Thursday, 12 November 2015

My email to Tim and Sal re: Lord Rennard and the Federal Executive

As a follow up to my last post, here is my email on the subject to Tim Farron (Leader of the Liberal Democrats) and Baroness Sal Brinton (Party President):

Dear Tim and Sal,

I'm deeply concerned about the reputational damage to the party caused by the election of Lord Rennard to represent our Lords' group on Federal Executive.

Whatever one's views of the allegations against him, the resultant internal processes, the lack of police action or the Morrissey report and subsequent statements by Helena Morrissey, his name has become a byword for sleaze and harassment within the party - and amongst many in the public: in particular many who might otherwise vote for us.

By electing him to the FE, the Lords have cemented his circle of influence both there and more widely within the party, and sent a signal to many members and potential members that they (and by extension the Party generally) still don't get the impact of his behaviour.

I'm sure you have both had much correspondence on this but I would like to add my name to calls for public statements distancing yourselves from this decision and reinforcing a commitment to rebuilding our party with a culture inclusive of all, particularly those alienated by this turn of events. Whilst we need to respect the processes of the party, I believe that your mandates from the membership give you both the platform from which you can make these points more forcibly than any other senior party figures: and that doing so will be essential to repairing the reputation of the party.

Kind Regards,

Andrew Brown

Chris Rennard and the Federal Executive: It's about rehabilitation.

First things first. I'm a Liberal and I believe in exercising due process. I believe the rule of law and, within the party, the fair application of the rules. I believe in innocence until proven guilty and restorative justice. And I believe in rehabilitation.

I'm also a Liberal Democrat. I want to see the party succeed. Indeed, I want to see the party rebuilt, re-energised - resurrected, even, if I can use such language. And I want to see all parts of the party play their role in that. New members, old members, activists, Councillors, MPs, and Lords.

It's no secret it's been a bruising few years, culminating in a catastrophic election performance in May. There's been compound losses of many Councillors and councils, disastrous results in Scotland and Wales, the loss of all but one of our MEPs as well as the reduction of our MPs to just 8. You don't need me to tell you that it hasn't been fun.

Good things have followed, though: thousands of new members swelling our ranks, our new leader with his distinctive voice on Europe, Refugees, Immigration, Welfare cuts; and his willingness to use our Lords to oppose the Tories, and show up Labour's weaknesses.

Indeed, our Lords have done some sterling work in recent weeks. We may not agree with the institution - but we will work within the system to make lives better for the people of this country.

Against this background, then, it was with dismay that I woke up today to discover that our group in the House of Lords had elected Lord Rennard as their representative on the Federal Executive.

Now, there are those who say: "Lord Rennard has not been convicted of any crime, nor has he been subject to any disciplinary action by the party. Not only that, but Helena Morrissey has said there is no reason he shouldn't play a full role in the party."

And they'd be right.

And as someone who believes in rehabilitation you might expect me to agree with them.

But you'd be wrong.

Now, my active time within the party started after Lord Rennard's tenure as Chief Executive. I've never met him, nor have I had any dealings with him online or by any other means. My only experience have been second and third hand tales from fellow-conference attendees, as well as the media reports. Despite this, he has repeatedly tried to add me as a 'friend' on Facebook*. I'm not alone in this, as it's been part of an ongoing pattern of extending his sphere of influence that has also see him take increasing part in the discourse of the party.

It is, of course, understandable that he is keen to redeem his reputation and he clearly has lots of experience and skills to offer. As a member of a party he (says he) loves, it's only natural that he wants to offer his talents to party.

But the party are well within their rights to decline such offers, and indeed has done through not re-appointing him to any official post.

The Lords could have exercised this right by opting not to not elect him to the Federal Executive. Why? Because it's not just Lord Rennard's reputation that needs repaired - it's that of the Liberal Democrats. Although the (flawed) process was completed and no action was ultimately taken - the party suffered a great deal of reputational damage. Furthermore, despite what Helena Morrissey has said, Rennard has not fully complied with the suggestion of Alistair Webster QC - a point well made by Jennie Rigg, here.

It's time Lord Rennard, and our other Lord's, realised that if - and for as long as - he is seen to hold influence, he holds back the ambitions of the party.

The party is holding a variety of reviews of how it works, including internal party governance. Getting things right will go a long way to making us electable again, not least through improving the internal culture of the party and allowing all our members opportunities to contribute. Getting them wrong can only hamper us.

