Steve Harwood

Labour Activist, #Sharkstoppers Campaigner and Blogger

Labour Activist, #Sharkstoppers Campaigner and Blogger. All views are my own (well, some were originally my mother's...) 

What The Hell Just Happened?

The Conservatives ignored everyone and did what they wanted. Labour continued to argue about how to oust their unelectable leader when it was impossible to beat him in an election. UKIP wandered around with the smug awkwardness of a man holding two drinks at a party. The Lib Dems thought this would be their chance to be relevant again – it wasn’t. 


Amidst the chaos of the end of society, the previous shadow chancellor forgot why it was he didn’t usually do the Samba to Gangnam Style in public. At roughly the same time as a British Politician was entering a reality television show, an American reality star was entering the race to become President.  

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#Solidarity with the Junior Doctors Strike

Working in care, you see things every day that would stop someone else’s working week in its tracks. Watching someone die. Having someone verbally, or even physically, assault you. Listening to tearful co-workers saying this is it, they’ve had enough.


These things happen regularly in even the best run care homes. The very nature of caring for vulnerable people, in an industry that doesn’t – and shouldn’t – generate enough profit for big bonuses, will get to the best of us once in a while. Most will blow their noses, remember why it is they do this job, and go back to work. Some really will have hit that limit, and you never see them again. We don’t blame those people; how could we blame those people? Do you blame those people?


“Those people” are no more obliged to work in care than you are, after all. They’ve no less right to change their job than you. And of course you don’t blame those people. You don’t even know about those people. Those people can do whatever they please, so far as you’re concerned – just as long as there aren’t too many of them, and there is another nameless care worker ready to take their place and maintain the service you expect.


But what if all those tearful pledges were made good on the same day? What if the government were to announce a change that meant those carers were ending the month several hundred pounds worse off? What if carers were told that they would have to work even longer hours, making their job more difficult and their down time with family even less? You might expect there would be more resignations that day than any other.


So that day the care home is understaffed. Your wife isn’t being encouraged to eat and therefore hasn’t. Your dad took too long to get out of bed this morning and is therefore shivering in his night shirt at noon. Your Nan is crying mournfully in the corner and no one has gone to see if she’s okay. That this is scene is unthinkable is a testament to the hard work that those carers – the ones you never notice – do every minute of every day. But what if there was a day when there literally weren’t enough of them. Now do you blame the ones that quit? Now do you think they’re obliged to be carers, that you’re entitled to their labour?


Of course, the next day there are still more resignations. The managers want to hire people to replace them, but no one is applying – a scenario not too far removed from the reality today. It’s already really difficult to get able people to apply for the role of Carers and Nursing Assistants. For less money, longer hours and more stress I can believe it would be impossible.


Who do you rant at now? Which individual is being selfish or reckless for changing their job, or not applying for one? What about you? Do you quit whatever it is you do for a living and apply to take up the slack at a care home because, after all, people might die if you don’t? Call me cynical, but I doubt enough people would take on the challenge to make up the shortfall.


Actually, I know who would get ranted at. The carer that didn’t quit. Those that stayed out of duty and those that couldn’t be bothered job hunting just yet, they’d be the same in the eyes of the public. Both of those people would be expected to work harder because hard work needed doing. If either of them decided to work at the same pace they always had, because they didn’t much care about the future of the care home and just wanted to get paid, they would be derided as selfish. It would be their burden to maintain the level of service, because as far as the public is concerned ‘someone has to’.


I write this about being a care worker rather than a junior doctor because it’s the industry I have experience in. I’m sure the daily stresses of being a junior doctor are different, but I’m sure the feeling that you bear the burden for the entire system is the same. I’ve no doubt that if care workers were to strike, for whatever reason, the reaction, from some, would be as entitled – my mother was being looked after just fine for as long as you bore the brunt of working conditions that I don’t know anything about, much less feel obliged to campaign for. The answer would be for us to put up and shut up, rather than our concerns to be addressed.  


Anyone bemoaning the number of operations cancelled today should remember that this is the impact of one, carefully controlled, day of industrial action. The impact of even a few of the striking doctors thinking, sod this for a game of cricket, I’m off, would be far worse. They’ve not let you down today. Even if they’d all decided to pack it all in and never return, not covered the emergency procedures, not agreed to return to work if it was necessary to safeguard life, even then they wouldn’t have let you down because they don’t owe you anything. All they actually have to do is turn up and do what they’re paid to do for as long as they’re paid to do it, with the unqualified right to stop if they ever decide that the pay isn’t enough.


The fact is that most NHS workers have been going above and beyond what they’re paid for for years in order to keep the service afloat – the suggestion that they’ve taken a day off in a flight of fancy contradicts all the care and responsibility they’ve evidenced so far. And now they’re going above and beyond again by striking rather than walking. They’re putting themselves on the line to speak up for a service on behalf of everyone that uses it, trying to fix a problem of someone else’s making rather than letting someone else’s mistake screw us all over.


