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Month: January 2013

All up elections for Southend Council? One Councillor is running scared at the possibility…

As politicos in Southend will know there has been a lot of chatter about holding all up elections every four years instead of electing in thirds three out of every four years. It is something that is probably going to happen at some point but can’t happen for a couple of years anyway but it is worth a bit of chat.

There are two main points regarding all up elections. One is it will save money but on the other hand it will reduce the amount of times people get to air their voice at the ballot box. In principle I’m not overly down with this but I can see the benefits. We only vote once every five years for European elections and the same for Westminster elections. The turnout in the May local elections in Southend was pretty derisory and the less that is said about the Police & Crime Commissioner Election turnout the better.

However one quote really stood out to me in the article in today’s Echo and it came from Cllr. Martin Terry – leader of the independent group on the council and councillor for Westborough. He isn’t sure that these elections should take place on the same day as other elections (European or Parliamentary):

While we have got to save costs and having four-yearly elections would save money, the danger is when you hold them all at once the result can be skewed.

Being the type of chap I am let me interpret that quote in non political speak:

We are fine with all-up elections but our share of the vote goes down when other elections are on due to national issues, so we would not be in favour of all-up elections if they take place on the same day as a national or European election. Heck we lost Westborough in 2010 which we would never have lost if it wasn’t for the Westminster election on the same day. Seriously guys we like the idea of saving money but if it costs us councillors then we would be less inclined to support it.

The head of the Labour group on the council Cllr. Gilbert is worried about the proposed change because the benefit of the current system is councillors face a vote three out of every four years. Lib Dem group leader Cllr. Longley is supportive but also has that reservation about the effect on the democratic process.

Cllr. Terry is not right that the result would be ‘skewed’ by having local elections on the same day as other elections. What is true is the turnout would be larger and therefore more votes would be cast. For example Dr. Vel won Westborough in 2012 with a total of 7.3% of eligible Westborough residents voting for him. If that isn’t a skewed result then I don’t know what is. The more people who vote the better as that will give us a truer reflection of what the public want. For the sake of openness using the same rudimentary maths I got 1.2% of the eligible vote in that same election. Boy I really enthused the electorate…

If we do go all-up then it’ll be an interesting campaign as all the parties would need to find 51 candidates for one election. That might not be easy for the Lib Dems or the independents. You’d expect Labour and the Tories to find the numbers but for all the other parties that might be be a gimme. It would also mean parties would focus more on certain wards than they do now.

Who knows how it’ll play out but one thing is for sure – Cllr. Terry is fine with saving money but if it costs his group his support wouldn’t be as solid.

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The Tories have suddenly found out that actions have consequences – and they no like it

The problem with coalition politics is that everything is essentially a negotiation. No one party will get everything they want. For something one party wants they’ll have to give in to something the other party wants. It is pretty simple stuff but of course with there being a Tory for every five Lib Dems (give or take) in the coalition it could easily be argued that the Tories should get more than the Lib Dems. However they shouldn’t just get everything their own way…

Today the Lib Dems didn’t let the Tories rub their bellies whilst blowing raspberries on it and actually stood up against the Tories because of another piece of the electoral reform process got canned. The Lib Dems were willing to go along with boundary changes in exchange for a more elected House of Lords. They were losing on one front to gain on another. That is pretty much the basis of coalition politics. The Tory backbenchers decided they didn’t want this so killed the bill but still expected the Lib Dems to see through their part of the deal. They seem shocked and not just shocked – appalled – that they didn’t get their own way.

I won’t sit here and say this is a great day. I think boundary reform is important as everyone’s vote should be worth the same but also is ensuring that communities aren’t split up. For example locally in Southend there is no rhyme or reason why Leigh and West Leigh wards would be farmed off to Castlepoint for parliamentary elections. The people of Leigh and West Leigh consider themselves linked with Southend and always have done. Moving this boundary would just be about numbers and not just about communities and that isn’t the best way to be.

Former Southend councillor Peter Bone MP has called for all the Lib Dems who voted against this bill to cross the floor and collapse the coalition. I wonder if he wants the Tories who voted against it to leave the Tory party as well? I suspect he doesn’t. He knows that collapsing the coalition would lead to a General Election and the Tories not having power any more. So he is basically saying that he would prefer not to have any power than share power. An interesting position.

The thing is it is on days like these when the Lib Dems stand up and follow through with what they’ve said they’ll do you see that they couldn’t win either way. If they had voted with the Tories then everyone would have just called them Tory stooges. If they voted like they did against the Tories then people say they did so out of spite. People don’t care about the actual deal of House of Lords Reform for boundary changes (I know there was never a ‘formal’ deal on this but everyone knew it was either both or neither). People will just see what they want to see and if they see the Lib Dems as bad they’ll find a way to justify that position.

