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Month: September 2011

My Liberal Democrat Conference Experience

I arrived in Birmingham at around half two on Friday and was leaving Birmingham at around half one on Sunday. So I was there for 47 hours but how was it?

Getting off the train at Birmingham New Street my mind sharply returned to the last time I was at that railway station. It was the spring of 2003 and there was a girl involved. That is all I’m saying but she was nice however the previous night she had met someone else and that as they say turned out to be that.

I found my hotel despite going the wrong way out of New Street station and checked in after a 20 minute wait because three old women were busy trying to book their Christmas Dinner meal for December 4th. Seriously women is it that important that you need to sort it out on September 16? Annoying. I got into my room and found out what to expect from a 3* hotel. Clean and decent but nothing special. It had a TV that wasn’t widescreen. That stunned me.

I changed my top as it was wringing with sweat and put on another hoody and headed up to go through accreditation. I sailed through. The police were happy enough to let me in although the police officer managed to lose my passport. What a tit. Luckily it was found and handed in at reception. I was going through accreditation at the same time as all the workers at the ICC and due to the fact my details were already on file I was in and out within half an hour. They weren’t so lucky.

Following this I strolled back to the hotel and then I was out again trying to meet up with a couple of twitter people but I couldn’t find them but I had a backup plan. Whilst en route to try and meet them I was accosted by a prostitute asking if I wasn’t to use her sexual services. I declined. Politely. So I went to watch The Inbetweeners which I thought was a decent movie. There was a couple on a date behind me and I was totally enamoured with the lasses accent. I think it is fair to say that I am an accent man and the Brummie accent is first rate. I went back to the hotel and blogged and got some sleep.

On Saturday I watched both rugby games before meeting up with Zadok Day for some lunch. Well I say lunch – I had a muffin. After that I made my way up to the ICC and bumped into Peter Welch who was the PCC round here last May. Luckily he took me under his wing as I knew no-one and I’m very grateful to him for that. There was a vote on something that people seemed really riled up about. In the evening there was the rally which basically was full of terrible jokes that made my soul cry whilst I was busy following Penn State’s game at Temple on twitter. I saw Kelly-Marie Blundell and told her that I was sitting near her making me sound like a creepy stalker.

I went to the East of England event and met several people including Andy Strange who was the ‘face of Liberal Democrat defeat’ in May. At least he has some fame. Then I popped over to the Lib Dem Voice Blog of the Year awards where I was up for a couple of gongs. I won neither but such is life. I met a few bloggers but sadly didn’t catch up with Jennie Rigg. That disappointed me (as did not properly catching up with Kelly) as I have had interesting conversations with both so it would have been good. Next time. Next time…

Then I met Matthew Gibson and Helen Duffett and proceeded to talk with them for the evening. Matthew was grilling Helen and making her think very deeply about many things. That guy would be a very interesting interviewer. I walked home at about three in the morning and by the time I’d unwound after the two mile walk home it must have been five. I’d wake up at around eight for the main reason I had made a last minute decision to go up to Conference – interviewing Nick Clegg.

The interview is up for all to see and not much more to add. It was a great experience and hopefully between the four of us we have given some insight to various Lib Dem policies and to how Nick Clegg thinks. After the interview I headed off back to the hotel which I’d checked out of but left my bags there and made the three minute walk to New Street. A train to London was leaving not four minutes later and I hopped on.

It took 1h20m to get from Birmingham New Street to London Euston and 50 minutes to get from Euston to Liverpool Street. Seriously Boris? Seriously? Weekend tube is disgraceful. C2C doesn’t get let off either as because the line was up I had to take the Southend Victoria line home. I got home just after half five and very quickly weighed myself. Three days of no food plus lots of walking = 4lbs of lost weight. Result.

