Tuesday, 12 July 2011

A simple question

Here are a series of emails between me and the offices of Daniel Kawzynski MP. I'm requesting an oral question.
I live in hope.

23rd June 2011

Dear Helen,

Thank you so much, it was lovely speaking to you as always.

My new campaign is called People not Punchlines here is the link to my blog which contains the press release.

and my Guardian piece from today http://t.co/tjqzEc1

As you can see currently disabled people are not included in legislation to address the issue of Hate Speech. I was hoping that Daniel might ask an oral question of the Home Secretary(?) in order that the law be amended to offer disabled people the same protections as other people who are the target of hate crime and verbal abuse.
My campaign has the backing of Mencap.

Very Best wishes

Nicky Clark

People Not Punchlines Campaign 

6th July 2011 11.43am

Hi Nicky

Our London Office have looked at the PQ and have come up with the suggestion below – the questions have to follow a format – are you happy with this.

Also, if Daniel puts in to ask an Oral question, we have to wait until his question is chosen, which could take several weeks.  If he puts in a written question, we know he will get a written reply also in a few weeks.

Are you happy for this to be a written question

Kind regards


 “To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Office what considerations she has given the merits of offering disabled people protection equivalent to that currently given to those targeted by hate crime or verbal abuse”

6th July 12.31pm 
Dear Helen,

I would be most grateful if Daniel would consider asking an oral question. I don't mind if we have to wait a short while.

"To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Office whether she might consider the call by my constituent disability rights campaigner Nicky Clark who has launched the People not Punchlines Campaign. She is asking for an amendment to existing legislation for those targeted by hate crime or verbal abuse as currently disabled people are not included. Although protection is offered as an additional aggravating factor in terms of sentencing- the issue is not recognised in and of itself "

Hate speech is terms of disability is not recognised in line with other hate speech under either the Criminal Justice or Public order acts. Anyone from Eugenicists to BNP can technically spread hatred. I recently participated in a R5 live phone in when someone who intends to stand as London Mayoral BNP candidate phoned in and stated if she had a learning disabled child she would have drowned them at birth.

If Daniel could reference my People Not Punchlines campaign I would of course be delighted.

Thank you so much,

Nicky Clark

6th July 4.22pm
Hi Nicky

Just to let you know I have forwarded your e-mail down to Westminster as there are so many rules to asking a question.  They will check to see if it needs amending in any way.

I will let you know what is happening
Kind regards


6th July 2011 4.37pm

Thank you heard campaigns and campaigners being mentioned today so thought I'd add myself. Daniel might not want to use his oral question for this but it would mean a great deal to disabled people. Shamefully labour omitted them from legislation. 

Thank you again. Best nik xx

July 12th 2.47pm

Dear Nicky,

Many thanks for your email to Helen on a PQ to the Home Secretary.

Helen is away for a couple of weeks, so she’s asked if I can help you get something down in the House.

I understand that you would like Daniel to ask a question in the Chamber on your campaign to get disabled people into the legislation surrounding hate crime and verbal abuse.

With the House going into recess next week, there won’t be questions to the home office until at least mid September, perhaps not until Octobers.

With this in mind, what I would suggest and would be more than happy to do is table a written parliamentary question to the Home Office, which will encompass the thrust of your question below.

If you’re happy with this Nicky, then do please let me know and I’ll put this on the to-do list and get the question drafted for tabling as soon as possible.

Thanks Nicky, look forward to hearing from you,


12th July 3.01pm 

Dear Mike,

Thank you for your email. I have been asking for this oral question for three weeks. Respectfully if my MP had submitted my question it might have been selected by now. However I suppose  we'll never know.

If Daniel does not want to ask the question then please tell me.

There are only so many ways in which I can ask for an oral question and you reply "Wouldn't you rather a written question- the list for oral questions is so long" and I reply "No honestly I asked for an oral question, specifically not for a written question- can I have an oral question please" and you reply 'An oral question are you sure you don't want a written question? because now that we've asked you repeatedly which format you would like the question in, the list which is very long, will be delayed by recess.'

I refer you to all of my previous emails.

