Archive for February, 2015
Well the NHS won’t win them the election so now it is time to pull at the heartstrings against the other party.
So Ed Miliband says that under a Labour government, they’ll reduce tuition fees to a top level of £6,000. Hurray, Hurrah etc…. This sounds great and I have no doubt that when I watch the six o’clock news tonight it will be the lead story and it will sound great. The problem (as it often is) is that is you go beyond the headline, you’ll notice that actually this tuition fees drop would actually most effect the rich and actually do very little for the poorer people in society when it comes to how much they repay in terms of tuition fees. This is part of the total misconception about tuition fees that Labour have pandered to and fanned the flames of.
Tuition fees are without a doubt the most popular policy that most people simply do not understand. I was once told that actual finances and the reality meant nothing when it came to politics, all people want are the headlines and those with the loudest voices get the headlines. Oh joy.
Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis has an excellent breakdown of the policy and why it will actually only effect those who earn above £35,000 per year. You can read it in his article entitled, Labour’s plan to cut tuition fees to £6,000 is a financially illiterate policy. In it you’ll actually get some sense and some detail behind the headline grabbing policy.
The key line is thus, ‘It shows that only those with a STARTING SALARY of at least £35,000 – and then rising by above inflation each year after – would pay less if you cut tuition fees (we have assumed the student also takes out £5,555 in maintenance loans per year). Now £35,000 is a solid income but many people in their 20s won’t reach that type of level, in fact many people won’t throughout their lives. So why would Labour want to push ahead with a policy that in effect actually doesn’t help those they are saying they are trying to help?
The fact is simple. Politics isn’t about substance. Politicians don’t actually want to do the right thing, they want to sound like they are doing the right thing. I don’t include all politicians in here obviously but it is something that if you read policies and go beyond the stories in the newspapers and on the TV news, you’ll start to learn this more and more. If you want a complete story then you have to read beyond the headlines and beyond whatever bias a media firm has (more so with print that broadcast media).
This isn’t about actually helping students, it is politics, pure and simple. It is a great sound bite that evokes an emotional response. Labour had been pinning their hopes on making this election over saving the NHS but that hasn’t done much in the polls. Now it is time to do a populist attack on the Lib Dems on a policy that the Lib Dems won’t be too proud of. Not because the policy is bad per se but it goes against what they wanted (and still actually want) to do.
Coalition politics, when Labour have to do it with the SNP for the next five years you can bet the Lib Dems will jump on any policy Labour don’t get through that is on their manifesto.
The facts are that more people from disadvantaged backgrounds are going to university than ever before. Once people get their head around the system and realise that you only start paying the fees/loan back when you are earning £21,000 a year and not a penny more, people are understanding that they indeed can afford to go to university because the fees don’t actually cost them a penny until they are earning a decent salary.
Labour introduced tuition fees, then they trebled them, now they want to double them from where they were when they were in power and in doing so only help those that are most well-off and I thought Ed Miliband was trying to take Labour back to their ideological roots, in fact either he’s a) chasing headlines or b) going for the middle class vote.
Either way it will be popular with many people, the problem for Labour is it’ll be popular to those people who are already intending to vote for them. You see the Lib Dem emotional vote has gone and it isn’t coming back this year but it has already gone, putting the squeeze on a vote that has already disappeared seems relatively pointless. It puts Ed out there but if enough people read beyond the headlines and look at the finances behind the plan they’ll realise who it benefits. The question is will the electorate do such a thing? Time as they will tell all…
The media and activists are obsessed with Nick Clegg potentially going down in Sheffield Hallam despite all the signs pointing towards a Lib Dem win. If they really wanted to get excited about a potential cabinet big-wig going down though then they should go into the Scottish highlands where a real interesting battle will play out between the SNP and the Lib Dems.
Whilst the public polling has Nick Clegg in a nip/tuck battle in his seat, the public polling has Danny Alexander getting a right mullering in Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey. As we all know, the public polls don’t generally name a candidate and the power of incumbency is diluted. Still though this wouldn’t account for the seemingly big hole than Danny Alexander finds himself in.
