The Rambles of Neil Monnery

Another pointless voice in the vast ocean that is the interweb

On my experience with the Tesco Neighbourhood Food Collection…

without comments

So from Thursday through to Saturday the Tesco Neighbourhood Food Collection is taking place, in association with the Trussell Trust and Fareshare UK. These events are taking place in Tesco stores up and down the country and I put myself forward to volunteer for two stints, in two different stores, one for the Trussell Trust and one for Fairshare UK and I had two very different experiences.

We’ll start with the bad. On Thursday I was down to volunteer for Fareshare and I went to that store. First things first, when I turned up they had pretty much got nothing sorted and this was deep into the afternoon. All they had was a table, a trolley, the shopping lists to hand out and the tabards to wear so people knew what you were there for. I went to the customer service desk to sign in as instructed and the lady there told me that a guy was also volunteering, went up and spoke to him and he said he was leaving and that all I had to do was hand out the shopping lists, simple enough really.

The problem was that there was no-one else there to help so people walking in would generally see you and go the other way. You can’t cover the whole of the entrance alone and quite quickly I became dispirited. With no staff to help or any other volunteers it was also quite lonely and to be honest pretty boring. I know that some good was happening as some food was being donated and that would go to needy people but it certainly what I would call an enjoyable afternoon. I have done plenty of charity/voluntary work in the past and this was certainly the least enjoyable situation that I’d been in.

After an hour or so I was really thinking about how long I could stick it out. The public weren’t taking the shopping lists and it just wasn’t a good experience. About an hour or so later I’m presuming a manager of some sort came up to me and said they would put over some announcements on the tannoy to announce what was going on to help and then said words that would resonate in my brain, ‘it is always nice to have an extra pair of hands to help’ and all I could think was that no-one at that store was helping that food collection in any way at all. It felt like that had no desire to be involved at all. That really annoyed me that they welcomed an extra pair of hands but did nothing to help at all. About 45 minutes later and still no tannoy announcements and I decided enough was enough. I knew there were no other volunteers for the rest of that day to hand over to and I had planned to stick it out until the end of the day but I just couldn’t do it.

So I felt pretty down that despite having done some good and a trolley brimmed full of donated produce, I had not felt either a) wanted or b) respected by my experience. I know volunteer work isn’t really about what you get out of it but when you feel that badly about your experience, it doesn’t really make you feel good.

On to today and a much better experience, the local Food Bank here is overseen with the help of six local churches and they had divided the shifts into two hour slots. One of the guys picked me up and there were three of us so we could cover the the whole entrance area and indeed there were people to talk to and bounce off of each other. This time there was a whole display that had been set up and a whole area devoted to the event. The people I was with said that it wasn’t as good as last time as that Tesco store had put on an excellent display in previous collections.

Again no Tesco staff were actually on hand to help although this time with the food bank having organised the volunteers etc. – there wasn’t as much of a need but looking on twitter and you can see in many of these collections, Tesco staff seemed to mingle and help out with the volunteers, that didn’t happen at either store where I volunteered. This was disappointing. More so yesterday than today.

Today was more enjoyable and more productive. It certainly felt good to see people you’d spoken to as they had walked in donate and we took away probably 10-14 crates of food to the food bank warehouse after our two hour shift.

Two things of note. The 12:00 minute silence for the Tunisia victims was observed but I certainly had no idea of it until it actually happened. The store stopped and went silent and people were walking in and were completely confused by what was going on. That was surreal.

Secondly we had one person take umbrage with what we were doing and claimed that food banks were ruining this country because food banks stopped people from getting jobs. He walked up to me going on about how people would line up if people were handing out ten pound notes and whilst some would, many people wouldn’t but he kept going on and on about it and one of the food bank regulars took over and spoke to him but he was going on for a good 15 minutes, it was madness. I know there is a lot of misinformation about food banks out there but the fact of the matter is the vast majority, the vast majority, are in real need of a meal. I don’t know the ins and outs but poverty is a real issue and poverty is not a choice, no matter what anyone thinks.

So my two stints volunteering were wildly different. I felt down after one and the other I felt some real good was done (a lot more food was donated today). As I said earlier, doing voluntary work isn’t about what you can get out of it but more what you can do to help others but when you feel as though no-one wants you there then it is really tough.

One thing I did notice though was who donated more, who took the shopping lists more and who went out of their way to ignore you and not make eye contact. Step forward the women of the world for being the far more polite sex on this front. Also age ranges, the best sections were clearly women who were mothers, women who were grandmothers were amongst the worst, the retired generation as a whole didn’t could away well from my unscientific survey of my memory. Most men who declined though would at least make eye contact and say no thank you whereas the majority of women who didn’t take one would avoid you or look at you like you were beneath them. It was quite eye-opening.

I’m not sure I’m recommend it to anyone else, if I could guarantee they had a similar reception to what I got today then I would but yesterday was so bad. I think I’d tell anyone planning on doing it to ensure they weren’t doing it alone and to rope in a friend or colleague to go with them. I think I was just really unlucky yesterday but it did really make me feel like shit. The food banks do such great work and those of us who are lucky not to have ever dealt with them are indeed just that, lucky and there but for the grace of God as they say.

