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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!


Wednesday, 7 February 2018

The Business of Art

I'm a writer and I've often witnessed other creatives jumping back and forth across an imaginary line. On one side (written in invisible ink!) it reads Art and the other side it reads Commerce. A hardy few will straddle that line and keep a foot firmly on either side. But not many. 

What is Art?

According to https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/art:

The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.    

That's a pretty broad brush and I'd argue that writing, photography, music, singing, crochet and a whole lot of other endeavours also fit the category. I especially like ...expression or application of human creative skill and imagination. If it involves those three elements - creativity, skill and imagination - it's art. End of discussion. It might be good art or bad, comforting, uplifting, challenging or even baffling. Art doesn't require permission or explanation or approval. It just is.

And Commerce?

Commerce is pretty self-explanatory. Something either pays or it doesn't. But if art doesn't pay, that's no reflection on its artistic merit. Many artists didn't make a bean in their lifetime. Take it from me, commercial success in the arts is an alchemy that relies on so many things - what you make, who sees it, timing, context (how it affects people, what else is happening in the creative sphere and the wider world), and that old bugbear of creative people the world over: luck. 

You can't control most of those factors. You have to create art - that's the core of it. After that, you can advertise, try and get an exhibition or representation, find a gallery, promote online. All that and more. It may help you reach your dream of living and working purely as an artist (whatever that means to you), but it won't affect you being an artist - that comes from within. It's as primal as breathing.

A foot in each camp

I write thrillers. Genre fiction like mine (e.g. thrillers, crime fiction of fantasy) doesn't usually win any literary prizes unless it's a genre specific prize. But a book is still art, right, even if it's a spy story? FLASHPOINT, my fifth thriller, was published recently and I am happy to create 'art' that sells. The way I see it, whether it's a book or a postcard or a crocheted button, we should embrace our creativity. And if we can earn a few bob from it as well, so much the better! 

FLASHPOINT - UK   https://www.amazon.co.uk//dp/1912106280

FLASHPOINT - US   https://www.amazon.com//dp/1912106280


This is Standpoint, where Thomas Bladen's journey into the world of espionage began.

STANDPOINT - UK  https://www.amazon.co.uk//dp/1511628235

STANDPOINT - UK  https://www.amazon.com//dp/1511628235

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Be Kind to Writers!

You'd think that being a writer is all about two things:

1. Writing stuff.
2. Getting that written stuff published or at least read.

However, there's much more to it than that and I'll warn you in advance that I may get arty and soulful. To begin with, it's a helluva thing to even consider calling yourself a writer, never mind actually telling other people about it. Because, when it really comes down to it, every piece of writing contains a little bit of you in it – your memories, your perspective, your experience of the people around you, your hopes and also your fears.

It can feel like an indulgence to spend quality time away from loved ones and friends, especially when you're using that time to wrestle with people and situations that you've created in your head.

Reading also takes on another dimension when you’re a writer. What used to be a leisure activity now becomes a vital part of your craft. You still read for enjoyment, but you also look closely at style, plot, characterisation and all the other elements that already give you sleepless nights.

Try this one on for size: A writer is an artist.
You write fiction? Congrats - you're an artist.

There's also a deeper, inner level to this writing journey. Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way is a brilliant resource (among others) for getting into the soul of writing. I believe there is a part of every writer that is secretly – and sometimes overtly, on the page – grappling with the big issues of life, death, justice, purpose, love, freedom, etc.

Sometimes we not only express who we are on the page, we also explore who we wish we were. Read between the lines and it's as powerful as therapy and as real as it gets.

So, here's the thing: when someone tells you they've written something, or that they're working on something, treat them with kindness. When you give feedback, make it constructive – it's fine to say you didn't like it, as long as you say why. Feedback on what you enjoyed – and why - is also welcomed. However, tell the truth. And for the love of God, please try and avoid the word ‘nice’. It’s the writer’s kryptonite!

Some writers will not get the recognition they deserve. For some, the only feedback they'll receive is the snipey kind on ebook sites or forums. But wherever writers are, on that endless and invisible ladder of literary success, they stay true to their craft. Well, you wouldn't expect anything less from a writer, would you?

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