Still the so called, ‘ginger rodent’ seems cheerful enough and doesn’t think it is such a foregone conclusion. In what I have to say is one of the rare pretty fair long political pieces I’ve read in a while, BuzzFeed followed Danny Alexander around for a day in a piece published today entitled, Danny Alexander Fights To Save His Political Career: “The Tories Piss Me Off”.
The key for Danny is clearly to paint himself (as is the case with many Liberal Democrats MPs across the country) as not being Tories and that being in government has helped stop the Tories from pursuing their own agenda. This is not an easy sell and many will just not buy into it but the key will be to get a proportion to do so. Also of course trying to squeeze the Labour and Tory votes as he’ll try and make it an SNP v the world argument.
Speaking about the Tories taking full credit for the turnaround in the economy, Alexander said, ‘It sticks in the craw. It really pisses me off that the Tories try to claim credit for everything we’ve done in government. Tax cuts – none of that would be happening if it wasn’t for the Liberal Democrats in government. If we allow the Tories to govern by themselves, it frightens me actually, because I think it’s a wrecking approach. Beyond a certain point it becomes ideology.‘
This is going to be a key issue across the country. The coalition has turned the economy around, unemployment is down and continues to drop with every set of results, employment is unsurprisingly up as well along the same lines. The economy will always be the biggest issue in any election. Other factors will come and go but the economy is key and if the public believe that a party can improve the economy then that will often the key issue – especially for swing voters.
So the fact the public as a whole do not give the Lib Dems credit for things like the rise in the Income Tax threshold, something which David Cameron said we couldn’t afford to do in the first leaders debate in 2010, is something which sticks in the throats of many. This policy effects more people directly than any other policy in the coalition government because it effects everyone who earns more than £6,475, which was the personal income threshold under the last government.
If Danny can persuade enough voters that he (and his party) should take just as much credit for the economic recovery as the Tories, then the party will do ok on May 7. Danny’s issues in Scotland are not helped by the collapse of the Labour vote, which is drifting to the SNP in droves. Having two strong opponents is something you can feel comfortable with in our FPTP system but when one of those strong opponents loses a significant proportion of their vote to the other strong opponent then you have issues.
Looking at the betting trends and the SNP are very strong favourites ranging from 1/12 to 1/3 depending on your bookies of choice. Danny and the Lib Dems are between 9/4 and 11/2. The other parties are all beyond 10/1. Most of these betting movements have been predicated on the seeming strength of the SNP in Scotland coupled with Labour’s fall.
I was looking at some ICM fieldwork from the constituency taken in May last year and one table I found more interesting than others. According to the fieldwork, more of the responders voted SNP than Lib Dem in 2010, despite their being an 22% difference in the actual result (19% SNP, 41% Lib Dem) but according to this poll, of those who responded, 19% voted LD whereas 22% voted SNP. The fieldwork also didn’t take into account the likelihood of voting.
It all makes is rather interesting. The SNP are favourites and rightly so but Danny isn’t out of it just yet. If Danny Alexander holds on in Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey then the Lib Dems will probably be in for a good night. If he loses then it means that Scotland will be voting very strongly for the SNP, leaving maybe only 10-15 non SNP seats across the country.
Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey is more of a bellwether seat for the SNP than it is for the Lib Dems but it is certainly one more media folk should be paying attention to, it will be a very good indicator for how the SNP and the Lib Dems are doing and how they’ll do on May 7.
I was reminded by someone the other day that to be involved in politics, to whatever degree, you need a thick skin. You put yourself out there and people will take shots at you and think that pretty much everything is fair game. The line seems not only be be blurred but indeed it doesn’t exist at all.
Indeed I’ve seen people go trawling through others social media accounts from months and years previously to when they were adopted as candidates to try and find something to trip them up. Some will call this good thorough journalism, I call it cheap. In this social media era, so much of what we say is recorded for everyone to read, years later in some instances and people change, circumstances change, yet people will find whatever they can to use against them, is this the world I want to live in?
