…and what you have had to do to survive.  It’s scarier still to accept it all and ask for help.  When the average person hears a gunshot or an explosion, their reaction is to run away from it…ours is to run towards it and deal with whatever we find.  To then realise that we have something wrong within us that will require us to examine the feelings, memories and experiences that we have locked down deep in our souls, can be a further trauma.  It can be easier to face death again than to examine your ‘self’ which is why many Veterans go back and work as mercenaries.  They can’t fit back into civvy street.

During my exhibition (Living with PTSD), I met with CPNs, Psychologists, Psychiatrists and medical students to raise awareness of PTSD and how differently it affects Veterans.  They were open and honest about their experiences in treating PTSD.  You can read their comments here.

Veterans Support Group (VSG)
I set up the VSG last year and it has specific aims:

A place for Veterans to meet and enjoy a breakfast together (50% off food)
Access to free counselling by qualified practitioners
Fast track access to the NHS for Veterans in Nottingham and Doncaster
Free access to art, poetry and photography groups
Banter without discrimination on any front
Supporting each other irrespective of political beliefs or other differences

This group is open to anyone that has served in the Armed Forces of any country.  A group of Veterans met and discussed this issue last month and we accepted that we’ve probably got more in common than we realise; particularly how we’ve all been used and lied to over the years.

Anyone found to have served in a terrorist organisation is not welcome, nor is anyone who has committed a war crime.

Veterans brekkie is at Tesco Bulwell Extra on the 3rd Sunday of every month at 10:30am.

The art events take place every Friday evening, in a relaxed atmosphere, at 7:30pm in the Community Room, Tesco Bulwell Extra, Jennison Street, Nottingham NG6 8EQ.

Soldier F
The trial of Soldier F has begun but I haven’t heard about any progress in the media.  In short some members of the Parachute Regiment are to be put on trial for actions carried out by them while on duty.

Having served in the RAF Police, I’m of the opinion that you have to carry out your duties in accordance with the law.  If you don’t then you suffer the consequences.

I feel that the Soldier F scenario is unique though because part of the Good Friday Agreement set free terrorists that had been bombing, shooting, kidnapping and murdering innocent people for decades.  I feel that the British Government should treat people on both sides of the line equally and draw a line under the situation and drop proceedings.

It’s easy to judge someone else’s actions when you haven’t walked in their shoes.  Even with my viewpoint on following the rules, would I have been able to do my job correctly if an angry mob were about to get to me?  The simple answer is that I don’t know.  I wasn’t there and I didn’t have to deal with the situation.  I would draw your attention to the funeral a few years later though where soldiers were pulled from an unmarked vehicle, stripped and killed.

Soldiers follow orders.  Politicians create the situations and brief the top brass; they should be made responsible for the incidents too.

The domestic use of fireworks needs to be addressed.  There are many Veterans that end up in a triggered state when fireworks are let off.  The sound from modern day fireworks resembles small arms fire and IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices).  I and many other Veterans are asking Nottingham City Council to at least take steps to ask people to be aware of the problems that Fireworks cause – to pet as well as humans.

In my own area, people have been letting off fireworks over the last 2 weeks after midnight.  Can we have some clarity on which number to call for help and whether steps will be taken to prosecute those that break the firework laws.

Villayat ‘Wolf’ Sunkmanitu

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

The Anit-Semetism storm being generated by Israel

I’m concerned that people are using the label of ‘anti-Semitism’, a form of racism, to either stop people from criticising the state of Israel for its various crimes against humanity and running an apartheid state.

I also don’t feel that any particular form of racism should be given priority over another.  We should be challenging any form of racism, whenever we encounter it.

I have spent my working life standing up against racism and other forms of discrimination.  I remember, to this day, first seeing the images of what was done to the Jews in the holocaust ... and I still remember the feelings of first seeing those images.  I can't begin to imagine how survivors, or relatives of survivors, may have felt.  I think of all the various groups of people that have been subjected to genocide (directly or indirectly):  The Native Americans (56 million deaths), the Aborigines (250,000 deaths), the Maori, the people of India (1.8 billion deaths), the people of Africa (20million plus), the Irish (200,000), the Scottish, the Welsh, the Jews (6 million) ...and the Palestinians, to name but a few.

