Things I've
written 🗞

Some of my reflections and rants on different topics, including politics, the Eurovision Song Contest and LGBT+ issues, over the past however many years.

Back in 2013, I wrote a note about coming out, themed around National Coming Out Day, and remains only one of a handful of articles I've written about LGBT 'stuff'. And every year, I remind myself about why coming out still matters and how I can't wait for it to truly be a choice of how, when and whether you do. But over the last few weeks I’ve been reminded more than ever about why coming out is still really difficult. And I don’t just mean for the first time, or the ‘big’ coming out to your family, but the coming out in the street, or at work, or at the gym, every day.

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A few weeks ago headlines were dominated by the news that yet another young Briton had been killed fighting for ISIS in Syria. Just a few days later, we were warned hundreds of ISIS fighters were being sent all over Europe to rain terror in our cities, on our freedom. Yet, the Labour Party has been utterly silent on the challenges Britain faces when it comes to terrorism. So far under Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, Labour’s commitment to the nation's security has been put in doubt by a history of worrying associations. More so, the leadership's decision not to tackle violent extremism and terrorism head on is harming its ability to be heard and be trusted for good. The threats we face are real and it’s time Labour joined the frontline – challenging both the government, which has presided over a disastrous and failing strategy when it comes to counter-radicalisation, and those who should know better but have played a game of political rhetoric which has let both our enemy and the Tories off the hook. To counter growing extremism and intolerance both at home and abroad Labour must find a voice that enables it to be trusted to take on the fight against terrorism. To do so the party must root its rhetoric back in reality, expose the failings of the government’s strategy and have a plan of its own to tackle the very real challenges of terrorism and radicalisation.

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People make choices about what kind of things they want to be part of. Groups that reflect their community, background, interests and outlook on the world. Some of them are by their own choice - some of them aren't. Some people join the Labour Party because their parents were members and because of long-running family traditions. Others because of single issues; whether it be human rights and the NHS just to name two. Or their individual beliefs and an attempt to play your part and make Britain - and the world - a better place to grow up and live. Progressivism. But whatever it is, there are all the reasons in the world to respect people's choices, views and values. But so too to recognise why someone might leave. That's the decision I've taken today.

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As we welcome in the new year, 2016 will mark an end to much for the BBC. With a new deal being struck with the government, it is likely to be another turbulent year for an organisation creaking under its own weight. A Conservative government, now with its own majority, has never been the Corporation’s main friend. And as a network trying to make its own way in the modern world, the British Broadcasting Corporation requires a new trademark, a new stamp, a new brand for itself in the 21st century as it heads towards 2020. At the same time, across on the continent, Jon Ola Sand is shifting the world's biggest music event - the Eurovision Song Contest - with a new focus on entertainment; a recipe that could well suit the Beeb as it plots its future at home.

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By 2010, after thirteen long years of power, Labour wasn't ready for a real conversation about its time in office. The party was in mourning of having finally lost the power it had so desperately craved. But the real tragedy is that Labour had already resigned itself to defeat by mid-2008. Only a stirring performance from Peter Mandelson in the dying days of the 1997-2010 administration ever gave any sense of hope that it would win that historic fourth term. But now, five years on, after another crushing loss, Labour faces a pivotal choice from which it cannot duck. The party must move on from New Labour - but too many seem too ready to return to the Old Labour prophecy; to be an eternal opposition.

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Last night’s ‘Eurovision’s Greatest Hits’ celebration of 60 years of the Eurovision Song Contest portrayed the contest in the only way the BBC knows how to. The camp, the glitz and the glam were all out to mark this special anniversary. But despite the growth in the contest behind the old dividing line of the Iron Curtain in its sixty year history, this 'celebration' wrote the Balkans, the Baltics and the East out of its history for a second time. So too, this comes at the very moment the EBU has prioritised the inclusion of Australia in the contest for entertainment, and some might add comedy, value all whilst  country's that have struggled and fought to make it onto the stage as independent nations are withdrawing because of cost and politics. How can Eurovision's 60th anniversary truly be celebrated without recognising the biggest shift in the contests history?

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Roll up, roll up! It’s finally upon us and with the billboards being launched left, right and further right, the British people – you and I, friends, comrades and pets - will now be subjected to an onslaught of speeches, figures, adverts and not a lot of facts. For politics has shown up and parked its personality focused, divisional and anger-driven wagon right outside your door. It’s smarmy red-faced Cameron the Conservative versus the painfully awkward Mediocre Miliband. It’s Westminster versus Europe, it’s guessing which side of his face Russell Brand will talk out of and it’s Nigel Farage against us all. Roll up, roll up. It’s time to dust off your democracy fatigue and political hangover. Of course, it’s 2015. And it’s the General Election – may the odds be ever in your favour.