The processes and structures that have brought us to this pass are no longer fit for purpose - and need to be overhauled. In the immediate term, it's hard to see what can be done** but one thing is clear: in pursuing his own rehabilitation, Lord Rennard has held back that of the party.

*as it happens, I very rarely add people I haven't actually met in real life as friends on Facebook in any case.

**but I'm emailing Tim and Sal to make my feelings known.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

What it means (to me) to be a Lib Dem today.

This post was first published on Lib Dem Voice here.

The party has held an essay competition as part of it's Agenda 2020 review of our beliefs, values and approach. Members were invited to submit essays of up to 1,000 words on "what we mean when we say 'I am a Liberal Democrat' - what we believe, what we think is important, and what underlies our support of or opposition to specific policies."

I deliberately avoided reading other entrants to the competition (you can see some here) and to focus on what I mean when I say I'm a Liberal Democrat - although as you will see, this has developed over time for me.

The given title was "What does it mean to be a Liberal Democrat today?"

Anyway, here are the words:

For me, it means what it meant in 1986/87 when in the early years of Secondary School, I was taught about different electoral systems. As the Modern Studies teacher explain the ins and outs of First Past the Post and alternative forms of Proportional Representation.

I pointed at PR: "I support that, and the people who support that." I said.

It means what it meant in 1992 when I cast my first General Election vote. Still politically naive (despite many hours of listening to Radio 4 over the years prior: the demise of Thatcher, the election of Major, through the first Gulf War and the scrapping of the poll tax...) but knowing that I wasn't Tory (I had seen how Tory policies has decimated large parts of Fife, with pit-town upon pit-town in ruins) but also that I wasn't Labour - even though, in those days, Labour votes in Dunfermline West were weighed not counted.

I may not have been able to articulate it, but I knew in my heart that my outlook was different. That Labour didn't speak for me any more than the Tories, for all that you may have they should have done. I voted Liberal Democrat because I knew they offered something different.

It means what it meant in May 2010 when I (re-)joined the party, post-coalition. Here was a party prepared to work with their political opponents, in the interests of a stable government. Here was a party not content to take the easy road of opposition-ism but instead to step up to the plate and make the hard choices. Here was a party prepared to be pragmatic, not dogmatic.

It means what it meant in March 2013 when conference took a view at odds with the coalition/party leadership on the issue of Closed Material Procedures in civil cases. To be a party that defends Civil Liberties and speaks up for open justice. (And that isn't afraid to tell its leaders when they are wrong.)

It means what it meant - although may not have clearly said - on May 7th 2015.

I'm sure you remember May 7th:

Stability. Decency. Unity.

Look Left. Look Right. Then Cross.

Giving Tories a Heart and Labour a Brain.

Stronger Economy. Fairer Society. Opportunity for Everyone.

What these slogans tried to say, in varying degrees of cack-handedness, was that Britain needed balance. We could foresee the line the Tories would pursue (although they have surprised me with their haste, spiking the Green economy and screwing the poor faster and harder than anticipated), and the ever more interventionist approach favoured by Labour (who have also, in their way, gone further down the track that failed to work for them.)

But what arguing for balance does is define us in relation to others. By seeking to split the difference, we conceded ground to both sides. Those who wanted (so-called) fiscal responsibility went for the industrial-strength version of cuts. Those who wanted social responsibility perceived Labour as better placed to offer that.

We do stand for balance - but we need to better at articulating liberal means to achieving the end, rather than seeking to split the difference in any given argument. We need to (re-)learn how to define ourselves, distinct from our opponents.

When the other parties are also fighting on the centre ground, our voice becomes diminished. Our challenge is to fight on the liberal ground that exists on a separate but intersecting plane. To argue that balanced outcomes are achievable but through different, not just amended, routes than those pursued by our opponents.

It means what it meant on May 9th, when as local membership officer I checked our database and saw the scores of people joining. After near-annihilation, there were people prepared to stand with us. A recurring chorus of "Britain needs a Liberal voice, and it's not enough now for me just to vote for it, I need to do more."

Voices that, when otherwise I would have moped, moaned and despaired gave me hope.

And it'll mean the same on May 7th 2020 (yes, I checked a calendar...) when once more we will face the electorate. When we will be able to lay out our vision of a Liberal Britain: a society where people are free to be want they want to be, are treated with fairness by the state and where no-one is enslaved by conformity.

What does it mean to be a Lib Dem today?