So overall a whirlwind experience for me. Very exciting and next time I really need to plan it properly. Interviewing Nick Clegg was fantastic and meeting those who I did was enjoyable too. It was a shame I didn’t meet half as many people as I’d have liked to though. Also perhaps most importantly I remembered just how much I loved the Brummie accent. I also love the Preston accent and the Geordie accent but the Brummie one may be right at the top. Not sure if that’s a bigger story than meeting Nick Clegg but still…

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Nadine Dorries tells us all exactly what she wants from this government

Our favourite Tory MP Nadine Dorries is back again for more. She’s been rather busy blogging during the Liberal Democrat Conference. Mostly showing off her inferiority complex about the Lib Dems who are being all mean and pushing her party about and I have a sense that she’s not to fond of that. However she has published her wants or mottos of whatever you want to call them. That’s look at them one by one:

Nadine Dorries wants a referendum on EU membership very soon, to stop right now sending English £s to support failing European economies,

First of all she’s writing in the third person. Only pretentious dickheads like myself do that. Bad Nadine. Bad. Secondly a referendum isn’t the worse thing in the world although it would isolate our economy and harm millions of jobs if we were to pull out of the EU. As for supporting failing European economies as we are not in the Euro our financial help is certainly limited although if these economies do collapse we will feel the pinch. We don’t live in a bubble where overseas factors don’t influence our economy. If you think that then you must be really dumb and clearly slept through the whole of 2007.

to introduce a Bill of Rights, to scrap the Human Rights Act,

Yeah I don’t get why some Tories are against the Human Rights Act. It’s kinda y’know a quite awesome piece of legislation.

to lower overall taxation in order to stimulate growth,

Lower taxes are good. No brainer there.

to cut harder and faster on public services in order to reduce spending,

You can’t cut too fast nor hard. There has to be a balance. The powers that be seem to be walking a tightrope at the moment but the credit rating is still right at the very top and not everything has been cut. Just because Nadine Dorries doesn’t need to use her local library or has any need to rely on such service as Meals on Wheels not everyone else has that luxury. Like many se clearly doesn’t see the real world and only her own and that is a failing on her part

to bring the upper limit at which abortion takes place down to 20 weeks,

If the doctors say a baby doesn’t feel anything until 24 weeks then I’m happy to go with the doctors but in all honesty I’m not entrenched in any position on this. If the threshold was brought down to 20 weeks then I wouldn’t oppose that as long as a previso was added in rape cases and in cases where the mother is in physical; peril carrying the child. In those instances time limits need to be off.

to remove Local Authority control over education,

*shrug* I can see both sides to this story. It will be interesting to see how the so called ‘Free’ schools develop.

to free the NHS from Whitehall and to open up free market provision within the NHS,

No, No, No, No, No, No, No. In case you aren’t down with what I’m saying – no. The NHS is a service that we all pay into using our taxes and it should not be used as a for-profit venture by anyone. We are all entitled to the best health care possible and opening that up to private companies looking for a fast buck or two would be detrimental to the National Health Service and the public at large. So no.

to dramatically reduce inward immigration,

No, No, No etc… What is wrong with foreigners coming over here to work? What is wrong with us going overseas to work? We are all living on one big planet and we should be able to live and work where we see fit. Immigration isn’t going down unless we leave the EU and that isn’t happening any time soon so alas Nadine you are going to fall short on that one.

to embrace our special relationship with the USA,

The same USA whose economy is in the tank? Do you just want to stand around looking all important with the so called ‘leader of the free world’? The USA is an important economy but our ties are clearly greater with Europe. Geographically and historically. The USA are like that ex we still have feelings for but it’s better that we remain ‘just good friends’ for now.

to make prison mean hard work and life to mean life,

I agree prison should not be easy and that life should mean life. However I do not believe that under these circumstances judges would hand out very many life sentences.

to increase our defence budget and support our troops,

So you are saying you think we are going to get entangled in some more wars in the near future? I hope not. Supporting our troops is important but so are many things.

and she belives green taxes are damaging to elderly people who can barely afford to heat their homes. (sic)

Not one full stop until the very end and a misspelling of believes. I’d be embarrassed if I were her. I expect my MPs to be able to spell and use a spell-check. Green taxes are important. I know Nadine couldn’t give an expletive about the planet after she dies but some of us aren’t as selfish as she is. The rise in energy costs are due to the fact that all the oil and gas isn’t under us so we need to pipe it in and if those who own it decide to put up their prices then there isn’t anything we can do about that. Investing in green energy sources in the UK will lead to us being less dependent on external matter with regards to powering our homes but of course you need a fully functioning brain to understand that and…yeah.

So there we go. That is how Nadine Dorries sees the world. Pretty worrying huh?