Israel is subject to the same criticisms as any other nation for its policies and actions and Israel is not the country of Jews alone – this is the last record I could find of their breakdown by religion:

Rank Religion Population Adhering (%)
1 Judaism 74.7
2 Islam 17.7
3 Other 4.1
4 Christianity 2
5 Druzism 1.6

One thing to bear in mind is that the mainstream media won’t always give us the whole truth, and sometimes, very little of it.

From my own experiences in serving in Northern Ireland in the early 1980s, I went and spent time with Protestants and Catholics when off duty.  Regular people that were busy getting on with their lives.  I learned that most people don’t want war and violence.  They wanted to be left in peace rather being used as political pawns on chessboards that weren’t even present near their own homes.  I’ve seen many articles of people from Muslim and Jewish faiths that are united in their communities in Israel and other parts of the world, in spite of the right-wing policies currently being enforced there.

The same can be said here and anywhere else where we have multi-cultural communities.  ‘Divide and Conquer’ was a tactic taught to us by the Romans … and many governments around the world employ it very effectively; if we’re fighting amongst each other, we can’t effectively fight against a dictatorship.

Is it anti-Semitic to criticise the government of Israel, or Israel as a state for actions and policies that are found to be in breach of the laws of Israel, International Law or the Human Rights Convention?  No, it is not.

Is it anti-Semitic to criticise the government of Israel, or Israel as a state for the actions of its employees, where they have broken the laws of Israel, International Law or the Human Rights Convention?  No, it is not.

Racism is wrong, genocide is unforgivable.
Any person that makes a derogatory comment about a Jew, a Muslim, a Christian, a Buddhist, a Sikh or about a person of any other religion, should be challenged.  People should be assessed on their actions rather than their beliefs or appearance.  Religions aren’t the problem, the problem lies with those that would misinterpret a religion to achieve a desired outcome that would harm individuals or groups of people in societies.  Subjecting anyone in any society to racism, would be such an outcome – the effects – anything from disallowing someone to play in the same playground as local kids to the murder of a person or persons just for being ‘different’.

Some people are using allegations of anti-Semitism irresponsibly in the United Kingdom to gain political favour, some to create unrest. 

Evidence has been coming to light over the last few years, of political interference in the UK from both The USA and Israel and I don’t want any fact finding to be hidden under the politically used umbrella of anti-Semitism.  While Russia interferes with UK politics too, my feeling is that, at this time, we’re more vulnerable from the USA and Israel’s policies and military action in the Middle East because both nations are our allies and both nations are involved in various lucrative arms related deals with us … and as often is the case, money matters more to the establishment than doing the right thing. 

Those of you that remember Tony Blair’s election campaign will be aware that neither he nor his team encountered the victimisation that is currently being aimed at Jeremy Corbyn.  My view is that the Labour Party led by Blair leaned more towards the right.  Margaret Thatcher was quoted to have said that New Labour was her greatest achievement.  For those of us that have read and support the current Labour Party Manifesto, Corbyn’s aim is to restore some balance in society by fairer taxation of the corporations and to ensure that tax avoidance becomes a thing of the past, in order to provide a better quality of life for the whole population.  Corbyn is a threat to every rich person, every tax avoiding corporation and every nation that seeks to profit from war.  A lot of money is being used to attack him in the mainstream media.

“An Israeli embassy official who plotted to “take down” MPs regarded as hostile has also set up a number of political organisations in the UK that operated as though entirely independent.
Shai Masot was filmed covertly as he boasted about establishing several groups, at least one of which was intended to influence Labour party policy, while appearing to obscure their links to Israel.
The disclosure comes as Labour demanded the government launch an immediate inquiry into “improper interference in our democratic politics”. A former Tory government minister also called for an inquiry into the Israeli embassy’s links with two organisations, Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) and Labour Friends of Israel (LFI).
Meanwhile, Masot is being sent back to Israel in disgrace, and a civil servant and Conservative official who was also filmed discussing ways to discredit MPs has resigned from her post.”

