The Rambles of Neil Monnery

Another pointless voice in the vast ocean that is the interweb

On the future after #LibDemsAt30…

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I don’t write much about politics any more. It isn’t that my interest has waned or that I don’t care about the issues facing the country and world but it is mainly because Brexit is the overbearing presence that sucks the oxygen out of everything else. Yes in my opinion, leaving the EU and in all likelihood the way we are going to leave will be extremely problematic in terms of the economy. We aren’t going to get the best trade deals the world has ever seen just because Liam Fox, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Boris Johnson or David Davis want it to be the case. The United Kingdom is not the global power it once was and going it alone in the current climate is going to be extremely tough.

Away from this issue though, the globe keeps spinning. The issues of inequality are still present. The country (and most of the world seemingly) is becoming far more intolerant of those who disagree with their view of the world. The rise of social media has allowed people who would usually be cautious about airing their views to have the confidence that people who agree with them, will find them. This is in large part why UKIP did well in the 2014 European Elections. People voting for candidates who basically say they won’t do the job they are running for is maddening. Yet clearly the previously silent minority came out and pushed that party forward. It happened in the US with Donald Trump. Who knows what will happen in Italy today?

So what does this all have to have to do with the Lib Dems? Probably nothing but as time has gone on, it has become ever clearer to me that the party (and indeed the activists) suffer from a similar issue. Living in an echo chamber and having deep entrenched views that cannot be questioned. Having a debate within the party is tough because should you disagree with someone on social media, the common reaction is for others to pile in and tell you that you are wrong. It is why I just don’t engage any more. I sit back and watch and see the same people backing each other up and picking on people who disagree. In my younger days I wouldn’t been more up for the debate but these days I just don’t see the point.

The party had a pretty darn good manifesto in 2017 but Brexit seems to be the be all and end all. The party saw an influx of new members who are just anti-Brexit but don’t hold many liberal values. I see it all over the place. I have seen people join the party who disagree with Gay Marriage for example. I know of people who have joined who think any drugs offence should be met with locking the person up and throwing away the key. I know of people who have joined the party that think we should all vote Labour as they are the only people who can stop the Tories.

In 2017 the party had all the momentum to fight back from the brink of oblivion but of course things didn’t go as expected. People who are vocally against Brexit and believe it is the biggest issue facing the country in decades still had to jump through hoops to vote Lib Dem. If they could find a way to vote Labour they would. It is because their is no natural Lib Dem vote and the memories of coalition are still fresh in the memory.

I follow multiple people on social media who voted Lib Dem in 2010 and vowed never again after going into coalition with the evil Conservative Party. That isn’t a shocker but when you see some of these people start voting Tory and not only that, joining that party, you just have to laugh. The Lib Dems are the worst ever for doing what they did but I’ll do the same and it is all fine and dandy. Logic.

Of course another issue the party faces is Jeremy Corbyn. A lot of people believe you can get everything for nothing. We saw this is the US when Bernie Sanders took it to Hillary Clinton in the race to become the Democrat nominee in 2016. Corbyn’s appeal doesn’t seem logical to me as he’s basically saying we should turn back time to how things were decades ago. Renationalising everything, giving huge power back to the unions, abolishing tuition fees and his position on the EU depends on who he’s talking to but he’s consistently been against the UK/EU relationship.

His rise however shows off another factor in play in this social media era. The idea of compromise and nuance have been pushed to one side. People like right and wrong. They like black and white. If you agree with 95% of what Jeremy Corbyn says but disagree with 5%, well a lot of his supporters will tell you to rack off and to leave the party. They don’t want your opinion but when it comes to the ballot box, boy they’ll want your vote.

This I suppose is what I’m trying to get at. When I go to the supermarket I tend to bring back three or four options for dinner and my partner and I will choose what we fancy that night. At the ballot box, an ever increasing amount of people want two options, one they like and one they detest. That is the Tories and Labour here in England and Wales. In Scotland the SNP are the party people have a strong opinion over and those that detest them, they are ready to split in any direction depending on whose most likely to take the nationalists down.

The Lib Dems aren’t good and they aren’t bad. People’s opinions of the party seems to basically be that they are irrelevant. In politics its better to be hated than not cared about. Things are tough for the party right now, extremely tough and even if Brexit is a disaster, no-one wants to be told that we were right all along. With every day that passes I believe that until Jeremy Corbyn (or a discipline of his) has got their shot to run the country, we’ll see two-party politics, certainly at a national level. This is why the party needs to start building up its council base once again as that is the road back to relevance.

The local elections this year on paper should be relatively good for the party. The people who vote in local elections (when there are no other elections on that day) are those that give a shit. The people who give two hoots are often those who are the most angry about what is going on. This helps the Lib Dems on two fronts. Firstly the most angry people regarding Brexit are those who firmly believe in Remain but secondly, the Lib Dems aren’t defending much. Plenty of areas that were traditionally liberal locally voted Labour or Tory nationally last year as activists poured in and people didn’t split their ballot. This year they’ll be no ballot to split. If the party can’t make solid gains at the ballot box in the current climate then bloody hell, we are in bigger trouble than anyone thought (and I think most people think the party are close to life-support anyway).