Food banks need all the support they can get and I think Tesco do a great job getting involved centrally but at a store by store level the experiences seem to be so different. I’m not sure if that is a management issue at stores locally but looking at photos on twitter you can see the differences between the stores that really go out and promote the event and those who bury it in the background.

If you are in Tesco at any time between now and Saturday then please don’t be rude to any volunteers and donate what you can. The Tesco Neighbourhood Food Collection will no doubt happen again in November/December and there are always plenty of ways to donate to your local Food Bank, whatever you donate goes straight to people in need and knowing that is part of the reason why I think volunteering for such an event was a good one to do. This isn’t money going to pay whatever overheads but this food goes straight to those who need it, what could be better?

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.

Written by neilmonnery

July 3rd, 2015 at 3:36 pm

Posted in Random Stuff

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On why I voted the way I did in the Lib Dem leadership election…

with 2 comments

Tim Farron has been the prohibitive favourite to be the next Lib Dem leader since May 8. Norman Lamb decided to run as well as well so it became a two-man battle. They each got roughly the same amount of ‘celebrity’ Lib Dem endorsements and many people looked at them to help make up their own minds.

I’m not one of them.

For you see, I’ve always been my own man. If someone tells me that I should do something then instinctively I try and go in the opposite direction. Considering I’m not exactly a rebel this is surprising but it is the way it is. So I decided to look at the two candidates but I decided not to vote for who I thought would be the best leader of the party but who I thought the electorate would be more impressed with and who would galvanise the grass roots of the party. This wasn’t about me but about the party as a whole.

It is no secret that I’m a Nick Clegg guy. I have been for the past several years and lets be honest here, I still am. Yet I clearly see that the party and the electorate have decided that it is time to move on so I can deal with that. Nick will always be one of my guys and even when I’m old and grey I’ll look back on Nick Clegg and see him as a thoroughly decent guy, who whilst he made mistakes, his actions helped make the country slightly more liberal and his legacy, whilst tarnished with the tuition fees and the crippling defeats will always have the silver lining of actually getting shit done. That is something no other leader of the party can say.

So on to the candidates and one one huge issue that I had to struggle with – Tim Farron’s Christianity. As some of you will know but most reading this won’t, I am the son of a now retired Methodist Superintendent minister. My views on the church are clear and they are made up of my own system of beliefs. I have no issue with anyone having any faith whatsoever, we are all fully entitled to belief in whatever we do (or don’t as the case maybe) so what issue do I have with Tim’s Christianity?

In an interview in The Guardian entitled, ‘Maybe God’s plan is for me to lose a bunch of elections and be humbled’ the very title goes to the very heart of my issue. The idea that someone out there who is all powerful has a divine plan for us all and therefore the idea that we aren’t in full control of our own lives is something that is so diametrically opposed to my own that I struggle to support him.

Later in the piece Tim says, ‘Well, God is sovereign. Dreadful things happen in this world, but that reminds us that we need a saviour. I don’t go round fixating that God has some major plan for me. Maybe his plan is for me to lose a bunch of elections and be humbled. God’s plan could be that some pretty brutal things happen to you. But the one thing I fall back on is that God’s overall plan is good.’

Tim doesn’t fixate upon any possible plan but he does believe in a plan. So whether Tim or Norman wins, he believes it is part of a higher plan and not because of the free will and thought of the Liberal Democrat membership. I really (and I mean really) struggle with this and I know many people believe in a plan and that God has our lives planned out for us but most of those people believe that God puts us in positions to make decisions for ourselves but the word sovereign doesn’t allow for that. If we are but mere pawns in a giant tapestry of human existence (and indeed that of all other species that God should he exist have no doubt created) then what is the point of life?

I asked Tim last night whether he would answer to God or to the electorate first and foremost? He replied that he answers first to his constituents. Yet what if his constituents say one thing and through the power of prayer, God tells him differently? That is the issue not with Christianity but in using the term sovereign to describe God. If God is all-powerful and all-knowing then surely anything he says through prayer would be the correct form of action? Therefore should he go with his constituents (should they be on the other side of the ledger) then he would be going against an all-powerful being. I really struggle with this.

My main issue though is if I two-bit nobody like me can read that interview and see issues then I’m sure plenty of smarter people than I can (and will) as well. You can’t have a sovereign being plotting out our lives but then say that he isn’t your first point of call. It just doesn’t add up.

Yet despite all this I will vote for Tim Farron when I open the ballot paper envelope that is sitting on my living room table.

The reason is simple, despite the likelihood that he is going to get grilled on this issue and he needs to formulate a much better answer that he seems to have at the moment, Tim is able to communicate far better than Norman Lamb and rightly or wrongly, this is a key part of being a part of being a political force in the digital era. Norman Lamb is clearly a smart man but every time I’ve seen him on TV it hasn’t been too far short of a car crash. Tim, whilst not being a TV natural, is extremely good face-to-face from all accounts and indeed has a stage presence about him. This gives him the nod in one key category.

In the other key category of being able to engage and enthuse with the activist base and the electorate then this is where Tim excels. His own electoral performance in his constituency is a clear example of this but also he seems better placed to be the front man.

