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Month: March 2012

Once upon a time in a land (not so far) away… – Why I’m still a member of the Lib Dems

Everywhere I look at the moment good Lib Dems are leaving the Party. They feel as though the Lib Dems aren’t what they once were. Once we were a peaceful tribe living off the land but giving back to the land. We’d plant seeds and nurture our seedlings until they blossomed into vegetation and then we’d eat it and we’d go again. We’d frolic gayly through the meadows wearing only leaves over our private parts and make love to fellow Lib Dems we’d meet. It was a beautiful time and we were happy. Then suddenly everything changed.

We left our peaceful retreat where gay love was as loved as homosexual love. Our island that we called home was not to be called home any more. We were offered the chance to leave the island of peace and love and go to the bigger island where we could help spread the word of peace and love. We thought our lives and our vision of the future should be shared. We had heard people talk about the new way – the liberal way not with scorn but with genuinely intrigue and a touch of excitement.

So we got on our ships and we sailed over to the bigger island. We expected to be welcomed with open arms. Sadly little did we know that the bigger island had two tribes and they were at war. One they called the Labour Party and the other they called the Conservative Party. We had heard whispers that the two tribes didn’t get along but we had only been invited over by the slightly bigger tribe. They knew they needed some support to dominate the island and had said they would listen to us and we could help govern.

The slightly smaller tribe then forgot about their long standing rivalry with the Conservative tribe. They had a new enemy to slay. The old ways of those two tribes being in total domination were over and they didn’t like it one bit. They decided that all members of the new tribe were to be slain. It didn’t matter who they were they had to go and the new tribe were at fault for everything that would happen from here on out until they were vanquished from the island.

The new peaceful tribe known as the Lib Dems were staggered by the vitriol that greeted them and many yearned to jump back on their ship and return to their world of peace and love and more importantly their liberal ideologies. Without them they were nothing and upon arrival on the new islands the bigger tribe immediately put them to the test.

The Lib Dem tribe had wanted free university education for all but on the bigger island the Labour tribe had taken their eyes off the financial sector and all the money was gone. Therefore university education could not be free because their wasn’t enough money for it. This went against the wishes of the Lib Dem tribe but they couldn’t go back because the future of the economy was on extremely dodgy ground and should the Lib Dems leave the island then the bigger island would collapse under the weight of no leadership and all the people on the bigger island would suffer.

This wasn’t in the philosophy of the Lib Dem tribe so they were forced to find a way forward. They decided that no-one has to pay up front for university but if they were successful and earned over £21k a year then they would start paying the money back. This was an increase from the £15k threshold that was currently in place. Sadly though the money students would have to pay back would be considerably more but again this would only be the case should they get good jobs and good wages.

It was a compromise that the people on the bigger island did not like. Not only that but the people in the lib Dem tribe were more than uneasy with the new tuition fees situation. They didn’t get what they wanted and didn’t get what they believed they stood for. Therefore they felt a mixture of shame and guilt believing they had sold their principles and what they stood for down the river. Once more they yearned for the old days where they didn’t have to make the hard decisions and could live in blissful ignorance knowing that reality and idealism did not have to meet.

The people of the bigger island grew to dislike the new dwellers and wanted them to go. They had heard of their ways and were interested to see them but now they saw them close-up they wanted them subjugated and driven off the island. They had a chance to let the newcomers know what they felt around a year later in what they called ‘the local elections’ and many of the newcomers were voted out of office at a local level. The public had spoken. They thought that the newcomers were evil and just propping up the larger tribe.

The newcomers were not liked by either the larger or the smaller of the two main tribes. One of them didn’t like not being able to do everything that they wanted and the other said they were making no effect on how the island was governed. Both tribes were steadfast in saying they were correct but the reality of the case was the two opinions were mutually exclusive. One tribes had to be wrong. As the new tribe had to be either doing nothing or doing something.

Then the larger tribe decided they needed to pick up the pace of reform. Ideologically they were fine with treating people who they perceived were not as not as them with disdain. However they knew that the smaller tribe they shared power with were not of that ilk. They decided they needed to reform how health was handled on the island. They had said they wouldn’t change a thing and people liked this. No-one wanted any change to the health system because they believed it to be the best in the world. The big boss of the world said it wasn’t but that wasn’t the best.

The big boss had been to all the islands and said that the island of the Labour and Conservative tribes had put together the 18th best health system around being France, Italy, San Marino, Andorra, Malta, Singapore, Spain, Oman, Austria, Japan, Norway, Portugal, Monaco, Greece, Iceland, Luxembourg and a place they called the Netherlands. It lay waste to the perceived notion of the greatness of the NHS as it was called locally.

Of course this didn’t mean the NHS wasn’t good. It was. It was one of the finest thing either of the two tribes had done in the past hundred years but maybe evolution was needed. The Lib Dem tribe looked uneasy and the tribe by this point were not speaking in one voice. There were two distinct voices and those voices were tearing away at the fabric of all they stood for. There were those that believed that evolution was needed and if they could have as much influence as possible then that would be a good thing. On the other hand there were those that thought you can’t mess with the NHS and the bill should be totally scraped.