For months I have told family members that in my next stop it is very unlikely that I’ll get actively involved in local politics. That sense has only become more hardened in recent times.
I’m reminded of an MP, I can’t remember who off hand who was going hammer and tongs with one of the ‘celebrity’ panellists on Question Time one week. The MP was a Tory and the ‘celebrity’ was well known for their left wing views. After recording he turned round and said to them that it was all part of the show and a bit of fun and walked off. It just goes to prove that politicians are often playing characters and aren’t being totally open and honest. They are playing up to their core vote.
Ian Swales, Lib Dem MP for Redcar didn’t plan on winning in 2010, deep down he didn’t even want to. He is a one-term MP who is standing down. He called the thrill of it all a bit like a game, you want to win because winning is good but winning means you have to do your best to represent your electorate. He said his ideal result was to lose but closely, then hand over to a younger person to win the next time round. Having spoken to people from all parties, this isn’t a totally isolated viewpoint. Winning is like a drug and winning is great but with winning comes long-term responsibilities.
On the other side of the ledger is losing. Losing is not fun, most people don’t want to lose but losing badly is a different thing altogether. The only time I’ve personally stood I got a battering and in all honesty it was mostly fair. I also knew it was coming and it didn’t effect me one jot.
The only thing from the campaign that jawed with me externally was being woken up at stupid o’clock by someone demanding to know why I thought the hustings should have free for all entrants. After the best part of half an hour of pretty much being shouted at I told her that it didn’t matter, I was going to lose handsomely anyway and she really shouldn’t worry too much about my thoughts that the ability to hear politicians speak should not be influenced by having to pay money to do so. I stand by my PoV that all hustings events be free but I know it cost me not only votes (I might have broken 100!) but it also cost the party some good will.
Thinking about it, I also recall an incident where at the hustings I was asked a question, I can’t remember exactly what it was about but I think the crux of it was along the lines of some children get cheaper bus travel than others and some poorer kids were being disadvantaged by this. It was something along those lines. I said that a possible answer was to make the discounted rate for the journey higher by 10p or 20p a journey but allow all students to get the discounted rate.
Another candidate from another party and ward came up to me afterwards and wasn’t happy with my suggestion as they had kids and get the discounted rate and that would make that family worse of and they couldn’t afford anything extra. Interestingly enough I have seen that person buying their groceries in M&S on many an occasion. That same person offered me ‘information’ on a Tory candidate in last years elections but didn’t want their hands on it but wanted me to run with it. I declined the offer. This is the way politics works folks. In all fairness the Lib Dem candidate had the information as well but also declined to use it and for that, I applaud them.
On to politics in general, what I find most disturbing is how people revel in the defeat of others. People win, people lose, you just get on with it but some people want parties to lose badly as they think it would be funny. When you get people wanting the Lib Dems for example to get battered by UKIP but they in fact despise UKIP but their hate for UKIP is less than their dislike for the Lib Dems then you have to stand there and think, ‘really?’ They see it as part of the game and this happens across all parties. I don’t see how people can see it as a game and that the aim isn’t just to win but they want to win and see someone else lose badly because it will give them more personal gratification.
I know I’m dumb and idealistic that people should only concentrate on themselves and what they have to offer to the electorate but so many people from across the political spectrum seem to want to console themselves that a person or a party they don’t like lost – and not only that – the severity of their defeat. In my dumb mind it is all very simple, candidates put forward their cases to the electorate, the person with the most votes wins and the others take what they can and either regroup, regress or re-up their efforts to win the seat next time.
May is very much going to be a tale of two stories for the Lib Dems. The vote is going to collapse but yet the number of MPs won’t collapse to anywhere near the same degree. The power of incumbency is going to do well for the party in many places, including some that the bookies have written off as Lib Dem losses.
Internal polling data shows that the strong grass-roots in these areas are holding up and not collapsing. A great seat to watch will be Redcar which should go Labour easily but with all the trouble they are having at council level and the fact the Lib Dem MP is well-liked, that seat isn’t a given to go (although the fact Ian Swales is stepping out negates the incumbency somewhat).