Source: The Guardian
Ewen MacAskill and Ian Cobain
Sun 8 Jan 2017 20.00 GMT

Israel is also conducting social media campaigns to generate support for its policies, by recruiting students to post pro-Israeli propaganda.

The USA and Israel have reasons to fear a Labour Government led by Jeremy Corbyn.  War should be a last resort and not entered into for reasons of securing resources, job contracts and based upon lies.  Chilcot’s report, published in July 2016, found that the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein posed “no imminent threat” at the time of the invasion of his country in 2003, and the war was fought on the basis of “flawed” intelligence. It found that the cabinet’s decision to invade was made in circumstances that were “far from satisfactory”.  I believe that Jeremy Corbyn would not lead the UK into any war unjustifiably.  I also believe that he would not endorse any arms deals with Israel and Saudi Arabia, they having been deemed illegal by the UN.

The Tories attitude was to continue supplying arms to the Saudis and to blame the illegal deals on a lack of communication between departments.  I wondered if they were trying to get a last sale or two in while people were focussed on Brexit.

As with many of these issues, the problem at the core is capitalism.  Destroy a country, it’s homes, industrial buildings and infrastructure and then award your mate’s company a contract for work there…for which you’ll get a nice bonus too.

The situation against Iran is escalating with both the USA and Israel pushing for war.  We mustn’t make the same mistakes that were made in the war with Iraq.  For those of you interested in the timeline of events, please go to:  https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/06/iran-standoff-timeline-key-events-190622063937627.html.

I have a vested interest in the avoidance of war:  those that cause it never carry a rifle on the battlefield, neither do their kin.  

The lucky ones die on the battlefield, those that come home and have conditions such as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), fight their battles in their hell on Earth on a daily basis.
When our men, women, boys and girls come home … many don’t receive the support they need.  We’re still reeling from regular Veteran suicides and the effects that it has on their families and friends.  We have a duty to ensure that our troops are only put in harms way when necessary.

Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu

Friday, 26 July 2019

Make MPs accountable as public servants

Do you remember the old westerns?  They told stories of towns rising up and problems arising:  businesses wanting more money for the same goods, landowners encroaching on the land of others through threats or actual murder, violence in the streets needing to be quelled by a Sheriff or Marshall who would then be run out of town by the businesses that hired him?  At the point when the law had served it's purpose but then became a obstacle for those exploiting the less well off.

That model of development has been the same for all of the so called 'civilised' countries or major powers...and it's how they operate now...nothing has really changed.  As always, there are exceptions ...some Leaders from other countries seem exemplary when placed alongside some of our politicians.

What's the common thread?  Corruption and greed.  It always was and it always will be unless we get to grips with the cause and do something about it.

I know that many of you are pissed off with the system.  We watch as governments here in the UK have consistently lied, swindled and cheated the public out of its collective wealth.  Let me put that another way - the government spends our money - the working classes' money.  Without the working classes there would be no wealth for the people at the top.

I know that a lot of you feel that there's no point in voting.  Having seen the fiasco of recent votes, I can sympathise.  Then we have the people that have the right to vote, were registered to vote and were still denied a vote through maladministation ... and the government didn't bother to extend the deadline for the vote so that they could be afforded their democratic right which is shameful, and I feel, illegal.

If we don't vote though, we'll always let the upper classes get away with shafting the working classes ... and if we don't vote, we'll never bring about the changes that we want to see in this country - or the balance of power that the masses deserve.

As working class people, we make the products that people buy - and we ourselves buy them if we can afford to.  The same with services that are offered - we do the work but the profits go upward and, depending on the service provided, the workers are often paid a pittance for work that doesn't require formal qualifications - and in a lot of cases - even if formal qualifications are required.

The United Kingdom is a country ruled by the upper classes.  We help to maintain the status quo because, in the main, we silently carry on with our lives; too busy working long hours and trying to make ends meet as we worry about how we're to pay the mortgage or afford the rent, pay for our food, our prescriptions for medicine, clothes and our various taxes.

