The Rambles of Neil Monnery

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On comparing Lord Ashcroft, Iain Dale, Lib Dem Polling & Odds – Hornsey & Wood Green Edition

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Lynne Featherstone. Known to most as a fantastic grass roots campaigner and a passionate women’s rights activist. Known to me as someone who stopped following me on twitter (boo…). Yet still I’m not bitter, a load of Lib Dems have stopped following me on twitter including the DPM and the @LibDems account themselves. What have I done to you guys…?

Still lets not talk about the distinct dislike that other Lib Dems have for me on social media, lets look at Lynne Featherstone and whether she’s going to be representing the people of Hornsey & Wood Green for another term.

First things first, look at the way she has improved her vote since she first fought the seat in 1997. 5,794 people put an x next to her name that year, just 25,998 behind the victorious Labour candidate. Four years later and she had doubled her vote total to 11,353 and elbowed the Tories into a distant second and had ate into Labour’s lead, which now sat at just over 10,000.

After the Iraq war the Lib Dems took the seat with a 5% majority and another 10,000 votes before extending that lead in 2010 to 6,600 odd. The thing to note here is the Labour vote didn’t drift in 2010, the extra votes for the Lib Dems came from the 8,000 more votes cast.

So Lynne’s grass roots campaigning has been first rate to turn what was a pretty safe Labour seat into what was a relatively safe Lib Dem seat. Yet the coalition issue is glaring and in Labour facing seats, certainly those in London, that is a big issue. Outside of London the UKIP factor is far more significant but in London less so. So we know Lynne’s qualities.

Lord Ashcroft polled the seat in September 2014 and had Labour ahead by 13%, which pretty much went with the conventional wisdom in this seat. Still the Lib Dems grasped on to the notion that Lord Ashcroft’s polling didn’t name names and in certain seats, this would keep the seat in play as it were.

Iain Dale wasn’t confident about Lynne’s chances:

Sitting MP: Lynne Featherstone (LibDem)
Prediction: Labour gain

Labour has a massive majority to overcome here, but they are pouring huge resources into this seat to win it back. Lynne Featherstone is a doughty campaigner and won’t be easy to shift, but if she is beaten it will be because of the collapse in LibDem support nationally.

So things are looking grim for a well-liked and well-respected MP. Yet news came out earlier of this month that the Lib Dems had done some internal polling in the seat and things weren’t so bad, in fact they looked rather promising. The headline numbers put the Lib Dems 1% behind Labour (despite the headline calling it a dead heat – that was cheeky).

Some of the other key things to note from this piece of polling is that Lynne has been heard of by 84% of those asked with a +34 favourability rating. The Labour candidate has only been of by 34% of voters with even 49% of those who say they are going to vote Labour admitting that they are voting for the party without even knowing who the candidate was.

The last key piece of information is that amongst those key undecided voters (and if this polling is to be believed then the undecided’s are very much in play) then Lynne’s favourability is +33% whilst Labour’s Catherine West is at -8%.

The excellent new Betfair Predicts website says that Labour are going to win Hornsey & Wood Green. They give Labour a 56% chance to win the seat with the Lib Dems at 25%. The weird thing is they give the Green Party an 18% chance in this seat and that quite simply isn’t going to happen. So the statistics in this seat seem a bit skewed. It isn’t even on their target list and they may only win one of their target list so to give them an 18% chance to win this seat, nah…

Hornsey & Wood Green is a two-horse race (and I hate that term but it is). The Lib Dems are just shy of 2/1 on the exchanges whilst Labour are 1/4. If you like to roll the dice then that is a great price. Headline polls and conventional wisdom say that Labour will win this seat back after losing it ten years ago but the peripherals hint that it is a much tighter seat to call.

I’d have the odds much tighter and Lab at 4/6 and LD at 5/4 which be a far better representation so the value bet is on a Lib Dem hold. Lynne needs to squeeze that 9,000 Tory vote to win and that will be the key to this particular constituency. If she squeezes 3,000 of those voters then she will hold on, if she doesn’t then she’ll be fighting a very tough battle.

A Lynne loss wouldn’t be a shock but a Lynne win most certainly wouldn’t be either. This is a classic seat of a popular incumbent being an MP of an unpopular party nationally. We’ll see if party or person wins out. I know I expect to see more of Lynne on the green benches, even if her (or her social media team) aren’t big fans of me any more…

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Written by neilmonnery

March 26th, 2015 at 4:48 pm

Posted in Politics

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On giving off a bad first impression…

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I give off a bad first impression. I always have, I suspect I always will. If you were ever to somehow source my school reports then they all follow the same pattern, teachers generally thought I sucked and was lazy in the first half of the year but by the end of the year they would lax lyrical (well maybe not that far) but they would say I was much better than they had written a few months before.

Why this is I have no idea but I have always been slightly individual. I have rarely cared how I come across as I’ve been pigheaded and thought that how I come across shouldn’t matter. What clothes I wear shouldn’t matter and the like, of course the reality is significantly different. How you look and how you come across in those first few moments is actually really important. Not just in the dating scene or a work scene but in every day life.

On Saturday I was down in Guildford doing some politics stuff but I would only do delivery and I wouldn’t canvass. The main reason is ideally I want to help get Lib Dems elected and not vice versa and if I knocked on a strangers door, dressed in a hoodie, with orange headphones around my neck and what some would say garish (I wouldn’t, they are awesome) sunset coloured trainers then I think people would straight away go on the defensive and think that I was there for reasons other than what I was. As an aside to this I noticed how many stickers from Surrey Police were on doors in Guildford telling people that they wouldn’t buy anything off of cold callers and if they came twice then they were breaking the law, I thought this was a good idea. Anyway I digress.

Being defensive is not going to be a good start to any potential conversation about who someone is going to vote for so I remove myself from that situation. I get some stick in some quarters because I don’t canvass and that means that I apparently don’t know anything but we all have different strengths and weaknesses.

