The Rambles of Neil Monnery

Another pointless voice in the vast ocean that is the interweb

On the Southend West hustings as organised by the Southend Echo…

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I know I said I was disengaging with blogging on the elections locally but I did go to the Southend West Hustings as organised by the Southend Echo this evening and I tweeted the whole thing so I thought I’d share it with you.

Please start from the bottom and work your way up (ooo err…) to read my take on the hustings…

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Written by neilmonnery

April 9th, 2015 at 9:28 pm

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On meeting the 2015 edition of the Fratton Yankees…

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Many many moons ago I had a blog that a few people would read. It was very similar to this blog actually (although this is read by thousands of people a week and is far less personal). One day one of my frequent readers told me that some of my blogs were boring and that no-one cared about my fantasy baseball team. She said from that moment on she didn’t want to speak to me ever again. From that day I vowed to write about my fantasy baseball team once a year in homage to her. So Louise Fletcher of Manchester (this was many many moons ago, good odds that her surname has since changed) don’t read this, it’ll only bore you (actually it will bore you all but still…)

So I’ve been involved in this one fantasy baseball league for ten years. It is a keeper league, 7×7 stats where you have 24 man rosters with eight man minor league rosters for players who’ve never played in MLB before. You get to keep 12 players from your major league roster every year and four minor league players. Then you draft the rest of your roster each off season.

Things though were a little bit different this year, my long time friend and GM of the two-time champion Edinburgh Red Sox, Neil H, quit the league because of the elongated draft that takes me months and is annoying as hell. He’d been threatening to quit for a couple of years and this year was the year. So my main rival as it were was gone. Yet I stuck it out as I look to secure my first title (I’ve been a losing finalist twice and been the overall #1 seed once).

To start with my keepers were as follows:

Buster Posey – C/1B
Josh Donaldson – 3B
Manny Machado – 3B
Rusney Castillo – OF
Brett Gardner – OF
Billy Hamilton – OF
Yasiel Puig – OF
George Springer – OF
Yu Darvish – SP
Collin McHugh – SP
Jordan Zimmermann – SP
Aroldis Chapman – RP

My four youngsters in the minor leagues that I kept were:

Lucas Giolito – SP
Joey Gallo – 3B
Amed Rosario – SS
Miguel Sano – 3B

Two things are clear. I have too many outfielders and I have serious depth/logjam at 3B. Still I decided to just keep the best players I had and planned to work out how to fit them into my team as/when.

I was drafting 11th out of 16 and in the first round you always try to find a player who can be of keeper quality and in a position of need. I am desperate for that impact bat at 1B, I haven’t had one since Justin Morneau’s AL MVP season. Three excellent 1B options were available in Chris Davis, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez. None of them dropped to me but the fourth person on my draft list did – Kolten Wong – 2B. He’s a young player who many are predicting to become an elite bat at second base. He was an Edinburgh Red Sox player but their replacement manager didn’t keep him. I was glad to take him.

Next up I took a surprise. I have learned over the years not to draft value but to go after players that I like even if it means reaching. Still I came to my second pick and I just thought Trevor Rosenthal – RP was too much value so I nabbed him. This gave me two elite closers in Chapman and Rosenthal and that position was sorted. In rounds three and four I took two players in positions of need that I wasn’t crazy about. JJ Hardy – SS and Justin Morneau – 1B. SS is so shallow that he was the last half decent option there so felt I had to take him (and he’s already injured) and Justin Morneau whilst not finding his power stroke last year did lead the NL in batting average so I thought he’d be a solid if unspectacular option.

That filled up my day-to-day batting roster and allowed me to concentrate on my starting rotation. By now Yu Darvish had got injured and was out for the year. Darvish and Zimmermann was a pretty powerful 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation so losing a player of Darvish’s calibre was a huge blow. McHugh was a surprise last season and was I suspect the biggest shock out of my retained list but to expect him to be the #2 starter was an issue. I tried to find a trade partner to bring in a #2 quality starter but managers were asking for the Earth so I had to draft well.

John Lackey, AJ Burnett, Alfredo Simon and Bartolo Colon were my next four picks. Not stellar but not awful in terms of adding depth to the rotation. Colon has already pitched great on opening night. I’m not expecting miracles from these guys but if they can keep me competitive most weeks in terms of Wins, Quality Starts and K’s as well as ERA and WHIP then I’ll be happy. My pitching is not strong but I don’t think its weak either. My offence on paper is better than it has been in recent years so I should be competitive. I have made the playoffs in both of the past two years including a dramatic playoff run in 2013, where when the last pitch of the season was thrown, I wasn’t in the playoffs but when that play ended, I was in. Drama!

