Oh hello there blog. It has been a while. What have I been up to that has kept me from writing copious amounts of words being pious on whatever the topic of the day is I hear you not ask. Well the truth of the matter is I just haven’t felt the need nor more importantly want to actually sit here and write. It isn’t like I’ve had a zillion e-mails wondering where I’ve gone either but I’m writing now, but what is the topic that has dragged me back?
Being young, knowing everything and the futility of treading water.
When I was a young I wonder if I felt I knew everything or not. I suspect I probably did. Yet as I’ve grown older I have learned three important things. Firstly that there is far less black and white than what I used to think, instead their are increasing numbers of shades of grey (and not in that quite terrible book/movie way). Secondly that as you get older you gain knowledge and wisdom based on your life experiences far more than I could ever believe when I was young but here is the kicker and most important thing, the third thing I’ve learnt is that the more I grow and learn, the more I realise how little I actually know in the grand scheme of things.
I am sure I used to be cocksure of myself and my place in the world, I may have even felt that I was important and significant when in fact the opposite is true. I am more insignificant than I could ever have imagined when I was younger. This isn’t meant to sound depressing and I don’t see it as such but I have realised my influence is far more sparse than I thought it would be when I was growing up.
Sometimes I sit here and look at the bright eyed young people who have the world in front of them and I am filled with mixed emotions. I will think how many of them will sell out to provide for themselves and their loved ones. Doing a job they hate (or at least not what they wanted to do when they were growing up) but going forward and making their little world that little bit better. On the other hand I look at them and hope that they succeed in making sweeping changes to make not only their world that little bit better but in doing so make the world a better place as a whole.
In terms of politics this is being played out in the Democratic nomination in the US of A. Bernie Sanders wants to change the world and lots of people are buying into that hope. Changing the world requires big thinking and I admire that. Oh my do I admire that. The problem with changing the world is a lot of people don’t want to change the world so its nearly impossible for him to ever do what he says he wants to do. On the other side of the ledger you have Hillary Clinton who doesn’t want to change the world but make small incremental changes to make things better. A less ambitious but more realistic goal.
The problem with hope is that once you don’t deliver what people thought you could then you are savaged and people are more disillusioned than ever before. We saw that here to some degree with Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems in 2010. A surge of popularity and doing things differently but when push came to shove, he couldn’t deliver the big sweeping changes people hoped for and could only make small incremental changes that would either a) makes things better or b) curb the bad things the Tories wanted to do. When you put yourself out there wanting big change and fail to deliver on that hope that people will be hurt.
We are coming up to a year after the 2015 General Election when the Lib Dems got massacred/got what they deserved* and suddenly lots of people joined the party that were to be frank lying on their back like a tortoise with no idea of how to right itself. Have these people who have thrown their lot in with the party made a difference or maybe more importantly, do they feel as though they’ve made a difference?
One man who doesn’t believe so is Josh Lachkovic whose piece Why after a year of #libdempint, I won’t be renewing my membership went live earlier today. Lets not beat around the bush here, in my opinion large chunks of what he has to say is fair criticism. Even I sometimes struggle to understand what the Lib Dems stand for and what platform they are standing on. Maybe the party is still licking its wounds and maybe they’ll (or should I type we’ll?) continue doing that for a while.
I suspect that the plan is to rebuild from the bottom up with starting to claw back the councillor base that has just dried up in the past five years. If people start believing that the Lib Dems are the party who’ll sort the issues that councils deal with that maybe they’ll start being trusted to do the big things. There seems to be this thought that if you deliver x amount of leaflets then you’ll get x amount of votes, I don’t really agree with this notion. You have to offer people a reason to go out and vote for you, a reason for them to believe that you can help make the lives of them and their loved ones better than if they didn’t vote or voted for someone else.
I don’t see any vision or long-term planning with the national party about making the UK a more liberal place. That might be because the party has been decimated at the top and also because the media who have enjoyed (and trust me – they have absolutely loved it) using the Lib Dems as a political football to kick as hard as possible for five years now see little interest in doing so, being irrelevant is even worse than being kicked repeatedly.
Bringing this full circle, this is something that I find sad but also I find doesn’t anger me the way it used to. The fight is gone. I wanted to drag people kicking and screaming into looking at the big picture but too many people don’t want to do that. The party at a national level has been far too inward looking and they celebrated the #LibDemFightback with much pizazz. In the next month or two many of those members will have to make a decision as to whether they renew or not. I wonder how many will just choose to let it slide, it wouldn’t overly shock me if the number is statistically very significant.
Yes the Lib Dems have performed well in by-elections up and down the country. There are legitimate green shoots of recovery but they are very small green shoots and need lots of water and nurture to get anywhere. Every victory is a slog.
As we’ve seen in the US of A, we aren’t in a world where small steps of progression is a political movement people want to get behind. If it was then John Kasich would be waltzing away with the Republican nomination. The people want more extreme people who speak specifically to them and in turn the media will promote these people all the more because it drives up ratings, page views and newspaper sales.
I was once told by someone at the Portsmouth News that if they had a headline on the back page about Portsmouth Football Club then they would see sales rise by 30% that day. The same is true of politics. Donald Trump gets more support because the news organisations fawn over him because he is so outrageous that people want to see what he has to say. Over here Tim Farron is a nice guy who wants to get his message across but his message isn’t as extreme as Jeremy Corbyn or Nigel Farage and whilst David Cameron has no real message apart from ‘winning’ he is the Prime Minister so people want to talk about him and his party as they are you know, in power.
For the Lib Dems to engage with the latent liberals at a national level then they need to find policies that will make the country a more liberal place. I will still contest Nick Clegg was that man. He could’ve been our Justin Trudeau, he really could’ve. Sadly the electoral math and the long established belief in this country of two party politics coupled with the media driven hatchet job and the fact the party couldn’t raise the money of their more established rivals meant that was never to happen.
When I was young I believed I could be anything I wanted to be. As I grew older I understood that maybe I couldn’t. As I grew even older I learned that there are more people who want to drag you down than help push you up. As I continued my path I learned that the amount of absolute right and absolute wrong answers to the trials and tribulations of life are far fewer than I could ever have believed. As I sit here now hopefully somewhere between a half and a third of my way through my journey of life I have learned that there is so much I’ll never know nor even understand but that is ok.
Sometimes I still wish I had the wide-eyed enthusiasm of my youth. I look at these young people with the world at their feet and endless possibilities with a mix of envy and hope. A lot of my hope for radical change in the world has dissipated but maybe they can deliver. One thing they have to realise is hope is a very dangerous thing. Hope gets you hurt and hurt doesn’t go overnight.
Changing the world one step at a time is achievable but changing the world a few steps at a time? Good luck with that. My hope for that has gone by the wayside. It might be time for others to take up that baton and I’ll concentrate my time and energies on issues that are more selfish. My love and enjoyment of politics is at an all-time low but I am not unhappy. Far from it. Maybe I’ll find some hope from somewhere, I can see one or two small pieces of hope bobbing about but whether they come to anything only time will tell. Politics has not be a particularly fun thing to get involved with and whilst the fun and enjoyment was never exactly high, when you couple that with feeling like its futile then you get to where I am and that isn’t ideal.
Life is good. I am waiting to be inspired on a political front but until I am once again then my feet will get less wet than they have previously and do you know what, that is just fine.
*delete as applicable
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It has been a good couple of months since I’ve even clicked on my blog link to write anything. I just haven’t had the gumption as I remember no-one really gives two hoots about what I write and I’ve been busy being an NFL columnist elsewhere. Yet the one subject that has always threatened to drag me back kicking and screaming has been the internal debate on All Women Shortlists for the Lib Dems because the parliamentary party is too ‘male and pale’ (although AWS doesn’t even attempt to fix the pale part but still).