So because of how I come across I limit myself. Many moons ago my mum said I’d never get anywhere in life if I didn’t drive or if I refused to wear a shirt and tie/suit. Well here we are, I’m in my 30s and my clothing choices are still pretty bum like. I don’t own a coat and haven’t for a decade or more. I do own a pair of shoes but I only ever war them to walk over to my local shops (as they are slip on so its quicker and easier than putting on my trainers). I wear what have been described as ‘tatty’ jeans when the need arises but I’m very much a jogging bottom guy. I wear glitter in my hair. Basically I look like a strange combination of a bum and a weirdo. I think that sums it up rather nicely.

This is why I’ll never make it as a Liberal Democrat politician to any significant level. To be a success you have to not only work hard, be passionate, be all around amazing but you also have to be impressive and I’ll say this about me – I’m not an impressive individual. Give me time and I can impress but you often only have a few seconds to make a first impression and the current version of me doesn’t have that. It would need quite the turnaround to be able to project this.

I’d like to think in this era that we live in that first impressions aren’t as important as they were in bygone days but I think that is very much not the case. We are more impatient as a society. We make snap decisions and don’t give others as time as we might in previous generations. So giving off a good first impression is going to be all the more important for our children and our children’s children.

I’ve said all this but yet in previous guises I have done shop work where people said I gave off a good first impression. I used to volunteer at Hospital Radio where I’d interact well (I thought although others apparently disagreed) with patients and staff but politics and interviews are a different scenario entirely. You have to project a version of yourself that you want the other person/people to see and not the real you and that my friends is the key.

That is why all my political endeavours these days are done behind the scenes and come election day I’ll be holed up somewhere with a computer helping to coordinate that side of things. Sometimes you have to play to your strengths but even more importantly whilst working on your weaknesses as a person is all well and good, when you are doing things for other people and your weaknesses could affect them, then you have to avoid your weaknesses instead of working on them, at least in the short-term.

I would love to meet strangers and impress them within a few minutes of meeting them but alas that just isn’t my forte at this very moment (nor indeed has it ever). Will it ever change? Who knows but whilst it doesn’t cause me any real issues in my life, if I could go back and tell my teenage self to adjust how he thought about these things then I would. I know I could change now. I could buy a suit, I could wear shirts, I could wear proper shoes. I could go glitterless but you know what, that just isn’t me. It is hard to reinvent who you are and would I really want to at this point?

So the bum/weirdo hybrid combo will stay. No doubt the slight awkwardness will as well. I make myself sound awesome don’t I? Well give me time and you may well be impressed but make a decision early and I’ll just be a person you’ll forget about without blinking.

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Written by neilmonnery

March 26th, 2015 at 11:58 am

Posted in Personal

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On comparing Lord Ashcroft Polling, Iain Dale predictions & odds for Lib Dem seats – Part I

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Lets look at a few of the seats where Lord Ashcroft has done some constituency polling and compare them to how Iain Dale thinks that the seat will go before throwing in the latest odds for the seats. Politicos seem to think that Iain Dale is pretty darn good and believe his predictions are pretty accurate. We know the pitfalls of Ashcroft polling (it doesn’t name the candidates and for sitting MPs of all parties – this is often to the detriment of the sitting MPs) and well you never see a poor bookie, do you? I’ll be using the odds from Betfair for these odds.

Note: Iain Dale has got in touch to point out that he made some revisions last week, which are on a different link to the full list that I was working from. I have added to this article to reflect this and it effects Carshalton & Wallington

We’ll start with the biggest difference between Iain Dale and Lord Ashcroft – Carshalton & Wallington

What does Iain Dale say about Carshalton & Wallington?

Sitting MP: Tom Brake (LibDem)
Prediction: Conservative gain

Somewhat charismatically challenged Brake is nevertheless a very good constituency MP and this could seem him through, but the Labour vote here is bound to recover. However, I’d say this was a 50/50 prediction and could easily go the other way. This would be the sixth time Brake has fought the seat and that counts for a lot.

Wow. Bit of a blow there for Tom Brake. He won by 11% in 2010 so that would be a big defeat for the Lib Dems. Lord Ashcroft polled the seat in November 2014 and his polling resulted in a Lib Dem hold but not only a Lib Dem hold – he had the Lib Dems stretching their lead and taking the seat by 20%. Lib Dems on 43%, Conservatives on 23% with UKIP up to 17% and Labour on 12% with a few others.

Odds: Lib Dem 2/7, Cons 5/2

Iain has pointed out that in his updated version it is rather different – which pretty much kills this part of the piece but…

Sitting MP: Tom Brake (LibDem)
Prediction: Conservative gain
Revised Prediction: LibDem gain (I assume he means hold)

Somewhat charismatically challenged Brake is nevertheless a very good constituency MP and this could seem him through, but the Labour vote here is bound to recover. However, I’d say this was a 50/50 prediction and could easily go the other way. This would be the sixth time Brake has fought the seat and that counts for a lot. UPDATE: The Ashcroft poll is even more conclusive than the one above 43-23.

So Tom seems like he’s in a much better position now according to both Iain and the LA polling…

Next up we’ll stay in London where things look tight for Simon Hughes in Bermondsey & Old Southwark if you believe Lord Ashcroft but Iain Dale thinks he’ll hold on.

Sitting MP: Simon Hughes (LibDem)
Prediction: LibDem hold

I had thought this would be a dead cert hold for Simon Hughes but increasingly I am wondering if I am right. Labour seem very confident they can take this. However, if you look at the electoral hurdles Labour would have to overcome to win this, I think they’re going to have a tough task. They might also be hindered by a number of coalition-friendly Tories lending Simon Hughes their votes. Or they might not :)

I was out doing some campaigning in Guildford at the weekend and one of the chaps I was with was going to Bermondsey on the Sunday. The campaign seems active and Simon Hughes has been a local MP since 1983 in the guises of several different boundaries. Yet Lord Ashcroft in September had Labour within a point of Simon Hughes in a seat where he’s held on with relative ease for quite a while. I’m a big demographics guy and I can see why Labour think they can do well here. Simon has a huge personal vote and I suspect when he stands down it’ll be a very tough hold for the Lib Dems but this time around, Simon could well hang on but I can see why Labour are shorter than 2/1.