One day we’ll get to a point where people understand how coalition politics works, the Tories clearly aren’t there yet. They knew they were going to lose this vote but they still went ahead with it as they wanted to make the Lib Dems look bad. That was their plan all along. The thing is the Lib Dems are getting used to it and like most things they do if people ignore the headlines and who screams the loudest and actually listen to their explanations the hostility will not be as fierce.

Is today a good day for democracy in the UK? Maybe, maybe not. However when the Tory backbenchers and Labour decided to gang up to ensure that House of Lords Reform was very much kicked into the long grass then that probably wasn’t a good day either.

Boundaries need to be reformed but communities must not be split up. The Lords needs to be reformed. It is a shame that neither of these will happen in this parliament but it isn’t solely at the feet of the Lib Dems. There is plenty of blame to go around and all three of the parties deserve a large dollop of it at their feet.

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Sun, Sea & Suspicious Parents. How would my parents have reacted on my lads holiday?

Earlier this week I saw Sun, Sea & Suspicious Parents on BBC Three and thought about how my parents may have reacted if they were following me around on my lads holiday after my A-Levels in 2001. So I thought I’d have a look back in the form of a blog post.

We went to a place called Lloret De Mar (I have just spent around 15 minutes or so on Streetview looking up the place) for a week. There were six of us and it was our first lads holiday. I can say this about our lot – we weren’t the most laddish of lads so it was quite amusing looking back. Anyway we got there and into our hotel (which I think looking at Streetview was the Hotel Villa Garbi and that does ring a bell) and let me tell you this…is it shit. I mean really shit. I know it was only 2* but I didn’t expect it to be that bad. I can’t recall if it was our toilet that didn’t flush or whether it was one of the other guys rooms but that’s not a good situation.

It was 5ish in the morning when we arrived and I had a sleep. No air con or TVs in the rooms. The rooms basically were two beds and a bathroom. So bad but yes on day one we met our reps who told us what the plans were for the week. That night we were having an all you can drink bar crawl. Now considering I’m not a drinker this was probably going to be an interesting night. During the day I can’t recall what we did but we probably explored the local area.

So anyway pub crawl…it would be my best night of the holiday despite what happened. I was not drinking but crushing the soft drinks and was having a good time on the dance floor. Making friends with other holiday makers whilst most of my lot were just drinking and planned dancing later. Well three of the six of us were rather sloshed to put it mildly so we had to get them back to the hotel way earlier than we had planned. I think if my parents had been watching they would have been impressed that I was having a good time and we maturely got the three other lads back home. I want to point out that one of the three who threw up repeatedly threw up undigested frankfurters that flowed down the street in a frankfurter derby. Most disgusting but in retrospect it was amusing.

The next morning in the drunkards room an empty box of Corona was found. No-one to this day knows how it got there. Did one of them get up and go get more booze? No-one knows. We know one of them opened his door to a member of staff naked. Not sure what we did the next day. Oh wait it was a beach party. Three very hungover guys. Me hot and grumpy. Seriously me + heat is a bad combination. I was a grumpy git on that holiday because of a) the heat and the fact I came down with a pretty grot cold. In future if I ever go on holiday the hotel will have air-con and it won’t be stupid hot unless the sea is crystal clear (Barbados, Seychelles etc…). There were ‘games’ at this beach party. I would not partake. Really not my scene as it were…

Next day my cold really took hold. We went out to a Sports Bar just behind the hotel to watch the F1 qualifying and returned to the hotel. The other five went off on a day trip to ‘Tosser Del Mar’ and I chose to stay at the hotel to sleep. I didn’t feel very good you see. Well I lay down and then my mate I was sharing the room with came back and knocked to come in. I asked if he’d forgotten something. He said they had been gone all day. I’m guessing I needed to sleep. Think we went out to a nice waterfront bar that night and that was a nice quiet evening.

Sunday I think we went out to watch the F1 race in the bar and then went out to a cabaret. I was in a pretty bad way that night. My nose was essentially a snot factory. When we got back I went to bed and the other guys went out. I woke up the next morning alone. I wondered where my room mate was. He was sleeping on the floor of another of our rooms as he couldn’t wake up me to let him into the room. I was out for the count. I felt bad. I still do.