It looks likely (has it been confirmed?) that it will be debated and voted on at Spring Conference. It is going to be the most divisive internal debate the party has faced in a long time. You have people who believe AWS are needed to fix the problem at the top and those who believe that AWS doesn’t fix the issue and that AWS goes against the whole ethos of a liberal party. I think it is generally well known what camp I’m in and if it isn’t, lets put it this way, I believe in equality. That should make it clear.
Before I get into the nuts and bolts of this, I have been told by more than one prominent female in the party that I shouldn’t be able to have an opinion on this matter because I don’t know what it is like being a woman. Only women know the issues that they face and therefore only women’s opinions matter on this subject. That is nice. I’m sure these women (and others who express a similar sentiment but haven’t told me) haven’t cheered when a multitude of men have come out in favour of AWS. They have instead lambasted them for having an opinion. I’m sure this is exactly what has happened.
Anyway into the issues facing the party on diversity. They are very real and one that the party needs to be addressing. I think the amount of people who don’t think there is an issue (to varying degrees) are relatively small in number and percentile. So the big question AWS looks at is how to fix the problem at parliamentary level. This has speeded up considerably since May 2015. The Lib Dems were left with just eight MPs, all of them white and all of them unable to wear a dress in the House of Commons without violating the dress code.
I have seen many men point to this has the reason for them finally switching over from against AWS to supporting it. The reason that all our MPs are men is enough evidence in itself that there is a problem they say. What these people seem to forget is the total obliteration of the Lib Dem vote in 2010. Total obliteration. The only way any woman had any chance of being elected in 2015 in retrospect is if Nick Clegg or Tim Farron resigned or stood down and a woman was selected for Sheffield Hallam or Westmoreland. This is saying absolutely nothing about the quality of female candidates, but just looking at things objectively.
Clegg was very much the ‘Marmite’ candidate of 2015 and there was a clear Anti-Clegg vote. However on the flip-side many Tories lent him their vote to keep him in. Would they have done that for another Lib Dem candidate? we’ll never know. Also Tim had a huge majority and a lot of that is very much a personal vote, yet there is an off chance the Lib Dems survive without him in 2015 in his seat. The other six holds, the likelihood of a hold without the incumbency bounce is minimal (whether the new candidate was male or female).
So using 2015 as an accurate measuring stick about the Lib Dems and women is like me putting up pictures from ten years ago on a online dating profile, not strictly accurate.
In 2015, many Lib Dem MPs who stood down were replaced by female candidates and none of them won because as history has showed us, no-one was going to make a Lib Dem gain in 2015. The deep rooted dislike of the party was far more widespread than many of us ever thought. Most thought (me included) that people would still vote Lib Dem (certainly in LD/Con) seats as the Lib Dems were holding back the Tories but instead most people actually said they preferred the Tories to the Lib Dems and what happened, happened. David Laws lost Yeovil FFS and look at Eastbourne and Lewes.
So plenty of excellent female candidates were given chances in seats where we were either the incumbent party or were a close second. These women were impressive and were given the candidacy in these good seats without the need for AWS. Going forward even though no seats have formally adopted their candidates for 2020 yet (as far as I’m aware) due to the possibility of border changes, I have noted well known women and potential candidates moving across the country into seats that are going to be considered target seats in 2020. You would assume that they aren’t doing this for fun and that they have a nod and a wink that they are going to be the 2020 candidate.
I think it is fair to say that in 2015, women made up the majority (yes majority) of new candidates in our top seats. The numbers bare (or is it bear) that out. Isn’t that exactly the type of thing AWS is meant to do and we did it without the need for it?
Personally I have always felt the biggest issue facing some women and some men who are looking to progress upwards is the support that they need. Both emotional and financial. To put yourself out there to be a candidate is quite a decision. The Lib Dems as we all know have no safe seats and to win you are essentially putting in at least four years of work for no money with no guarantees. Many will have to move across the country, find new employment and find time to embed themselves into a new community. It is no easy task.
You are basically living two lives within one body, you are a full-time worker to earn money and also a full-time candidate. This is extremely difficult and causes a lot of stress. It is partly why a greater proportion of candidates are of a vintage that have progressed up the career ladder to the point where they have more flexible working hours and are financially more secure than others.
I think that addressing this situation is actually far more key than ensuring that there are some seats that are designated as women only. This help needs to be ensuring that chosen candidates get help to find new work, a strong team around them to help them and of course some sort of financial help to ensure that they can afford to live and be the strong candidate that the party members believe them to be. We need to put candidates into the best position to be themselves as possible. Be the best they can be. This is a far bigger issue for the party to help get younger candidates and those with a less stable financial situation to get involved and put themselves up for key seats.
We can all agree (well ok, only some of us) can agree that we want everybody who wants to put themselves forward to get the leg up and support they need. Former MP for Redcar Ian Swales has written about the issue on LibDemVoice and some of the comments from people on twitter and Facebook make me despair. It is a well reasoned and thought out piece. He points out that plenty of excellent candidates got put in a position where in a normal year for the Lib Dems, they were in places where they could do damage and for some of them, win. 2015 though was an anomaly and we got our backsides handed to us. His comments that AWS is only a solution if women aren’t being selected by local parties is dead right, we all know this, that is obvious but some people still disagree for reasons unbeknown to me.
Going forward this debate will become extremely bitter. People are very much entrenched into their positions. I’ve seen supporters of AWS tell people who disagree that they are sexist for disagreeing with the idea. So someone who thinks that the genders should be treated as equals is sexist and that if you think they shouldn’t, then you aren’t. Sexism has moved on seemingly. This will not be pretty. However it goes down in York some people will be bitterly disappointed and disillusioned with the party. Some will wonder if the party is about equality any more or if they are all about ticking quotas whereas if AWS doesn’t go through, some will call it the old establishment ensuring that women are disadvantaged (because they aren’t being given an extra advantage due to their gender).
It is not going to be pretty. It will help split the party however it goes down. At a time when Labour are in a nasty civil war over the future direction of the party, we have decided it is time to answer whether we are about equality or inequality.
When you have an issue you have to seek a solution. When the solution doesn’t fix the problem then you really aren’t doing much. If women aren’t getting selected for key Westminster seats when they are vacant and have no incumbent then AWS would be a solution. The numbers though suggest clearly that this isn’t the case. the fact we have a 8:0 men to women ratio in the HoC has little to do with internal party wrangling on women and all to do with a disliked party, a poor campaign and a proper shellacking. The optics do suck but they are just that, optics.
I can see why people are passionate on both sides. However if AWS was instigated in 2015, we don’t have any extra female MPs and how many extra female candidates are in key seats? We put up an overwhelming selection of women in seats we held but had an MP standing down and even on the next step down, plenty of strong female candidates were selected. Women are getting selected where they are seemingly the best candidate and isn’t that the key?
Seats like Lewes, Yeovil, the seats in SW London will be top of the tree for the Lib Dems come 2020 and excellent women seem to be the frontrunners for the vast majority of those seats. Excellent. They have seemingly been given the nod and a wink not because the local party were told they could only select women but because they went out and found fabulous people who happened to be women and essentially head-hunted them.
The cream will always rise to the top. If a woman is the best candidate who applies for a seat then they’ll get selected. I do think that the other issue of financial and emotional support is a much more pressing one, to attract younger voices and those who aren’t as financially secure into politics and into key seats for the party. That is a much more liberal way to potentially help open up the parliamentary party to other backgrounds.