When 80% odd of voters vote Remain in a constituency but then 78% vote for strong Brexit candidates, that sums up the electorate at the moment.

So yeah, just a bit of a ramble on Lib Dem stuff. Nationally we have little hope at the moment unless a by-election came up in a seat that was ripe for the party but locally, hope hasn’t deserted me just yet.

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

March 4th, 2018 at 1:22 pm

On the great Kauto Star v Denman battles…

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Sport is often all about rivalries. Whether it is between two teams, two nations or just two individuals. We have the likes of Roger Federer v Rafael Nadal, the New York Yankees v the Boston Red Sox, Liverpool v Manchester United, Brady v Manning, England v Australia, Fischer v Spassky, India v Pakistan, Senna v Prost. I could just go on and on naming some of the most intense rivalries in the world of sport over the years but there was one that captivated me a few years back in a sport which I rarely watch, Horse Racing.

Just to set the scene, the two combatants weren’t two jockeys, they were two horses. Both of whom belonged to the same stable. Paul Nicholls trained both Denman and Kauto Star and between them they had won the Blue Riband event at the Cheltenham Festival between 2007 and 2009. Kauto Star won it first before being dethroned by his stablemate only to gloriously take back the crown in 2009. They were two of the greatest jump horses of their generation and they happened to essentially be next door neighbours. It was one of the rare times when the event of the Festival was superseded by two horses who were built up to be on course for a dramatic fourth meeting in 2010.

The build up was intense as horse racing lovers split into two camps about who would come out on top. Kauto Star was the darling of the racing industry and had long been seen as the greatest jumps horse of his generation. Whilst it would be unfair to say that this was a two-horse race, that is exactly how it felt. If you weren’t on one of these two then you probably weren’t going to be seeing victory.

Sadly for everyone who was hoping to see Kauto Star go out on top, it wasn’t to be as he would fall at the 19th but the biggest surprise was that it wasn’t his stablemate Denman that crossed the line first. Imperial Commander won the race having gone off at 9/1 and the 4/1 Denman came home in second place. For the 8/11 favourite Kauto Star, many saw it as a shame that his career wouldn’t end in glory.

The great one though came back in 2011 and at the grand old age of 11 was the darling of the punter. Despite failing to win the King George VI Chase for the first time in five years the previous Boxing Day, the overwhelming sentimental favourite went off at 5/1 as he looked to take home his third Gold Cup title. Alas for all of us who have sentimental bones in our bodies, he’d be beaten not only by Denman who finished second but by the 7/2 favourite Long Run.

It was the beginning of the end but he showed us that like all great champions, he had one final great performance in him and he went back to Kempton Park on Boxing Day 2011. He would beat Even money favourite Long Run to win his fifth and last King George VI Chase to seal his place in the pantheon of true greats of the track.

One of the great parts of sporting rivalries is how you can support your favourite not only by cheering them on but also by backing them at the bookies. Seeing your favourite horse cross the line first is made ever sweeter by knowing a few quid is coming your way as well. Companies like WilliamHill will have plenty of special promotions heading into the Cheltenham Festival this March and you’d be foolish not to give them a look over. The 2018 event may not have Denman v Kauto Star but they’ll be plenty of great horses to back and roar on to victory.

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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February 26th, 2018 at 9:06 am

Posted in Random Stuff

On the realisation that I’m not a very good friend…

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Deep down this isn’t exactly breaking news but a couple of weeks ago the fact I’m not the greatest friend in the world was hammered home in a very dramatic fashion. I can have no complaints about it but it is quite something when you sit there, look at yourself and realise you just aren’t that great. Always a painful moment that.

It starts like many tales do in the days of yore, oh no wait, university. At university I hung out with several people on my course for the majority of my time there. Since uni, we’ve met up a few times but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become less sociable. Considering I didn’t exactly start off as the life and soul of any party that is saying something. It is not that I’ve become even more curmudgeonly as the years have gone on, it is more that I’ve found it harder to fit in and as I continue to do so, the less I’ve tried bothering.I wouldn’t go as far as calling myself a loner but if people were to call me that, I couldn’t put up the fiercest of defences to that type of comment.

Another aspect is at some point you fear that a person you see as a friend but haven’t spoken to nor seen in a long while won’t want to know of your existence any more. I suspect it is something we all deal with from time to time, you drift apart from someone due to various circumstances and then instead of just picking up the phone, dropping them a line on social media or whatever, you just wonder if they even want to hear from you. It is something I know I’ve faced on numerous occasions over the years. So of course even though at times you think of someone and wonder how they are getting on, you don’t reach out and you just carry on your own little life.

This leads us to when it really hit home. One of my friends from university got married a couple of weeks back. Good for him, nice guy who had long been searching for the right person. Clearly they’ve found them so good times. The fact I wasn’t invited to the wedding is no biggie, I’m very rarely invited to such things, I hate not looking like a bum and being happy along with comfortable in such social scenarios isn’t exactly my forte. What hit home was that I didn’t know about it. It wasn’t just that I missed all the talk on social media et al about it, I’d been soft blocked so I was purposely kept out of the loop.