On Monday we went to Barcelona. We went to the Olympic Stadium and to the Camp Nou. That was a good day although I still felt like crap and it was stupid and hot. The Olympic Stadium was nice although in all honesty I can’t recall going there (although I know I did). I remember the Camp Nou and that was cool. I remember Barcelona itself and going into a Marks & Spencer on the hunt for food). Maybe it was Monday we went to that nice waterfront bar? Also I’m missing a trip to the beach which was basically building gravel and it stunk. That must’ve been on some day when we were out there.

Tuesday we had to check out by 10AM but our coach to the airport wasn’t until 11PM. So we took it in turns to stay at the hotel reception area looking after the bags. On the Tuesday three of us went to a Chinese for a proper meal and it was the best thing I ate all week. Seriously the food at the hotel was awful. I never made it down to breakfast once in the whole week. I chose sleep over food. I know most of the guys lived off of ‘Starburger’ in the week we were there. I honestly have no idea what I ate or if I ate or what. I don’t remember eating that much that is for sure.

Anyway back to the original point of the post. If my parents had been watching me during my holiday like they do on the programme I think they would have been slightly disappointed that I didn’t let myself go a bit more. I never had a ‘wild phase’ and I wonder if that has helped shape me for the worse. They wouldn’t have liked my grumpiness but my mum is just as bad as me in the heat so she would have understood (plus the whole nose being a snot machine thing – that sucked). So I think overall they wouldn’t have been surprised by my action. I didn’t go on holiday and go crazy. I went on holiday, got ill, got grumpy and didn’t get anywhere near any girls in that kinda way. It was just like the rest of my life really…

I didn’t shake off that cold for around two weeks after I came back either. That was a pretty interesting blog to write. That holiday was July 2001. That is a really long time ago. The next year there was another holiday and the guys seemed to get a much better hotel but I didn’t go on that one. I haven’t been overseas since. When will I venture outside of the UK next? I have a renewed and valid passport. Will 2013 be the year…?

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How do you solve a problem like Match of the Day?

It might not scan as well as How do you solve a problem like Maria? but the BBC have a problem and they know it. The news today from the BBC that they have dropped Colin Murray as host of MOTD2 and replaced him with Mark Chapman shows that they are ready to tinker with the franchise in an attempt to restore it to its former glory. The problem though isn’t just with the Sunday version which has never been the same since Adrian Chiles but the flagship Saturday show is now lagging behind Sky in terms of quality analysis.

Sky have the best pundits and the best presentation team. Even if you takeaway their live coverage which is fronted by Ed Chamberlin, David Jones or Jeff Stelling with a pundit team including the likes of Gary Neville, Jamie Redknapp and Graeme Souness, Sky still has the better highlights show. So lets compare MOTD with Goals on Sunday which is the direct comparison.

Goals on Sunday is fronted by Ben Shepherd and the legend that is Chris Kamara. The show is two hours long (including adverts) so in terms of time on screen it is pretty similar to MOTD which is often one and a half hours with no adverts although GoS also shows the goals from the lower leagues and SPL. Goals on Sunday has a rotation of guests which is usually two people either still involved or involved in football in the past.

They talk about their careers and analyse the games which Chris Kamara leads. They get far more in depth than their MOTD counterparts and the show seems far more informative than MOTD. Along with being more informative it also doesn’t get stale due to the guests being different week in, week out so the perspectives are always different. The guests also have the scope to talk about events in their footballing pasts leading to funny stories like Ray Parlour calling Gareth Southgate ‘big nose’ and then being sold by him a couple of weeks later and of course the many accidental swear words which is only funny to see the presenters reactions.

Match of the Day has become stagnant. We know the names, the voices and the faces. They have become complacent and whilst I have no issue with Gary Lineker per se I do feel that everything seems all old boys club. I can’t remember the last time two of the panelists on MOTD argued with one another but we get it on Sky a lot with the likes of Souness, Neville and Redknapp disagreeing quite openly.

I’d love to see MOTD become the place for football highlights once more and I suppose if you just want the highlights it does the job but you never feel like you’ve learned anything after watching, where as with Goals on Sunday you do feel that you’ve learned and been entertained.

Now as Colin Murray has been ditched for Mark Chapman (who is in a similar mold) it seems like a relatively pointless move for me. MOTD needs a proper revamp as papering over the cracks just isn’t doing the job. I do wonder if James Richardson has ever been approached or even has any interest but I think his style of presenting would go down very well on MOTD2 and personally I’d love him to front football as a whole but the BBC would never go down that route…or would they…?

No. No they wouldn’t and that my friends is a shame for all of us.