Still what do I know, I’m but a man and as I’ve been told, I can’t hold an opinion of this subject because of this fact.
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Looks a no brainer doesn’t it? After the way the independence referendum jolted younger people into the importance of politics, then there seems no reason for anyone who be against 16 and 17 year-olds being given the vote, certainly for such an important referendum such as the European in/out one that is being planned for 2017. There is one caveat in my mind though, I struggle to believe that we can view young people as adults or as children at the same age depending on what we are discussing.
Can someone at the age of 16 gamble in a betting shop or have an online betting account? No. Yet at the same age they can buy a lottery ticket. What is the difference between gambling on the lottery and gambling on the horses? You can legally marry at 16, can get a driving license at 17 but you still aren’t allowed to go into the local boozer and buy a pint until you are 18. Surely if we trust people to get married and to drive then they should be trusted with regards to booze and tobacco.
I have real issues with the idea that you are an adult at very different ages depending on the circumstance. Also you have to remember that being on the electoral roll and having the right to vote means one big thing that is often overlooked, you become eligible for the jury pool. Are 16 and 17 year-olds ready to try serious cases when justice for the defendant and for victims is on the line? I have been a juror and in a case of multiple counts of sexual assault against a minor, all the younger people on the jury thought he was guilty, quite simply because he looked it. That was pretty worrying. We found him not guilty in the end but their attitude was worrying. An 18 year-old on the jury didn’t care at all and just wanted to go with the majority so she could get home quicker. This is an aspect of votes at 16.
Today if you were a Liberal Democrat member you I presume got sent a link to a petition about getting votes at 16 from Elaine Bagshaw, the text is below along with this link:
Over seven years ago as a member of Liberal Youth I stood outside our Bournemouth Conference in a wedding dress to protest the fact I could marry before voting. Sadly, not enough progress has been made over the last seven years and 16 year olds still can’t have their voices heard through their votes.
This week, our politicians are debating whether to give 16 year olds the right to vote in the European Referendum – a referendum David Cameron has described as “perhaps the most important decision the British people will have to take at the ballot box in our lifetimes”.
If this is the most important vote the British people will have to take, then 16 year olds need to get to vote in it. It’s not right to deny them their voice – especially because 16 year olds can leave school, get married, join the military and become a director of a company.
Liberal Democrats want to allow 16 year olds the right to vote. Will you stand with us and sign our petition to ensure that everyone’s voices can be heard?
I actually agree with Elaine and swiftly put my name to it but it has to be part of a wider look at how we treat young people. They can work full-time and pay tax at 16 but can’t say a say into who gets to choose how to spend that money until they are 18, they are clearly unfair. This whole mish-mash of when we look at people and see them as an adult or a child is just bonkers to me.
It is true that we grow up and very different rates, some 14 year-olds are more adult-like than some 21 year-olds but we can’t put people through individual tests to decide when they are an adult, that would be wrong so we have to find an age where we look at people and say, now you are considered as an adult in all forms, that you are old enough to gamble, to drink, to smoke, to vote, to pay taxes, to be a member of a jury, to have sex, to be tried as an adult. I don’t know what that right age is but I think the current system has such a grey area that it doesn’t help young people or indeed parents.
If that age is at 16 then so be it, if we raised the age when people had to be in full-time education to 17 or 18 then I’d be fine with moving the voting age with that but when push comes to shove, if you can work full-time and be out of education, then as society we are saying that you have the right to go out into the world and make your own way. Part of that process should be the ability to vote. I don’t think this is as slam dunk as many others but for now I think voting age should be linked with the end of forced full-time education and that is why I am for votes at 16 at this current juncture
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This really isn’t about the Lib Dem position on Syria but more about the hysteria from the membership about our position. This evening Nick Clegg (this is apparently another bone of contention) announced/was on Sky News and said that the Lib Dem MPs would be backing the government proposal to join with our allies in bombing on ISIL targets in Syria.
I’m in a strange position here as I essentially have no position on what we should do because I quite simply do not have enough information to form a considered opinion. What I do know is these MPs have more information than I do and and therefore in a much better position to form an opinion than myself. I would also contend that they have more information than most (if not all) Lib Dem members but as I’ve found out, they all know many things, apart from those who don’t, but they are wrong.
Recently on this very blog I was called many names and told I was uneducated because I had an opinion on something. On that subject I had far more information on which to form an opinion because that is what I do. I form opinions on subjects based on the information at my disposal, those opinions are fluid depending on learning more information. Therefore my opinion can change but unless I have at least some information then I find it hard to form an opinion on a subject. Others seemingly don’t have that problem.
Over on Lib Dem Voice, the comment thread underneath the article on this news is quite something to behold. I’ve also read elsewhere of people who are seriously considering their positions within the party and whether they can be associated with the party any more. I find this puzzling, I really do. There is a difference between ideology and the real world and if you don’t believe that there is then no wonder some people are perpetually disappointed.
Next up the whole fact that Nick Clegg spoke on it, seriously why is this a fucking issue? Tim is said to be writing to all the members as I type and that e-mail could well be in my inbox before I post this. Nick Clegg is one of only eight MPs we have and if Tim wants to go and write his letter to the members then so be it. I’m surprised some people haven’t got annoyed about the fact it was on Sky News.
As I’ve said already, I have no real opinion as I don’t have any information but here is what we do know. We know that these are bad bad people. They have already murdered Brits, they have murdered allies, they have murdered their own, they take young women as sex slaves just because it makes them feel powerful. I think we are all in agreement that a way is needed to stop them, whether that is air strikes who knows? The fact is probably none of us do but we elect representatives to parliament and ask them to listen to their constituents, their party and their own conscious to make decisions for the good of the people of this country.
Military intervention is part of the world and unless we want to turn a blind eye to atrocities that are being done around the world and become a complete isolationist country then it will continue to be part of the United Kingdom. Whether it is right or not in this case isn’t clear (and trust me – it isn’t) but people revolting, leaving the party and such just for getting involved in military action (and heck, we’ve been involved in military action in Iraq and Afghanistan for ages) seems bizarre to me.
As Brian Paddick just tweeted, ‘V difficult decision with no “right answer”. @LibDems parliamentarians debated the issues, respecting different views, rightly not in public’ and he’s right. There isn’t a right answer, there isn’t a wrong answer. We can’t see into the future, it is drawback of the human mind. All our MPs can do is discuss and debate the situation with the information at hand and make the best decision that they can. I wish it was a cut and dry issue with a clearly defined right and wrong answer but it isn’t. I trust that our MPs are good people, I’m actually extremely confident that they are and they won’t have made any decision in haste without careful consideration.
Making decisions is difficult as I was typing that sentence, Tim’s letter was passed on to me. You can read it in full below. Having just read it I don’t think it will soothe the concerns of some of the party but I do believe it to be sincere and honest, which is all I could personally ask of him. Being an MP isn’t easy and when you actually have to make tough decisions, it is much harder than when you don’t actually have to make that decision.
I still have no real position on air strikes in Syria but I’m willing to trust that those with more information have a better idea of what might be the best course of action, one thing I certainly wouldn’t back is to sit back and do nothing, which I fear many people would back until terror hit UK shores and that would not be right.
The rest of the blog post is Tim’s letter:
When the government asked MPs to support military action in Syria against Assad in 2013, I refused to provide that support. I was not convinced our intervention would be effective, nor that it was fully backed by a diplomatic effort to establish a lasting peace, nor would it prevent more suffering than it caused.
In response to that deep-rooted scepticism last time I wrote to the Prime Minister last week, together with Nick Clegg, Paddy Ashdown, Ming Campbell, Kirsty Williams and Willie Rennie, setting out five principles against which the Liberal Democrats believe the case for military action should be based.
