Why we should have a Secretary of State for Mental Health.



In Britain, it’s clear: there is NO existing parity between mental and physical health. Funding for mental health services in five English regions has been reduced by £4.5m. The crisis is particularly difficult for students and young adults. Since 2006, the number of students disclosing a mental health condition to their university has increased from 3,000 to over 15,000 in 2015/16, according to the IPPR.

This is unacceptable.

In short, if you break your leg, it can be quickly treated at A&E. But for a mental breakdown, you’re met with an 18-month to 2 year waiting list. This is not acceptable. Physical and mental health should have parity.


The brief of the Secretary of State for Health is too large for the minister to effectively deal with physical and mental health provision across the UK. The government has already recognised the difficulties of over burdening a single department with responsibilities through Brexit – creating two new departments to cope with the workload.

Why isn’t this the same for the UK’s mental health crisis?

Appointing an equal, independent and accountable Secretary of State with an allocated budget from the Chancellor is one step towards improving conditions for those already suffering a mental health condition. It is also important to reducing stigma which itself, prevents thousands if not millions from accessing support.  In the UK in 2016, <5,700 died by suicide and 1-in-15 have attempted suicide at some point in their lives. We must do more. Although Self-harm and suicide are not mental health problems in themselves, they are linked to mental distress.

Please, sign this petition. 149 signed up in the first 24 hours! Are you with us?



Theresa May: Appoint a Secretary of State for Mental Health PETITION




Theresa May:

“Appoint a Secretary of State for Mental Health, independent of and equal to the Secretary of State for Health. The Mental Health Secretary would be held accountable by parliament and have access to ring-fenced funding like any other government department. They would be responsible for improving the access to and provision of mental health treatment across the UK.
Currently, the Health Department has no dedicated minister for mental health. This makes it more difficult to tackle the growing mental health crisis and without an independent Secretary of State, there is a growing lack of accountability.
Mental health and mental distress is on the rise in the UK, particularly amongst children. Self-harm and suicide are not mental health problems in themselves, but are linked to mental distress. In the UK in 2016, <5,700 died by suicide and 1-in-15 have attempted suicide at some point in their lives. We must do more. This is one step to improving mental health conditions in the UK.”

Upcoming Diary for Labour’s 2017 Annual Conference in Brighton

tptptpFrom 24th-27th September, I will represent the Mid-Worcestershire constituency Labour Party at this year’s annual party conference in Brighton.

This is a fantastic opportunity for MPs, peers, councillors, party chiefs, members and delegates to get together, share experiences, policy ideas and organise for an exceptionally busy electoral and legislative year ahead.

Over the four days, I will be posting updates, photos, videos and interviews on my blog – so keep an eye out!

If you have been to conference before, any suggestions on what to see would be greatly appreciated. Otherwise, if you have anything you would like to ask others attending conference or would like me to bring back some material for you, please contact me via this blog and I would be glad to help.


The Masculinity Problem: a delicate truth


This is rather different to the usual politics I write about, but when lives are at risk, we need to talk about false and outdated expectations of men and women in society.

You must have a career. You will have a family. You have to step up and become the breadwinner.

This is the message. 

76% of all suicides in the UK are that of men. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 35.  Men are three times more likely to become alcohol dependent than women. Male attainment in school is consistantly falling year-on-year, with a male-female gap of 8.8% occuring for 2014 GCSE students in England and Wales.

This is the truth.

Most boys play off one another’s masculinity. You can see it everywhere from a primary school playground to the business rooms of central London. We challenge eachother to surrender our self-identity and become numb to emotion. It is, we are told, the route to success, a way to prepare for a hardened life ahead.

But in the end, we boys are lied to. We lie to each other. ‘Emotions mean nothing’ we’re told. Immediately, we’re stripped of the ablity to express thought, ideas and react to our surroundings. At such a young age, we’re clueless, defenceless and met with the cold demand  to ‘man up’ whenever we break this code of emotional silence.

Is this really how boys and young men ought to live? Surely, there’s a better alternative?


Heracles: a Greek symbol for masculinity

In truth, masculinity is a club. There are set rules and expectations, we are judged by fellow members who retaliate, physically and verbally, whenever we do anything that may cause them to question their own identity. This way, the club stays together. The common surrender of self-identity survives.

Over time, boys learn to police the emotions of others – often those younger and weaker than us. We get a kick out of doing so. Apparantly.