As for pundits Alan Hansen was the man. The important word there is was. He’s become lazy and the rest of the BBC lot have never really offered any insight. They aren’t going to attract any of the Sky lot over and losing Lee Dixon was a blow so they need to find a fresh face whose willing to put the work in and not rest on their laurels with lazy cliches. Who that person is I don’t know but Matt Holland is criminally underused. Smart and puts the work in. If the BBC want to blow up MOTD and make it good again Matt Holland wouldn’t be a bad place to start…

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What should be the first line in our obituaries?

Recently I have been thinking about legacy. What defines us as people? Is it the best thing we do in our lives or is it our worst? It is a mixture of the two? People do very good things and can also do very bad things. If I were to die tomorrow what would people say about me? I don’t have anything particularly bad on my resume but nor do I have anything particularly good. I am at a loss to work out what people would say.

American sports writer Bill Simmons was asked in a recent mailbag he did on Manti Te’o:

Q: You have established the Levels of Losing. This whole Manti Te’o thing has got me thinking of the Levels of Indefensibly Defending Sports Figures. There has to be a certain level to where you can’t defend your favorite stars without coming off as a pathetic, nonsensical fan. If there were five levels in all, Joe Paterno’s supporters would be the highest (Level 5). Mel Gibson’s fans are a 4 but dying to be a 5. Every Notre Dame fan defending Manti right now would probably be a 3 (with the chance to climb). This idea is in its infancy stages, how can you help?
—Joe, Syracuse

His reply:

Come on, you barely need any tweaking! You were right there! Fine, I’ll help. You should have gone with six levels (you missed one).

(snip Levels 1-5)

Level 6: Anyone who wanted the Paterno statue to stay up; anyone who thinks that Paterno and/or Penn State’s administration didn’t have an inkling that something was at the very least a little off with Jerry Sandusky; anyone who rushed out a mostly flattering post-scandal biography about Paterno without waiting for the entire investigation to play out; and anyone who said the words, “Well, this may have complicated Joe’s legacy, but it didn’t change all the great things he did.” Welcome to the highest level of Indefensibly Defending Sports Figures.

Now some of you may not know much about the Penn State Sex scandal but here is the long and short of it. A former coach was seen showering with a minor by a graduate assistant. That guy reported it to the head coach Joe Paterno who then reported it to his superiors. At this point seemingly nothing was done and the former coach was free to abuse boys for many more years. The former coach is now behind bars and two other people are facing criminal charges for failing to report and for lying under oath. At the time of his death Joe Paterno was not under investigation for any crime. However that isn’t important when looking at his legacy as the court of public opinion has decided he knew everything and help cover it up for the good of his school. He might well have done that but he could also just as easily not. We don’t know but knowledge isn’t important when determining legacy.

As Bill Simmons points out anyone who defends him – or any of the good work he’s done – is basically an idiot. One thing he may or may not have done is enough to sully a man who until this all came out was one of the most respected men in America. Not just in sports but flat out one of the most respected men in the country.

Look at President Clinton. His legacy is different because even though he was a bad man involved in a string of extra-marital affairs so it seems he is thought of as a great President because the country boomed under his leadership. Michael Jackson’s legacy is difficult to define but he was the King of Pop who was loved by millions around the world and yet there is still a big question mark surrounding what he actually did in the bedroom to children.

Tony Blair will be remembered mostly for the War in Iraq and not for the good he did in the UK. Under his leadership the economy boomed, people had jobs, waiting times collapsed on the NHS, the minimum wage was introduced but that Iraq issue will be the first line of his legacy whether he likes it or not. Nick Clegg could lead the Lib Dems to a staggering 2015 General Election outright victory and make university education free for all and his legacy might still start with the broken NUS pledge in 2010.

Lance Armstrong won cycling events, got cancer and then came back to win the Tour de France on seven separate occasions until they were vacated.. A quite stunning feat. He has raised over half a billion dollars in the fight against cancer but that will not be the first line of his legacy. That will be that he was a cheat and a bully. OJ Simpson will not be remembered as one of the greatest Running Backs the NCAA and the NFL ever saw but more that he was found not guilty in a criminal court of murder (although found guilty in a civil court). Patrick Moore died last month but his first line was about what a great man he was and how he inspired two generations of scientists and the wonder of space yet he was a homophobic who disliked women at the BBC.

It seems as though legacy has no rhyme or reason. Some people will always be seen primarily by the good they do and some by the bad. It seems to me that the court of public opinion will decide how the media will view anyone. If the court of public opinion in the majority likes a person then they can sweep their pitfalls under the rug but if the bad point is so big that is dramatically shifts the court of public opinion then the media will react and they’ll react faster and louder than the previous person because they need to be the most outraged or they won’t get their point across.

