CRAW – region 6 completed!

A shortish region this one and team This Is The Way managed to complete the 2,088 miles across the islands of Indonesia in a total of 32 days, starting on 8th April and finishing on 9th May.

We did overshoot the target number of miles due to not keeping on top of logging miles daily (especially towards the end) which is a shame as more miles could have been counted towards the next region which travels North through Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar.

I logged the most miles for the team again with 366.63 miles, which put me (at time of completion) 43rd individual highest mileage for the region. The team was 19th with the overshoot.

We have now completed 6 regions (halfway in terms of region count) racking up 16,801 miles (over halfway in distance) in 255 days. Still on target for a sub-16 month completion time and that silver buckle.

CRAW – region 5 completed!

Team This is the way has left the island of Australia behind, after a 2,638 mile trek from Tasmania up to Darwin.

We had started region 5 on 28th February, and finishing on 8th April means it took us a total of 40 days, averaging 65.95 miles per day as a team.

I managed to log the most miles for the team in this region with 421.77, putting me in 54th place for the region at time of finishing, and the team in 29th place with a little overrun (but this all changes as other teams and individuals finish).

We have now completed 5 regions (14,713 miles) in a total of 223 days, averaging just under 66 miles per day. The total 30,208 miles of the trip would take us 458 days at that rate, well within the 16 month cut-off for a silver buckle.

Letters to my MP: Support an inquiry into assisted dying

Dear Thangam Debbonaire MP,

I am writing as your constituent to urge you to support calls for an inquiry into the law banning assisted dying in England and Wales. I have been prompted to write after Dr Henry Marsh announced his advanced cancer diagnosis, and argued powerfully for the right to have the option to choose the time and manner of his own death. And in November 2020, the Court of Appeal refused Paul Lamb permission to challenge the law – which is likely to end the prospect of any change in the law as a result of a court decision. In other words, the matter is firmly one for Parliament to resolve.

I hope you can write on my behalf to the Secretary of State for Justice and Chairs of the Health, Justice, and Human Rights Select Committees, and call upon them to instigate a review into the law.

It has now been half a decade since MPs considered proposals to legalise assisted dying, and fifteen years since Parliament examined the law in any detail. The evidence available to scrutinise the current law and concerns about reform are now materially different. In particular, I would like to draw your attention to three factors. 

  1. According to the UK Assisted Dying Coalition, at least one Briton each week now travels abroad for an assisted death. This represents a six-fold increase since Parliament last examined whether our laws are fit for purpose. 
  2. Austria, Canada, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, and parts of the United States and Australia have changed their law since 2015, resulting in a wealth of new evidence and demonstrating that reform can be achieved in both a safe and compassionate manner. 
  3. Medical opinion has dramatically shifted. Only recently, in the British Medical Association’s consultation on the matter – the largest survey of medical opinion on this issue in UK history – 50% of doctors said they personally support changing the law, with only 39% opposed, and if the law were to change, a majority favoured changing it for both the terminally ill and incurably suffering. 

In light of these developments and the record levels of public support for assisted dying, I believe it is time for Parliament to review this issue again and that informed debate should be underpinned by an inquiry into the law.

I hope I can rely on your support in requesting that the Secretary of State and various Committee Chairs instigate an inquiry or call upon Parliament to do so.

Letters to my MP – Ban Conversion Therapy

Dear Thangam Debbonaire MP,
I am writing to ask for your support in the campaign to ban conversion therapy – an alarmingly widespread practice that seeks to erase, repress, cure or change an individual’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Conversion therapy is taking place in medical, psychiatric, psychological, religious, and cultural communities.

Figures from the National LGBT Survey found that 7 per cent of LGBT+ people have been offered or undergone conversion therapy, with trans respondents almost twice as likely to have undergone or been offered conversion therapy (13 per cent). Figures also found asexual people to be at a higher risk of being offered or undergoing conversion therapy (10 per cent).