Democracy seems to be constantly interfered with in various ways, everything from whether voting cards are issued to how they're counted, as well as altering the constituency boundaries. I'm sure that this wasn't the version of democracy that our ancestors risked or gave up their lives for.  As a Veteran, I certainly didn't knowingly serve corrupt leaders ... but it seems that I, unwittingly and by default, did.  We learn these harder lessons as we grow and explore the world around us for what it is.

That's the moaning out of the way - what do we actually do about it?
We can start by making MPs more accountable for their actions.

 On 4/7/2013, someone wrote to the House of Commons Commission about MP's Job Descriptions:

(Source https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/mp_job_description)

Sent: 11 July 2013 09:22
Subject: Freedom of Information request - MP job description
Dear House of Commons Commission,
I would be interested to see the paperwork which would constitute an MP's
job description.  All employees have a job description and they are held
accountable by the terms agreed.
In order to hold an MP to account one must first know what is reasonably
I look forward to your response.
Yours faithfully,
D. Reynolds.

A reply was sent out on 11/7/2019:
FOICOMMONS, House of Commons Commission 11 July 2013

Dear       ,
Freedom of Information Request F13-354
Thank you for your request for information which is copied below.
You asked for information regarding MP's job descriptions.
The information you require is not held by the House of Commons.   Members
of Parliament are not employees of the House of Commons but are deemed as
self-employed. For this reason, we would not hold paperwork on an MP’s job
However, the following document may be of interest to you, it gives
constituents the information they need on how to contact their MP and what
to expect when they do
The following information from the Parliamentary website may also be
helpful: [2]http://www.parliament.uk/about/mps-and-l...
You may, if dissatisfied with the handling of your request, complain to
the House of Commons.  Any such complaints should be addressed to: Freedom
of Information Officer, Department of HR and Change, House of Commons
London SW1 0AA or [3][House of Commons Commission request email] . Please ensure that you
specify the nature of your complaint and any arguments or points that you
wish to make.
If you remain dissatisfied, you may appeal to the Information Commissioner
at Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF. 
Yours sincerely,
Sarah Price | IRIS Support Officer


I have since found an online document that states the following:
Annex 6: MP's generic job description (2001)

In 2001, the Senior Salaries Review Body published a "job description" for a Member of Parliament, which is set out below.

Job purpose
Represent, defend and promote national interests and further the needs and interests of constituents wherever possible.

Principal accountabilities
1.Help furnish and maintain Government and Opposition so that the business of parliamentary democracy may proceed.

2.Monitor, stimulate and challenge the Executive in order to influence and where possible change government action in ways which are considered desirable.

3.Initiate, seek to amend and review legislation so as to help maintain a continually relevant and appropriate body of law.

4.Establish and maintain a range of contacts throughout the constituency, and proper knowledge of its characteristics, so as to identify and understand issues affecting it and, wherever possible, further the interests of the constituency generally.

5.Provide appropriate assistance to individual constituents, through using knowledge of local and national government agencies and institutions, to progress and where possible help resolve their problems.

6.Contribute to the formulation of party policy to ensure that it reflects views and national needs which are seen to be relevant and important.

7.Promote public understanding of party policies in the constituency, media and elsewhere to facilitate the achievement of party objectives.

Nature and scope
An MP's work may be seen under three broad headings. The first is his or her participation in activities designed to assist in the passage of legislation and hold the Executive to account. This is traditionally seen as the 'core' role of the parliamentarian. The second area is work in and for the constituency. This is in part representational; in part promoting or defending the interests of the constituency as a whole; and in part it is designed to help individual constituents in difficulty. The third part of the job is work in support of the party to which the Member belongs, and for which he/she was elected.

Parliamentary work
In the Chamber — An MP spends typically four days each week in the House. It is possible, at least in theory, to spend much of this time in the Chamber itself. But there is little doubt that the majority of Members spend significantly less time there than was typical in the past. This is in part because the Chamber is, generally speaking, perceived to be less significant in influencing affairs than it was 20 or 30 years ago; and also because the time available has been squeezed both by constituency matters and by the amount of work which Members spend in committee or in pursuing their political interests through other channels.

