The Rambles of Neil Monnery

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Archive for July, 2011

Drink Driving. Do we as a society take this offence too lightly?

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Drink Driving. It is one of those issues that I have zero tolerance for. I think you make a decision to not only put your own life at risk but also that of innocent others who are getting on with their lives. Accidents happen but when someone involved in the accident has their judgment impaired either by drugs or drink then it isn’t strictly an accident is it?

Fast forward to the reason of this blog post. Local Radio DJ and former pop star Tracie has been found guilty of drink driving and has subsequently been banned from driving for 14 months. Seems a pretty straightforward case but if you click on the link the comments are rabid in one direction or another and it has sparked quite a debate.

It seems as though there were some extenuating circumstances revolving around the case, namely that her 14 year-old son was was caught up inside a police cordon of an armed siege. Now whilst her son was not directly involved in the situation you can certainly understand some sort of parental instinct taking over. She hasn’t seemingly used this as an excuse and has assumed full responsibility for her actions which I do find more than admirable.

I am a wee bit disappointed that there doesn’t seem to be some sort of community service punishment within this sentence as I believe that all drink driving offences should also include community service orders. However what I’m not disappointed in is the fact that her employers Southend Radio 105.1 have stood by her. Her employers released this statement via managing director Mark Jeeves:

“Tracie Young has been a valued and respected member of the on-air broadcasting team at Southend Radio since the station launched.

“Because of our longstanding relationship with her, we know her actions on this particular occasion were wholly out of character and brought about by exceptional circumstances – concern for her young son, who was caught up in an armed siege.

“Given these circumstances, and the dedication Tracie continues to show for Southend Radio, we are happy to stand by her during this difficult time.”

She didn’t deserve a double-whammy of losing her job as well. People make mistakes in life and do deserve second chances. Whilst I think the sentence was a tad soft in not enforcing some sort of community service (something that I do truly believe can work in cases like these) I am glad that one mistake hasn’t completely ruined her life. She should thank her lucky stars that her decisions didn’t amount of causing distress and heartache to innocent people.

Drink driving is just something that is taken far too much for granted in my opinion. You make a decision to get behind the wheel when you shouldn’t and you do that alone. Whilst there might be reasons behind doing no-one ever should. However no-one is perfect and sometimes you can at least understand why sometime makes that decision.

It is a crime that needs looking at under a far stricter microscope than we – as a society – currently do. In this case the guilty party has taken her medicine well and not tried to heap blame on to anybody else. However it was only mere luck that this offence didn’t become something far worse. Any drink driving incident could be so much worse and even though 99 times out of 100 nothing will happen – that hundredth time the consequences will be dire.

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July 25th, 2011 at 11:08 am

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Something fishy is going on in the cabinet as Nick Clegg starts to sense having the upper-hand

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Anyone who watched the Prime Minister today give a statement to the House of Commons along with taking questions on the matter can’t have failed to notice two things. To the left of the PM sat George Osbourne who looks as though he had swallowed a gallon of sherbet bit his face was so sour and grum and to the right of the PM sat Nick Clegg who could hardly even look at the PM. He sat looking constantly to his right and away from the PM looking like he couldn’t even look at his child he was so disappointed in him.

Of course the likelihood is we (well I) are (am) looking far too deeply into this but you have to think that Nick Clegg is not a happy bunny. His body language screamed out that he wanted to be anywhere else but there. Is this because he had to postpone a holiday or is it in fact more to do with the fact that had David Cameron listened to his and Lord Ashdown’s rather strong advice to get rid of Andy Coulson then the government wouldn’t be under so much public pressure.

It is now well known that it was Andy Coulson himself who went to bat after the first Prime Ministers debate last year and planted the bad stories about Nick Clegg in the media. Coulson himself went out of his way to discredit Clegg personally more so than his party. A personal attack is never a good thing but considering the attack didn’t do enough to stop Clegg wielding the power of kingmaker it was a failure.