It is my judgement that, on balance, the five tests I set out have been met as best they can at this moment, and I will therefore be voting in favour of extending our operations to allow airstrikes on ISIL in Syria.
I have written in more length about how I have reached my decision below.
I am well aware that many in the party will disagree with me. I hope that, even if you cannot support me, you can support the approach I have taken, and recognise that I have taken this difficult decision after the fullest consideration.
ACTION AGAINST ISIL
Having considered the five principles I set out last week, having read the Foreign Affairs Select Committee report and the government’s response, having listened to the Prime Minister’s case for action, having listened to impassioned arguments for and against supporting military action from inside and outside the party, I am clear that this conflict is very different to Iraq in 2003 and I think it is important I explain why I believe that.
THE ILLEGAL WAR IN IRAQ
In 2003 a ‘dodgy dossier’ was used in an attempt to convince us that Saddam Hussein represented an imminent threat to international peace and security. In 2015 there is no dodgy dossier.
Instead, ISIL murdered 129 people on the streets of Paris. In restaurants, at a concert, on the pavement, those killed could just as easily have been here in Britain, in London, already a top target for ISIL.
This is before even considering how ISIL is threatening the security and stability of Iraq, a sovereign nation that has requested the help of the United Nations in protecting itself.
Unlike 2003, ISIL’s evil is apparent to the world in the beheading of journalists and aid workers for a worldwide audience, the rape and enslavement of tens of thousands of women, the summary execution of gay men and women, its brutal occupation of vast tracts of Iraq and Syria, and the terrified exodus of humanity we see in refugee camps from Lebanon to Calais.
THE UNITED NATIONS
The role of the UN Security Council should matter to us. In 2003 it was impossible to secure support for a further UN resolution to legitimise action. It was the crux of our argument against the illegal Iraq war.
On this occasion, the UN Security Council has not simply supported a passive resolution, it has made an active call for action “to eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Iraq and Syria”.
UNSCR2249 was passed with the support of France and without objection from Russia and China. As members of an internationalist party that has placed great store on the framework of international law established by the United Nations, I urge you to read the text of that resolution which can be found here.
I would also ask you to consider that Article 51 of Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter provides countries with the right to take military action in collective self-defence.
Iraq has asked for help in defeating ISIL, now commanding its operations from Syria. Just earlier this month, ISIL launched a savage attack on our closest neighbour and ally in Europe. We know, too, that so far this year seven terrorist attacks by ISIL against the UK have been thwarted. ISIL is a direct threat to the UK, our allies and to international peace and security. We are being dishonest if, already engaged against ISIL in Iraq, we pretend that inaction now in Syria somehow makes us safer.
In 2003 there was the thinnest veneer of international support for action in Iraq. In 2015 there is a wide-ranging coalition of nations who are committed to the eradication of ISIL, including states from the region who understand the threat ISIL poses to their security and stability. Those same nations recognise that it is crucial there is a strategy for Syria beyond air strikes.
In 2003 there was no thinking about the post-conflict situation in Iraq. The result was a disgraceful corporate free-for-all that paid no heed to Iraq’s infrastructure and prioritised corporate greed ahead of reconstruction.
It is not just Iraq we should learn from. Similar criticisms have been levelled at the UK and her allies over Libya and Afghanistan. In 2015 we have a diplomatic process in the Vienna talks aimed at ensuring the world remains engaged with Syria through this period of conflict and beyond, supporting the Syrian people to rebuild in a post-ISIL, post-Assad Syria.
Earlier this year I went to Calais. More recently I went to Lesbos. I saw young children exhausted and terrorised as they’d made the dangerous crossing across the Mediterranean. I heard through an interpreter a terrified seven year old boy’s first words as he landed on the beach from his rickety life raft: ‘Daddy, are ISIL here?’
I saw elderly women huddled beneath thin blankets as the evening came to the camp and the temperatures dropped below zero. I saw broken and desperate people who had witnessed horrific things in their own communities including the murder of loved ones. They pretty much all had one thing in common: they were fleeing for their lives from Syria and Iraq and in particular from ISIL.
So I came home from Lesbos and I angrily tore in to the Prime Minister for his callous refusal to take any of these desperate refugees. I proposed that we take three thousand orphaned refugees from the camps, and that the UK plays its full part by accepting others. I am personally enormously moved and angry about the plight of these desperate people, who want nothing more than to return home to a Syria and Iraq that is safe and stable and where they can live the lives they wish to in their own country.
Airstrikes alone of course are not going to resolve the hugely complex political situation in Syria. But I am clear that unless something is done to remove ISIL from Syria, from where it is coordinating its actions, there is no hope of progress towards that goal of a safe and stable Syria. And there is no hope for a home for refugees to go back to.
Of course I have tremendous concerns.
I have pressed these directly with the Prime Minister. I believe it is critical that the Gulf states are vocal in their condemnation of ISIL. I believe much, much more must be done to cut off the funding and supply routes for ISIL.
I think that we have not paid enough attention to the way in which extremists here in the UK have been funded.
It is imperative that everything possible is done to minimise the likelihood of civilian casualties.
I have been crystal clear that the future of Syria, after any action, must be at the forefront of the minds of all those asking for support for airstrikes, here in the UK and also amongst our international partners.
I realise, too, there is great uncertainty over the ability to command and control disparate ground forces which will be necessary to hold territory recaptured from ISIL inside Syria. All of these are reasons to question action.
None of them in and of themselves are reasons not to act.
AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE
There is no doubt that military action means diplomatic failure, and the formation and spread of ISIL is the ultimate display of our failure as an international community over the last five years.
We cannot undo the mistakes of the past, but we have the chance now to take action against an organisation that cannot be reasoned with and that does not obey international borders.
There is no quick fix solution for dealing with ISIL, nor is there an easy route to peace and stability in Syria, and it would be wrong of me to pretend otherwise. The military action we are supporting is just one part of a long process that will be needed to make that happen.
I cannot promise you that this will succeed. What I can promise you is that in supporting this action, in no way am I giving my unreserved and uncritical support to the government.
I can promise you that we will be holding the government to account on their strategy, that I will be ensuring that they continue to act in the national interest and in the interests of the millions of Syrians and Iraqis who deserve a stable home in a peaceful country.
The Prime Minister has set out what I believe is a comprehensive motion which gives us the ability to take action against ISIL in Syria and also restates our commitment to a long term solution in Syria. Those of you who disagree with this decision may find little comfort in this, but it is my commitment to you as leader that if at any point these objectives are no longer possible I will not hesitate to withdraw support.
I am instinctively inclined towards peace. I am deeply sceptical of the ability of military action to achieve positive political outcomes. But I am not a pacifist. Just as I was proud to stand with Charles Kennedy against the illegal war in Iraq, so I was proud to stand with Paddy Ashdown as he was a lone voice calling for military intervention to stop the massacres in Bosnia and Kosovo.
As a Liberal Democrat I am an internationalist. I believe in acting collectively with our friends and allies, and in responding to threats to our security within a framework of international law. I believe that our decision-making should be governed by what we consider to be in the long-term interests of the UK.
I believe we should not take action without considering the long-term objectives of that action for Syria. And I believe we have a moral duty to the people living in the despair of Calais and Lesbos, who want a secure and stable future in Syria, to take the necessary steps to attempt to bring that about.
It is my judgement that, on balance, the five tests I set out have been met as best they can.
I believe it is right to support a measured, legal and broad-based international effort to tackle the evil regime that has helped trigger the wave of hundreds of thousands of desperate refugees, fleeing for their lives.
