Government MP says UK facing alcohol crisis affecting millions that government doing nothing about

Conservative MP Fiona Bruce Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on alcohol harm says the UK is experiencing an alcohol crisis affecting millions of people that the government is doing nothing about

My piece on the UK’s alcohol crisis that the government is doing nothing about according to one of their own MPs headlines the BBC news on the World at One on Radio 4. Tory MP Fiona Bruce – Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on alcohol harm – says the government is  “neither recognising nor addressing” this crisis which is affecting millions of people. Hospital admissions for alcohol have doubled in a decade reaching their highest levels ever – over 1.1 million. The latest figures show deaths from alcohol have reached their highest level since records began. While the number of people accessing publicly funded detox and rehab for alcohol has almost halved since 2013 when £300 million of cuts to substance misuse funding started. And almost half of units offering publicly funded detox have closed since then. 

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Making waves in Parliament with my addiction mental health journalism

ME AND LAPTOP

My writing about addiction and mental health for national newspapers is having a major impact! A Cross party Parliamentary group of UK MPs is to meet on July 12th to discuss my latest Guardian investigation – massive funding cuts for drug and alcohol treatment which is leading to deaths. http://ow.ly/sCJ030czKgt 

Another exclusive groundbreaking story was for the Times showing the levels of alcohol related brain damage among older people had gone up by more than 300% https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/huge-rise-in-middle-aged-drinkers-with-brain-damage-n5zgcwzf5

And for the Sunday Times on the resignation of the Chief Executive of the Priory and extent of suicides at the UK’s largest private mental health provider. The Priory said the two were unconnected. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/deaths-spark-care-fears-at-prioryhospitals-jdtf38khp

I have also written about domestic violence and abuse for the Telegraph with harrowing case studies http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/life/black-bruises-didnt-recognise-domestic-abuse-calls-reach-all/

Please send me exclusive story ideas about mental health and addiction that have not been covered before by national media. I am now working on stories for BBC Radio as well as the Guardian, The Sunday Times, The Times and the Telegraph

This return to professional journalism at 12 years clean is welcome after crashing out of my career as a reporter for the BBC and national newspapers because of my drug addiction and mental health problems in 2005.

Thank you for supporting my blog without which this return to professional journalism would never have happened.

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Widely published at last! 

ME AND LAPTOP

After crashing out of my career as a reporter for the BBC and national newspapers because of my drug addiction and mental health problems in 2005 I am now, at 12 years clean, a professional journalist again! I have written reports about mental health and addiction for the Sunday Times https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/deaths-spark-care-fears-at-prioryhospitals-jdtf38khp  The Times      https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/huge-rise-in-middle-aged-drinkers-with-brain-damage-n5zgcwzf5 the Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/life/black-bruises-didnt-recognise-domestic-abuse-calls-reach-all/  I also have upcoming commissions for the Guardian and several ideas for the BBC!

Thank you for all your support for my blog.

Caroline.

HOMELESS CHARITIES AND MOTHERS CRITICISE GOVERNMENT FOR NOT RAISING DUTY ON SUPER STRENGTH CIDER IN THE BUDGET

frostyjack's

The CEOs of homelessness charities Shekinah and Thames Reach have strongly criticized the government for not raising duty on super strength white cider which they said is killing more homeless people than heroin and crack.

The CEO of Thames Reach Jeremy Swain said “the evidence showing that the drinks are killing people is beyond dispute and each month that goes past leads to further deaths.” John Hamblin CEO of Shekinah Charity said “we see daily examples of people just killing themselves from consuming very large quantities of ridiculously cheap super strength cider”. Both said they were “very disappointed” by the decision.

The decision has also been condemned by Joanne Good, the mother of 16 year old  Megan Craig Wilkinson who died after drinking 1.5 litres of super strength cider Frosty Jack. Joanne Good has lobbied MPs to ban or raise duty on what she called “pocket money” cider.  Professor Sir Ian Gilmore Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance said super strength white cider is almost exclusively drunk by children, street drinkers and the homeless because of its sweet taste and low price.

It is possible to buy a 3 litre bottle of super strength cider which contains as much alcohol as 22 shots of vodka for less than £3.50 or $4. Cider which can be up to 9% alcohol has the lowest duty of any alcohol product in the UK at only 5p per unit less than a third of the rate for beers at the same strength. Conservative MP Fiona Bruce wrote in the Huffington Post that the Chancellor needed “to call time on the ability to buy a can of cider for cheaper than a bottle of water.”

Joanne Good told The Mirror: “I felt disappointed that there’s no immediate rise on the cheap cider that is causing so many problems in society. Hopefully this would put children off from drinking it and maybe a life could be saved. If it was up to me, I would like to see ciders like these removed from sale.”

