Thursday, 24 February 2011

A Green member from Bristol asks...

"I would like to know which Committee(s), if any, you would be interested in putting yourself forward for if you were selected as a Green Party peer."

Thank you for your question. Unfortunately, there seems to have been a printing error with regard to the omission of my contact details. Another candidate, Stuart Jeffrey, very kindly passed on your question.

It has taken some time to realise that I do indeed have levels of expertise and have considered carefully where I might best ‘fit’ with regard to committees. Given my background I feel that I would sit more intuitively into the following:
1) Armed Forces – having grown up as an army dependent I believe that I am well placed to balance the needs of soldiers, their dependents and the upper echelons within the Forces with that of non-combatants and the ordinary citizen. A ‘bridge’ if you will.

2)Culture, media and sport – I have been involved on a citizens level with ‘Mediawatch’, Ofcom and was on our local Twinning, Museums and Arts committees. I have been shocked at the lack of scrutiny in these areas and the mixed messages sent to the public with regards to the sexualisation of young people in particular. I have watched with interest the politicisation of sport and would be very interested in learning further about how the seemingly incongruent sides can be managed.

3)Education – I am retraining to be a teacher of RE and have been working in a very challenging school for five years. I am not religious, but see RE as encompassing many aspects of our lives – geography, medicine, arts, architecture etc. The current rush towards free schools and academies to me is the sticking plaster attempt to cover entrenched and endemic failings by successive governments. There appears to be, like many areas of political and social life, an ever growing ‘onion effect’ – the building of layers of remedies and ‘new’ drives. This has led to a huge ‘onion’ in which the layers are disconnected and no longer able to flow or catch up with each other and nobody can fathom where the current failings started. A macro approach is needed here, one which allows the teachers, pupils, support staff and parents to be really engaged with and above all listened to without fear of reproach. I recently formulated a research proposal on ‘Truanting/ Persistent Absence’ and after a literature review was perturbed to find none within the UK that had actually had pupils’ views at its heart, i.e. no interviews with pupils.

4)Health – as a trainee Clinical Psychologist, (unfortunately not completed due to no part time opportunity available to be on becoming a single parent – this would be illegal now), and as an Assistant Psychologist for two years, I have worked in many areas. Adult mental health; child psychiatry, secure ‘criminal’ units, older adults – stroke and Alzheimer’s, childhood cancers, autism, learning disabilities. I have worked at all levels, including some middle management.

I have worked for: Exeter & District; Cornwall & Isles of Scilly; Addenbrooke’s Hospital NHS Trusts. I have also worked as a nursing assistant in hospitals and care homes. I am a media volunteer for ‘Rethink’ and my daughter and I have completed joint work with ‘Red Nose’ and ‘Blue Peter’ and I have had media training under John Morrell. I have published research in the area of ‘The impact of disclosure of mental health status’

I was initially very impressed with Andrew Lansley’s take on mental health and he was coming from a place of personal experience. I too am open about my mental health status, Bi-Polar disorder – this has been well managed for nearly a decade now. However, Andrew Lansley’s manoeuvrings towards Consortia is to me a step towards privatisation and if my own, well managed GP practice are worried, that’s good enough for me to be worried.

As you can see, I have experience from all sides of health, especially mental health and believe that my expertise would be best placed in this Committee.

4) Science and Technology – this is an on going, non-academic, area of interest. I am particularly interested in the psychological impact of new and innovative technologies. Having minored in philosophy, I am also aware of the ethical considerations involved. However, I am not ‘anti-‘ technology or scientific endeavour and am fascinated by its pace and pursuit of excellence.

5) Ecclesiastical – I was surprised, moons ago, to find Bishops in our House of Lords - I like to watch proceedings from both Houses via the TV live feeds and recordings. My daughter has called me a fellow ‘geek’ for this!  - I’m not sure how I feel about that still. Yet, a the pragmatic part of me believes that we have to engage and encompass all comers. Again, I have an in depth knowledge of biblical and religious texts and how these impact on modern life. I would see myself, again, as the ‘bridge’.

I am essentially willing to try any Committee deemed appropriate or more pressing by our Party. I have a legal and debating background, having cut my teeth at the London School of Economics and as a member of the student union there for one year. I am adept taking a ‘brief’, doing my homework into the small hours and presenting it. Dealing with all levels and types of people is something I enjoy and excel at. I am an ‘all rounder’, quick to learn, grounded in the world the minimum wage and post office queues. I believe in respect and kindness at all times.

I noted, after having called the House of Lords enquiry line, that there is training and support available; I fully intend to take up those opportunities.

A Green member from Brent asks...

