View a full range of our ebooks

View full library

Explore

Our Location

The PHA Group
117 Wardour Street,
Hammer House,
London,
W1F 0UN

0207 0251 350
info@thephagroup.com
PHA Digital Studio
Fourth Floor,
47 Dean St,
Soho,
London,
W1D 5BE

0207 0251 350
info@thephagroup.com
PHA Finance Department
117 Wardour Street,
Hammer House,
London,
W1F 0UN

0207 0251 350
info@thephagroup.com

The London Mayoral Elections: What to Expect

The London Mayoral Elections: What to Expect

London Mayoral Election

Image courtesy of Secretlondon123 on Flickr

On 5 May London goes to the polls and will elect a new Mayor of London. So far Londoners have remained largely apathetic to the ongoing campaigns. Overshadowed by the hype surrounding the EU referendum (held just a month later), and lacking the larger than life personalities of previous mayoral elections (Boris and Ken, anyone?) many Londoners have so far failed to be inspired.

Sadiq Khan, the Labour candidate and MP for Tooting, looks on course to win the Mayoralty comfortably. However, rather than voting for him personally, polling suggests that Londoners are making their decision based on pre-existing party allegiances.

Turnout could therefore bring about surprises: it is expected to be significantly lower than in previous elections, (the record turnout was 45% in 2008), and a low turnout could favour the Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith.

Despite this, the job of Mayor of London is an important one, and shouldn’t be underestimated. The Mayor runs an economy bigger than most European countries, with a budget bigger than most Government departments. He is responsible for many of the things most important to Londoners, such as TFL, London policing, housing and the environment. Because of this, it is well worth Londoners, and London’s businesses, engaging in the process of electing their mayor and understanding what a Zac or Sadiq victory could mean for them.

Sadiq Khan is a former human rights solicitor who is proud of his London roots. He never fails to mention that his dad was a bus driver, and this down to earth image has contributed to Londoner’s finding him to be easier to identify with than his Tory rival.

Sadiq’s flagship policies have included freezing TFL fares at 2016 prices until 2020, setting a target that 50% of homes being built should be affordable, and making London safer. He has also said that he wants to be the most pro-business mayor yet, putting him at odds with the Labour Party’s current image under Corbyn.

Sadiq is more media savvy than Zac but has been criticised as being ‘policy-lite’ notably being unable to account for the £1.9 bn blackhole in his transport budget, and changing his position on airport expansion.

Zac was also born in London, but in completely differing circumstances. His father is billionaire James Goldsmith, and he attended Eton College before becoming editor of Ecologist Magazine.

Despite being elected as the Conservative MP for Richmond Park, Zac is notably more liberal than most of his colleagues – he is passionate about environmentalism and direct democracy (he even ran a referendum in his constituency to ask for his constituent’s consent for him to run to become Mayor of London).

Zac has promised to double new home building in London to 50,000 per year by 2020, to create half a million more jobs, and to protect green spaces. Controversially for a city as outward facing as London, he is in favour of Britain leaving the EU.

In terms of what a Goldsmith/Khan mayoralty will mean for business, both candidates have been determined to stress how pro-business they are. Sadiq has pledged to be “the most pro-business mayor yet”, stressing his opposition to Corbyn’s anti-business image. Amongst his key policies, he has said that he will involve businesses in decision making on key issues, will challenge visa rules to allow businesses to bring in top talent from abroad, and will seek additional fundraising powers from the Government for major infrastructure projects.

However, it is Zac who will be seen as the safer hands in this area, with Britain having a Conservative Government until at least 2020, allowing him to work more naturally with Downing Street. This was a point that was emphasised recently when Downing Street committed to the devolution of the Overground to TFL, something Zac had been campaigning for. Zac has also pledged to set up a new Business Advisory Group with representatives from the Business community, to fix patchy broadband, and to promote the night time economy.

Although both men are less well known that their predecessors, both candidates are known to stray from the Party line occasionally. Famously, Zac Goldsmith pioneered a stronger Bill to recall MPs against the Conservative Party whips and has been consistently popular in his constituency. Sadiq is one of the Labour MP’s who nominated Corbyn for Party leader, but has since distanced himself from the current Labour leadership. It’s safe to assume that both candidates will be their own man if elected.