It means to be for Fairness. For Difference. For Pragmatism. For Civil Liberties. For Balance. For Hope. And for the Future.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

My Speech to Lib Dem Conference on Human Rights

Yesterday I gave my second speech at Lib Dem Conference, on Human Rights.

I fear it was better on paper than in delivery - and as the video is not yet online, I've opted to share the text of what I (largely) said.


Later today there will be a consultative session on our Governance Review. One of the things being asked in that is whether the preamble to our constitution fully reflects our values and beliefs.

I’m sure that many of you can quote the extract from the preamble that is printed on membership cards. I have mine here: 
“The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community and in which no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.” 
Conference, protecting Human Rights is key to achieving this. 

But the preamble doesn’t end there, and this party’s commitment to building a Liberal – with both a small and a capital L - society doesn't stop at our borders. We are an outward looking international party. 

Further on, the preamble continues: 
“We look forward to a world in which all people share the same basic rights, in which they live together in peace and in which their different cultures will be able to develop freely.”
This motion is about our Human Rights but it is about much, much more:

How we act as a society has an impact beyond our shores.

How can we advocate internationally for democracy, the rule of law, the fair treatment of minorities, LGBT+ rights and full equality for all: male, female, intersex, black, white, gay, straight, bisexual, and the rights of those of faith and those of none, if we don't protect these rights for our own citizens.


The world is a complex place. We face threats to Human Rights from new and disparate forces.

ISIS: further destabilising the Middle East with their barbaric and merciless regime. 

Assad, using Chemical Weapons against his civilians.

Putin, annexing European territory and implementing anti-LGBT+ legislation.

But we also face threats at home.

Here in the UK there are those who seek to demonise and marginalise the poor. From those that rail against extremists and seem to favour summary deportations. From those who talk of “swarms” of migrant; who deny refugees dignity and respect and would sooner build a drawbridge they could raise than countenance Britain accepting at least 10,000 refugees a year, as this conference voted for on Sunday.

And these, generally speaking, are the people who would scrap the Human Rights Act and pull Britain out of the European Convention on Human Rights. Who regard the even handed application of rights as “political correctness gone mad.” 

John Donne said “Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind” – and the same is true of Human Rights. 

That is why we defend the fair treatment of those that sin against society: for terrorists, criminals, and those accused of acting against the common good. That is why we defend Civil Liberties for all. That is why we have grave reservations at reports of extra-judicial killing and that is why we have respect for the rule of law – nationally and internationally. 

Conference, I urge you to support this motion. When it comes to Human Rights: Britain must lead – and if others are going to follow us, Britain must be leading in the right direction.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

I am a social conservative.

Last night, during a Facebook messenger conversation with a friend, I got called a Tory. Twice. 

I don't think that I've been called a Tory since the 20th May 2014 when a Guardian reading, small-l "liberal", semi-detached Victorian Townhouse dwelling man declined my canvass approach and told me to "stick it up your Tory arse." 

Charming. What a command of the language. 

Anyway, as someone who is categorically not a Tory, I took offence at my friends suggestion. Well, you would, wouldn't you? 

It was OK, though... because what my friend meant was "not a Tory in the political sense". I didn't know there was any other sense, but they explained further by saying I was "a social conservative". 

Reader, I am not sure this is any better. 

Had my correspondent described me as "socially conservative", then this would possibly have been accurate. Like most people, I am a creature of my upbringing which was, indeed, socially conservative. I don't drink in excess, I don't do drugs, I don't have tattoos (although I have had piercings), I like home comforts and I'm not particularly impulsive.* 

There are, though, ways in which I am not socially conservative: I have no particular desire to "get on the housing ladder", I eschew having a doctor even when on one level I know that is something a man my age should have sorted and any previous thoughts of coupling and settling down have long since gone by the wayside. 

In fact, on this last, I get incredibly annoyed at society's expectation of this being the "norm" and that there is something wrong with those who don't, either through circumstance or conscious decision. 

To suggest, because I may appear to be socially conservative in light of my own life circumstances and choices, that this means I am a social conservative is wrong. 

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. 

I am a Liberal - and want people to be free to live their lives as *they* see fit. And if that means marriage, kids and a two-up, two-down, then fine. But if it means an open relationship, or a polygamous relationship, or giving it all up and living in a camper-van, or anything else, then that's fine too. As long as they're not harming others, then 'tevs (as I'm told the young people say). 

And I want a society where people are free to be as open (or not) about all these things and more. 

I am not a social conservative. I'm a Liberal who happens, most of the time, to be socially conservative in his behaviour. 

I hope I've cleared that up. 