Odds: Lib Dems 4/9, Lab 7/4

Next up we’ll go to a seat where the public perception is clear, the Lib Dems are toast in Cardiff Central.

Sitting MP: Jenny Willott (LibDem)
Prediction: Labour gain

Most pundits seem convinced this is a surefire Labour gain. I’m going with the flow here, but I am not 100% sure. Willott could benefit from some Tory tactical voting to keep Labour out. In addition, although UKIP aren’t strong in Cardiff, they could take votes away from Labour as well as the Tories, just as they are sure to do in North Wales. Jenny Willott shouldn’t give up the day job quite yet, but she’s in for the fight of her life.

Lord Ashcroft agrees with the Lib Dems winning by 12% in 2010 but losing by 12% next year. The polling was done in September 2014. Yet there has also been some polling done by the Lib Dems which has her within 1%. As a punter the value is with the Lib Dems but I certainly wouldn’t put it in any accumulator, that is for sure. This is the type of seat where the Lib Dems should lose according to conventional wisdom so a win here and it’ll be a huge win. It will probably need tactical voting to help bring back an excellent MP but it should be noted that more bets have been placed on an LD hold than a Labour win here.

Odds: Lab 1/3, Lib Dem 9/4

Lastly in the first post of this sort (I say first – obviously depending on time etc.) is the one I’m looking at closer than any other seat, Cambridge.

Sitting MP: Julian Huppert (LibDem)
Prediction: Narrow LibDem hold

A genuine three way marginal, this seat has been held by all three parties in recent memory. It went LibDem in 2005. If you look at the size of the LibDem majority here, Julian Huppert ought to be considered very safe, but this is a seat which swings with the wind, and if the wind is blowing towards Labour you can see it returning to them. It obviously has a high student vote and this may determine the outcome. However Huppert has been a strong performer both locally in Parliament and if anyone can hold this seat for the LibDems, he can. But bearing in mind the LibDems’ calamitous results in May I’ve now changed my mind and think Labour will win here.

UPDATE: 16/1/14 And I’ve now changed it back due to more information received about the Labour campaign and candidate, as well as the efforts the LibDems are making here. I now think the odds may be marginally in favour of Julian Huppert.

So Iain Dale has flip-flopped and Lord Ashcroft polled this seat in September 2014 and had Julian Huppert losing by 1% to Labour. The reason I think this seat is one to watch is because Julian is fucking fantastic. He is everything you could want from a Lib Dem MP.

He has a passion for his constituency, he has very green credentials, interacts well and also is constantly being seen and heard in parliament. The Tories seem to not like him and that is probably a good thing. I’m a big Julian fan and if he can’t win in Cambridge then I just wonder what the electorate are on. Regardless of your political allegiance, you have to say he’s an excellent MP and can do great things both for the Lib Dems but more importantly for the people of Cambridge.

The bookies have no idea what to make of Cambridge. Labour were the favourites for a long time but the sheer weight of bets on Julian have seen him become the favourite. This seat has seen representation of all three parties of recent government in the past three decades. It was a Tory seat that went red in 1992 and became super safe Labour in the Tony Blair landslide, however they lost big in 2005 and Julian rolled in 2010.

Obviously the university is a huge issue here and that is not great for the Lib Dems but Julian has always been a strong voice against tuition fees and voted against any increase. It will eat into his vote but he has very quickly become one of the most recognisable faces the Lib Dems have and he has a very high personal rating. I think (and hope) he holds on and if he does – he can hold on to that seat for decades should he want to.

Odds: Lib Dems 8/11, Labour 11/10

More to come…probably.

Iain Dale predictions come from here, Lord Ashcroft polling from here and the odds are from Betfair.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.

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Written by neilmonnery

March 23rd, 2015 at 6:56 pm

Posted in Politics

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On missing out on £40 because of talking too much politics…

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Every so often here at The Rambles of Neil Monnery we (well what I mean by that is me, myself & I) we get e-mails from companies wanting to advertise on the blog. I take these approaches on a case-by-case basis depending on the type of article that they want written and the type of site/business they want advertised. I was recently approached about a piece for an online bed retailer. No harm, no foul I thought and that £40 they were offering for an article could be put towards something that I didn’t need on eBay so I agreed. They would provide an article and I’d upload it to the blog on their behalf. Simple.

So a week or so had passed and I was informed that despite them approaching me, they decided that my blog was too political and they thought a piece about bedding wouldn’t look natural. I did point out that my blog can be about whatever I decide to write about. I cover a variety of topics (as they surely knew when they approached me) and indeed have actually written a blog post about my own bed before so there is precedence. I said just tell me the links and key terms you need in the article and I’ll write it myself. Apparently though I couldn’t make something look natural even if on my own blog. Yeah…

Now in a bizarre twist the company that approached me for this link also approached me around 18 months ago but in a very different guise. They approached me to see if I was interested in heading up the outreach department on this very project (not just the online bedding stuff but their whole outreach project).

I get e-mails from their outreach people all time because a) my blog is pretty powerful SEO wise so getting a link on my blog is actually worth a fair few pennies and b) my blog is so varied in terms of content, it ranks well for a variety of key terms and therefore appeals to a wide range of advertisers. Every time I get an e-mail I am tempted to reply telling them that had I been interested then I could have easily been their boss but I wasn’t keen on returning to the office nor moving to York and I was more than (and still am) comfortable and content with my current work situation.

