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Month: March 2013

What the Liberal Democrats stand for challenge…

Whilst I wasn’t tagged in this meme I thought it was more than interesting and I would implore all Lib Dems (not just in the blogosphere) but all Lib Dems to sit down for a few minutes and think about their values and how they mesh with the party.

Alex Wilcock wrote about it first and I’ve also seen Richard Flowers do his version. I won’t copy theie entire blurbs but just the main headlines of both:

The Liberal Democrats stand for freedom for every individual – freedom from poverty, ignorance and conformity. – AW

The Liberal Democrats stand for the freedom to live your life enjoying the rewards for your own endeavour*, governed by your own choices – with equality before the law; without harming others. – RF

First of all I think I should look at what I stand for – and why I think my values reflect those of liberals and in turn the Liberal Democrats. For me the most important thing in politics and in life is that everybody should be treated as an equal and that life should not be dictated by what opportunities people get. It shouldn’t matter if you were born with a silver spoon or if you were born in a bathroom stall at Heathrow. Every single person deserves to have every opportunity to fulfill their dreams and ambitions.

You see I’m 29 and I have a dream and I have ambition. Now whilst that dream and ambition seems a long way off I am slowly making steps towards making at least one part of that dream happen. If you ask every single person you’ll see different dreams and ambitions but often life gets in the way whether we like it or not. As an (I suppose) adult my dreams are now less fanciful than when I was growing up. However I still have a dream and I strive to make my life more to how I’d like it.

So it is clear one of my strongest drives is education – and not just education in making people clever – but education to make people more understanding and an education system that caters for all and doesn’t just pigeonhole young people into getting exam qualifications. I know asking people at 11 when they want to do and then building an education around that is a fruitless experience as people will change their minds. Heck look at my university Journalism course and only two of the 40 people still make their primary living within the journalism industry as far as I’m aware (I suppose it may be more but only by one or two).

However when we are young we dream and we should never be told that anything is impossible. We shouldn’t tell someone that they can’t grow up to be whatever they want if they want it hard enough and are willing to work hard at it. How many of us sit there some days and dream of doing something else? I know I do and by the time we have decided that often we have commitments that stop us from pursuing our dreams.

So to sum up – opportunity is something that burns a fire in my belly.

Another thing is that people should have the freedom to choose however they live their life. I know in a large way we do now but so many of us live our lives with our main aim is not to be happy but to be secure. This goes back to the feeling of people being allowed to pursue their dreams. I know I am – nor is any political party – ever going to do away with the concept of money but I work to keep a roof over my head and to pay the bills. I don’t work to enjoy my life and yet I know I have it pretty good compared to others.

We need enterprising ways for society not to look down upon any other section of society for whatever reason – be in colour, nationality, sex, sexual orientation, income, benefits or anything else I haven’t mentioned. No one person is born better or worse than the next. Not one. Even in my tentative steps in this world I have seen so much prejudice for so many different reasons and it depresses me greatly.

I could ramble on and on but I need to be succinct (only about two people in the world will know why that word is so funny to me) so I need to sum up what the Liberal Democrats are to me:

The Liberal Democrats stand for ensuring that every single person has the same opportunities in life to pursue their dreams without the fear of being treated unfairly or unlawfully. If we are all treated with the same level of basic dignity by everyone then prejudice will disappear.

Lastly I just want to add a quick thought about taxation as it sadly has a large effect on all of our lives. I have no issue with taxes as long as that money is going towards building a fairer society. I don’t mind taxes if education standards are increased even if I’m never having kids. I don’t mind paying taxes if we have great hospitals that are free at the point of use. I don’t mind paying taxes to ensure we live in a clean and safe environment.

People should pay their fair share and it is right that those with more money should pay higher taxes. It is not right that these people though are taxed to the level that it would actually pay to avoid tax or to earn less. Tax should not be an ideological thing but more about ensuring more money is in the pot to provide the services to create a fairer society and closing the gap between the have’s and have not’s. For example the 45p tax rate doesn’t rile me up if indeed it does lead to more money recouped than by a 50p tax rate which is what the economists are saying it will (due to more people paying it and not moving themselves/their money overseas). Tax is not about fleecing the rich but it is about finding the best way to provide the services everyone needs and deserves.