Masculinity is fine – necessary even. It’s a product of social interaction. But when it creates such a tense environment of impossible expectation, undesirable goals and forced lives, it becomes something dangerous. Unknowingly, we match the social pressures against us by being a danger to the mental wellbeing and confidence of others.

In the UK, attacks against women, young men, ethnic minorities and members of the LGBTI community are on the rise. All around us, society is thankfully – albeit gradually – removing the ‘traditional’ role of men as the main provider for the family. The idea of a financially successful women or a same-sex couple starting a family of their own questions the limited and grim outlook so many of us boys are encouraged to adopt in our early childhood.

Slowly, we are as individuals, able to publically challenge an idea that has reigned unopposed in some form since humans first emerged. The kneejerk response? Shut that opposition down. Protect yourself from self-enlightenment of your own identity of who you are and who you aspire to become. Why? Because it’s the masculine thing to do. It’s all you’ve been taught of course.

When someone expresses a public dislike for two men holding hands, raising a family or getting married, surely it’s a call for help? At their root, that person is expressing a dislike at the fact their perception of the world is wrong and so is their perceived role in it.

They are not disgusted at the couple, but rather their vulnerability to the many lies told throughout their lifetime about identity, role and respect.


Recently, I’ve noticed a bizarre response towards the growing crisis in mental health issues through an attack on the British feminist movement. Most prominent, is the development of the ‘manosphere’ – yes that really is a thing – a community campaign to ‘protect men against the evils of a society controlled for and run by women‘. Now clearly, this is the wrong response. I know this as a man. I know this as a feminist. But it is an interesting form of protest against the existing situation. A growing movement of men are turning against women and blaming them and the long fight for women’s liberation in Britain – in art, at work, at home and in wider society – for their own economic and hierarchical demise.

The idea that men must be the economic providers in the home is rubbish. It’s never been the case.

Instead, the threat to the further deterioration of men’s mental health issues is not women but austerity. From 2010-2016, under David Cameron’s leadership, real term cuts of 8% were made to budgets of mental health services across Britain. During this time, demand for these services increased by 20%. Infact, as of January last year, mental health, although making up 23% of the illnesses treated by the NHS, received a small 13% of its annual budget. In other words, there was an £11bn funding gap.

The idea that men must be the economic providers in the home is rubbish. It’s never been the case. Over the centuries, most families in Britain and around the world were too impovorished to even have the option of one parent remaining at home. Instead, it was a concept devised by and exclusively avaliable to the narrow middle-classes.

This disequilibrium of expectation on men and women is creating an excess of pressure for box sexes, it restrains productivity, creates illegal wage inequality and works to increase the number of mental health cases around the world.

But rather than reflecting a ‘natural’ behavioural norm we have inherited through generations gone, our common concept of masculinity is infact the cause and controller of our behaviour, growing in intensity with every new generation. Masculine ‘traits’ for example, are the basis for capitalism – a system which emerged from feudalism and mercantilism – theories which themselves encourage the ego and recognise oppression of others as a demonstration of man’s physical hold over the world. Self-greed and the maximisation of profit  all contribute to the idea that men must be the ‘breadwinners’ for a secure family unit. Capitlism is simply the collective result of this attitude.


The New York Stock Exchange: a hugely male-dominated industry and a symbol of capitalist power.

For all men seeking to find their masculine identity, unregulated capitalism serves in two ways. First, it facilitates the opportunity for wealth accumulation. Here, status is found and men and women are able to compare their success against one another numerically. Second, capitalism allows men and women to obtain physical posessions – houses, cars and jewelry – which become symbols of power and authority to their counterparts. It gives men and women the wealth that allows them something another man or woman desires. This creates the medium for exchane which is afterall, the basis of the capitalist system.

But masculinity goes further than capitalism. It’s at the centre of almost all our news stories. Everything from expansionist wars to violent coups to economic crashes following excessive risk taking. Nearly always led by men, for men and for the promotion of men. Proponents of capitalism explain how the system encorporates our natural instincts and succeeds only on that basis. They’re right. It does encorporate a set of instincts – just the wrong ones, developed in childhood through an environment cluttered with references to need, greed and over consumption. Unregulated Capitalism never for example, fosters empathy, social cohesion or respect for others, the self or the natural environment. And that’s why its failing in its current, uncorrected and extreme form. There has been a miscalculation of our ‘natural instincts’ into the system.

So what’s to change? How can we address the issue of masculinity and from that, the incredible growth-rate of mental health issues amongst boys and men? How do we restore self-confidence and break down the social pressures which force onto us, expectations of ‘male norms’?

