Monday, 9 November 2015

Equalities Officer Report

As some of you will know, I am the Equalities Officer for the Colchester Constituency Labour Party. This is my report for the upcoming CLP meeting on 10 November 2015.

Equalities Officer – Margarida Santos Silva (Maggie!)

I joined the Labour Party – for the second time in my life – in the early hours of May 8th as the exit poll results started to come in. I felt angry and disappointed and betrayed but most of all, I was deeply frustrated. I felt that part of this loss was on me, and I wanted to do more about it. This was what motivated me then, and as the news comes in, day after day, of the government’s plans, cuts, new bills, attacks on the young, the old, the disabled, and all individuals who dare exist and their fundamental human rights, this is what motivates me now.

In June I was elected Equalities Officer at the AGM, for which I am honoured and grateful. I must confess that I do not feel that I have done enough, but I will report to you what I have done. If anyone present or reading this would be interested in supporting me in areas of equalities (particularly: LGBT+, Black and Minority Ethnic, individuals with disabilities) please let me know and I would be very happy to work together. I would like to set-up a sub-committee/forum for equalities.

New members event:

I was part of a group of new members who sought to set up an event for members who – like us – had joined since the elections. We wrote letters, hand-wrote addresses and hand delivered (many of) them (special thanks to Dave Harris for a fair few stamps!). The event was held at The Victoria Inn and didn’t have a spectacular uptake but we are grateful to those who did show up to meet us, and to the Victoria Inn for welcoming us so well. We did also enter into contact with a few members who couldn’t attend, via email.

Facebook group:

Like many of you, I do not work in Colchester and occasionally have difficulty attending events during week days or in the evenings. However, I have a strong desire to remain active locally and to encourage engagement as much as possible. For this, I have created a Facebook group for Colchester Labour Party members to discuss local and national issues:
I particularly urge you to share your local issues to help highlight them to your CLP Executive, although all the usual forms of communication remain open to you (emailing us, meetings, etc.!). I also want to echo the reminder to be kind and stay safe online, which Natalie has already mentioned to you.

You can:
Please join, and add a friend :-) Post liberally, share your thoughts and ideas. CLP Exec are admin.

Missing Millions & #DemocracySOS

More recently I have teamed up with Momentum Colchester (thank you to Jaki Whyte and James Anderson for organising it) and spent some hours on a Saturday in town handing out Democracy SOS flyers. We were moved on from Culver Square, but went onto the High Street and then joined the People’s Assembly on Elm Lane. Many people scoffed at the idea of registering to vote, or even voting at all; many people proudly asserted that they do not vote. However, as a silver lining we did engage many people who were really surprised to find out about the changes and considered that the upcoming boundary changes were somewhat sneaky and thanked us for our work to raise awareness.

Missing Millions (Labour) and Democracy SOS (Momentum) is a great campaign: for those of you who are unfamiliar with it, 1.9 million people may be dropped off the electoral register with the new changes to the registration system (in particular, people who have moved house, people who have been registered by someone else in the past, students, new residents, young people, but this list is not exhaustive). The constituency boundaries are being redrawn based on the electoral register as it stands on 1 December 2015, and so if you have been dropped off the register then your existence will not be counted in the redrawing of the boundaries. This is a priority for a student town (despite the University being in North Essex, many students live in the Colchester constituency and Universities are no longer able to block-register students) and for those most vulnerable to disenfranchisement.

You can:
There are resources online that you can also use and share. Have a look at membersnet! Ask me more if you’re interested in the changes to the registration system.  I would be interested in how our members view Momentum and suggestions for ways in which different local groups can combine efforts.

I was also hoping to attend the Eastern Conference next weekend but have not been able to do so due to changes in my living situation. I look forward to reports from those who will be attending.