Candidate Name : Jessica Goldfinch – Norwich Green Party
A little about me related to the field of disability:
A BA(Hons)Psychology; two years as an Assistant Clinical Psychologist for:
1) Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Learning Disabilities NHS Trust
2) Exeter & District NHS Trust – Older Adult Care, specialisms – the dementias and stroke
3) Addenbrooke’s Hospital NHS Trust – Child and Adult Psychiatry for one year.
4) Additional – Red Nose/ Mental health media work; volunteer of ‘Rethink’; SEN Teaching Assistant; helper at Toddler Group for Children with Down’s and many more.

What is your understanding and view of the social model of disability? I came across this during my Community Psychology option and work within ‘Older Adult’ care, in particular with people who had Alzheimer’s and pre-senile Dementias.
The medical model has its place, but it is the advent of Community and Social Psychology which has changed people’s, (disabled and non-disabled), thinking about disability in general and their own disabilities.
In Older Adult care the Social Model’s influence, for me, most likely helped create ‘The Bradford Dementia Care Model’.
This revolutionised the way carers saw and worked with dementia. The Social Model talks about how ‘we’ as society inflate, exacerbate and collude with accepted norms of disability and that this is a major player in keeping people isolated and ‘more’ disabled than they would ordinarily be.
In Dementia Care this is called ‘social malignancy’ and boy does it make me mad! The infantilising of people, the tone of voice, not thinking or even being mindful of environments: sound, colour, patterns, flooring, texture, gradients and so on. This is so of all disability.
When I’ve stopped being mad, I can say I have witnessed some fantastic changes and moving experiences. A lot of people are simply not aware of these things and not deliberately prejudiced and so it is up to us to coax, cajole and sometimes demand!
What is your understanding of the current and future issues affecting disabled people? 
There is so much so I will concentrate to a few:
I am in receipt of Disability Living Allowance – I have a ‘fibromyalgic/neuropathic’ type condition, previously thought to be MS. Thankfully, it was not; my cousin is not so lucky. I also have a diagnosis for Bi-Polar Disorder, very much managed for the last 10 years as can be seen by my work experience. DLA is on the chopping block and it is as simple as this – if DLA is cut, I don’t go swimming any more, (£7.20 per session), or at least as much as I do now. This is the self-help which saves the NHS thousands and would cost thousands if I now deteriorate. This is politics and its grassroots consequences and there are thousands like me.
I am open about my mental health status, so it is alright for you to discuss this with others.
The Equality Act, to work, has to implemented at all levels. It needs to be in people’s minds as a natural state of being in planning services, buildings etc. Some exemptions may have to apply for rickety old buildings, but compromises should be struck as if it were the norm not the exception.
GP Consortia – the current moves towards a GP led NHS, may work for some, but my very competent GP practice is worried and so am I. It is people with disabilities, of all types and of all ages who will be disproportionately squeezed, as has been deomnstrated in the past. I have a horrible image in my mind of us fighting over resources and GPs having to advocate for ‘their’ patient against another within the same practice.
What are your views on bioethical issues – please include assisted dying here?
Again, through my Alzheimer’s work I was directed to the Belmont and later Beauchamp and Childress reports from the 1980s, these reports have been criticised of course, but I believe that the four principles still hold true: justice (in all decision making); respect for each person’s integrity (autonomy) and non-maleficence (not to inflict deliberate pain) and ‘beneficence’ (to do things for the benefit of others). Essentially, in my view, a reworking of the spirit of the ‘Hippocratic Oath’.
With regard to assisted dying; I used to be very pro- and now I feel the following: My mother and discussed it, in the event she needed ‘help’. I’m not sure I could, but can see therefore the need for choice and a method by which people can end their lives if they so wish and do it here in their own homes without having to go to Switzerland and possibly end their lives sooner than if they could have stayed at home.
However, and this relates back to the Social Model, what if we go down that road and change the very ‘culture’ around death towards the negative? Will we not be bothered with further innovation in palliative care; research into cures; good older adult care and will disabled people become further demoted by a new prevailing attitude which will permeate into all of us whereby we end up thinking “I’m a burden; I’d better go then”?
A minefield indeed and one of many reasons why I would like sit on the Health and Science Committees or other more pertinent one, should I enter the House.
What has been your experience (include evidence please) of how you have promoted the views of disabled people and their organisations (run by them) during public office or political role (e.g.  assembly member, councillor, Green Party policy committee)? 
I ran a political cafe at a centre for people with mental health problems. This was to get folk thinking about other things and encourage action and self-determination.
My daughter and I have been on TV and radio with Blue Peter and Red Nose to help ‘normalise’ the nature of living with mental illness. My daughter has given talks and I have given talks/lectures on the subject. Having been a working professional and finding myself on the other side was painful, but humbling. I do not have a link, only a CD/DVD recording, which I cannot locate, but it maybe still archived on their websites.
I have co-published a paper with a psychiatrist and occupational therapist on “The Consequences of Disclosure of Mental Health Status”; led by the Social Model and Medical Model. Again, I never got an actual copy but the lead researcher was Dr. Rebecca Martinez.
A Special Educational Needs Green Paper which we believe will be the basis of new legislation –    what do you think would be the key issues from the perspective of disabled people?  if you are appointed to the House of Lords would you work with ALLFIE and if so  how will you work with us.
It is supposed to be more weighty than the Warnock Report and the measures set out are all well and good but,
1)   12 weeks public ‘consultation’ is not enough and there appears no indication that children themselves are being consulted; at least the ones who are able and there is no advocacy for those who are not. The Social or Bioethical Models are not being implemented here, which is ironic.
2)   The notion of ‘choice’ I believe is bogus. Concentrating resources into well run SEN establishments should not be seen as necessarily segregative. I would like to see school campuses which included SEN schools within them. My daughter attended a primary where a SEN school was right next door and they shared common facilities and played together. I’m more a fan of ‘Extra Needs’ because pupils of all skills and abilities, (including high achievers), have ‘special needs’ and they should be viewed as needing a ‘leg up’, not as ‘special’ or ‘apart’. I believe that some schools are becoming specialist centres for certain conditions such as autism.
As parent, I don’t want to be given competing choices, I just want a well run local school which my child can walk to or be easily transported to and which caters for her needs.
There is no place for children with disabilities, or any child for that matter, to become victims of ‘social malignancy’ in schools.
I hope Sarah Teather can present this well.
ALLFIE – I must confess I had to look this up. I must be a bit behind, because it does not appear in any of my books. Then when I did I realised I did know it, I’d remembered it as its full name!
The Alliance for Inclusion in Education, I would have thought could and should be a leading light in informing legislation.
How would I work with you?
For me working as a Councillor, or maybe a Lord isn’t all about talking, it’s about doing and experiencing. I have a lot of SEN experience, across all of the age groups. I had isolatory experiences myself at school and my daughter experienced intense loneliness and bullying– thankfully, she has found a niche, which we had to fight for and for me it took until adulthood to find some equilibrium.
One of your members put it beautifully, as I have just read:
"I think that when you don't have real friends you can't experience real life because real life is how you get on with people. I can't do anything on my own so I am completely dependent on people helping me, so if I am not going to be surrounded by only personal assistants, I have got to find a way of making friends."
Maresa Mackeith
If I had the time, and there is lots of non-sitting time in the Lords, I would have to come and actually experience your workplace, join some activities and/or observe if that was preferable.
Then to listen and ‘feel’, followed by guidance and advice from your team. Then sit and work out what is that is missing?
Then act!
I hope I didn’t go on too long and please feel free to contact me further for any clarification or omissions.
To be mindful of: People, the Environment, Respect and Kindness in everything I do and in every decision I make.
This is the type of politician I am and want to be. Lofty ideals that I’ve never let go of.