In this social media age, you can still feel somewhat connected to those who you were once close to. A comment on a status here, a like there and you are still even though very tenuously, linked and up to date on their lives. It also leads to the awful situation of social media etiquette. If you decide someone you are connected to on social media isn’t someone you care about in life but still might have interactions with in the future, what do you do? Often the answer is soft block and just remove them from sight (and remove yourself from their sight) and should the need to interact with them again, take off the soft block like nothing ever happened.

The thing is this isn’t an isolated incident. Not often but every so often someone reaches out with me for a chat but I’m busy doing something else, so I think, ‘I’ll reply to them later’ but then a day goes by, two, three, a week and then suddenly it is too late to really respond without coming off like a complete douchebag. So you leave it. For example anyone who knows me well knows I hate typing on anything but a computer keyboard, so I don’t like phones/iPads for that type of thing. So if someone messages me and I’m not by my PC, it is unlikely I’ll reply there and then.

I can’t blame friends for basically giving up on me. I truly can’t. I rarely leave the flat for social engagements and even when there is something I have interest in doing, often my body lets me down. As the years have ticked on the issues with my legs and fatigue issues have slowly worsened. They aren’t really bad, not by any means but the idea of travelling several hours, doing something then travelling several hours back I know will take me days to recover from. When I moved in here, I spent a month clearing out and packing all my stuff from my old flat, I suspect it took me two months to fully recover, for about three weeks I had to nap every single afternoon.

When I was younger, I thought the biggest thing to be a good friend was to be there when someone needed you. As you get older though the just being there bit becomes far more important. We all lead different lives as we move on from teens/young adults into the relationship/career/settling down phase of live. Often it takes time and effort to keep in touch with people who have drifted and if they don’t make the effort then why should you?

Growing up has its pitfalls, you can’t just ring up a mate after school or on a Saturday and expect them to be available to play FIFA or go to the Cinema or whatever. Now things take planning and even then, more times than not something pops up late and that means you can’t go or at least one or two of those who said they’ll be there have to cancel late. It is rather sad in a way but that is just part of the journey of life I suppose.

So anyway to wrap up, this isn’t me taking umbrage about being cut out of someone’s life. They have every right to do such a thing and if I have made no real effort to keep up such a friendship, well that is what happens. It is just a blog post about how as you grow older, friendship seems to become harder. Time is more squeezed and when you are taken away from the natural social events such as school, university or the office where the friendship formed, it takes a lot of effort to keep up a genuine friendship doesn’t it?

Lastly in my life I’ve lived with 12 different people who weren’t family. As far as I’m aware nine have gotten married. No-one invited me to their wedding and I think only three I still had Facebook friend permissions to know that they were even engaged/getting married. I think that says an awful lot about me doesn’t it?

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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January 30th, 2018 at 3:28 pm

Posted in Personal

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On writing a Pop Culture Quiz Book…

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Yes I’m back and once more flogging something. I remember when I used to write all about my life and views on politics here. That seems like an age ago doesn’t it? At some point soon I really should get back to that…

So after the relatively successful debut quiz book The All New Pub Quiz Question Book for 2017 (which is still very much live and still for sale) that I put live a couple of months back, I decided that I’d do another. Doing this breaks up some of my other works as writing creatively sometimes you just don’t have it. My latest fiction piece really bummed out my partner as the main character does not shall we say, get a happy ending. Anyway that is a story for another day and another pen name. Moving on…

Late last night my second quiz book focusing on Pop Culture went live on Amazon. Once more it is (I think) rather competitively priced at £2.99 and would be good for anyone who just likes to challenge themselves against a variety of quiz questions, for anyone setting up a quiz night or just for a bit of fun with the family over the holiday period.

Like last time I have used the pen name of our cat and have promised her tins of tuna for every 50 books that it sells. She’s licking her lips at the prospect already. She really goes crazy with tuna, nearly as much as she does with prawns, man she really loves prawns.

Anyway I’m digressing like I often do when writing on here. If you want to purchase Pop Culture Trivia: 500 Quiz Questions over 50 Rounds on Movies, Music, TV & Sport and support my endeavours (along with getting Misha closer to her reward tuna) then follow the link to the Amazon store. Any positive reviews would also very much be welcome!

Pop Culture Trivia Quiz Book 2018

Pop Culture Trivia Quiz Book

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December 21st, 2017 at 4:37 pm

Posted in Random Stuff

On dabbling in the world of writing quiz books…

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So a few months ago my working life was shall we say, turned upside down and I had to work out what I wanted to do next with my life. After essentially spending the summer chilling out, my girlfriend and I sat down to talk things through. What I wanted to really give a go was writing some fiction books. It was something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Luckily I had squirrelled away some money for a rainy day so I could actually give it a fair crack of the whip and earn peanuts for a while to see if I could actually do it.