I saw this with Joe Paterno. I read so many pieces and so many outraged voices all going further than the previous person. I even saw some ‘journalists’ saying that all his assets should be striped from his family and they should be made to live on the streets as a punishment. Others said that Penn State should never play football again and I’m sure I even read one or two saying the university should be completely shutdown.

We live in an era where if you don’t scream loud enough then your voice will fade into the background and that is a sad state of affairs. Reasoned and thoughtful debate is something that is going the way of the VHS and if the first line of my legacy started with ‘he was a reasoned and thoughtful person’ then that would be a distinction that I’d be rather proud of.

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Mississippi Mud Pie – Mr Kipling gives us a new cake to enjoy

As we all know I cover the vital topics here on The Rambles of Neil Monnery but have we had a bigger issue than this? Mr Kipling has brought out a new cake and after eating a few I am willing to include it in the same sentence at the Cherry Bakewell. I knows. Crazy. Not saying it is better than the Cherry Bakewell because that would be the first sign that I needed to see the men in white coats but it might deserve to at least be in the discussion. Lets go back to the start…

It was Thursday afternoon and I had gone to Asda in Shoeburyness primarily to get some White Grape & Peach high-juice but for the second visit in a row they had none. One day Asda might actually learn that it is clearly their most popular selling high-juice and to actually get more in stock because it is the one they always run out of. Anyway they had none so my main reason for going had been abandoned. They also had no Cumberland Ring Sausages (I don’t think they do them any more as they haven’t had them for several visits now), no HP Guinness Sauce, no mini-chocolate doughnuts, it was not going well.

This disappointed me greatly so I went in the hunt of a box of Mr Kipling’s Cherry Bakewells. They always cheer me up and I found them but a split second before my eyes had been attracted to a box a shelf down and to the right of the Cherry Bakewells. You can see that box below (although you can probably guess what the box was considering the title of the blog post but anyway…)

mississippi mud pie
Mr Kipling’s Mississippi Mud Pie Box

A new cake with ‘rich chocolate flavoured mousse’ and only a quid? You guessed it I was totally sucked in and bought a box. The woman on the till even commented that they looked nice and she hadn’t seen them before. Yes someone on a till at Asda had more conversation skills than ‘thank you for waiting’ and ‘do you need any help with bagging?’ I nearly had a heart attack. Why do they say thank you for waiting anyway, it is a queue at a till in a supermarket, you expect to wait and sometimes they say it even if you’ve not been waiting more than a minute or so. Crazy.

This is what I’d discover was in the box – six of these.

mr kiplings mississippi mud pie
Mississippi Mud Pie

So anyway I get home and last night I decided to eat a couple. On the box it says they are ‘delicious served warm’ so I decided to microwave a couple but I thought they were ok, nothing special but today I have had a couple more at room temperature and I must say they were rather pleasant. Not a Cherry Bakewell but more than a nice change of pace. Would I buy them at what will be full price? I doubt it but heck I never buy Cherry Bakewells at full price either. I wait until they are BOGOF or a quid a box. For a quid for six Mississippi Mud Pies I think that is more than fair value. A nice new addition to the Mr Kipling range and a nice new addition to Neil’s cake rotation.

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Did you hear the one about the girlfriend who died of cancer but actually didn’t exist?

One story has dominated the American sports industry over the past 24 hours and it is one of the most bizarre stories that I have ever come across. Deadspin yesterday published the following story Manti Te’o’s Dead Girlfriend, The Most Heartbreaking And Inspirational Story Of The College Football Season, Is A Hoax. The story details how the girlfriend of an American Football player never existed and when he announced to the world that she had died of cancer it was not accurate because…she didn’t exist.

The thing that has stunned the journalism industry isn’t what happened but more how was the story ever allowed to happen? How come no-one picked up on the fact that she didn’t exist? Didn’t anyone do some background research that would have shown up the fact this was a hoax? As many experienced journalists have said today you take people at their word on issues like these but you do background research, you attempt to speak to the girls parents, her friends, you do something to find out other facets of the story. The fact is no-one did this and the story of Te’o and the death of his girlfriend was allowed to manifest itself is something of a black mark on the whole industry.

This girlfriend who apparently died had no obituary ever written about her. Her funeral was published at being held in two different places – one of these places as a town in California that didn’t even exist. Yet no-one picked up on it. On December 26 Te’O went to his university and told them that the story was a hoax perpetrated on him by sick individuals. The truth according to the player was that he had developed an online relationship and had never met this girl.

His version of events are believable but he knew on December 26th that the story was untrue and yet before the National Championship Game ten days ago he was asked on many occasions about his girlfriend and he still didn’t come clean. He still spoke of her – and her death by cancer – freely and with raw emotion. It just doesn’t add up.