Clegg would have to go work with Coulson as Cameron refused to get rid of him. Now a year or so later Nick Clegg sits there able to look at David Cameron and tell him that he was wrong. The moment when the Deputy Prime Minister can look in the face of the PM and tell him that he made a mistake – a mistake that he had been warned about – the situation changes. Cameron himself now knows that Clegg is not a fool and has the upper-hand but privately – and publicly – on one big issue – the Murdoch’s/News International/Andy Coulson – and Cameron can’t do a damned thing about it.

The Tories can sense weakness in Cameron and the longer this story drags on – and it shows no sign of easing up any time soon – then the longer Cameron will be twisting in the wind wondering if his world will come crashing down around him. Suddenly it isn’t Chris Huhne who is the talk of the town. David Laws is a year removed from being a story. Vince Cable was proved right to want to attack the Murdoch Empire and Nick Clegg quietly sits watching from the sidelines unable to even glance at his boss.

Not that long ago Nick Clegg was derided by many but you just don’t hear people talking about him any more – and that my friends is a good thing. ‘No news is good news’ they say – well no news about Nick Clegg means that he’s not doing anything wrong and if he’s not doing anything wrong then he’s probably doing something right. Ed Miliband looks great and sounds great and I’ll grant him that but having an opposition within is a far bigger problem for Cameron at the moment. The Tory backbenchers are decidingly unhappy and then there is Nick Clegg and his pals. They were right all along and they don’t even have to gloat – Cameron knows it and for the PM – that is his biggest problem of all.

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July 20th, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Posted in Politics

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Nick Clegg making up lost ground with young voters

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A year or so ago Nick Clegg and his party was the voice of the young person. Ready to go into bat for them on the one issue that young people cared deeply about – themselves – and not paying for going to university. Then the coalition happened and tuition fees are shall we say not the Lib Dems finest hour. I still believe that the money would have been found from somewhere to fulfill one of our biggest policies had we recorded the stunning victory that the manifesto was written for but in coalition you can’t get everything – something I really do not believe a lot of people understand but that is another matter entirely.

Well unsurprisingly Clegg’s approval ratings have been in the tank for a long time but now there is a glimmer of hope. A post entitled Opinion Polls show Clegg leading Miliband with younger voters to get rid of this corruption shows a ComRes poll that on the face of it is typically bad for Clegg and the party but as the author shows if you look closely at the number you’ll see that in the 18-24 age ground Clegg is far more trusted than Ed Miliband (15% to 10% with DC on 17%) and in the 25-34 age range he is tied with Ed M (9% with DC on 25%). The fact that in every age range bar 65+ more than half of those asked did not trust any of the three major party leaders is rather depressingly but I’m not going to look into that in this post.

As I’ve banged on about before the likelihood of the Lib Dems winning an outright victory in the next 10-15 years is slim to none – the chances of a Liberal Democrat government are either a long-term goal or something spectacular has to happen. We saw that Iraq didn’t provide a spectacular moment so the likelihood of one happening is low. So it is about long-term aspirations and planning. If young people vote more for the Lib Dems than the other parties then as the young people grow older they’ll carry on voting LD and the young people reaching voting age will vote LD if we keep up being the champion of young people.

For the past 100 years or so people have been brought up with a straight choice – Labour or Conservative. The chances of taking lots of votes from dye in the wool Tories or Labour voters is low in all honesty. We have to continue to try and tell the electorate (and most notably young people) that there is a third way. Momentum is key in many things and politics is no different. Had Greece not collapsed when it did then I firmly believe the 2010 General Election would have seen the Lib Dems bring in 20-30 more MPs. Our pro-Europe stance and relaxed nature surrounding immegration scared some voters. Had Gordon Brown not called Gillian Duffy a bigot then he might well still be PM – or at least David Miliband would be.

Momentum is key but five years is a long time in politics. The Lib Dems can’t wash off the stain that is tuition fees but the stain can fade away. Some people will never trust us again but they are lost. Keep plugging away and trying to do the right thing and things will come good. The party nor Clegg are tainted in any way shape or form with Rupert Murdoch and News International. That will curry favour with people and will enhance our reputation as the clean party. If being clean and open about politics becomes a major factor then we’ll be in pole position to sweep up a lot of the floating voters.