Jenny Willott in Cardiff Central looked a shoo-in to drop to Labour but internal polling puts it neck and neck. I’ve consistently said that 30-35 MPs is where I think they’ll stand and if you forced me to go higher or lower than that range, I’d go higher. Another good example is Cambridge where Labour opened up as favourites and now all the bookmakers with a book open have the Lib Dems at odds on to hold. Of course they’ll be losses and the gains will be minimal but Watford is a genuine three-way marginal, in Maidstone & Weald the Lib Dems are live dogs as they are in a handful of other seats that they are looking to take from other parties.
On the other side where the local party have either collapsed or become disillusioned and their is neither an incumbent MP nor an energised local party then the vote will just tank. This will happen in many places across the UK. It won’t be pretty but that is the way it is. Such is life as it were.
I made a decision to not blog about local politics for the rest of this campaign. I did the same in 2014 but this year I was teased out by people writing things that were either plain wrong or laughable and it has only brought me anguish and sadness. I blog because I love to write, not to be right. I struggle every day with the idea of being right or knowing whether or not I’m doing the right or the wrong thing. If writing about certain subjects is only going to bring me anguish and sadness then why should I do it? I feel that way about politics in general to a significant degree.
I would love to help make the world around me a better place, a fairer place, a greener place, a happier place but sometimes you just have to be selfish and worry about your own peace of mind and happiness. My skin is neither thin but nor is it thick. I’m just a guy who enjoys a quiet and peaceful life. Politics brings with it a lot of baggage and that is baggage I thought would disappear if you weren’t actually a candidate, seemingly I was wrong.
So there we have it. To all people who want to get actively involved in politics I tell them to think long and hard about it. You will meet some good people, you’ll win, you’ll lose, you’ll meet some less good people, you’ll have good times, you’ll have bad times but you have to ask yourself whether you want to put your head above the parapet. People will shoot you down even if you make valid points because your point of views contradict with their own and you’ll find in politics there is far too much testosterone flying about to get actual debate flowing.
People want to be right and not only that, they’ll believe with every fibre that they are right. This is something I’ve found from across the political spectrum. To hang in there you’ll need not only a thick skin but a complete confidence in your own abilities and your own mind. If you are like me and struggle, not with your inner-beliefs but with what is actually the best thing to do and the best way forward then it will be a hard slog and one you may want to avoid if you want a happier, less stressful life. You’ll meet people who will have such a strong sense of self-belief that you’ll cave under their sense of gravitas and self-belief.
Active politics will be without a shadow of a doubt be the most frustrating thing you do in your life if you do choose to get involved. I look forward to walking away when my commitments are done with but I have them and will continue to fulfil them to the best of my abilities but when I up sticks and move on to pastures new then I will enjoy watching from the sidelines – at least for a while.
Such Fun as Miranda Hart would say. Seriously if put all these ingredients together, you will get the most epic TV. Put on the most charismatic and opinionated manager in the game, less than 24 hours after his team had been screwed by a series of terrible decisions, throw in the fact the company Sky got both barrels over their handing of the Diego Costa ‘stamp’ in the Liverpool Carling Cup semi-final, then sprinkle in a bit of fairy dust in the form of two presenters, neither of whom have a journalistic background and aren’t used to teasing out answers from a hostile guest and you’ve got the makings of a tremendous bit of television and boy we were treated to it. This isn’t a knock on either presenter but handling a Jose in full flow is not something for the faint-hearted.
After sitting in silence for a good minute or so, you could see the brain ticking over inside the Chelsea managers head and then he metaphorically went ‘fuck it’ and just went for it. He was good to pull back from the ‘conspiracy’ instead saying that referees have just consistently been shocking in Chelsea games but the fun part was yet to come.
