Sunday, 19 June 2016

Remain


In the EU referendum next week I don’t think many people will surprised that I am voting in. I have been compelled by many of the positive reasons for staying in the EU; economic, environmental and social. From social media I have seen that many (not all) people who are voting out are doing so on an emotional basis rather than a rational basis. They have a feeling of dissatisfaction with the EU compelling them to vote out rather than a list of positive benefits that will come from leaving the EU. I think this is where the In campaign have been weak, they have provided lists of reasons why people should vote in trying to convince people on a rational rather than an emotional basis.

For me, the EU originally existed to stop European wars. In this it has been successful. People forget that war across Europe were the norm before 1945. However, given the social progression of humanity in Europe, this purpose seems less vital today, as the chance of a pan-European war seems significantly less likely. For me, the EU‘s purpose has evolved so we as a group of countries can face the challenges the world faces together. By working together on issues (such as economics, trade, the environment, energy, technology and science and all of the other things I have not listed) we can find a common solution from a position of strength as a larger group, rather than a disparate group of countries trying to face these problems alone.

I want to be clear, I am not saying all of these things will definitely be lost if we leave the EU. I am saying we will lose a huge chunk our influence in Europe to help ensure these changes happen in a way that benefits us. Decisions will be made, many that we will still have to abide by, that we will have no say in; unlike now where our MEP’s represent us (admittedly some better than others). However, this is not the thing that worries me. For me, our exiting a forum in which we can work with our neighbours on the big problems facing the world would be a much bigger loss.

I was in Europe with work the other week in a meeting with people from a number of different countries. Amongst this group of people was a person from Norway with a sense of humour so dry it would not have been out of place in a desert, a Czech person proud of their countries beer and a Swiss person not eating cakes as they were on a diet. As a group we had many conversations about the countries where we lived, our families and our jobs. Language differences aside, all of these people were no different to British people I have met.

Whenever I have a problem I talk to my friends and family about how to resolve it. Sometimes I need help and it is rare that I have to ask as help is usually offered. From what I have seen, people in other European countries have the same hopes for themselves and their families and the same problems that we do. The challenges currently facing the world as a whole are not going to get any less. For me, staying in the EU and working with our European neighbours gives us the opportunity to face these problems and change how the world works for the better. What could possibly be better than facing these problems with friends? The alternative is sitting moaning on the sidelines as the world passes us by, and let’s face it, no one likes listening to a moaner.

One last thing, a letter reportedly from a Dutch newspaper someone shared on Twitter:
 

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Vote Leave - A Critique

I have been searching for a decent article or argument with a compelling reason to exit the EU. After seeing a number of Vote Leave videos and articles, I have been struck by the poor quality of arguments put forward by the pro-exit campaigners. Looking at their key arguments, most seem to be inaccurate or misleading. Therefore, I decided to examine these arguments and below is my analysis of them.

Argument one: Being in the EU means we cannot negotiate any trade deals on our own, we are stuck with whatever deals unelected EU commissioners think is best: This claim is false. Inside the EU British MEPs are involved in decisions on trade deals. From a Pro-EU perspective, being part of a larger union means we are in a much stronger position to negotiate trade deals with other countries. This is due to us being part of a larger, therefore more powerful, group.

A version of the above argument aimed at Labour supporters like me is that being in the EU means we will be stuck with TTIP. This is used as an argument against the left as American companies will be able to bid on contracts to provide health care services in the UK – privatisation of the NHS being something that most left leaning thinkers disagree with. I wrote to my MEP’s and asked them to vote against TTIP for this very reason, I also have been tracking which MEP’s are for or against TTIP. Conservative MEP’s seem to overwhelmingly be in favour of TTIP which means that even if we leave the EU, it is likely a Conservative government in the future will sign us up to a similar trade deal. The difference is we will not be making this deal from a position of enhanced strength within the EU, we will do so on our own. To me this means that we are likely to end up with the same or a worse trade deal as TTIP regardless of whether we stay in the EU.