This amused me so I thought I’d write about it because hello, it is my blog and I can write about anything I like but I’d also write a few words about my bed in addition to what I’ve written before. My bed is actually my most expensive purchase that I have ever made. My thought process was that if I’m going to spend a third of my life in bed then I might as well buy a very good one that was extremely comfortable. So I did. It was more expensive than my 42″ HDTV, it was more expensive than any of my computers or laptops. It was more expensive than my iPad. You start to get my drift. So I actually know all about spending money on a bed and the value of doing so.

I could have been quite the spokesman for an online bedding company because I like to spend a lot of time in bed. Unlike most who may use the bedroom as a hot and spicy place full of fun and frolics, I don’t have that option because I’m a lamentable human being or at the very least, my love life is. So I use mine to listen to the weather. Hearing the rain fall and the cars splashing in puddles is the most relaxing experience. I do my thinking in bed and when you take take in the marathon fantasy baseball draft that I do then I can lay there and think about that for hours. In the winter I often go to bed early just because it is so comfortable and warm.

Spending money on a good bed (well mattress, the frame really is secondary) is one of the best things that you can do if you can afford to. I sleep extremely well these days and I never *touches wood* have any back issues. So people of the world I proclaim this, if your finances dictate that you can spend money on one ‘luxury’ item in terms of for the home then I’d go with a really good mattress. Go down to your local bedding store and lay on a few and find one that feels right to you and go get it. You won’t regret it.

When I bought a bed, I just went into Dreams and the woman came up to me and asked about budget and I essentially told her that there was no budget but I wasn’t going to be stupid. I laid on a few mattresses and found one that wasn’t full memory foam but the top 5cm was memory foam with the usual springs under the rest of the mattress. It just felt good and was within my (in my head) budget. It also helped that it was over 50% off compared to its usual price. So I agreed to buy it and it got made to my specifications and a couple of weeks later I had a bed. That was over six years ago and I’m very happy with my bed and I have no plans to upgrade at any point in the near future.

So things to take away from this pointless exercise, spending money on a very good mattress is not a false economy, I can write whatever I like on my own blog and make it not stick out like a sore thumb and for those outreach people who approach me about advertising, don’t approach me, agree to everything and then say you can’t make it a natural fit. You should do your research beforehand and if the blog isn’t the right fit then don’t approach me in the first place. By doing so and changing your mind you just waste my time and yours. So do your research and if the blog is the right fit then drop me an e-mail with your proposals.

We (I) are open for business, just like the country, am I right people? Am I right…?

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Written by neilmonnery

March 23rd, 2015 at 3:35 pm

Posted in Random Stuff

On UKIP’s new alternative European Football proposals…

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It has been a bad fortnight for English teams (and British – poor Celtic…) in European competition and after Everton’s shambolic defending against Dynamo Kiev tonight, the hopes of a British team lifting silverware in Europe is over for another season.

Both Chelsea and Arsenal dropped out of the Champions League following a defeat on the away goals rule. The rule has been about for ages and most competitions use it to some degree. I’m a fan of having no away goals in use at all, like the football league playoffs, but can also see the way that CONCACAF Champions League, MLS Cup Playoffs, AFC Champions League and AFC Cup use it, where away goals only count after ninety minutes and not after extra time, has its merits (in this scenario no team is penalised/advantaged by playing an extra thirty minutes at home/away from home).

Still the fact that two English sides went out of the Champions League on this rule has caused a stir. If it wasn’t for those peaky Europeans using the rules of the game against the good old English then all would be good with the world. Something had to be done. Well luckily for us UKIP appointed their very own football spokesman and used the position to show that they are a diverse group of people.

Welsh born but of Italian descent UKIP PPC for Fucking Britain, Gethin Da Netti (I know, its a stretch, I’m just not that imaginative) said that rules needed to be changed and under a UKIP led government, the away goals rule would be scraped. ‘After seeing the heroic departures of the gallant English sides (led by a Voyeur Frenchman and an angry Portuguese man – but still English damnit, they play in London), UKIP can now announce that they’ll be lobbying UEFA for a change in the away goals rule to ensure that away goals only count double for English teams and should that still not be enough, any English team that can recite the National Anthem will also get a bonus National Anthem goal in the event of ties.’

We believe that this proposal will ensure that fairness is applied to English teams in Europe because at the moment the situation is grossly unfair because English teams are forced to play in front of foreign crowds who chant in foreign languages and it is putting off the English players as they are trying to decode what these people are saying about their mothers.’

Wanting equality in European football isn’t a new thing for UKIP who even as far back as 1982, even before they existed, campaigned that Aston Villa should win the European Cup because they knew in the future they would become top flight also rans who were an afterthought and the people of Birmingham needed something to get them through what would be known as the ‘Paul Lambert years’.

In 1999 UKIP successfully argued that Manchester United should be allowed to score twice in injury time against Bayern Munich, because it would give Clive Tyldesley a chance to mention to Andy Townsend repeatedly about the Nou Camp in 1999 only to hear Andy remind Clive that it was actually Ron Atkinson who was along him that night as he was still playing, completing his second season at Middlesbrough.

UKIP have always sought to protect English teams in Europe. They were unsuccessful in their proposal to the European Parliament that only players who could down a Pie, Chips and Beans dinner with a pint of Guinness in five minutes should be allowed to play in the Champions League bill and were also unsuccessful when they lobbied UEFA to have all players tested for traces of paella before a match. They were close to getting through a law to ensure all Champions League players could name five words where the, ‘i before e except after c’ rule didn’t apply but then realised no English player would pass and quickly pulled it back off of the table.

Football is important and getting British teams further in European competitions is good for business and good for national pride. UKIP don’t care about the former because who gives a shit about business and the economy but ensuring that English people can go to foreign lands and act like prats to show Europeans whose boss, well that is ok.

It is yet to be seen whether or not this manifesto promise will lead to a sway in votes and a boost for the UKIP poll rating but it is also probably not the daftest (or most unbelievable) thing that has been associated with UKIP that you’ve read today – or any other day – and that my friend (or foes) is almighty depressing.