A month or so ago I tweeted that Norman Lamb would be my choice over Tim Farron to be a minister but that Tim Farron would be my choice for leader, mainly because of the previous paragraph. The next leader has to be the best communicator we have and not only be able to win over the electorate, but more importantly win over the activist base and get them enthused and working again. There are plenty of liberals shying away and licking their wounds at the moment. The only way the party can recover is to get these people feeling as though we are still the radical liberal voice and that to get it, we need to work for it.

In cricket you don’t always have your best player as captain. So far this year we’ve seen a cricket World Cup and a New Zealand tour where Brendon McCullum has shown us that. He is a destructive player in the short-form and a very handy player in the long-form of the game but I see little doubt that Ross Taylor and particularly Ross Williamson are better batsmen and indeed Trent Boult may well be more important to the side but McCullum’s leadership has changed the way the cricketing world views New Zealand. The brand of cricket they have displayed is exciting and aggressive but all played with a smile on their faces, win or lose. McCullum is a captain and a leader but isn’t the best player they have. Tim Farron I believe is the same.

The Lib Dems don’t need the smartest or the most experienced guy in the room to lead them. They need the person who’ll get the best out of the resources they have and put the party in the best position to grow and recover. Being a leader isn’t about policy making but it is about being the face of the party. Being the person who people listen to and see on TV around election time. I think Tim has the edge here but his big lead comes in the form of appealing to the grass roots and the activist base.

You may well read this and wonder why I’m voting Tim when I clearly have big question marks surrounding him. Well I’ll have big question marks over whoever. I think Tim needs to find some better answers to some questions that he has faced and will continue to face regarding times where his faith will not sit neatly alongside the liberal viewpoint. I also think he also needs to improve his TV appeal. He is not bad but he’s not a natural. I know we’ve been spoilt by Nick, but if you look at any recent election in the digital era then apart from David Cameron’s performance this year (when people weren’t necessarily voting for him but more voting against the others) then the big winners in terms of vote share have all had people who were strong in front of the camera (Blair, Clegg, Sturgeon, Farage) so that is still a small issue but if he can get that activist base and the stay at home liberals out again (which I think he can) then that is why I think he’s the right man for the job at this current juncture.

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.

Written by neilmonnery

June 29th, 2015 at 1:15 pm

Posted in Politics

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On Lib Dem excuses…

with 8 comments

Sometimes in life no matter how many excuses you can provide, you have to look yourself in the mirror and say that maybe it wasn’t everyone else’s fault, in fact it was quite the opposite.

You see as Lib Dems we often point at factors that didn’t help us during the past few years, some of them are very legitimate but at some point all the excuses start to pile up and they become implausible.

One excuses I would like to bring up that I believe is a significant factor in both the Lib Dems and Labour’s performance in the May 2015 General Election was the media. The media fucked up their election coverage woefully and whilst the commercial stations can duck a bit and shield themselves, the BBC is paid for by a tax that we are all forced to pay if we want to watch the idiot box in the corner of the room, they are meant therefore as part of that tax to bring a fair and balanced approach to their news and politics output. They didn’t and boy do they know that now. They let polling run the whole election campaign so this election in the media wasn’t fought on policy but instead fought on which coalition of parties people wanted to run the country.

The Lib Dems pleaded with James Harding, who is the BBC’s director of news to focus their output based on policy and not polling data but James sat back in his chair, stroked his cat and told the Lib Dems to do one as he was the most powerful man in the land and he could do whatever he wanted. As the Lib Dem representatives walked out of his office he threw his glass of wine at them, staining their clothing before laughing so hard that he did a hernia whilst looking over his shoulder at a signed photo of Lynton Crosby whose left eye had been replaced by a small spy camera to ensure that Harding stayed on course. I may have used a little bit of poetic license in that paragraph…

Still the point remains, the BBC fucked up and on reflection, they know it badly. The fact they kowtowed (which is one of my favourite words – rising fast but still not at meander levels) to David Cameron by not allowing Nick Clegg into their live TV debate, which they called ‘the challengers debate’ before saying that it wasn’t a challengers debate at all, it was just David Cameron and Nick Clegg had turned down the chance to appear, which was half-true, 50% truth isn’t bad for the BBC in this election, but the fact they allowed this and then gave Nigel Farage his own show after he put up a pissy that he wasn’t involved in the Question Time debate shows that they didn’t have a fucking clue what they were doing. It wasn’t even like they couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery, they couldn’t organise food in an all you can eat buffet.

So that excuse has more than a ring of truth to it, which hurt both the Lib Dems and Labour to some degree because of the obsession the media had over whether Alex Salmond would be propping up Ed Miliband. The people of this country shouldn’t have their news output affected by hypothetical situations, the news is there to report on what has happened and what is going to happen, not to ponder what might happen.

Yet that wasn’t the sole reason the Lib Dem vote collapsed. The party ran an ineffectual campaign and weren’t putting to the people of this country a plan for progressive liberal politics. The manifesto was a mish-mash of random ideas and a call that we would be a stabilising force with either Labour or the Tories in any potential coalition. On paper this might sound like a good position to be but in reality when the whole election was moulded by the media (with a large slice of help by the Tories – seriously they ran this campaign beautifully) about a potential coalition, then the electorate weren’t voting on policy but they were voting with emotion. Did people want Scotland running England and did people want the Lib Dems propping up the Tories were the two buzz topics that a lot of voters looked at when they went to the ballot boxes.