Originally produced over at the blog of Nadine Dorries

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On Monday a kid from the slums became statistically the greatest ever

On late Monday afternoon EST a 41 year-old man finally stood alone as the greatest sportsman of his position in his sport. People will argue forever about who the greatest football player was, some will say Pelé, some with say Maradona and some will even say George Best. There is an argument for all three. Same with every other sport. It is one of the greatest things about sport that you can have these different viewpoints but in one sport one man stands so alone at the top of his tree that even the harshest critics from the bitter rivals concede that there is no debate. That man is New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera.

Recording that 602nd save made him statistically the greatest ever but everyone knew he was the greatest many years ago. His 42 postseason saves compared with a 0.71 ERA said everything.

Rivera grew up in a small fishing town in Panama called Puerto Caimito. He dreamed of being a professional football player but a series of injuries to his ankle put pay to those dreams. He used to play baseball with a milk carton as a glove and balls made out of fishing net. He came from a background so poor that the realities of what would await his future would be so stark to what was expected that it must have been nearly impossible to comprehend.

At the age of 17 he was playing shortstop and was passed on by scouts but a year later he pitched and a scout from the New York Yankees saw something in him. He described Rivera as ‘extremely raw’ but he saw something. He would sign for $3,000 which is absolute peanuts in the baseball world and he’d move to the States to start a career playing baseball. He took his time moving up through the minor leagues before setting up for John Wetteland in 1996 as his big break. He had nearly been traded twice by the Yankees but a radar gun showing of 96 MPH saved his bacon. He had heat and was lights out. He would go on to become the closer for the Yankees in 1997 and that is when everything changed.

‘It was a gift from God’ he would be quoted for years as saying. In 1997 Rivera was playing catch with follow Yankee Ramiro Mendoza when he picked up a ball and tried out a new grip. He threw the ball towards Mendoza and it moved wildly. Mendoza threw the ball back and he did it again, and again, and again. This day Mariano Rivera discovered his cut-fastball and baseball would never be the same. Not just for Rivera or for the Yankees but the whole of the sport.

Here as I write in 2011 Rivera still only throw one pitch – the cut-fastball. Every opposing hitter knows what he coming. He makes no pretence to throw anything else but still no-one can hit it. The pitch bores in on lefties and righties give up on it. Bats break and outs are recorded. This man has become the greatest relief pitcher of all time with no debate by throwing one single pitch time and time again which no-one can hit.

He has been nicknamed ‘The Hammer of God’ and nobody questions his position as Greatest of All Time. that is quite something for a kid from a small fishing port on the Panamanian coast. It just goes to show us all that if you have that drive and determination then you can be anything that you aspire to be. You can full the full video of Mariano Rivera’s 602nd save behind the link and the only thing that was wrong about the whole situation was that the first person to congratulate him was #55 and not #20. It should have been Jorge Posada behind the plate on Monday for that 9th inning but I suppose that is a moot point.

Mariano Rivera is the greatest there is and I would guess probably the greatest there ever will be. They are some accolades but they aren’t undeserving. He continues to be the greatest even as he approaches his 42nd birthday. Whether it was a gift from God or just dumb luck he found that grip and that pitch the results are the same. A small skinny kid from the slums grew up to become the greatest player ever in his position in the sport of baseball. I think there is a lesson in this story for all of us when we complain about just how hard life is…

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‘I think about saying sorry every day’ – The Nick Clegg Interview

Not many things can tear me away from a weekend of sporting action on the tellybox but when I was asked if I wanted to interview Nick Clegg my diary suddenly became very clear. 58 hours later I found myself in a nice suite up at the ICC in Birmingham where the Lib Dem Conference was being held. Plenty of people wearing a suit or a shirt and tie or at least a shirt and then me. In the photo below I don’t think I’ll actually be that hard to spot. Looking back it feels as though they’ve let through some ruffian through and he was so stealthy no-one noticed until it was too late.

Nick Clegg, The Lib Dem Bloggers & Helen Duffett
Nick Clegg, The Lib Dem Bloggers & Helen Duffett

We were there to interview the most powerful Liberal Democrat of all time. Having been formed in 1988 the party had never seen a sniff of government but despite what most observers believed was a poor result in May of 2010 the party finally had some influence. It’s leader a man whose rise to prominence caught many both in the party and the media off guard. The Lib Dems were planning on making Vince Cable as much of a face for the campaign in 2010 as Nick Clegg but that first TV performance at the debates coupled along with the rise in the polls that caught almost everyone off guard and Nick Clegg was firmly the horse the party was riding – either to success or to failure.