Both Joanne Good, Thames Reach and the Alcohol Health Alliance welcomed the fact that the government would be consulting on introducing a higher rate of duty on cider of 5.5 to 7.5% volume. But John Hamblin CEO of Shekinah Charity said “they have been consulting for years there’s been lots of evidence presented to government about the harms of super strength cider but there just seems to be a reluctance in government to tax people’s leisure. But you and I don’t go round to meals at friend’s houses on Saturday night when someone brings out a bottle of White lightening. But there’s somehow a perception that higher taxes on super strength cider and lager will impact on Joe Public that’s not the case.” Conservative MP Fiona Bruce agreed saying “80% of cider sales would be completely unaffected by such a move.”

Cider has had an artificially low rate of duty since the Second World War to encourage people to plant apple trees. But John Hamblin said “We are not targeting people drinking craft ciders which are made from apples this super strength cider should not even be called cider. It’s an insult to call it cider as its never seen an apple in its life it’s just a concoction of chemicals.”

When Joanne Good’s MP Labour’s Mary Glindon brought up the issue of super strength cider at Prime Minister’s question time Theresa May said the government had already dealt with it. “We have taken action through the duty system so these high-strength ciders and beers are taxed more than equivalent lower strength products.We have also, of course, taken action on the very cheap alcohol by banning sales below duty plus VAT.”

But Alcohol Research UK director of research Dr James Nicholls said “The price per unit for strong ciders is considerably lower than beer at the same strength. There is a lot of evidence it is drink by people with serious alcohol problems.”

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said: the government needed to “move the tax system towards a more sensible scheme where the stronger alcohol is, the more highly it is taxed. By taxing these drinks more strongly, the government will also encourage producers to lower the alcohol content in the drinks.”

 John Hamblin of Shekinah said “people won’t stop drinking because you put the price up we are working with very vulnerable complex people when you increase the price they come off the super strength lager and cider and switch to lower strength say 4%. We not only see a rapid increase in their health but it makes it far easier for us to engage with people.”

The managing director of Aston Manor, the firm that makes Frosty Jack’s, was, perhaps unsurprisingly, very unhappy with the government’s consultation on the issue.

“We are very surprised that in the detail of the Budget Statement there is mention of a plan to consult on a new duty rate ‘to target white cider’,” Gordon Johncox told the Mirror.

“We often point to the inaccurate mythology that exists around white cider and we are disappointed that without evidence this announcement has been made. We will participate fully in the consultation process and provide evidence that dispels the myths that exist”

But MP Fiona Bruce said “opinion polling for the Alcohol Health Alliance indicates 66% of the public support higher taxes on white cider. Perhaps most importantly, Public Health England’s recent report clearly states that tackling affordability would be the best way to reduce alcohol harm. Market leader Frosty Jack’s is consistently ranked among the top brands consumed by underage dependent drinkers. .A quarter of patients in alcohol treatment services drink white ciders, and of these nearly half drink them exclusively.”

She added “such measures have worked in the past: consumption of super-strength beer fell by a quarter in response to the creation of a higher rate duty band in 2011.”

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Where is the £10 billion extra going that the UK government says it’s spending on mental health?

The Prime Minister's Theresa May's speech earlier this week promised a raft of initiatives to help children and adults with mental health problems. It said that teachers in schools would receive mental health

Not on mental health according to leading charities Sane and Mind. They say this money is partly being spent by NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups to plug gaps in their funding for  physical health problems. They say less money is actually feeding through to front line mental health services, dealing with people in crisis and suicidal than before. The Chief Executive of SANE Majorie Wallace says the number of people calling their helplines is higher than at any point during the helplines 20 year history as people cannot access crisis care

The government is keen to stress it’s spending more on mental health. The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt says its spending £10 billion more and 1 billion more than 2 years ago. The £11.7 billion budget for mental health in 2016/17 is double what it was 5 years ago.  But the government has refused to ring fence the money it allocates to mental health which means charities say the money is being diverted.  Two thirds of mental health trusts said recently that their budgets have been cut and 57% of Clinical Commissioning Groups who responded to an Freedom of Information request in 2016 said they planned to reduce the proportion they spent on mental health.

Extra investment has been promised.  “The NHS has committed to investing an additional £1bn in mental health services by the end of 2020-21.” said the Chief Executive of Mind, Paul Farmer. “This is welcome but we need to make sure that it materialises and reaches the front line. The same goes for all the other pots of money announced over the last couple of years,” he said.

Although the government has put money into  non urgent services such as the talking therapy provider IAPT, SANE says that crisis care had been cut. Its Chief Executive Marjorie Wallace SANE said that 4000 adult psychiatric beds and 1500 Child and Adolescent psychiatric beds had closed in the past few years. The Chief Executive of Mind agreed that crisis care had been cut saying  “NHS mental health services have been subjected to significant cuts over recent years, more so than the acute sector, at a time of rising demand. This has left some parts of the system struggling to cope, which of course has a huge impact on patient care.”

Suicide rates of people being treated by Community mental health teams have doubled in recent years which SANE say is a sign that community care is massively overstretched and not working.

Labour say spending on mental health fell by 8% in real terms during the coalition government and a report in January 2015 said spending on Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services had decreased by 6%. The government says this has now been corrected and that has invested £7 million more in CAMHS psychiatric beds in 2015/2016.