Now whether this is the sign of things to come I don’t know, but hopefully the media have learned their lesson about what their role is in society but also I hope the Lib Dems have remembered what is important. Yes if the media won’t report on policy then you try to get them to notice you through other means but when we brought out the idea of ‘Blukip’ then most of us knew things were a lot worse than we thought. No-one (well I say no-one, what I mean is no-one who wasn’t a UKIP voter) thought that UKIP were going to get anything more than the one MP that they got (and that was a lot closer than what people thought) so they were never going to be in a position to help prop up a Tory government. It was a Hail Mary pass but instead of all the Wide Receivers running down field into the end zone, they all stayed back in case the other team caught the ball and started running it back. It was total nonsense and bollocks and whilst it probably made no difference in the grand scheme of things, that was the moment where you knew that HQ wasn’t as confident as they had been trying to portray.

Many people have realised that by voting elsewhere and not going Lib Dem, they have helped to create the majority Conservative government that we now have and a not insignificant portion of them are now disappointed. They wanted to give the Lib Dems a slap for going into coalition with the Tories and they didn’t like that, but by doing this they gave the Tories more power, yeah that makes sense but again it goes to show that people were voting emotionally. The problem is that we as a party didn’t address these potential pitfalls and we weren’t offering much apart from, ‘we’ll make the next government a bit less unpalatable’ and that isn’t something that will motivate people to vote.

We all know that our performance within the coalition was mixed, some things we did well, some things we did badly but one thing we did woefully was communication. The communication between the party and the electorate was just abject. If you are the junior partner in a coalition then many people will automatically think you are the whipping boys and have gone against your principles but unless you challenge this notion head on and very loudly then you are creating resentment and the longer than lasts, the harder it is to get over. We have to understand that our communication was our responsibility and that is something whoever the new leader is will have to tackle head on.

You see most people want the party of the centre-ground not to be a moderating force but instead be a party of the radical centre. That is where the Lib Dems should live and breathe. Being a Lib Dem isn’t about curbing other parties but instead broadening the ideas of the radical centre-ground and campaigning on them.

Yes some things have conspired against us at times but we haven’t helped ourselves and it is time to stop blaming others for our downfall. We went down for a plethora of reasons and more of these were self-inflicted wounds than those dealt from elsewhere. Some of these wounds weren’t fair but when has life ever been fair people? It is time to snap out of our prolonged funk (which it does seem is happening) and start remembering the reason why we got popular (certainly at local level).

Blaming other people and the world around us is so uncouth and when you keep doing it people will just switch of and switching people off in politics is something you never want to do.

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.

Written by neilmonnery

June 25th, 2015 at 10:30 am

Posted in Politics

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On why mushrooms are in fact, evil…

with one comment

There are very few things that I know for sure in life. Things like Homes under the Hammer is better when it is just Martin & Lucy with no Dion in sight. That Edgar Hansen is about as cool as they come. That Bangers n Mash is a tremendous meal. That Jack McCoy is one of the best characters in TV and then of course we get to the simple fact that mushrooms are evil little bastards.

The first evidence I’d like to produce is the look of them. I mean look at them, why would anyone look at a mushroom growing up from the ground and think, ‘well they look like something I’d like to put into my mouth’ but yet someone did and for whatever reason they decided they were good and the myth of its edibility continued to grow.

The next piece of evidence I’d like to produce is the smell. Has anyone ever smelt mushrooms in a frying pan and thought, ‘they smell great, I want them in my gob right now?’ – No, no they haven’t (well they might’ve done but still…) but they give off this odour that is in fact a warning to everyone around that they are bad and shouldn’t be touched. Of this I am sure.

Next up we get to the crux of the issue, the taste. If you put one in your mouth and actually taste the thing and are able not to wretch then you have a stronger stomach than I. I have eaten mushrooms before when they were hidden in food and I have either gagged or suppressed the disgusting taste with stronger tastes that masked the vileness of the fungus.

A true story, many, many, many moons ago someone made me dinner and put mushrooms in it and I was too polite to put forward my thoughts on the spawn of the devil so I mashed them up so small and covered them in the other flavours that I could just about hold them down. When you are going through a whole meal just trying not to wretch then it isn’t the best. Still I did it and ate the whole plate. Sometimes I can be a good guy…

Last up I’d like to say any food that has plenty of poisonous varieties should be viewed with some sense of trepidation. Here is a list of Mycotoxins this poisonous mushrooms can have in them:

Alpha-amanitin
Phallotoxin
Orellanine
Muscarine
Gyromitrin
Coprine
Ibotenic acid
Muscimol

Psilocybin and psilocin
Arabitol
Bolesatine
Ergotamine

The ones in bold are deadly and the ones in italics are potentially deadly.

Honestly who wants to eat a product that has so much danger attached to it? I know commercial mushrooms farms aren’t the same as mushrooms in the wild but still.

The long and short of it is mushrooms look hideous, they smell rancid and have a pungent taste. They are doing everything in their power to warn us of how bad they are and yet people still keep putting them inside of them and declaring them tasty. I just don’t get it. Mushrooms are clearly evil and we aren’t taking note of all the warning signs. It makes me despair and as for all these Chinese places adding mushrooms into meals where they have no place in being, I mean come on, I keep trying to avoid the things and they just get in everywhere!

