The Rambles of Neil Monnery

Another pointless voice in the vast ocean that is the interweb

On the Lib Dem leadership race…

without comments

We have two horses in the starting stalls in the race to rebuild the Liberal Democrat party and they have two very different jockeys saddling up on them. First to clamber on to his horse was Norman Lamb, an MP I didn’t really know. He’s seen as the more ‘Cleggite’ candidate and has the support of Dappy from N-Dubz. Then Tim Farron jumped aboard a horse and was quickly dubbed the favourite. Farron is seen as more receptive to the grass roots but he has questions to answer about his faith in relation his LGBT issues.

He has already come out and said that he regrets abstaining on the final reading of the Same Sex Marriage bill and that the reason was because of minor amendments in the bill and not because he was actually against the principle. In 2012 he wrote about how he believed that God could heal, which also got the membership up in arms as believing in faith and not science doesn’t sit too well with many. I defended him on that to some degree believing that people should be free to believe what they want to believe and Tim clarified his position a couple of days later after everyone attacked him.

Tim is the prohibitive favourite and rightly so. His campaign has been years in the making and he has clearly positioned himself on the centre-left of the party which is where many of the party want the Lib Dems to shift over into. The party whilst not split in two is clearly in two factions, one that believes in being socially left leaning but economically right leaning and those who are left with regards to both. This has led to some people just not dealing with the coalition well at all because any deal with a right-wing party just not sitting well with them no matter the reality of the situation. So the two potential leaders will need to be able to temper both factions if they are going to completely unite the party.

Not knowing Norman too well I was glad that when I turned on the idiot box yesterday morning and he was on the Sunday Politics and boy was I disappointed. He interviewed very poorly and the main thing I got from him was that Tim has questions to answer with regards to his stance on SSM and then he went on about one example of being a good constituency MP, which I don’t think stands him apart from any other Lib Dem MPs. To be a leader I think you have to be able to be comfortable in front of the camera as well as impressive and he just didn’t tick either of those two boxes. I’ll obviously give him another chance but I was turned off rather quickly.

Knowing that most people I know were already backing Tim, I suppose it is just my typical wanting to be different self that meant I hadn’t made up my mind as yet. I think pretty clearly that Tim is the right leader for the current state of play. The party needs to be rebuilt from the bottom up and get the activist base enthused again and that means in general speaking to the liberal base. He will get them engaged and as much as I hate the fact that its true, you need a good speaker and this is something Labour have been hurt by with Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband, neither are impressive nor comfortable on TV and whilst David Cameron isn’t great, he’s passable and of course even those that detest Nick Clegg would admit he’s comfortable and impressive in front of the TV cameras and I think Tim has a clear edge over Norman at this point.

I don’t think it would shock anyone to hear that my ideal leader is Nick Clegg but I think that he had to resign because the country had made it clear what they thought. The party has taken a five-year kicking and whilst I do genuinely think with every passing bill, the country will start missing the Liberal Democrat influence in government, Nick has been very unfairly tarred by his tuition fees stance and leading the party into a coalition. He had to step down not because he wasn’t the best leader we had but because he wasn’t what the party needed nor the country wanted.

Norman has a lot to prove in my opinion if he is to show that he is the right man for the job. Tim is a more than able communicator, will speak to the base more effectively than Norman and seems like the person who is best positioned to not just re-engage the activist base but also engage with the new members and attract back liberal members and voters who deserted the party over the past five years.

This leadership election is about who is best placed to get the activist base up, the councillor base up and in turn get more Lib Dem MPs in five years time and all the while get more people to vote Lib Dem not because they are the least-worst option in a seat but because they believe in the Lib Dems and their values. We found out this year that too much of the Lib Dem vote was borrowed from other parties because they wanted the Lib Dems to beat someone else. This isn’t a good long-term business model. The more people that vote Lib Dem because they want Lib Dem the better and I think Tim is probably the best man for the gig.

I’m not ruling out voting and backing Norman but he is a long-way behind in my mind and the finishing post is fast approaching.

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Written by neilmonnery

May 18th, 2015 at 9:43 am

Posted in Politics

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On Nick Clegg…

with 2 comments

From more popular than Winston Churchill to being less popular than me in Speedo’s. It has been quite the ride for the former leader of the Lib Dems and whilst the country turned against him due to him being an easy target, he should go to bed at night knowing that lives are better because of what he did than what would have happened had he not acted how he did in 2010.

You see I’m a long-term liberal but a short-term member having joined in 2011 during the coalition. I liked Paddy Ashdown (he visited my school in the 1997 General Election campaign but I wasn’t allowed to meet him because I wasn’t deemed important enough), I liked Charles Kennedy, I was indifferent to Sir Menzies Campbell but I loved Nick Clegg. Why was this?

The reason is simple, Nick was a economic realist but a passionate liberal. He did offer something different to what we had seen before. He was a breath of fresh air. You felt that he could take his vision of liberalism and imprint it on to the masses. Most of all you felt that his burning desire to make the world that little bit better was coupled with him just being a bloody good bloke. I am a Nick Clegg guy but I also know that his time had passed thanks to what the electorate did last week.