I will therefore be asking my parliamentary colleagues to join me in the lobby to support this motion. I am well aware, too, that many in the party will disagree with me. I hope that, even if you cannot support me, you can support the approach I have taken and recognise that I have taken this difficult decision after the fullest consideration.
Oh people. People of the UK. At times I know I sit on a different side of the fence to the majority. That is fine. I’m used to it. Yet last night when I saw an e-petition get shared on social media entitled, Stop all immigration and close the UK borders until ISIS is defeated then I started to get angry. Not because this e-petition exists, as I’m not surprised some people would think like this but because over a quarter of a million people had signed it. Overnight another 50,000 people have seemingly signed it and I want to go up to every single one of them and shake them vigorously asking if they understand exactly what they are arguing for.
Here is what we know, there are some bad guys (and girls) out there who are determined to change our way of life. They want the western world to take steps back and allow them to lord over huge swathes of the Middle East without any interference. They want this so they can use terror and intimidation to get what they want, whether they be to kill who they want to kill, rape who they want to rape, do some genocide just for the thrills, force people to follow the path that they want them to follow. Is this really what we want for people who are of the same species to us? Are we really so insular that we care only about what we can see if our own very narrow field of vision?
Just because we can’t physically see the danger that millions of people face doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. These refugees are fleeing from these barbaric people because what the people of Paris faced on Friday night is akin to what these people face every single day. Read your newspapers and you’ll see stories most days about people being rounded up in IS held territories and being executed for a variety of made-up reasons, that the terrorists use to reinforce their power and control over people. Would we accept that if it was us in that was us and would we want the world to turn a blind eye? Fuck no we wouldn’t.
It is easy to turn yourselves off to what is having beyond your spectrum. It is so easy to bury your head in the sand but these people are out there and they are brutally tearing apart the lives of millions of people. By closing our borders until this horrific terrorist group are defeated all we are saying is that we are all right and everyone else can deal with helping out these people fleeing from fear. Is that who we are? Are we really the type of people that only care about our lot in life and can’t empathise with those who have it so so so much worse?
There but for the grace of God is a great saying (although God doesn’t exist but still) and it is pure luck that you or I were born in the UK, where we have some many opportunities and relative freedom from oppression. We don’t get gunned down in the street just because we have a different point of view to someone else. Our sister and daughters aren’t taken by men with guns to be sex slaves just because they get off on it. These people face these scenarios daily and we wonder why they are desperately fleeing because lets be honest, wouldn’t we? Of course we fucking would.
Yes bad men and women will abuse the system to attempt to get into our country and carry out attacks aimed at changing our way of life but just because some bad people exist doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t help those who need help. People rag on the benefits system because a few bad eggs abuse it and take money that they don’t need or are entitled to but those few bad eggs taint the view of far too many. The benefits system is a lifeline to many but it is another example where our views are changed by the insignificant minority. People are being slaughtered and what some people want to do is totally looks inwards and not think about their fellow human beings. I know it sounds a bit Zen or hippy but we are but one species and we should be united against those who want to divide and conquer.
I’ll end this with this scenario. It is easy to ignore something that we cannot see but put yourself in this situation, you are walking down the street and you see a group of men with guns dragging a 12 year-old girl into a van and they start raping her. Do you get angry? Do you get scared? Do you feel helpless? Do you want to help? Do you want to do something to stop the pain this girl is feeling? Do you want to do anything you can to stop this happening? Just because it isn’t happening in your street doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. It is happening every single fucking day and we in the west have only seen the tip of what these barbarians want to do to people.
What a compassionate society does is welcome with open arms refugees, to give them a safe haven and an opportunity to not only to live but an opportunity to have a life. They are two distinctly different things and if people only care about themselves then they are perfectly entitled to do just that but for me, I don’t think that just because bad people aren’t in my field of vision they don’t exist. This is a time for the people of the UK to stand up for people who need our help, not to look the other way and tell the world that it isn’t our problem. Doing the easy thing is to walk away and tell the world that it isn’t our problem but the easy thing is very rarely the right thing.
It has been an awfully long time since I’ve written anything personal here. I just haven’t felt the desire nor the need. Yet a few weeks ago someone surprisingly turned up in my dreams and then on Sunday I was laying in bed scrolling through Facebook on the iPad and I saw a link that my friend Anna had shared. It was entitled, They Wrote Down Their Confessions To ‘The One That Got Away,’ But Then These YouTube Comments Almost Top Them. The title of the story is pretty self-explanatory. The YouTube video is embedded below:
I watched this and over the past few days I have been mentally composing this blog post all about what I’d say to her and about how everything played out. It is a story not many people will know. I don’t talk about her or it because it was many many moons ago. I’m just not that open. A handful of people will know the story and I’m going to be deliberately vague on any identifying details but I think it is time that I want to write all about my one that got away.
As I pointed out in the previous paragraph, it was many many moons ago. I had been through a time of internal turmoil. I didn’t know where my life was heading and I felt helpless and adrift on the sea of life. I hadn’t been in any position to meet anyone for an awfully long time. Then I slowly found myself and a path opened up, one that would change a lot of things. A path that would very quickly mean meeting her.
Now like most people my age, I have met and talked to thousands of people in my life and yet this person is the only one where I could tell you exactly the first thing she said to me and exactly the first thing I said to her. I can tell you where I was, I can tell you where she was, literally I can recall that first brief conversation perfectly. That is both scary and cool in equal measure at the same time. I knew instantaneously that I liked her and I mean instantaneously. I don’t know if I believe in love at first sight, I don’t think I do but if I did, then I’d say I fell in love with her the moment I saw her. No-one before or since has had such an immediate effect on me but she did. I liked her and wanted desperately to get to know her.
Over the coming weeks we would get to know each other, we would become friends and I think it is fair to describe us as relatively close. There was a spark. A real spark. People had told me of this spark thing but I had never believed it as I had never experienced it. I wondered how you could have chemistry with someone. It was an alien concept and not one that I truly believed existed and then I met her and boy did we have sparks, it was a veritable cascade of fireworks. That might be slightly overusing poetic license but trust me, the chemistry was real – and when I realised that other people saw it then I knew it wasn’t just in my mind.
I found this out when a mutual friend one evening said to me, ‘So…you and (name)…’ and pressed her fingers together and raised her eyebrows. I would shoot her down and move the conversation on quickly before later in the evening telling her that, ‘we’ll see…’ and not saying anything else on the matter.
Now this chemistry thing is one that I need to speak of in slightly more depth. To this day no-one else has ever been able to press my buttons to elicit a reaction like she could. Not even close. It was like she had the cheat sheet to me and how I was wired. We would fight and it was so much fun. Like real fun. We would prod and poke each other and it was just fun. I know that sounds weird how fighting can be fun but it just was. I remember once a couple of mutual friends commented how they didn’t like it was when mummy and daddy fought. I just wrote that sentence and smiled as I recalled it.
So yes we have established that there was some real chemistry. I think in my head at this point I thought things were just going to work out between us and that it was only a matter of time. At this juncture I didn’t know there were other suitors for her and to be honest pussyfooted around somewhat, waiting for the right time to ask her out instead of just biting the bullet and doing it. This went on for quite a while before someone basically told me I had to hurry up because there was someone else out there. I would find out afterwards that there was in fact two other potential beaus.
So I asked her out. She said that she really liked me…but only as friends. Dagger. I was surprised in a way because I did genuinely think that things were going to work out. The chemistry was real and we did really get on. I had really liked people before but I was infatuated with them and put them up on a pedestal and there was no real prospect of anything ever happening with them because I was the weird creepy guy who liked someone so instead of getting to know them, I would obsess about them and not speak to them. She was the first person where those tendencies weren’t front and centre. I would go out of my way to get to know her, spend time with her, talk to her. It just felt so natural.