Due to the shortage of inpatient CAMHS beds 47% of CAMHS patients are now treated in private hospitals often many miles from their home.  The average cost of a child staying in a private psychiatric hospital is 800 a night. Theresa May has pledged to end out of area placement for CAMHS patients by 2021. But SANE Chief Executive Marjorie Wallace cast doubt on whether this would happen as no significant new funding had been announced.

The Prime Minister’s speech earlier this week promised a raft of initiatives to help children and adults with mental health problems. It said that teachers in schools would receive mental health “first aid training” to spot signs of mental illness and that links between schools and local NHS mental health services would be strengthened. It also promised extra support for people with mental health problems in the workplace and £15 million extra for “crisis cafes” and clinics.  All this was welcomed by SANE and MIND but MIND said “our job is to ensure that the commitment is met. We need to see sustained leadership to make sure services and support improve for all of us with mental health problems. Having been neglected for decades, we need to see it made a priority for decades to come”

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My birthday – will the Corbynistas kill the Conservatives?

birthdaypicture

How do you organise a birthday party when your friends are at opposite ends of the political spectrum and want to kill each other? I have joined the Conservative Party, largely to find a husband but failing that a career. I have just become involved in politics this year and want to become the government’s Minister for Addiction and Mental Health. This comes after crashing out of my career as a BBC reporter because of my cocaine addiction and mental health problems. I have sent my CV to the health ministry with entries such as “Lost in Rehab 2005-2008” and “Only sane inmate at the Prison View Psychiatric Unit 2008-2009.” Strangely they haven’t called me back…

To kick start my apparently moribund political career I therefore want to invite some of my new Conservative friends to my birthday party. Unfortunately one of my best friends, who saved my sanity when I had a nervous breakdown, says that all Conservatives are members of a “toxic neo-fascist political party.”  Obviously he’s a supporter of the hard-left Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn who evokes adulation among his acolytes and despair from his detractors. A Corbynista comedian my friend’s routine includes an explanation as to why God has always voted Labour. He’s so left wing he called his only child Fidel. And she’s a girl. I feel a diatribe from him may hinder my political prospects. And he is not the only Corbynista friend I have in fact all my friends are solid Labour supporters.   I too was a socialist until the stratospheric leap in value of my house in Notting Hill, which I bought for £400,000 in 1999, convinced me I was a Tory.

I have now gone from Conservative to Confused as the new UKIP lite incarnation of the Tory Party has made me and many other pro-European Tories seriously consider defecting to the Liberal Democrats. Indeed I was campaigning for the Liberal Democrats (and looking for a boyfriend) in the Richmond Park by election and was ecstatic when they won.

I have thought of a potential solution of seating the Corbynistas at one end of the table and the Conservatives at the other with large signs at either end. I will sit in the middle physically preventing any contact between the two warring sides. Milling around is dangerous so there will be no chatting after the meal or offers of people to come back to my house. As soon as someone gets up to leave I will escort them swiftly out of the restaurant pausing solely to check they have paid. I am still extremely nervous and have put the Samaritans on speed dial (who were very sympathetic when I phoned them saying I was heartbroken as I’d failed to win a handbag on eBay) for the birthday. Will this be the Last Supper of my Sanity?

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I’m a professional writer again!

I get a commission to do a story for the Sunday Times my first paid journalism work for my entire 12 year recovery

At last I have made some money from writing! This is the first time I have been paid to write for my entire twelve year recovery. It is true that I have only recently started trying to resurrect my freelance journalism career, buoyed by the success of the blog. In the first year of the blog I had more than 30,000 hits. The piece, for the Sunday Times News Review, was about my quest for a husband at the Tory Party Conference. Alas I did not find one but I did find a career. I now want to become an MP so I can get my dream job of being the Minister of Addiction and Mental Health.  Of course I crashed out of my journalism career at the beginning of 2005 because of my rampant cocaine addiction, bulimia and general loopiness and ended up in rehab for 5 years. My C.V. simply refers to this period as “lost in rehab” which is better than “Only sane patient at the Prison View psychiatric unit (in my own head at least)”  All this will now be chalked down to “research” for my future job.

I have created a “news agency” of mental health and addiction news so I can select stories to pitch to the newspapers. I am also very much getting up to speed on all aspects of mental health. And I plan to apply for funding for my idea to help everyone who goes into a doctor’s surgery with a mental health or addiction problem in the New Year. I am also preparing my application to stand as a councillor for the Conservative Party. There is a section on the form where they say “Is there anything about you that could be an embarrassment to the Party?”  Let’s hope they don’t read about my previous 22 hour a day cocaine addiction or experiences such as “Being seduced by a (female) teenage stripper who’d killed someone the week before (and then stole my car).”  I will simply say on the application form “I am open about the fact that I am in (long term) recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.”