Jose turned his focus and ire firmly on Sky as a company and it was beautiful. I’m a Sky guy and I have had Sky television for well over a decade now and think their coverage of sport is first rate but to see a manager, on their own channel just fire shots at them left, right and centre over the Diego Costa/Liverpool incident and the language the pundits used that night (his real issue seemed to be the use of the word ‘criminal’) and the fact they’ve not used that term with regards to any other challenge, that seemed to rile him somewhat.
The Portuguese manager then reeled off a series of challenges that were just as bad as that one was, that received far less media coverage. Heck even yesterday’s potential leg breaker by Ashley Barnes on Matic (that Jose described, maybe not unfairly as a potential career ender) hasn’t been discussed half as much as the Costa incident, everyone seems to just agree that it was a horrible challenge but the outrage isn’t there.
I haven’t seen anyone call for him to be banned retrospectively, maybe the pundits and reporters just think that is just a given. Even on Sunday Supplement they all just agreed it was a terrible challenge and instead spent the time discussing how they can help referees whereas when the Costa incident happened, they discussed it in depth and how bad of a boy Costa was.
Jose though is just full value and is a joy to watch. I know some reporters are getting annoyed as his antics but he’s tremendous for us at home. He gives us something to talk about and is just fun. He’s still going and is now talking about how Arsene Wenger has a dream job and how he doesn’t understand how they aren’t challenging for the league. Brilliant!
This episode needs to win awards with the sub-title ‘Jose Mourinho Unplugged’ – interestingly enough, this episode went up against the very heavily trailed ‘Fletch & Sav’ with Russell Brand and Gazza. I think we all know what was the best to watch and I’ll give you a clue, it was the episode without the man whose going to take down the government and change politics in his eyes…
Jose Mourinho said there was a conspiracy against Chelsea. The world scoffed and pointed out that decisions have gone both for the west London team and against them. This is true but in this modern day and age, we all have access to plenty of football and get to watch a lot of the action.
I have bought into the conspiracy to some degree even before the game today but choosing the Chelsea v Burnley match as my 3PM game of choice and seeing the way referee Martin Atkinson handled the game, you have to wonder what is really going on. Atkinson has referred at international level and is an experienced official but his performance on Saturday afternoon was sub-par to say the least.
We’ll look at the big three incidents, first of all the handball shout in the penalty area after a shot from Ivanovic. I’m one of those who really extenuates the deliberate part of the deliberate handball so I often think no pen when others say pen. This time though the ball has travelled a good five yards and the defender has jumped with his arms outstretched as far as they can go to spread himself. It is pretty deliberate that he’s spread his arms that wide for a reason. It just looked a penalty but the ref, he said no despite being in a great position.
Next up another penalty shout after Costa went down. Watching it live again your instinct is penalty, why would Costa be going down in that position? The ref waves it away and then we see a replay. The defender gives him a two armed push, its a penalty every day of the week and twice on Sunday’s. Atkinson’s assistant had the perfect view and gave nothing but Atkinson himself had a good angle to see the shove so in all likelihood saw it but decided somehow that it wasn’t a penalty. Madness.
Then we get on to the incident that will dominate the back pages tomorrow, Ashley Barnes doing Nemanja Matic and the Chelsea midfielders reaction. Lets start here, Matic had to go for his reaction despite how little it was, Atkinson had little choice there but the challenge that provoked such a reaction was a potential leg breaker from Barnes. It was a horror challenge, it was a red, plain and simple and everyone could see it.
Atkinson was looking straight at it but didn’t even give a foul, he was looking straight at it. If a referee sees that challenge and doesn’t even see it as a foul then lets be blunt, they shouldn’t be refereeing. If they can’t protect the players from potential leg breakers then they have to hang up their whistle. As fans you can understand when a referees view is impeded or they are looking away from the incident but when they are looking at a horror challenge and do nothing, then there’s an issue.
Matic should have got up from being on the receiving end to see a referee running in to get in the way of him and Barnes whilst reaching into his back pocket for the straight red card that Barnes deserved. Instead the ref was just pointing for a throw in. Matic then shoves Barnes in the back and gets his marching orders (not before a few choice words thrown in Barnes’ direction).