I would have to lick my wounds and I suppose try and understand what had just happened. She went out of her way to not make things awkward and I will always be immeasurably grateful to her for that. Over the next couple of weeks word got back to me that she was going down the road with one of the other guys. That in a way cushioned the blow somewhat because I could convince myself that it wasn’t me or anything I did, it was just someone else was a better option. Whether that is true or not is unknown but I like to think that I couldn’t have read things that erroneously.
Yet despite her going down the road with another person, I still didn’t officially know of his existence. It was like a secret that everyone else knew that I wasn’t meant to know. One day – several weeks later – I sent her a message to say I knew of him and what was going on and that I was fine with things and she didn’t need to hide it from me. She seemed to react with a mixture of shock and anger that I knew but I was like, I’m cool with things and so it became more of an open thing.
A few weeks later I got a message from a mutual friend who told me that this guy was going to around later and the girl was worried about how I’d react. Now I don’t recall whether she was worried that I’d twat him or that it’d just hurt me or somewhere in-between. I genuinely don’t remember the ins and the outs but I sent back word that I was still fine and then it was set up that I’d meet him. It was like a political meet n greet, you meet someone, shake their hand, make small talk and move on. That is exactly how it went down. Yet I can you exactly what he was wearing and everything about that minute or so and it is so many moons ago it is ridiculous that I can remember such a seemingly insignificant event to such a degree. The reason I remember is because it included one of the most profound moments of self-discovery in my life.
During this conversation that probably didn’t last two minutes, I glanced at the girl and I saw the way she looked at him. She was so happy and had these big wide eyes as she gazed at him whilst I was talking to him and I learnt a valuable lesson. I learnt that my heart could simultaneously break but for it also not to matter one jot. I was totally besotted with this girl and I knew there and then that her happiness was what was important, not mine. She was happy with this guy and that was all that mattered. I could be happy that she was happy despite being so deeply unhappy. I know that doesn’t make any sense but it was how I felt at the time and even in the subsequent months I stood by that. She was happy. That was all that mattered.
Over the course of the next few weeks and months our friendship would drift, which is pretty natural. I know from my side I tried hard to keep our friendship close but I know that being friends with a single girl is different to being friends with a girl in a new relationship, certainly if you a single guy. Some months later there was an occasion where we were going to the same place, at exactly the same time, so I suggested we go there together and that was shot down so rapidly and forcefully I knew that we were never going to be close or even that social any more. That saddened me a lot but still, she was happy with the way things had worked out and despite everything that had happened, her happiness was still the only thing that mattered in my eyes between us so I really did step back.
Still this blog has the premise of what confession I’d say to her or what question would I ask, well I’ll come on to that now. Our paths were about to naturally diverge. I was to stop doing the thing and going to the place that brought us together. The last time I was to be there was known to all including her. That day came and she wasn’t sitting in her usual seat, she wasn’t there, I didn’t even get the chance to say goodbye and that was the only time she ever truly hurt me. Everyone else said goodbye including people who truly fucking hated my guts but she wasn’t there to say goodbye to. I wouldn’t have made a big thing or anything but just a simple goodbye and good luck with everything would have been nice. Maybe even say we’d try and keep in contact but nothing. On that little whiteboard that people scribbled their confessions on I’d have written, ‘I wish we’d said goodbye’.
Several months later I actually walked past her and another mutual friend on the other side of the street. I saw them but I don’t think they saw me and I remember thinking about whether I should go and say hello but I chose not to. That was the last time I would ever see her. I know she’d ask mutual friends about me every so often and I just wanted to scream that she should ask me herself. I couldn’t reach out to her because she had pushed me so far away that to make contact (that I won’t lie – I have thought about infrequently over the many moons that have come and gone since) would seem maybe a touch creepy so I always decided against it.
I don’t think I regret that things didn’t work out because things did work out for her. As far as I know she is still happy with the guy she chose way back when. I won’t sit here and type that I could’ve made her happier or that I was a better person than him because we don’t know, what I will type though is I would have done anything for her and put everything on the line to try and make her happy. Yet I type this and I fully believe that she made probably made the right decision. I have no idea if we’d have worked out. What I do genuinely think is that we’d have burned very brightly but for how long, that is a very legitimate question.
She was to this day the only person who I’ve instinctively liked and fallen for hook, line and sinker. There have of course been other people that I’ve liked and developed feelings for but with her it was just there and so bold and clear that I didn’t even have to think about it. I knew she was special. She was so smart, like way smarter than me and I like to think that I’m not exactly a moron but she was so intelligent that she could’ve done anything. Couple that with her deep work ethic that honestly she could be whatever she wanted to be and make a huge success of herself. It was part of what attracted me to her, not only was she breathtakingly gorgeous and we had this chemistry, I could see the potential she had in her to do anything.
Yet here we are. At the end of my tale of the one that got away. I wouldn’t even have a date or have real interest in anyone else for several years, not because I was pining for her or mending a broken heart but because I thought that there was little point chasing after someone unless they made me feel something like she made me feel. Weirdly enough the next person I would have interest in, a very similar scenario played out and she is now happily married to the other guy.
If I saw her again I’d just tell her that despite our time of being close being short, she had such a profound effect on me as a person. She taught me so much about me, both good and particularly bad. She made me want to be a better person. She showed me that I can have real strong powerful emotions and that I could be in so much pain and for it not to be important as my feelings can be inconsequential.
It has been so long but I can remember so many things about her, her accent, the way she said my name, her smile, her eyes, even writing this it has made me smile somewhat thinking about her. We may not have made it as it were but my life was enriched just by knowing her and had I never met her then I suspect I wouldn’t know myself half as well as I do. I just hope wherever she is, whatever she is doing, she is as happy as she can be but still, why didn’t we say goodbye…?
Needs is the key word in the title.
The first by-election of the 2015-2020 will be called following the sad passing of Michael Meacher MP, who died this week following a short illness. He had been a representative in the House of Commons since 1970 and had always been an MP of them seat (and the seat under its previous boundaries and guise of Oldham West). The result of the by-election itself should be a straightforward Labour hold, although no doubts UKIP will have their eyes on the prize but in reality Labour should triumph here with relative ease, therefore this won’t be the first real referendum on Jeremy Corbyn or on the Conservative government.
For the Lib Dems this is a seat where they’ve never finished higher than third and never really been in the game in win it as it were. In the 1990s, the party were the kings of shock by-election wins as people protested against the major parties before returning home during a General Election. These days a lot of that protest vote goes towards UKIP, so I don’t think the party should be expecting much here but that doesn’t mean the party should be ignoring the by-election. This is a good grounding for Lib Dems in the local area to get back out of the streets to promote liberal values.
Jonathan Fryer over on LibDemVoice has written that the party must take the by-election seriously and I agree with him. I certainly wouldn’t be advocating an open cheque book in the attempts to pull out something surprising but a good well run campaign seems like a sensible approach.
One key will be finding the right candidate. I have seen multiple Lib Dems saying on social media that the party needs to find a female candidate because our current line-up of eight male MPs looks bad. Whilst I would agree with the second part of the sentence, selecting a woman for this by-election is highly unlikely to change the make-up of the Liberal Democrat parliamentary team, no matter how much we’d like for it to do so.