So this poll whilst being encouraging in one way should be seen as a moment for us to look closely at ourselves. What are our ideals and goals. To me it is we want to give everyone a chance in life and a good start. Everyone deserves the opportunity to be the best person that they can be. Your background doesn’t matter. We are all human beings whether you are rich or poor, black or white and with no pre-concieved ideas for who we represent we aren’t pigeon holed in our ideals.

Younger people are naturally more utopian and enlightened. That is just the way the world is these days and they hold the key to the future. They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks and whilst that is true to some extent, what you can do is teach them that a fairer future for their kids and grandkids is the best legacy that you can leave them.

The Lib Dems to me shouldn’t care about buzzwords – i.e. bankers – and should concentrate on being fair and planning a future that is fairer for all – not just for one section of society – which is how the other two main parties see it. A kid from Buckinghamshire deserves as much of a chance at a future as a kid from Hackney. Money only does so much. If every school was as good as the next then that is fair. If every hospital was as good as the next then that is fair. A post-code lottery is not fair. If we can stand tall and keep to some of these basic principles of fairness for all then we’ll attract support from people who believe in that.

Some think that not representing a section of the electorate is a weak point. Whilst it might be today, tomorrow is another day. The world is changing and having a goal to represent one and all is a great one to have. The Lib Dems to the core believe that everyone deserves the same chance and that is way I am becoming firmer in my belief that this party needs the support from people like you and me.

People aren’t born losers. A baby is just born. Why one baby has a better chance to live a better life compared to another makes me oh so incredibly sad. It may be a hard goal to aspire to but what is the point of not setting that goal high? The gap between the have’s and have not’s is far too high and it is far too unfair. That is what I think we stand for and that is why I hope (and this poll shows) that despite a setback that we can win over the utopian idealists that are young people.

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July 20th, 2011 at 10:21 am

Posted in Politics

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Rebecca Black’s New Single – My Moment Video

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Following on from her debut single ‘Friday’, Rebecca Black is releasing her second single entitled ‘My Moment’ in the near future and the video has been put on YouTube. I have to admit that I was partial to Friday and I actually don’t mind this tune. I feel a lot for her and the stick that she has got around the world but heck she’s fighting and with over 400,000 twitter followers she is certainly taking her chance to make a career for herself.

So please listen to the single and watch the video for her new single. It’s not bad. It’s not great but it’s not bad and that I think is a result for Miss Rebecca Black.

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July 19th, 2011 at 12:15 pm

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BCCI dig heels in over DRS and the more they do – the more they ruin cricket.

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I get more and more annoyed with the BCCI. They are trying to ruin the game of Cricket by forcing the ICC to change the DRS system and with the first test between England and India starting on Thursday it has come out that umpires will be making all lbw decisions without any technological help No hawk-eye, no hot-spot or even the tramlines on screen to help the third umpire see where the ball pitched and struck a batsman.

Basically it is completely down to the umpires and whilst umpiring has become much better in recent years – a lot of that is down to the DRS allowing umpires to go more with their gut knowing that they could overturn a decision if wrong. It has increased the correct decisions to 97-98% instead of 92-94% that is was before.

I must say that I love DRS and all the technology that cricket has been using for the past few years. The one thing that doesn’t work is catches and the foreshortening of the lens when they go to replay. Players know instinctively whether they have caught the ball or not and players/umpires need to rely on what the catcher says unless the replay shows and obvious lie from the player – i.e the video below when Philip Hughes claimed a catch off Alistair Cook despite the fact he knew it didn’t carry.

There was an incident in the T20 at Chelmsford the other night when Scott Styris caught a Kent batsman – I think it was Darren Stevens – at third man with a wonderful tumbling catch. It was a catch but the players refused to take Styris’ word for it and the replays showed some doubt in the eyes of the third umpire and it was given not out. I know it was out – I know it was a good catch. Anyone who had played cricket to any standard knows a good catch when they see it but the onus as the rules are written are that the third umpire has to be 100% sure – not 99% sure of a catch. This is the only way when in my opinion technology harms the sport.