PS: I don’t like mushrooms.

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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June 24th, 2015 at 3:42 pm

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On Chris Evans and Top Gear…

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In one of the biggest shocks in the history of the world, the BBC in one last desperate bid to keep one of the their biggest assets relevant have turned to the man they always turn to Chris Evans. He is like the John Reid of the BBC, parachuted in when he’s widely not wanted to try and fix things.

His denial saying that him taking over the show was, ‘100% not going to happen’ is shall we say rather hilarious considering he’s been announced as the main presenter and indeed will be the executive producer of the show, which actually goes against the BBC’s own rules following the Jonathan Ross/Russell Brand incident in 2009, but still the BBC will bend rules for Chris Evans because they are desperate.

The reason they are desperate is because quite simply, they had a really big asset, not only in terms of prestige and world wide appeal but also in terms of straight cash homie. You see that is the real reason why they don’t want to let Top Gear die, they want the cash.

The problem they have is whilst they own the intellectual rights to the show, the show was successful because of the presenting trio and Andy Wilman. All four of these people will not be working on the show going forward. So the BBC have to start from the bare bones (a good old fashioned Harry Redknapp reference there) and build from the ground up.

I see this situation as very similar to what I think about Page 3. The people who don’t like Page 3 are unlikely to buy The Sun even if they stop putting tits in their newspaper. Many of those who didn’t watch Top Gear who are happy Clarkson has gone are saying the right things about now watching Top Gear but most won’t. They are just glad that someone they didn’t like is off of the BBC.

Who presents a TV show does influence whether or not people watch it. For example I have point blankly refused to watch The One Show since they shafted Adrian Chiles to crowbar Chris Evans into the show for reasons that were never that obvious. It felt as though they thought Evans would bring in a new audience on the Friday edition of the show or maybe he’d attract bigger stars to appear so out went Chiles. If it ain’t broke then don’t fix it is an old motto but it works.

I know Jeremy Clarkson had to go and don’t have an issue with how the BBC dealt with the situation but instead of trying to keep Top Gear alive, they should have put it on hiatus. This now smells to me like it is a case of arrogance from the BBC who believe that they can carry on with a whole new presenting team like nothing has happened. Making it seem like people watched because of the production values and the camaraderie between the three wasn’t the reason we all watched. It was fun. It was stupid. It was Last of the Summer Wine for slightly younger people with cars who wanted easy TV on a Sunday evening.

The news that they’ll hold open auditions for new presenters is absolutely hilarious. Talk about a desperate way to keep the show in the news for a while. The likelihood of the BBC hiring unknowns to help front one of the (at the time of writing) biggest shows in the world is just mind-boggling. Also Chris and the exec controller of BBC2 are already disagreeing over whether a woman will be part of the new presenting line-up with Chris saying it is ‘100% going to happen’ – yeah like Chris’s ‘100%’ things mean jack – and the exec controller saying that it isn’t written in stone although they would like to have more female presence on the show.

Another issue is Chris Evans hosts the BBC Radio 2 breakfast show and therefore will not be able to go overseas on shoots that often unless he leaves that gig, which he’s not going to do. This means that Top Gear will not be having many overseas trips any more and it will be very British based. This goes against the global appeal of the show. This means that they’ll be unable to recreate some of the best bits of the show. Another knock on whatever this new incarnation of the show will be.

Lastly the biggest problem the show has is the Clarkson, Hammond and May haven’t gone and indeed seem extremely likely to present a new show together, most likely on netflix and the odds of the show being released on netflix at the same time as the next series of Top Gear would seem short to me. People will give the new Top Gear a shot I have no doubt but Clarkson, Hammond and May will still be the people the audience flocks to.

Chris Evans will now be the highest paid person at the BBC for his various gigs. Not bad for someone who has had a rather tempestuous relationship with the corporation in the past. I actually don’t mind Chris Evans per se but when someone says that something will, ‘100% not happen’ and then it does, I just look at them and think they are a bald faced liar. His commitment to the BBC Radio 2 breakfast show means that he’ll be unable to put in the time to Top Gear like the former team could and the idea that the show can carry on being a global success just doesn’t add up.

I wish him well but as long as the most recent incarnation is firmly in our memories and indeed should as expected the former presenting team are doing a similar show for another outlet – Top Gear as we all know and loved is dead. Can Evans’ magic recreate another version of the show that attracts the demographic that the BBC want (because it is the demographic that sells well to overseas broadcasters) then I doubt it somewhat. Top Gear will never be the same again and many will rejoice, the problem is most of those who will rejoice won’t watch it anyway and that is Evans’ and the BBC’s main problem and one they re unlikely to be able to solve.

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Written by neilmonnery

June 18th, 2015 at 10:54 am

Posted in Media

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On John Oliver v Jack Warner & FIFA… (Videos)

without comments

In the past few months John Oliver has become quite the household name. It seems a long time since he was on the early series of Mock the Week and he has disappeared off my radar. I didn’t realise that he had gone to The Daily Show but one day a few months back I was stunned when Tony Kornheiser spoke about John Oliver during an episode of PTI and I did some research – he had become a pretty big star in the US.