*some of these things are due to psychological factors - but that's not what this is about.

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Sunday Sounds 80 - Summertime

Presented without commentary - this speaks for itself.

Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong - Summertime



Saturday, 18 July 2015

It's a Sin

The answer to this question is... not relevant.

As an evangelical Christian, his private position is almost certainly that the act is sinful, not the inclination. Christ hates the sin, but loves the sinner. I know this, as it used to be what I believed.

But whatever, he can't say that - it sounds trite and patronising.

And it's not relevant.

Tim Farron's personal views on sin are - and should remain - his own. Sin is not a concept recognised in law, nor should it play a part in political debate. Sadly, Cathy Newman chose to concentrate on this, rather than issues such as Welfare changes, Greece, Syria (on which she spent 40 seconds) or any one of a number of issues that could have yielded more information on the tone our new leader will set.

And if you're going to fixate on someone's personal views on sexuality, the question should be "If you believe that homosexuality is sinful, how will this affect your policy positions."

It's true that there have been concerns over Tim's voting record - and it's obvious that his desire to ensure some protections for those religious organisations that oppose Same-Sex Marriage did cause him to be less enthusiastic than I would have liked our (then) Party President to have been.

But a quick look at They Work For You reveals that as well voting for the second reading of the Marriage Bill, he has also separately (subsequent to having been absent at the third reading) voted to allow same-sex marriage for armed forces personal.

So his own view on whether or not gay sex is sinful has not actually stopped him voting in favour of same-sex marriage.

He has, of course, expressed concern over whether Christians and other religions were adequately protected by the Same-Sex Marriage act. This is his stated reason for absenting himself from the third reading - which he says he now regrets.

It was similar concerns that led him to vote against the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations in 2008. 

Now, we may take different views on these things - but how to balance the competing needs for protection of minorities in our society are legitimate areas of debate; and legitimate areas of concern for Liberals. We must always ensure that in correcting one wrong, we do not create another. Judgements on these things will vary, of course, but the principle is sound.

The fixation on his views on sexuality are a side-show, just as much as the sexual preferences of an unmarried public figure would be, or whether a female politician has had a family.

We cry out for politicians from every walk of life, with differing backgrounds and interests - and then we decry them when they step outside of the model that suits the intellectual, small-l liberal elites. Sometimes with good reason (David Tredinnick) and sometimes not.

Tim has been elevated to be leader, not vicar; to the platform, not the pulpit. I expect him to motivate, not moralise and deliver speeches not sermons.

I expect the press and media to continue to fixate on this issue for a while  and there's a sense in which there is no good answer - a "yes" would cause furore, a "no" would seem inconsistent with his professed faith. I hope Tim gets better at answering - perhaps not by calling us all sinners. Beyond that, I look forward to a gradual return to focusing on substantive issues such as the EU, Housing and rebuiliding our party as a Liberal voice for a liberal country.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

The Leadership Contest – Why I kept quiet and who I voted for

This afternoon, the new leader of the Liberal Democrats will be announced. 

Spoiler: My vote was for Tim Farron.

Not a lot of people know that, as I have been quiet on the matter: not just here, but also on social media where I tend to do more writing these days when I occasionally get dragged into a debate on some contentious issue or other.

And, in some ways, there have been contentious elements to this election campaign. Not from the candidates, but from some of those around them. Thankfully, this has (by and large) played out in closed groups on Facebook rather than as a pitched battle in the wider media.

Of course, after an election in which we garnered just 8 % of votes and were left with just 8 MPs, there has been less media interest that there might otherwise have. Whilst the Labour Party candidates will have multiple TV hustings – our coverage has been comfined to just one slot on the Victoria Derbyshire programme, individual appearances on Question Time and Any Questions and a smattering of profiles and endorsements in The New Statesman, Economist, and the Guardian and Independent group newspapers.

The reason for my quietness was simple: as a local Membership Officer dealing with hundreds of new members, I did not wish to be seen to be taking sides. So I opted early on to play a neutral role – in members' newsletters and in our Facebook group, I sought to present both candidates equally. In personal conversations I would be more open – I wasn’t keeping it a complete secret – but would be at pains to present the relative merits and drawbacks of both candidates.

And they do both have merit – Norman Lamb is an astute, measured, principled man to whom I am probably closer politically. His role in putting mental health issues on the agenda in government, in the party and, indeed, in the election campaign should never be understated. His advocacy of assisted dying and reform of drug policy are also key issues on which we agree – and which the Liberal Democrats should be seizing whilst carving out liberal electoral ground for ourselves. In a world where there is a perception of little or no difference between parties, such policies stand out.