Very best wishes,

Nicky Clark

Sunday, 10 July 2011

The News of The World

The news is earth shattering, many are crying as they wonder how they will fill their time and what will become of them. Friendships forged over several years and skills learned and valued, are lost probably forever. Many wonder how they will afford the things they need now that their income has been compromised.

All this they know has come about not because of their actions but because those in charge have decided that they are expendable. They are an impediment to a wider agenda a debt to be paid to ensure bigger and better things can be accomplished.

Some are frightened, all are disbelieving.

Many will spend their time at home wondering how it happened.

The service users of the Grange Day Centre the only centre for physically disabled adults in Shropshire, which is closing due to the cuts,  are no match for an all powerful council hell bent on their agenda.

So on the 29th July after 25 years the doors will close for the last time. Who weeps for them?

There is no thank you just a goodbye

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Stand Up not Punch Down

Humour is vital to me. My life can be challenging and the thing that stops me sinking into a sea of self-pitying nonsense is maintaining a sense of humour.

But maintaining my own sense of humour isn’t enough. Indeed sitting alone in a room laughing could precipitate a completely different chain of events.
I’m referring to the comedy produced by others.

The stresses we have can’t be changed, but the worries we live with can be lifted by laughter. I honestly feel that humour is lifeline for me. To sit and laugh like a child, allows me to temporarily return to a time when I lived responsibility free.

There is a bargain of trust that an audience enters into with stand up. You want to like them because you want to laugh. So to immerse yourself in that relaxation only to be slapped out of it by a joke, which targets disability or disabled people, makes it much, much more hurtful.

“Not funny? Find it offensive to you? Turn it off, or don’t go”. Very wise words but what if nothing prepares you for the hurt. What if that comic or stand up speaks out against homophobia or racism or the disenfranchising of other people? Couldn’t it be reasonable to assume therefore that their correct stance on discrimination extends to disability? No sadly not. According to some, mocking disabled people isn’t the same.

So this blog is a love letter really.

To those beautiful talented fearless comics who make life better. To the writers who give us books and TV shows and films- which take us from the pain to the punchline  with wit and wisdom and joy; who use their gift wisely and well by punching up not down-thank you.

As part of my People Not Punchlines Campaign I contacted comedians and asked them for their thoughts about comedy and disability. I wanted to canvass the opinions of the people who know humour well.This is what they said-

Simon Donald-Comedian, writer, creator of Viz:
'Good comedy about difficult subjects can be the cleverest and funniest work. I'm proud that I work in a field where there are no limits, but good comedy must be in context. For example no-one  thinks that Mel Brookes liked the Nazis, but he made us all laugh when he touched the subject so well. To simply make fun of a person because of a disability, like making fun of their colour or race, is just abuse, and should be seen as nothing more.'

Catie Wilkins-Comedian, Writer
I like the idea that comedy is about taking down the bullies. Traditionally in a carnivalesque way, the lowly, marginalized people would get to have their say and ridicule those with power: The fool is King for a day. In general this principal has followed onto the exciting and vibrant, modern comedy scene. But I think the whole thing falls apart when comedians kick down, and attack the most vulnerable members of society. It's lazy and hack to use derogatory slurs instead of punch-lines, and not in the original spirit of comedy.

Christina Martin-Writer,former stand up comic:
“It is perfectly possible to address disability through comedy. South Park’s Jimmy and Timmy being the perfect examples. 
However, it’s one thing to use comedy to address disability and the issues surrounding it, and quite another to just make the disabled the butt of every joke. Particularly by just using derogatory slurs such as mong, retard and spastic - which seem to be used with impunity by stand-up comics who lack sufficient writing skills and wit -merely to get the easy laughs they crave. 
A society can be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable members; the disabled are amongst the most vulnerable members of our society. By not challenging the casual bullying of the disabled and learning disabled, we demean ourselves as well as them..

If you want to be a part of this please contact me through Twitter @mrsnickyclark #standupnotpunchdown or peoplenotpunchlines@gmail.com and we can add your name to the Stand Up Not Punch Down list of supporters.