Lastly on this incident there is an angle where you can see Barnes walking away and he slyly smiles, he knows he’s done Matic and that he’s gotten away with it. He had a cheap one on Ivanovic in the first half as well that didn’t get sanctioned.
Burnley have been a joy to watch in the past two months or so with their energy and never say never attitude but Barnes was nasty today and could easily have already been in the showers before his nasty tackle on Matic. It will be interesting to see if Atkinson in his report says that he saw the incident but didn’t believe it was worthy of sanction or he says he missed it entirely. We all know he saw it but if he says he did and didn’t see anything wrong with it then his credentials will be questioned.
Chelsea have had more than their fair share of bad decisions this season and I’ve watched them a lot (in general if either Chelsea or Arsenal are a 3PM game I’ll start at one of those two and drift if that game becomes a clear victory for one). If a game isn’t in the 3PM slot then of course I’ve pretty much seen it all because I have no life and watch an awful lot of sport on the telly. Jose even came out after the game and knew that pretty much anything he said would be used against him by the FA.
If the FA actually looked at all the incidents involving Chelsea players this season (both for and against) they’ll see that a disproportionate amount of decisions have gone incorrectly against Chelsea and that number is getting larger and not smaller and that must be a problem when we talk about the integrity of the Premier League.
Away from the ugliness of yesterday (no, not my face, that is ugly every day), I’m going to tell you a story with two parts, one amusing and one slightly worrying but both interweaving.
I was at Sainsbo’s yesterday getting a few groceries, nothing too exciting you might think and indeed it wasn’t. I get to a till and an old lady is buying the world and the conveyor belt is full. She takes a good ten minutes to have everything packed and then she goes to pay, out of her handbag she pulls a huge rolled up ball of twenty pound notes, I’m not joking here when there is at least £500 in her hand and I’m being conservative (with a little c) with that estimate.
The first thought is of course, ‘holy hell, look at all that money’ and then you think that despite her elongated packing, this will be a nice quick cash transaction and I’ll be served momentarily. ‘£131.31’ says the young lady behind the till and the old lady starts counting out her twenties to hand over, one, two, three, four, five and she puts the rolled up stash of notes back in her handbag.
I look at her and and I look at the young lady behind the till and we look at each other, she then counts out the money to show that it is short and the old lady understands and goes into her handbag and pulls out a roll of tenners and hands one over and put it back in her handbag.
The young lady behind the till and I look at each other again and I take a step back because its uncomfortable as she again has to tease that she owes more money, she grumpily gets out another tenner and the whole situation becomes farcical as the young lady at the till has to work out exactly how to play this. She does well and finally the right amount of notes are passed over and we can all get on with the world. All strange and uncomfortable (but slightly amusing) but then you take a step back and think.
This old lady was flashing a lot of cash. If I was more unscrupulous than I am, I’d have made a note of this and known that this person was carrying a lot of cash about. Why do people carry so much cash around let alone flash it so openly?
Carrying cash around is one thing but to make it clear to several people in a supermarket that you carry around so much by essentially flashing it when you go to pay for something is not smart and slightly worrying. There are a lot of bad people out there and people need to be more wary of showing that they carry around cash. Personal security is important and certainly when you are a vulnerable person. The counting money bit was funny but the cash waving was most definitely worrying.
I have sat out a lot of the local blogosphere recently because I have other things to do, my work life is very busy at the moment with it being our busy time of the year and that has just taken up a lot of my time. I jumped it two-footed though when I saw a candidate state that the Lib Dems would not be putting up a candidate in Blenheim Park ward because only Labour and the Conservative’s had announced their candidates 79 days before the election. It was total bollocks and I called him out on it. That is literally all I called him out on (I actually also wrote about what a hard-worker and campaigner he was but seemingly that bit got by-passed), the fact that he said there would only be two candidates in the seat because only two had declared by now was the bollocks bit. However apparently that didn’t sit well with the Labour PPC for Southend West or the Labour prospective candidate for Blenheim Park himself.
