Justin’s Weekly Swindon Adver Article – 4th August 2017

I have been fortunate to re-visit two of our wonderful mental health charities during recess, both of which centre their therapeutic assistance on gardening.

Root and Branch is based near Sevenhampton and provides craft and horticulture based activities to promote recovery for people with mental health conditions. They currently offer 45 spaces a week to service users to be able to start crafts projects and work in a friendly environment. It was great to drop by to have a cup of tea with the volunteers and users as well as help out with a bit of drilling as part of their garden furniture making

The other charity, TWIGS, celebrated their 20th anniversary with an enjoyable garden party along with supporters of the charity, which helps up to 110 people with mental health conditions a year by offering therapeutic activities including gardening and crafts to help people with mental health issues.

It was great to hear the exciting plans for TWIGS’ future which include expanding the training on offer and starting a service for people with dementia, something that I am sure the local community would be keen to support. Thankfully, both of these visits took place before the weather turned!

Nationally, behind the scenes, many of my Labour colleagues have been shaking their heads in despair at their leadership this week.

The ongoing problems in Venezuela see protestors demonstrating against leader Nicolas Madura and his United Socialist Party who have eroded Venezuela’s democratic institutions and mismanaged its economy. The opposition is calling for a democratic election, for medication to be imported to counter the severe shortages and for the release of all political prisoners.

Situated on one of the largest oil reserves in the world, Venezuela was once the richest nation in Latin America. Then came along Hugo Chavez and his successor Nicolas Maduro, and 20 years later the country is one of the poorest in the world, with inflation soaring towards a staggering 1600%. This has resulted in the looting of supermarkets and citizens desperately killing and eating wild anteaters, alligators, parrots and flamingos as well as the few animals in Caracas zoo that have not yet starved to death. Furthermore, basic medicines have run out and there isn’t even clean soap in the hospitals for doctors to wash their hands.

And Comrade Corbyn’s reaction? The man who hailed Hugo Chavez, saying that he “showed a better way of doing things.” The man who has regarded Venezuela as a socialist utopia. The man who has hailed Maduro’s achievements as a “cause for celebration” (yes, he is referring to the same leader who has rounded up opposition leaders, rigged elections and changed the constitution to create a dictatorship).

His reaction has been silence. A silence that speaks for itself as he refuses to condemn any actions that Maduro has taken as he continues his path towards dictatorship.

His fellow comrade, the outspoken former Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, who is currently suspended from the Labour Party, has blamed the crisis in Venezuela on Chávez’s unwillingness to execute his enemies, the ‘established elite’ when he came to power. I don’t like to be overtly political in my weekly column, but this week’s events in Venezuela, and Her Majesty’s opposition’s failure to join in the international condemnation, is both disgraceful and frightening.