Argument two: The majority of our laws come from the EU. This claim has been notoriously difficult to fact-check but here is the best one I have found, (https://fullfact.org/europe/two-thirds-uk-law-made-eu/). Regardless of whether this is true, I understand peoples discomfort with the idea of politicians from other countries being involved in writing our laws. However, from what I have been able to see, many of these laws seem to be standards and regulations, and one of the reasons standards are merged across the EU is to make trade easier for us all. One set of standards means any UK manufacturing company can trade across the whole EU and not have to produce products to a whole range of standards depending on which country they want to supply to. This also means that companies wanting to trade with the EU need to produce products to a minimum standard. I have yet to find an example of a European law I am unhappy with, but I have not looked in any great detail so stand to be corrected on this.

Argument three: Being out the EU will save us £18 billion a year and mean we can stop immigration from the EU. I believe both of these are false claims, the first is definitely misleading at best thanks to negotiations on the EU by Thatcher (as a Labour man, crediting her with anything is a little painful!!!). From Factcheck I have the figure the UK paid into the EU last year: “In 2015 the UK government paid £13 billion to the EU budget, and EU spending on the UK was £4.5 billion. So the UK’s ‘net contribution’ was estimated at about £8.5 billion.

Each year the UK gets an instant discount on its contributions to the EU—the ‘rebate’—worth almost £5 billion last year. Without it the UK would have been liable for £18 billion in contributions.


Most commentators agree that the UK will want to remain a part of the single market, we do over 40% of our trade with EU countries tariff free as a result of being in the single market. In order to remain in the single market (if we exit the EU) we will have to pay in like other countries (ie Norway and Switzerland) so how much we may actually save is unclear. From the following article, the suggestion is that we would pay 94% of current costs, and we would have zero influence on the decisions made: (http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/mar/16/eu-exit-norway-option-costs-thinktank). True, 6% is not an insignificant amount of money, but that loss of influence is not insignificant either.

Immigration looked at in purely economic terms is a positive thing, however, many outers point to the strain on internal resources. I do not intend to have that specific argument here as this is covered elsewhere like here: (https://www.cer.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/attachments/pdf/2013/pb_imm_uk_27sept13-7892.pdf - NOTE I have not read this in detail so this is not an endorsement, just pointing to research being available). Being part of the single market would mean having to sign up to the free travel across the EU as the following shows, “the EU has repeatedly made it clear that free movement of people is the price that must be paid for access to the single market.” (http://openeurope.org.uk/intelligence/immigration-and-justice/norway-and-switzerland/)

Michael Gove has argued that we could exist out of the single market, and leaving would not automatically mean tariffs would be added to trade. This is true, however, tariffs could be added to trade. We cannot say for certain either way, and uncertainty is bad for business.

Final Thoughts: We do not have unelected Bureaucrats making decisions on our behalf. Our MEP’s are thoroughly involved in the decision making process – hence why I wrote to my MEP’s about the TTIP deal. Unfortunately people in the UK are generally apathetic to the EU and voter turnouts are low. This means that we get lumbered with UKIP MEP’s who do a shocking job (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/ukip-meps-attend-the-fewest-european-parliament-votes-of-any-party-in-the-eus-28-countries-10316962.html). Nigel Farage was on the Fisheries panel that we got such a poor deal from as he didn’t even turn up to most of the meetings (http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/media/press-releases/farage%E2%80%99s-voting-record-fishing-%E2%80%98makes-mockery%E2%80%99-new-election-poster-20150408). Just as with local politics, we need people in position who are willing and able to do the job.

A claim levied at the In campaign is that those wanting us to remain in the EU are using uncertainty and doubt to spread fear. This is the one true claim that the Out campaign have made, but that is because there is uncertainty and doubt. The outers cannot tell us what being out of the EU will look like as they don’t know. The IMF, Bank of England, The US President, Frontier Economics and thousands of Independent Economists have all said that being in the EU makes us financially better off and leaving will make us worse off. I am yet to see a single independent study that has given any positive spin to the UK being out of the EU. The harsh truth is that uncertainty is bad for business which will have a negative impact on us all. The only question is how bad that impact will be and who will feel the most pain.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Why David Cameron’s “Bunch of Migrants” Comment IS Offensive, But Why His Supporters Won’t Care

I’ve seen a mixed response to this. However a lot of people seem to think this is not offensive. I was thinking about a good way of explaining why it is, and why more people should be offended by it. Having read some Facebook comments, I think I can also explain why people are not offended and why many of his supporters will not be, even if they were to read this. The two comments below sum up what many people seem to think.
 