Members appear in the Chamber to speak rather than to listen. It is a forum for making a case but for most of the time has only a marginal effect on major decisions. Nevertheless, it can sometimes be the scene of events of dramatic importance which seize the attention of the electorate. Debates and question time are exacting tests for Ministers and are important in the parliamentary process but there are a number of other ways in which MPs can use the Chamber. For example there are adjournment debates at the end of each day and this provides a useful way of ventilating a constituency grievance, and persuading a Minister to act. Ten Minute Rule Bills are a useful device for generating attention for a particular issue although they are of limited value in getting legislation to the statute book. Twenty Private Members Bills are selected by ballot at the beginning of each session, and these also present to the successful Members an opportunity for pursuing a particular interest. There is, however, little chance of legislative success without government support.

In Committee — In addition to work in the Chamber itself an MP can contribute to the political process through Membership of either Select or Standing Committees. Select Committees, of which the most important is the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), are cross party bodies which can be highly effective in examining specific or general government policies in a relatively bi-partisan manner. Effective work on Select Committees requires background study, planning, devising and putting questions and checking the proceedings for publication. A great deal of reading is involved to do the job properly and it is often necessary to consult various interested parties. The chairmen of Select Committees are appointed by the committees themselves.

By contrast, Standing Committees consider legislation in detail prior to its being sent back to the Chamber. It is up to an MP whether a full contribution is made or not. In general terms, opposition MPs see little chance of major substantial changes to Bills in committee, although sometimes spectacular coups are achieved. The presence of government MPs is required usually just to vote and speaking is often discouraged because it delays proceedings. The Speaker has a list of MPs who act as Chairmen, which he/she compiles with the advice of party whips.

The allocation of MPs to committees is carried out by the Committee of Selection, by permission of the House, save for Select Committees established before 1979, where it is done by the whips. In practice, however, the influence of the whips over appointment to all committees, and particularly to the more important Select Committees, is considerable. Generally, although the work is not mandatory, there is an expectation of MPs being prepared to serve on committees, newer Members serving an apprenticeship through Membership of the less popular ones. The committee clerks provide help and advice on procedural matters but it takes some time and effort for an MP to accumulate sufficient working knowledge to serve as the real basis for effective committee performance.

There are, in addition to Select and Standing Committees, a number of party and multi-party committees on particular issues. These are of varying importance and effectiveness.

There is no research support available to MPs specifically for committee work, other than the House of Commons Library, although committees as a whole can and do commission specific research.

Range of Members' practices

In practice, some Members, although perhaps only a relatively small minority, seek to influence events by participating to the fullest extent in the Chamber itself.

Others prefer to work through Select Committees or the party backbench committees. But MPs can 'make their mark' in the political arena by other means. Many have a specific area of interest or expertise which they bring to the House and through this become seen by all parties as respected experts in some specific area. They are often able to reinforce his role through the media. Others — particularly the longer serving and more experienced — play an important role in reinforcing their party's activities, for example during particularly difficult debates Some, usually because of their specific expertise can help in the execution of government policy, formally or informally. Yet others champion specific causes inside and outside the House. All MPs are subject to pressure from lobby groups. Some however work closely with bodies such as charities or trade associations to promote their interests.

By using one or more of the means available, it is generally held that the majority of MPs make an identifiable contribution to the national political process. This role is however largely tailored to their own needs, capabilities and ambitions.

Work in the constituency —There is broad agreement that this aspect of MPs' work has increased immensely over the last 20 years. MPs visit their constituency about weekly and indeed many live there. Constituency work can be divided into two parts, the general and the particular.