Anyway I am taking a bit of a break from the blog and have resolved to only write something when I have something interesting to say. Now the Referendum is over, as is my hobnobbing with the Prime Minister and Mayor of London, that is less often than before. Mr Right has tragically gone from my life making him just another Mr Unavailable.  But this first paycheck for my writing in twelve years could not be missed out. I will keep you posted on what happens in my writing career and non-existent love life in the next few weeks. Actually I have a man staying in my house for the weekend, unfortunately in my lodger’s room not mine. But after no man overnight in my house for many years I am hoping the unaccustomed male energy will shift my luck with men.

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What I found at the Conservative Party Conference. Husbands: none Career: 1?

I attend the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham where the Prime Minister Teresa May the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond were all speaking

If politics is Rock for ugly people then the party conferences are like going on tour. Rumours of sleeping around and extra marital affairs are rife. But in this febrile sexual and political atmosphere is it possible to find love?

I was extremely excited about attending my first ever Tory Party Conference where I was  trying to advance my political career – I am applying to stand as a local Councillor and want to become an MP. But there was another reason for my enthusiasm.  My efforts to find Mr Right through online dating have been as successful as a polar bear trying to find an ice floe in the Sahara.  And when I announced on a recent date with a promising man on lefty website Guardian Soulmates that I was a Tory he immediately ordered the bill.  I need someone intelligent and interested in politics – as since I became one of the London Team leaders for Britain Stronger in Europe during the Referendum campaign I have been mildly obsessed. Before the campaign I had never been involved in politics as no issue had moved me enough.

I had worked out long in advance my agenda (and outfits) for the Conference to fulfil my dual purpose of communicating that I am a serious politician in waiting but also, of course, look hot. I was obviously, going to attend all the main speeches by the Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer. But I’d also selected a host of fringe events where I was likely to meet Mr Right. My Conservatives friends say it has long been received wisdom in the party that joining the Young Conservatives is a way of finding a partner and were optimistic at my chances.

The first event I attended was the Prime Minister’s and Foreign Secretary’s speech on Brexit.  This required a demure outfit and rapt attention to the speakers with no obvious ogling of men. I have to say I was slightly disturbed by the emphasis on controlling immigration. I do not want my cleaner or builder to go home. I then went to the Conservative Group for Europe reception as I am positively allergic to boyfriends who voted for Brexit. In fact my primary chat up line at the Conference was “which side were you on Leave or Remain?” Unfortunately there was no one I fancied at the reception. Next on my tour was the Conservative Friends of Cyprus reception – I have limited interest in Cyprus but a great deal of interest in Greek men. This required a slight change of outfit to show a hint of cleavage. As the Tories are now more egalitarian since the demise of David Cameron I had left all my designer bags at home.  The Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was there prompting frenzied adulation and shouts of “Boris Boris Boris” from the audience a sort of Tory version of One Direction. Apart from obviously me who blames Boris for Brexit.

On the Monday I was going to attend the speech by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.  But at the last minute I decided this was a waste of time as the Chancellor is married and not really my type so I went to a meeting of pro-European Tories instead.

Then came the absolute crack pipe of my political and dating plans “How can Conservatives win the Black and Minority Ethnic votes they need to win in 2020.” The constituency I am interested in standing in as an MP has a high number of ethnic voters but also, as I am half Jamaican, I think my political soulmate would be another ethnic Tory. The Conservatives secured over a million black, Asian and Minority Ethnic votes in the 2015 elections and are closing the gap on Labour.  Alas there was no one I fancied at the meeting but I did get a picture with a black female Conservative MP who said she would help me get elected.

Me and Conservative MP for Maidstone and the Weald Helen Grant
Me with Helen Grant MP

My primary interest in politics is to work with the government in addiction and mental health so I went to an event about supporting families with these problems. I pitched my idea to help everyone who goes into a doctors surgery with an addiction or mental health problem to the chief executives of two of the largest charities in Britain and they were very interested.

On Tuesday I got up at the crack of dawn to attend a Conservative Group for Europe breakfast meeting. I hate getting up early but as openly pro-European Tories have been thin on ground since the Brexit vote I had to set my alarm. Alas most of the men there were not my type so I sat playing with my phone. I was then cheering various  Celebrating the Union speeches in the main hall (ie England Scotland Northern Ireland and Wales) – a union which seems to be remaining intact, despite the Brexit vote, as the Scottish cannot afford to leave.

There was then the photo with my local Conservative Association where there were some rather attractive men. Obviously I gave them my business card saying “we must campaign together.”

My final event of the night was a Conservative Friends of Bangladesh reception which required a slightly sexier outfit.  I have never been to Bangladesh and my knowledge of the country is purely based on what I have seen on the BBC news but I am very interested in getting to know some more Bangladeshi Tories. My local Conservative Association has strong links to the Bangladeshi community so I made sure I appeared in all the photos.  There was a rather attractive mixed race man at the Bangladeshi event who despite the fact that he was 20 years younger than me I managed to engage in conversation. I am sure I am not the only cougar at the Conference.