In 2015, the party chose only one man in a seat where the incumbent was standing down, in every other situation the party chose a woman. I’m not sure the fact the parliamentary party was all but wiped out can be laid at the feet of not having enough female candidates. I’m not sure deselecting Clegg, Farron, Mulholland, Lamb, Brake, Carmichael, Pugh or Williams and replacing them with a female candidate was ever truly advocated by people, yet in all likelihood that is what would have had to have happened for a woman to be selected as a Lib Dem MP in the 2015 General Election.
So I think looking back at the campaign and the gender breakdown our our representatives on the green benches and blaming the party as being sexist or not fair to women is pretty harsh. If we select a woman here and she doesn’t pull off the upset of all upsets then will people still call the party sexist for not having a female MP?
I’ve always advocated the best candidate for the job as being the bottom line. If it is a man, a woman, I don’t really care. If they are gay, bi or straight, I don’t really care. If they are white, black or of other regional descent, I don’t care. If they are atheist, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh etc. I don’t care. I think you catch my drift. All seats at all levels will have better or worse candidates, some people just don’t fit in an area, some are already well known locally. It all comes down to individuals.
Yet having said all this, this word ‘optics’ is a key one. The optics of the Liberal Democrats is not good on this front. The optics won’t change after this by-election, certainly not from the outside, yet maybe the internal optics are just as key? I think that whatever the decision it won’t change much as we have to wait until a by-election in a Lib Dem winnable seat. Should Edinburgh West go tits up then that would be a seat where the Lib Dems could feasibly win a by-election but if that did come up, Mike Crockart would seem highly likely to be the candidate having been the disposed MP in May.
Richmond Park though is probably the key. There was no sitting MP in 2015. A by-election is very possible for 2016 should Zac Goldsmith win the London Mayoral Race (which he is very much in) and although he had a 19,000 majority, political parties traditionally do not do well when they are defending a seat in a by-election. It would be a tough win for the Lib Dems but it would be very much possible. This is a seat where the lights would shine bright for the party and the optics would be glaring. Getting women as candidates into winnable seats is far more important than the likes of Oldham West and Royton.
To answer my original question, no the party doesn’t need to field a female candidate. It would probably be preferable for most people but deep down it won’t make too much of a difference in how the party is perceived on this matter. Now getting female candidates in seats where they can win, that is another story entirely. The party has many impressive women who would be excellent candidates (and indeed many men as well) but just putting females names on the ballot won’t solve a damned thing. Getting women the right experience and putting them in the right situation is the key.
Sometimes I come across a story where literally everyone involved in it comes out badly. Today I saw such a story that the more I looked into it, the worse the secondary characters looked. sadly for the main characters, they just never looked good.
For those who don’t know anything about the story to which I can referring then you can read the write-up in the Portsmouth News. The long and short of it is a ‘rising star’ in the Lib Dems apparently said something stupid whilst drunk, well lets be fair, something beyond stupid, something flat out disgusting. She should learn to deal with alcohol better, tell her friends not to post her stupid remarks on social media or to be frank have less vile words spilling from her mouth. The words she used were, ‘joining the Tories is like joining IS.’ Yikes. You can’t defend it so I won’t but lets look at the rest of the players in this story.
She had a friend who shared the comments online, first things first, don’t share such crap. It is wrong but will also come back to bite you in the bum and make you look stupid. It isn’t a bit of fun. In this era where all our communications on social media can be scrutinised with a click of a button, learn to be careful about what you share online. If people (and I actually know activists from other parties have done so looking for dirt) went through my timeline on twitter or my Facebook books or my instagram pictures, whatever, they would find that I love Nadiya from GBBO maybe a little bit too much, I love George from Masterchef Australia maybe a little bit too much. I talk a lot of sport and talk a lot of politics but plain offensive things, no siree bob, a) it isn’t on and b) your online identity is rightly or wrongly a part of you. So don’t share things that will get you into trouble.
So he has some fault for sharing the comment (or should I say alleged comment Mr. Lawyer?) but whatever. Next up is the Tory councillor in Portsmouth who saw it and instead of looking at it and thinking, ‘oh what a foolish young woman’ instead decided to tweet the local media alerting them to the Facebook status. I mean for real. Cllr. New, you are a grown man, act your fucking age (yes I said fucking, I’d edgy and uncouth like that – big up my Portsmouth upbringing under a Conservative council – or I should say Havant Council if I’m being strictly accurate). Some 17 or 18 year-old girl apparently said something fucking stupid whilst drunk, someone who heard it thought it was either funny or true so posted it online and the adult response is to go crying to the local media? Fucking hell.
So Cllr. New has some blame and then the Pompey News itself. Oh I love the Pompey News. I have had several friends pass through those doors. It was my hometown newspaper but what on Earth are you doing giving this story the time of day? The person who said it doesn’t live in Portsmouth, the person who shared it doesn’t live in Portsmouth (although either studies or studied in Pompey). So where is the Pompey angle? No fewer than three Tory councillors in Portsmouth are quoted in the story about it. I mean come on. I know local newspapers are dying and the written media as a whole is on life support but when you are calling up or e-mailing multiple Tory councillors for a comment on a story about a drunk girls comments who doesn’t live in the area then boy that is a tenuous link for a story.
So I think a lot of people come out badly in this. Both young Lib Dems need to learn not to say (or be amused by) offensive stuff (let alone let it be shared on social media). I suppose in the old days (of you know – ten years ago) a person says something to friends when drunk and no-one else hears of it. This desire to share everything on social media is something people need to curtail (and I say that as an avid social media user). The Tory councillor who squinnyed like a fucking baby (see I am from Pompey – I used the word squinny) needs to grow the fuck up and if the local newspaper is going to react to every story where someone says something offensive when drunk then the Pompey News is going to be the main reason for the rainforests to die out.
Just maddening. The lot of it.
I haven’t blogged for a couple of weeks. Not because I haven’t had things to say but because I’ve been in some sort of a malaise in terms of writing on the blog. Not that I haven’t been writing a lot mind you, I’ve been writing elsewhere doing a fair amount of sports writing. This blog though has developed more into politics as the years have gone on.
Still here I am. On the back of two Labour conference speeches I feel compelled to tap tap tap on the keyboard once more. Jeremy Corbyn I actually have few problems with. He doesn’t live in the real world but what he has to say sounds good. He would be a fantastic President or Prime Minister of Utopia. Sadly for all of us Utopia isn’t where we live but his sentiments are nice all the same. He needs to remember that he isn’t talking to the Labour membership any more, he has to speak to the wider electorate but he may well get there in time. He speaks of a kinder, gentler politics. Something I could fully endorse and get behind.
I’ve been actively involved in politics for several years and I have found it challenging I must say. People trawl through Facebook and Twitter posts to find something that they can twist and manipulate to fulfil a narrative that they have. People lie. People will say that there is one rule for them but another rule for everyone else. It is a constant bugbear of mine. You can be the biggest arsehole you like if you choose to be, that is your prerogative, but if you whine when people treat you the way you treat them then I have issues with it. You treat others how you’d like to be treated but if you think people should treat you better than you treat them then surely that isn’t fair or right?
So kinder, gentler politics. Good. I actually liked Jeremy’s style at PMQs. I’m not sure six questions from the public is the best idea and his lack of follow-up allowed the PM to have a relatively easy time of it but it was conducted in a far more civilised tone. The House of Commons as a whole needs to grow up and if Jeremy Corbyn helps drag it there then good times.