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He may have lost to one of the best known politicians for a generation, but Mitt Romney’s name is now worth ten times that of his former rival to candidates on the campaign trail. That certainly won’t change in the run-up to the next presidential election as Romney, for all his faults, remains popular. And I use the word remains for a reason; he got sixty million people to vote for him two years ago. Half a nation. Nearly fifty percent of a divided America. Yet, the politics that defined that election remain ever present, and not just on the other side of the Atlantic. We’re told we hate rich people, yet we carry on voting for them.  But whatever the speculation over his future, I’m not sure I believe for a second that in two years time we’ll be saying the words ‘President-elect’ before the name of former Massachusetts Governor, but although it has been a while since someone who lost the last general election, whether in America or here in Britain, has been seen as the solution to the next, I wouldn't rule out someone like Mitt Romney going the whole way.

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Our political system is creaking, but the parties are blaming the voters rather than looking in the mirror. Defensive, patronising and distant, our leaders seem to think that promising easy answers can fix things, but in reality all they are doing is setting themselves up to fail. Despite this, a new generation, perhaps naively, is more optimistic about our future than any other. More creative and more honest - the best hope for our country lies in this generation. But the current crop of politicians should step aside and make way, before it is too late.

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Three years, five months, two weeks and one day ago, President Obama said that “the future of Syria must be determined by its people – but President Bashar al-Assad is standing in their way. His calls for dialogue and reform have rung hollow while he is imprisoning, torturing and slaughtering his own people. For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside.” David Cameron agreed, saying it was unthinkable that Assad would play any role in Syria’s future and according to the United Nations over 190,000 people have died in Syria during that time. And yet al-Assad remains in control.

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I just spent the afternoon in a room off Oxford Street at the Royal Institute of British Architects, surrounded by people in slightly ill-fitting suits, some sat awkwardly on a stage and a few TV cameras. Oh, and Ed Miliband; the man who in ten months time could be the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. And I was here to listen to Ed talk about why a middle-aged, straight, white, Oxford educated man explaining how he, despite the odds, can be and should be elected Prime Minister. Proof if you ever needed it, that British politics is completely and utterly broke.

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People seem to want to find any excuse to say that Nigel Farage didn't win. Apparently it's the BBC's fault, or that despite UKIP coming first, the vote share of the two main parties increased. But you can keep finding excuses till you’re blue in the face but I am certain – the majority of people in Britain don’t care about excuses or politics. They think party politicians are in-it-for-themselves crooks who don’t have much to say but like the sound of their own voice. And to be honest I agree with them, almost. But, Nigel Farage? The answer to Britain’s problems? No. He's the symptom of it.

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The fact that more than six million people use a gay hook-up app called Grindr did actually surprise me, but that about 80% of them might be total pricks really doesn’t. I mean this is the internet. Where people tweet and hurl abuse at each other every hour of the day. Where people have trolled and flamed ever since it was created, and do some pretty horrific things. But you know what? The trolls don't define me nor my use of the internet. The enemy isn't Grindr and please, for the love of god, lets stop slamming people for being 'seedy'.

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Norfolk’s children’s services are in a dire state. There’s no hiding from the fact they’ve been graded inadequate by inspectors and shown to be failing the most vulnerable, all when they are at most in need. A lack of leadership in our county for the past decade has shown itself to be one of the biggest challenges we face – a crisis that is giving young people, parents and carers little hope that things can change for the better. Combine that with the ageing idea of education being pushed down from a city elite in Westminster – we are seeing the disastrous result first hand; a distant and dwindling government alongside an increasingly desperate and powerless local authority.

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You know the world can be a relatively strange place, but it gets real strange when someone steals your face. It’s the kind of thing you only think happens in films or to people in the newspapers and it’s slightly scary when it happens to you. But for the past five years, it seems someone has been pretending to be me. They haven’t used my name, but they’ve been taking my photos – they’ve created social media accounts all over the internet and they’ve emailed my people all around the globe. Apparently neither is a criminal offence – you’re absolutely allowed under the law to steal someone’s face and use it to groom people.

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So, this year Austria is being represented at Eurovision by Conchita Wurst. She failed to represent Austria in 2012, but she’s back with a big song – and a fair bit of controversy. As one of the first artists selected, Conchita got a few people a bit annoyed. Because Conchita has a beard. Some people have found her a bit difficult to handle, because of the whole... drag thing. As if Eurovision can't handle a drag queen. 'Rise Like A Phoenix' brings Bond realness to Denmark and smashes it. 12 points for normal? What's that? Mine are going to Austria.

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As Copenhagen officially becomes the host city of the 59th Eurovision Song Contest, somewhere back in London - or perhaps now in Salford - someone is no doubt scrambling to put together a couple of press releases and a conference to unveil who will be flying the flag for the United Kingdom in the Danish capital – but we all know, no matter who the artist is, the BBC just don’t seem to get it anymore. There’s just no vision or strategy at the heart of the public broadcaster about how big ticket events could inspire the next generation of talent. As the contest heads towards its 60th birthday – it’s time for the BBC to make their mind up about the future of the contest in the UK. Fans will tell you a big multi-arena national final is the solution to a Eurovision renaissance. I’m not so sure.