Who am I and why politics? Why did I choose the Green Party?

I remember watching my brother, a man I much admire, being involved in 'Windscale' protests. He was so passionate and hopeful and this has left an indelible mark. A good mark.

I was turned on to 'world' politics again by a song, "Enola Gay" by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark sorry if an advert pops up.
The lyrics resonated with me and I realised how a flick of a signature or press of a button can change everything forever.

At the London School of Economics and King's in the mid-80s, (where I took one year of a bi-lingual German and English Law degree, before changing to Psychology at Exeter), I was introduced to the 'bear pit' of debate and cut my teeth there, also being a temporary member of the Union and mooting as part of my course.

I have been involved with the Anti-Apartheid movement, which had both good and bad aspects. I had also experience of the German Greens from having lived in Germany, (then West Germany), for eight years. How forward they were, even in the 80s! Feminist politics was also a large part of my life.

I've worked in Israel-Palestine and at the time Gaza. I did the 'Kibbutz Experience', I lived and co-ran a cleaning business with a friend in Tel Aviv after having completed a religious course, (I was religious for awhile, but now more cultural), and went on to work on peace projects - water projects, circus skills (a failed tight rope walker!), theatre, music, politics. I worked with and observed peace negotiators in some very extreme circumstances - happy to share off blog. I am moved to say, that despite what happened, I saw people never give up and minds changed. I still maintain relationships across the divides and I am sure the situation would be a lot worse without these brave and compassionate people.