I arrive with fellow Blog of the Year candidate Matthew Gibson to see the winner Nick Thornsby and Lib Dem Voice co-editor and Liberal Democrat Internal Communications Manager Helen Duffett already waiting in the suite. We were a few minutes early and a glass of water was poured all around and I take some sips and compose myself. Suddenly in walks the Deputy Prime Minister and handshakes all round. The first thing you notice about him is that he is full of vigour and seems in an extremely chipper mood. He pours himself a glass of water but I don’t think he touched it after that. We await the Best New Blogger Richard Morris who arrives on time and we start after a series of bad puns about Richard’s BOTY award.

Nick asks how long we have and is informed 40 minutes and says ‘Great’ and we start. Nick Thornsby goes first but within moments the mobile phone of the DPM goes and he looks quizzically at it and asks if it is ok to answer. It clearly is and he does so only to find out that it is his wife ringing on a different number to usual. After he hangs up he looks at the phone quizzically and inputs that new number for his wife into his phone. We all kid that this is the type of story the Daily Mail would love and we carry on.

I know I have a couple of topics that I want to cover and I get them in during the forty minute session. One of those is whether he ever asks himself if all the vitriol he gets is worth it. He is a man so vilified by not only the media but by so many of the electorate. He is steely in his response and slightly dismissive like it was an obvious answer. He replies ‘undoubtedly yes’ and starts talking about the fact that he never reads the papers any more as he knows it is most likely not going be paint him in a good light. He says that as long as you know why you are doing something then you don’t question yourself. His inner belief in the coalition is clear and the man sitting a few feet in front of me is certainly no shrinking violet or puppy dog to David Cameron. Anyone who spends even a few minutes talking to Nick Clegg would straight away dismiss the notion that he is Cameron’s lackey.

I continue and ask him why he carries on. I know personally I would find it hard to be so disliked by so many people even if I believed I was doing the right thing. He says ‘I think it’s worth it’ but when I bring up his family as a reason for jacking it all in it becomes apparent that this isn’t some power-crazed monster that some have portrayed him of being. He speaks with pure love and dedication about his boys. Without saying it outright I think it is clear that whatever happens and whatever his feelings are for the country as a whole he would never do anything that would jeopardise the quality of life or the future of his sons. He doesn’t worry about his wife as she can ‘look after herself’ but he does everything within his power to shield his kids from the public spotlight.

Two year-old Miguel doesn’t really know about his father’s day job but nine year-old Antonio and Alberto aged seven certainly do. However they unsurprisingly care far more about the Wolves v QPR match and going for a kick-about than they do what everyone is saying about their dad. In a world were some politicians will sell out their family to look good I find it most admirable that Nick Clegg will do anything but. He is not a believer in God but his wife is and the kids are raised Catholic like their mother. This has been played out in certain newspapers as a big deal but it is not. Clegg’s love and devotion to both his wife and sons simply shines through. The whole of the interview he is talking with passion and enthusiasm but for the brief minute or so his kids came up in conversation he changed, sat back in his chair and spoke with his heart instead of his head.

Earlier I had asked him about whether he had betrayed the electorate and when was he going to apologise for doing so. I noted that if you have a fight with your wife you don’t just buy her some flowers and take her out for a nice meal, you say sorry and the healing process can begin. He breaks down the answer into two. Firstly he doesn’t feel as though he has betrayed anyone by forming a coalition with the Conservative Party. He is clear and adamant on this. He believes that by forming the coalition he not only secured a more liberal government implementing more of the Liberal Democrat manifesto than I think anyone expected but he also kept the banking crisis from becoming a total crash. The markets were on the brink and any form of minority government could and probably would have been enough to send the markets over the edge.

Nick Clegg Neil Monnery
Nick Clegg tells me he thinks about saying sorry every day.

On the other side of betrayal though he knows he has made a mistake that is deep and cutting. ‘I think about saying sorry every day’ says the Deputy Prime Minister about signing the tuition fees pledge. ‘I am a human being’ he pleads, ‘blood pumps around my body’. It is something that is still clearly haunting him and is something that will continue to do until he gets that outright apology off of his chest. The question is can he live with that gnawing away at him from now until the end of time or will the guilt overwhelm him and force him into an apology?

