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What's in a name?

SIA in Whitehall and Westminster – the regular blog from our campaigns team

In the garden of language, where syllables bloom
Some names spark joy, while others spell gloom
“Monday” sulks in shadows, moving slow
“Friday” dances merrily, making hearts glow


“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Shakespeare may have had a point in Romeo and Juliet, but history has shown that the way we name things can cause a preconception in others. If you were about to meet two dogs and all you knew was that one was called Brutus and the other Cuddles, would you have slightly more trepidation about stroking one of them than the other?

The importance of names, and of language used, can be really important in politics.

I recently talked about this during a guest lecture I gave to political students at Harvard University. Thanks to today’s advanced technology, I could do this from the comfort of my own home (I’ve had to fly over many times in the past and never had time for sightseeing – six kids at home always meant I had to rush back!). The lecture was on the effects of political theology in current geopolitics, a sensitive topic given the times we live in, but one of the things we discussed was how names and language play an important part in public perception. That perception itself then leads (if positive) to trust and support.

There is a good reason I am talking about lectures and names and perceptions: our bowel care campaign has had a complete refresh on its one-year anniversary. A direction change and a name change. With the Parliamentary roundtable in February, we changed direction from an awareness campaign to a change campaign.

During the roundtable and in discussions preceding and following it, politicians and other charities made the point that the name was a little awkward for them to use on social media, get behind or mention in the main chambers of both Houses of Parliament, for obvious reasons.

Both Glyn and I have never actually used the name ‘Serious Sh1t’. We have always called it the bowel care campaign or similar. For an awareness campaign, the name is very important because it is what sticks in people’s minds, what pulls at their heartstrings, and what remains in their memory. For a change campaign however, unless someone or a group of decisionmakers who have the power to change policies and can be influenced to make the change needed takes notice, nothing is going to come from just the name itself.

Now, having the support of the decisionmakers, we need to ensure that they can talk about the campaign without hesitation. So, we need a name that explains the issue in three or less words, encompasses the many challenges that everyone with a neurogenic bowel face, and makes clear what our campaign ask is.

Human brains and artificial intelligence aids (ChatGPT 😊) colluded and after several iterations, and a few, sometimes loud, meetings, we have a new name – Paralysed Bowel Campaign, with the tagline “Safe care for people with neurogenic bowels.”

The campaign’s logo and literature going forward, will reflect this. For those posts that continue to raise awareness only, the previous #serioussh1t hashtag can still be used. If in doubt, please ask me, Glyn, Naomie or Assan.

Photo of Gill Furniss MP in the House of CommonsWith thanks to Gill Furniss MP for her staunch support, I am pleased to report that we have a meeting with the health minister in the coming weeks to discuss the bowel care campaign and our asks. Gill asked an oral question to the Secretary of State for Health last month which secured this meeting: you can read the Hansard record of the question and response here.

Helen Morgan MP also asked a written question on the provision of accessible screening tests for women with a spinal cord injury.

Helen is another strong supporter of SIA and a member of our task force for women’s health after a spinal cord injury.

In collaboration with Carers UK, we jointly briefed MPs, including Margaret Greenwood MP, who is (an officer of our APPG) and Ed Davey MP (Leader of the Liberal Democrats) for a Westminster Hall debate on the challenges carers currently face. It was also a good opportunity to pass on my knowledge of Parliamentary processes, protocols, and the Palace of Westminster, to Glyn. Especially as the Rwanda Bill ping pong was in full swing that day, and we sat through a few divisions, when MPs left to vote in the main chamber, and returned. Enough time to not only talk shop, but about life goals, the state of the nation, and of course, predict the elections. These days, no conversation in Westminster is worth its salt without election date predictions being a part of it.

View of a meeting room in Westminster Hall

Westminster Hall debates are usually awareness debates, and in their own way important for influencing MPs and the Government. In a Westminster Hall debate, a government minister from the relevant department will be present and will respond at the end of the debate.  These take place in the Grand Committee Room (also known as the second chamber of the House of Commons). Later that evening we attended the Urology Foundation’s annual Parliamentary reception and met many familiar faces, including our ambassador, Dr Mohammed Belal.

The bowel care campaign petition has nearly reached 8000 signatures: only another 2000 signatures left to the magic 10,000 number for a response from the Government. We have had two recent spikes in signatures: a few hundred during the Cornflower ball, and over a thousand after direct emails were sent to members (a huge thank you to Julie, who is always a star). Once again, if you know anyone who hasn’t signed, please encourage them to, and keep spreading the word.

sign our petition here

Glyn will also be at the SIA stand in the Milton Keynes Shopping centre this Friday, 17 May, with Matt and Shannon, to encourage more people to sign the petition. If you are around the area, please visit the SIA stand. Meanwhile, I will be taking Friday off, as my time off in lieu day, to attend a board meeting at Oxford University. I am also speaking at the Oxford Union after that, but that’s not for this blog.

In other news

  • Glyn and I went on a visit to Coloplast, organised by Hannah and the rest of the team. It was very informative, and they left no stone unturned in making sure we were comfortable, including the delicious, freshly baked vegan cookies by their own chef! We came away with lots of new knowledge on catheters and other aids, as well as some ideas for collaborative campaigns.
  • We also attended the Air Travel Conference organised by Deka Chambers. We were invited by Hudgell Solicitors, and met some of the main campaigners, whose tenacity and determination really impressed me. I was slightly taken aback though, at the lack of knowledge on how Whitehall and Westminster operate, even amongst the legal eagles. We also connected with the PVA (The Paralysed Veterans of America organisation) at the event, and we later met them this month. Following the conference, I had a quick call with the department of transport’s permanent secretary, another former colleague and friend, who gave me more insight on the difficulties that need to be overcome to make progress in this policy area.


Our comms team Glyn Hayes and Dharshana Sridhar in Westminster

We seem to be spending more and more time in Westminster, with more visits to Parliament looking to be taking place in May and June. It didn’t even rain last week which is a miracle; we seem to attract a lot of rain every time we head there. As the weather warms up, and London’s Embankment pathways are filled with tourists, I am thinking I might have to convert Glyn from a hot chocolate drinker (that was one of my winter campaigns 😊) to maybe a frappuccino sort of drinker. That campaign is still in very early stages!

Whilst it can seem relentless at times, we both do thrive on the busyness of campaign work. It is made easier by Naomie and the wider team being as great and understanding as they always are.

I have been fortunate in the opportunities I have had, and in the mentors, I have had the privilege of having, and continue to have. For all of this, I am forever grateful. I want to end with a quote from one of the greatest men the world has seen, at least in my eyes, someone whom I was proud to call an uncle (he was a good friend of my parents and godparents). Invaluable words from uncle Madiba (or Nelson Mandela as the world knows him – now there’s a name to end on)

We can change the world and make it a better place. It is in your hands to make a difference.”

Invaluable words that I have always tried to strive towards, and it is more than apt for all of us, in today’s world, as we continue to fight for a better life for those with a spinal cord injury.


Dharshana & Glyn