With that I shall stop but yes equality and the freedom to pursue dreams whether young or old but education – and finding a better way to nurture young talent, inspire young minds and developing a more tolerant society is where I would start with what makes me fired up about politics and where I would love to see the Lib Dems reflect on when they look at what they do in government – and both national and local levels.

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Miriam González & Nick Clegg have decided what school their eldest son will go to – why should we care?

We shouldn’t.

Oh well that was a brief blog post. Oh wait I actually have to flesh it out a bit? Oh brain you are a slavedriver to my poor fingers on my right hand.

So yes. Antonio is going to a catholic school around two miles away from the González/Clegg residence. His dad is an atheist but his mum is a devout catholic and all the boys are brought up following the catholic faith. The school has around 160 places each year to give out to pupils and the main criteria is that these people are practicing catholics. Well I think that is a fair representation of Antonio as they are taken to church weekly by their mother and are brought up within the faith. So why the hoo-hah?

Well because apparently as leader of a political party Nick Clegg should do things ideologically instead of doing the right thing for his family. The way things are his son has the chance to go to a school that he and his wife agreed would be the best place for him so why shouldn’t they send their son there?

I might shock a few people here but when I was Antonio’s age I went to a catholic school. Yes I’m very much an atheist but it was far better than my local school and I do not doubt that I had a better education there. I got in because they had a policy of taking a small percentage of their intake from other denominations (but they had to be from Christian families) and my mum was a local Methodist minister at the time. Both my older brother and older sister went to the same school.

Faith schools are not full of devout Christians I can assure you of that and not all of them have a good reputation but isn’t part of the job description of a parent to give their offspring the best possible advantages in life? I would strongly contend that it is. Now in an ideal world of course every school is just as good as the next but we do not live in an ideal world. Different schools have different ethos and strengths and weaknesses.

We are not in a position to judge other human beings on their choice of school for their children. Not even if one of those parents was the leader of the Liberal Democrats. If between them they agree that the London Oratory School is the right place for Antonio then so be it. If David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nigel Farage etc… choose any school for their offspring then it should be their decision. A child’s place of education is not – nor should it ever be – a political pawn.

I hope his story dies a quick death and Antonio enjoys a great education and an enjoyable time at school. They say school is the time of your life. Whilst I contend that might actually be the case I would kinda love to go back and do my school days again knowing that in the grown-up real world things are far more stressful at times. When I was 11 all I cared about was running around the garden and what was for dinner. I never lay in bed trying to work out what I wanted from life or stressing about work or relationships etc…

Enjoy your time at school kid and lets hope the media leave you alone as well as respect the wishes of your parents.

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Aaron Ramsey. I just don’t get the it…?

Look let me start with this. I’m not football scout. I’m just a guy who watches a lot of football and enjoys the game. We all have opinions on players and sometimes we go out on a limb against the vocal majority. For example I always thought Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi could be a success in the old division one but the vocal majority of Pompey fans thought he was just too short. They wanted old man Dave Beasant back in the team and eventually that is how it went down. I thought the reason we conceded so many goals had to do with the fact our defence stunk – in fact we conceded goals at the same clip when Beasant was between the sticks but that is facts that go against the perceived wisdom.

However every so often I look at a player and I just do not see what a manager sees in them and one of those is Aaron Ramsey. Arsenal are on the tellybox a lot and Ramsey seems to play a lot and yet every single time I watch him I see a technically solid player who takes too many touches and always turns back instead of barreling forward. He doesn’t have that killer pass in him but he does slow everything down and if you slow everything down when you play for a team which are at their very best when building up a head of steam then you have an issue.

He has played at the right side of a front three and yet he can’t cross a ball for toffee nor can he beat a man one on one. Today at Spurs twice he had the ball running at Spurs in a counter attack and both times instead of passing it in an attacking fashion or taking on the man he was running at he turned around and regrouped allowing the defence to get back in place.

Now I know Santi Carzola also often slows things down but he has the quality and the eye to pick a killer pass that would actually create a chance – and of course he chips in with a few goals. Ramsey today went put clean through in the inside right channel and you never fancied him to even hit the target. He dragged the chance wide (although a corner was given) but the initial shot was going wide anyway.