I know many Lib Dems do not like Nick Clegg and believe going into a coalition government with the Tories was against everything we as a party stood for. I understand their PoV but I vehemently disagree. You can have ideals and a vision but unless enough people back them then you can’t enact them. Instead you have to be pragmatic. I have always said that it is better to do some good when you can than not do any good if you can’t get everything that you want.

The tuition fees issue was disgracefully reported by the media and indeed leapt upon by other political parties. The Lib Dems kinda shot themselves in the foot over it but in reality the Lib Dems would never have realistically been able to stick to that pledge. Both Labour and the Tories knew of the financial situation regarding further education and both would have put up fees so the Lib Dems in another coalition would have had to bring down a government because of it or voted for a rise. Damned either way. Would the country have praised Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems for bringing down a government over this issue at a time of economic instability? I suspect not.

Personally I think Nick grew into the role of being Deputy Prime Minister and his role within the coalition. He did seem ‘too comfortable’ within the first couple of years but his facade was covering lots of work behind the scenes. I’ve heard from multiple sources about the fire fights in Whitehall as the Lib Dems led by Nick threw water on Tory proposals left, right and centre. The party couldn’t win every fight but boy they were putting up quite the fight considering the influence their representation deserved.

The party wasn’t the radical party that Lib Dems believe they are but the party was curbing Tory excesses and getting progress on several real liberal values. The job Nick Clegg and the parliamentary party did was nothing short of miraculous and in time their role in the government of the United Kingdom 2010-2015 will be truly appreciated.

I have no idea what Nick will do next but I personally will always adore his brand of liberalism and near enough everything he did whilst leading the Lib Dems. Could he have done things better? Sure, none of us do everything right, for example I have drunk from 1000s of cans and yet still every so often I miss my mouth and pour coke down my t-shirt. He fought the good fight and was learning from his mistakes but his biggest mistake was believing that the electorate would appreciate the nuance of coalition government. Alas they didn’t. In the next five years we’ll truly find out whether the 2010-2015 government was a centre-right coalition or just a right-wing one propped up by the Lib Dems. The early signs seems to dictate that it was the former.

So whoever takes over as leader, Norman Lamb or prohibitive favourite Tim Farron, they have giant shoes to fill. Nick Clegg led us into government but whilst in two elections he saw a reduction of Lib Dem MPs, he made a difference. He wasn’t just an idealist but also a realist. I want a leader who has a view of liberalism but also has a view of liberalism within the context of the United Kingdom in the early 21st Century. I want someone who’ll fight for what good he can get and not just fight for good for the cameras knowing they he can’t actually deliver.

Nick Clegg was a divisive leader because he wasn’t radical enough. People thought that he should have been more radical and more progressive but he fought for what he could get and not for what he wanted. Do we want to be true to ourselves but get nowhere or do we want to be willing to compromise but actually achieve something? That is a question many of us have to look at ourselves in the mirror and answer.

We can be radical and progressive but also we need to know when to say when. Nick did and without a shadow of a doubt, young pupils have a better start in life thanks to his role in government, people are free to marry who they want, people earn more money before they start paying tax, more people are in work, shared parental leave, two million apprenticeships, the triple lock on pensions and plenty more. We did well. Could we have done better? Sure but everyone could always do better with a mulligan.

So be proud Nick Clegg. You are a great man and were a great leader. You got pilloried by the public and by many other politicians but in time people will realise just how good you were. I can only hope Norman or Tim can carry on the flame and even if they do it in a different way, they can learn a lot from you as a politician but just as much from you as a person.

Finally Nick, thank you for making me believe that the country can become a more liberal and tolerant society. We all have a Utopian vision but you were the first leader to actually make a step towards that and for that, I’m grateful and so should we all.

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Written by neilmonnery

May 14th, 2015 at 1:09 pm

Posted in Politics

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On the Liberal Democrats difficult teenage years and trying to get dates and positive attention…

with 3 comments

So you are essentially the early 20-something who has just finished university and moved home and isn’t exactly sure what the future holds. You’ve been the spotty kid that no-one really liked but importantly no-one really disliked either. Then briefly in 2010 everyone noticed you as you had found some excellent spot cream and were looking all fresh and exciting. The watching world had become bored with the usual options and they wanted to try something new.

One problem though, people agreed to go on a date with you and suddenly you weren’t all fresh faced and new and instead you turned out to be a bit of a douche who went back on his word the first time you met and reminded you of those you had dated before and had decided to move on from. So you got ditched quicker than most people ditch the pointless salad that comes with a Burger in a cafe and everyone was bad mouthing you and no-one would hang out with you except your own kind, the thing is your own kind seemed to disappear into the ether as well.

You then went through university dateless with no-one wanting to even listen to you let alone be seen in public with you. People drifted to other potential beaus and remembered the douchebags they had been with before might not have been that much of a douchebag after all. The people that got so paranoid that they went to war suddenly didn’t seem so bad and the people that hated the poor might not really have hated the poor and might be better than you remembered.

