Tag Archives: Politics

Lockdown, Right Down, with Emotion…

My fiancée purchased me a Ramones T Shirt for my birthday at the end of March. I’ve never been a huge Ramones fan, but I fell in love with the shirts design (the bands classic logo in a multi colour haze) with tour dates from an American leg back in the late 70’s reprinted lovingly on the back. Excusing the fact the shirt was actually in my size, and within the UK for accessible shipping, it just made sense for me to pick this up. Even if the most Ramones music I’ve listened too is Metallica covering ’53rd and 3rd’ and the B Side’s to the St Anger single in 2003.

But my crimes against music, namely wearing a T Shirt to “support” a band I’ve never really listened too before aside, what happened after she purchased my gift has been far more interesting.

My birthday fell on March 30th, not long after the Government put in place measures to restrict the potential spread of Covid-19 within the UK. Non essential shops, workplaces were closed and my own workplace migrated from an office environment to working at home from my spare room. Suddenly I found my routine changed in an incredible way; there were no weekend trips to the record store, no working from the office and no charity store browsing. By the time the shirt had arrived, although it didn’t take long, I was already working from home and decided to leave the item within it’s plastic packaging; in a dresser drawer.

In the first days of the lockdown, Lord Wolfson (the owner of high street clothing chain NEXT) was quoted on BBC News as having said that “People do not buy a new outfit to stay at home” when speaking about this own companies significant losses in the wake of the (then new) restrictions. In reality, my shirt remained in that dresser drawer, since working from home meant I had neither nowhere to go to wear it nor reason to put it on. To help myself as much as possible, and protect our family against the spread of this deadly virus, our weekly shopping is delivered to our home, pharmacy prescriptions are collected by post, our online shopping for non essential items has also decreased. As such, unless it was for our daily Government exercise, nobody was leaving or entering the house.

To help ourselves even further, although I admit probably partially unnecessarily, we also routinely changed our clothes when returning from daily walks and exercise; so normally aimed not to wear the newest T Shirts understanding that these garments would probably get covered in sweat. As such, I can certainly empathise with Lord Wolfson, as there was absolutely no emphasis whatsoever for me to wear my new T Shirt – I mean, what would be the point?

My father used to say I was a slave to fashion. He’d still tell me this now, but I haven’t lived with him since 2008; and given that his main concern throughout this national crisis has been getting a haircut once it’s all over, I can certainly see where I get it from. Granted, as I have mentioned previously, I only purchased the shirt based on the design and the theme and not due to the specific artist. But I still bought it because I thought it looked good, and in line with the reason everyone purchases clothes (beyond practical no nonsense purchases like work outfits) I bought it because I wanted other people to see me in it.

I’m vain enough to admit that I buy clothes that my intention is to spark interest in. A shirt with a logo or design from a popular TV series, for example, is no doubt bound to create conversation with a random stranger – and has, on occasion (to the ultimate annoyance of my fiancee) been the reason why I’ve been stood at a bus stop chatting to random for 15 minutes. It only happens to me, I’ve one of those faces; apparently.

Taking the bins out in style….

Others must have thought of this too, I wasn’t the only one, as social media platform Tik Tok began encouraging people – or they began encouraging each other, I’m still not sure how that starts – to take out the bin in style. Women got glamoured up in evening wear, children dressed as superheroes and others even wore nothing but tin foil in order to take out the bin – ultimately, the one big event of the week whilst the world was under lock down. If you’re reading this article about 30 years in the future, I’m curious as to what you actually think of all this, and whether my career as a writer managed to flourish in the way I’d hoped.

Ultimately, without routine, we all start to go a little crazy – and that’s obvious from the devolution of the office, where a lot of employers now say that even when restrictions are lifted they’d rather invest money in employees over real estate; with many seeing this as an end to chats by the water cooler and trips to the copier.

But if office culture is removed entirely, this also removes the chance to socialise, to mix with colleagues and form long lasting relationships. Much like School or University, offices create a natural place for either single one night encounters too marriage; as well as sports teams, quiz nights and decade long friendships. On the other hand the office can also create some pretty hateful relationships, with vicious bullying, rumours and awkward politics – and maybe those people would prefer to stay at home, so long as they’ve got their own social network already established; otherwise they’re going to live a lonely life of solitude.

Our entire sitcom culture is based on the idea of office politics, everything from ‘Scrubs’ to ‘Friends’ and – of course, even ‘The Office’ is routed in the idea of shared experience in triumph, success, disappointment and grief. Few successful comedies have ever been based on the idea of solitude and separation. Even ‘Porridge’ let them out of their cells.

Ultimately, by removing the workplace from a number of people’s lives, I suspect many will have even less inclination to do the work they should have been doing in the first place. Since the boss can’t see you working hard, there’s no chance at promotion or brown nosing, so what’s the point – why not make less of an effort? Since you can’t be seen to be at work, do certain social norms and workplace etiquette still exist. Should you even worry as much about breaking the rules, when it’s unlikely discipline action can be enforced. In one case I know someone facing redundancy, but only once furlough ends, in a sort of strange Schrodinger’s cat situation where they both have a job, but also don’t.

And as well as an informal suspension on firing policies, there’s also a sort of informal freeze on hiring policies, unlikely to be rescinded or disappear completely until much later on after the lock down is completely ended. So any possibility of future career advancement or job changing (that ‘shooting for the moon’) might be something you really will need to work much much much harder at obtaining.