Half of respondents (51 per cent) who had undergone conversion therapy said it had been conducted by faith groups, and one in five (19 per cent) said it had been conducted by healthcare providers or medical professionals.

Right now, the law does not protect your constituents from this harmful practice. And there is no dedicated funding for victim and survivor support, whether through support charities, faith groups or mental health practitioners, to help overcome trauma and rebuild their lives.

Please write to Liz Truss, Minister for Women and Equalities, and Kemi Badenoch, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Minister for Equalities), and urge them to implement a full legislative ban as detailed below. You could also share your support by recording and sharing a #BanConversionTherapy video on social media, as hundreds of religious leaders have in a powerful show of support.

If we want to eradicate this insidious form of homophobic, biphobic, transphobic and acephobic abuse, we need a legislative ban to make conversion therapy illegal:

  • Wherever it occurs – Both in public and private spheres; in healthcare, religious, cultural and traditional settings or contexts; and for those who are threatened with being sent overseas to undergo so-called “conversion therapy”.
  • Whoever is targeted – Both children or adults; both those who have been coerced as well as those who have consented; any intervention that has the intention of changing, suppressing, converting or cancelling sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression.
  • From the moment it’s spotted – Banning the advertisement and promotion of these therapies both online and in public spaces.

Statutory provision of publicly funded specialist support services for current victims and survivors of historical cases is also essential.

I hope I can rely on your support to ban conversion therapy, so that we can continue to progress towards a world where all LGBTQIA+ people can live without shame or fear. I welcome the opportunity to discuss this issue with you further and look forward to hearing from you soon.

Craw – region 4 completed!

Team This is the way is off the frozen wastes of Antarctica and now trekking across Australia! This was the longest region of the circumpolar navigation (and ticking off one of the poles), but we finally completed the 3,296 miles of region 4 yesterday (a little bit over in fact as a few team members had some unlogged days that pushed us over the target).

We had started region 4 on 8th January, and finishing on 28th February means it took us a total of 52 days, averaging 63.38 miles per day as a team.

I managed to log the most miles for the team in this region with 544.79, putting me in 51st place for the region at time of finishing, and the team in 8th place due to the overrun (but this all changes as other teams and individuals finish).

We have now completed 4 regions (12,075 miles) in a total of 183 days, averaging just under 66 miles per day. The total 30,208 miles of the trip would take us 458 days at that rate, well within the 16 month cut-off for a silver buckle (though we did slow down and lose 7 days over this region – aptly due to snow).

Letters to my MP – Lockdown easing proposals

Dear Thangam
I am writing to you today frustrated that once again proposed government policy has been announced via the medium of the right-wing press rather than being presented to parliament for discussion.
As someone who is not covered by any of the priority vaccination groups, and so am not expecting being called for vaccination before September (if at all) I was appalled to see suggestions that all restrictions should be lifted  by the end of April. Following such a course of action (which is against expert scientific advice) will lead to more deaths and more opportunities for virus mutations, including the likelihood of a vaccine-resistant strain emerging. I am not willing, along with millions of other people, to be literally sacrificed at the altar of Conservative economic policy.
Unless a zero covid strategy is adopted by this government, the NHS will continue to be overwhelmed and unable to return to normal standards of care. Tens of thousands more people will die and many more will suffer the effects of long covid. Further lockdowns will be required, damaging the education and mental health of the nation’s children (and adults), the economy, and amplifying existing inequalities.
I urge you to campaign for a zero covid strategy, as well as for the government to admit that covid is airborne and require mitigation in schools and all healthcare settings  (mandating both premium quality masks and adequate ventilation). 
The government has wasted the time given to it by the populace in these three lockdowns over the past year. Test and trace needs to be made fit for purpose to minimise further deaths, people need to be supported to self-isolate (both practically and financially), and the self-employed who have been excluded from Rishi Sunak’s financial aid schemes need to be supported.
I also urge you to resist calls for vaccine passports to be introduced. This will further discriminate against the younger part of the population who are already looking at a 6-month wait for vaccination, whilst also being disproportionately more likely to be at risk of catching the virus due to their jobs. If, as suggested, they are required for entry into shops and restaurants (rather than for entry into other countries) there will be the situation that staff working in these establishments would not be able to attend them under the scheme (whilst still being at risk from patrons).
Yours, in exhaustion

CRAW – region 3 completed!