I’m happy to say I have written a few short stories and the sales are trickling in. It is a slow process but my latest work has come out of the gate at a reasonable pace and is already well on the way to earning me the same money as if I’d have worked a minimum wage job for the hours I’d put into writing it. I won’t promote them here because I am writing in a genre where having a pen name and anonymity is nice. You can probably put two and two together but still…

What I will promote here is another sideline I’m writing and that is quiz books. I have three already live (one 500 question Pub Quiz book, one World Cup Quiz Book (1966-2014) and a short sports anagram book). These are what I write when mentally I don’t feel creative but actually want to get something worthwhile done. I have several more in mind that I’ll hopefully collate and publish over the coming weeks and months.

The big one though is the Pub Quiz book that you can buy for £2.99 on Amazon should you be interested in challenging yourself or others to a 50 round marathon of General Knowledge questions (and if you do buy it, giving me a nice review would be grand). This has been my most consistent seller out of my non-fiction works and is something I’m genuinely proud. It took a lot of time to research and work on.

Some of the rounds I’m most proud of that are not exactly standard pub quiz rounds are Friends Guest Stars, Speakers of the House of Commons, Where to Eat/Drink in TV/Film, Norse Mythology and Comedian One-Liners. There is something for everyone though and if you are planning to run a quiz but don’t want to have to sit down and write it, this is the ideal book for you. If you just want to sit around and test yourself against 500 General Knowledge questions then it is ideal in that respect too.

Anyway enough with the shameless self-promotion. I just wanted to write a little bit on why this blog has been slow recently, it is because I’m either writing and researching quiz books or I’m writing fiction. To that end I have my first novella length book about 60-70% written (already 20k words) and another 10-15k book set to launch within the next few days. So I am busy and I do still care about politics and such, it is just I’m writing so much that will hopefully net me a quid or two that I don’t have much time to dictate to writing on this blog at the moment (and yes I know, don’t worry, I have an editor who shortens my rambling sentences and notices erroneous words etc).

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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November 9th, 2017 at 7:07 pm

Posted in General

On why Nick Clegg was fair and accurate in his ‘Join Labour’ comments this week…

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Come on then, a show of hands. Whoever thought that I’d be defending Nick Clegg? Me of all the people. The person who has defending him a pretty much every turn in the road. Oh wait, all of you? Fair enough.

So yes, Nick Clegg has ruffled a few feathers in the past day or so after he came out and said that the country is in a state of emergency regarding Brexit. I think we can all agree on that so fantastic. What he proposed though has caused a lot of Lib Dems to want the former leader to be thrown out of the party. For you see, he advocated those whose primary objective was solely to stop Brexit and you hadn’t been politically active before then maybe the time was now to get involved and join either Labour or the Tories.

The extracts are below:

“Join the Labour Party and make your voice heard. It may seem odd for a former leader of the Liberal Democrats – and someone who has fought against the illiberal habits of Labour all my political life – to advocate joining the Labour Party.”

“And, as a lifelong card-carrying member of another party, I won’t be doing so myself.

“But if you are someone who has never joined a party, or perhaps has been inclined to join Labour but has never got round to it, or if you are simply someone who recognises that the importance of Brexit is far greater than individual.

“At a time of national emergency, and for as long as Parliament is dominated by Labour and Conservative MPs, it is undoubtedly true that what happens within the two larger establishment parties is of the greatest importance.

“So if you can’t stomach joining the Labour Party, if you are ideologically inclined in a Conservative direction in any event and if you also believe that Brexit is the issue of our times, then joining the Conservatives is another route to make your views felt.”

How very dare he I hear you cry. How could any former leader of the party ever advocate joining another party. Not even Paddy Ashdown did that with More United, he just wanted an Anti-Tory alliance but Nick Clegg, well I never.

Yet unsurprisingly I can very much see his point. The Lib Dems have 12 MPs and will not be able to significantly move the needle on the Brexit issue in this parliament. So if the EU question is your overriding reason for wanting to get involved in politics at this point then the Lib Dems isn’t a natural home. If you want to stop Brexit from happening then you need a time machine or have one of the two big parties move their position on Brexit.

The Tories have a pretty clear position and are unlikely to move unless Theresa May goes and somehow Ken Clarke runs for and gets elected leader. I wouldn’t be putting much money down on that. So that leaves Labour where the party as a whole are generally Pro-Europe but the leadership aren’t and they are scared to stick their flag in the sand to show what side of the line they are on. Pitiful but depressingly, they are the only party who could really force the Tories hands if they swung wildly to the Remain side of the debate.

For us, we had our Brexit surge after the EU Referendum and then when the 2017 General Election was announced, three was a further influx of new members. The Lib Dems were (and are) the party of Remain but instead of really staking out our position, we dithered and put together a terrible GE campaign position. That left those people who were ready to back us enthusiastically wondering whether they should bite the bullet and vote Labour in the vague hope that they would win enough to hold the Tories to account or even win and then Jeremy Corbyn might change his position.

Once Jeremy Corbyn got his momentum (no pun intended) and Theresa May’s campaign fell around her like letters on a speech backdrop, the dye was cast. The floating voter looking to stop a hard Brexit didn’t flock to the yellows but instead went red. Many Lib Dem members (many of the new ones if you read online forums etc.) were pleading for tactical voting and for alliances. A not insignificant proportion of those did not vote Lib Dem as they just wanted to vote for the best person that could stop Brexit. In many clear LD/Con battles, they went Labour anyway and they bypassed the Lib Dems in many traditional LD/Tory battlegrounds to the point of winning the seat. Depressing.

