Author Archives: Rajin Chowdhury

You need to eat lunch and make mistakes

One of the lessons I try to convey to junior doctors (or in my case and after nearly a decade, more junior junior doctors) is the importance of getting lunch. If it’s 11am, the ward round has finished and you don’t have urgent jobs to do, I don’t care if it’s the morning – go and have your lunch. 

The nature of a hospital is that you never know what is round the corner. If you don’t eat now, you might not eat again until you leave and if it’s busy, that might not be until 7pm. That is bad for you and bad for your patients. It is a dereliction of your duty of care to them. 

It is just over 3 weeks until polling day. You need to ensure you, your candidate, your staff, your volunteers and everybody involved is healthy and not going hungry. It is bad for you and your campaign if you do not eat when you get the chance. It is a dereliction of your duty of care to it.

Imagine turning to current or former healthcare workers, paramedics, firefighters, police officers, members of the armed services, or members of the security services and saying “this is an emergency and lunch can’t wait”, about whatever it is you think can’t wait and imagine their reaction. I have told people their loved ones are not going to leave hospital, attended so many cardiac arrests that I have forgotten most of them, and have had adults and children literally die in my hands. Imagine telling me what you’re about to do is an emergency.

This doesn’t mean the committee room on polling day should turn into a place to have a conversation. It isn’t – go stand outside if you want to just have a chat and stop asking the people who are putting the data in “how’s it going?” (even if you’re the candidate). Let staff and volunteers do their work.

But if you’re a person with authority in the party, your volunteers and staff are going to make mistakes. Perhaps you think the best way to get things done is by shouting at people. Perhaps you don’t think people should be making mistakes. Perhaps you’re working full-time and nobody who works for you has admitted a mistake to you so far. If any of these are true, resign – you are incompetent and have no place in professional politics.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 5 Comments

“Taliban” is a racist epithet: Thornberry’s words were potentially harmful not just hyperbolic

On September 19th, the Shadow Foreign Secretary claimed, “The Lib Dems have gotten kind of like the Taliban, haven’t they?”. She was referring to a motion Autumn conference passed – and which Jo Swinson emphasised in her speech – stating that the Liberal Democrats would revoke article 50 if they won a majority at the next general election.

As I tweeted at the time, the only people to refer to me (a person of colour) as “Taliban” are racists and now, Emily Thornberry. It is likely that Thornberry’s comments will get lost in the everyday to-ing and fro-ing of political discourse such as it is in the UK.

However, what it normalises is that it is OK to shout “Taliban” at a Liberal Democrat. Indeed, it will probably normalise it being shouted at any and all Remainers because if you are the sort of person to shout a racist epithet in the street, that justification will more than suffice. And I would be interested to know how she intends that I differentiate between racist hate crime and people simply shouting at me for my political beliefs if I do suffer that sort of abuse.

It is also why I am concerned by the #DangerousExtremist Lib Dem activists are currently using, satirising the BBC Question Time audience question on whether we were a “dangerous and extreme party”. I am unsure how comfortable people of colour in the Lib Dems will feel about jokingly calling themselves extremists when it is a stereotype many genuinely have to live with. 

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 4 Comments

Always Speak up to be Selected

On 15th October, Sheffield South East selected me as their parliamentary candidate. The city has six constituencies. Sheffield Hallam members selected Laura Gordon to replace Nick Clegg last year, leaving five Sheffield constituencies needing candidates selected that evening. Though Sheffield Central was contested (congratulations to Shaffaq Mohammed), the remaining four were not.

Sheffield South East is not a target seat. Although 40 members were present, only two were eligible to vote in my selection. Had I not attended, I may still have won.

In uncontested selections at both council and parliamentary level, candidates understandably do limited preparation for their speeches at hustings. Why bother when you know you’ll probably win anyway and you’re essentially doing the party a favour? Well, I chose to do things a little differently, and I think you should too.

Firstly, the standard of public speaking (even amongst some of our MPs, somewhat shockingly) is often poor. This is a chance for you to practise. Set-piece political speeches are not the same as delivering a work presentation or running a seminar – they are all about persuasion. It’s a different art and one that takes practice.

Posted in News and Op-eds | Tagged | 9 Comments

Why we should “Stay” and not “stop Brexit”

Much of our campaign since the 2017 general election has revolved around the “Exit from Brexit”. We need to win over Remainers; by having a clear and repeated anti-Brexit position, the electorate will know what we stand for.

There are a few problems.

Firstly, we are not “anti-Brexit”, we are pro-EU. Every time we say “Brexit”, we evoke certain thought patterns within the minds of voters, particularly the so-called ReLeavers (those who voted Remain but feel we should Leave because of the referendum).

We normalise Brexit. We make it seem mainstream. In an effort to be radical outsiders, we make Liberal Democrats seem like they want to do something weird that nobody voted for. As such, we should avoid the term at all possible costs. For starters, Tom Brake should no longer be our Brexit Spokesperson but our EU Spokesperson.

Secondly, “stop Brexit” terminology forces our current campaign to be negative.

Thirdly, in many areas of the country, we are trying to win over Leave voters.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 22 Comments

Put People in Power!

Networked peopleDevolution is boring. Nobody understands it. Nobody knows why it is important. Above all, nobody cares. Why on earth should Liberal Democrats consider put devolution front-and-centre?

At an Autumn Conference event run by a centrist think-tank, Radix, a floor member asked Norman Lamb a question. She said one word that stuck: powerless. The three most successful electoral campaigns in the Anglosphere in the last 10 years are, to my mind: Trump, Vote Leave, Obama.

Agree with them or not, they had two things in common. They were positive campaigns (whether or not …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 8 Comments

Be under no illusion – the BMA screwed this up.

Prior to previous set of strikes, there was an emphasis on patient safety. The contract was unsafe, argued doctors, and Jeremy Hunt’s plans were unrealistic. Chair of the Junior Doctors’ Committee (JDC), Johann Malawanna and a number of other doctors in the BMA did a superb job of appearing reasonable, measured and yet passionate. Junior doctors looked like professionals being harried and hampered by government from trying to help patients.

At relatively short notice, a ballot with a turnout of 72% gained 98% support for strikes. This is unheard of. The strikes were announced well in advanced, were each two days long and went ahead safely without incident. They had the support of the vast majority of consultants, other healthcare professionals and royal colleges. The BMA had shed its reputation for incompetence.

Posted in Op-eds | 22 Comments
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