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Written by neilmonnery

March 19th, 2015 at 10:01 pm

Posted in Politics

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On the term, ‘hard working families’ and why it is diluting Labour’s message…

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Ah ‘hard working families’ – they are the important ones. Hard working single people, fuck them. Stay at home parents, fuck them. People that work but don’t put in a full shift, fuck them. Unemployed people, fuck them. You get my drift. It is a buzz term that has taken off and indeed has got to a point where even Labour don’t seem to want to represent anyone who don’t fulfil the hard working families criteria.

Speaking in The Guardian, Shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves says that Labour are not the party for people on benefits. ‘We are not the party of people on benefits. We don’t want to be seen, and we’re not, the party to represent those who are out of work, Labour are a party of working people, formed for and by working people.’

This seems to me to be exactly the issue that Labour are facing at the moment. They don’t know exactly who and what they stand for. They believe that the country wants a stronger stance against immigration and a tougher stance on benefit scroungers. This is all trumped up by the media who are fuelling this rhetoric in this country and both the written and broadcast media are to blame.

The facts are that immigration is good for the country and those who abuse the benefit system pale into insignificance compared to those who rely on it for a variety of very legitimate reasons. People shouldn’t be chastised or pilloried for being on benefits. To say that a party doesn’t represent those people is not a great place to be.

Labour want to win an election (well, who doesn’t?) but they seem to have a plan of winning the election by putting their stall in whatever place they believe will get the most votes. If that means attacking the benefit system then seemingly so be it. Isn’t that where the Tories want to stand? Isn’t it middle England who apparently look down on those on benefits whilst shopping at Waitrose and cooking on or in an aga? (what is an aga?) Polling though seems to indicate that there is a movement against those on benefits and that means that if you are pro-benefits then there might be votes to be lost.

18 months ago Reeves announced that Labour would be tougher than the Tories when it came to cutting the benefits bill. Wow. ‘It is not an either/or question. We would be tougher [than the Conservatives]. If they don’t take it [the offer of a job] they will forfeit their benefit. But there will also be the opportunities there under a Labour government.’

She speaks about reducing the amount of food banks, which is something I think we all want to see, but only because we want to see the need for them reduce and end entirely. She blames the rise of food banks on the benefit system and delays and the tightening of sanctions against those who abuse the system/get trapped in the system. That isn’t an unfair point but she argues that she’ll be even tougher on benefits and cutting the welfare bill. Which is it? It can’t be both…

Either Labour are the party who’ll be tough on welfare or they’ll be the party who understands the importance of the benefits system. You can’t have fingers in both pies and give a different version of events depending on which section of the electorate that you want to talk to that day.

The truth is Labour should win this election outright but they aren’t going to do so. Ed Miliband is an issue as is Ed Balls. People don’t trust them on the economy and that is always a big issue when it comes to elections but whilst the economy is turning around and growing, the benefits of that are only just starting to filter through.

Many people aren’t feeling the benefits at all and they are the people that need a helping hand and not condemnation for the situation that they find themselves in. The cutting of council budgets is hitting hard and that should be a key issue this election but it is being shunned for reasons that I can’t really fathom.

If though your whole pitch is geared for ‘hard working families’ and the grey vote then you might struggle to get over the 325 MP threshold. If Labour went down the line of old Labour and made this election more of an ideological battle then they would arguably be in a better position than they are right now. The Green Party have long be seen as the home of disaffected Lib Dem voters but they are really ‘Old Labour’ in all but name and they will appeal to old school socialists.

I know exactly what the Lib Dems stand for. I know what the Tories stand for. I know what UKIP stand for. I even know what the Green’s stand for but I don’t know exactly what or who Labour stand for. It seems to be different depending on what vote they are courting that day and that is no way to run a campaign let alone a country.

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Written by neilmonnery

March 17th, 2015 at 7:37 pm

Posted in Politics

On why Stephen Lloyd should win a second term in Eastbourne…

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I’ll preface this by saying that I have never spoken to nor met Mr Lloyd and until a few hours ago I wouldn’t have been able to name him as the Eastbourne MP. So it seems a bit daft that I should be writing a blog with such a title but this piece is actually based on the words of another.

In a piece by Cole Moreton in The Independent entitled, Stephen Lloyd: The Lib Dems ‘saved the country, but we destroyed ourselves,’ the journalist speaks about how when the Lib Dems pulled off what was a bit of an upset by taking Eastbourne in 2010, it was the Anti-Tory vote that won him the seat and the fact that the party then went into coalition with the Tories then he felt (like many others) that it was an act of betrayal.

This sums up one of the core issues with the political system that we have. When no party wins outright and a coalition or indeed supply/confidence is in place then many voters will not be happy with what happens. The most likely example going into 2015 is if the SNP go into coalition with the Labour Party that they are fighting a bitter and nasty battle with. If the SNP do get together with Labour then will SNP voters be betrayed because they actively voted against the Labour Party and not for the SNP? It is one to ponder and one that we may well come across in the coming months.

Back to the matter in hand. The journalist feels betrayed as he voted for Mr Lloyd primarily as he was the Anti-Tory ticket that could actually beat the Tories. This is a scenario up and down the country, there are many seats where because of demographics, historical voting patterns and the like that it will only be a two-horse race in the running to actually win the seat. So the electorate have to decide whether they are going to vote with the party they feel the most comfortable with or whether they are going to vote for the party they prefer out of the two that can actually win.

He was initially happy that the Tory was beaten but then he wasn’t so sure. ‘I put his big yellow board up in my garden last time because I wanted anyone but Nigel Waterson, the veteran Conservative MP who, I felt, was taking the mickey by living far away and popping down for visits like a minor royal,’ says Mr Moreton. He goes on to say a couple of paragraphs later, ‘He’s (Stephen Lloyd) not slick and says he has never been trendy. People like him, though, because he works like a devil for the town and obviously really cares.’