General work— In general, MPs must maintain contact with a wide range of local bodies, both official and voluntary, to feel the pulse of issues affecting the constituency overall. This involves such activities as keeping in touch with the local authority and local councillors, giving talks to local societies and schools, visiting factories, and participating in civic events. Through this work Members can identify how national policies or issues impact on their own constituencies so that they can if appropriate contribute to debate on them. In at least some constituencies the MP is also seen as a quasi Civic Leader, alongside leading Councillors and other dignitaries.

Senior Salaries Review Body, Cm 4997-II, (2001).

(Source: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmselect/cmcomm/685/68520.htm)

IPSA state the following: 
All MPs' staff employed after 7 May 2010 must have a relevant job description, as well as a contract and a salary within the relevant pay range.  So why doesn't an MP have a Job Description?

(Source:  http://parliamentarystandards.org.uk/Job%20Description/Pages/default.aspx)

There are a couple of issues to raise at this point:
Self Employed people don't have contracts of employment, neither do they receive a standard salary, pensions and expenses!  Generally speaking, they quote from job to job.

One of the changes that I would like to see is MPs issued with Job Descriptions, Person Specifications and Contracts of Employment; within that contract of employment certain clauses should be the same as they are for other employed people - eg Gross Misconduct leading to dismissal.  Gross Misconduct usually contains offences against the person, discriminatory behaviour, harassment and Theft, to name a few.  Bringing the the service into disrepute is also one used.  Fraud, generally speaking, comes under the category of Theft.

When one considers the basic salary, expenses and other avenues of income open to MPs, it is unacceptable that they be allowed to commit fraud against the public by accessing the public's money by said fraud and then still be allowed to keep their job when found out.

This 2-tier society must stop now.  An MP is as important as a refuse collector; some would argue less.  The laws affecting both classes of workers must be the same...and the laws surrounding any breaches of statutes or codes of conduct and contracts of employment must be equally upheld.

MPs are public servants...it's about time they ALL started conducting themselves as such and were made accountable for their actions to their electorate.

Drafting a Job Description and Person Specification for MPs
Would anyone with relevant experience like to be involved in drafting one up?  I'm looking for a group of 3 people with managerial experience and one MP.  Once completed, I'd be looking to submit it, as a collective piece of work, to the relevant authority.

Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Close the Circle or keep the pain going?

From my own experiences,  I've found that that pain is a constant in life.  I hope yours is less so.  Perhaps it's meant to be an infrequent learning tool ...and maybe it helps us to appreciate the nicer experiences when they come along.
We can hold pain in different ways, allowing it to sit within as a physical symptom, or as a mental health issue, often visible in one's eyes.  Recognising our own pain is important; why it exists...but more importantly, what we do with it is more important.

We all have experiences that have given us great joy and the removal of that connection from the people we shared those experiences with can leave a chasm and cause pain. 

So how do people deal with their pain?  Some can't shift it.  Their pain is so great that it's like a bottle that they continually work on emptying but life's experiences keep filling up for them, others are more fortunate ... they say they manage to let go of their pain completely.

Consciously or subconciously, there's an element of human society that believes in making sure that other people experience the same pain, through the same or similar circumstances.  How many times have you heard someone say, 'Wait til your kids are the same age', or 'Wait until you've been working here a while, you'll be as bitter as the rest of us'?  These sorts of phrases are indicative of personalities that may want you to experience the same pain or unhappiness that they have experienced.

They may guide you towards incidents to help make sure that you experience that same pain or negative experience.  It's in your interest to recognise such people in your life as soon as possible ... and to skirt around them as much as possible.

The people that you should listen too and learn from are the ones that close the circle on their pain.  They'll still experience it but they won't want you to go through the same pain; they'll help you to recognise the pitfalls and negotiate a safer path around the problem.

How do you recognise them?  Language can be a good indicator; what people talk about and how they talk about it.  

Some people swear out of frustration or when they get passionate about something ... don't be offended by them, listen to what they're saying around the expletives.  Other people will swear at you, perhaps for no good reason; they're the ones to avoid.

Some people use the word 'hate' a lot without realising the negative energy that the word pulls in.  Hate for me is something very deep and self-destructive.  I choose not to hate, I choose to dislike, it stops me getting tied in to a bad energy - there's too much hatred circling human societies through, wars, crime, corruption and other injustices ... let alone family tragedies.  I don't use the word hate, even with all of my life experiences and the injustices that I've experienced.