Ramsey doesn’t have it. If Abou Diaby is fit then surely he has to play in midfield every single time. He can tackle, has strength and has the eye for a wonderful pass. I was watching El Clasico yesterday and even Pete playing in that midfield position played more good attacking passes than Aaron Ramsey did today – and Ramsey is considered as a genuine midfielder – Pepe most certainly is not.

It wasn’t just today that got to me about Aaron Ramsey. He just doesn’t seem to have it to play at the very highest level in this team. Maybe he would be a fine player in a team that didn’t play in the style that Arsenal do but Arsenal are only really good when they build up a head of steam and play one or two touch football. Ramsey plays three or four touch football and slows the game so much that it leads to other players getting frustrated and not being able to play at the speed that they want to play at.

Look I’m sure he’s a lovely chap and a very good footballer but he doesn’t suit this Arsenal side and the fact he keeps getting the nod shows that either Arsene Wenger has a weakness for him or has no-one else that he trusts in these roles – which says a lot about what he thinks about the likes of Tomáš Rosický, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Abou Diaby. If Arsenal are going to be successful then Aaron Ramsey needs to be benched.

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Zadok Day leaves the Lib Dems but makes a very interesting observation on his way out of the door

Here’s a theory I’ve been working on: political parties are cults. They should be clubs for the like-minded, but instead become repulsive repositories that make the people inside more similar, not less, and farther away from the general public, not closer. They encourage closed minds, adoration of party leaders, disbelief of crimes committed, putting the good of the cult above the good of other people – in this case the country! Look at the way canvassers go from door to door, inquiring about votes, the currency of the cult, rather than ideology. We don’t want to change the minds of the electorate, we want them to support our particular cult getting into power instead of that other one, and ideally joining the cult and helping spread the membership..

writes Zadok Day as he blogs his departure from the Lib Dems here.

Now I should put it out there right now. I like Zadok and believe our politics are pretty well aligned so I more times than not will be on his side in any political discussion. His decision to leave the party is disappointing but it is understandable. I think we all reach the stage where we just struggle with banging our heads against a brick wall and wonder what the point of it all is. Sometimes time away from the front line will re-energise people and the fire can burn once more but sometimes it doesn’t.

Now to to his point about political parties being cults. It is an interesting and astute observation. Do political parties try to educate people into their ethos and values or do they just try to get people to vote for them? Sometimes I look at people in various political parties and don’t see them as people I’d expect to represent that parties ethos and values. Hence why so many people defect from one party to another – they do so for various reasons but councillors often defect for political reasons and not for reasons surrounding values. People defect for personal reasons that they do not like someone else in the party. Many have left the Lib Dems not because of the coalition (although many, many have) but they have left because they simply don’t like Nick Clegg, or don’t like David Laws, or don’t like Chris Huhne etc…

One thing I will say I disagree with Zadok on though is that unlike a cult – there is no slavish love of the leader. Nick Clegg is not someone who everyone likes even – heck many don’t even respect him but stay in the party because they see themselves as the true Lib Dems and they’ll be there even after Nick leaves.

However I have felt at times personally that if you have a different PoV to the majority then you are looked down upon and not engaged in conversation. Look at one of the most passionate things that many Lib Dems back at the moment on the ‘No More Page 3’ campaign. Now whilst they aren’t asking for legal reasons to ban Page 3 they are singling out one publication whereas other publications do exactly the same but are being ignored. It also seems wrong to me that one section of society can decide that they are the spokespeople for that section of society despite never being voted in. Some women may (and clearly do) want to sell topless pictures of themselves.

On to canvassing. It is a brilliant point that we don’t speak to people about their ideologies and values but we ask about who they vote for. Surely we should be finding out what people stand for and what they believe in. If we can understand that then we can better understand the electorate. I have said for eons that I think more people are broadly liberal in their views than vote Liberal Democrat. The issue is then do people not vote for the Lib Dems because they don’t see the point or because they don’t believe that the Lib Dems stand for liberals?