Still though that has left us with little influence in this parliament. With the country not set to go to the polls again until after Brexit has started and we are either in a transitional period or out altogether, if you want to influence it then it is highly unlikely you’ll be able to do it via us.

Now in a couple of years once the shit has started to hit the metaphorical fan and we are the unabashed Pro-EU party then we might be the place to be if you love the EU. For now though, with no election due until after this all happens, the Lib Dem influence is not that great. So if (and only if) your political motivations are solely to stop Brexit then I can certainly see where Nick is coming from. Would I have preferred he not say it? Sure. Do I think it was unwise? Yes. Does it make sense though? It actually does.

The time is now for us as a party to focus on domestic policies and to find a way to get these out front and centre. Brexit is the beast whose shadow looms over politics and will do for years to come. The public though are resigned to it happening in some form because heck, that is what the country voted for. We might not like it but it was democracy in action.

Jeremy Corbyn surged not because of Brexit but because people liked that they heard about domestic policies. That is why we have a hung parliament and only 12 MPs instead of a large Tory majority and 30 odd Lib Dems. Sometimes I just feel we are all caught up in this Brexit world when in fact plenty of other things are happening every single day and if you aren’t do much about Brexit, why not start to try start influencing things you can?

Still, I fully expect Brexit, Brexit, Brexit to dominate the Lib Dem spectrum for years to come…

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October 6th, 2017 at 11:06 am

Posted in Politics

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On the rabid inflation of tuition fees as a political issue…

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Tuition fees. No two words in the English language drive more fear into a Lib Dem heart. It has become not only a stick for other politicos and the media to beat the party with but the electorate themselves think a stick is far too tame and keep imploring the previously stated politicos and media to turn that stick into a baseball bat, then drive in some nails to said baseball bat, coat the baseball bat in cow pats and then and only then start swinging at the Lib Dems.

As has been written about here (and on many other fine websites – and some bad ones too no doubt) this has been a lot of the Lib Dems own doing. We can go around and around in circles about the nuance of the Lib Dems were a junior partner in a coalition and did actually put a lot of their 2010 manifesto into place but no-one cares about facts, facts are for losers, we live in a post-fact era and the only things that make sense are black and white, right and wrong, Will or Gareth (ok that last one is quite an old reference) but I think it is fair to say that the simpler the better when it comes to issues these days.

I do wonder though at times how we actually got to the position where we are. On Sunday Vince Cable penned a piece about Brexit and how it hurt the chances of young people not only now but potentially for generations to come. Most economists would agree that this is an accurate statement and that Brexit will not be beneficial in terms of either jobs, opportunities or salaries going forward. Yet instead of people going ‘right on Vince’ ‘You tell it like it is’ ‘fuck me that old geezer actually knows some shit’ or words to that effect, social media was full of one issue, yes, tuition fees.

Apparently tuition fees is an issue that won’t ever go away, it is radioactive and will still be used to bash the Lib Dems in 2197 when the aliens invade but allow humanity to have an election on whether they should be enslaved or not. The Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell will implore people to reject enslavement and embrace freedom but the hard left will go, ‘well you lied about tuition fees so I can’t trust you, now where do we sign up for a stint at the sulphur mines on Rigel IV?’

For you see tuition fees has very little to do with actual tuition fees. The policy is inconsequential to the emotion that people feel when talking about them. Families and young people want their children to have every opportunity going and therefore believe a free education for as long as they want it helps enhance those chances to find a path they’ll enjoy and will bring them a good life.

Fair point you would say but when the country is facing an obstacle that won’t just pinch financially but will actively shut down opportunities and jobs, the very same people who are desperate to keep education free are far more blasé. It is like they can’t see the big picture and that put side by side, tuition fees is a grain of sand whereas Brexit is the entire beach.

This doesn’t even take into consideration the actual cost to the tax payer of free education at higher institutes of learning. That is a debate that very few actually want to have but it is a legitimate one. Most people can understand and tolerate their taxes going towards health, defence, crime prevention, education up to adult years but why should someone who earns a low salary be part paying for someone they don’t know to study Philosophy at the University of Central Lancashire? I’m not saying I have that opinion but what I am saying is I can see that opinion and it is perfectly justified.

When Labour introduced tuition fees and then top-up fees when they were last in government, it was a story for a day or two and then life moved on. For the Lib Dems though it is something that everyone wants to throw at them mercilessly. Labour were able to win a fourth consecutive term in government even after an extremely unpopular war because the electorate took into account the whole picture. Now though people want to find a small issue and use it to supersede the bigger one.

Tuition fees was a dark day for the Lib Dems but Brexit will be an eclipse for the whole country for generations. Yet as Jeremy Corbyn leads Labour forward and quite possibly towards government, he does so still envisioning and supporting a departure of the EU that will leave his supporters poorer and with fewer life opportunities. They know this but they don’t care because they’ve grown to see that life (and politics) is simple. Good and bad, black and white and Jeremy Corbyn is good.