And then today Tom Watson, who is the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party had his speech at conference. The memo I’m guessing didn’t reach his desk. You can read his speech here. If that is kind and gentle then I’m both an experienced and well recommended lover as well as a three Michelin starred chef. Just bear with me a second whilst I go and prick my microwave chilli…
Tom Watson is a big bruiser who thinks politics is done by being populist, attacking enemies and not putting your policies out there for people to debate and vote on. He is essentially the anti-Corbyn. JC is quiet but says what he thinks in a progressive manner. Watson is loud and in a way quite brutish. Calling the Lib Dems, a ‘useless bunch of lying sellouts’ and the Tories ‘nasty’ isn’t progressive. It is easy, lazy, old school politics. The type that Corbyn wants to move beyond.
The issue I have is the Lib Dems aren’t useless (as we are seeing now in government at all the Lib Dem policies that the Tories are cutting out) and aren’t sellouts. You can debate lying but when you consider how much of the Lib Dem manifesto made it into coalition policy then they punched above their weight in government. The Tories aren’t nasty either. You may disagree with their policies (I do a lot) but they aren’t nasty. Labour aren’t all bad either. The truth is (as I see it) that all parties have some genuinely interesting policies that could take this country forward. Heck even UKIP had a policy about reopening all the nursing colleges that had closed and that seemed like a sensible idea to help repopulate the nursing industry as it were.
I’m not saying consensus politics is the way forward but I do think treating the electorate like adults would be a great thing. Sadly as we know the way to win elections is to scare people (see Tories, 2015) so I’m not sure the ‘kinder, gentler’ politics that Jeremy Corbyn desires will be embraced by his party, let alone by the wider world. This is JC’s biggest problem. Lots of Labour MPs have things engrained into them and it will take more than a leader’s vision to take it out of them. This will be one of Labour’s biggest issues going forward, it gives other parties a free license to throw the words ‘kinder’ and ‘gentler’ in the face of any Labour MP or candidate who throws mud.
Lastly one final bugbear of mine, these ‘Never kissed a Tory’ t-shirts, badges etc. – do these people actually ask everyone they kiss what political party that they are affiliated with if any? Do they go to a club, get drunk, spy someone on the dancefloor, shimmy their way over to them and say, ‘hey baby, I just met you, and this is crazy, I think I want to snog you but before I do I want a breakdown of everyone you’ve ever voted for?’ I think not somehow.
Why would you be proud of the fact that you hadn’t kissed a Tory anyway? Isn’t that you know, just a bit pathetic? I have friends who are Tories, who are Labour, who are Lib Dems, who are Greens, heck I have even been known to have UKIP friends (albeit a smaller amount). Someone’s political allegiance isn’t the overriding factor of a friendship or indeed whether I want to snog them. I would be stunned if it was an issue that stopped most people deciding if they wanted to play tonsil tennis with another.
If Labour really do want to be kinder and gentler then stop calling the Lib Dems ‘useless’ ‘lying’ ‘sellouts’ and stop calling the Tories ‘nasty’ and ‘Scum’. Seems pretty straightforward to me?
I had a link retweeted into my timeline just now and it made me shake my head in despair over what might’ve been. Paul Flynn MP has written a blog post entitled, One Leader, One Party, One Enemy. The blog is about how Labour’s coronation of Jeremy Corbyn as leader should further focus the minds of the party on who the real enemy is for them and that is the Tories. If only that was their mantra for the past five years then who knows how things would’ve panned out but of course is most certainly wasn’t.
For as we all know Labour spent more time, more column inches, more media sound-bytes and more leaflet words on berating the Lib Dems than they did on attacking the Tories. It was a easy win for them as winning over disaffected Lib Dem voters was a far easier job than winning over potential Tory voters. The only problem to this strategy was it was doomed to lead to another Tory led government and isn’t that exactly what the Labour party didn’t want? They had to decide whether they hated the Lib Dems more than they hated the Tories and they decided that the Lib Dems were the target of choice and to allow the Tories to lead the 2015-2020 government.
I choose the word ‘allow’ with thought because that is what they chose to do. Attacking the Lib Dems the way they did consistently over the five years of the previous government could only ever lead to a Conservative led government (note I don’t say majority as I don’t think anyone really saw that coming but still). This is a case of simple electoral mathematics that people don’t like but that is the way of the world. If there are more Tory/LD marginals than Labour/LD marginals then the wholesale collapse of the LD vote would lead to more Labour MPs but would lead to even more Tory MPs. It is quite basic stuff and when you are targeting LD seats at the expense of a Tory/Labour marginal then you know that you’ve drawn your line in the sand and that is that you prefer the Tories to the Lib Dems.
Take for example Ed Balls and Nick Clegg. One of the very few ‘surprises’ that wasn’t a surprise to me was Ed Balls going down. Everyone knew that he was in trouble and that it was an extremely marginal seat. Ed Balls wasn’t a popular consistency MP and he’d barely scraped home in 2010 so with the Tories not exactly down in the polls, basic logic had the seat as tight. However Tom Watson had a vanity project that was more important that ensuring Ed Balls’ survival and that was seeing Nick Clegg go down in nearby Sheffield Hallam. So instead of going all out to defend Ed Balls from a very embarrassing defeat, he had a mission to kick Nick Clegg out of parliament. He visited Sheffield Hallam on five occasions. Nick Clegg as we all know just about survived but Ed Balls did not.
If you asked Labour whether they would’ve preferred to win Sheffield Hallam but sacrifice Morley and Outwood then I suspect the blood lust would say that they would do that deal in a heartbeat. Swapping a Lib Dem for a Tory is a deal they would’ve done in a heartbeat. This has goes to more than suggest that the whole strategy and ire of the Labour party 2010-2015 wasn’t pointed at winning a General Election but by kicking the Lib Dems.
In the UK there is clearly a broad anti-Tory majority but in our political system to knock them off the other parties need to essentially have some form of cohesive strategy. That would include not to point their cannons mainly on other anti-Tory parties. Sadly in politics too many people like to play politics and shoot at everyone and in turn allow the Tories to come through the middle and win.
In 2015 the Lib Dem vote collapsed rightly or wrongly but in those seats where they could beat the Tories but didn’t, they didn’t win not because of poor local campaigns but because for five years the Labour party had been launching a vast media attack on the Lib Dems and thus allowed the Tories to take those seats. It is the classic case of winning individual battles but losing the war. That might actually saw up the 2015 General Election pretty well for Labour.
If the Labour party concentrate on taking on the Tories then it will do the opposite of what happened earlier this year. If it is Tory attack after Tory attack then in those Tory/LD marginals, the Tories might slip up and lose and in the Tory/Labour marginals the Tory vote will slip and go towards the red rose. In politics you have to pick your battles and know both who your real opposition is and know the best path to being the leading party in Westminster. For Labour it is training the cannons on the Tories and the same for the Lib Dems.
In 2015 the Lib Dems ran what was a defensive campaign aimed at keeping the seats where they were entrenched and dug in but sadly for them it failed because the national narrative was so anti-LD that people who were angry at the Lib Dems for betrayal were more happy to see them lose than they were for the Tories to lose. If you voted Lib Dem to keep out the Tories but felt betrayed by them because the Tories were so evil, then allowing the Tories to win just seems oxymoronic to me but what the hell do I know?
If Paul Flynn is right that the latest incarnation of Labour are there to take on the one enemy that is the Conservative party then that is a strategy that will best serve the anti-Tory cause. I still firmly believe that a Jeremy Corbyn led party can’t make the gains they need to win a majority. There are just too many constituencies where the demographics are not favourable for an extreme left party to come through. Yet having said that, Labour can dig themselves out of holes they created for themselves in many Tory/Labour marginals and if the narrative is once more not on how evil the Lib Dems are but how bad the Tories are then there are enough Tory/LD marginals that can turn yellow and keep the blues out of power.
I await with interest to see what the plan is, will raw emotion or shrewd strategy win the day? We shall see as they say…