The final day was the troop rousing speech by the Prime Minister and the leader of the Scottish Conservatives “A Country that works for everyone.”  This was the busiest day of the Conference as many members come on a one day pass and I had therefore held back my most flattering outfit. The Prime Minister was wearing a rather sexy crimson dress and said the biggest challenge of the conference was whether the colourful Boris Johnson would “stay on message for four days.” The conference ended at one o clock but I had not booked my train until early evening in case I bumped into a likely husband and wanted to meet him for lunch. Alas I didn’t find a husband, but after four days of high octane excitement, decided I want to stand as an MP. If I became an MP my past is so colourful that Boris would look bland.

Brexit the future for the UK, my recovery and my hair.

I finish my job as Team leader for Britain Stronger in Europe in Brent as the UK votes to leave the European Union and Brexit goes ahead

Having been in charge of the campaign to keep the UK in the European Union in one of the largest boroughs of London I was devastated by the result. The polls, the bookies, the markets and we ourselves all thought Remain would win. The fact that the Leave camp went back on every major campaign pledge they made within 24 hours of the results just made this defeat more galling.

Almost all liberals, progressives and outward looking people had supported Remain. The fact that we lost the vote said something pretty depressing about my country. Imagine waking up to a Trump victory? There’s been a 57% rise in reported xenophobic and racist attacks since the results of the vote were announced.

The Brexit vote has left the future of the UK very uncertain. The pound hit a 31 year low earlier this week, UK bank stocks have fallen by up to 24% on fears that they will no longer be able to operate across Europe and the FTSE 250 which covers the domestic economy is down almost 10%. Several firms have said they are making plans to move staff out of the UK. The City of London, the world’s largest financial centre and a source of massive tax revenues for the UK government is under threat.

There are strong parallels between supporters of Donald Trump – white mainly non college educated men who feel their jobs are threatened and wages depressed by immigration and global trade – and those who supported Vote Leave here. Although during the campaign Vote Leave carefully paraded their ethnic minority supporters when the results came through in the counting halls you could see most of their supporters were white. Brexit, opposed by every major political party, is a massive f**k you from the white working class vote to the political establishment.

The only good thing that has emerged is that a cross party alliance of politicians, trades unionists and the general public, many of them young, was formed which supported us being in the EU, transcending the tribalism of British politics.

A coalition of conservatives, Labour supporters and Liberal Democrats all supporting Britain remaining in the European Union form the word IN at the Big In in Hyde Park days before the EU referendum on 23rd June 2016

And from my personal point of view, the Referendum campaign – which involved me organising up to 70 events a week and in charge of a team of 100 volunteers – has been incredibly good for my recovery. I was described as a brilliant organiser and great with people by my bosses at Britain Stronger in Europe and discovered I had management skills I never knew I had. Although unsuccessful nationally, my local area voted 60% Remain, as did London as a whole which my boss said I had played a part in.

I have been extremely disorganised for most of my life. The only management job I had while I was working at the BBC was failing to organise a tea round. While I was training to be a reporter I made an incredibly poignant documentary about the bombing of a Jewish Centre in Argentina in 1994. Unfortunately I left it in the back of a cab in Buenos Aires and never saw it again. I then went on a reporting trip to cover the war in Sudan leaving half my equipment on the plane that went back to Kenya. I didn’t notice this omission for two days. When I was doing showbiz reporting in the late 90s I would have a curling tong crisis and would often miss the start of an event. Then I would be so keen to get the right library pictures for a report that it would be ready a week after it was due on air. In Jamaica I scored a massive coup becoming the only foreign journalist allowed into the country’s one women’s prison. But I did no preparation for this expose and when I got into the prison my microphone was as dead as a goat’s testicle floating in a Jamaican stew. The last documentary I did for the BBC collapsed as my mind was turned into confetti by snorting cocaine 22 hours a day.

For the past eleven and a half years I have been in recovery I have supported myself from the income from my rental properties. I have done many building projects, some very large, but have spent most of the time writing about mental health and addiction. I have never worked for anyone.I have spent the eleven and a half years of my recovery attending various rehabs including the Priory and Hope House and St Luke's then the Waterview NHS Centre and building a house in Kensal Green and writing two novels about addiction and mental health as well as my blog bloginhotpants about addiction and mental health

But I have now decided that my organisational skills are wasted on just blogging, writing novels and going to meetings and therapy appointments. I was never involved in politics before the Referendum campaign. But I was passionately concerned about Britain’s relationship with Europe and had to try to stop Brexit. The Referendum campaign, with its constant interaction with voters, has shown me that I love politics and I have now been asked to stand for office by a major political party.

I have been asked by the Conservative Party to stand as a Conservative local councillor in conservative ward of Brent Brondesbury Park. In this photo I am addressing the Labour party activists in Brondesbury Park I am not joking when I say my ultimate aspiration is to become the UK’s Minister for Mental Health – the first government minister to openly admit they snorted cocaine 22 hours a day. I have written a bio and brushed up my CV. But given the political chaos the UK is now in, with leadership contests in both major political parties, I do not know if now is the time I can start working with the government. I will probably end up working for a mental health charity.