Then suddenly new kids arrived and they were really fresh faced and they were saying things that you really wanted to hear, more half priced drinks at the student bar that someone else would pay for, no need for homework and the promise that the library porn filters would be taken down between certain hours during the day. It sounded amazing and everyone wanted to hang around with them instead of you.

Towards the end of the course people started noticing you more. You weren’t a spotty kid that didn’t know what you were doing any more. You could unfasten a girls bra with one hand and you’d been having around with the bad kids but you had been rubbing off on them and they were still eating copious amounts of pheasant but they were doing it in private instead of eating it right in front of those who couldn’t afford it and their plan to put keyloggers on all the library computers was stopped by you and one stern look.

You had made them better people and wanted to keep hanging out with them because you could curb their arseholeness but people didn’t think you were the reason they stopped acting like douches and decided that instead of hanging around with you, they would shun you to teach you a lesson about growing up and for not acting exactly how they thought you would on that first date several years before.

As university ended and you went home you were surprised how many people missed you. People started to get in contact who had thought you were awful throughout university but realised that they hadn’t given you a proper chance after that one bad date. You got in touch with a lot of your friends from around the country and they were reporting back something similar. Lots of people seemed to be giving similar people more of a chance and wanted to hang out with you more. You hoped that this would continue and people would listen to you and not just dismiss you out of hand for something you did years ago.

People understood that you weren’t the spotty kid to ignore any more but also you weren’t the lying toe-tag that everyone actually thought you were. You were just like them, growing up and were now someone to speak to and listen to and to generally hang out with. No-one is in love with you but those you thought hated you seemingly started to realise that you weren’t as bad as what everyone had said. You had taken your knocks and had grown up. You were still trying to find your place in the world but instead of being down and out and fearing for the future, you were enthused that the future could still be positive and things would get better.

Long story short folks. The Lib Dems are not just the party of protest any more. The Lib Dems have been a party of government and have made difficult decisions. The time is now for people to talk about the liberal philosophy as an ideal to aspire to. It isn’t solely about being ‘Labour-lite’ or ‘Socially Labour but Economically Tory’ – it is about giving people actual options. People shouldn’t vote for the Lib Dems because ‘they are the best placed to stop a party we really don’t like’ – we need to inform people about what a liberal future could be. I think many people understand this now and if the party are ever going to play a role in national government again then it’ll have to be because people want a liberal way and aren’t just voting against somebody else.

The Lib Dems have gone through their very difficult teenage years and many people didn’t like us but as adults people look less at how we were as children or as teenagers but how we act as adults. It is time to be proud of growing up. Over 8,000 people have joined the Lib Dems in the past few days because they actually believe in a liberal way to make their area a better place, do you want to join them? If so then click on the link and join the 50,000+ people who want to make this country a better place for all and not just for those in society who we think vote for us.

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Written by neilmonnery

May 12th, 2015 at 10:53 am

Posted in Politics

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On some thoughts of the devastation that Hurricane ‘We hate the Lib Dems’ left behind…

with 7 comments

We all knew it was going to be bad, like real bad. No-one though saw what came as coming. Even the most rabid hater of the Lib Dems didn’t see that. So anyway I have finally slept after my 36 hour marathon and will sum up a few loose points that are bouncing around my brain whilst my hoodies dry in the tumble dryer. Yes folks, that is what I’m doing, waiting for my hoodies to dry so that I can go to Asda without having cold arms.

First things first. The money spent on internal polling. Do we have a fucking receipt? I was not supplied with all that data as I’m a two-bit nobody but some of it did find its way to me via various sources. The party genuinely thought that some seats are sewn up, seats that they lost, dramatically. For example activists in Eastbourne & in Lewes were directed out to Portsmouth South for weeks as those seats were in the bag. We lost both. Internal polling really had Jenny Willott and and Lynne Featherstone in a tight race. Both lost to huge swings. Something either happened late or the polling data was completely fucked up and a gigantic waste of money. Speaking of polling…

How shit was all the polling data from across the spectrum? I mean the Lib Dem internal data was hilarious awful but Lord Ashcroft, Ipsos-Mori, Survation, ICM and the like all need to sit down and think, ‘er…how did we get it so wrong?’ – The thing is that can’t have got it so wrong because most of them made their methodology and their raw numbers public and no-one questioned it and you know what, plenty of fucking smart people look at this shit and they all thought it to be reasonably accurate. So again, what the fuck happened late for people to change their minds?

I do think that people voted with their hearts in this election more than I have ever seen before. For five years people have trashed the Lib Dems for going into a coalition and not being strong enough to stand up to the evil right-wing government that David Cameron wanted to lead, well do you know what? By trashing the Lib Dems to such a degree we now have that right-wing government with no liberal voice to stop the excesses of a Tory government. Jeremy Hunt has said they’ll scrap the Human Rights Act already, Teresa May has said the Snoopers Charter will come into force. They will decimate the welfare system and then people may sit back and think ‘woah…now that is actually what a right-wing government is like because I actually forgot and I shouldn’t have just listened to the media and Labour activists about how right-wing this government was because it actually wasn’t.’