Then a few days ago Deadspin got a tip that the story was a hoax and within a few days they were able to join the dots and release the story linked to earlier, which is in itself a fine piece of journalism. The viewpoint of many of the sports journalists are that whilst they didn’t do their jobs properly they are also under immense pressure not only to be right but more importantly to be first in this 24/7 news cycle world that we live in. Being first brings kudos and brings followers on twitter, likes on Facebook and might, views on the internet, eyeballs on the TV and even the odd extra sale of a newspaper. Being right might not be the be all and end all any more and when everyone is wrong it doesn’t seem to matter as much.

Personally I love the longer, thoughtful piece. I was talking to a friend of mine Tony a few weeks ago about the ESPN show 30 for 30 and how we both really appreciated the proper sports documentary. You can tell the time that had gone into the documentary series and I really enjoyed it. A few weeks ago ITV4 showed a documentary on Jose Mourinho and I found that well worth an hour of my time.

Longer, more thoughtful pieces still have a home in my heart but do they still have a place in sports journalism in this day and age? This story makes me think its place in sports journalism is on the very edge and its not looking in, its drifting even further away and that makes me sad.

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Just what is the point of the Lib Dems…?

So yes. Rather a bludgeoning title but it stems from what a lot of people think. It seems that a significant number of people believe the Lib Dems to be the choice when there is no point voting Labour because they can’t win or a protest vote against Labour if they are doing something badly. For many people voting for the Lib Dems isn’t about voting for the Lib Dems per se – it is about voting and voting for someone who they don’t dislike.

Mark Pack wrote the piece entitled Why the defection of Brian Sedgemore is still relevant over the weekend and it talks about the defection of a Labour MP who was standing down but who had no obvious place in the Lib Dems because he was on the left of Labour who are a party who are naturally to the left of the Lib Dems anyway. So in one swoop he dramatically moved across the political spectrum not because he felt that the Lib Dems were the best home for his political views but because he didn’t feel Labour were any more and he wanted a political home.

So are the Lib Dems just the home of the dissatisfied Labour voter or are they an entity in their own right? Well that is what we are going to find out in the upcoming years. The Lib Dems as a party have shown that they aren’t just an alternative against the Conservatives but they have also shown that they are also a grown-up party who aren’t just happy to be the nice ineffectual people sitting their swimming in their own idealism and ignoring realism.

It will be down to the people to decide whether the Lib Dems are a protest vote or whether they actually are a party in their own right. The party have taken a public hammering because they didn’t step the Conservatives doing some things but what if Labour had wanted to do some things that weren’t popular and the Lib Dems were in coalition with them? Would the public perception be that they were ineffective in that situation as well? Of course it would. If the Lib Dems had sat on their hands and done nothing in the aftermath of the hung parliament then would people say the Lib Dems are cowards who say the right thing but don’t have the guts to make any decisions? You bet your bottom dollar they would.

The reality of the situation is the Lib Dems were in a no-win situation. Whatever they did it would be seen by a not insignificant number to be doing the wrong thing. Some people say that a party with just 57 MPs shouldn’t have a say on government policy and yet on the other hand people complain that they don’t do enough. Same situation and two very different viewpoints but the third way of the Lib Dems are doing just about enough is not one many people subscribe to.

Sometimes you sit there and listen to people talking about politics and what the Lib Dems have done and then within the same breath they are being blamed for not doing enough. The truth of the matter is the country didn’t know what it wanted in May 2010. The country didn’t believe in Gordon Brown but they didn’t really want David Cameron either. It is certainly the first time in my lifetime where the country clearly didn’t want either party.

I know 1992 was close but when push came to shove the public liked John Major. They trusted him even if they didn’t trust the people around him. In 2010 the public didn’t trust Gordon Brown and didn’t like David Cameron. However the country needs a government and therefore the Lib Dems due to being the third party would have to be involved in some way – either in a coalition or as part of a confidence & supply agreement.

The problem with confidence & supply was all about timing. The banking crisis had left the economy teetering on the edge and without a strong stable government the city was going to go into meltdown. The Lib Dems were damned either way. They either stuck their head in the sand or they didn’t. They chose not to and this didn’t sit well with a lot of their voters who were basically ABCs (Anyone But Conservatives) and any tie-up with the Tories was not what they signed up for. I struggle with this viewpoint a lot because the numbers didn’t add up for any other outcome.