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Today is a tale of two stories. On the one hand I’ve grown increasingly frustrated by the amount of trash written all over social media by so many people about Tom Daley coming out, and yet at the same time taken such encouragement that it has also been received with such pride by so many. I’ve only ever written about sexuality twice – both times to say how frustrated I was. Frustrated, that a senior cabinet minister was forced to resign when he’d covered up his sexuality using expenses, when if he’d been open about his relationship he could have claimed more; and the other to rant about homophobia in football and the lack of leadership in the beautiful game. But for all the bluster and hype – so many have forgotten what a day like today is about.

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Wouldn't a ‘gay footballer’, just be a footballer? This week the national captain of Germany has waded into the debate about homophobia in football again. I believe he’s wrong – society already accepts gay professional football players because gay footballers are just footballers. But if FIFA and the FA keep shying away from tackling the issue head on, the misconception about homophobia and football will continue to impact on the lives of fans and players alike. Let’s get a grip, let’s kick out the stereotypes.

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The role models that we look up to are defined by the culture we are surrounded by. Those that inspire us are often the ones who look like us, talk to us directly, who think the same as we do and who understand the experiences we’re going through. For all ages, and throughout all time, those who make the music we listen to are often our idols, despite the fact that the life they lead may be very different from our own. Many of our biggest stars and the idol status that they have enjoyed in our homes and on our streets have become imported from abroad. Particularly within the music industry, home grown talent can often be passed up for a young commercial type who’s managed to end up in the right place at the right time – often either because they look good on camera, or their parents had enough money to promote them to stardom.

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To learn the lessons from the ongoing scandal surrounding Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, we need to understand it in its broadest context and our role, as the individual. Privacy is not an issue that is going to go away any time soon and while over the past few days, politicians have continued to spell out a ‘future for the media’ that is based on ‘responsibility’ we must not settle for a simple document explaining what happened. Details, investigations and judge led inquiries are all very well, but none of them will make a difference unless we understand that the unfolding events are part of an ever growing problem. In a parallel with the last few years of economic crisis, the public is angry, it’s not a hunt for an answer, it’s a witch hunt to place blame. To overcome these challenges, we must not simply oppose - but rediscover our real power.

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South Korea’s PyeongChang has found itself in another tough battle to host the Winter Olympics. Having been beaten by Putin’s Russia four years ago, the Koreans could well be beaten by Merkel’s Germany tomorrow in Durban after a brutal assault from their Japanese neighbours. The International Olympic Committee will announce the host city tomorrow in Durban, but it will also indicate where the 2020 Summer Games might be heading.

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Azerbaijan managed to win this years Eurovision Song Contest with a middle of the road entry that fails to have the commercial appeal of its two predecessors. Hardly original, the jury allowed the oil-rich nation to win because it propelled Italy’s ‘Madness of Love’ within touching distance of victory. Something changed in Germany and the jury ended up shunning class, songwriting and record-sales. Would the jury have allowed Russia to win in 2008? The EBU needs to justify its concept of the jury vote in Europe’s biggest television show.

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The favourites are decided, the rehearsals are underway and Eurovision fever has come to Germany. Europe’s biggest television production is looking as slick and expensive as ever, but won’t just another of those ‘eastern’ countries win because all their neighbours voted for some terrible, camp and ridiculous song? Stick with me while I dispel ‘the great Eurovision myth’ and why this year’s winner will be current, modern and commercial.

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The BBC cannot afford to win the Eurovision Song Contest in Düsseldorf this year. But they cannot go much longer without a decent result. The dilemma that 2011 poses the broadcaster with is a gamble. Send a respectable artist and risk success – send an unknown and risk an embarrassment. Don’t expect Gary Barlow – but don’t expect Wagner either.

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If you are writing a song for Eurovision there is one sure fire way to really distance yourself from the fans of the contest; say it doesn't matter. And that's exactly what Mike Stock did last week after the reaction to the United Kingdom’s entry, written by himself and Pete Waterman, was far from supportive and with odds to win currently standing at 199/1. They really do have a task in front of them if they don’t want to return the UK to the bottom half of the leader-board come May 29th after a triumphant effort by Andrew Lloyd Webber last year.

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After seven years of preparation, and a grand total of 26 days of competition, the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games have drawn to a close. But having watched over the past few weeks, it is no wonder that the so called ‘Olympic Broadcaster’ has lost the rights to broadcast the 2012 Paralympic Games, which will now hop across to Channel 4 for the most extensive coverage of the games ever. In Canada, the BBC turned it’s back on the Paralympics, covering nine days of competition with just a one hour highlights show. Just four years ago, the closing hours of the Paralympic Games in Beijing 2008 were watched by 23% of the population – a record number of viewers – so how can the BBC justify covering Vancouver with just a feeble hour of a programme? They say budget restrictions and the time zone – but I don’t buy it.

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