But, of course, policy is made by conference based either on motions submitted by members and local parties or papers proposed by the Federal Policy Committee. Whilst the leader can influence priorities and prominence, he (or, at some future point, she) cannot determine it – and, indeed, Norman was largely reflecting party positions in his pronouncements.

Tim’s strengths are in presentation and motivation. As Party President he spent years seeking to enthuse members and rally the troops in difficult circumstances. His down to earth, no-nonsense style resonates with members and the public alike. Where Norman is quiet and thoughtful, Tim is more of a rabble rouser.

And that was the key for my decision. Ultimately we need someone who can make the most of the limited opportunities that we will have in the Commons and the Media – and who will engage and encourage the membership. Tim’s livewire approach is, for me, the one that is most likely to succeed.
Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

Tuesday, 17 March 2015


Yesterday, The Sunday Mirror published an interview with Norman Lamb, which focused on the experiences of his son: both with mental illness and drugs. Whilst this had been published with the consent of Mr Lamb and his family, it is clear to me that he was bounced into it. 

Whilst he's never made a secret that one of the drivers of his campaigning on the subject - pushing it up the agenda of both government and Lib Dem policy - was family experience, he had never been so specific before. Indeed, when he mentioned his son's problems in a conference fringe event on Saturday night (ahead of publication of the article on Sunday) this was the first time he had mentioned done so in public.

The publication of the article inspired me to start a hashtag on Twitter, which was picked up by Lib Dem Voice and a number of others on Twitter. I'll let the Storify take it from there:

P.S. Following publication of the Storify, and promoting it on Twitter, I received notification of this Tweet, which was gratifying!

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Mental Health - What I would have said to #ldconf

This morning I had a Speakers' Card in for a debate on Mental Health, and measures Liberal Democrats want to see implemented in order to break the stigma and tackle the myriad problems mental illness causes.

It was a high quality debate, with lots of personal stories, so I wasn't too upset not to be called. Here, though, for posterity, is the final draft of what I would have said in the 3 minutes that would have been available. 


5 months ago, I could hardly contain my joy at the focus this party put on Mental Health at our last conference in Glasgow. Not only was it a key theme of the speech by our care minister, Norman Lamb, it was central to Nick's speech too. 

At last, Mental Illness was getting a spotlight shone on it by not just by campaigning organisations, or those with a particular responsibility, but by the Deputy Prime Minister. Not in a specialist setting, but on the national stage in one of the set-piece events of the year.

Mental Health matters. It matters to me as 20 years ago, I suffered from depression. It matters to me because even now I occasionally get the warning signs of a recurrence. The random thoughts telling me that people are talking about me, people don't like me, that I'm a failure. The pointless actions that reinforce - either in truth or in imagining - these paranoid thoughts. 

It matters to me as I've known friends and colleagues suffer, including some who have committed suicide - and seen their families give out some other reason for their illness, or deaths.

And this is why it matters to all of us - that stigma that persists even though mental illness affects 1 in 4 of us at some points in our life. Whether consciously or not, we all know people affected.

And we'll only break the stigma if we keep talking about it. If people at this conference, the other party conferences, in the Commons, in the Lords talk about. And outside of politics: in the media, at work, with friends: we must talk about. Clearly, concisely, sensitively and without euphemism.

Breaking the stigma matters to us all if we really are to create a Fairer Society with Opportunity for Everyone.

So, that is why I welcome this party's focus on these issues. I support this motion, but I really wanted to talk about lines 63 & 64.

I have a friend who has schizophrenia. His illness is kept under control with medication - but the nature of the condition means that a regular 9 to 5 - or other full time - job wouldn't be feasible. Unfortunately, that is not the way the benefit system is set up. A lack of understanding in the system either forces people back to work, or into sanctions, without exploring or providing any additional support that may be required.

Our commitment to Mental Health needs to permeate and inform all policy areas, in the same way as consideration is given to physical ailments.

And we need to learn from best practice - companies like that of another friend who supported him through a personal breakdown, and enabled his return to work on reduced hours in a slightly less senior role: a company which then sought his advice when composing a company policy for the mental welfare of their staff.

Conference, we've come a long way but we need to keep on banging on about mental illness: only by exposing its frequency, explaining its effects, supporting those suffering and increasing visibility will smash the stigma and create a more Liberal society.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

There but for the grace of God...

