To celebrate the arrival of 2018, we’re looking back this week at the most popular 10 articles published on S&C in 2017. From tactical voting to therapy with horses, from the right to protest to social inequality, here’s the top 10 articles that were most popular with our readers last year.
A few months ago, I set off to my usual hair salon in Portsmouth for an afternoon of pampering. It was just what I needed after a few stressful months making some big changes in my life. The hairdresser, who was new to the salon, listened carefully to my instructions on length and style and after a quick wash and condition, I settled down in the chair waiting to be transformed.
‘So,’ she said, picking up her scissors, ‘have you got any kids?’
My heart sank.
The Portsmouth BPAS clinic manager Chris Francis told S&C about the impact of the 40 Days [anti-abortion] protesters on women using the clinic, as well as on the staff who work there.
‘Women who attend our clinic are often anxious as they face a difficult and emotional decision. They deserve support and compassion, not judgement. It is important that women in the UK can access safe abortion care without fear or intimidation. The feedback we have received from not only BPAS clients but other departments seeing vulnerable women is that the protest is upsetting.’
Protesting – for both of us – is our human right and a central pillar of our democracy. But it should not be used as a tool for causing suffering to those we disagree with. So, I’m asking you to think again.
Give these women the privacy they need on the one day they really need it. To do so is an act that demonstrates the compassion and respect most of us understand to be at the heart of Christianity.
What I am trying to say is that the Lib Dems have failed Portsmouth, but they don’t want you to remember that.
How do they get you to forget? By telling you that Labour can’t win here.
It scares the electorate into a tactical vote because the only thing we do have in common (or at least I think we do), is that we don’t want the Conservatives in government. When leafleting this week, I had my fair share of residents bound out of the front doors of their houses all excited that Labour had finally got a leaflet out but they also wanted to tell me that they were thinking of voting tactically.
I don’t blame anyone for not knowing how to talk about mental health and what happens when things go wrong. This experience has taught me that as a society, we are not teaching people how to talk about this subject, or encouraging the conversation to happen in our social groups, families and communities.
That’s why two weeks after my suicide attempt I decided to start a conversation with my networks on Facebook.
Last time around, I voted Labour, and I got a Tory.
Not just any Tory, either, but Flick Drummond, who has consistently voted against equality, against helping the disabled and against the interests of the poor in favour of the wealthy. (See her voting record here). She has voted to reduce taxes for the wealthy and reduce corporation tax. Meanwhile, the poor in her ward continue to suffer as a direct result of her choices – and , perhaps, as a direct result of my vote for Labour, when I could have put my support behind the Lib Dems.
The west of the city is not only older, but it is poorer, less healthy and with higher levels of crime. Some of this reflects the age of the housing stock and some is just chance, but it is a pattern that is repeatedly borne out.
Four of Portsmouth’s council wards are generally classified as deprived – Charles Dickens, Fratton, Nelson and Paulsgrove: all are in the west. Collectively they have much lower voter turnout levels, much higher levels of childhood poverty, unemployment and so forth. Of course council wards are rather large and are a crude way of lumping together separate communities: after all Somerstown and Old Portsmouth are both in the same ward and yet are very different places.
An important question to consider is will the pricing make a difference to students considering a move to Portsmouth University?
Liam Foote, a 17 year old college student who is considering coming to University told me, “Coming from a family who falls into the higher income bracket, I receive a lower maintenance loan compared with some of my friends. Whilst my parents will do everything they can to help me financially, they don’t have the spare money to pay for my rent. If I got a place at these new halls personally I would have to turn them down and apply for private housing. As great as they look and sound, if my loan can’t even cover my rent what is the point in having these new halls if half the students can’t afford to live there?”
When I moved to Portsmouth, I thought I was the only writer here.
I soon heard of Graham Hurley (now moved away), Pauline Rowson, and Quentin Bates. Now I’m part of the 600-strong Portsmouth Writers’ Hub, I know so many more, not just the writers I’ve already named, but local writers like Lane Swift, Tom Harris, Miriam Halahmy, Amber Lee Dodd… and that’s not even starting on local poets like Maggie Sawkins, Katie Gill, or Lord Byro, and dramatists like Zella Compton, Stuart Olesker, or Roger Goldsmith.
It’s all thanks to Blackwell’s I’ve had the chance to be meet and join this community of Portsmouth writers. And it’s thanks to them that I was able to enjoy launching my third book there on 1 September this year.
I was reluctant to enter the field. Maybe Alex was right, the horse had chosen me – the dark brown mare was still waiting by the gate. We made our way back to her. The mare and I stood still, looking at each other over the gate. That was when I noticed that she only had one eye.
Suddenly I remembered my recent breast surgery and how it felt to lose part of my left breast, including the nipple. I had struggled with no longer being a whole woman afterwards. Now here I was, confronted by a beautiful mare, complete in every way apart from one eye being missing, which I hadn’t even noticed. My emotions welled to the surface. Was the horse telling me something?
If you enjoyed our top 10 from 2017, you’ll love what we have in store for you in 2018. This year our focus is on expanding our investigative journalism and focusing on the issues that matter most to you. In the coming weeks, we’ll be announcing some of the exciting projects we’ve got planned for this year, including more ways for you to be involved as readers, supporters, volunteers and writers.