Many within the tribe did not know which way to look. One half of the tribe was saying one thing and the other half were saying another. If you said you supported one side of the argument then you were perceived as evil by the other half of the tribe. As a tribe they had become like the other tribes – at war with each other and not a harmonised voice that could lead to effectual change.

Some within the tribe decided that they didn’t want to be a member of the tribe any more. They believed that they could never return to the days where liberal ideology united the tribe to a sustainable degree. They believed the leader of the tribe – one Nick Clegg – had betrayed them and moved them away from where they wanted to be in the political spectrum. Some even doubted his liberal credentials. They even said he was a Tory in Lib Dem clothing – repeating a line that the Labour tribe had long been shouting from the rooftops.

When Lib Dems are believing Labour over who or what their own leader stands for then it is clear that a problem has arisen. Divisions amongst the tribe was nothing new but whatever divisions these were they were underpinned by a sense of doing right and the liberal agenda. Some now believed this had given way to a lust for power and a lack of foresight. They believed that they alone could not make a substantial difference to national policy and therefore they didn’t want to be a part of the tribe any more.

They chose to walk away believing that the big picture was the only picture worth caring about. The majority remained though seeing that the big picture is also made up of many smaller pictures. At local level it was possible to make lives better for people. It would not be easy but many good people remained and these good people still believed in the liberal ideology and whilst local politics isn’t the same as national politics it still had the power to influence lives.

These people worked hard and still believed in the basic principles and ideology on which the tribe was first formed. They believed in helping those who needed help. They believed in people taking responsibility for their own lives and not be told what to think and how to act by others. They believed that the state should ensure everybody has the same basic level of education, health care, the right to feel safe, the opportunities to make more money and live in a society that rewards those who work hard but doesn’t necessarily penalise those who do not. They believed in caring for the ill, infirm and venerable. These people thought that they could help bring about a greener environment and provide more services and amenities for the local who relied on them. They believed that the people that needed the most help should receive it first and foremost.

These are the members of the tribe who have stayed behind. Those that have left the tribe haven’t changed their ideologies and nor have the party. The political party with always have the same anchor. The people who make up the party are the people that people see every day on the doorstep and in town halls up and down the land. If the tribes leadership has moved away from its grass-roots then that is another issue but this member of the tribe recanting this tale does not believe this is the case.

Being in power is difficult because ideology is put to the test in the real world. Being in power when their is an economic climate that is more unstable than it has been in a generation is not the best time to be in power. The economy is A1 – front and centre – of why this coalition was formed. The liberal ideology is alas second and it has to be. It can be talked about and progress can be made but this government first and foremost is about ensuring this economy not only grows but also diversifies instead of being largely dependent on one sector. That is the most important thing at the national level.

If we can prove to do that then the future of the tribe isn’t as bad as everyone believes. The members of the tribe have to face the question of how they want to be perceived. Do they want to be perceived as ineffective? Do they want to be perceived as grown-up? Do they want to be perceived as populist but ineffective? Or do they want to be perceived as a party who’ll put the country first?

They are the options and until everyone answers that then no unity will ever be found at a national level.

What is more important, the liberal ideology or the economy of the island? That was the question we faced in 2010 and that is still the question we face now – so what has changed for so many of the tribe to either think about taking a step-back or in fact take two step-backs only to jump off the island and attempt to swim back to the past?

Three years is a long long time in politics and we don’t always get our own way. This isn’t how we wanted it to be but this is how it is. We stepped in when the country needed us to form stable government. We did our duty whilst perhaps sacrificing some of what we hold dear but in the greater scheme of things had the country gone down the tank then everyone would be effected and to a far greater degree than the Tuition Fees Bill, the Welfare Reform Act and the NHS reorganisation.

We did the right thing then and we are doing the right thing now. We aren’t there to just prop up a Tory government but to help it govern. Liberal policies and ideologies are going through. Reform of the House of Lords, Marriage for same-sex couples, the Pupil Premium, the raising of the Income Tax threshold to take lower earners out of paying any Income Tax. We can point to things we are doing that is fundamental to our core beliefs. It might not be as much as we’d like but we are the smallest of the three main tribes so we can’t expect to have everything.

If we push forward our liberal agenda – even only by a few steps over the course of this parliament – and we stabilise and diversify the economy to ensure its growth for all the inhabitants of the island – not just the members of the tribes – then we’ll have done a pretty good job considering the circumstances that we found ourselves in following the collapse of the World’s economy.

The Liberal Democrats haven’t changed. The people haven’t changed. The leadership haven’t changed. The only change has been in the perception of the party by the masses and that is something we are going to have to work even harder to change.

It won’t be easy but the party still has a future at both the local and national level. I firmly believe that and I hope others do too.

If any of this has inspired you then you can Join the Liberal Democrat Party behind that link.

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When the Conservative Candidate can’t even spell the word Conservative on their literature…

An issue anyone has when writing political literature is to ensure you spell everything correctly. You proof-read then someone else proof-reads and then someone else does exactly the same. It is just prudent to do so.

So what happens when you don’t do this?