Since then I have been an avid watcher of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on HBO (broadcast in the UK on Sky Atlantic) and his work is truly first rate. To be named in Time’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world says something.

Still despite the fact that he lives and work in the USA, a country that traditionally doesn’t give two hoots about ‘soccer’ – his pieces on FIFA have been right up there amongst his very best and the past couple of weeks have been rather epic. Below I’ll embed all his FIFA related pieces if you haven’t seen any of them but they are truly first rate. John Oliver can be a huge star and his show is really making inroads and if you haven’t seen any of his work then YouTube his show – there is plenty of excellent comedy on a variety of subjects that is both funny but also shocking and thought provoking.

We start with his piece last year on the World Cup…

Then a quick news hit before the Presidential election…

Then a couple of weeks back after the arrests of seven FIFA executives and Sepp Blatter’s re-election…

Then after Blatter resigned…

and later in the episode this…

Then of course The Mittens of Disapproval Are On – via T&T TV.


John Oliver – The Mittens Of Disapproval Are On by kzf1

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June 14th, 2015 at 1:00 pm

Posted in Football,Media

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On all eyes on Richmond Park for a mid-late 2016 by-election…

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Ah Richmond Park. The seat that everyone has their eyes on for a potential by-election in the near future. There are two reasons for this, firstly Zac Goldsmith’s long-standing viewpoint on what he’d do if the government decided that Heathrow should have a third runway and latterly his potential bid to become Mayor of London.

Well the second of the two possibilities is now out of the bag as Zac announced that he intends to run for Mayor of London, as long as his constituents give him the a ok.

He has written to all the constituents of Richmond Park asking, ‘Do you give your consent to Zac Goldsmith to stand for election to be Mayor of London?’ If the majority come back with a yes verdict then he’ll very quickly become the Tory frontrunner (sorry Sol Campbell) and would also become the favourite to win despite Labour’s strength in the capital. If they say that they would prefer that he didn’t then he would listen to the voice of the people who elected him and put his personal political ambition on the back-burner.

Zac isn’t what you’d call the typical Tory when you take out his background and money. As a strong environmentalist, he attracts support from Liberals and Greens and would without a doubt get a significant amount of second preference votes. He’d be very much in the mix to win it and extend the Tories run of running London since Boris deposed Red Ken in 2008.

The big question is whether of course he’d resign his seat in parliament should he win. The general consensus is that he would. Boris Johnson is currently an MP and the Mayor of London but that is a short-term job share. To do it over four years would surely be a very unsatisfying situation for both the residents of Richmond Park and London as a whole. Personally I don’t see it but the former winner of the ‘Best New Lib Dem blog’ who is actually on the ground in Richmond Park, Richard Morris, says that the rumour is that he intends to do both, which would harm his election bid I’m sure as I’m not sure floating voters would vote for a part-time mayor.

If he did quit and set into motion a by-election then lets be honest here – from a pure selfish point of view – it is exactly the seat that the Lib Dems would love to see a by-election in. A recent Lib Dem seat, a seat where the local party hasn’t fallen apart, a seat where the Lib Dems are still the clear alternative to the Tories, a seat in an region of London where the Lib Dems have recently been strong and therefore have a plethora of activists on the doorstep, a seat where the Lib Dems, now in opposition and not part of a coalition government can really attack.

Remember back in the 80s and 90s, the Lib Dems (and predecessors) were the kings of by-election successes in the south and only one party in recent political history has ever held a by-election seat when part of a government (that was the Lib Dems in Eastleigh but boy that was close) so holding a seat when you have a by-election when you are a party of government is notoriously difficult.

If Zac Goldsmith is the next Mayor of London and indeed does resign his seat then come the late summer or autumn of next year then we’ll see an opportunity for the Lib Dems to pick themselves up off of the floor and show that the party isn’t dead. I know its a year plus away but what better fillip to the party than a by-election in a seat where the Lib Dems have recent electoral success? If things go down this way and the Lib Dems could actually win then that would turn the corner of the party and of the perceptions of the party.

Many if’s make Neil hope (or something like that…)

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June 9th, 2015 at 10:29 am

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On Charles Kennedy’s passing…

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I woke up to the news like others with a sense of shock. I woke up after a really strange dream that involved me killing Osama Bin Laden in the House of Commons with a former school colleague and being involved in a man hunt, that led to me being recognised by AFC Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe and him trying to apprehend me, yeah what on earth was my subconscious doing this morning? But still, I woke up, rolled over a flicked through social media and saw the news.

I never met Charles although I brushed past him on several occasions so I don’t have a personal story about him to share. Yet what I saw from a distance is seemingly what many others who were a lot closer to him saw and knew. The one thing that stands out is how many people described him as ‘human’ a trait that isn’t one that most people would use to describe a politician but Charles was that. He wasn’t perfect but none of us are, yet he treated everyone as equal no matter their political persuasion.

A friend of mine on Facebook, who has become extremely politically aware in the current climate and if a fierce SNP supporter shared her sadness at his passing and how she had voted for the Lib Dems in the past because of him. Most of her SNP friends commented with various praise that whilst he wasn’t one of them, he always came across as a decent person who worked hard for his constituents and was a principled man. Yes there were two or three people that seemed happy that a person who wasn’t aligned with them politically has passed on but the large percentage of comments were very glowing of the man and that in itself I think says everything, when so many who was vastly radicalised still think he was a good man then that shows the type of man that he was and what esteem he was held in.