Still four more picks and the next two were set up guys. Our league has Holds as a stat so you need to add a couple of set up guys. I chose Joakim Soria and Jordan Walden. I thought both were good options and was happy with them. Then in the final two picks you look to take fliers on guys who might surprise. My first was a guy I nearly took in round four in Steve Pearce. The Orioles’ 1B/DH/RF was a shock last year with a .925 OPS and 21 HR in 338AB but no-one liked him to repeat. I took a chance and he’s already gone deep twice. I loved this pick then and love it more now. Lastly Ricky Nolasco – SP and his first start was shall we say, not great…

So that is my major league roster but wait, I need to take four youngsters to fill out on minor league squad.

Again I picked 11th and I had a guy in mind but at the last minute I changed my mind and took Kyle Schwarber, a catcher out of the Chicago Cubs organisation. I don’t need a catcher as I have the #1 catcher in Buster Posey entrenched in my major league side but when it comes to the minors I just pick the best players available in my opinion. Second round I brought in a Japanese pitcher who is still playing in Japan in Kenta Meada. Lots of talk about him being posted and I wanted to retain his rights for the season to see if he does get posted next off season.

In rounds three and four I took Kyle Zimmer – SP out of the Royals organisation and Yoan Lopez – SP out of the Diamondbacks organisation. I really liked these picks and whilst I felt my major league draft was only ok, I thought my minors went very well and I have excellent depth and hope that some of my minor leaguers become elite major league players.

So there we go. You’ve met the 2015 Fratton Yankees and some people wonder why I’m single… Don’t you want more politics guff instead of this?

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

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April 9th, 2015 at 11:13 am

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On sometimes forgetting about my disability…

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I don’t talk about this much because it is really not much of a big issue in my life any more. When I was young the doctors, they weren’t sure that I’d ever really you know, walk. Yet I did and whilst I may have fallen over a whole lot I could walk and run (and fall over a lot) and I got on with things. I didn’t know any better or any different. My arm was just as bad as the leg but you can get by with one working arm far easier than one working leg.

In 1991 I had an operation to straighten up my foot by doing something to my Achilles tendon. I can honestly say I’m not entirely sure what they did but it worked. I didn’t drag my foot as much and my foot was straighter than it used to be. I would trip and fall over far less. The doctors called it hemiplegia but I’ve always thought of it as hemiparesis, which is a milder condition. I never liked to think of it as a serious condition when in fact it really is.

As I got older I became stronger and whilst my right leg was still dominant, my left leg was gaining some strength. With regards to the arms then my right arm is strong but the left is still pretty duff. If someone was sitting here watching me as I type this, they would be stunned by how quickly I type with just one hand whilst the left just hangs there doing nothing.

I’m writing about this today because a couple of weeks ago I caned my legs, not in a workout on the exercise bike way, which it is used to but the fact that I was on my feet for many many hours in a day. I must have walked 10+ miles in a day and whilst that doesn’t sound like a lot, for my legs that is an issue. I didn’t really think about it but for the next week I was going to bed hours earlier than normal just to stretch the legs out because they were aching and the ache was in both legs.

You see, when I walk I slam down on my right foot instead of walking evenly on both feet (woe betide me if I ever wear high heels – dang that would be dangerous) and so whilst my left leg is the weak one, the right overcompensates and if I overwork that then the right leg starts having issues as well. Having one bad leg is fine but if they are both causing me issues then sad times.

Sometimes I need to remember my limitations in a physical sense. When I put myself in a situation where I am having to lay in bed for several hours a day just to rest my aching legs then I’ve taken it too far. In the past few days my legs have come back to me and I can feel my right leg in its entirety and as for my left – well I’ve never been able to feel that but I get moments of feeling every so often, usually shooting pain or dull ache but still.

I’m all for pushing the limits of our bodies and minds, that is how we grow and develop as people but on a personal level sometimes I need to remind myself that my physical limitations are real and that I need to remember that. This has been the second time in the past year where I’ve spent the best part of a week without any feeling below the knees and just walked on instinct and muscle memory and its not good. Its not good at all.

Still as I sit here I can feel pain in my left foot. Pain means feeling and feeling isn’t necessarily a bad thing when it comes to that limb…

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Written by neilmonnery

April 1st, 2015 at 3:43 pm

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On Lord Ashcroft Polling, Iain Dale’s Predictions & Odds – Sheffield Hallam Special Edition

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STOP THE PRESSES. The Big Cheese is going down. After a dramatic new poll Nick Clegg’s defeat in Sheffield Hallam is all but certain. Yes in the biggest shock since me going through a whole Marks & Spencer food shop without anyone looking down on me, Clegg is going down in one of the most affluent constituencies in the country to a Labour Party who aren’t even campaigning, are generally hated in that part of the country and aren’t trusted to run the economy. You’d have thought well-off people would care about this kind of thing but apparently not. Go unknown guy whose standing for Labour, your dreams are coming true.