Well you might find that you give out 5,000 odd leaflets where you didn’t even spell the name of your own Political Party correctly…

Just a tad embarrassing eh?

sue abrahams
Vote for the Conservatrive Party Candidate...

I do feel for her. We all make mistakes but where was the proof-reading and even more importantly where was the use of the spell-check?

(hat-tip to Julian Ware-Lane who first spotted this)

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I think Andrew Emmerson is on to something…

Just now across three social media platforms three different people within about two minutes of each other told me (well anyone who followed them on these platforms really – it wasn’t a direct message to me) that everyone should read Andrew Emmerson’s piece entitled It’s time I spoke out on the NHS: I’m angry, but probably not for reasons you’ve heard. I took their advice and if you haven’t read it yet it is part ranty and part factual – just like a good blog should be. It is worth a read.

I won’t rehash what he said in too much detail but the crux of the issue is he seems to be pissed off about the whole debate and how it isn’t based on the facts of the matter at hand but mostly the spin and myths being thrown about. The NHS is great but there are better Health Systems around. Care will still be – and always will be free at the point of contact with the patient and that private firms have long been involved in the NHS.

Now when it comes to the NHS Bill in full – like practically every person who has commented on it I haven’t read it in full. In all honesty I’m not qualified to know the in’s and out’s of every little detail and what it would mean for us – the general public but here is what I do know. Should this Bill be passed then the NHS wouldn’t die. The basic principles of it being free at the point of contact would remain and I think to be fair for most of us that is by far the most important thing.

He also states that we cannot have a serious debate about health in this country because of the hysteria behind the NHS. He’s right. I spoke about this last year with regards to Ken Clarke and his rape comments. You daren’t ever have a proper debate on that issue because we are trained to think only one way. There are certain issues where both politicians and the electorate are just happy to sail along and ignore because the art of having a proper debate has gone from politics. Politics as a whole is now largely based on who can scream the loudest and who can be the most populist. Sensible and legitimate debate has gone out of the window and I find that deeply distressing.

I can point to the furore over tuition fees last year. Most people didn’t understand the new bill because they had been swamped in myths about it. Yes the tuition fees changes were not the greatest moment for the Liberal Democrats but when you actually look past the myths, outright lies and spin you’ll actually see these basic changes:

*The fees (up to £9k a year) are not up front.
*You do not pay a single penny until you are earning over £21k a year.

So despite what people think. You don’t have to spend a penny up front. You won’t rock up to university and have to hand over a cheque to cover your fees. Also you don’t start paying this money until you are earning £21k or over a year which is up from £15k which is actually a huge leap. So now most people will not start paying money until their second or third year of full-time employment and if you never earn more than £21k then the money will be written off.

There are also various schemes to ensure that those from poorer backgrounds aren’t put off by this. The new tuition fees bill is actually not horrendous but hard to actually type that in this state of affairs because of all the lies and myths that have changed the viewpoints of the public.

This is one of the reasons I can’t abide politics. I want to live in a world where politicians speak the truth instead of spouting off the same lazy rhetoric based on what they think people want to hear and/or to enhance their own reputations and that of their party.

At the moment in politics it is easy for Labour. All they have to do to attack everything the Liberal Democrats do and sit back and enjoy watching the party suffer. They have very few policies of their own apart from a harsher Bankers Bonus Tax but apart from that I heard very little. They wanted to increase tuition fees too but that is overlooked and has been brushed under the carpet because the Lib Dems wanted to abolish them and weren’t able to.

Most people if they sit down and actually looked at the facts would see that the Liberal Democrats are a minority party in a coalition where the priority first and foremost is to stabilise the economy. The economy was on the brink of going down the pan and causing the deepest recession for two generations. Tuition fees and the NHS are vitally important issues but the economy is very much front and centre – and I think we all agree that at this current juncture so it should be.

As for how the economy is doing well the jury is very much still out but the credit agencies are happy and there are green shoots of recovery. There will be blips and there will be bumps in the road but if come 2015 the economy is really starting to hum along once more then we as a party can say that we have done the most important thing. We all care about many things but the most important thing will always be the economy and if we’ve helped deliver a stable government then we’ve done a darn good job no matter what anyone says.

The problem within the party as well as with the electorate is the uncertainty. The party activists aren’t used to having any power and when you have only a whiff of it and are unable to do everything then you feel like you are only going backwards. The public believed that the Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems were different but they aren’t used to coalition and think that Clegg and pals aren’t doing enough when in all honesty they are hamstrung by the economy.

If they rock the boat too much then the coalition collapses and the economy falters. If they don’t rock the boat enough then people believe they are just doing the Tories evil work. Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place. When you couple that with no real liberal media to get the word out to the masses then the Liberal Democrats look like a lame duck to be blown away by the two old war horses who can return to their world of two-party politics and enjoy it.

What needs to happen is for the public to see through the myths that are created for self-serving politicians and media outlets. It has been a long time since I took anything I saw in the written media as gospel. I have more respect for the broadcast media. However newspapers always have their own biases and ways of getting their story out there. I was turned down for a job at The Sun many moons ago because I was a liberal and wouldn’t tow the line with regards to their political biases.