Ultimately, Londoners will wake up on May 6th to a new era. Without a strong character like Boris, but with predictions of a global recession approaching as well as possible Brexit on the horizon, who they choose to run the capital is likely to be of great significance.

The Power of the Pop-Up

With pop-up locations in London multiplying on what seems like a weekly basis, the Cadbury Crème Egg Café in Soho and the Dogs Trust Valentine’s Day ‘MicroChippy’ in Clerkenwell are the latest to have caught our attention. The UK is wholly embracing the pop- up phenomenon and according to research undertaken by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, pop-up stores contributed £2.3bn to the British economy in 2015. With high business rates and ever increasing rent prices, the continuing amount of empty locations will see this passion for the pop- up continue throughout this year.

The Cadbury Crème Egg café on Greek Street has already heavily dominated the press, despite Easter being weeks away. The café which is open a mere two and a half days a week from 22nd January to 6th March is situated in a prime consumer location, in lively Soho. With its appealing exterior creating the perfect Instagram opportunity, it is a perfect example of the impact that social media can have in maximising the exposure of a PR stunt. The novelty factor here is essential and with rumours of an interactive ball pit and crème egg toasties for £2, there is no surprise that interest in the café has been enormous.  With extortionate rent prices in this area, limited opening hours and cheap prices there can be no intention for the café to run a profit. However, what Cadbury have achieved is a huge amount of buzz and excitement surrounding this novel idea. With tickets for reservations sold out weeks in advance and a strong media presence, the crème egg café epitomises the essence of a pop- up with a combination of exclusivity and innovation.

Cadbury Creme Egg Cafe. Image courtesy of Certified Nosh

Cadbury Creme Egg Cafe. Image courtesy of Certified Nosh.

 

The Dogs Trust recently announced their charity pop-up in Clerkenwell which will open over this Valentine’s weekend, 13th and 14th February offering pet owners a Doggy Date venue. Aptly named, ‘MicroChippy’ the aim is to raise awareness of the upcoming change in legislation which requires dog owners to have their pets microchipped. It is a perfect example of tapping into a consumer holiday and offering an alternative from the romantic, oversaturated Valentine’s day offerings which are largely directed at men and women, rather than animals.  The location, a pop-up 1950s diner complete with booths, dog bean bags and treats for the pooches offers dog owners the chance to enjoy a romantic meal with their pets. Visitors will be able to sample champagne and hotdogs provided by Bubbledogs with all proceeds donated to the Dogs Trust. Although the successful business reality for this venue is minimal, what ‘Microchippy’ will do is offer a unique experience while also providing information and raising funds for charity.

Pop-up venues allow for a variety of creative ideas and entertaining customer experiences. We’ve seen that established brands launch them to either freshen up their image, test out a new location or engage with customers.  However, small emerging brands can use temporary locations as a means to further their customer base, and continue to project their brand awareness.

BOXPARK in Shoreditch is the perfect example where established brands like Adidas and Nike sit next to emerging designers and restaurants. For online sites, a physical location offers the opportunity for a physical representation of their brand, and for high-end restaurants, we’ve seen pop up locations as an extension and often more accessible version of their offerings. There are a huge variety of success stories where businesses that once started out in a temporary location have now become household names, or return to the same successful are, year in year out much like the hugely popular food and drink pop up that is Street Feast.

BOXPARK is the perfect pop-up example.

BOXPARK is the perfect pop-up example.

Social media is an extremely powerful tool for pop-ups in order to maximise their exposure and 2016 will see the power of this continue to grow. Ensuring that a pop-up has a catchy, yet unique hashtag and that the décor and signage are on brand is key. If you search #CremeEggCafe you’ll be astounded at the sheer amount of posts on social. Similarly, the temptation of uploading a snap of dinner with your dog will no doubt ensure that social channels are flooded with images of ‘MicroChippy’ this weekend. Befitting the neon lights of Soho, the Cadbury crème egg café has also displayed neon Cadbury signs in the windows, creating the perfect Instagram opportunity for passers-by. If you are interested in extra pointers to help make your brand insta-famous do follow this link. Finally, by inviting key figures and publications to a pre-opening of the pop-up, it is possible to create a trending hashtag and for teaser images to start flooding social media. This results in tempting customers with the excitement of the opening, via social media results in a further excitement on the opening day and beyond.

As 2016 unfolds there is no doubt that the sheer scale of pop up bars, shops, restaurants and animal café’s will continue to multiply. With the encouraged notion of here today, gone tomorrow. You’d better act quickly or you’ll miss them!