Speaking of Labour. They made gigantic mistakes in this election campaign starting with a weak and ineffective leader. I have never met Ed Miliband and in all likelihood never will but even if I did, I imagine I’d forget the episode rather quickly. When you aren’t the best person applying for a job that had even come out of your own mother’s uterus then you know you probably aren’t the right guy for the gig. David Miliband was by far and away the best candidate for the Labour gig (although had Yvette Cooper been allowed to stand then my view may have changed) but they went for a guy who dragged him left of centre, way left of centre but still wanted to sound tough on immigration because that is what he thought the public wanted to hear. No party can win in the United Kingdom under the FPTP system by being truly left of centre and that is still the case and will continue to be the case. To win you need to be centre-left, centre or centre-right. We don’t go for extremes to enough of a degree to vote them in. Labour must learn from this and move back in from the left otherwise they’ll be facing a 1979-1997 time on the opposition benches.

Also Labour. Spending five years telling everyone that the Lib Dems were evil only served to enable the Tories to win and here’s the thing, you fucking knew that but didn’t give a shit. I heard from counting stations up and down the land of Labour activists cheering Lib Dem defeats to the Tories. It shows that they felt that by going into a coalition, the Lib Dems had muscled in on Labour and the Tories ‘God given right’ to be the only parties of government in the United Kingdom. They would prefer a right-wing Tory government instead of any other government that doesn’t involve them because other parties should know their place. Only speak when spoken to. The reason the Tories are in is in large part because Labour’s sole strategy was to tell everyone how fucking awful the Lib Dems were and they didn’t have the foresight or basic mathematical knowledge to see that there were more Con/LD marginals than Lab/LD so that killing the Lib Dems would only actually mean more new Tory MPs than Labour MPs. Also Labour were so left of centre than many economic liberals moved right instead of left because they had nowhere else to go having been told just how evil the Lib Dems were. That meant in seats that were Con/Lab marginals then the liberal vote wouldn’t automatically move left, much of it moved right. What a horrible strategy by Labour but they got what they worked for – a Tory government.

Another thing. In 2010 we saw wild swing from seat to seat. Local issues and local people mattered. This time that didn’t happen at all. This was a true national election and people voted for who they wanted in power and not who they wanted to represent them in the House of Commons. They voted for the Conservative economic plan because they didn’t trust Labour and hated the Lib Dems. This stunned me and I sure as hell didn’t see it coming but when truly loved constituency MPs with large majorities get the boot then it is because people are only voting for one thing and that is who gets to run the show, not about who can help them get their issue sorted. To see Simon Hughes lose was heartbreaking and I don’t know the man, I can only imagine what it was like for those that did. I know just how much he did for his constituents and had given up three decades plus in doing so. When you do something for so long and do something so well only for people to decide for issues beyond your control that they don’t want you doing that job any more then you know it isn’t an election based on who you are actually voting for but more what party you are voting for. Will that stay the same in 2020? Who knows…

On a purely personal level it heartens me to see the amount of people who have joined the Liberal Democrats in the past 36 hours and continue to do so. Nationally the party has cleared 2,500 new members in the past day and a bit and the numbers are ticking along. I won’t say how much have joined locally but lets put it this way, I’ve been a member here for several years and we have more members at the time of writing than we ever have done in my time as a member and I hear reports from elsewhere that the same is true. Even my mother is joining (although not here as she lives elsewhere) because she thinks the Lib Dems have been dumped on to such a degree that she thinks a liberal voice needs not just be voting but actually being a member and being part of the movement. If people want the country (and indeed their council) to have some sort of liberal grounding then it takes work, hard work. It is hard to find a bad or lazy Lib Dem MP or councillor who gets re-elected because it takes so much more to get them elected because in general people are inherently Tory or Labour because that is the way its always been. Yes there are lots of UKIP councillors up and down the country getting in because of the party and not because they’ll be an effective councillor. This is the bottom and the only way is up pretty much from here. It is time to remind people that is they want a liberal voice then they have to vote for it. In many areas yesterday that demographically the Lib Dems should do well in, they did badly at council level because they essentially retreated fearing the worst. In 2016 they’ll be no national or European elections to fudge the results, people will be voting solely in council elections and it is up to a galvanised membership to go out their and promote liberal values, whether that is fighting to save a school from closure, fighting to keep facilities open, fighting to help regenerate areas or less liberal but not as unimportant things as sorting out parking issues, speed issues, traffic issues. In the next year people will see a right-wing government and if people don’t like it then they’ll need an alternative. It is up to us to remind them that we are an alternative, not just a party to kick.