If people were in possession of all the raw facts and then made up their own mind on the issues then I would be a very happy man. Whether they agreed with the Lib Dems or not I wouldn’t worry too much, just having them making up their own minds on the issues is all you can ask for.

Sadly the current state of affairs means that facts are not important. Myths and propaganda are still vastly superior to the nuts and bolts of an issue. One day this will change. I hope it is soon because the great people of this nation deserve the freedom and more importantly the ease of seeing the subjects for what they are. At the moment alas it is hard to separate the lies, the myths and the propaganda for the truths.

That is the old way of politics. Hopefully one day the new ways will actually become dominant. For this to happen though both politicians and the media have to change and that is something I fear will not happen without a fight…

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Today is Bankers Bonus Day at the Lloyds Banking Group. Are all bankers evil? Discuss…

As some of you may know bankers bonuses has become the most important buzzword in politics. It is tantamount to political suicide to even think about defending the bankers let alone actually say it out loud. Well folks unsurprisingly I’m not one to follow the rules and actually have a brain of my own so lets look at what this actually means and what will happen next.

The Lloyds Banking Group is 41% owned by us – the people. HM Treasury holds that stake in the company which is well known on the British High Street with LLoyds TSB, Halifax and the Bank of Scotland being part of the company. So we have a very real reason to scrutinise what they do.

We have no issues with the bonus culture in other industries but then I suppose we don’t have a financial stake in them so that parallel in unwarranted. So the big question is what do we the public get for in-part paying these people vast sums of money.

Well the bonus culture is here to stay in banking. The UK government cannot stop bonuses in privately held firms and banks based overseas. These companies will still pay top dollar with huge bonuses should they reach set targets so no point fretting over the bonus culture at large. Bonuses are not evil. Many of us have bonuses written into our work related contracts reliant on our good work and/or good profits for the company as a whole. So I think it would be wrong to say that bonuses themselves are an evil product.

The question is whether bankers earn their bonuses. I’m going to tell you a shocking revelation now that neither any politician nor anyone in the media wants you to know. This is a trade secret that is out there but is kept away from the public. Are you ready for it…?

Not all bankers are evil.

I know. Shocking huh but that is actually the truth of the matter. There is another big secret out there. Are you ready for this one…?

Not every banker was involved in bad banking practices that led to the financial difficulties that we are in.

I know. Crazy. We have been led to believe that they all live in their ivory towers using £50 notes as toilet paper laughing at all of us using regular toilet paper but no, that actually isn’t 100% accurate.

Are bankers bonuses too high? Probably but they are dictated by market forces. Is Manchester City offering Robin van Persie a reported £210k per week obscene? Yes but market forces dictate that he is worth that much. Employees are worth whatever an employer is willing to pay them.

Is a new iPhone worth £499? That depends but people are willing to pay them at that price so that is why Apple chooses to market them at that figure. If they believed they would get as many sales at £599 or £699 or £799 then they would sell them at those prices. The whole economy is driven by market forces.

So lets go back to the Lloyds Banking Group. Today I know people will hand in their notice at the group. They will have seen that their pay packets are not brimming half as much as they were. They will move on to pastures new because the UK banking industry – certainly the banks that are part owned by HM Treasury have slashed the bonus pot. It has been obliterated in all honesty. These people will be able to get far more money elsewhere and leave.

Now I know most people will be yelling ‘why should we care?’ but the truth of the matter is really rather simple. If there is success in the UK Banking sector then we all benefit. If these banks are profitable then we make money. Also the more successful they are the higher the share price and the easier they are to sell on and move them out of public ownership again.

For example I have been told of a man whose department made £40million last year for the Treasury. He led the department into a far better place through good management and his good work has meant that we the taxpayer benefit to the tune of £40million. Seems like he’s done a pretty darn good job then for all of us. His reward? To lose 90% of his pay compared to a year ago. So for making us tonnes of money we are penalising him in his pocket. This has nothing to do with a Bankers Bonus Tax but to do with just slashing his money.

As a whole one large section of the group will have more than doubled its profits in the past year. They are in a far better financial situation than they have been for years. They are generating large profits and income for the government and for this the whole bonus pot has been slashed by just over 75%. So for doing a far better job they’ll be getting paid a whole lot less.

That doesn’t seem like a great bit of business to me.

The problem is the most talented individuals who do it right and generate the wealth for HM Treasury will move on to pastures new where they can get paid what they feel they deserve. If yu are making £40million then you’ll feel you are entitled to a £1million bonus for example. Is that better or worse for HM Treasury than generating £20million of income and getting £100k as a bonus Well lets look at the math.

£40million – £1million = £39million revenue for HM Treasury.

£20million – £100k = £19.9million revenue for HM Treasury.

Yes. Just as I thought. It pays to have the best people as they will generate enough income for them to get the top bonuses. The top people will go where the money is. I think we can all agree that is fair and is just like how we all do it. If you or I was offered more money to do the same job somewhere else we’d probably take it. Nothing wrong with that so the bankers will do the same.