How the #TubeStrike Can Stem the Loss of Public Sympathy

The strike has affected millions of commuters

This morning, like many of my friends and colleagues, I crawled out of bed an hour earlier to spend half an hour waiting for a bus that could manage to squeeze in a handful more frustrated passengers, to spend the next 45 minutes pressed up against my fellow Londoners with a metal bar below my ribs and a gentleman’s sandals repeatedly crushing my toes. I can’t say I’m a fan of the tube being down.

Over the last few days I have spent many a conversation lamenting the imminent temporary loss of my regular commute, and almost all my eye-rolling contemporaries have bemoaned the significant salaries that striking tube drivers earn for their work. It’s obviously hard to sympathise with our better-off neighbours when they disrupt an entire capital city. But, if they had so desired, could the unions have gained more public sympathy?

The biggest problem for tube workers in such an aim is the torrent of social media spawned quips and highly shareable stats that are flying around the Twittersphere. During the last tube strike, Facebook was littered with tables and graphs comparing the salaries and training conditions of tube drivers with paramedics and other health workers – or with teachers, firefighters and the police. The vast majority of conversations – both digital and ‘IRL’ – around the strikes parrot the same statistics that tube drivers on average earn nearly £50,000 and have up to 52 days holiday a year. Twitter and Facebook users aren’t alone in their outrage at well-paid tube personnel wreaking havoc on other working Londoners’ commutes – the media has consistently highlighted the pay package of tube drivers in their coverage of the recent union action. The BBC, for example, noted that “according to HM Treasury figures, the drivers’ starting salary of £49,673 means they earn more than 90% of the population.” No wonder everyone around us is annoyed.

Comparisons have been drawn between other essential professions.

Comparisons have been drawn between other essential professions.

But the overwhelming irritation at tube drivers’ pay has dwarfed the key issues for union members: TfL’s lack of clarity on work-life balance for employees and the details on the night shift conditions workers will be required to perform under. This message has been mostly lost on the public, who are generally steadfast in their annoyance at the drivers’ remuneration.

There have been a handful of articles which have tried to debunk certain misconceptions, and which have highlighted how the multi-faceted deals must either be rejected or accepted in full and are “not pick and mix offers”. But the majority of coverage easily stokes the fire of resentment that has been spreading across social media all week.

Whether or not it’s fair and proportionate to disrupt a whole city to make these points heard, it seems to me that the unions could have somewhat improved their chance for public sympathy if they gave a human face to the issues and effectively put the public in the drivers’ shoes. This isn’t easy – I’ve heard several friends announce that they’d kill to get £200 for a night shift, that they’d switch with tube drivers any day for their salary and holiday package. For many people that’s a fair point – but if any of us had signed up to one job and then were demanded to work nights, with only vague assurances on how many nights a year or how much sleep time we’d be afforded after each, we might be more sympathetic to the unions’ cause – even if we don’t support the full extent of their actions.

Some have rallied to back the strike.

Some have rallied to back the strike.

 

It’s possible to see the impact a real-life case study can have on changing stubborn minds. An open letter from a tube driver ahead of last month’s strikes gathered viral support when he explained on Facebook how the proposed measures would affect him personally:

Drivers have had their say.

Drivers have had their say.

The public can sympathise with this kind of personal account, which clearly outlines the possible impact of the terms then proposed. And the unions could go further in putting the public in the drivers’ shoes – highlighting working parents who would need extra overnight childcare to cover the possible many weeks of night shifts, for example. Demonstrating data on the importance of certainty and work-life balance to mental health, perhaps.

It’s no mean feat to draw sympathy from often worse-off Londoners who are directly disrupted by the unions’ actions. But focusing on the human lives and stories behind the issues, alongside being clear about the real-life impact of the proposals, might tease out understanding from even the most toe-crushed, sleep-deprived of commuters.

Fintech Powerlist is Important : But Where are the Girls?

City A.M. has published the first Powerlist for Fintech and the results are in. Canary Wharf is full of the real movers and shakers in fintech. 

To paraphrase Nutmeg‘s Nick Hungerford: if you dropped Stanford University into London, it would be the fintech centre of the world. And when you look at the statistics, it becomes clear why dismissing the motherland of Silicon Valley and embracing London’s revolutionary heartland makes total senseYet even with 44,000 people working in the fintech capital, there remains a curious absence of a certain kind of entrepreneur: the women in fintech.