I have found in my time that the more you actually talk to someone about ideologies and values the more they come around to thinking liberally. Talking about votes and policy does the job short-term but the more you speak to someone about what they stand for and what liberalism is then I genuinely have found the more that people will think of themselves as liberal. Now converting this into votes is of course important if the Lib Dems are ever going to have the power to get their liberal ideologies into more people’s lives but maybe here upon lies yet another problem – are the Lib Dems really the natural home for liberals?

You’d like to think so but it isn’t that simple any more. Now the other major parties certainly can’t claim to be liberal – Iraq war, 42 days detention with no charges, a distrust of foreigners and the EU, secret courts etc.. are all things other parties have done or wanted to do. The Lib Dems have clearly done some good on this front but have they strayed away from ideology? That is a question for another day but it is probably a legitimate one.

I would love to live in a world where the liberals ran the show. However just as important is having more people broadly seeing themselves as liberals. With so many people these days migrating towards extremism and genuinely not having a liberal attitude to fellow human beings who may want to live and work in this country then it concerns me greatly. The liberal viewpoint sounds ideological but it is the ideology that I buy into.

It is a sad day that Zadok has decided to leave but I understand his PoV and even if he isn’t a member I hope he still engages with people with his liberal ideologies. The more liberal a society is then the better and happier I think it will be – and that – not votes – should be our number one aim.

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Are UKIP showing us we are more xenophobic than we were before?

The Liberal Democrats pulled off a hard fought victory in the early hours in Eastleigh but it isn’t the story today. The story is UKIP’s surge but not for the reason that you might think.

They received 28% of the vote and beat the Tories into second place. They had a very impressive candidate who didn’t seem very UKIPpy at all. In fact she sounded like a middle of the road Conservative – and this is because she is in fact a middle of the road Conservative. The Tory candidate was far more UKIPpy than Diane was but that isn’t the debate here.

The interesting note coming out of the Eastleigh by-election is that a lot of people who usually don’t vote – did – and they went big for UKIP. For years we have had a significant segment of society who have zero interest in politics and think they are all as bad as the next person but these people were stimulated to actually go to a ballot box on Thursday and vote for a political party that most people thought were a bit of a joke.

If 100% of eligible voters voted in every election then we might get lots of different results. Those who ‘don’t care enough to vote’ are often those with the biggest gripes against the government but don’t see any alternative. Now if suddenly UKIP can put themselves on the side of these people and get them motivated enough to vote then suddenly they are a political force not to be ignored.

I started this blog post thinking about whether we as a country are getting more xenophobic or not on the back of this result. The headlines figures would suggest that maybe we are but maybe it is just those who are xenophobic are now making louder noises and feel that they have someone on their side.

I read the local rag every day and on the ‘letters to the editor’ page one of the most popular things people are seemingly writing in about is about foreigners coming over here and taking jobs and benefits from hard working British folk who are entitled to it. A decade ago it was completely different as this country embraced foreign nationals but as the economy has shrunk so has the countries love of foreigners. The correlation is pretty stark.

Do people not like foreigners or are they just scared that there are not enough jobs to go around? I still think (read: hope) that as a nation we are still pretty liberal but the xenophobes are certainly far more vocal then they used to be. Whether this is because they feel it is more acceptable these days to have these opinions or that they have actually changed over the years I don’t know.

The truth is UKIP are able to engage voters who don’t vote. Yes they are taking votes from the other parties but also picking up fresh voters in their droves might be the most significant thing to come out of the Eastleigh by-election. Lets be honest here – had the Lib Dems not moved the writ for the by-election so quickly then UKIP could easily have won and had their first MP.

The other major parties have to take UKIP seriously now. They have seen they can engage with a significant proportion of the disenfranchised electorate. With more voters hating all politicians the number of these potential protest voters is increasing all the time and if UKIP can persuade them to bother voting then they are a dangerous foe. The fact is that UKIP can now make a good argument to be treated in the media on the same level as the other three main parties despite not having an MP and should they do this – for example in TV debates – then they’ll reap the rewards of the extra exposure.

It was a good hold for the Lib Dems – and one they needed. However the danger of UKIP is greater than we all thought. They won’t just split the Tory vote – they’ll also attract votes from people who previously didn’t vote. That combination if they can continue it could see them in a good position come 2015 but as we all know – plenty can happen in the next two and a half years…

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