He doesn’t think he can openly say sorry because people will retort ‘well you were in Government so you could not have done it’ and that it would do no good. I got the sense that he deep down wanted to apologise but either he thinks – or his advisers think – that is just wouldn’t be credible. The signing of the NUS tuitions fees pledge was by far the worst decision the party has ever made under Nick Clegg’s leadership. It put the party in a position where if they formed a coalition – which was always looking likely – they would either make the tuition fees a draw a line in the sand issue or they would have to go against the pledge that they signed.

With the way the economy was on the brink there were bigger stakes at play that scraping of tuition fees and Clegg had little option but to take the flak that came his way on this. Not only flak but personal taunts and his reputation sinking to the level reserved for those who so reviled that walking down the street without an obscene remark being hurled was something to rejoice. For a long time he has been seen as toxic not only by the opposition and the media but also by the rank and file members of his own party. A large chunk of these people blame him for not doing better in 2010 and certainly for the downturn in their fortunes politically. They feel embarrassed when they go out on the doorstep canvassing. The DPM concedes that the party are now not the loveable idealists that used to at worse face ‘a look of indifference’ at the doorstep. Now many despise the party for what they perceive as acts of betrayal to students and families. Being a Lib Dem is not easy but he does believe the situation is recoverable. If he didn’t then he wouldn’t still be doing what he is doing.

He openly says that there are ‘lots of things we are doing I would rather we weren’t’ and that ‘it’s been bad’ when asked about the reaction on the doorstep in the past sixteen months or so. He firmly believes though that once the activists stop licking their wounds and go out there proud to be a Lib Dem and not just embarrassed then things can and will turn around, ‘Face-to-Face action works’ he says with an added verve of determination.

Our time comes to an end and we have a group photo and shake hands and we wander out into the corridor and gossip. We all sense it went well but none of the traps anyone set for him were sprung. I came away with not only a sense but an deep grasp and understanding that he was the right man to lead this party at this time and for the foreseeable future.

Whilst we are from extremely different backgrounds our grasp of what is right and wrong are eerily similar. Our politics could only be split by hairs. He thinks that everyone deserves the same opportunities in life and that starts with education. It shouldn’t matter if mummy or daddy are wealthy or whether they are from a council estate and don’t know either of their birth parents and are being brought up in care. Everyone deserves the same chance at life.

Nick Clegg has everything you need to have to be one of the greatest voices for liberals ever seen around the globe. He has a sense of drive, passion and commitment like no other person I have ever come across in any form of life. He firmly believes with everything he has that he is doing the right thing. Not only that but he also has a family that he deeply loves and supports him. They keep him grounded and the fact he walks his kids to school and plays with them in the back garden I think is something we should all applaud. He is a man with so much on his plate that Joey Chestnut and Takeru Kobayashi together couldn’t eat it all. Yet he remains upbeat and determined to carry on making things fairer for all even if it means pain for him personally.

The media will not break him and I got the sense that he’d stand in the stocks for an hour every day on the village green having rotten fruit chucked at him if it led to a fairer society. I think it is fair to say that I had high hopes for meeting him and he may have even exceeded them. He can be a true great when all is said and done but I do genuinely believe that at some point he needs to say sorry and allow the healing process to start. Everyone can forgive and when you get them to understand why you couldn’t make tuition fees the draw a line in the sand topic then they will forgive.

My biggest fear is that by not apologising for one catastrophic mistake that he will not be able to continue his good work beyond 2015 because if he’s unable to lead the Lib Dems to victory or into a coalition in 2015 then the country will be poorer for it – and that my friends is not something that we want to happen.

All Photos courtesy and copyright of Helen Duffett

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#LDBOTY and we went 0/2

First of all thank you to those that nominated me for Best Post on a Liberal Democrat Blog and for Lib Dem Blog of the Year at the Lib Dem Blog of the Year Awards organised by Lib Dem Voice. As the title will hint we struck out both times missing out to Tory Boy Throws Toys Out of Pram: Not Exactly ‘Man Bites Dog’ by Alex Wilcock and Nick Thornsby’s Blog by unsurprisingly Nick Thornsby respectively and well done to them both.