A worrying lack of women are part of the fintech revolution, especially in senior-level positions.
Statistics dissected by Anna Irrera, a pioneering writer on fintech, show that none of the top twenty European fintech companies that received the largest venture capital investments in 2014 had a female chief executive. Moreover, only 9 of 114 key executives at those firms were women. In the top fifty companies, there are only 11 women out of 222 key executives. And only one female CEO.

Fintech’s extraordinary growth is largely due to its perfectly balanced ecosystem. London has a dense population of innovators, a pipeline of technologically driven talent, as well as a core of highly collaborative entrepreneurs supported by a sympathetic government. Plus investors are interested enough to actually invest, meaning London alone has raised more money for fintech than the rest of Europe. The industry is now worth over £20billion. And London is the biggest global centre for financial technology based on the number of people employed in the industry.

The benefits of gender diversity in the development of any business are already evidenced and championed. Sarah Turner of Angel Academe, emphasised the need for ‘diversity throughout the entrepreneurial ecosystem’. Yet, put simply, this does not yet exist. The ‘disruptors’ seem to be just as traditional in their gender biases as any other part of finance.

What is reassuring is that, for a relatively young industry, it is also one of the most pioneering.

The inaugural Innovate Finance Global Summit, which took place on March 10th 2015, was the brainchild of a board of women CEOs. The Women in Fintech supplement was released to coincide with the summit. Containing twenty pages dedicated to senior-level women, it listed the women who are not just part of the fintech sector, but defining it.

Software engineer turned investor, Eileen Burbidge, has used mentorship, investments and co-working to become a powerhouse behind dozens of burgeoning fintech ideas. This includes both Transferwise and DueDil. Which is pretty impressive considering their CEOs are both listed on City A.M’s fintech Powerlist. Just below her of course.

Gemma Godfrey, who might well be the most popular #business influencer on social media and a quantum physicist, is also the Head of Investment Strategy at Brooks McDonald. Her emphasis on simplicity and open communication ensures her popularity, but it also means she’s right up-to-the-minute with the fintech scene which thrives on exactly those qualities.

A true innovator is Julia Groves, CEO of the crowd financing platform for renewable energy projects, Trillion Fund. Trillion Fund are not only innovating the sustainability landscape, but also the conversation around crowdfunds and alternative finance options. Others include Monitise’s Elizabeth Buse, and Seedr’s Karen Kerrigan, both of whom are making a tangible difference to the way we think about money in the digital world.

And then there’s Claire Cockerton. From start-ups to global enterprises, Cockerton’s brainchild has fully established the Silicon Roundabout and its voice. Innovate Finance, a cross-sector, member-driven organization, it is founded on the desire to see the UK boom as a global financial centre. It also Finance demonstrates just how fintech is pulling in the talent.

Yet Cockerton is the one who said that ‘30% is the first step’ for women in fintech. That it is beyond time for aspiring women to take that step.

Because the continued success of Britain’s fintech sector depends on talent wanting to come into it.

As an industry, it is growing so fast that to sustain its momentum it needs a pipeline of creative, intelligent, passionate people.

Diversity is crucial to this.

Women are crucial.

And with so few women recognised at the top (only 8 of 61 are women on the City A.M. Powerlist), it’s time for girls to believe that they can do it.

If London is the blueprint for fintech, it’s time that it became the blueprint for gender equality in finance as well.

 

My time in London as a PR intern

My first few days as an Intern for The PHA Group saw events such as London Fashion Week and The Brits Awards take place, so with little PR experience under my belt, it’s safe to say that the last two weeks have been pretty jam-packed, with lots going on… and a lot to learn!

As my time working with the Fashion and Lifestyle department draws to a close, I have highlighted my ‘Top Ten Must Do’s’ for any PR Intern during their first stint in the Big Smoke – from practical travel advice, to how to make the very most out of your experience.

London Underground intern

Image courtesy of flickr.com/photos/cbroders

 

So, kicking off with a bit of practical advice… get on the bus!

Yes, the tube is ridiculously fast and efficient and, being a Northerner, I’ve been fascinated by the concept of travelling underground; but I LOVE getting on the bus in London. It’s cheap, you can get on it at night (this doesn’t exist in Sheffield) and you get to see ALL THE SIGHTS. I’m such a tourist, I know.