This though relies on a poll of 1001 people and takes into account some ‘interesting’ findings the closer you look into it. I have looked deep into the Lord Ashcroft polling several times in recent weeks and I find that the deeper you look, the more information you get that doesn’t back-up the headline numbers.

For example, they are using the understanding that 23% of the electorate will be over 65 compared to 17% in the 18-24 age-range. We all know that the retired age range vote far more than younger people and of course they have a much large expanse of ages to come from. The likelihood that the 18-24 age range provides 75% of the votes compared to over 65 is low. It is much more likely that the retired generation will at least double the amount of votes that the 18-24 age range provides. Why is this important?

Well the 65+ age range is the best for Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems, 47% of 65+ year-olds in this poll say that will vote for the Lib Dems compared to 23% who say this will vote for Labour. This isn’t a surprise as the older generation will remember the days when Labour were really disliked in these parts. The 18-24 age range has Labour up big (49-17) and if you look at that data list, you’ll see that the older you are, the more likely it is you’ll vote LD and the less likely it is you’ll vote Labour. This is very good news for the big cheese.

Another surprise in the polling is that men are more likely to vote Labour than women. This goes against the popular theory that women are more likely to lean Labour than men but actually backs up Lib Dem internal polling that says that women are coming back into the fold at a faster rate than men. This is thought to be because women look more logically at where to place their vote and less emotionally. Men feel betrayed by Clegg and the Lib Dems and refuse to consider them more than women, who whilst feeling betrayed are more willing to give them a second chance.

One last thing to note from this poll – the vast majority of respondents believe that the economy is on the right track at the moment. 75% of people believe the economy will do very well or quite well over the course of the next year for them and their families. This again looks good for Clegg as he’s part of the reason the economy is going the way it is.

So whilst the politicos and the twitterati and of course journalists are all looking at the headline number and getting a little bit too excited, not all the facts support the headline results.

Lets look at what Iain Dale has to say on Sheffield Hallam…

Sitting MP: Nick Clegg (LibDem)
Prediction: LibDem hold

This used to be a Tory seat, but it would take a political earthquake for them to take it off Nick Clegg. Interestingly the Labour vote has started to rise, but not enough to cause the LibDems to panic. Yet. If the LibDems are obliterated, then Clegg will probably be obliterated too, but if they retain around half their seats, this ought to be one of them. Or will there be a Clegg effect, which means the LibDems will fare worse here than elsewhere.

So Iain is sticking with the Lib Dem hold line and that seems to be a constant throughout most people who are actually predicting the seat. I did read a post earlier that was dated just a couple of weeks back that said this was a genuine three-way marginal and the Tories were in play. Boy and some people think I have tinted specs…

Betfair still have the Lib Dems as the favourite at a 60% chance to win the seat with Labour on 37%. This is a high number for Labour and takes into account very much the headline numbers from the latest LA poll. However when it comes to the actual odds, the Lib Dems and Clegg are still sitting at shorter than 1/2 at most places with Labour edging in towards 6/4. I have to say there are far better 6/4 shots around in this election than putting your money down on a Labour win here. I remember Julian Huppert at 9/2 to hold in Cambridge and you can’t even get him at evens any more…

All the talk on the front line is that Nick is looking good. Labour are putting up a skeleton campaign and the Tories aren’t going hard after Clegg believing that their time and money are best used in genuine marginals. Nick is having to work harder than many expected and his margin of victory will drop considerably. Yet still the polling and those who get excited about Nick’s potential defeat in Hallam keeps this story in the news. I genuinely wonder why. If you are looking for a big wig to go down then look at Danny Alexander, Caroline Lucas, Alex Salmond, Nigel Farage, they are all a far better chance at losing than Nick Clegg.

Still I could be wrong and the affluent people of Sheffield Hallam are going to vote for a party that wants to crush well-off people just to spite Nick Clegg. It could happen but I could also open a packet of M&S Triple Chocolate Cookies and not eat the whole packet in one sitting. Both are as likely as each other.

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

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Written by neilmonnery

April 1st, 2015 at 2:09 pm

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On Lord Ashcroft Polling, Iain Dale’s Predictions and Odds – Portsmouth South edition

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Ah Pompey South. My old stomping grounds. Yes I know I never lived in the constituency but anyone who was brought up a liberal in the area would always gaze wistfully at the seat. Being brought up in the Havant constituency, you knew David Willetts was waltzing in without too much drama.

Mike Hancock, old scuffball himself, has held on by his fingernails in this seat for a generation. Still his time is up and whilst he is standing as an independent, his odds of being sensationally returned to the seat as the MP are long, real long. They are longer than me scoring the winning goal in the FA Cup Final for Pompey next season and if anyone has seen Pompey (or me) play football recently then you know that you shouldn’t be taking the 50/1 on offer from the bookies for Mike Hancock to win here (seriously, 50/1? How tight are bookies being?)