Team This is the way is headed for Antarctica! We completed the 3,173 miles of region 3, through Chile and Argentina yesterday, and are now headed for the longest region – a frozen trek across Antarctica (we seem to be having the weather for it).

We had started region 3 on 21st November, and finishing on 8th January means it took us a total of 49 days, averaging 64.75 miles per day as a team.

I managed to log the most miles for the team in this region with 490.3, putting me in 72nd place for the region at time of finishing, and the team in 48th place (but this all changes as other teams and individuals finish).

We have now completed 3 regions (8,779 miles) in a total of 131 days, averaging 67 miles per day. The total 30,208 miles of the trip would take us 451 days at that rate, well within the 16 month cut-off for a silver buckle.

Letters to my MP – coronavirus vaccine rollout to healthcare workers

Dear Thangam

I am writing to you as a concerned constituent on behalf of frontline health workers.

The COVID-19 crisis is escalating and we need to urgently protect those who are working on the frontline, and their patients.

It was a relief to see the Government expand its priority vaccination roll out to include healthcare staff. But an EveryDoctor survey on 3rd January found that 39% of our 1318 doctor respondents had yet to receive their first dose.

Frontline healthcare workers are continually exposed to COVID-19 in their workplaces. If they are left unprotected, they are at risk themselves from this potentially fatal illness, and they may also pass coronavirus on to vulnerable patients.

The Government announced yesterday that the sky-rocketing rise in cases has the capacity to overwhelm the NHS in the coming weeks.

With the recent approval of the Oxford vaccine, as a country we are now aiming to vaccinate 2 million people per week. This huge effort will require additional support; it is a huge undertaking. 

The Government must alleviate the pressure on NHS staff in delivering these vaccines by drafting in support from others in administering vaccines; perhaps by utilising the army. 

Frontline healthcare workers must be our immediate priority for vaccines. We are calling for all frontline NHS staff in the UK to receive at least a first dose vaccine within the next 14 days. 

This will protect staff, it will preserve healthcare resources (by reducing staff sickness), and crucially this course of action will protect the vulnerable patients who are in our care.

As my parliamentary representative, will you support EveryDoctor’s campaign to #ProtectNHSworkers in the following two ways?

1. Pledge to do everything in your power to advocate for all frontline health workers in the UK to be immunised against Covid-19 within 14 days.

2. Attend an emergency briefing from EveryDoctor on the need for immediate vaccinations for frontline staff on Thursday, 7 January at 2pm. MPs can register in advance for the online Zoom meeting at this link: http://bit.ly/january7briefing

Please let me know if you would like to take this pledge and attend this important briefing.

I look forward to hearing from you and would appreciate you copying in campaigns@everydoctor.org.uk in your reply to this email. 

Sincerely, 

CRAW – region 2 completed!

Team This is the way finally made it through Peru last night as I slept (having logged 8 miles in the morning). This completed the 3,094 miles of region 2. We started on 5th October, and finished on 20th November, taking a total of 47 days.

I managed to log 421.21 miles this region, second to Susan who rounded up to a very nice 500. At time of finishing that put the team 48th, and my personal position was 149th (though these all change as other teams complete the region).

We bagged ourselves the lovely trophies below, and I got to kick off region 3 in Chile this morning.

82 days in, and 5,606 miles down. That’s an average of just over 68 miles a day. The 30,208 total miles would take us 444 days at that rate. Perfect for a silver (16 months) buckle).

Letters to my MP – government Covid-19 response

Dear Thangam Debbonaire,

I am writing to you to express my frustration with the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, and to request that you do everything within your power to hold them to account, particularly in regard to minimising infections by following scientific advice, and following all established protocols regarding awarding contracts paid for from public funds.