Read the Evening Standard

I only started doing this during my second week as an Intern, as I was far too busy clinging on for my life on the Bakerloo Line during my first few days to read a newspaper. However, once I mastered the basics of staying upright whilst travelling, I picked up a copy of the Evening Standard and read it on my way home every night. Working in PR, we always need to be up to date with the news agenda and making the most of free publications such as METRO (in the morning) and The Evening Standard (on your way home) on your commute is a great way to keep ahead of the game.

Don’t be afraid to ask!

It may be a cliché, but I’ve learnt that it’s so important to ask questions during your work experience.

Aside from showing people that you are interested in what you’re doing, it’s also very natural that at some points during your internship you may be unsure of what you’re doing. I’ve learnt very quickly that it’s ok not to have all the answers straight away, people are happy to help, and in the long run, it’ll save you a lot of time staring blankly at your computer screen hoping for the best!

Jump on every opportunity

If an opportunity arises, sit in on internal meetings. I was lucky enough to be invited to a brainstorm meeting for a new product launch, and it was a really helpful experience. I’m currently studying for a degree in Events Management, and when I return to Sheffield (sob), I’ll have plenty of knowledge on the starting blocks of a product launch project to take back with me.

Do your research.

It might sound obvious but before I started my work experience, I did a lot of research into the work that The PHA Group has done previously and, believe me, it helped. Admittedly, I was still nervous on my first day, however, once I’d settled in I was able to throw myself straight into the tasks I was given – rather than having to spend time reading up on the relevant clients first.

 

Spend time getting to know your colleagues.

I started on a really great week at The PHA Group as at the end of every month they have a company awards ceremony followed by a couple of drinks at a nearby bar. This was a great chance to put myself out there, and get to know the girls in my department a bit more as I’m only here for such a short space of time.

When the working week is over…

… Head to The Blues Kitchen in Shoreditch and dance the night away. It’s as far away as you can possibly get from a generic nightclub, and their live band will have you hopping to the likes of Chic – Everybody Dance like you don’t have a care in the world. Plus, they serve AMAZING food during the day, too… You’re welcome!

Soak EVERYTHING in!

In a period where Madonna fell, #TheDress broke the internet and Patricia Arquette made THAT speech at the Oscars – good PR has never been more important. As an intern, the best thing you can do is TAKE EVERYTHING IN. literally, everything. From breaking news, to the new selfie Kim Kardashian has uploaded to Instagram – I can safely say there is something to be learnt from everything. There’s never a dull moment in PR, and I’ve found it particularly interesting how celebrities and their PR’s manage to use the good, the bad and, in some cases, the ugly to promote their “brand”.

Use your evenings wisely…

There is so much going on in London on a weekly basis so, if possible, try and get in on the action whilst you are here. I stayed at a friend’s house in Greenwich the night of the 2015 Brit Awards, and although I managed to have a snoop inside the O2, I wish I’d hung around witness what the celebrities were wearing in person. Or stalk Critic’s Choice winner James Bay, you decide. The PHA offices are located really close to Leicester Square and there is always a host of exciting premiers and film events taking place – it’s a great opportunity to have a wander after work and soak up some of the media buzz.

Ring your folks!

Trust me, they’ll be really proud of you. When my first blog post was published during my first week at PHA, not only did my mum send me a picture of herself reading it, she also shared it on Facebook to all her friends. It’ll be the ego boost you need if you have a bad day.

Launching a tech start-up… Rule Britannia

From the teenagers creating ‘the next big app’ in their bedroom, to the experienced business professional trading in their job in the city for a stab at being their own boss, new tech companies are popping up with greater regularity than ever before. This means that there is in turn far greater competition when launching a tech start-up.

There are many factors which come in to play and can shape whether commercial success can be achieved, as seen in one of our previous Insights blogs. Location, however, is critical and over the last few years, there has been a real shift in power towards the UK and here are five reasons why:

Government support

Red tape and unnecessary obstacles are definitely additional challenges that tech start-ups could do without. The UK can’t claim to be faultless in this area but huge strides have been made. Recent findings from The Institute of Management Accountants found that the UK has one of the most SME-friendly governments in the world along with Singapore and the UAE. Granted, it is widely accepted that more could still be done but there is a conscious effort in the UK to make sure entrepreneurs and their start-ups get the support they need.