We belittle the junior doctors who say they’ll have to quit their job or leave the area they work in if government changes are implemented. Perhaps we should give that scenario a bit more thought. Not only because it would be a total nightmare if even a few of them did it, and one that would have us thinking of todays industrial action as ‘the good old days’. But also because it might remind us that Junior Doctors are not sims, to be deployed in whatever fashion suits the system, but people. If our entire NHS is based on the idea that some people don’t count, that certain individuals must quietly absorb any injustice for the convenience of others, it is doomed to fail. Those automatons have to eat, have to spend time with their families, and they aren’t automatically generated to meet the demand for their services.


We might find that a strike seems like a massive favour we wished we’d asked of people if we’re ever faced with the alternative. 

An Open Letter to The Daily Mirror

Dear Daily Mirror


I was just browsing your website, and the headline ‘Man bursts in on 'cheating wife as she romps naked on sofa' - and promises not to share video’ cropped up in the sidebar. Surely not, I thought. Not about the story itself – a scorned lover maliciously sharing sexuality explicitly videos of an ex, without their consent, is depressingly plausible. There’s even a word for it. But surely, a national newspaper, one I quite like, wouldn’t delight in and even share revenge porn?

I had a bit of a moral dilemma as to whether to click the link or not – if it was as I feared, I didn’t want to see it, but I certainly wanted to object. But how can you object to something if you refuse to check that something even happened? Eventually, it was faith in the Daily Mirror that lead me to open the link. Obviously I wasn’t going to see what revenge porn being celebrated. I was simply clicking for peace of mind.

However, it was basically as bad as I feared it would be. The video was embedded in the story, and although the faces had been blurred, the voices were unaltered – if I knew any of the people involved I would recognise them from this clip. Moreover, the logo for the website that originally hosted the ‘leaked’ video was emblazoned over it. Yes, same dilemma, yes, same necessity to check I was right to complain – yes, if you visit that site you find the original video, faces unblurred, right there on the front page. No, I didn’t click that video. I’m sure, by this stage, I have grounds to complain.

You have cheerfully, gleefully, reported on a sex tape being shared against this woman’s consent, as though it was a joke. The story that goes with it focusses entirely on the fact that she cheated on her husband, even commending his calm response, as though – the defence of revenge porn perverts everywhere – she ‘deserved it’. It gives clear instructions on how to find the uncensored footage instantly.

I personally don’t think this is acceptable behaviour from a national news site, especially one that positions itself as a progressive alternative to our right wing press. Moreover, if the action is not a criminal publishing of revenge pornography, it is certainly a moral lapse from a publication that has previously decried the awful sites you now appear to be advertising.

I hope you will see fit to respond to this complaint,


Steve Doran

Daily Mirror reader for 29 year


Well Hello. You appear to be on my website – that is an excellent starting point for what I’m about to say.


If you have a few moments to have a look around, and share with me your thoughts, I would be greatly obliged.


The site is in, as they say on the Interwebs, ‘Beta’. I believe this is the technical term for when barely tech savvy person has spent so long making tweaks that they’re not sure councillour is even a word any more. To say I can see no further typing errors is not to say that they aren’t there.


Ideally, this website would be a central point that I could send people to when they ask for the various things I’m currently e-mailing/putting on facebook groups/putting on twitter/adding to various blogs. Therefore, if there is something you would hope to find here but can’t, please let me know – there isn’t really any other central theme.


I’m still working on the Swanscombe Directory, but if you know of a business, service or community organisation that should be listed please let me know. Likewise if you have any Swanscombe based events you like me to post, please let me know.


Comments are fine. Or e-mails, texts, tweets, facebook messages, or any other method you’d care to use.


Many thanks



Dartford Town Centre ... Could be better though, couldn't it?



There are a number of tricks you use when you're handing out leaflets. I've done my fair share of flyering, asking people to take everything from night club discounts to slimming world coupons to Conservative Party campaign literature (yes really - I was 12, and I wanted to be helpful). I've learned every trick of the trade. But I happened upon a new approach when I was at the Dartford Festival this year.


I was handing out leaflets about the Town Centre, and Dartford Labour's campaign for change. It was hot, and it was muggy, and it had been 'about to rain' for eight hours, so people were hurrying past before we'd had a chance to say a word. Then, in one of those awkward I've-gone-blank-but-I've-already-started-talking moments, I found myself telling a rather flustered festival goer "Dartford Town Centre, er, could be better though, couldn't it?' 


It will not surprise you to hear that he didn't correct me. He didn't seem angry that I'd insulted his beloved and beautiful town. He laughed. Now, it might just be me, but people don't tend to laugh at observations they don't agree with. So I tried my accidental tactic again, and got the same response. Everyone laughed, everyone took a flyer, some people stopped to passionately agree. 


As it turns out, the bandstand is lovely and all, but people were hoping for more than that. It turns out that their ambition for the town is a little more than 'what we have now, but with a Tesco.' They have a lot of feeling for their town, but not as much of it is pride as you might hope. 


Normally, this is when someone would jump in to ask me 'well, if you think you're so smart, why don't you do something?' again implying that anything I can't personally fix must therefore not be worth talking about..? But that logic aside, the first step for any council, or councillor, surely should be to listen rather than tell? How can any of us hope to put forward a plan for Dartford, when we've not asked the people that live and work there?  


So that's what I'm doing, or rather, what Simon and everyone at #TeamDartford are doing, and what I'm sharing. And if you think Dartford Could Be Better, then please take the time to fill out the survey and share. 

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