It was an honour and a shock to make it to the shortlist – certainly for the big boy – but it’s just nice to know that the odd person reads this. I spoke a lot with I think the other finalist who wasn’t that well known – Matthew Gibson of Solution Focused Politics last night. I think it’s fair to say that he wasn’t well known due to the fact we were both stunned to be nominated and the fact last years winner even said he had never heard of two of the four finalists and it’s highly unlikely Caron or Nick are unknown…

So yes we were talking last night and I think you’ll be hearing a lot more about him. His blog has a point and I think his readership will one day soon hit that tipping point where he’s very well known. Had I been on the voting panel I would have voted for him and that’s not me saying that after meeting him. I think the general consensus in the room (and online) is that Caron Lindsay should have won for her blog Caron’s Musings and whilst it is on the top level of Lib Dem Blogs I just thought Matthew brought something different to the table. Having said that I did think she’d win. She was the bookies runaway favourite.

I must admit in the other category where I had eyed up/researched/frantically stalked on Saturday AM I had The humiliation of the Yes campaign by Liberal Vision/Angela Harbutt winning. I thought that wasn’t just a great bit of blogging but a fine piece of opinion based journalism. So I went 0/2 not only personally but in predictions for who would win. That might be more annoying.

The only one I got was Political Betting by Mike Smithson. So a 1/6 success rate for 16.67% – that’s pretty shocking I must say. Congratulations to all for being nominated and short-listed. I hope on a personal level my blog inspires and makes people think just like many of the other blogs out there both inspire and makes my brain cogs do some work.

Blogging is a labour of love and whilst some of us aren’t openly vein I don’t think it’s a huge shock to hear that deep down the more people read the more we feel we can put into our work. So any recognition only goes to fuel our fires to keep blogging and making our tiny pieces of the blogosphere the best it can be. Well that’s how I see it anyway.

Ok time to upload and log off, pack and check out of my hotel. I will be up at the ICC this morning before heading back home at lunch. It was good to meet those that I did. Those that I didn’t it would have been good I’m sure. I shall once again go back to my lurking in the shadows and blogging about whatever enters what the Ancients would call the Fron.

Enjoy the rest of conference folks!

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The Inbetweeners movie may have been a comedy but it also hit home

Following on from the previous post I thought I’d blog about my evening. I was trying to meet up with fellow Lib Dem Conference folk who arrived today but couldn’t find them but I had a fall back option. Before I tell you what that was I’ll let you know that up by the conference venue I was accosted by a prostitute who asked me if I wasn’t to indulge in any sexual services. I politely declined. So just putting the warning out there folks that the prostitutes are in town thinking that they can make some money from the influx of people into town. On the other side of the ledger if you want to get your end away it shouldn’t be hard.

So instead of partaking in sexual activities with a lady of the night I instead went to the Odeon across from my hotel and saw The Inbetweeners movie. It wasn’t as funny as I’d hoped but it was a feel good movie. I’m not an inbetweener anymore. I am well and truly a young adult moving with speed towards middle age. The big 3-0 will be here before I know it.

My private life is shall we say not flowing with feel good stories but someone in the movie – I forget who – said the following and as I sat there sipping on my large but also largely watered down Pepsi it reverberated around my brain. ‘You can’t know what you want until you know who you are’ and boom. Brain cogs went ticking.

I have never known what I wanted in my private life. Not really. I have heard many a person say that they know my type but considering I have no idea what my type is I find it unlikely that anyone else does. All I think I know is I’m not attracted to anyone who doesn’t challenge me mentally and I despise racists. I think in my 28+ years on this planet that is about as far as I’ve got to understanding myself and what I want. Oh you can add someone who is strong-minded to that.

Where am I going with all this? I suppose I’m just telling myself that I will never settle that part of my life until I know who I am. It has taken me a long time to even get this far to be comfortable in my own skin. I’m getting there. Someday someone will love me for who I am and I shall love someone. Until that day though I’ll be fine but whilst I’m not eager to find that person I am interested to see what she’ll be like. I can’t wait to find out who’ll love me and who I’ll love because honestly I am sitting up in this hotel room and I have no idea what type of woman that’ll be and that my friends is the thing that intrigues me most.

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Blog of the Year Awards – Somehow I’m up for a couple

So here I am. I am sitting in a hotel room in Birmingham on my own watching whatever crap that is on my TV that doesn’t get many channels. 24 hours ago I was in bed at home and I had zero plans to be here but things change.