A lady called Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett wrote in the Guardian a piece entitled Brexit will be catastrophic. Yet I still support Jeremy Corbyn and it sums up everything I have said here. A devout Corbyn supporter who knows that he’s happy to screw her over but yet is still highly enthusiastic towards the man. ‘I felt politically homeless (because of tuition fees, I would never countenance voting Lib Dem)’ she writes as once again tuition fees is clearly a much bigger issue than Brexit and that my friends (and enemies and those who are indifferent towards me) is the where we are today.

Tuition Fees 1, Brexit 0. One day future generations will look back at ours and wonder why anyone ever felt that killing off the liberals was worth it just over an issue like whether adults should all be entitled to free education. It may be important but compared to what else is going on not only in the world but also in our back yard, it isn’t even in the top 25 issues yet for a great swathe of the electorate, being morally superior is vastly more important than making better lives for themselves, their loved ones and for those who come after them.

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Written by neilmonnery

August 8th, 2017 at 2:36 pm

Posted in Politics

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On the top five fantasy football sleepers…

without comments

Take a look at the roster of any championship Fantasy Football team after the season is over, and inevitably you’re going to see a guy or two who was drafted way lower than his production should have warranted. The key to winning your upcoming fantasy league is getting upper round production from mid to late round draft picks.

Your fantasy football draft is right around the corner, and here are five players who have a chance to make a big impact from later draft position. If you haven’t set up your league yet, or if you’re looking for one more league before the season starts, sites like Playdraft are easy to use and offer great options for fantasy football.

1) Jameis Winston – QB, Buccaneers

This year, Jameis Winston is getting drafted with an average draft position of early in the second round, the 8th quarterback off the board. While Marcus Mariota and Derek Carr are the young quarterbacks everyone are talking about taking the next step, Winston is the guy who might surpass them both. Last year, Winston bumped his touchdowns thrown up by 6, and there’s no reason he can’t take another step this year. Meanwhile, his rushing touchdowns fell from 6 to 1 from 2015 to 2016 while his rushing attempts stayed the same. If he managed to tally a few more rushing TDs while improving through the air, Winston is a top 5 QB.

2) Joe Mixon – RB, Bengals

Mixon is coming off the board as the 20th running back selected, with an ADP of the 4th round. That’s too low for a guy who would have been a surefire first round pick had it not been for character concerns, and who finds himself the primary running back in a Cincinnati offense with some real weapons in the passing game. Mixon has a chance to be a top 10 running back this year.

3) Christian McCaffrey – RB, Panthers

Another rookie running back, McCaffrey is being picked as the 15th running back on average, with a 3rd round ADP. In other words, he’s being picked a full round later than a guy like Jordan Howard, who’s on a terrible Bears offense and will face stacked boxes all season long. McCaffrey, on the other hand, will benefit from defenses having to stop Cam Newton first and foremost, and his first round pedigree attests to formidable talent. McCaffrey has top 5 potential this year.

4) Josh Doctson – WR, Redskins

All the way down as the 64th wideout taken, with an ADP in the 14th round, Doctson is a deep sleeper who might pay big dividends in 2017. The Redskins lost Pierre Garcon and Desean Jackson to free agency, so someone’s going to have to step up and catch passes from talented QB Kirk Cousins. Enter Doctson, the 2015 first round draft pick. The Redskins will give Doctson every opportunity to break out, and he could easily be a top 30 wide receiver this year.

5) John Brown – WR, Cardinals

Brown is being drafted as the 43rd wide receiver off the board with an ADP of the 9th round, which offers plenty of value for the explosive wideout. 2016 was a down year, but only a year ago Brown put up over 1,000 yards and 7 scores. Some early training camp injury woes put a bit of a damper on Brown’s fantasy luster, but a strong performance in preseason game 3 showed hes ready to go this year. As the number two wide receiver in a strong Arizona offense, Brown should put up big fantasy numbers, possibly cracking the top 20 wide receivers in value.

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 Ian Pope

August 8th, 2017 at 1:11 pm

On putting Soccer AM out of its misery…

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I remember the days when I was much younger than I am now. Back in those teenage and early 20s years I would have a pretty steady Saturday morning ritual before either heading to Fratton or St. George’s Park to take in my live football. That ritual would involve enjoying Sky Sports’ Soccer AM. The show fronted by Tim Lovejoy and Helen Chamberlain wasn’t must-see TV but a nice relaxing route into the footballing day.

As I got older though I fell out of the habit, not just because of age (and maybe some maturity) but because when Tim Lovejoy left the show (taking a lot of the actual talent with him) it became a shell of what it once was. I know Fenners has returned and is now fronting the show but he was at his best when playing characters. Sheephead was first rate. Robbie Knox et al. They were what made the show funny.