I agree that the word migrants by itself is not offensive, but then most words are not offensive in isolation, it is all about the context in which they are used. For example; the words ‘dog, lawn and pile’ by themselves are not offensive, but then you link them together with ‘David Cameron is a person with less compassion than a pile of something my dog left on the lawn.’ and the sentence becomes an insult and offensive were it to be said to his face.
 
The reason why many are offended by the use of the word is because it is dehumanising. If we take a look at this next comment, I think it becomes more obvious why this is so. This person defends the use of the term as it can be applied to “bananas”. So these people are not brothers, sisters or children with real complex problems or worries, they are not human at all. Merely a bunch of something just like a bunch of fruit.






The reason why many are not offended is that, to them, migrants are not people at all. To many, they are considered to be aggressive animals that just want to commit crimes and get free stuff from us. The fact that this is not going to be true in 99% of cases, and that these people have escaped horrendous conditions at home looking for a better life at any cost, simply does not occur to these people. The comments below were typical of responses I have seen:




















The commenters above have stopped thinking of these people as people, and thinking of them as somehow less. Never considering an idea beyond greed as to why they are aiming for England; maybe they speak English but not French, German, Spanish or Italian. So when David Cameron uses dehumanising language, it is offensive. At best it shows a lack of understanding, at worst it reveals an absence of compassion on sociopathic levels.

One last thing, if you weren’t convinced by my argument, you have one person on your side anyway…

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Why the recent hypocrisy from the Lib Dems is so appalling the thick stench of bile and excrement from it makes me want to vomit through my eyes

Okay, so a pretty provocative title. This is in relation to the Lib Dems response to Labour’s vote on the recent welfare bill. I need to make clear that I am not saying the Lib Dems are wrong to oppose the Government or that I approve of Labour’s abstention of the bill because I don’t. Also, I am not blaming all Lib Dems politicians or their supporters. I follow a few good ones on Twitter and have Liberal Democrat supporting friends whose opinions I value. However, after being a Borough Councillor for four years and seeing the devastation to charities and local services that the Lib Dems helped to bring about, I cannot feel anything apart from exasperation and to some extent outright fury with the rank hypocrisy exhibited by their new leader, some MP’s and some members and supporters of their party. Any lingering sympathy for the absolutely spanking their party received at the recent elections has been blown away by the tone of smug condescension in Tim Farron’s open letter to Harriet Harman.


In Tim’s open letter, he says that “The Conservative Government last night brought forward plans for £12bn of cuts to welfare that will directly impact millions of people across the country including the poorest families in our constituencies.

The Conservatives do not need to make these cuts, especially at the same time as giving tax breaks to millionaires.”. I completely agree with this sentiment, however I also believe the cut to the Bankers Bonus and the reduction in the top rate of tax whilst introducing the bedroom tax, increasing VAT and abolishing the education maintenance allowance, all brought about whilst the Lib Dems were in coalition, were equally abhorrent plans.


Tim Farron goes on to say that The people who will be hit by these changes need someone to give them a voice in Parliament and fight their corner, and last night Labour failed to stand up for them.“. This is pretty hard to argue with. Whilst Labour fought against the coalition cuts that impacted the poorest members of society alone for five years and have provided this voice consistently for at least the course of my lifetime, I agree that they have got this one wrong. Coming from the Lib Dems who consistently failed to fight their corner in government is a tad rich though. There is a fantastic speech from Glenda Jackson on the subject of benefits wrongly being taken away from people. Something that happened whilst the Lib Dems were in coalition and something they failed to address.

 
Tim then says that Labour claim to be a party who believes in social justice. If that is true, then they must join with the Liberal Democrats in voting against these cruel and excessive cuts.