Just after midnight last night I was informed that I was up for Lib Dem Blog of the Year and that it would be great if I could make it up to the star-fuelled glitter black tie event that is the ceremony. I may have added in some adjectives in there that might not be strictly accurate. I read that it was at 10AM whereas it was in fact at 10PM. Bit of a fail as I probably could have travelled up tomorrow but hey I got through accreditation. Thank you police for allowing me into the Lib Dem Conference.

So I have a weekend pass but I may or may not be at the conference tomorrow as I have a long-time friend I haven’t seen in an age who lives up here so trying to find a time to catch up. I will be around on Sunday for sure but depending on how tired I am I may head back after lunch.

Anyway back to the Lib Dem Blog of the Year shortlist for this waffle. I must say I was stunned. Absolutely stunned. I don’t see myself in the upper echelons of the Lib Dem blogosphere. I love Matthew Gibson’s blog and we all know how great Caron Lindsay’s is. I will admit I haven’t read much of Nick Thornsby’s but when I go downstairs to upload this blog I will have a peruse (yeah no wi-fi in rooms but apparently there is down in the lobby).

It is a great honour that the judging panel saw enough in me to shortlist me. As I said it is a stunner. I expressed on Caron’s Facebook earlier that I felt like that movie that was seen by about thirty people, that somehow ended up in the Best Film category at the Oscars. I’m not being humble for the sake of it. I truly believe this. What is does do is spur me on to continue blogging and try to improve whatever I do.

But that was not the end of it. I also made it onto another shortlist. I am also up for ‘Best Blog Post on a Lib Dem Blog’ for my article on Ken Clarke and the hysteria regarding his rape comments in the social media – primarily on twitter. Another great honour and this one I can at least understand as I got a lot of terrific feedback on the blog post and I knew it was the post that in a way announced me to the blogosphere. I had been around for several months but it wasn’t until that blog post that I think people noticed my inane witterings.

I should get round to summing this up. This has become waffly as usual. Totally shocked but proud to be shortlisted for both awards. There are some amazing bloggers out there – truly amazing and I feel that as a party we produce some of the most thought-provoking blogs out there and that is something we can all be proud of.

I shall see you at the awards ceremony. I won’t be in a bow tie…

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Cristina Odone, Johann Hari, the Catholic Herald and the lies about P45s…

Update 06/01/13: Cristina’s husband has e-mailed me to say that the quote in The Independent screen-capped below is incorrect and that she was not fired from the Catholic Herald. The story in The Independent has since the original writing of this blog been removed from their website. I see no reason not to take him at his word and therefore please disregard the premise of this post and take it that Cristina Odone was not fired from the Catholic Herald at any point.

I’ll leave the original post up as an example that you apparently can’t even trust a national newspaper.

This blog post was written in good faith using what appeared to be direct quotes from the same person that contradicted one another. If anyone felt any distress from this post then please accept my apologies.

Everyone is lumping on to Johann Hari and let’s not beat around the bush here a lot of it is very much fair as he has been a pretty shoddy journalist and a proven liar and you could even say a pretty shoddy person ethically and morally. However when Cristina Odone piled on in her column in The Telegraph today she opened herself to ridicule as in her attack on Mr Hari she wrote something that directly contradicted her own words nine years previously.

The following quote was taken from this piece in The Telegraph

Cristina Odone in the Telegraph
Cristina Odone today in The Telegraph

So yeah she wasn’t fired from her job at the Catholic Herald. In her own words it was a complete lie.

However in an interview with The Independent in 2002 she said…

Cristina Odone in The Independent
Cristina Odone in The Independent in 2002

So in her own words she was fired from that job when writing in 2002 but come 2011 she wasn’t fired and it was a complete lie. *scratches his beard*

It is all fair to lump on to Johann Hari at the moment but when in doing you prove that you are a liar yourself then you really aren’t doing yourself any favours…

Note: I am informed that she has denied this quote in The Independent from 2002. So take this blog for what it’s worth.

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Do politicians represent the views of their constituents or do constituents vote for someone to think for them?

It is something that has been crossing my mind recently the idea of whether we elect people to represent our thoughts or whether we elect someone to think for us. If an MP is lobbied by the majority of his or her constituents to vote for something which goes against their own personal viewpoint then what should they do?