This is why the Lib Dems need to appeal to voters on who we are and not who we are not. The Lib Dems are not just a protest vote if you don’t like the Tories and they are the best alternative where certain people live. They aren’t just a protest vote if someone is unhappy with Labour. The Lib Dems need to build up support for themselves and their policies. Relying on people voting Lib Dem because they are the best party to defeat someone else isn’t a ringing endorsement and will lead to what has happened – the moment the Lib Dems actually have to do something then a not insignificant number of their voters will be angry.

The Lib Dems are not the Anti-Iraq War party. They are not the Anti-Tuition Fees party. They are not the ‘Well-they-aren’t-the-Tories-or-Labour party. The Lib Dems are a party with a diverse policy on many issues and shouldn’t be pigeon-holed into one policy. I have for a long-time held the belief tat if people read everyone’s manifestos and voted on them without a name on it to identify the party then a lot of people would vote Lib Dem just on the strength of their policies.

It must be said that the Lib Dems are not a brand name like Labour or the Conservatives. Most people buy Heinz Baked Beans because they know what to expect and don’t get supermarket brands because they are skeptical about the unknown. The same is true of the Lib Dems. They might not like Labour or the Conservatives but they know what they are going to get and sometimes fear of the unknown leads us to return to the safety of what we know. Can the Lib Dems make the hard decisions? Well now we know that they can. That is something we didn’t know before and is a significant difference. Everyone likes the sweet toddler who does nothing to rock the boat but teenagers are a different kettle of fish. The Lib Dems are now going through their teenage phase and are rapidly growing up. Soon they’ve be a fully-fledged grown up political party that people will judge on what they do and say and not because of what others are doing and saying.

To answer my own question. The point of the Lib Dems are to provide a viable third way. They aren’t about gimmicks and being something they are not. The Lib Dems are the party of the middle ground. The party who believe that people shouldn’t be punished for being poor but nor should they are being rich. When it all comes down to it we are all the same and we all deserve the same basic chances and opportunities in life. That is basically what the Lib Dems are in a nutshell. They don’t hate the rich or the poor. They don’t work for one part of society over another. They believe that no matter your background you can do amazing things.

We are all individuals. We are all different. What we all deserve though is to be safe, to have health care available for free at the point of contact, to have the opportunity to be educated to a good level and the chance to grow as people throughout our lifetime. That is why I’m a Lib Dem. They don’t care if you are rich or you are poor, if you are black or you are white, if you are straight or if you are gay. They just see you, a living, breathing individual. If you believe in people having the same opportunities in life and not being punished because of their background then you are probably at least liberal leaning.

If the Lib Dems can show the electorate what they stand for and not just tell people ‘vote for us because we aren’t them’ then in the long-run they’ll be in a much better place. The problem is though in the short-run negative politics hits home. If only we as a nation, as an electorate sat down and listened to what politicians said and did instead of going on media soundbites and historical allegiances then maybe the country will get exactly what it wants in a government. Voting for someone because they ‘don’t like the alternatives’ is not a solid footing for any government. Alas I fear negative and scaremongering politics isn’t going anywhere soon and that my friends is where I shall leave you for this blog post. Sad but true.

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Why are schools trying to turn children into robots?

Did you hear about the girl who was put into isolation for having pink tips in her hair? It is a story that is all too common and one that really gets me hot under the collar. It has been a while since I was boarding school buses and going to a compulsory education establishment day in, day out but one thing I do remember is back then I seemed to have a bit more latitude with how I looked. Not that I ever had crazy hair or anything but others did and there wasn’t too much hassle.

I know the old Al Murray saying, ‘Rules is Rules’ but on the flip side what is the role of a school? Is it to educate the young of today and get them ready for the world or is it to educate the young of today and go whatever it takes to get the best exam results possible? I argue the former and part of that is nurturing youngsters individuality and creativity. My old High School is now a College apparently so I had a look at their website and had a look at their aims for students:

Our aims are those of the Island Innovation Trust. We are committed to:

• Ensure all students achieve to their full potential.
• Encourage all students to have strong aspirations for their future.
• Promote health, welfare and safety of all students.
• Develop a learning environment which promotes:
• Independent learning
• High expectations
• Creativity
• Individuality
• Enjoyment
• Practical learning opportunities
• Enterprise

Then I looked at their uniform policy and what students are not allowed to do:

The following items are NOT allowed:

 Denim, leather or suede (or similar looking materials) coats/jackets or multicoloured outdoor clothes
 Shorts, leggings or skinny fit trousers (except PE shorts worn for lessons)
 Canvas leisure shoes, deck shoes or boots
 Trainers, (only to be used in PE)
 Cloth Badges on indoor or outdoor clothes
 Inappropriate makeup
 No jewellery to be worn, except a watch and one earring up to 5mm in each ear.
 No other piercings are allowed.
 Hair must be worn in an appropriate style.
 No extreme styling or designs of hair or eyebrows e.g. lines, intricate patterns. Only hair of one natural colour allowed and no false nails or coloured nail varnish is allowed.