As for my election experience, I was in Guildford where I’ve just learnt that in one the wards I was in, one has gone to a recount on Monday and the other we lost one of our two seats with Julia McShane holding on with the most votes. The Tories took both of the other seats. This is in no doubt due to the utter strength of the national Tory vote where Anne Milton won with 57% of the vote but also they were talking around the committee room about the alphabet and looking up and down the results from Guildford, you can see that the alphabet seems to have played a role in how the results shook out and those at the bottom of the list (certainly when you are voting for two or three councillors per ballot) do seem to get lower than others in the same party who are higher up the list. As for our national candidate, Kelly-Marie Blundell held on to second place (which considering the clutterfuck that everywhere else was) was a good result. Plenty to be learnt (from everyone) but the people (most of whom I’d never met before) were fantastic and I wish them all the best for the future and the fight to restore more liberal voices to Guildford and should the situation arise that I was available to help in that, then I would be glad to do so.

Ok my tumble dryer has now stopped. Time to have a shower and get some food. They were just a few thoughts that led to just over 1,800 words…

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Written by neilmonnery

May 9th, 2015 at 9:32 am

Posted in Politics

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On why the Isle of Wight might just be UKIP’s big shock gain on May 7…

without comments

I did not enjoy writing that title.

When Andrew Turner became an MP, I was one of his constituents. I was mere weeks away from being 18 so I couldn’t vote but I was an A-level students studying amongst other things politics at the time. He took the place of a Lib Dem, Dr. Peter Brand, who as I’ve written before was not a great constituency MP and it was no surprise that he only got the one term. To be fair, the Island is very Tory and his victory was mostly down to just being the alternative to a very disliked Tory party in 1997. In any place where the Labour party really weren’t organised or motivated along the south coast in 1997, the Lib Dems had the potential to win seats. That was the climate back then.

So anyway this is why I keep a close eye on the seat despite not having lived there since 2004. It was where I spent my teenage years and despite it being the butt of many jokes that I like to throw at it, I met and grew up with some excellent people.

One thing that some of you may not know is despite living here, I still watch South Today at 6:30 (and at 1:35) instead of my actual local news. I watch Sally Taylor, Jo Kent, Roger Finn, Tony Husband, Laura Trant, Peter Henley, Dani Sinha, Tom Hepworth, Steve Humphrey, Alexis Green and Sarah Farmer (I am impressed that I can recall all of them). I wouldn’t have a clue who presents the local news here but I would by them by face on the rare occasion that I’m watching #101 instead of #964, anyway as I often do I digress.

You see, the reason for the previous paragraph is that the Isle of Wight on paper is one of the safest constituencies in this election in the South Today region. Yet it is the one with the most mentions on the local news (bar Portsmouth South) and that is because Andrew Turner has not had a good run.

His local party tried to oust him as a candidate in part because his fiancee of 17 years left him and moved in with one of his parliamentary aides and the local party thought he’d become the laughing stock of the Island and today his agent quit due to believing his position was untenable and that there were questions over finances. Not a good look. Add the fact that Andrew has been the MP that has been representing the Isle of Wight whilst most of the schools have just collapsed and its become a falling environment for the Island’s young people then there are a lot of things against him.

All this on the backdrop of an elderly population and the Lib Dem collapse means there is a potential of a vacuum of voters who can be drawn in by UKIP. They got 41% in the European elections on the Isle of Wight last year, which is a staggering number even withstanding the fact many were just protesting. The Tories only got 26%. Many of the UKIP voters would surely have been expected to drift back to the Tories this time around but Andrew’s personal life coupled with his health issues will lead to people questioning whether he’s a competent representative for them.

Labour aren’t making a run here, the Green’s aren’t making a run and sadly the Lib Dems on the Isle of Wight are in retreat. The demographics look great for UKIP and the Tories have a candidate who isn’t terribly popular and his campaign only seems to have negative publicity.

I have long said that I think UKIP will only win one seat (Clacton) but there is the possibility that in certain seats which are naturally Conservative, an unpopular defending candidate coupled with no other real strong candidates to rally around the anti-UKIP vote could lead to UKIP surprising one or two. The Isle of Wight has everything going for UKIP and they were available at 20/1 not three onths ago and are now at 5/1 in most places. That number will come down. Had Lord Ashcroft polled the Isle of Wight then I’d bet a lot of money that UKIP would be very much in it and that is partly why I think it hasn’t been polled. The Tories don’t to give UKIP hope in a place no-one thinks they have a chance.

UKIP at 5/1 is far more value than the Tories at 1/7 and could they win the Isle of Wight? Yes they really could. No-one is watching and everyone may well be shocked as there is a lot of anger on the Isle of Wight with regards to politics and the demographics are perfect for UKIP. I’m not going to say UKIP are the favourites but if they were 5/2 or 11/4 then that would be about right. If UKIP’s ground campaign is good then this will be one of the big shocks of the night. Isle of Wight, a UKIP gain…

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Written by neilmonnery

April 28th, 2015 at 8:30 pm

Posted in Politics

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On the Lib Dem (and other parties) record on gay rights and equal marriage…

without comments

Equal marriage. Something that has recently come about and an issue that is still causing some ramifications across various western democracies. Some people are concerned that by allowing people of the same sex to marry that it is an affront to God.