First, there has to be a change to our understanding of what it means to be ‘masculine’. No longer can anyone expect a man to become the sole provider for a family. Our language must change. This means divising a realistic expectation of what men and women should strive towards. But what is this? Whatever they want to.

In 2015, the coalition introduced the Shared Paternity Leave Scheme (SPL/ShPP), to help new families have control over how much time each parent, if they choose to, takes time off work. The aim of the scheme was to encourage mothers and fathers to share responsibilities, making it easier for women to go back to work after giving birth. However, in April 2016, it was reported that just 1% of new fathers take up SPL.

It seems that although the legal substance is appearing, societal pressures are preventing men and women from using this opportunity. The problem of masculinity has not been dealt with.

Until our language, perception of masculinity and terrible bias against female leadership in business and politics changes – the problem of masculinity will continue to grow and claim more lives.

Start with yourself. Should YOU change your use of language around the subject?

We’d all be better off if we did.


‘I’m For Europe’ – a movement by citizens, for citizens.


Since the 2008 financial crisis and the EU’s near implosion following ‘Brexit’, far-right populism, xenophobic and divisive politics have swept across the continent.

Now, more than ever, it is vital that the people of Europe come together and share our experiences and ideas for creating a united European community.

‘I’m for Europe’ is a platform to achieve this.

What are the movement’s objectives?

  • For like-minded Europeans to form new contacts and links across the continent, organising social events, political debates and campaigns which focus on social justice, diversity and tackling the growing xenophobic, racist and nationalist anger which is tearing up European achievements and forcing its ctizens to turn on one another.
  • To scrutinize government action and legislation concerning European integration.
  • To campaign for the democratization of the European Union’s central political institutions.
  • Educate Europeans about the importance of the EU to maintaning peace and economic prosperity.
  • Challenge common misconceptions concerning the EU, often fuelled by an inaccurate media and in some cases, national governments. In short, ‘I’m For Europe’ could become a sort of ‘People’s Watchdog’.
  • Protect the rights of individual Europeans and the core values of the EU.
  • To examine possible routes to further European integration – including a look towards European Federalism. 

In short,

  1. Encourage new friendships and social ties between Europeans.
  2. Challenge abuses of power and common misconceptions about the European Union.
  3. Provide clearer explanations about the work of the European Union to its citizens.
  4. Bring together like-minded Europeans and their talents for the positive and constructive goal of promoting common understanding, diversity and respect for one another.
  5. Demand the democratization of central EU institutions before they disintegrate.

So whoever you are, no matter where you are from, please, join ‘I’m For Europe’ if you care about protecting the single createst political achievement in Europe’s history.

Because only together, can we win.

Introducing the Parkin Half Hour


Education           Inclusion           Creativity

2017 marks the release of an eight part series of 15-30 minute podcasts called the ‘Parkin Half Hour’.

The series examines the relationship between young people and politics, highlighting the importance of young people becoming involved in the political process and exploring some of the key political, social and economic issues discussed by young people in Britain today.

Alongside the podcasts, tomparkin.org will provide a variety of other online tools to bring those aged 14-30 closer to politics in their local community.

Introducing Real Vote: A Way of Making the United Kingdom a Democracy


At election times we are free to say what we like, anyone can be a candidate, it is easy to vote, results are counted honestly, everything is straightforward and we congratulate ourselves for living in a democracy and feel thankful that it is like that.

And that’s fine – until the results come. Then there is little to feel thankful about. Consider the following.

It seems reasonable to expect that the results of any election in a democracy would show a relationship between the votes cast and the numbers of MPs elected. Thus, if half the electorate votes for party X, it should seem reasonable that half the MPs in that parliament should be from party X. That seems obvious. Who could disagree? And yet, in the UK, election after election, no such relationship can be found. There has never been a link between how citizens vote on Thursday and the make up of parliament on Friday. The result is and always has been, entirely random. At the moment we have a government rejected by 64% of the electorate.

Every student of politics knows that this is a consequence of the UK voting system, First-Past-The-Post – a system particular to the UK. This simple system, rooted deeply in the past, has survived all the political changes of the centuries, but now fails every democratic test.