With no DRS we’d have no reversal of big obvious errors like the video below when Michael Clarke hit the cover off the ball to short leg and didn’t walk and was not given out by the umpire.

To sum up the BCCI’s stubborness is a disgrace and the way the ICC is cow-towing to it sickens me. I can’t wait until the great Sachin Tendaulkar is in his 90s at Lords and gets given out on an absolute shocker that TV replays would overturn. I wonder what they’ll be saying then and also I have a sneaky feeling a lot of cricket fans around the world will be hoping for the same.

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July 19th, 2011 at 12:08 pm

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Prison isn’t the be all and end all. Here are a couple of alternatives.

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The Charlie Gilmour sentence of 16 months has caused quite a stir amongst the blogosphere in the past few days, with both sides of the debate having their say. Some believe that the sentence is overly harsh and some believe that it is justified due to what he did. I wrote the other day that I didn’t write that the sentence was harsh but I did question whether it was right to send him to prison. I didn’t see the pros of this course of action but I don’t think prison works – and for certain people and for certain crimes I think prison is without a shadow of a doubt the wrong way to deal with the issue.

I’m not some softie liberal who is soft on crime. I think everyone should very much be called to account for their actions. However I do believe that prison should be reserved for dangerous people to protect the community from them. There are so many ways we could deal with criminals without just locking them up and not thinking about it.

Firstly why not deal with some sections of criminals by offering them the choice of prison or a 2-4 stint in the armed forces? The Army, Navy and Air Force are always in need of recruits and some of these people (I’m thinking more of the younger person here who needs a bit of discipline and guidance to get their lives back on track). So many people get into trouble and they dn’t know why. So many people are angry and they don’t know why. Lobbing them in prison does very little to deal with this anger and the more they are told they are on the wrong side of society then the more they’ll act like it. Hiding troublemakers away inside does nothing to deal with their anger and only hardens their beliefs.

Secondly – and this is something I am very passionate about – there are so many crimes that can be dealt with by stronger and harsher community service orders. There are 1000s of projects up and down the country that need volunteers and why not strong-arm certain non-dangerous criminals into being part of this. For example if someone was found guilty of fraud then what is a better way to deal with this person – a couple of years inside or a couple of years working full-time in a not for profit ‘job’ aka two years of community service?

First of all it would cost the tax payer far less (I foresee these people living in halfway houses where they are housed and fed and given a very basic stipend linked to how many hours they work) and secondly it would directly benefit the community which they had taken from when committing their crime. Also I’m not saying a few hours here and a few hours there, I’m proposing 48 hour weeks. Communities can request certain things they want and it can be managed so that these people can do those jobs. Whether it be cleaning up a park or river bank or working in a charitable shop or providing free labour for an extension of a railway track. The army of community service people can take on huge projects that council’s cannot afford at the moment.

This would provide extra facilities for the community and it would also make the punishment for their crimes extremely visible. Hiding criminals away doesn’t shame criminals and I believe that shame and embarrassment are an important part of the process. This process will do that but it will also give these people a sense of purpose and a feeling that they have truly settled their debt to society and not just sat inside for a few months.

Of course certain crimes and criminals need to be punished by going behind bars for a long time as they need to as to protect the public. However there are many crimes that can be dealt with this way. Whilst they wouldn’t be inside they would live in halfway houses where they would be monitored closely and wouldn’t be able to run a muck. They would be giving back and paying back their debt directly to the community instead of us paying their debt by paying for them to be locked up.

My good friend Kel-Marie over on her blog Political Parry firstly called me young, which I quite liked despite the fact that I am older than her but secondly said that crime isn’t just about causing physical harm to someone. This I agree with but I also think those that are involved in non-violent crimes do not have to be dealt with one-way. Our justice system should not be a ‘one size fits all’ system. It needs to be broad and take everything into account. No two crimes and no two criminals are the same – to judge crimes and criminals identically is not right and is not far, not only for the criminal but also for the victims.