The Referendum campaign has also been good for my recovery in other ways. Despite oodles of treatment, meetings and therapy I have struggled to love myself in Recovery. But after the Referendum I was so pleased with my achievements I thought “I do actually love myself.” After existing in a bubble of non drinking 12 Step Fellowship people for most of my recovery, I have now had heavy exposure to people who drink. Every meeting and get together during the campaign took place in a pub or a bar. Everyone was drinking around me and I was not affected at all. When offered a drink I said to most people that I didn’t drink. There were only a few I told about my former alcoholism and cocaine addiction. But now I know I can happily socialise, work and even date people who drink without any problems at all. Politics is a heavy drinking culture but I am confident I can manage this fine. This opens up a wide range of jobs and opportunities to me. The new job whether in politics or a charity will be my “bridge to normal living” which AA talks about. My only stipulation is that I don’t want to have alcohol in my home.

On the romantic front things are a bit less rosy. Despite being 11 and a half years clean I still only seem to be attracted to addicts who have a background in drug dealing or drug smuggling. I have been searching, unsuccessfully, for Mr Right for the past four months. But when I did actually meet him, another volunteer in Britain Stronger in Europe, although I fancied him at first I went off him as he wasn’t dangerous or unavailable. I am going to do an intensive two week work shop with my best friend in recovery trying to work through and free from my attraction to these unavailable men which has plagued me all my life. I am also determined to pursue a friendship with Mr Right. As they say in AA I will fake it to make it, hoping I start fancying him again.

You may notice that my hair looks different in the initial photograph. After decades of covering my hair every time a speck of rain fell from the sky and amassing a collection of 10,000 hats I have now said goodbye to what Jamaicans call “Dry wedder ‘ead” and have let my hair go into its natural Afro state. For those of you unfamiliar with the politics of black hair this is not a small thing. Apart from when I had a nervous breakdown two years ago and couldn’t do my hair the last time I had my natural hair was when I was 16. Water and damp once the enemies of my hair are now my friends creating greater “definition” in my curls. I was very pleased when someone asked me if I was Jamaican the other day.

Despite my romantic problems, (and because of my new hair) the future looks brighter for me than it does for the UK. The options for the UK seem to be leaving the EU and its single market of 500 million people entirely in order to have complete control of immigration, an option favoured by the hardliners of the Leave campaign. It was controlling immigration that was the single issue that won Vote Leave the Referendum.

The other option for the UK, favoured by Remain campaigners, is the Norway option. Norway and Switzerland are not members of the EU but have full access to the single market and accept freedom of movement from other EU states. Freedom of movement is impossible for the UK to accept because of the results of the Referendum. The UK is therefore trying to negotiate a deal involving membership of the single market but controlling freedom of movement. This would be a first in Europe and might prompt other states like Switzerland to demand the same possibly causing the break up of the EU. It is therefore being resisted by other European states.

As the Prime Minister resigned when the results of the Referendum became clear, some of the potential Conservative Party leaders have even said they want a second referendum. And there have been protests throughout the country against the outcome of the vote. Well over 4 million Remain supporters have signed a petition calling for a second referendum on the basis that Vote Leave won the vote based on lies. The claim emblazoned on Vote Leave’s Battle bus that the alleged £350 million pounds a week we send to the European Union (actually £140 million a week) will be spent on the National Health Service was retracted immediately after the vote came in. As part of their election campaign vote leave said that the £350 million pounds they said we gave to the European Union every week which in fact was a lie as it is half of that would be given to the NHS if we left. As soon as they won the vote this promise was retracted as was their pledge to reduce numbers on immigration.Vote Leave now say they may allow anyone who has a job offer to enter the UK which would mean the hordes of cheap Eastern European workers who’ve flooded into the UK could still come in. British firms, claiming they cannot recruit British workers for low paid jobs now recruit directly from Eastern Europe. But this would enrage Leave supporters.

But the leading contender for the Conservative leadership Home Secretary Theresa May who will likely be the next Prime Minister has said there will be no second referendum and no deal to stay in the EU through the back door. I think a second referendum is highly unlikely.

The British Home Secretary Theresa May who has said she wants to be the next Prime Minister of the UK replacing David Cameron and who has become the front runner in the race to become leader of the Conservative Party

The big news of the Conservative leadership race is that Boris Johnson leading leave campaigner and former mayor of London has ruled himself out of the race. This was after he was stabbed in the back by fellow leave campaigner, Justice Secretary Michael Gove, who said he was not fit to lead. Theresa May is now the clear front runner which could mean a female leader in the United States, Germany and the UK, something I would welcome.

Whoever takes over will have to find a deal that allows control of freedom of movement while trying to retain access to the single market. Otherwise our economy is f*****d.