Financial Support

Finances are always going to play a part in a company’s early life; it would be naive to suggest otherwise. Funding can come in a number of ways via the government, angel investors or crowdfunding. The burrito bond helping Mexican restaurant Chilango has been particularly successful. With the accepted rise of the UK’s tech sector, there is now a greater amount of investors who are prepared to part with their hard-earned money while also offering the business and strategy advice which has previously been missing.

Specialist Tech Arenas

The UK is now officially recognised as Europe’s tech hub and can lay claim to being home to some of the brightest and most innovative individuals. With areas such as Silicon Roundabout in London and Creative Quarter in Nottingham now signalled as arenas of vast excellence and growth in the tech sector, where else would you want to be? These are just two examples of how the UK is helping to drive its tech and innovation segment and can only serve to complement further development.

Networking

‘Networking’ is a rather lazy and often overused word which can drum up visions of stuffy conference rooms where nobody feels in the slightest bit at ease. It is, however, a hugely vital tool and one made inordinately easier if you are in the hub of operations. The UK is now managing to attract some of the best talent in the world. To have the opportunity to gain contacts and learn off experts and people who have been in your position is invaluable. Such opportunities will appear more readily if you can operate on a daily basis in the same area as key individuals in the tech sector.

Centre of UK’s economic resurgence

We keep hearing from the current government that the UK is finally out of the financial doldrums and is enjoying a period of sustained growth, and despite the natural cynicism, the statistics back this up. This economic resurgence owes a lot to the country’s burgeoning tech sector. According to KPMG’s research earlier this year, it found the tech sector had enjoyed its biggest period of growth since 2007 and this arena has received more equity investment than any other across the UK. It’s about time that our nation accepted its strengths and shouted about them, so let’s continue to embrace the technology community and open our minds to more.

A night in the life of a London singleton

Last Wednesday started like any other for me at The PHA Group; the morning paper reviews, the hustle and bustle of colleagues arriving and an averagely assembled bowl of cereal. There was very little indication of what I was in store for…

PHA is filled with people either married, engaged or in long-term, committed relationships, I however, am not one of those. And thus, when word got out that a Sun journalist was after ‘attractive singles to take part in fun dates’ for a feature, my hat was thrown into the ring. Not for being particularly aesthetically pleasing, might I add, but simply for a lack of alternatives and a bit of fun.

After some gentle persuasion, I agreed and suddenly my Wednesday night no longer featured a microwave meal and The Apprentice but a date with a woman I had never met before and a Sun photographer. Bemusement? Nerves? Excitement? A combination of the three was probably accurate.

Gareth was looking to find love in the Capital.

Gareth was hoping to find love in the Capital.

As always with these things, nothing is ever completely straightforward. The ‘funny quirk’ of the date was that I would have to kiss the lady in question prior to exchanging pleasantries and have it snapped on camera. Not an alien concept to me, I must admit, but without alcohol as a lubricant, a far more unnerving task.

I arrived at the appropriately named Match Bar, slightly past the arranged time of 7pm, in a juvenile attempt to maintain fashionable, but soon realised I had been trumped as my date proceeded to make me wait until 7.15pm. Unflustered, we got down to business (not a euphemism on this occasion I’m afraid) and adhered to the instructions from the photographer.

And so the moment came for the long-awaited kiss. Laughs were exchanged and disappointingly for those wanting any gossip, I handled the situation like the consummate professional I am. With that photo and others of the two of us in ‘natural date poses’ taken care of, it was time to enjoy the flow of alcohol and each other’s company.

Drinks were consumed, anecdotes were swapped regarding our careers and the evening was proving to be rather a pleasant one. The suggestion of dinner round the corner was made and being someone to never skimp on food, while naturally also wanting to extend the evening, I accepted.

Three courses and a few bottles of beer later, the evening wound down and being the gentleman I am, ended with a peck on the cheek and insisting my date took the first cab ride home.

It was certainly an experience which captured the imaginations of my peers and one that got tongues wagging in the office. Questions reigned in to me the morning after and, harbouring the cricketer in me, I returned most with a straight bat. However, ‘Yes’ is the answer to the question on most lips; my date has asked me out again, and a second date appears very much on the cards…

In defence of the tube strike – we need the human touch

It took me a total of two hours 20 minutes to get to work today, a journey that usually takes under 50 minutes door to door. As I battled my way through the hordes of stranded commuters and tried to avoid being shoved into the armpit of the person next to it would seem natural to curse the RMT. But despite my journey from hell, I support the tube workers’ strike.