In the future, I wonder if I’ll even have a chance to wear that T Shirt? Surely I will, in the street, or in the shops; maybe a stranger will even comment on it and I’ll feel somewhat elated by the compliment. Perhaps I’ll just attempt to take the bins out, and post a picture of me doing so on Instagram, with the hashtag #HeyHoLetsGo – who knows what might happen.

But I do know, that during this lock down, I have actually started listening to the Ramones; feeling I now know them a little better then when I first saw this shirt.

Top 10 Quick Tips for Voting

Top 10 Quick Tips for Voting – Sunderland One
Wayne Madden

Prime Minister Teresa May’s decision to call a snap General Election in April 2017 wasn’t entirely unusual, in fact, the last snap election occurred in 1974 and saw no less than two general elections in just six months. But as the law has changed since then, the Prime Minister’s recent action couldn’t have succeeded without parliamentary support, the following day’s resolution of 522 MPs to 13 in favor of the election meant a majority decision had been made.

Hot on the heels of General Election 2015, and a difficult “second album” in the form of EU Referendum 2016, 2017 will be the second major elections (after May’s local elections) held post Brexit in the United Kingdom.

For Sunderland, many will be looking at January’s result in the Sandhill by-election, when Liberal Democrat Stephen O Brien was elected to office with a swing majority that took the “safe” Labour seat as a potential sign of change to come. That Labour seat being vacated due to its incumbents’ failure to attend council meetings.

For many people voting in Sunderland this may be their first election in the region, general or otherwise, as each year we welcome newly eligible voters to the electoral roll, as well as those who’ve not exercised the right before and those thousands of students who join us from around the country for their University experience.

It is a common misconception that by virtue of your decision to live in the region, enroll at Sunderland University or the fact that you have grown up here that you are eligible to vote at all. Eligibility to vote in a general election is confirmed through the Electoral Register. You can register for free, and even register online, though there will be a deadline before the Election and criteria which you’ll have to meet.

To help you make an impartial, informed and correct decision, we’ve put together a list of the Top 10 Quick Tips for Voting ahead of General Election 2017:

1. Before the big day itself, make sure you’re actually eligible to vote. You must be registered to vote, be over 18 on the day of the election (“polling day”), and be a British, Commonwealth or Irish citizen. You must also be resident at an address in the UK (or be a British citizen living abroad who has been registered to vote in the last 15 years). You cannot vote in a general election if you do not meet these criteria, even if you are able to vote in a local election or referendum.

2. You cannot vote at just any polling station, and will be assigned a polling station based on the “district” in which you live. Information will be provided through the Polling Card you receive in the mail in the weeks prior to the election. Keep this safe for reference. If you do not get one, contact Sunderland Council’s Electoral Services to ask why.

3. You cannot vote more than once in a single General Election. Doing so is a criminal offence. If you discover you are eligible to vote at a University residence, for example, as well as your home address; you should only vote from one of these places. You should also ensure you do not ask anyone to vote on your behalf or assume your identity to vote at an alternative location, even with good reason, as this is also illegal.

4. Anyone else in your place of residence will be voting at the same station as you – if you’re going to be away from home on June eighth then making sure you register for a postal vote is essential as this means you will receive a ballot paper a few days before the election that you can send from any postbox in the United Kingdom.

You can also drop your sealed postal vote envelope and completed ballot into any Polling Station within your Council’s remit on polling day. So, for example, if you live in South Shields (South Tyneside) you cannot drop your postal vote into a polling station at St Peter’s (Sunderland City).

5. Under certain conditions, you may be called upon to act as a proxy for another voter, or ask someone to vote for you as your proxy. You will have to register in advance to do this with your local Council and your request will not always be granted.

6. The Polling Station is open between 7am and 10pm. This is a legal requirement of the vote and gives people as much potential as possible to reach their station on polling day and cast their vote. You must ensure you have entered a polling station and received your ballot paper before the clock strikes 10pm.

7. Regardless of temptation, do not take a “voter selfie” while casting your vote, as this is both an obstruction to fellow voters and also illegal. In fact, this practice can cause expulsion from the polling station and a criminal report, so avoid the opportunity to post your favorite voting face to social media or send privately to friends.

8. Remember the Polling Card? Don’t worry if you’ve forgotten, even at the polling station, as it is not needed to vote. You’ll be asked to give your name and address to confirm your identity and then issued with a ballot paper. In the event that someone else has voted in your place (known as voter fraud) you’ll be asked a list of prescribed questions and at the discretion of the Presiding Officer will be issued a ballot. Hopefully, this will never happen.

9. Dressing up as Donald Trump or wearing a T Shirt condemning the sitting Government might seem like the right behavior that morning, but such political material is banned from the polling station (albeit it International or not), this going for more obvious things like literature distributed by candidates, Rosetta’s and obvious political color coordination which may all be interpreted as signs to sway fellow voters in their decisions. Likewise you can only cast a vote for a candidate running in your constituency and your approval for another member of a party running will not be counted as a vote.

10. Having successfully followed instruction and cast your vote carefully fold your ballot paper and place it in the ballot box as instructed by station staff. You do not need to show your completed ballot paper to station staff and they will not always high five you once this has happened, but you can definitely feel a sense of pride as you leave the station having cast your electoral voice.

Whomever you choose to vote for and however you wish to cast your electoral voice this General Election, prepare to exercise your right with information and impartiality. For everything positive and impartial about Sunderland, make sure you’re picking up Sunderland One.