We are consistent in our opposition. In Government we blocked these measures and in opposition we are voting against them.“. So I think Tim is trying to claim that they are fighting for social justice which Labour have failed to do and that they did this in government. I can only assume that his support for the reduction in funding for charities and Sure Start Centre’s, many of which closed whilst the Lib Dems were in coalition, are cuts he does not deem “cruel and excessive”. Also, I can only conclude that making disabled people and parents who share custody of a child financially worse off is something Tim Farron believes is helping social justice.
 

To finish Tim saysTo give in to the narrative that the answer to our country’s needs is to pit the poorest in the country against one another is shameful. I agree that attacking the poorest members of society is shameful. That the Lib Dems only rarely criticised their coalition partners for this over the last five years is a fact that renders their criticism of Labour somewhat redundant.


To be lectured on supporting poor people by a party that had a hand in a staggering rise in food-banks in this country is something beyond distasteful. When the Lib Dems were ignoring all of the opportunities to amend or throw out the Bedroom tax whilst in government, Labour were fighting to make these people’s voices heard. People who were having their benefits cut for having a “spare room” to store equipment for their disability, or the child they shared custody of or even the husband who had become a carer for his wife and needed to sleep in a separate room.
 

Politically, I understand the Lib Dems need to distance themselves from the Tories (that they were punished so badly by the electorate for supporting in government). Also, I understand their desire to distinguish themselves from the Labour party as a different party. However, after being in government and propping up the Tories, their attempt to position themselves as somehow supportive of people who rely on welfare, without apology for their actions in government, is immensely hypocritical. It would be laughable; were not the results of their time in coalition so devastating for many of these people they are now claiming to represent.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Election 2015


I’ve been writing this blog in pieces since the election. Structuring this has been extremely difficult because there are so many strands. The following is a mishmash of thoughts that I have tried in vain to give an effective structure to.

The Numbers:

The following graphs represent the votes in the last election and the regional variation. Overall the Conservatives gained 608k votes, Labour gained 738k votes and the Lib Dems lost 4,421k votes. The hit that Labour took in Scotland losing 328k votes and all but one of their seats made this election result more devastating than it otherwise would have been. The Conservatives gaining so many votes was, for me, the real surprise of the election.






Lib Dems:

The collapse of the Lib Dem vote has changed politics in this country, perhaps forever. This collapse made a significant change to the political landscape in Scotland where I believe the vote transferred to the SNP giving the SNP a platform to control the Scottish Parliament. This control enabled the SNP to improve their popularity through the referendum. This gave the Tories a key campaigning piece that worked better than they could have hoped. In the UK, the votes split off a number of ways enabling Tories and Labour to take many of their seats. This collapse is what gave the Tories their majority in parliament.
Many comments I have read have argued the collapse of the Lib Dem vote is due to them being blamed for the Coalition’s less popular policies. This is not what I encountered talking to their previous supporters on the door. From all of the people I have spoken to, it seems that the Lib Dems failed to appreciate how much they relied on three key issues: tactical voting in Tory seats, how many people who had voted for them were doing so as a protest against Labour and the Tories and finally that their supporters were not at all supportive of Tory policies. As soon as they joined with the Tories in government, the tactical voters and protest voters stopped voting for them and many of their voters were dismayed by what they supported in government leaving them significantly short in votes.

The Popular View:

There are many popular theories as to why Labour failed to increase their vote sufficiently. I have picked out three that I was not convinced were overwhelming but which will have had an influence.

“You picked the wrong Milliband.”
This is something many people have said to me. However, this has overwhelming been from lifelong Tories. I only met a couple of Labour voter on the doorstep who were influenced by this and one unsure voter who said they could not warm to Ed. Whilst this undoubtedly had an impact I do not believe this was the overwhelming factor the media wanted it to be.

“Labour were too left/right wing.”
Not once did I speak to a voter on the doorstep who felt that Labour were too left wing. I did meet a few people that had stopped voting Labour under Blair as they felt he was too right wing who had not come back. However, I think the old definitions of left and right wing are no longer things that the majority of people understand.

The Media

The Tory papers are losing some of their influence, however, they are still the Tories Ace card and it did have an influence. The papers headlines are often read out on the news and radio in the morning. It means that no matter how much money Labour spend on campaigning, they will always have an uphill battle fighting this. That is why the Tories are so desperate to get rid of the BBC. Whilst the BBC has a lot of Tory supporters in key positions, they do make an effort at neutrality that no other media source does.