The people of the UK have given the government almost 7 months of their lives, since initial restrictions were brought into force on 16th March 2020. Since that date I, and many others, have left our houses only to exercise or buy essential supplies. I have not hugged any person outside of my household since that date, including my own sister, nor have I seen my nephew since January (and it now looks likely that it will be at least a full year until I can see him in person again).

Whilst some restrictions have been eased in recent months, it does not appear that the majority of these changes are based in scientific study to reduce infection rates, but rather were aimed at increasing economic activity with arbitrary conditions being set (why 6 and not 7? why the same indoor and out regardless of the fact that there is very little data to support outdoor transmission? why can strangers congregate in a pub but family members can’t meet in a house?).

I, like many others, have opted to continue to follow the science by restricting my interactions with others to be exclusively outdoors (which is becoming tougher as the weather conditions deteriorate going into Autumn and Winter) or online. I continue to social distance, to wash my hands, to wear a mask in any indoor space other than my own home. I no longer go to the gym, attend dance classes, practise circus skills with friends, or participate in the weekly parkrun (as either a runner/walker or volunteer). My social interactions are limited to a weekly outdoor hot drink with running friends (no more than 6 around a table), and an online group chat of my weekly juggling group (who are now homeless as our venue has been sold for housing).

I appreciate that I am in a luckier position than most, being retired and able to work from home in the creative arts, the pandemic has not hit me financially, and I maintain a roof over my head. But the strain of such a restricted existence is ongoing and amplified by the government’s mishandling of the pandemic.

I have watched whilst unelected advisors flout the rules and receive no reprimand. I have seen billions of pounds in contracts for PPE awarded to shell companies set up by Tory donors, and that PPE to be found not fit for use. I have watched other countries set-up effective test and trace services whilst yet more public money is handed out to consultants and for apps that do not work.

The increase in cases following the return of children to schools and students to universities was entirely predictable, the science has already shown that children can and do transmit the virus and that indoor spaces (particularly with poor ventilation, as most educational establishments are due to their age) are perfect locations for transmission. However, it appears to have taken the head of the NHS Test and Trace programme entirely by surprise. Perhaps if the government had appointed someone with a scientific background rather than a Jockey Club board member who presided over a large data breach in a previous position, things would be different.

The government has taken hundreds of millions of months of people’s lives, as well as costing lives through the late initial lockdown, causing unnecessary suffering to those who have lost loved ones and those whose medical treatment has been effectively suspended since March (with no light on the horizon as to when those treatments such as hip replacements, cataract surgery, breast reductions/enlargements/reconstructions, dental work, etc. might resume).

I, and many others like me, will continue to restrict our lives to try and restrict the spread of this virus, to try and reduce the infection rate and save lives (both from the immediate threat of severe illness and long-term consequences). We will do this not because the government tells us to, or because they tell us not to (they have lost the trust of the people through their arbitrary rules and consequence-free flouting of them), but because the science indicates that it is necessary.

If the government had followed what other countries have done since March: restricting arrivals into the country, introducing testing and quarantine for arrivals into the country, increasing testing levels to those necessary to accurately assess the level of infections and to guide targeted local restrictions, establishing an effective tracing system, recording contact data for all individuals using indoor spaces, mandating masks in all indoor spaces (including schools) for those not medically exempt, the current crisis where we are at the same level of hospitalisations as seen in March could have been avoided.

We cannot change the past, but I ask you as my Member of Parliament to hold the government’s feet to the fire over their failures over the past 7 months. I ask that you demand that contracts (particularly those not open to tender) are published within the government’s own deadline of 30 days, to expose the corruption of those contracts being awarded to unqualified Tory donors. I am aware that the government’s large majority makes it difficult to oppose them on legislation, but ask that you continue to use your platform as a voice for your constituents to raise awareness of their failings and corruption (which is often mostly missing from mainstream media), and to actively vote against damaging legislation rather than abstain.

Yours sincerely,