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July 18th, 2011 at 10:41 am

Posted in Politics

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Six Nations to remain on the BBC through 2016

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The Rambles of Neil Monnery understands that the RFU and the BBC have agreed in principle to a deal that will see all 15 games of the Six Nations tournament remain live on the BBC in the United Kingdom. The deal could be announced any day now and it is expected the deal will be the final nail in the coffin of the BBC’s Formula One rights, which run out after the 2013 season.

The BBC are paying £40million a year under the terms of the present deal but as we understand it the BBC will be paying less this time around – by possibly up to £10million a year to retain the rights. The RFU were keen to maximise their revenue but still keep games on Free To Air TV.

ITV had a lot of interest in taking on the contract but when their plans for games to be on Friday Nights and Saturday Evenings the RFU were less than keen. Both sides were believed to be willing to pay broadly the same so the decision was to keep with the same broadcast partner for the tournament, which will see the competitions stay with the most watched channel in the UK run to 14 years.

With the widespread belief that one of the big four sport TV contracts would have to go from the BBC, this news should it be confirmed will see the likelihood of Formula 1 moving to Channel Four or Five.tv rise to a significant extent. Both stations are said to be very interested in the year-long circus. ITV are said to be interested more in taking the Premier League highlights, which are also up for grabs but the BBC are expected to keep them and Wimbledon will not be leaving the BBC any time soon.

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July 17th, 2011 at 3:35 pm

Posted in Other Sport

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Rebekah Brooks arrested. Big deal, small deal or no deal at all?

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So whilst sitting on Southend Central Railway Platform 2 this lunchtime with the rain lashing down I check twitter on the iPhone and Rebekah Brooks had been arrested. Twitter was full of joyful overtones. However when these people put brains in gear they’ll understand that this arrest was a) always going to happen and importantly b) the timing was highly questionable to say the least.

The timing – by appointment – on a Sunday is not standard procedure at all. Also the arrest coming two days before she was meant to face questioning before the Select Committee over phone hacking puts that appearance in both major jeaopary and even if she does turn up the questions she can answer will now be severely limited.

The arrest by itself is no deal at all. We all knew that she would be arrested at some point. People need to remember that being arrested, being charged and being convicted of any crime are three very very very different things entirely.

The only deal about this is the timing. The timing is extremely interesting and the Met need to come out and explain the timing quick sharpish or the conspiracy theorists will have a field day – and the way the public think at the moment the conspiracy theorists will be given the time of day by the Great British public.

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July 17th, 2011 at 1:04 pm

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John Terry kicks a player in the neck. Nice one John…

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Please watch the above.

Now I know I’m not exactly a John Terry guy but I will say he is a good no nonsense defender but why on Earth is he making a challenge like that in a Pre-Season Friendly? Why?

If someone can give me a good reason then I’d be delighted.

However until then I’ll just sit here and shake my head at the sheer stupidly and thuggishness of the man. The England Captain no less…

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July 16th, 2011 at 11:18 pm

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Charlie Gilmour sentenced to 16 months in prison but what good will that honestly do?

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The son of the Pink Floyd guitarist will not be returning to university in the autumn to continue his History degree at Cambridge. Instead he’ll be looking out from behind bars as he has been sentenced to 16 months inside for violent disorder during the student protests last year.

Now I really do not know how I feel about this. Is jail really going to stop him doing anything like this again? No it’s not. He’s not going to be doing anything like this again anyway. So is it a just punishment for the crime? Well that is debatable. Wouldn’t it be better if instead of spending a year or so inside he was forced to work unpaid for a year within a charity or charitable foundation where he could do some good?

Whether it be in the UK or overseas I’m fine either way. I just don’t think prison suits every crime but the boy has already clearly learned his lesson and prison will not do anything but punish him. The public will not be kept safe from him as he’s not a danger to the public.

It is cases like these that make me wish Ken Clarke was allowed to fully take control of the justice department and not have to react to knee-jerk public reactions. I think Ken Clarke could do a fantastic job in changing the culture of crime in this country but until we change the philosophy of how we deal with crime we’ll never get anywhere.

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July 15th, 2011 at 11:04 am

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