The Party Campaigns

The Tory Campaign

I heard Neil Kinnock speak several months ago. He said something about the Tories; “Poor at governing, superb at campaigning”. The Tories messages were defined and they concentrated on three things; The Economy, SNP and Leadership. From a marketing point of view the power of three is something that is talked about. This messaging was clear and it was effective.

Beware the SNP! Beware the economy! Beware jobs! Beware overspending! Beware higher taxes! Be afraid, be very, very afraid. The Tories do negative campaigning better than anyone. People say they hate negative campaigning, but this has worked for the Tories for the last fifty years. There is no doubt that it was effective. On the day at the polling station undecided voters were swayed by this. Labour only had one negative line, the NHS.

The Tories threw money at their Social Media campaign. I do not know if it was effective or not. No-one I spoke to said they were convinced by it. However, it is clear that this enabled them to target demographics in a way Labour simply do not have the money to.

The Labour Campaign

Labour’s campaign had only one message, the NHS. The NHS message was effective, but to be electable, Labour needed more. All of the other Labour policies came out far too late and were not clear. If I as a Labour supporter could not define them, what chance would an undecided voter stand. Labour completely failed to distinguish a separate vision to the Conservatives on public spending, education, business and the economy. They were against zero hours contracts, but failed to show how they would make people’s lives better and businesses prosper.

Leaflets and more leaflets! The Labour campaign spammed voters. It was ridiculous the amount that went out. Many people just lobbed them all straight in the bin. I feel that leafletting is only an effective method of campaigning when sending a few pieces with clear messages. Sometimes two pieces were delivered on a single day which was overkill.

Canvassing and more canvassing! Labour’s volunteers spent a huge amount of time over the last four years asking people how they were going to vote. This time could have been better spent talking to undecided voters about Labour policies. Labour’s sole advantage is the feet on the ground and they did not use them as well as they could have.

There was one piece of effective social media campaigning from Labour, it was the NHS birth number. This got people talking and was positive. It reminded people that Labour created the NHS and that it is important to us all. The rest of the campaigning on Social Media, asking people to share/retweet statuses just made people alienate their friends. In my view the Tories were guilty of exactly the same thing. I just ended up blocking Tory friends on social media who shared their campaigning material, and I think Tory supporters will have done the same. The sole difference was that the Tories had money to spend targeting people with adverts to bypass the need for relying on individuals sharing statuses.

The Deciding Factors?

The following two points are what I consider to be the deciding factors in the election. As I have said, I believe the above points were influencers, but these two following issues were the reason Labour failed to gain more votes. I have heard these issues discussed often in the last couple of weeks and as a Labour support, my hope and expectation is that regardless of which candidate becomes the next Labour leader, these issues will not be influencers in five year’s time.

The Big Lie

In the 12 months following the last election the Tories, and their friends in the media, pinned the blame for the global financial crash on the Labour Party and overspending. It genuinely astounds me that this was successful. Anyone who knows their history is aware that Margaret Thatcher deregulated the banks and it is this deregulation that left the UK so vulnerable to the financial crash. Yes Labour did not reverse this deregulation, but given the UK’s reliance on these institutions it would have been economic suicide to do so. Also, if overspending was the cause, then it is worth noting that until 2008, Labour spent a lower amount (as a % vs GDP) than the preceding Tory governments and George Osbourne had publically promised to match Labour’s spending plans.
The Labour Party leadership completely failed to deal with this lie. It had five years to do so yet inexplicably they avoided the argument. Ed Balls losing his seat was an almost symbolic representation of this failure.

Europe and UKIP

More previous Labour voters voted UKIP than previous Tory voters. I would put this at about 2 or 3 to 1. Before the election I thought Labour should have offered voters a referendum on Europe. I only told one person of this thinking it was controversial, and that no one else would agree with me. It is interesting that since the election a number of Labour MP’s have said this publically. Offering the referendum would have neutralised the UKIP vote but also enabled Labour to talk positively about its record on immigration which has been attacked.