The problem with this is by doing so it will mean that the top people will not be working in the UK Banking industry. This means that less money is made by these companies therefore they’ll pay in less tax to HM Treasury. They’ll be employing less qualified staff who’ll be earning less so will be taxed on their income less and in turn spend less in the economy. As for the banks that we hold shares in they’ll be making less profits and be less commercially attractive to potential buyers and investors going forward because I think we can all agree that the best people will make the most money and generate the best profits for a company.

The problem with the banking industry was two-fold. They got too cocky and took their eye off the ball as they were so unregulated that people could take stupid risks and that people were rewarded for doing a bad job. Bonuses should be a reward for doing a good job.

The first point has been fixed as banks around the globe have got their act together. Banks now have far more liquidity than they did before. This is why Lehman Brothers went down. It wasn’t because it was a poorly run business but because all of their assets were tied up in medium and long term ventures. These days banks have those liquid assets to hand. Risks are taken less frequently because they are monitored much more closely and the bad practices of the early part of the last decade have been consigned to the dustbin.

Do we really want to be lazy and tar al bankers with the same brush? Is that what we do nowadays? We get an idea implanted in our minds and use that scapegoat even when it isn’t reasonable to do so?

Yes there is no doubt that some banks and some bankers made some pretty bad decisions that led to a global recession. However not all banks and not all bankers were part of that so why should they be penalised and bad mouthed for the sins of others?

If you had a son or a daughter who was a thief would that in turn made you a thief and should you face the same ridicule? If your son or daughter had to wear an electronic tag and had to abide by a curfew for being a thief should you have to do it as well because you are related to them?

The simple answer is no.

We are all individuals and should be treated as such.

This goes for bankers just as it does you or I. If Banker A gets a bigger bonus than Banker B but generates more profits then that seems fine to me. As long as people aren’t rewarded for doing a bad job then surely we should all be ok with it?

Bashing the bankers is safe political ground at the moment because we love a scapegoat. Sadly the second scapegoat are immigrants which makes my blood boil. Yet again as a whole we like to tar everyone with the same brush and people have turned on these people because they need a scapegoat.

Don’t punish people for the sins of others. To me that is simple basic etiquette and how it should be.

One day I hope we can have an honest debate about everything but sadly in the political world we live in that isn’t possible at this juncture. This is one thing I wish that we could change. For today though I’ll continue to write my thoughts down for the handful of people who’ll get around to reading them.

My dream is to live in a world where we get all the facts and can have an honest debate on how to interpret them and not just think how we are told. That is how I feel sometimes as to the world we live in is not that. Politicians and the media will drive home a story and use it to enhance their own ends and not report it how it is meant to be. This to me is a sad sad situation…

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The all new Cartier Advert – wow just wow – seriously that is something else.

As some of you may know I have an interest in advertising. I often watch adverts and wonder just how anyone could ever think that the adverts they created would ever help someone buy or use their product that they are trying to advertise.

However every so often an advertiser gets it bang on and whilst watching New Girl earlier I saw the new advert for Cartier watches. It is three minutes and thirty-one seconds long. Yes just one advert and it just blows the mind. Yes it helps that it features what I consider to be the most beautiful creature on the planet – no not Davina McCall or Sophie Ellis Bextor – but instead the majestic snow leopard.

I implore you to sit back, put in on full screen (if you can) and enjoy. If you don’t think it’s immense then I’d be very surprised.

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The all new Sky Sports F1 HD Opening Titles

I have to say that the new opening for Sky Sports F1 coverage is pretty darn good.


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Formula 1 welcomes a brand new female driver to its ranks

I hadn’t heard of Maria De Villota until moments ago but now she will become a very interesting name to watch after she was signed to the Marussia F1 team as their test driver for the 2012 season.

The 32 year-old Spaniard who has drove in several formulae first drove an F1 car last year at Paul Ricard and has now graduated to official test driver.

This is a very interesting move for the sport as we have seen the effect that Danica Patrick has had over in the States. Her move to NASCAR has made the big sports bulletins and this years Daytona 500 had great TV ratings – both on the Sunday for the rain-out and for the primetime Monday night audience. This is despite Danica Patrick going out on the opening lap.

There are clear differences. Danica is extremely marketable and has been the face of GoDaddy for many years. Also if we are being totally honest the American market are more receptive to female sports and women in sport in general. The culture is different and therefore we can’t really say that this arrival into the world of Formula One will make too much of a wave but a ripple is a good start.

She will be the reserve driver so if either of Marussia’s two race drivers have to sit it out for whatever reason she is next in line to race. Now racing would certainly be a lot different to testing and if she were to race then I can guarantee it will put more bums on seats as the intrigue factor will bring in a lot of casual viewers just to see how she does.

It is a good move forward for the sport and one that hopefully will open the floodgates. Obviously if she does get to race there will be a whole tonne of pressure on her shoulders but should she succeed then many walls could come crumbling down.

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A local (Lib Dem) success story – Little Treasures is saved!

As some readers may know I am standing for Southend Council in May and the ward which I am standing in has been in the news today. The Sure Start centre Little Treasures in Electric Avenue was set to close under that guise in the budget but that changed following parent power and a bit of common sense.