Something didn’t add up. They want to encourage creativity and individuality but look at some of the restrictions students are faced with. Look I am fine with students having a uniform mainly because if students could wear what they wanted it could easily lead to bullying with people looking down on kids who wore non-fashionable clothes etc. but what is wrong with people showing individuality through hair colour?

Also not listed here but hooded tops are not allowed and students wearing them will not be allowed into the school. I mean are we for real? Have we got to the stage where we want to stifle the youth of today to such a dramatic degree? Imagine spending 16 years of your life not being allowed to experiment with your hair or being nurtured to explore your own identity? I know not everyone explores there own identity through hair colour or piercings or whatever but that is a huge part of growing up.

Does having pink dye really change anyone’s learning environment? If a girl has pink tips will the rest of the class spend lessons designing their own hair colour schemes or designs? In the article the school in question doesn’t even allow shaved heads. Carisbrooke College says that hair must be worn in an appropriate style but as a teenager I grew my hair long. Would that be appropriate or not? When I grew my hair was is distracting for other people?

I’d love to see young people encouraged by schools to explore every aspect about who they are because we are all different. School is not just about exam results but about preparing the youth of today for life after compulsory education. Growing up is hard enough without young people having their individuality and creativity straitjacketed.

When I was a lad I didn’t like school uniform. I mean who honestly did? I did see the logic behind it though but a line has to be drawn somewhere to allow young people the chance to express themselves. I hope schools can sort this out as at the moment I see a lot of people being engineered to get good exam results but good exam results doesn’t automatically mean they grow up well and balanced. At some point schools have to understand that exam results are not the be all and end all and that nurturing young people to explore themselves is just as important part of the whole educational process.

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Olly Neville removed from UKIP position for not being a member of the Borg

The twitter rumour-mill was working at full capacity last night talking about the fact Olly Neville was being removed as Chairman of the Young Independence council (the Youth movement of UKIP) because his personal opinion on equal marriage was that it was a good thing. It was his personal opinion but having an opinion that doesn’t marry up with party policy was enough for UKIP to swing into action and remove him from that position. The reason seems to be pretty simple – they are a party only have one opinion – like the Borg – and if you don’t agree with them then you cannot speak about your views.

This is one of the reasons why I’m so happy and comfortable within the Liberal Democrats. You are pretty much free to have an opinion and air it freely. The Lib Dems are a party full of opinionated people who will argue tooth and nail over policy and if they air differences on a personal level then so be it. They won’t be disciplined as it were.

Going back to the case in point Olly has written over at the Independent about what happened from his point of view. He seems a bit disillusioned with the party as he believed they were a Libertarian Party who promote freedom and minimalist state intervention whereas it seems as though freedom is not exactly at the top of their agenda.

We all have opinions of UKIP and this – for me – backs up what I always saw UKIP as – a party that was basically BNP-lite for those who didn’t want to be associated with a racist party but deep down thought that if Great Britain only had British people then it wouldn’t be a bad thing.

UKIP say he was removed from his position because he was ‘misrepresenting UKIP policy’ and not for airing his personal opinion but even if he did seemingly do that then why is any Libertarian Party having a hard line policy on equal marriage? Surely that is an oxymoron in itself? A Libertarian Party would surely not have too much of a strong opinion on this and would in fact promote as little state intervention on this as possible. If it isn’t directly harming anyone then surely it isn’t a problem for any Libertarian?

All this has done is hardened my opinion on UKIP as a party. The people that vote for them are people who are unhappy with the status quo and want to see something different but when you actually examine what UKIP have to offer people will be surprised – and not in a good way. It is a party for people who would like to turn back the clock 100 years and be isolationist and put freedom back to the stone age. As a race we have evolved and freedom is developing as is equality. We aren’t there yet but UKIP don’t seem to want to evolve. They want good old fashioned values which on paper looks good but in reality that isn’t the way.

Removing one of the very few names that people knew within the party because he had a personal opinion on a subject that disagreed with party policy says everything. In UKIP it is their way or the highway. Olly has been cut off from the collective and will now be free to express his opinions without the pressure of being watched like a hawk. As he said himself in the constitution it was written that he was allowed to express a personal opinion. That though seems to have been a lie.

UKIP as the Borg. I see that. Just like Monty Burns as the Goa’uld…

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