Consider the results of the 2015 election for UKIP and the SNP. UKIP voters totalled 12.7% of the vote (3,881,099) yet have .02% of MPs – only one MP. SNP voters totalled 4.7% of the vote (1,454,436) and have 56 MPs. This is gerrymandering of the highest order. Who could justify such injustice? A simple calculation will show that each SNP MP represents 25,972 voters and the single UKIP MP represents 3,881,099. And so 150 UKIP voters are needed to equal the voting power of one SNP supporter. Democracy? You are joking.

Here are the details of the 2015 election illustrating the injustices of our system

% of the votes % of the seats
Conservatives 36.8 50.8 WINNERS
Labour 30.5 35.7 WINNERS
UKIP 12.7 0.2 LOSERS
Liberal Democrats 7.9 1.2 LOSERS
Green 3.8 0.2 LOSERS
Plaid 0.6 0.5 LOSERS

These columns reveal the underlying weaknesses and unfairness of our UK system. Both columns should be more or less equal. This would then show that Parliament truly reflected the national vote. But how could this be done?

It’s quite easy. Introduce REAL voting. We need to introduce the concept of VOTING POWER. VP can easily be calculated by relating the total percentage of votes won by a party with the percentage of seats won by that party. Thus, the SNP, having won 4.7% of the national vote and 8.6% of the seats would have a VP 0.55 for each of their MPs. This is calculated by dividing the percentage number of their votes – 4.7%, by the percentage number of seats they won – 8.6%. This would reflect the true support for the SNP in the country. So when an SNP MP voted in the Commons, that vote would count as .55 of a vote and would be a completely accurate reflection of that party’s support. It’s not complicated. It is simple arithmetic.

The UK would continue to elect 650 MPs. As usual, each member would represent a local constituency and would be elected by achieving a simple majority (i.e. more votes than any other candidate). So far no change.

But, when all votes were counted, and all seats declared, each party would have its percentage of the national vote divided by the percentage number of elected members. For example, in 2015 the Conservative party received 36.8% of the national vote. Therefore, for the election to have been truly democratic the Conservative Party should have 36.8% of the power in the House of Commons – but they have over 50%.

The list below shows the VP of the parties elected in 2015 election had there been a REAL vote. These VPs would represent exactly the proper democratic importance of each MP. For the first time ever, we could then claim that every voter in the UK had been equally represented in the House of Commons.

Conservative 0.73
Labour 0.85
Liberal Democrats 6.42
SNP 0.55
UKIP 81.8
Green 24.7
Plaid 1.2
DUP 0.5

Every vote, whether a winning or a losing vote, would count in the final result.

In 2015, Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Scotland) was the smallest constituency with 21,769 voters. The Isle of Wight was the largest with 108,804 voters. This is another gerrymander resulting from the differing constituency sizes. It takes five Isle of Wight voters to counter one vote from Na h-Eileanan an Iar. But REAL voting would correct this unfairness as the all losing votes would be added to each party’s VP. For the first time ever those lost votes would count.

Nothing changes on Election Day. Same ballot paper, same constituencies with its own MP, same counting at the end of the day, same everything. First-Past-The-Post is popular with voters as it is simple. REAL voting is exactly the same. But unlike FPTP, it is fair.

There would be one huge and unexpected advantage to MPs in REAL voting. MPs would have to vote electronically. Instead of wasting time at every division, each vote would take less than one second. Think of the hours saved if our MPs joined the 21st century.

After the election every MP would be given a VP and that would be the value of that MP’s voting button for the duration of the Parliament. And every time that voting button was pressed, that vote would be representing exactly the number of voters who had supported the party. It’s called democracy.

Readers of the chart showing what the present Parliamentary VPs would be, might be shocked at the power given to one UKIP MP. But that is not the fault of REAL voting. REAL voting is concerned only with making our voting system a fair one. What the UKIP VP reveals is just how ludicrously distorted our present system is. But it also reveals two problems which might occur with REAL voting.

That one UKIP MP had a majority of 3,437 in his constituency. Had UKIP not won any seats – highly probable with the present system – then 3,881,099 voters would have been unrepresented. That would have been shocking. REAL voting counts and values every EVERY vote. In such a case, it would be reasonable to appoint the UKIP candidate with the greatest number of votes as an additional member with the appropriate UKIP VP.

A further problem might occur in the case of an Independent MP. What would the VP be for that seat? If the winning Independent candidate won 35% of the votes in their constituency, that MP would have a VP of .35. The losing voters would be added, as usual, to the parties concerned.

So there you have it – some simple legislation and democracy could be ours

Tom Parkin

First Published: Sunday 7th February 2016