This my friends (and I suppose foes who are reading this for some unknown reason) is in large part why I think the Presidential style of politics that we are moving towards in a fallacy. People aren’t voting for Ed Miliband, David Cameron, Nick Clegg, Nigel Farage, Natalie Bennett et al unless they live in a constituency where they are a candidate to become an MP. People are voting for a person who they feel will best represent their values and make the best decisions on their behalf in parliament.

I maybe a card carrying (well actually I’m not, my membership card is probably in a drawer or something) but I am a member of the Lib Dems but if I lived in a constituency where the Lib Dems weren’t a realistic player and I truly believed a candidate from another party who could realistically win would be much better than the alternative then I would tactically vote. The fact is I don’t, I live in a safe Conservative seat with an MP who apparently had the idea that I was going to his the Lib Dem candidate here (this actually happened). So my vote here will be relatively pointless and I know that.

In the council election last year I voted Lib Dem but only because I knew the Independent was winning waltzing away. Had it actually been a tight Tory/Indy battle I may well have lent my vote to the Indy as I believe Martin Terry is actually a decent hard-working councillor. You see that is the thing, you aren’t just voting for a party but you are also voting for the person on the ballot. This is why MPs such as Mr Lloyd should get another term. The general consensus is that he is a good hard-working local MP who has constantly fought the battle for Eastbourne both in the House of Commons and in the media. Isn’t that exactly what an MP is supposed to do?

Iain Dale has him losing his seat with it being a Probable Conservative Gain. On his predictions blog he writes, ‘Won in 2010 from Nigel Waterson, Stephen Lloyd may hang on, but I’d expect the Labour vote to at least double at the expense of the LibDems, so yet again, a lot depends on how many votes the Tories lose to UKIP. Lloyd has been a hardworking MP but rather preposterously resigned as a government PPS as his constituency didn’t get enough ‘pork’ in the autumn statement.’

The bookies though, they disagree, with the Lib Dems odds on everywhere to retain the seat, mostly around the 2/1 on mark with the Tories floating between 11/8 and 13/8. This is the type of seat where we’ll see whether national disenfranchisement with the Lib Dems will lead to the Tories winning. Some people won’t vote Lib Dem because they didn’t like the fact they joined the Tories in coalition but by doing so will only heighten the chances of getting a Tory MP. It is very much like cutting off your nose to spite your face.

My point though is thus (and it isn’t just to do with Lib Dem incumbents), if your MP is doing a good job in your eyes both representing your views and representing the area which they represent then vote for them to continue doing their job. so many seats are ‘safe seats’ but if you live in a seat which is live then look both as the party and the person. It is better to have a good MP from a party that you may not fully agree with than to have a poor MP who represents the party that you identify with.

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March 16th, 2015 at 8:00 am

Posted in Politics

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On being a liberal and not rejoicing at Jeremy Clarkson’s suspension…

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Jeremy Clarkson is a sacking away from becoming the most valuable free agent in the history of UK television. Should the BBC bite the bullet and part ways with one of the three presenters of Top Gear then they will have struck a decisive blow for the majority of people that I follow on twitter. The outpouring of sheer delight has been overwhelming. I’m pretty sure the Pupil Premium didn’t get as much praise as Jeremy Clarkson’s suspension and that is because the biggest problem with liberals is that anything they don’t like, they believe that other people should not like as well. It is the most frustrating thing I’ve found with a lot of (predominately young) liberals. They are right. What they like is right. Anything else is wrong.

We don’t know the full story behind Jeremy’s suspension but we do know the BBC are in a very tight spot. They have a presenter who they can sack and move on from pretty easily. The problem is that all the talent that make one of their most popular shows worldwide will in all likelihood go with him.

My timeline is full of suggestions for who the BBC could use to replace Jeremy Clarkson but they have failed to grasp that should he leave, in all likelihood Richard Hammond and James May follow him out of the door. Andy Wilman most certainly would. This means that Top Gear would essentially cease to exist in its current form and I’ll tell you this, so many liberals would rejoice at this because it would mean more money for Doctor Who (well actually it wouldn’t as Top Gear earns the BBC an inordinate amount of money but still, facts…)

We aren’t that used to TV suspensions over here but I’m used to it as I watch a lot of American TV and ESPN dish out suspensions all the time to on screen talent, sometimes with no rhyme or reason. When a journalist (Keith Law) called out a pundit (Curt Schilling) on twitter for saying that creationism should be the only thing taught in school then yes, the journalist got suspended. When a presenter (Tony Kornheiser) mocked what a colleague was wearing on his radio show, then he got suspended.

Every time Bill Simmons makes a run at Roger Goodell (which happens all the time) then he gets suspended. Stephen A. Smith got suspended for his comments on domestic abuse and Keith Olbermann got suspended just a week or so ago for his attack on Penn State students for raising money for cancer research (yes this actually happened – a presenter attacked a school for raising money for cancer research). So on-air talent suspensions is nothing new. People go away for a while and come back. It is no big deal.

When it comes to Top Gear and the BBC though, the BBC have backed themselves into a corner. They desperately don’t want to sack Jeremy Clarkson. They know that his worth to the corporation is probably more than any single other individual they have. Should they get rid of him then they are walking away from the best part of £150million a year in profits. So that is a significant chunk of change. Yet if he was on his ‘final warning’ and he has indeed punched a producer then they have no choice. They have to be seen to do the right thing and watch Clarkson go to a rival network, create a similar show and make a tonne of money whilst they watch their biggest worldwide asset wither.

Zoe Williams in the Guardian has written an interesting piece on the subject. She says herself that she, ‘stayed up late last night trolling Jeremy Clarkson’ in writing the piece, like Jeremy Clarkson really cares about what someone who clearly doesn’t watch the show thinks about him but still. The long and short of it is basically she thinks Top Gear should be focused on car reviews and not light entertainment.