It come to a prominent part of my mind last week during the debate on the amendment brought forward by Nadine Dorries. I would probably hazard a guess that if you balloted every single voter in the land that they would welcome Nadine’s amendment that independent counselling be offered to every person considering an abortion. On a personal level I wasn’t as radically against compared to most of twitter who think that if Nadine Dorries said that giving free education to all it would suddenly become a bad thing. I know Nadine is pretty awful in terms of her politics but this wasn’t the worst thing she has ever suggested – not by a long shot.

Having said that I was happy the amendment didn’t go through because I’m very much from a ‘if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it’ mindset and I don’t think the system is broken. I can’t see how charities would cajole women into having abortions that they didn’t really want just to earn a few quid. I happen to not think that these people are evil monsters and if they were doing that then that is exactly what they would be.

Locally there is an issue in Southend that has been rumbling on long before I first descended into this town – that of Southend Airport. I know some Lib Dems have campaigned on a pro-airport stance and some anti-airport depending on where they are campaigning. I have no doubt the other parties do the same but I don’t have first hand knowledge of this so I can’t say for sure but it would make sense. So it seems perfectly acceptable for prospective politicians to tailor their campaigns for the audience that they are trying to be embraced by whether or not that is their real thoughts on an issue.

This in a way troubles me. I would like all politicians on all levels to be totally open and up front about everything. Say what they are staunchly for and against and then have the topics that they can have debates about and act in the best interests of the people that they represent. Whether this happens or whether this will ever happen I don’t know but it seems to me as though you are at times asked to falsely represent yourself in order to get votes and if you don’t then the likelihood is lowered that you’ll win a particular seat.

So I suppose it comes down to how many white lies are acceptable in a political campaign? At what point is it acceptable to use your own PoV above the PoV of the people you represent? If you get elected in a constituency that gets inundated with non-natives and the natives are all xenophobes but you yourself are pro-immigration then how do you vote on issues regarding immigration? Do you vote with what you think is right or do you do what the people that voted for you want?

I don’t know the right answer but it is a quandary. I know what my instincts say but I genuinely have no idea what people think on this issue.

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Scott Minto is Sky Sports new La Liga front man

This might not be breaking news but it is the first time I have gotten around to blogging about it. I was going to let it slide but when I saw Charles Sale calling the former left back a ‘celebrity’ then I knew it was blogging time. The columnist at the Daily Mail has a thing against former sportsman going into TV as we’ve seen before as he continuously witters on about the BBC celebrity commentary pairing of Martin Brundle & David Coulthard. Not too sure they are huge celebs but saying that Scott Minto is a celebrity is really walking on the fine line between accuracy and lunacy.

I have put it out there before that I didn’t see why Sky Sports sacked Mark Bolton. He had been doing a fine job on Spanish football and it felt like a different atmosphere to the straight laced coverage we have on domestic football but having decided to not continue using the services of Mr Bolton they had to decide what way forward they would go. They could either get an exciting new hire to keep the style the same or get some non-entity in house guy to come in and bore the pants off viewers.

They chose the latter.

I have no issues with Scott Minto and it is still early days but it looks very likely he’ll just be a bland non-personality fronting the coverage. There is no spark from him and I’m guessing that might just be what Sky Sports were after. The last year has been by far the most turbulent for Sky Sports football department since they got the Premier League coverage back in the early 1990s and having lost it’s presenter and main analyst of the best part of two decades coverage has led to a clear change of on air talent policy.

Sky have always been keen to go in house instead of going out and hiring the best talent from other networks when it has come to football. They brought in Ian Payne from BBC Radio 5Live a few years back but he just never settled into TV and has since returned to radio and Ben Shepherd came in last year after leaving GMtV but has found himself on the outside looking in after Richard Keys left as in house options Ed Chamberlain and David Jones got the nod for the top games.

So Sky don’t want any personality. This is a shame. I won’t stop watching obviously but it is annoying when dull safe options are preferred to exciting personality driven ones. Whatever the case the mere writing of the words ‘celebrity Scott Minto’ are about as funny and accurate as writing that I am caught in a situation with Sophie Ellis Bextor. I’m really not (Yes a Sophie Ellis Bextor analogy – it has been a week or so…).

My view on this hire…zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

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