The bible states that a marriage is between a man and a women is two places. Genesis 2:24, ‘Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh’ and Matthew 19:4-5 where Jesus said, ‘Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one?’

Yeah. A book of stories from 2,000 plus years ago really has any resemblance to modern day life. As if. At best the bible should be an indicator of living a good life but anyone who takes it literally word for word is someone I worry about.

You see I have a very simple outlook on life. Some may say too simple. I simply think that people should be allowed to live their lives in a way that would make them the most happy as long as your actions don’t effect anyone else’s happiness. If what someone does doesn’t effect another then who are we to say that they shouldn’t act like that? A man marrying another man or a woman marrying another woman effects no-one negatively. It doesn’t anger the big man (should he exist, which in all likelihood he doesn’t) because should he exist, then he wants to see his children happy.

This brings me to this video. Two Lib Dems, who I may or may not have met at Conference (I think I have but I wouldn’t put a lot of money on it – I can’t remember) put together the following embedded video about equal marriage. They got married and seem excessively happy for having done so.

Equal marriage was something the Lib Dems have been positive about for a long time and something the party should be very proud of. They brought in legislation (that wouldn’t have happened had the party not been in coalition) that hasn’t harmed anyone and instead has just brought happiness to some. It is essentially legislation with no feasible drawbacks. Yes some people will say its immoral but in all honesty, does it effect them and their lives in any tangible way if two people of the same sex get married? Of course it doesn’t. That’s absolute tripe.

So watch the below video about the recent history of gay people and how their lives have intertwined with the political parties. It is something that I think it is very fair to say is a real tick for the Lib Dems. I know they aren’t flavour of the month for many because of tuition fees and because they couldn’t stop everything the Tories wanted to do but instead of concentrating on what the party didn’t do in government, concentrate on the positive things and this is one of them. Two people are happier than they would have been without equal marriage legislation.

Isn’t that what life is all about? It is hard enough to find happiness in this world without some people’s ill-conceived prejudices. So good on the Lib Dems for pushing forward with legislation to help make people happy. Marriage is not about God but is about two people wanting to show their loved ones that they are in love. More people now have that freedom than they did before and that can’t be a bad thing…

You can read all the text from the video here.

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April 28th, 2015 at 6:25 pm

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On the Churches Together Southend West hustings…

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Last night was the big Churches Together hustings in Southend West and I toddled along (mainly to take my mind off of other things – seriously what an emotional roller-coaster this weekend has been) but I have to say it was both extremely well attended and also extremely well run. A strong chair who seemed to have both the candidates and audience under control and the addition of a microphone meant that even people at the very back could hear comfortably.

So big props to the organisers, I genuinely thought it was spot on and if all hustings were run like that then they would be better attended as I felt people would be able to come away from it feeling that they knew more about both a) the candidates and b) their policies. It was very worthwhile.

I tweeted the whole thing again and the storify is embedded below. There are a couple of typos which isn’t a shock because I was on my phone and have fat fingers and a hurty brain. So when I said, ‘JWL with a sky at Sir David on the NHS…’ I meant a sly dig and a ‘fully coated 8bn plan for this’ is obviously a ‘fully-costed…’ but I think that is it.

Before you get stuck in I will say that this storify is far less amusing than the last one. I wasn’t on top form last night so this is more of a bunch of tweets about actual question and answers and very few tweets about food or anything extra-curricular. My battery was dying so towards the end there were fewer tweets. I had completely forgotten about the hustings and remembered just before six so didn’t have time to fully charge the phone before I left.

Anyway enjoy and wherever you live, whether these hustings are revealing or not. Do some research and go out and vote on May 7. Even if the Lib Dems aren’t the party for you and you don’t want to vote for them, go out and vote for the person who you think is best to represent you in your constituency (or ward in local elections). People died for the vote and democracy is an important part of our world so use your vote and use your voice.

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April 27th, 2015 at 9:27 am

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On Tristham Hunt’s refreshingly open views on education…

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I’m not a parent and I haven’t seen the inside of a school in over a decade. However I have long held views on our education system and believe that it needs a completely different approach. I wrote about it last year in a piece entitled, It is time for the Lib Dems to be truly radical on education and back in 2010, one of my very first articles on this here blog was on education – My rambles on education.

The long and short of it is I believe education is too rigid and too much a ‘one size fits all’ system and that isn’t right for many young people and their aspirations and goals in life. Not all young people want to get into academia. Our education system is geared strongly towards exams and progressing with certain academic skills. Also I find schools care about exam results first and foremost and that isn’t the be all and end all of a child’s time in our education system.

So I was heartened by Tristham Hunt’s comments in the Guardian today. Education is the poisoned chalice that no-one wants to really take on. People don’t like change let alone change for change sake. So being open and honest about a radical change in education policy is refreshing.