She obviously doesn’t remember why Top Gear disappeared from our screens in the first place or why nobody watches Fifth Gear but her piece is full of factual errors and shows that it is just an attack on someone she doesn’t like because she can. Living the dream. For example she attacks the show for being stuck in the past and not reviewing cars of the future, saying, ‘The coolest car in the world right now is the BMW i8, a part electric, part petrol dreamscape of silent majesty.’ She obviously didn’t watch Jeremy reviewing it and giving it the big thumbs up this season.

This though is typical. People will attack the show because they want it to be something different and they want different presenters because they think their version of Top Gear would be better. The problem with this point of view is that everyone’s tastes are different. I saw a well-known member of the liberal twitterati (basically those liberals who do considering themselves better than everyone else – heck there are lots out there) yesterday on twitter going on about how Sky didn’t understand her because they spent money on football. Well I’d argue that Sky aren’t catering their whole business plan to her (I mean how self-centred would you have to be to think that?) but also has she not noticed that Sky’s whole existence and business model is based around football? I mean it isn’t exactly a secret… Another member of this ilk tweeted about how he’d not seen anyone on his TL do anything but rejoice at Clarkson’s suspension and that it showed the quality of person that he followed. I mean really…

Sometimes people like things that you don’t, instead of changing that thing to suit you, maybe you should look elsewhere to find something that you like. I don’t like many TV shows but I don’t think, ‘well if they changed this, this and this about a show then I’d like it and if I like it then everyone else should.’ Liking Top Gear is something you whisper in hushed tones around some people. It isn’t clever enough and people who enjoy it are simply not smart enough to know any better. If they ran Top Gear it would be more informative and it will appeal to those people, the problem is the ratings would plummet and no-one would buy it overseas. It is a similar scenario to those people thinking The Sun should base its business model around those people who don’t (and would never) buy The Sun. Yeah, like that makes any sense…

I hope Jeremy Clarkson survives because I enjoy Top Gear. If he goes though he probably can’t complain should the rumours be correct. The thing is though he will be fine, he’ll get whatever he wants from ITV or Sky and all the Top Gear talent would follow him. He won’t disappear from our screens so victory would be hollow for those rejoicing in his demise. This isn’t Ron Atkinson folks, he won’t become persona non grata in the broadcast industry, the truth is it would be quite the opposite, he would be the biggest free agent to ever hit the marketplace and broadcasters would be crushing into other broadcasters’ lorries full of cash ready to back up and dump it on his front lawn. Jeremy Clarkson may survive at Top Gear, he may not but whatever happens he’ll certainly survive on TV and if he goes to a commercial station then he’ll arguably be a lot better off.

Top Gear isn’t popular because its about cars, its popular because of the three presenters and the back stage team who put together a show that has morphed into something far bigger than anyone could have predicted a decade or so ago. Still if he goes the outpouring of joy will be quite something and it’ll be chalked up as one for the good guys whereas in reality he’ll be relatively unscarred no matter how it plays out.

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March 11th, 2015 at 11:48 am

Posted in Media

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On the sheer arrogance and attack on democracy by the broadcasters…

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It’s The Sun Wot Won It,’ was the infamous headline of The Sun newspaper when John Major shocked the world (well maybe that is slightly over the top) and pulled off victory in the 1992 General Election. The sheer arrogance of the editor to believe that their endorsement was the decisive factor in the outcome of the election is disgusting but 23 years later and the broadcasters are attempting to do the same.

The broadcasters have fucked up pretty badly if we are being honest. The whole format of the debates has been debated at length and several different proposals have come and gone. They believe that they have the right to decide who gets free air time in prime time, which flies against the rules of equal opportunity for ‘major’ parties in election time but who cares about rules and fairness, they have an election to decide!

I’ve long said that any party who is fielding enough candidates to potentially form a government deserve to be involved and given equal billing. That means UKIP and the Greens should get the same air time as the Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems in this regard. The moment they decided for some unknown reason that United Kingdom broadcasters should give national parties as much of a platform on channels that broadcast primarily in areas where people can’t actually vote for them is bonkers but they are desperate.

The broadcasters are desperate to be seen to be doing the right and fair thing, even if it leads to even more unfairness. Either the leader of every freaking party gets in or those who are fielding enough candidates to form a government. Having a mish-mash is stupid but the broadcasters know this, they aren’t stupid.

So now we have a situation where the broadcasters are dictating the whole flow of the election, which is nothing short of a disgrace. I’m not defending the Prime Minister, I’ll get to him later, but for the broadcasters to believe that they have the right to decide how the timetable and attention of the General Election goes flies in the face of fairness and democracy. Yes, the broadcasters are attacking democracy.

They and they alone are dictating the terms of what will be the most watched and the most important national moments in the General Election (unless of course something dramatic happens on the election trail). It isn’t the broadcasters job to decide who gets what air time, they should give everyone who can form a government exactly the same time.

Now we have a position where they want to give Ed Miliband 90 minutes of uninterrupted air time in prime time on both Sky News and Channel 4. Essentially ensuring victory for the Labour party unless Ed Miliband screws up spectacularly, which isn’t out of the question. It would probably be a decent thing for my lot as the Lib Dems are in mostly Tory facing seats and the Prime Minister will look weak and a coward and that can’t hurt, still doesn’t make it fair though.

Now turning my attention to the PM. He doesn’t want the debates as he has nothing to gain and everything to lose. In 2010 all the party leaders involved and deemed as ‘major’ parties had things to gain by having the debates, hence why they took place. They all had a common goal and potential ground to make up. It is why Tony Blair didn’t want them in 2001 & 2005, he had nothing to gain and was cruising to victory. Cameron might not be cruising to victory but when you are seen as a better public speaker than your primary opponent and he is seen as actually very poor, if you win then you do what you are expected so you gain nothing, if you don’t win convincingly then it will be spun as a defeat. So I can see why he doesn’t want them.

My issue is how he bleated about having the Greens involved and now they are and the proposals are out there he doesn’t want them at all. Had he drawn a line in the sand at the start and said that he didn’t want the debates and thought they distracted from the actual campaign in 2010 then I’d be more comfortable with his stance. Had he said that all along it is highly unlikely that the broadcasters would have gone ahead but he gave them an in and now he is either running scared or more likely, knows he has nothing to gain.