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I drop the search for Mr Right as Mr Dangerous and Unavailable wants to move in with me

after over 3 months desperately looking for Mr Right on dating websites Guardian Soulmates, Elite Singles and the Inner Circle I actually meet Mr Right through my Britain Stronger In Europe activities but realise I am actually looking for Mr Dangerous or Mr Unavailable

Day 99. After completing all blogging activities go to Shagger and Lurve Addicts Anonymous meeting in Hampstead. Of course as the meeting is an hour and a half long, way beyond my concentration span, I arrive at the end of the meeting. Spend the tail end of the meeting scoping out the crowd to see if there is anyone I fancy. There is a Greek positively Arabic looking man but he has previously been very hostile. However at a group dinner after the meeting his attitude to me seems to have improved and he asks for my phone number. Not missing a trick I ask him round to my house the following day.

Day 100. Frantically blogging and promoting on Facebook my post about meeting the Prime Minister David Cameron. Then do an hour campaigning for Britain Stronger in Europe in only-safe-in-daylight Harlesden with Labour councillor. Mr Right, perfect parent to frozen embroyos comes to my house to pick up some leaflets but I realise I don’t fancy him any more. This is annoying as, although he is 20 years younger than me, I think he would make a very caring boyfriend. Gorgeous Greek/Arabic guy texts me to say he is coming round. Wildly excited I tidy up the house. He spends 3 hours at my house and says he wants to move in with me. Just as a lodger unfortunately. But because he is an addict and has previously been hostile and unavailable I decide he is the perfect boyfriend. As he is a Marxist and I am a Tory this may not work.  We discuss in depth my plans to become the Minister for Mental Health.

Day 102. Another big Britain Stronger in Europe event with the Prime Minster, the leader of the Liberal Democrats and a senior Labour Party figure. Have met Prime Minister so many times this week it is starting to get very boring. As the event will be shown live on Television I try to position myself in prime view of the cameras. But unfortunately judge this wrong and only my foot is broadcast.

Myself Caroline Turriff and the Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett at a rally for Britain Stronger in Europe involving the Prime Minister David Cameron the Leader of the Liberal Democrats Tim Farron and senior Labour figure Harriet Harman

Get picture with Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party, who is very nice. Then spend rest of day practising speech to give to crucial meeting of Labour Councillors in rough but improving Stonebridge.

Day 103. More campaigning for Britain Stronger in Europe as I visit a school in Harlesden to hand out leaflets about the referendum. I notice that many of the ethnic minority residents of my local area are not sure they are going to vote. This saddens me as it means they will be disenfranchised from this decision.   Just before women’s Vodka for Breakfast Anonymous meeting very excitingly get a text from Greek Arabic looking guy inquiring about the theatre trip I have suggested. Am so wild with excitement that I feel like I’ve done 4 grammes of coke and, although I try to stay off my phone during the meeting, have to send him a text. Share about my attraction to Mr Dangerous and Mr Unavailable and resolve will try to stay away from him.

Day 104. Frantic day preparing my speech on the benefits of the European Union to what is supposed to be a massive gathering of Labour councillors in Stonebridge, Harlesden. Sarah my close friend from Divorced from My Drug Dealer Anonymous coaches public speakers for a living and gives me various presentation tips.   When I turn up only 4 people are there revealing the apathy of the Labour Party about the Referendum.

I give a speech to the Stonebridge branch of the Labour Party including Councillor Bobby Thomas and Councillor Ernest Ezeajughi giving the facts about the EU referendum

The speech and Q and A session afterwards goes very well, Sarah says I am a natural presenter and should be on TV. We formulate a plan to try to make the Remain message more interesting to Labour voters. If Labour voters don’t turn out we could lose this Referendum, hence David Cameron’s cosying up to them.

Day 105.   I share with my therapist that I am feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work and responsibility I have taken on for Britain Stronger in Europe which has displaced the blog as my new obsession. We decide I will refrain from answering emails at midnight. Still, as I have not had a job apart from doing building projects for my entire 11 year recovery, we both agree that the campaign is fantastic training for me to get a job in politics. Throughout my 13 years at the BBC I have never managed anyone. As I was always up to an hour late I was only ever asked to manage a tea round. Now I am organising a team of a hundred voluteers covering 30 events a week with supreme efficiency and flair. This requires quite a lot of psychology which I’m good at having spent decades in therapy. There is absolutely no sign that I have any mental health problems. I also love interacting with voters on the door step and trying to persuade them with my arguments. I could actually be a Member of Parliament, the first MP who opens admits to having snorted cocaine 22 hours a day!

Day 106.  More campaigning for BSE as we go to a school in Wembley North London. Most of the parents are ethnic minorities and do not look like they are going to vote or know much about the referendum. I fear that many ethnic minorities are going to be disenfranchised from this referendum. Avoid going to Shagger and Lurve Addicts Anonymous meeting in Hampstead where Mr Dangerous/Unavailable is going to be. Go to women’s Divorced from my drug dealer anonymous meeting, genuinely seeking recovery. But, as receive a barrage of texts emails and phone calls from people at BSE, cannot focus on the meeting.

Day 107. Wild excitement as drag myself out of bed pretty shattered to go to a Conservatives In leafleting event in South London. Not only is a government minister, Mark Holdsworth there, the head of the Conservatives In campaign but also the unpopular but constantly on TV business secretary Sajid Javid.