  • Setting up a CLP website 
  • Continued development of CLP calendar
  • Women’s Forum - Blog

Monday, 11 August 2014

MH17 Tweet

As part of my ongoing cataloguing of the relationship between the Judiciary and Twitter/Twitter-related offences, I was glad to see that the following tweet "although offensive, the comments did not meet the required threshold for a criminal prosecution" Source: BBC:

Explaining the decision not to continue the case, a CPS spokesman said: “The legal guidance for such offences is that a communication sent has to be more than offensive to be contrary to the criminal law.
“Even though the content expressed in the communication is in bad taste, controversial or unpopular, and may cause offence to individuals or a specific community, this is not in itself sufficient reason to engage the criminal law.
“While there is no doubt that the comments will have been deeply upsetting to the families and simply offensive, the threshold for proceeding with a criminal charge is very high.
“The question that prosecutors have to answer in this case is not whether the message was offensive, but whether it was so grossly offensive that criminal charges could be brought.
“In this case, the comments made do not meet the required threshold for a criminal prosecution and the CPS have advised the families and the police that the proceedings against Mr [Mitchell] Chapman are to be discontinued.”
Source: - Blog

Saturday, 9 August 2014

3 1/4 seconds

Brian Eno on composing the start-up music for Windows 95
The thing from the agency said, "We want a piece of music that is inspiring, universal, blah-blah, da-da-da, optimistic, futuristic, sentimental, emotional," this whole list of adjectives, and then at the bottom it said "and it must be 3 1/4 seconds long." I thought this was so funny and an amazing thought to actually try to make a little piece of music. It's like making a tiny little jewel. In fact, I made 84 pieces. I got completely into this world of tiny, tiny little pieces of music. I was so sensitive to microseconds at the end of this that it really broke a logjam in my own work. Then when I'd finished that and I went back to working with pieces that were like three minutes long, it seemed like oceans of time. - Blog

Monday, 26 May 2014

Help for disenfranchised Europeans living in the UK?

The EU election is over, but not for all of us. We have been disenfranchised forcibly, and we would like something to be done about it. People are beginning to share their stories, but please don't let this news be forgotten, particularly in light of the EU election results.

I have created a group where we are looking for answers, exploring actions that can be taken. If you would like to help in some way, please do. - Blog

Saturday, 24 May 2014

My EU vote disenfranchisement

My friends have been very good the past few weeks, putting up with my endless rattling on about the elections and the media. I'll admit I have fallen fowl to the trap of providing UKIP with an unwarranted platform, and contributing, in however small a form, to the spread of its image. No publicity is bad publicity, it seems, for the UK Independence Party. As a European citizen, this worries me. I'd had rathered the media focused more on the Greens, for example, who have both an MP and MEPs. Regardless, I was looking forward to making use of my vote.

I received a voter registration form and a separate EU registration form.

My council's website only lists one form, this states that it is the only necessary form, and their website makes no mention of any other form:

I returned the European electoral registration form and confirmed the information on my general form.

When I received my polling card only the local elections were listed, so I telephoned to confirm that I would be able to vote in the European election. I was told that this would be the case. ​ ​ ​

On May 22 I was turned away at the polls as I had a G next to my name. I was told that I was not entitled to vote in the European election. I produced my Portuguese national ID card and they called someone at the council election office, who told them that I hadn't returned my form in November. ​I am not registered to vote in Portugal.

I have registered at my consulate and in my country as being resident abroad and as voting here.

This is a particularly important election which has a direct impact on my life, and it is proportional representation, so unlike in other elections my vote actually stands a chance to mean something. Even if it did not, this would be no justification for my forced disenfranchisement.

I have no choice now but to take this up with the relevant parties, and sit by and wait for the election results on Sunday.

Edit 26/5/14: I have taken this up with Colchester election office and my returning officer. No reply as yet, but of course it is a bank holiday.

Edit 27/5/14: My reply from the Colchester Borough Council elections office:

Dear Magarida,

Thank you for your message. I was very sorry to read about the problem that you experienced on polling day.

I can only apologise if you received the wrong advice from our customer contact centre. It should have been clear to whoever you spoke with that there was a “G” marker against your name on the Register of Electors, which meant that you were only entitled to vote in the local government elections and not the European Parliamentary elections.