So, we have to decide one thing:  do we want to be the sort of person that lets go of the bad energy and help others have a better shared experience by closing the circle of pain and not transferring the experience on to another... or do we want others to experience our pain for themselves and continue that cycle of negativity leading towards hatred?  I'd rather close the circle and not treat people the way that I've been treated.

Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu

Friday, 24 May 2019

Forgive and forget ... or forgive and drown?

Whether you believe in re-incarnation or some other belief system that teaches you that we are here to learn something ... or even if you believe in nothing but the strength contained within yourself - there are lessons to be learned in the journey of life.

Some believe that we come back to this life to correct our wrong-doings from a previous life.  We face hurdles in this life, varying in severity, relative to our mistakes or wrongful actions of past lives.

A lot of religious or spiritual paths preach that forgiveness is essential in order for us to divorce ourselves from painful experiences ... and to move on in a healthy way from 'lessons'.

I was thinking about the issue of forgiveness.  I've forgiven people for what they've do to me ... but there are some things that I can't forget.  I forgave my Mother and Father for the childhood I endured as a result of their parenting; and I forgave my brother and sister for their part in this.  I can't forget though, so the best thing for me is distance.

Life is like living an exam ... we don't have to score 100% to pass.  So if the most we can do is forgive the people that have hurt us the most, that has to be enough.  If we have tried to visit them but have found that it creates a really bad stress reaction or anxiety, then we should stay away from those that have created that reaction within us ... you can' t find peace in a storm.

The most important thing about learning the lessons from our experiences is having the ability to close the circle of pain ... so we don't hurt others that come into our lives as a result of the pain we have endured at the hands of others.

We should celebrate the achievements of our children, not ridicule them.  They should be living their journeys for themselves rather than living their lives for other people.  We have a duty to live our lives with a good degree of happiness ... because it's not an easy journey... so do what makes you happy - as long as you're not hurting other people.

We should also take responsibility for our actions and not pass the responsibility for our own failings onto the shoulders of others.  It is unacceptable to allow a child to carry the blame for an incident when the responsibility of care lay with the parents.

I won't be visiting my blood relatives again.

I wish my Father a peaceful passing when his time comes ... and the same to my other relatives.

Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Being True To Yourself ...

Have you ever had to stand up for yourself against some form of injustice?  Have you dared to voice a truth to stop something unfair happening to someone else?  If so, you've done something that many around you wouldn't do.

Whether it's righting a simple wrong, clearing up an allegation or preventing a miscarriage of justice, the truth is invaluable.

What are the consequences of telling the truth?  For some it's a price that keeps on taking until their last breath, like a pack of hounds after a fox.  People fearing the truth will seek to discredit you where possible, in order to minimise the impact of your truth.  They will ostracise you and leave you unsupported.  I've witnessed and been subjected to these methods for most of my life ... because I've told the truth or done the right thing.

Knowing everything I do now about the way of the world, would I have chosen to let the matters slide and just quietly get on with my life?  No ... because we have to do the right thing and not just focus on our own needs.  Walking a certain path makes us who we are.

There are so many of you that have lived  ... and continue to live your lives in the same way ... with honour and dignity.  Every time I see something on Social Media about one of you I feel a sense of connection and purpose; as a result that helps me because I know that I'm not alone in the way that I live and that these values are respected and upheld by other people too.  You give me the courage to carry on.  Thank you.

I hope that we can encourage later generations to uphold the same values and to look outside of their own circle.


Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu

Monday, 19 February 2018

FLASHPOINT - 99p for a limited period

Hi All,

A quick note on the fly to tell you that FLASHPOINT, my latest thriller in the Thomas Bladen Spy Chaser series, is available to download for 99p.

It'll last longer than a cheap burger.

It's less than a litre of petrol.

You may even enjoy it so much that you read the rest of the series!


Osprey - Nature section

Osprey - Nature section
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