Fans of the show will remember Hells Bells snogging Rocket for his birthday, Fixtures Man, Topless Weather is association with Gravy, ooo northern boys love gravy, Barry, Fenners punching Lovejoy, Lovejoy getting a ball to the knackers, Serge’s goal in the Wembley game, naked hikers, the Dance Off, the Save chip! campaign and the like. Those were the days…

The show is back is the news today as word comes out that having fronted the show since its inception, Helen Chamberlain won’t be on the famous red sofas this season. I have to admit I don’t think I’ve watched a whole episode in a decade or so. I have seen bits here and there but when Andy Goldstein came in, it lost a lot and Max Rushden wasn’t able to stem the tide (although I actually thought/think he’s a solid TV presenter).

Chamberlain though has been a permanent fixture on the show. Her departure would logically have been the catalyst for Sky to finally axe the show and move forward with something new on a Saturday morning. With the new Sky Sports channel line-up, this was the perfect opportunity to put Soccer AM to bed (albeit a decade after it should have been).

Sometimes TV shows evolve and move forward with the times. Soccer AM failed to do this and when it had to change things up once Lovejoy and the gang left, it instead just tried to replicate their success but with inferior presenters/crew.

What shouldn’t be overlooked is the culture of the sport itself changing. Maybe it is just because I have myself drifted away from it as a weekly staple (I’ve become one of those armchair fans mostly) but it does seem as though football has become more of a family outing than the blokey one it still was when I was younger. With that culture (from my PoV anyway) changing, the larks of the show don’t sit with what audiences want any more.

When the time is right for a complete overhaul or an ending, TV producers shouldn’t be afraid to get it done. Leave them wanting more. Fawlty Towers only ran for two season’s as did The Young Ones. Soccer AM had a great run but bringing in Jimmy Bullard to replace Helen Chamberlain along with comedian Lloyd Griffith won’t turn around the sinking ship that has lost around 80% of its audience in the past ten years.

So farewell Soccer AM. I had pretty much forgotten you existed (apart from the final two or three minutes when I see it as I’ve turned over to watch Jeff and the boys at midday and they are not getting stale). Without Tim Lovejoy and the gang you had lost your mojo but without Helen Chamberlain you’ll have lost your soul. The show will be a husk of what it once was and as I end and look outside of the window here in the south, I see that it is light drizzle…

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

August 8th, 2017 at 9:56 am

Posted in Football

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On George Turner’s must-read excellent piece on the Lib Dem campaign in Vauxhall…

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Vauxhall was an opportunity for the Lib Dems in the 2017 General Election. Traditionally about as safe a Labour seat as you can get, it had a hard Brexiteer MP in an area that voted heavily to Remain. When Theresa May stepped out on to Downing Street that Monday morning to announce that she was going to the country, this was the type of seat that no doubt had a big ring around it at Lib Dem HQ. Labour would of course go on to win by over 20,000 votes but that doesn’t tell half the story.

George Turner was the candidate and he expressed some of his thoughts in an article entitled Losing in Vauxhall to Brexit Kate. It is a fairly open and honest piece that seems to have hit home for many.

The main parts that are worth noting are the slow reaction of Lib Dem HQ to the moving barometer of Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity. He started the campaign as an electoral liability but the moment people started to look at Theresa May with more laser like focus coupled with his populist policies, he became Nick Clegg in 2010 but unlike Clegg, he had the party with deep pockets and infrastructure in a great deal more in-play seats. This financial and infrastructure factor cannot be overlooked.

I’ll start copying and pasting bits of the article with some comments…

All our data at the beginning of the campaign showed that we were significantly ahead of Labour in Vauxhall, and yet on polling day we finished 30 points behind. The data was not wrong. There was a genuine, large and late swing towards Labour. In the relatively short period of the election campaign, tens of thousands of people in Vauxhall, and millions across the country, switched their vote from Liberal Democrat to Labour.

This adds up to what the rumours were. Essentially at the start of the campaign when it was being fought on a Brexit ticket and everything else relegated to the back pages, the Lib Dems had every right to think they were set to make sweeping gains, even overturning such long odds such as downing Kate Hoey in Vauxhall. The problem was the party nationally never really had a strong Brexit message. The whole ‘you know what, we’ll have a second referendum on the terms of the deal’ was weak, weak, weak. Most knew it then, everyone knows it now. When the accelerator should have been pressed, the party cruised along in neutral. A huge miss.

Into this mess entered Jeremy Corbyn with a leaked manifesto and public opinion started to shift dramatically. For the first time there was a major political party offering a clear and credible way out of the dismal spiral of tax cuts followed by more cuts to services.

As Labour’s poll rating increased people started to believe there could be a Labour government. Voters began to think that their decision was about much more than who was going to be their local MP, it was about what kind of government they wanted.

At that point Brexit dropped off the agenda.

Ding, ding, ding and we have a winner. You win elections by giving people hope or scaring them. Jeremy Corbyn gave them hope and as national polls shifted to the possibility of a hung parliament or even a Labour majority, people weren’t just thinking about who will represent them in parliament but who could actually form that government. The Lib Dems kept banging on about no coalition deals ever (no matter who with) so that told people that to get rid of the Tories and Theresa May, you had to vote Labour.

I know the party are still salty about coalitions but by telling the electorate that, it didn’t calm down those who were worried about them propping up the Tories again but scared the Anti-Tory voters that they only had one way to get rid of May…and it wasn’t by lending the Lib Dems a vote.