He took the Lib Dems to their highest finish in terms of MPs and no-one could ever say that he played the game of politics, he knew what he thought and he knew what he believed in and that was that. He made a stand against the Iraq war despite the establishment seemingly convinced that it was the right thing to do and was willing to go against popularist movements if they didn’t align with his principles.

It should also be noted that he gave 32 years of his life to public service having been first elected at just 23 years of age and having retained his seat in the House of Commons until May this year. That is quite something and whilst many of us often feel as though MPs should have real world experience, this man didn’t hide inside the Westminster bubble and that is key.

You’ll read far better blogs and articles about Charles Kennedy today I’m sure but a good man, a good human, passed away today and the human race is just a little bit poorer today. I’ll leave the final word to the outgoing leader Nick Clegg who had this to say about Charles Kennedy this morning, ‘Charles Kennedy on form, on a good day when he was feeling strong and happy, had more political talent in his little finger than the rest of us put together.’

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June 2nd, 2015 at 1:15 pm

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On Alistair Carmichael’s behaviour and that of the SNP mob…

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Two pieces involving the SNP in successive days? I must need my head seeing to…

So yes. Alistair Carmichael. What a bleedin’ eejit. Authorising the leak of the memo was a very political thing to do wasn’t it? The thing is, all politicians brief against other politicians and they nearly always do it on the condition of anonymity. This isn’t new and will continue to happen as long as politics is a thing. Denying he knew of it though when in fact he knew perfectly well what was going on, that was foolish and had he been my MP and I’d voted for him before finding out that he’d lied about something, then I suspect I’d be a bit peeved.

Carmichael’s political career is pretty much over in terms of what happens the next time he is up for election. Even Lib Dem supporters who believe that he has been a good constituency MP won’t automatically go to the ballot box and put their x next to his name any more. If you can’t guarantee your core vote turning out then you are in all sorts of trouble. People don’t like exposed liars, whether the lie itself as big or not isn’t an issue, being exposed as one will always hang around the neck of a politician.

Should he step down though and force a by-election is the next question? Legally it does seem as though he’s on pretty solid ground. Any dishonest statements that he made was not about anyone who was up for election at all, let alone up for election against him in his seat. Nicola Sturgeon has become the fresh face of Scottish politics because quite simply, the Scottish people needed a fresh face because Alex Salmond didn’t inspire any more and the Scottish people liked what she had to say because she spoke of populist policies. It is interesting to see just how different Scotland was compared to the rest of the UK in terms of this, the Scots voted for populist policies whereas the rest of the union voted for more economic prudence.

So legally Carmichael looks pretty secure but morally is another issue altogether. Does he have legitimacy for winning his seat? I think he probably does because whatever he knew or didn’t know, it didn’t effect his election as people weren’t thinking about that memo when they went to vote in Orkney & Shetland Islands. Yet he lied but as Sir Malcolm Bruce accurately put it, ‘my point is if you’re suggesting every MP who has never quite told the truth or indeed told a brazen lie, including ministers, including Cabinet ministers, including prime ministers, we’d clear out the House of Commons very fast, I would suggest‘.

I think that probably most politicians lie, or at least don’t tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth every time they open their mouths. That just isn’t the way politics works but also that just isn’t the way humanity works. We all tell white lies or don’t fully admit to things when we’ve done wrong. Should politicians be held to a higher standard than the rest of us? Is that fair? Aren’t politicians human like the rest of us?

Still though despite my disappointment in Alistair Carmichael’s actions, the very vocal mob that are trying to force him out aren’t much better and they are led by none other then their numero uno, Nicola Sturgeon herself. As Toby Young points out in The Spectator on her predecessor Alex Salmond, ‘On almost every critical point raised during the debate about Scotland’s future, Salmond was deliberately misleading. I’m not just thinking of his claim that he’d received legal advice reassuring him that an independent Scotland wouldn’t need to reapply for membership of the European Union. When the Information Commissioner ordered the Scottish government to respond to an FOI request to disclose the advice it had received, Salmond’s ministers spent £19,452.92 of public money appealing the decision, only to admit later that the ‘advice’ was a figment of Salmond’s imagination. So the First Minister misled the Scottish people on this point and spent taxpayers’ money to try to conceal the fact‘.

Alex Salmond misled the Scottish people in the independence referendum on multiple occasions. We all know that now and many of us knew it then. It isn’t exactly a shock but it just goes to show that the SNP are just as bad as the rest so to take the moral high ground against Alistair Carmichael seems churlish at best.

