Tuesday night I am driven to Saxon Hall, for Tuesday night sees the annual general meeting of the Southend Ethnic Minority Forum. This is my second year of membership, and I attended last year’s AGM.

Whilst on the subject of last year’s AGM; James Duddridge name-checked me and made great play of announcing that he and I would do something about to encourage participation by the young in democratic processes. I emailed Mr Duddridge afterwards to ask what he had in mind, and I am still waiting on a reply. Now I appreciate that MPs are busy, but I cannot help but think he was playing to the crowd last year – and using me in the process. If I make a commitment I stick to it. Anyway, back to this year…

After an introduction by old foe Mr Ahmad Khwaja JP (we both contested Westborough ward back in 2004, and he likes to remind me that he beat me!) we had two guest speakers.

First up was Mrs Pet Thornton, MBA, MBCS, Chief Executive Officer of Disability Essex. Her organisation, which is based in Rochford, helps disabled people in Essex, regardless of disability, to live independent lives. It was first registered 65 years ago and has 17,000 members.

As interesting as her talk was, she was upstaged by the second speaker, Mr Stuart Meyrick, who gave a most moving speech. He outlined his life-story, and how he ended up working for MIND. An ex-soldier who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, he is a recovering alcoholic who slept rough at one point. He now helps others.

A good buffet and a chance to catch up with a few people followed, including a chance to chat to the two speakers.

For James: councillor count – 2 Labour, 2 Conservative.

Thanks to Cheryl for the lift.


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