The moment Brexit dropped off the top line of the ticket it opened up opportunities for a handful of Lib Dems, the Norman Lamb’s of the world but it also opened up the door to Labour for their extremely appealing domestic policies. People didn’t care whether they could afford them or not, they were fed up of the deficit and less money for public services.

When people are fed up they just do something they shouldn’t anyway. If you are in a foul mood and it is still a few days until payday, do you look at the Chinese takeaway menu and say, ‘No, maybe when I’ve been paid…’ or do you say, ‘fuck it, can I please have Set Menu B?’ I know that is a pretty simplistic analogy but the electorate weren’t thinking about the small print, they only wanted the headlines and the Labour headlines were very enticing.

Part of the national campaign was to flood each target constituency in direct mail, produced by Lib Dem HQ on behalf of the national campaign. On day one we told Great George Street in no uncertain terms that the last thing we needed was anti-Corbyn literature going though the doors of voters in Vauxhall. In order to win Vauxhall we needed to convince tens of thousands of Labour voters to change their vote to us in a one-time deal to kick out Kate Hoey. That would just be made harder if we were perceived to be anti-Labour.

Our advice was almost completely ignored. Voters in Vauxhall received a stream of literature, sent out by Lib Dem HQ featuring Comrade Corbyn in a silly hat. As the polls swung towards Labour that message became more and more damaging. The vilification of the Labour leader cost us volunteers and voters. When we complained we were told there was nothing we could do about it.

This seems to have been a big problem that the party needs to address. This wasn’t a one-size fits all election, not for the Lib Dems and nor will it ever be for us. The party have to look closely at every seat and listen to what the people on the ground are saying. If you are in an office in London with focus groups, are what they tell you going to be the same that people are thinking in Leeds North West or Ceredigion for example? I highly doubt it.

Even if going into the campaign HQ thought they had put in place a smart tactic, they certainly were not flexible enough to adapt to the changing face of what was going on. As we went from an easy Tory landslide to an election where the keys to number ten downing street were genuinely up for grabs, the party didn’t seem to change course. The mind boggles. This is not an indictment at all on how hard people worked but sometimes you have to realise that working hard isn’t the only key to success, if it was the party would probably have won at least 50 seats on June 8.

If you are planning on an insurgency campaign then it has to be just that. In Vauxhall that seemed to be the plan and everyone was on board. This was about removing Kate Hoey, not for being in favour of Brexit but about how adamant she was about it and how how of step she was with her electorate. If that is the plan (and the seat was given target seat status) then you have to leave those who are in charge of the campaign locally to run the operation. By flooding the area with national literature, all it did was muddy the waters. This happened in several other seats too so I’ve been told, where the candidate’s views were overridden by HQ who wouldn’t listen.

What must be learned from this fiasco is two-fold. First of all, all plans must be adaptable. You must be able to change course to some degree during a campaign. If things outside of your control change then you shouldn’t stay on the same course. The world around us is very volatile and momentum can stall or change a campaign, even if you don’t have anything to do with it, another party’s rise or fall can and will affect how the electorate see you.

Secondly, more power should be given to campaign manager’s in target seats. If you have employed someone to run the campaign then let them do so at a local level. Candidates should be able to opt-in and opt-out of certain targeted mailings as they see fit. They have the people on the ground to see how the message is going across on their particular patch and why people don’t listen to these expertise and insight I’ll never know. The more data and knowledge you have, the more informed you are and you have a better chance of reaching the best decision. If you ignore that data and knowledge then you are setting yourself up to fail.

I have written on multiple occasions about the campaign. It was piss poor. I think most now know this and have taken it on the chin. I’ve heard on the grapevine that some at HQ prefer to point the finger at bad local campaigns than look inwards in the immediate aftermath. This now has surely evaporated to some degree. If it hasn’t then oh boy.

I know betting markets are just that but at the start of the campaign the spread on Lib Dem seats was around the 30 mark. Not all these local parties put together poor campaigns and fuck ups at local level. The sad truth is Tim Farron made little impact apart from having gay sex related issues and HQ’s plan was to target the soft Con vote only as they thought the majority Labour Remainers would come over without too much fuss. When all is said and done the party actually got fewer votes in 2017 than it did in 2015. That is just a damning statistic.

The Labour Remain vote stayed where it was because they fell for Corbyn’s magical charms on where he stood on the issue and whilst the party did see moderate success in LD/Con battles primarily in heavy Remain areas, the fact the party had Twickenham pretty much sown up weeks in advance and allowed Sarah Olney to lose Richmond Park by 45 votes to a man like Zac Goldsmith is a fitting epitaph to the 2017 Liberal Democrat General Election campaign.

I don’t know George Turner but he comes across as a highly intelligent and articulate individual. The party needs to nurture this type of candidate and listen to what they have to say. If they continue to stick fingers in their ears and say it wasn’t their fault, no progress will ever be made. Also where is the survey we were all promised on how the campaign went? I suspect quite a few activists have quite a fair bit to say…

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

August 1st, 2017 at 3:53 pm