Last night I took part in a sponsored sleep-out for a local homelessness charity, Crisis Centre Ministries, organised under the auspices of the Bristol Churches Action Network. 

Here's how it all went down.


Unlike many who find themselves in position of sleeping out for real, those taking part - and there was 100-200 of us - were able to prepare in advance. In this I was grateful for the help of friends who had done the sleep-out in the past and knew what to expect.

Participants came equipped with cardboard, blankets and survival bags - not to mention lots of layers of clothes, eyemasks and earplugs. Personally, I had a pair of thermal socks on and a paid of chunky walking socks, tracksuit bottoms, jeans, three layers of tops, a thick jacket, scarf, hat, and two hoods: and even then, I still felt cold at points.

Here I am, ready to head out:

"You didn't say you had to dress the part too..." my Housemate said.

We had opted for airbeds and sleeping bags as well tarpaulins to help protect against the forecast rain. Here is my berth:

Great care was taken with making my bed...

Support not Simulation

Having arrived, checked in, chosen a pitch and set up, it was time for a briefing from the organisers. Aside from health and safety info, this focused on how what we were doing could only provide a window into what the real experience was like. The event was about raising awareness, fundraising and demonstrating support more than recreating what those sleeping rough really go through, night after night.

As I queued for soup I had a conversation with other participants about how much we take the warmth, safety and privacy of our own beds for company. These are things not shared by those sleeping rough, or even (always) by those in hostels or shelters. Whilst we take these things for granted, though, we don't know what could happen to change it. No-one plans to become homeless: there but for the grace of God...

After the soup, it was time to bed down - and to work out what to do with my muddy boots - wear them, take them off (but risk them getting wet in the forecast rain) or something else? In the end I opted to stick them in the carrier bag I had and keep them with me inside the sleeping bag, along with the waterproofs I had also brought in case of need. Other than that, getting ready for bed was much less of an effort than normal.

The view from my bed

After spending a while browsing on the interwebs on my phone and messaging with friends whilst listening to the Dum Tee Dum Archers podcast, I turned off the tech and settled down to try and get to sleep.

I had eschewed earplugs and used a scarf wrapped round my face to substitute for an eyemask. After a brief while I managed to get to sleep.

Alas, I woke up after about an hour, and lay awake listening to an assortment of music for the next couple of hours. Gradually it became clear I couldn't put off going to the toilet - and so at about four I got up and, as quietly as I could, faffed around with putting my boots back on and heading to the toilet. It seemed like most folks were faring better than me in the sleeping stakes.

Back in bed, it was more lying awake for me - although I think I did manage to dose fitfully until about quarter to six when folks started to rise, ready to pack away. A morning cuppa was provided, as were bacon butties for those who felt up to them.

Wakey wakey, rise and shine...

It could be you... (and not in a good way)

Becoming homeless happens to people from all walks of life. Relationship breakdowns, family quarrels, drug and/or alcohol problems and mental health issues are all amongst the triggers than can lead to a life on the streets.

Lying on the relative luxury of an airbed on what turned out to me a relatively mild and (faint drizzle aside) dry night, it wasn't hard to imagine what it would be like for real. How much colder and wetter it could be. How much more uncomfortable lying on the ground would be. How much less you could be wearing if sleeping rough hadn't been on your to-do list. 

Any tech you had would soon become useless (other than for the pawn value) and podcasts and music would give way to the roar of traffic, the scream of sirens and the banter of drunken revellers.

Your first few nights may be well be sleepless, but sooner or later your body would force sleep on you. But your body and spirit would suffer, and dignity would ebb away. How long, I thought, before the need to get up to the toilet would be subordinate to the desire to retain whatever warmth you had managed to achieve. As my dad said when I spoke with him earlier, it would soon enough wear the health out of you.

I know I'm blasé about not having a doctor - but I also know I could get healthcare if I felt I needed it. Those who are homeless are not so lucky but are often in far more desperate need of medical attention.

Not a PPB 

I've been very careful not to promote my fundraising efforts through any of my political outlets, mainly because this isn't about self-promotion, nor is it about making some sort of party political point.

There are those who would seek to make political statements about homelessness and related issues. For me it's too easy to say it's all the fault of this party or that one and all too glib to say there will always be homeless people.

As with most things the reality is more complicated than that, and it is beholden on everyone in public life - or who would like to be in public life - to be aware of the effect their actions have, and to work with the experts in the field in raising awareness, making provisions for those affected and working on preventative strategies.