The centre will still officially be closed as a Children’s Centre but the Council along with the Elim Church will work together to ensure that the services currently provided by the centre are maintained. Whilst the 23 hours of weekly Sure Start care would be decreased to between 8-12 hours a week, that is by far a better alternative than closing it down altogether.

Now whilst the Echo are (rightly) saying that the Centre has been saved due to parent power I think it would be remiss of me not to point out the quite excellent work the Lib Dem councillor in the ward did. Paul Collins spent a lot of time organising a petition and spent even more time in the ear of the Tory councillor who is responsible for Children & Learning under the cabinet system of Southend Council.

He isn’t the only reason the centre will stay open but he did play a major part in ensuring that the services provided by the centre wouldn’t be lost forever and that is something that I think should be celebrated and commended.

These are the things that local councillors can do to help make life better for people locally. We often get worked up about the big national issues but for many people Sure Start is just as important as taxes and what the foreign policy is.

So a huge well done to all involved – from all the parents to Cllr Paul Collins and give Cllr Mark Flewitt his due for listening to what everyone was telling him and working out a way to ensure Little Treasures stays open.

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‘Students should face paying council tax, Lib Dems say’ scream the Daily Telegraph. Slightly misleading…

It is all going off. The Lib Dems hate the students. They are ready to screw them over even more. The other political parties are ready to jump on the ‘Lib Dems hate the students’ bandwagon and the Lib Dems are up in arms. However shall we look in depth at the story before we cast judgement? Shall we…?


The basis for the story is one single quote from the leader of Portsmouth City Council, ‘At the meeting, Gerald Vernon-Jackson, the leader of Liberal Democrat councillors and head of Portsmouth City Council said: “Local authorities should have greater discretion over Council Tax exemptions and discounts, such as the student exemption”’.

So because one Lib Dem says that he feels theat he (as leader of the council) should have more powers to determine who gets Council Tax exemptions and discounts it suddenly means according to the article that the Lib Dems want to change the whole system of no Council Tax for students. I’m not sure that is how it works. As a member of the Lib Dems should I say that I think council’s should have the right to decide to give free jaffa cakes for every person who pogo sticked into Boots to buy a meal deal but managed to resist the Hoi Sin Duck Wrap would that suddenly mean that it is Lib Dem Policy?

I’m not sure that is how it works.

However basing a whole story around this one quote is quite something but there is one sentence in the piece that I am totally in love with:

‘It is understood that the Conservatives are strongly opposed to ending the student exemption on council tax.’

So there we go. The Conservatives love the students and the Lib Dems hate them and want to publicly flog them in the streets.

Seriously give me freakin’ strength.

Please feel free to read the whole piece over at the Daily Telegraph but trust me. The whole story is a joke and shows either a) extreme bias or b) the ability to stretch a quote and spin it in a way that Peter Mandelson could only dream of.

Council Tax will not become part of student life. It quite simply isn’t going to happen.

I’d expect better from a political editor on a national newspaper but sadly these people have agendas. Not only do they have agendas but so do their employers and sadly that means the press will never be free and open.


Just in from a Lib Dem spokesman.

“These minutes are not an accurate representation of what was a much broader policy discussion.

“Gerald is not in favour of getting rid of the student exemption. He is in favour of proper localism, where councils have the power to decide what is right for them in their areas.

“Neither the Government nor the Liberal Democrats are in favour of ending the student exemption.”

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26 comments on why the Lib Dems are in big big trouble

I am going to post ad verbatim the 26 comments currently as of 12:16PM on the article in Comment is Free entitled Why I quit the Liberal Democrats over NHS reforms by Graham Winyard.

I think they are worth a read. What I get from them is that very few people are actually pro-liberal and more anti-Tory and anti-Labour. People want radical change and even though a coalition is pretty radical for Britain the people don’t see it as a coalition. They see it as a Conservative government and blame the Lib Dems for everything. Not sure that makes too much sense but still.

If the Lib Dems did kill the NHS Bill would that change the minds of the electorate or would they say the Lib Dems should have done it sooner therefore blame them for that anyway? I think that is a good question and I’d love to see the NHS Bill as it is written to die just so I could see what actually happened with the electorate. In a way I feel they have already made their minds up. The Lib Dems could cure child poverty in the UK and still not get any credit but hey ho.

Read on for 26 comments on why the Lib Dems aren’t exactly flavour of the month.

Comment 1:

The problem with the Liberal Democrats is that to attain their goal of Power they have become all things to all men (and women).

If the any Liberal Democrat MPs had any sense of Decency they would resign from this Perverted Coalition and bring the Government down so that the People could elect a more Sane replacement.

Comment 2:

You’ve just quit the Lib Dems?

What took you so long?

Comment 3:

Better late than never – let’s hope more in your old party are to follow.

Comment 4:

Fair play to you.
I do hope many others in the party will see sense.
But Ive a hunch they will do as they’re told by the toffs

Comment 5:

Mr Winyard

I wish there were more like you. The Liberal Democrats had the opportunity to really make a difference yet they chose to support the Tories come what may. The Liberal Democrats have made it possible for the Tories to start the destruction of the NHS. There are not polite words to describe my contempt for the leadership and the likes of Shirley Williams always trying to give the impression that she cares only to follow the Party line at the end.