Lets look at Iain Dale’s prediction first for this seat:

Sitting MP: Mike Hancock (LibDem)
Prediction: Conservative gain

This seat is now a genuine three way marginal. The LibDems are confident of retaining it despite the Hancock scandal. His successor is the former LibDem leader of the local council. That is a double edged sword as council leaders generally have a lot of enemies.This seat has never had a huge LibDem majority since it was won by Mike Hancock in 1997. It’s always ranged between three and six thousand. It’s difficult to assess the impact of the groping scandal, but on top of their national woes, it could be that the Tories win back what was once for them a safe seat.

Hancock has failed to squeeze the Labour vote as much as some of his colleagues, and not so long ago they managed a healthy 25%. If they return to those levels the Tories will win, unless Labour do incredibly well nationally. In that case a Labour gain isn’t out of the question.

I’d very much contest the notion of this being a three-way marginal. This is a two-way seat. It is blue or it is orange. Labour have never won this seat and in all honesty they’ve never been close. In the Blair landslide of 1997, they were still 15% shy and third behind the Lib Dems and the Tories. Portsmouth South just isn’t Labour territory, the anti-Tory vote has been encircled by the Lib Dems and whilst some of these votes will drift away because of both the Hancock saga and the national issue, that vote will go to UKIP. So lets scratch Labour off the potential winners here despite Lord Ashcroft’s constituency poll of November 2014.

In said poll, Labour were third on 20% behind the Tories (30%), Lib Dems (25%) and just ahead of UKIP (17%). On the surface that looks encouraging for three of the four parties and not so for the Lib Dems. Yet when it comes to casting a ballot at the ballot box, the people of Portsmouth South know they have three real options. Firstly the Tories, secondly the Lib Dems and thirdly the protest vote and that would go to UKIP.

The headline number of the Lib Dems being 5% behind in the Ashcroft Poll was actually not half as bad as it could have been. I do hear things from the ground in the constituency because I still know a lot of people in the area. The support for UKIP is significant but not enough to really contemplate a win. They are looking to act as a spoiler and build for the future. So this election will come down to whether the Lib Dems can keep most of the anti-Tory vote or whether that drifts to the Greens, UKIP or even Labour. The Lib Dems need to retain 80% of the vote that was purely Anti-Tory to win. A tough ask.

Flick Drummond is the Conservative candidate who has good local credentials. The Tories are really attacking this seat and you can see why they are the favourites across the board. However I am surprised that aren’t shorter than they are. On the exchanges they are available at 8/11 and are rated as a 42% chance of winning by Betfair. The Lib Dems have a 27% chance of winning with UKIP and Labour sub 10% (with again the ‘others’ at 17% – others in this instance being the Greens – I am thinking Betfair are overcompensating for the Greens in Lib Dem held seats).

I think Mike Hancock standing is a much bigger blow than Gerald Vernon-Jackson was saying on South Today this evening. He is saying internal polling says it makes little difference and whilst it might not, there will be people who go into the ballot box on May 7 and put their x next to Mike Hancock without thinking.

The Tories are available at Evens if you look around and that is a cracking price. I’d like to see GVJ pull through but I think it’s a real tough one. The Lib Dems are available at 6/4 and that is too short. I think Ashcroft’s polling is wrong in that the Labour vote will drop significantly as Labour voters in Pompey South will lend their vote but I really do expect the Tories to squeak this one out by 2,000 or so. For GVJ to pull through then the UKIP vote has to come from over 50% ex Tory voters and I think it’ll be smaller than that, with a smattering of LDs, Lab and former non-voters making up the majority of UKIP’s vote.

I do hope I’m wrong on this one but I think the Tories finally wrestle back Portsmouth South but it is a seat that will go down to the final days of campaigning and if Nick Clegg performs well in that final Question Time seven days out from voting day then that alone could sway it but the smart money is on the blues (which is very rare to say in Pompey these days – I’m still backing you Andy – you can turn things around!)

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March 30th, 2015 at 6:31 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Written by neilmonnery

March 26th, 2015 at 4:48 pm

Posted in Politics

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On giving off a bad first impression…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Written by neilmonnery

March 26th, 2015 at 11:58 am

Posted in Personal

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

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

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

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

What does Iain Dale say about Carshalton & Wallington?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More to come…probably.

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

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Written by neilmonnery

March 23rd, 2015 at 6:56 pm

Posted in Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Written by neilmonnery

March 23rd, 2015 at 3:35 pm

Posted in Random Stuff

On UKIP’s new alternative European Football proposals…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Written by neilmonnery

March 19th, 2015 at 10:01 pm

Posted in Politics

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