Picture of Caroline Turriff with government ministers Mark Holdsworth and business secretary Sajid Javid

Is fantastic opportunity to show off highly effective street campaigning style to Tories in government as part of my mission to secure a job as the Minister of Mental Health. My first job, in charge of Mental Health, will be to tackle the massive disparity in waiting times across the country. Is such good opportunity for hobnobbing I ditch a Labour event in North London that I was due to go to. Minister Mark Holdsworth invites me to go on battle bus with Prime Minister David Cameron the following Monday. In such close proximity to Prime Minister I must be able to get a selfie and more rubbing shoulders with those in power will help my political ambitions. Spend afternoon leafleting in once dodgy as fuck but now improving Harlesden with Labour party councillors. But having had  a whiff of power from Tory party cabinet ministers in the morning this is a bit of an anti-climax.

Day 108. Meet Mr Right as part of campaigning activities in the morning which unfortunately are stopped by torrential rain. But he is looking rather white and as White Man Apocalypse in on me in full force categorically do not fancy him. Have a coffee with him and stare at his beautiful face and wonder why I don’t fancy him. Because he was showing signs of unavailability – not answering my texts the previous night as he was out on a date – I thought perhaps I would. Rush to get nails done in preparation for meeting with the Prime Minister. I thought he was very hot – and I’m sure the feeling will be mutual. Alas while out campaigning that night get message from Conservatives In that there is no space on the bus for me. Will have to show off my nails to 75 year old married man I am campaigning with.

Day 109. Campaigning from 7.30 in the morning till 9.30 at night and finish the day feeling exhausted. But, apart from my commitment to the cause and wishing to avoid predictions of a recession and a million job losses if we leave, my obtaining a job as Minister for Mental Health depends on our side winning the Referendum. My Britain Stronger in Europe activities will be music to the ears of  pro-European ministers. But if David Cameron has to resign and Leave campaigner Boris Johnson becomes Prime Minister there will be a purge of pro-Europeans from government and my Stronger In activities will be an anathema.

Day 110. Wake up so exhausted cannot go to my Step Aerobics class and realise I will have to tone down the campaigning. Have decided will only do a few hours today and will take night off and go to my women’s Vodka for Breakfast Anonymous meeting. See Mr Right again but he is looking very white. Fabulously my sponsor who has left London is at the meeting and we have a great catch up. Love this meeting and the women at it!

Day 111. More pressure from Stronger In as they say we have to deliver our polling day plans to them in two days time. As only about 5 people have confirmed they are going to be available on polling day we are not going to be able to do very much. Resolve that I will spend the whole evening phoning people to get them signed up for polling day. The opinion polls are looking bad – the people who want to leave Europe are ahead – and we have to put in every ounce of effort if we are to avoid being dragged out of the European Union. The wildly ambitious plans Stronger In had for polling day are simply not got to fly unless they supply us with more volunteers. As I have noticed that many of the ethnic minorities in Brent particularly muslim women look like they are not going to vote I hatch an idea to get the mayor of London, first Muslim mayor of any European capital, to my local area to address ethnic minority voters. This will generate TV coverage and maybe I will be interviewed. As I am trying to emphasise my minority credentials in order to get job in Tory party have decided I will change my hair extensions to semi afro and let my natural hair be in its natural semi Afro state.

Day 112.  Shocking news that young female Labour MP, Jo Cox, mother of two young children has been shot and stabbed to death in her constituency. Jo Cox was a prominent campaigner for us to remain in the European Union and the person who killed her reportedly shouted “Put Britain first” before he shot her. Britain Stronger in Europe suspend all our campaigning activities fearing for our safety. As members of the public have free access to MPs and councillors in the UK this raises serious questions about the safety of all public figures. After such a lot of interaction with voters during the Referendum campaign I now want to be an MP myself. It is a testament to my recovery from decades of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that this brutal killing does not put me off.

Day 113. Frantic planning for polling day in the referendum. While internal argument rages as to whether I do or don’t go to the Hampstead meeting of Shagger and Lurve Addicts Anonymous to see Mr Dangerous. Although I thought I’d weaned myself off men similar to the ex-armed robber Mr Dangerous, obviously, was a drug dealer. Of course the reason I do not fancy Mr Right is that he has no criminal convictions at all. After some reflection decide will probably go to the meeting. This is feeding the addiction but I do need a man I actually fancy in place to parent my frozen embroyos. The only drawback to this is that they may be born with little horns.

Feel incredibly wired as drive to the meeting, not missing the irony that I am going to a recovery meeting in order to fix my addiction. But God (who I now sort of believe in again) had other plans. Mr Dangerous was not at the meeting. Still, spotted an unfeasibly young but very attractive posh ethnic man who I managed to manoeuvre to sit next to at dinner afterwards. I always manage to sort these logistical issues out. But he was even more unavailable than Mr Dangerous. Go to the 50th Birthday party of a fellow campaigner in Britain Stronger in Europe where the man I immediately fancy is wearing a wedding ring. I guess I better get used to being on my own.

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Next week: Does Britain vote to leave or stay in the European Union?