The media have tried to pick Bob Crow apart by splashing stories on how much he makes a year, where he lives etc. to diminish his side of the argument. Sorry Daily Mail but I couldn’t care less that Bob Crow went to Brazil on holiday last week or makes £145,000 a year. What I do care about is passenger safety, my safety, on the London Underground, something that Bob Crow is seeking to preserve.

The official line that has been used to try and justify the closures is that fewer than 3 percent of tube journeys start with passengers visiting a ticket office. But given that a total of 1.2 billion passengers travel on the tube every year, that 3 percent represents rather a lot of people. Many of these people will be tourists who contribute millions to our economy each year.

Boris must understand the human cost of his proposals.

Boris must understand the human cost of his proposals.

Of course, businesses evolve. Advances in technology allow us to work smarter, be more efficient and save money but at what cost?

All supermarket shoppers will be familiar with the self-service checkouts that were introduced to increase the speed and ease of your shopping experience or so they said. Personally, I’ve never had a smooth experience using these checkouts especially as there’s always an “unexpected item in the bagging area!” So is it wise to cut 750 jobs on the Underground?

Granted, today’s passengers can handle machines and cards. Modernisation is inevitable but I would still like human beings around on the Underground to ask for help when needed or to make you feel safe when travelling late at night or early in the morning. What happens if you need your oyster card reissued or help planning an alternative route? There will be no one around to help and I highly doubt that most busy commuters will stop to help either.

Every morning I say hello to the lady at the ticket office in West Acton, we’ve been doing this for over two years now. Stopping to chat or waving to her as I run for my train really brightens up my mornings. I’d much rather be greeted by a smiling face than an automated machine any day.

Unmanned ticket offices may be cheaper but the government are seriously overlooking the human cost involved. We’re increasingly losing the human connection, something I don’t believe you can put a price on, as businesses become more ‘efficient’. This is why I’ll continue to support the strikes and remember not to grumble when I fight to get home tonight.

Coming down from the Olympic High

Considering I have never had Olympic fever before, I caught the London 2012 Olympic bug with a vengeance. For me, one of the most special aspects of this type of event is when you catch yourself absorbed in a sport you didn’t even know existed, such as dancing horses or rhythmic gymnastics. The Games has an uncanny way of turning even the most unpatriotic citizen into a proud Briton. My friend announced that this was the first time he relished referring to himself as British rather than Scottish. It’s this ability to bring the United Kingdom together that has been so awe-inspiring over the last 18 days – even Andy Murray managed to crack a smile!

This has been Britain’s most successful Olympics ever, winning 18 more medals than we did in Beijing. On top of this, London is now the first city to have played host to the Games three times. I am already buzzing about 2016 when the Olympics are in Rio, and our incredible athletes can fight once again to achieve National glory.

London 2012 had the privilege of hosting many ‘first times’ which portrayed how the world is progressing. It was the first year that women’s boxing has ever been included in the Games and it was Nicola Adams who filled the UK with pride as she won her first Olympic gold medal. It was also the first time that Britain had entrants into every single sport. But probably the most important premier was that two women were allowed to represent Saudi Arabia in track and judo events. Even though neither of them came close to winning, they became heroes in London.

The tagline for 2012 has been to “inspire a generation” – and it has. According to the London School of Economics, there has been an 11% rise in cycling around Britain, which means 13 million Britons have been spurred on by the victory of the Velodrome. I am certain it will not end here.

london-2012-olympic_2560x1607_98630

The Government have promised us that the Olympics will not be forgotten and prosperity will follow; we will use the success of London 2012 to boost the depleted economy. This is already happening; £7 billion worth of contracts have been drawn up and signed creating jobs for tens of thousands of people who would have otherwise remained out of work. Sports will once again become a staple of our society, opening doors for our talented youth.

It really has been a memorable occasion. Even though there still exist sceptics who insist that it was all a waste of time and money, they are simply wrong. Britain proved its worth and put us back on the map: A small island once again ready to compete with the big dogs.

Of course, it doesn’t all end here. Now the baton has been handed over to the Paralympics, which will show us the resilience of the human body and what can be achieved in the face of adversity.