Fast forward - Adrian Ramsay and I met via our work on the 'Wright Stuff', then recorded in Norwich. Norwich Greens look away now - they've heard this story a million times, but I never tire of it!). He was too young to stand as a candidate and asked me if I would. Paraphrase and thoughts to myself: 'You must be joking I'm not Green, I smoke, drive a car and drink beer...'. I said I would only do it if I read the manifesto first. He gave me an abridged version, but being thorough and a bit of 'geek', I found and read the whole MfSS.

I realised that I was not 'stupid' or 'naive' or 'silly' for having dreams. Dreams of a future, especially for my little girl. Yet here was a group of people who had the same dreams and the expertise with which to effect that change. Greens weren't organic yak's milk weavers, they were smart, eloquent and above all compassionate.

I rang up Adrian and said something like, 'Yes, I'll be proud to stand for you'. People came from all over the country, doorknocking, leafleting, cooking, laughing, singing. It was amazing and the result? (see photo if I manage to up load it).

We won. I took over from our out going Councillor Sara Ronneke and took my place a long side Steve Land; us two against the rest of the Chamber and the rest is Green history...we now hold the balance of power. I am proud to have been a part of that, a real Green quiet revolution.


Dissolution, Reformation and Overhaul.

A few members have asked why statements didn't include a view on abolition. All I can say is that with a 350 word limit, it is hard to cover everything. I took the view that I would offer 'tasters' of my background and experience and then be open to more searching questions - this may have been a mistake.

My view is in line with GP policy which is essentially for total reform. I am somewhat old fashioned in that I do think old establishments have had and may continue to have a purpose in  providing continuity and point of focus and in a lot of cases a draw for tourists for our economy.

I also believe that having some kind of second house offers scrutiny and a set of reins on the Commons. Like insurance policies, it mostly works in our favour, but sometimes it really doesn't.

However, like all 'old' things, we have to move and change otherwise there is no hope for innovation and new thinking. In an ideal world, I'd like to turn up and say 'everybody out, we're starting again'! However, total revolution does not always bring the desired outcome and sometimes situations worsen. Also, our country would miss a chance on negotiating the outcome and we would lose many current dedicated Lords and all their expertise.

I am not for a fully elected house. Only because I don't want more of the same as in the House of Commons, what would be the point? The Lords has to offer a different flavour and slightly different purpose. Also, I don't subscribe to the notion that democratic elections are always democratic. There is still favouritism, tactics, dealings and money involved; we don't always get the 'right' person.

What would I like to see? Well there are many ideas out there and I for one would be up for discussing all of them. I'm not sure on the percentage make-up, that could be negotiated, but I'd like to see something like this:
1)Existing group of life peers to be allowed to fade naturally or offer the chance to leave on maybe health or other grounds.
2)A partially elected House on normal election lines.
3)A 'body' to decide and offer places to known contributive citizens from across our countries. Bearing in mind that there is lots of expertise 'out there' which is never recognised and a lot of people would never have a hope of being elected in any other way. We need to find these people and offer them the chance.
4)A section to be offered on a 'lottery'/ jury system, (a friend, John, ran that by me - thanks).

The time limits set on how long someone sits could be negotiable, but I think a large proportion should be lengthy stays, (5-10 years), to offer continuity and stability.

Anyone who has worked at even local government level, as I have as a Councillor, will know that it takes a substantial amount of time to learn the ropes and too much change in members could destabilise the House.

I hope this clarifies my position.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011


This is my first blog, so will be added to over the next few days. I discovered from the Green Party House of Lords Statement booklet that my contact details had been omitted in error and thought it best to offer a contact point for anyone who wishes to e-mail me directly with questions or endorsements.

As I get to grips with the options, more features will become available to you.

For now I would simply like to offer you the opportunity to ask questions and get to know more about me before casting your vote.

I will be following this 'Welcome' post with posts on the following:
Who am I and why politics?
What is the House of Lords all about?
My casual and formal work experience.
How do I propose to work and function in the second House?
How does the single parent manage?

and much more.

My daughter and I are currently preparing for 'Spring Conference'; this is the first conference to have fallen in a school holiday and not clash with work for a long time. My daughter, Hannah, will be helping in the creche - a lovely twist in that she used to be a toddler in the Green Party Creche herself!

I shall be running for the Disputes Resolution Committee and I will be scheduled for hustings. I do not have the timetable yet, but do come a long and ask questions there if you wish.

I look forward to catching up with old friends and maybe meet some of you there.

Do visit our Norwich Green Party stall and feel free to stop me, (I'll be wearing my name badge prominently), and ask questions.

Many thanks,
Jessica Goldfinch