There is one quote that made me whoop and holler in delight:

‘It drives me mad when we see the school gates closing at 2.55pm when you have this amazing piece of the public realm in communities paid for by the taxes of the parents. The notion of a school as a fortress needs to be broken down, so as part of schooling 8am-6pm, I would love to see more cookery courses, dance clubs, competitive sports and chess clubs. Parents will have a right to have access to this kind of provision’.

Ding. Ding. Ding.

This is something that I’ve said for a long, long time. Schools are a great resource and I understand the need for academics as a big part of schooling but also these resources need to be used to allow children to express themselves and find non academic pursuits that they would enjoy. As Tristham says above cookery courses, dance clubs, competitive sports, chess clubs but of course there are so much more that young people would be interested in.

The time between leaving school and dinner is generally wasted time. I’m not proposing school kids have academic classic for ten hours a day but what I do think is schools should be open and used for a wide variety of extra-curricular activities. The formative years of schooling scope and mould us to a significant degree and we should be encouraging our young people to enjoy their school days and get as much from it as possible.

At the moment out of school clubs depend both on money and on teachers to staff them out of hours as it were. As far as I understand it, teaching staff do not get paid if say they oversee a cricket team and drive them to matches after school or umpire games or whatever. This is not right and relies on the goodness of teaching staff to believe that their job is not a job but more of a vocation. This is why the education system needs a complete rework to pay teachers a fair wage to oversee these extra activities. If the school day was longer then we as tax payers will have to pay for it but it is a great investment into the next generations.

On his point about a new single baccalaureate that will change our view point in the difference between academic and vocational qualifications, I am less convinced but certainly would want to hear more. Schools do care more about academic children because it makes them look better in exam league tables and we are trained to think that the more A*-C grades at GCSE a school has then the better the school is, the same is true of children, those with higher GCSE grades are considered smarter but that isn’t necessarily the case.

I know of parents who pushed kids into following more academic pursuits because they believed it would open up better doors for them, even if the child wasn’t academic and preferred to do other things. We have this view that those who sit down to work have it better than those who work with their hands. That isn’t completely true. With more people going into academia, trades are becoming more rare and therefore the rarer the trade then the more valuable it becomes. If you are a good plumber then you’ll live a good life, the same is true for many other trades because people give great word of mouth if they’ve found a good tradesman (or woman).

Education is a tough one and everyone has their views and many will say I shouldn’t be allowed one because my lions haven’t fertilised any eggs to produce a small person. I disagree but people are entitled to their opinions. Yet I think it is a conversation that needs to happen. Just because our schooling system has always been the way it has, it doesn’t mean it is the best way forward. Education needs to be flexible and have the scope to adjust to an individuals needs. At the moment education works more for one set of pupils than another and that isn’t right but even for the lucky ones – it could be so much more and that is a goal we should all aspire to.

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April 23rd, 2015 at 12:22 pm

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On Dion Dublin and Homes Under The Hammer…

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There are a few things that bind students, stay at home parents, the unemployed and those who work from home. One of those is that at 10AM on BBC1, more often than not you’ll see two excitable faces shows us around three homes that have been sold at auction.

Homes Under The Hammer has been steered through the choppy waters on daytime TV successfully by just two on-screen presenters since 2003 (although for one series there was an alternative set of presenters, Jasmine Birtles and Marc Woodward) but apart from that one season, it has been the job of Lucy Alexander and Martin Roberts to front the show. They are both fantastic. Like seriously brilliant.

They know what daytime TV watchers want and they deliver it in buckets and spades. We know about Lucy’s love of original features, if a property has a fireplace or a Victorian ceiling rose then we know she’ll be a happy bunny. Martin too has his own quirks but their enthusiasm and charm makes this show stand out from the abundance of other property shows on the box.

The show is essentially as close to daytime TV perfection as you can get. Great presenters, pure cheese half the time with all the music puns throughout, something that can inspire people to try their hand at something and at the very least, it is just perfect TV to have on in the corner of the room when you are doing something else as you often look up and see a home and think ‘wow, that is beautiful’ and gets you thinking about your own home.

The show gets around a 30% share in its time slot for new episodes and has long been one of BBC daytimes most successful shows, so why did the powers that be decide to change the presenting line-up? Former footballer Dion Dublin has joined Lucy & Martin for this series and has already failed to impress. He’s wooden to camera and when he speaks there isn’t that sense of genuine excitement that exudes from the other two. Today he opened with a line about how Oldham was the birthplace of footballer Paul Scholes, who cares? Yes sometimes Lucy & Martin link a place to a person or to an event but when Dion relies on a football link, you just cringe.

He’s appeared in several episodes now and he still hasn’t found his feet. He may well get better but when you are the new kid on the block on a show with two extremely popular presenters and you are edging them out to some degree (mostly edging out Martin as he generally does two homes per episode with Lucy one although that isn’t a hard and fast rule and now in new episodes they do one each), but when you are marginalising popular people then you are always going to struggle.