With the success of the SNP in May and the rise of the party, many of its activists have become radicalised and therefore see issues through a prism of hate instead of through clear spectacles. The sense you get is that if you aren’t for the SNP then you are against Scotland and are unpatriotic. I hilariously saw an SNP tweeter get retweeted into my timeline telling people to let him know if they were planning on watching the English FA Cup Final so that he could unfollow them for being unpatriotic and fraternising with the enemy. Today The National newspaper in Scotland tweeted out the following:

The National Newspaper House of Commons

The National Newspaper on Twitter 01/06/2015

In the lair of the enemy. This is the way things are now, many people see non-Scottish people as the enemy and that is sad to see. People get concerned over the radicalisation of terrorists but anyone can get radicalised for a cause and the independence referendum has led to a great swathe of people becoming radicalised in terms of nationalism. This isn’t good or isn’t bad per se, it is what it is, but what it leads to is people not thinking and acting with cool heads, they act on instinct and raw emotion and if you disagree with them then you are deemed wrong, very wrong, no matter what it is.

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June 1st, 2015 at 12:47 pm

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On the SNP and the ‘quality’ of their new MPs…

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Ok tin hat on, fake beard in place, different clothing ready to be worn. I’m going in…

First things first. The SNP have won 56 of the 59 Scottish seats and they’ve won them fairly and squarely under the system that we currently have in place, so this blog won’t say they aren’t a legitimate force in the House of Commons. I’ll be looking at how they may act and what pitfalls that they may have to face.

On the first day of parliament I had TweetDeck open and a well-known Lib Dem blogger said that they wished that Lib Dem MPs acted like the SNP ones, I typed in a reply of, ‘what, like douchebags?’ but decided it wasn’t worth the fight. The thing is many of the SNP candidates that became MPs in May had no experience whatsoever and were essentially warm bodies to put on a ballot paper. Then suddenly the surge in support for the party following the referendum meant that many of these people would win and therein lies a big problem.

For the established parties, they generally have a set of candidates who have some experience or some involvement in politics to get to the stage where they can win a Westminster seat. Parties may put up paper candidates around the country but they do this in seats they know they won’t win and little campaigning is done. This happens at both Westminster and local council level. The problem happens when a national surge means that parties who didn’t expect to win come through and then candidates are suddenly thrust into the role of councillor or MP.

When this happens it often leads to people who aren’t either ready for or prepared for the role being elected. I don’t blog about local issues here much any more but I think considering the events of UKIP and their elected representatives from the 2014 local elections then it is clear many (if not all bar James Moyies) of their victorious candidates were not ready to take on the responsibility of winning. It has seen big fall out, one resignation and plenty of newspaper inches being devoted to just what a clutterfuck they had been (and yet the guy who resigned was actually replaced by another UKIP councillor – madness).

I saw it happen in Guildford too, two paper Tory candidates came through to second and third in a ward (where three are victorious) and neither of them wanted to win but wanted to help the Tories put up a full slate. They won because of a national surge and now will be representing the people of that ward for four years despite having no desire to do so whatsoever. I have a feeling many of the SNP victors will have this sense to, maybe not now but in the near future.

Being an MP is not a job, it is a labour of love. I know many folk say that their salary is huge but when you compare it to an average job in the city then it is actually nothing special and the workload that an MP undertakes is vast. Yes they do get significant holiday time away from the House of Commons but that doesn’t mean that work stops. Constituents still have issues and therefore if you are thrust into a job and position that you weren’t really planning for, that will turn your life upside down then you are bound to take a second look at it once the reality sets in.

Many of the new intake of SNP MPs have come in believing that they’ll be able to make a difference but as many backbench MP will tell you, you come in full of enthusiasm but soon that gets knocked off and reality sets in. It is a bit like journalism, you may dream of breaking big stories, changing the world and making it a better place but instead you find yourself rewriting a press release about how the bee population is down 9% and that it is the fault of farmers, or something equally tedious.

Now this isn’t to say being an MP (or councillor for that matter) doesn’t have its rewarding moments, the trick is to quickly recalibrate your mind set to small victories being rewarding and that the big fights will be long, hard slogs. If the SNP MPs come in, get their head down, work hard for the people they represent and understand quickly that they are not in a position to change the world then they’ll do ok. If they think they’ll be able to change Tory policy and force another referendum then they’ll get dispirited rather quickly I suspect.

Lastly on this, the bullshit about where they sit, clapping and the like, grow the fuck up. You are not a bunch of frat kids on a piss up in the big city. You are the third biggest party and you get the rights and privileges that go along with that. However you are the third party, not the second, Labour are the elected opposition and you have to deal with that. I know the old two parties act like petulant school children way too often but you don’t have to act like petulant school children who have eaten too much haribo on the coach.

The SNP have to make a decision, do they want to play at being politicians or do they want to be good representatives for those that they represent? So far it looks like they prefer the former option, I will be interested to see how they react as the weeks and months go by and the Tories push through their agenda and the SNP MPs can’t do a damned thing about it, how will they react then? Will they throw their toys out of the pram or will they do what they were elected to do? It will be fascinating to watch as I have no doubt that a significant percentage of them are woefully unprepared for what lies ahead, will they sink or swim? Will they even try swimming?

Very few Labour, Conservative or Lib Dem MP’s who have been elected in recent times have been as woefully unprepared as the current crop of SNP MPs are. It will be one to watch to see whether people should vote for party over person If they impress and succeed then it may well open up the Commons to more backgrounds as the argument that you need to be embedded in politics to be a success will be diluted. I fear for them but if they do well then suddenly the Commons could be a much more open place and that would be fantastic.

No pressure folks…

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May 31st, 2015 at 2:12 pm

Posted in Politics

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