To be clear, I do not think the UK should leave Europe, but the issue needs to be taken seriously. There are voters who are concerned that infrastructure and jobs are not going to be there for their children due to immigration. These people are not racists and bigots, simply ignorant of the facts about immigration. This ignorance is mainly caused by the media, but has been perpetuated by UKIP. Right wing papers look for stories to make people angry about immigrants misusing the benefits system in this country. An honest debate is needed to educate the public on the true costs and values of immigration so an informed decision can be made and a referendum is a good way to do this.

Friday, 5 June 2015

My Carphone Warehouse Customer Service Experience

I decided to get a new phone contract through the Carphone Warehouse rather than direct with my current provider (EE). The pricing was better and the website seemed easy to use. When my new phone and case arrived early I was impressed. However, my sim did not fit into the new phone. I rang the Customer Service team and was advised I should have received a new sim with the new phone. However, if I wanted, I could go to a Carphone Warehouse store and get a new sim. As there was a store close by, and it seemed the quickest option, I went into the Loughborough store. After a twenty minute wait I spoke to a member of staff who explained that this was not possible, as EE would only accept sims from their own stores, although I could get a new sim from an EE store. The other alternative was to trim my current sim so it would fit; which we did and that worked.


A little over a month later, my case broke. This was a free item with the new contract. I had not dropped it, the rubber seam along the side split away from the main case. I filled in an online complaint form and got a call from the Customer Service team who told me if I visited a store they would assess if I had dropped it or caused the damage myself and if the case was faulty it would be replaced. I visited the Loughborough store and spoke to a staff member who told me that as it was over 28 days old under no circumstances would they replace it. He said it was “wear and tear” and that “everything has a shelf-life”. When I asked him what he thought of a case only lasting over a month he said “I’d buy another one” and smiled at me. As I work in Customer Services myself I pointed out to him the deficiencies of his general poor attitude in speaking to me and of the fact that I had been told one thing on the phone and another in the store. I did not shout or swear but I was clearly unhappy. Getting no better response I walked out telling another couple being sold something not to buy from them as if it went wrong they would not get a replacement or refund.


I think had I received an ounce of empathy from the staff member I would not have been so angry. I received only smug condescension from someone who clearly did not have any interest in helping me. I appreciate this is a personal rather than a quantifiable observation, but this is an important element in how you deal with people in any customer facing role.


After I calmed down, I rang back the Customer Service team and explained what had happened. The phone contact was extremely calm and professional and told me the staff member should have called them. She advised me to go back into a store and get them to call the Customer Service team and added notes to my account explaining that when I next visited a store, the staff should check the case and if a defective product they should replace it in store. Feeling no confidence in the Loughborough staff, I drove over to the Coalville store. I spent about 30 minutes in that store with very friendly staff who confirmed the case had not been damaged by me, but who were unsure what they were supposed to do. They called the Customer Service phone number and as they did not have a phone case in store, they sent me over to the Thurmaston store. I did try to ask for the case to be sent to me but this did not seem to be an option.


I drove to the Thurmaston store and after another 30 minutes in store whilst the staff again rang the Customer Service phone number and had trouble with their systems which eventually they managed to resolve. I left the store with a new phone case and finally drove home.


Many reading this will wonder why I went to so much effort (37 miles of driving) to get this resolved especially for a free phone case! I have to be honest, the reason I am writing this is not just to vent my frustration at how difficult the Carphone Warehouse are to do business with or with my frustration about the time and petrol-cost I had to put into getting a replacement for a £20-30 phone case. As I wrote earlier, I work in Customer Services myself so I understand how it is supposed to work. There were some severe deficiencies in the Customer Service processes and practices and if I am going to risk getting a new phone contract with them, which is likely given that they helped me save money, I want them to improve. Often from the inside problems and failures are not obvious to the business and British people do not take the time to complain and explain our frustration, we just do not use them again.
Below is the list of issues I believe they need to resolve if they want to provide good Customer Service.

·         There was a clear tension between the staff in store and the staff on the Customer Service phone number, this was obvious in all three stores I went into. This tension seemed to be caused by the different sets guidelines in place.

·         The skills and knowledge of all staff members in all three stores was variable, (as nice as all, apart from the Loughborough store, were).