Comment 6:

Well done, couldn’t have been any easy decision but at least you have principles & honor. I hope others will follow you & join to stop the destruction & privatization of NHS!.

Comment 7:

If they carry on like this then they will continue to haemorrhage support so that by the time of the next General Election they will have to change their name to the “Bugger All Democrats”.

Comment 8:

(Why I quite over NHS reforms…)

Because you acted with commendable altruism, in the interests of the patients to whom your professional life was dedicated in a solemn bond of care and protection. If politicians knew anything of the meaning of public service, this ghastly scenario would never have arisen.

Comment 9:

And I thought you were all in it together?

Too little, too late…

Comment 10:

You quit the Liberal Democrats as soon as you joined in coalition with the far right wing fanatics that the Tory party has become…

What is liberal about the reintroduction of slave labour?

What is democratic about imposing a tranche of extreme Neo-Liberal free market policies such as the privatisation of the NHS, the Police etc that wasn’t in any manifesto and wasn’t voted for by a majority of the electorate…

You and your ilk sold everything you professed to believe in for a sniff of power… and we won’t forget

Go back to your constituencies and prepare for oblivion.

Comment 11:

Its a shame that there are not a few more, that have the morals and strength of character to stand up for the electorate.

Comment 12:

Then fair play and all due respect to you for taking a position in line with your principles.

Would that all politicians had such a sense of firm morality.

Comment 13:

I don’t know why you waited until our betrayal was completed by almost all of our MPs voting for the Bill. I say “our” but I left in late 2010 , convinced that we had sold our soul and got nothing in return.

I am still sure that there is no point in arguing from the inside – those inside , our MPs and Peers will be well rewarded with plum jobs in the City , in privatised firms and in consultancies. They have supped with the devil and they quite like his food

Comment 14:

Individuals quit the libdems but unless they are MPs that doesn’t help. The facts in this article were obvious from the start. And libdem opponents of the disastrous H&SC Bill should be in their Conference making trouble.

Comment 15:

The LibDems have played the game of coalition politics so badly its laughable. They’ve managed to deflect significant blame from the Tories (particularly in the early days) and provided a handy focus for frustrated labourites and their displaced rage at the unforgivable failure of New Labour’s historic opportunity.

What is amazing is the apparent failure by the leadership to anticipate any of this…

Comment 16:

Agree with every word Gordi.

Well done Mr Winyard for having the strength of your convictions – alas, I don’t think your actions will prevent this atrocious bill becoming law since your leader was seen vigourously in favour of it at last weeks PMQ’s.

On the LD front however, will the resignations of Mr Winyard, James Graham & Baroness Tonge be sufficient for Mr Clegg to recognise that becoming a tory is gong to disastrous for his party at the next general election.

I voted LD in 2010 – I never ever will do so again.

Comment 17:

I have just seen this footage of Lansleys visit to the Royal Free Hospital yesterday.

Found in the comments below

(there’s a big day of protest this Wednesday 7 March, including a march from BMA headquarters at 5:15 and from ULU student union about 5, a human chain around St. Thomas’ Hospital at 2, and a mass lobby of MPs during the day, with a rally at 6 in Westminster Central Hall)

Spread the word.

For anyone wishing to show support but who cannot get to London, there is a live stream of the TUC rally on March 7th & you can sign up to it here.

We must take the fight to the govt because if we don’t, out NHS as we know it will be gone before we know it.

Comment 18:

The Liberal Democrat conference is regularily ignored by the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives that currently control them. It demonstrates how powerless regular members are.

I’d recommend active people join the genuine members of the Liberal Democrats who have already have resigned, staying maintains the illusion assisted by the conference, that the party continues exists.

The only purpose of the remaining rump of the party is to keep the Conservatives in power.

Comment 19:

Lib Dems seem determined to make themselves unelectable. They will be blamed just as much as the Conservatives for the NHS reforms – probably even more as their ideology is contrary to a large section of the reforms they are allowing through.

Whenever the do something contrary to they politics or manifesto they blame the “Coalition agreement”. They had to introduce tuition fees because it “was in the Coalition Agreement”. This document is the excuse for everything they do that is unpopular. Then maybe they should read the “Coalition Agreement” section on the NHS – which says they will “Make the PCTs the patients champions” (nothing about privatisation, no closing down the PCTs, no massive top down re-organisation). So when it suits Cameron the Lib Dems just ignore the document they previously claimed to be the justification for everything.

If they allow the NHS reforms bill through it will undoubtedly be the end of the party as any sort of force in UK politics. I certainly wont be helping distributing leaflets, knocking on doors, etc. Their support will quickly evaporate.

OK, Clegg probably has a safe Tory seat organised somewhere but most of the others wont. They need to grow some backbone and pretty quickly or we revert to 2 party politics in the UK.

Comment 20:

Couldn’t sit on your integrity any longer?