Personally I liked the debates last time and I would like them again but the proposals from the broadcasters is poor and not well thought out. Essentially we have four broadcasters who all want a share of the pie and that has led to what we have. The best solution would be to have it sorted that every year we have whatever debates but it is the same format every election. That would be fair and the same for all parties going forward.

Have it always x amount of weeks before the election, have it on x channel and involving all the leaders from parties that are deemed as ‘major’ by OfCom. For national parties, they should get the same air time on BBC Wales, BBC Scotland, BBC Northern Ireland and commercial terrestrial broadcast partners. If Westminster leaders wanted to go to a Scottish debate or whether they wanted to send the leaders of their parties in those countries, either/or. That would be fair.

If the broadcasters got pissy then have it on a rotation. One year ITV gets the first, then the next the second, the next the last and so on. We can’t have a situation like we have now where a leader is dictating terms (like Blair) or where certain parties get preferential treatment from the broadcasters.

The whole thing has been a fuck up from start to finish. If the broadcasters empty chair Cameron and actually go ahead with the debates without the Tories then fuck me, they will have helped directly decide the outcome of the election (as they would anyway with the current proposal – a party of government isn’t allows in one debate and a party who are riding at around one sixth of the votes in national polls are also frozen out of one – that isn’t right nor fair).

This is now a game of chicken where David Cameron can’t win. He’s put himself in that position but the broadcasters haven’t exactly helped things. The electorate of the United Kingdom deserve better of their Prime Minister but also deserve better from their broadcasters. They should be fair and impartial but instead they’ve decided that they are more important than fairness and democracy and that stinks. The General Election outcome should not be influenced by the selfishness of broadcasters but now we are in a position where whatever they do, they are essentially influencing how people will vote and that my friends isn’t how it should be.

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March 6th, 2015 at 5:39 pm

Posted in Politics

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On the Greens wanting to remove Natalie Bennett from a TV debate…

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It is billed as a leaders debate but the Greens want(ed) Caroline Lucas to appear instead of Natalie Bennett for one of the two debates. This was requested a good while ago, before Natalie Bennett’s shall we say, disappointing, performance on LBC a while back but it does go to show that the Green Party has a legitimate issue, one that the Lib Dems had five years ago.

Five years back the Lib Dems most well known MP was Vince Cable. He was pretty well liked and respected. Nick Clegg was an upstart that no-one really knew. He was the butt of jokes on most of the panel shows and then suddenly the first debate happened and everything changed. Nick Clegg ‘won’ the first debate and suddenly his profile was transformed overnight. He shared a stage with just two other people and he sounded different, people liked this and the election campaign changed.

This time around the stage will be more diluted due to the TV companies seemingly bizarre ideas of what the debates should actually be. It is about who can have the most MPs to form a government. When the SNP and Plaid Cymru (which I spelled correctly first time – result) start fielding enough MPs to lead a coalition then bring them to the table. They don’t but the TV companies in reality have no idea what their remit is here and are just making it up as they go along.

So we turn our attentions back to Natalie Bennett and Caroline Lucas. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here in saying that Caroline Lucas is the most recognisable face the Green Party have. She is certainly far more media savvy than Natalie Bennett and I think would perform better in these prime time debates than her party leader. Getting Lucas the air time would really help her in her Brighton Pavilion dogfight with Labour.

I’ve just looked at the betting markets and across the board they have the Green Party as odds on favourites, all of them shorter than 1/2, which I find slightly surprising. I think Labour and the Greens are nip/tick and would expect the Greens to be 5/6 and Labour 7/4 – something around there so I’d certainly be laying the Greens at that price. Labour are Evens in a couple of places but shorter than 2/1 everywhere else. Getting Caroline some prime time exposure (and if she performs well) would probably have tipped her over the edge to a gritty victory. If Natalie Bennett flops though then it could really hurt her.

This issue goes back to the decision by Caroline Lucas to step down in an attempt to get another well known face for the Green Party. It was a good idea at the time but the problem is they decided to unleash someone who quite simply struggles with performing well in the media. The ‘Green Surge’ has stagnated, in no small part due to some of her policies being ridiculed and not well costed but also when you are riding a wave of momentum then suddenly the media will notice you and report not only the momentum but also start to be critical of your policies and performances.

I think there is little doubt the Green Party will have a decent national vote share on May 7 but if Natalie Bennett performs badly in her two big TV moments then that national vote share may not translate into any MPs. They believe they can win Norwich South and Bristol West to add to Brighton Pavilion. They are not favoured in either seat, indeed in Bristol West they are behind both the Lib Dems and Labour in the odds, in Norwich South they are ahead of the defending Lib Dems but Labour are extremely strong favourites. Bristol West is more three-way with LD around Evens and Lab just beyond and Greens around 3s.

Natalie Bennett has quickly become a liability and the Green Party know it. This was the opportunity to treble their MPs and they look likely to fall short. I wonder if Caroline Lucas regrets giving up the leadership if she knew then what she know now? The TV companies are certainly right to refuse this request from the Greens because this isn’t a TV event to put on who you want, it is for the leaders to debate. These are meant to be the people who can run our country.

I doubt many of you are fans of baseball but every so often people talk about a six-man rotation and every time people say the same thing, if you have six starting pitchers what you are really saying is you don’t have four. The Green Party have hitched their wagon to Natalie Bennett and whilst it seems like a poor move, they have to roll with her and see what happens.

The only way to get Caroline Lucas into the TV debates is for Natalie Bennett to step down as leader and Caroline to takeover. It would probably be a good short-term move but is it too late in the day for such a dramatic change? I suspect in one parallel (which I also spelled right first time – result as I always get that word wrong) universe it will happen, I doubt though that it will be this one.

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Written by neilmonnery

March 2nd, 2015 at 1:53 pm

Posted in Politics

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