With regard to your observation about ensuring equal treatment for citizens of other Member States of the EU, the second form that we sent you is essentially a declaration that the voter wishes to register to vote at the European Parliamentary election in the United Kingdom and that they will not use any residual right to vote that they may have in their home country. There is also a space on the form for the constituency in the applicant’s home country where they were registered to vote in their home country and we are obliged to exchange this information with the home countries with a view to ensuring that the person cannot vote more than once at the election. Since we receive information from other Member States, as well as send it, I assume that the rights to vote are exactly the same for British citizens living in other Member States. In any event, these requirements have been set by the national government.

I do understand your frustration. However, I am not convinced that there was any advantage in placing the second form on the Council’s website. This is because a personally addressed form had already been sent to everyone who had registered as an elector and who had indicated that they were citizens of any other Member State of the European Union. A personally addressed form and explanatory letter was considered to be a much better way of communicating the requirement for citizens of other Member States to complete the second form if they wished to vote here in the European Parliamentary election. As we did not receive a second form from you, you were not registered to vote here in the European Parliamentary election.

You say that you returned that form but, as I say, we have no record of it being received. Under the circumstances, all I can do is apologise again for the difficulties that you faced and for the disappointment that you must have felt in not being able to vote on Thursday. - Blog

Friday, 17 January 2014

GDL Blog

I was asked to write an article for a magazine. As luck would have it, the article was never published so I have posted it here.

Written 12 December 2012:

I have myopia and astigmatism and I have worn glasses since the age of 11. I still remember the first day I left the house with my new glasses on: rather than feeling awkwardness at the structure resting on my nose I felt an overwhelming joy at being able to perceive the detail on the trees and their leaves, on the contours of streets and pavements, and the expressions on the faces of passers-by. This joy is re-lived, albeit more modestly, each time I come back from the opticians with a new prescription that is properly adjusted to the changes in my eyes and that once again allows me to marvel at the detail present in the things around me.

In this year gone by something else has given me a similar feeling of wonder and enjoyment, and a glow from realising that there are subtle details in the world that I could not previously perceive. This feeling was given to me when I embarked on my first year of a part-time GDL back in January 2012. Whilst it would be inaccurate for me to say that I was blind before, my “new glasses” allow me to see the world in a new way.

Many times we will buy a gadget or appliance and promptly discard the manual that comes with it. Or, similarly, we will start playing a game before reading the rulebook. We are born into a social contract which we implicitly accept (without offer, acceptance, and intention to create social relations) and with many terms that we do not fully comprehend even after prolonged study. From birth we are bound by national and supra-national codes in which we have had no say, and that through our lives may help or hinder us, which we may staunchly defend or strongly oppose or even be completely oblivious to. There are laws that require and restrict certain behaviours, that create expectations and provisions, lay out formalities, and affect not only our own undertakings, but those of every individual, corporation and nation that surrounds us.

My previous studies of economics, and also politics, are well supplemented by having working comprehension of UK and international law, as the elements of a powerful triumvirate that shape most aspects of our lives.  And, whilst the picture is ever-developing and may never be fully clear, there is still great pleasure to be had in understanding the written and unwritten rules that guide us, and their origins and potential.

I cannot go back to my mindset before I started to study law; I cannot take my new glasses off. I would have previously told you that I believe that every person should to some extent, of their own initiative if not out of social and historical obligation, equip themselves with basic principles of economics and political thought; to this list I now add, at a minimum, a concept of how law develops and exists, so that we may be more than Scarman LJ’s “simple peopleunaware of the subtleties of [law]” and better understand own world and possibilities. - Blog

Saturday, 3 August 2013

What's so wrong with being offended? #FreedomToOffend

Steve Hughes makes an excellent point on "what's so wrong with being offended?". It's worth watching from 3m22 to 5m22, but the whole 7m48 is very amusing. Spoiler: "nothing happens" - Blog