Comment 21:

You can follow LibDem issues on LibDem Act and hear the views of other LiBDem activists, councillors and even occassional politicians.

Right now I’m torn between going for Labour and hoping their vast army of socialists and union folk can restrain Millipede and his cronies from pursuing further privatisation of the school and NHS systems, or following the Greens, who will inherit many LibDem votes in English national elections.

As usual the progressive vote will be split between a Labour leadership who looks increasingly to neoliberal beuacracy and worthy though poorly supported or funded minor parties.

Whatever the outcome, we can all rest assured the LibDems will end up with between 3-7 MPs in 2015, as shown in most major polls, a dead parliamentaty party.

Comment 22:

The fact that you stuck with such a shameful, traitorous party for so long says a lot. However, late is always better than never. Glad you’ve seen sense, lets hope more do the same.

Comment 23:

I spoke to one of the delegates at the weekends Scottish LibDem Conference last night.

She wasn’t happy with what she’d heard, and she isn’t the only one.

I’ve already commented on the conference on another thread, and she confirmed my impressions – the LibDems are finished in England, and the only way they will survive in Scotland is by breaking away from the London HQ and forming a separate, genuine LibDem/liberal/Social Democratic party.
The chat in the bars was that English-based LibDems should do the same, and before 2015.
The support is there. It just doesn’t have any representation in Government.

Clegg, party leader and Deputy PM, received a lukewarm welcome – empty seats, and muted applause. Many simply sat on their hands.
I think it would have been the same no matter where he was appearing.

Other speakers were well received :

Alex Cole-Hamilton, for example. He said that the decision to join with the Tories was :

“…. a colossal sell-out in our decision to enter government with the Conservatives. Power – at any cost ! Two years in we know something about power, but a lot more about cost.”
He went on to draw comparisons with those genuine liberals/LibDems of the past with today’s leadership.
It wasn’t nice.

Nigel Lindsay weighed in with comments about the abandonment of LibDem principles and policies, and how this has :

“…. caused bewilderment and dismay to many members…”, and to emphasise the point, he then listed all those abandoned policies and principles.
That wasn’t nice either.

Scotland has a long history of liberalism, especially in rural areas, and in 2010 the LibDems returned 11 MP’s to Parliament, and 9 were from rural constituencies.
A year later, the effects of the sell-out became obvious, and a mere 5 LibDem MSP’s were elected to Holyrood.
The LibDem vote had collapsed.

Those 11 MP’s will cease to exist in 2015, no matter what the result of the referendum is, but the feeling coming from the weekend conference is that some Scottish LibDem MP’s are already looking for safe Tory seats in England.

That’s how Clegg and his team are seen by the grassroots, and it will get worse.”

Comment 24:

I voted Lib Dem last time…. never again!

We’ve seen the Lib Dem poll number sink from low to mid 20s pre-election to single digits now. Not only did they totally trash the student supporter base they had so carefully and patiently worked to build up, they are now sitting next to a bunch of vipers who are selling off *all* the family silver without one word of consultation with the public.

I suspect any Lib Dem who defects now believes it’s over for their Political career anyway, so something must inspire them to do it and that’s not self interest. What have the ones that remain got to loose by clinging on? Sadly what we will not see nearly enough is of admissions similar to the writer above – it’s human to be misled, it’s human to make a mistake, but when the government proceeds to force on with Policies like the ones they have that are so fundamentally damaging to our country, we must assume those Lib Dem MPs have the same agenda as the Government – trash the country and flog the contracts quick. I wish any decent Lib Dems left out there finally twig the country needs saving from this administration and call time on it…. we will be 20 years recovering from this mess if they don’t!

Comment 25:

Strange. A mate of mine who has been a Liberal (and all its subsequent incarnations) since 1965 left the party the day Clegg simpered with Cameron in the garden.

Comment 26:

Yes, quitting the party seems to be an act of principle which others could follow if they listen to their consciences rather than the government propaganda.

It won’t change anything, though, will it?

Gordon Brown answered a legal challenge to the fact that New Labour put the party manifesto through the same shredder which ate Tony Blair’s expenses dockets with:

“The electorate cannot realistically expect a political party to honour its promises.”

The smoothly airbrushed face of Cameron looked down on the filthy little people from the billboards and they believed that the NHS would be safe in Neo Nasty hands.

This is part of the biggest heist in history.

This is the state abandoning the people and selling them down the river.

This is the insidious, ideological handing over of the welfare system – which everyone paid for over two generations – to the private sector.

This is UK Plc being absorbed into GlobalGov Corp.

This is part and parcel of the privatisation of the police and the enslavement of the people to £ multi-billion international corporations.

This is all possible because we live under an elective dictatorship which is forever owned by big business, whether the party in nominal power wears the rosette and bears the logo of Tory or LibDem or New Labour.

We have all seen the future – and it doesn’t work.

Which will not stop the government from ploughing ahead.

Because, to them, the will of the people and any and all professional groups you care to line up against them really don’t matter any more.

Try changing the government next time we all trundle out to vote and see what difference it makes.

As Peter Mandelson said, we are now living in a post-democratic age.

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