The forums haven’t warmed to Dion Dublin as yet and most I’ve read think similar to me that why mess with a fantastic set up? I don’t know if Lucy or Martin wanted to scale down their operations for whatever reason but if they had, I still question why Dion Dublin was picked to be the right guy to join in? He just doesn’t fit in the style of the show of knowledge and excitement. You have to be over the top like Lucy & Martin can be, being stilted and wooden isn’t what Homes Under The Hammer is all about.

Dion has proved himself to be a solid (if unspectacular) football pundit, so far he’s proved himself to not even reach those heights on Monday-Friday at 10AM on BBC1…

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April 23rd, 2015 at 11:23 am

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On my application to be next Portsmouth Football Club manager…

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Dear Mr McInnes,

You may not know me. In fact it is highly likely that you don’t. I haven’t been to Fratton Park in ten years. I used to be a Season Ticket holder but I left the area and fell out of love with the club. Too many crooks spoil the enjoyment and rip out the heart and all that, is that a well-known saying or have I mixed that up?

Anyway when the PST I felt a twinge in my chest. No it wasn’t the abundance of takeaway food in my system forcing my veins to throb, it was actually a sign of life in the portion of my Portsmouth Football Club heart that had been bricked up and left desolate and overgrown with weeds and strewn with litter. It was trying to burst back into life. I backed Guy Whittingham totally and having been one of the very few Pompey fans to have seen Guy as a manager before (I was a Newport IoW ST as well as Fratton Park) I had seen Guy’s work at first hand (had the chairman not pulled the plug on David Laws loan then Newport IoW would’ve survived that year).

So I was confident. Pompey legend. Lots of good will. He would do the job. Yet I found something surprising, Pompey fans demanded immediate success. They didn’t look at the fact the club needed rebuilding from bottom to top. They were just interested in the first team. Whittingham had the side in a solid position but solid wasn’t enough and you got rid of him to bring in your mate Richie Barker. He was shit wasn’t he? In a strange twist of fate I actually witnessed one of his best performances (a 2-1 defeat at Southend) but he was going to take the club down, something Guy Whittingham wasn’t doing. You made a right cock-up there didn’t you?

After that in came Andy Awford. Another club legend who did an ok job but you wanted more than ok. Instant success was demanded and when Andy didn’t get into the play-offs you pulled the plug because that is what you demanded. Now you want an experienced manager because that really worked with Richie Barker…

The thing is you’ve appointed three managers in two years and seemingly according to you, got each one wrong. That is a shit record and you need to look long and hard at yourself. Anyone is a position such of yours would get looks through narrowed eyes making three bad appointments on the spin. Do you actually know what you want? Do you want a manager who’ll be able to coach players up? Do you want a manager who’ll demand money to buy the talent to get the club up? Do you want a manager who’ll oversee a root and branch rebuild of a club that has been on its knees for far too long and that it really really needs? Seemingly not.

I’m not one of those fans who demands immediate success. I know the club needs to be fixed and that doesn’t start at the first team. It starts with the infrastructure of the club, which is seemingly lacking and has been for decades. The last real crop of young players to come through was the Kit Symons, Andy Awford, Darryl Powell and Darren Anderton era. Yes the odd one has come through since but any club who wants to be stable long-term needs to fix this issue. There is plenty of talent around Portsmouth and most of it is being hoovered up by our neighbours up the road. Fixing this issue and getting kids to stay local because the facilities and coaching is first-rate is far more important than upping the wage bill of the first team squad.

Being a community club means being at the heart of community and being in League 2 or League 1 or the Championship makes little difference to that. We’ve nearly gone bankrupt more times than I’ve seen us concede last minute equalisers. So clearly just buying players and spending more money than we’ve got isn’t a prudent strategy. Success shouldn’t be determined just by league position. Success should be determined by whether the club is in a better position as a whole. If the youth set up is better, if the fan engagement is better, if the fan experience is better all these things are just as important as where the club finishes in the league.

So if you want someone who wants to oversee a grand project to fix a broken club then give me a call. My managerial experience is vastly limited and I once helped push start a coach but actual coaching probably isn’t my forte. Yet I spent several years in the commentary box (summerising only – I don’t want anyone to ever think I was an actual commentator) and am rather astute. I don’t expect a call because you’ll go for the easy option like you’ve gone for every single time so far and hire someone who’ll tell you all the things you want to hear and then ask for a surprising amount of money in the wage bill come August.

The next guy will no doubt be hailed as the right man to win the club promotion but I wonder if they';; be the right person to take the club forward. You need to find the guy who’ll be in place for the long-term and stick with them. Giving managers a few months is just ridiculous. Buy into a vision and let a manager see it through, if it doesn’t work then it isn’t the end of the world but until you actually give someone the time needed to fix a broken club then the club will just stay broken. A brave chairman doesn’t just do what is wanted or expected by the fans, a brave chairman shows leadership and stands up for what he believes in. You’ve yet to do this and until you do then the club will go nowhere and go nowhere fast.

Shall I assume I’m not going to get an interview…?

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April 19th, 2015 at 7:14 pm

Posted in Football

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