·         The outcomes and knowledge of the people I spoke to on the phone were also variable, no notes were left after my first call and email.

·         No one in store seemed to have any authority to do anything meaningful to help me.

·         The whole process was difficult and was centred around sticking to inconsistent Carphone warehouse processes, not what was easiest for the customer.

#####   Update from 08/06/15.   #####

I received the following email on Sunday after reporting this to the complaints team:

"I'm very sorry and concerned to hear of the issues you have mentioned in your email regarding your recent visit to the Carphone Warehous stores. Please accept my sincerest apologies for any inconvenience that may have been caused as a result of this. 
At Carphone Warehouse we take all feedback seriously, both positive and negative, which allows us to continually improve the level of service we offer. We also set a very high standard of customer services which sets us apart from our competition, however, regrettably on this occasion these high standards weren’t met.                                                 
A copy of your complaint has been forwarded to the Store Regional Managers of each branch. The Manager will bring your complaint and comments to the attention of their team. This will hopefully bring to light any conduct, behavioural or procedural issues so that they can be addressed accordingly. The outcome will enable the Manager to put into place measures they believe are appropriate to avoid a repeat of the issues you faced.
I would also like to provide you with a goodwill gesture, totalling £20.00 to cover your time and fuel spent.
I can arrange for the total credit amount to be provided to you via a card refund, this would result in you receiving the credit within 3- 5 days or we can send out a cheque in the post which you would receive within 28 days.
Please let me know if you wish to accept this offer as a resolution to your complaint; you can reply to this email, or you can call my direct line *******. Alternatively I can call you to discuss this further if this is more suitable?"

A pretty decent response as I was not expecting a credit. I hope the feedback was valuable to them.

#####   Update from 16/06/15.   #####

I have had my credit through and a couple of calls from the nice woman who wrote the email above to confirm this had come through. How we deal with complaints, which are inevitable, is important. I cannot fault the service received since my complaint.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

A Response to an Opponent of Gay Marriage


I recently had a short exchange of views with someone on the subject of gay marriage. It started with the news of Nicky Morgan saying she would now vote for gay marriage making it onto my Facebook wall. Being the comedic genius (?!!) that I am, I could not resist a little quip.

Someone decided to post what I, and many others will, consider to be a bigoted comment on this. Rather than letting it go, I bit. Not my best ever argument if I am going to be honest, but a fairly polite response considering how I feel about the views he posted. I was simply trying to encourage a bit of critical thought on the matter. My friend posted, below my comment, what I consider to be a better response.


The idea that marriage is only about having children is, for me, misleading. As my friend said, “Marriage is about love and commitment”. However, if a couple who want children cannot conceive, surrogates and adoption are perfectly valid ways of having children. From the two adopted children and parents I know, the love they share is every bit as valid as my love for my son. To somehow lessen that connection is to misunderstand what it is to be human and to be a parent.

This evening I received the following personal message from the man who posted the comment:


His first assertion, after the unnecessary jibe, is that every child needs a mum and dad. I would say that many children benefit from having two parents. However, I have not seen any evidence that the sexuality of those parents has any bearing on that. I know a gay couple, and their 9 year old son is one of the most well adjusted young men I have ever met. If there had been any lingering doubt in my mind about the idea of gay parents, it would have been wiped out by this incredible speech by a young man called Zach Wahls: (Incidentally I know plenty of single parents who have done a better job parenting than many couples, but that is not the argument I was having here)

The sad thing is one thing he says is true, but his target is wrong. I agree that the school playground can be a tough place. The fact that child suicide amongst LGBT children is so high proves this. The impassioned speech by Joel Burns on the subject reduced me to tears when I heard it, but my thought wasn’t that gay parents should not have children in case they get bullied, it was that we should stop the bullying of gay children or children with gay parents. For me, creating an acceptance of the love that gay people share is only a stepping stone in that process. In our society, marriage is the ultimate expression of love and commitment that a couple can make. To deny gay people the right to marry, is to deny the love they share is equal to that of heterosexual couples. 

Anyway, there is much I haven’t said. There is a politician from New Zealand called Maurice Williamson, who gave a much better speech on the subject of gay marriage than I ever could.