This rebuke has led to two of the Labour blogosphere heavy-hitters rounding on me and attacking me personally, which is fine but when they attack me for not campaigning in my 2012 due to the fact that my dad suffered a stroke, a stroke that he would never regain conciousness from and die right at the start of the campaign, then I get pissed off. Like fucking pissed off. Not everything is fair in love and war despite what they say and the same is true of politics.
I’m not going to sit here and say that I would’ve won Westborough ward in 2012 had circumstances allowed me to campaign fully, I fully expect I wouldn’t have and indeed in all likelihood third was the top position that I could have aspired to behind the incumbent Independent and the Labour candidate. I know that but I didn’t campaign because you know, I had to mourn a death of my old man. That was more important than local politics at the time and I think most people would agree that it was. At the time my fellow candidates knew the situation and none of them said a word about it attacking my lack of activity and I am grateful for that.
Three years later though and I’m not a candidate but still two candidates think they can use my bad result and lack of campaigning in Westborough in 2012 as a reason to score cheap points. I find it genuinely disgusting. I have no issue with candidates scoring political points but when you want to use someone mourning the death of a father to score points then you are really scraping the barrel.
Cllr. Ware-Lane, PPC for Southend West has written, ‘If Matt Dent was to do a Monnery, and reduce the Labour vote to a third of what it was in Blenheim Park last year, then Neil may be right, he might be talking absolute bollocks. You see, magnificent Monnery as he is known in Westborough ward obviously followed his own advice in 2012, because his derisory vote must have been the result of doing nothing until the very last moment.‘
Matthew Dent prospective candidate for Blenheim Park has written, ‘They lost Westborough last year, to a solid Labour double-win — Lib Dems losing in Westborough presumably being something with which Neil is familiar, finishing sixth in 2012 in that ward.‘
Now Matthew may not have been about in 2012, I am willing to concede that he may not have known the circumstances surrounding my result in 2012 but Julian was – and does – and yet he still decides to take a personal shot. All class folks, all class.
I just don’t know what to say really apart from I am hacked off. People wonder why people don’t get involved in politics and are put off. These are the reasons. I made a very fair point that just because candidates hadn’t been announced doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be one and that has turned into this. By all means take shots at me but to use this situation as a political point-scorer. I mean just come on…
Well Matthew, Julian, I hope you are both pleased with yourself. You’ve won the race to the bottom and hurt me and brought back memories of what was without a doubt the worst time of my life, when my dad died, something that I have successfully buried. Last night I even dreamed about my dad and rushing to try to get to the hospital in time to say goodbye. Thanks for that. I’m sure you are pleased with your work and are beaming with delight that you’ve inflicted personal pain through your words.
Local politics folks. Its a joy…
Last week I noticed that Jeremy Browne had said something that seemed to piss off some folk. That is all I noticed as I didn’t investigate further as it just passed me by. Well last night whilst sitting in the Chinese waiting for my beef with fried rice and slightly too overdone Chicken Balls (chicken balls need to have very soft batter, crispy batter is a no-no in the Neil Chinese takeaway world) I was reading the newspaper and the paper laying there was Friday’s edition of the i and in it was an article about Jeremy Browne’s ‘controversial’ interview and I read the story. I didn’t find it as dramatic or insulting as I had been led to believe by the comments I glanced at on Facebook last week.
Speaking in said publication, the outgoing MP said:
We are defining liberalism as the precise mid‑point between conservatism and socialism. Whatever liberalism is, it is not defined by where the other parties choose to pitch themselves or by measuring the distance between them and splitting it in half.
All we offer is a desire to water down their strong views. We offer an insipid moderation. Whichever party is the biggest one, we will stop them implementing a large number of their ideas. It is entirely negative. It is a deeply conservative position. We have become the most small-‘c’ conservative party.
Ding. Ding. Ding.
Liberalism should never be defined by offering a watered down version of other ideologies. Liberalism is a fully fledged ideology of its own. Whilst the electorate may well actually like the idea of a ‘Labour Lite’ or a ‘Conservative Lite’ party, that shouldn’t be how the Lib Dems are defined. That may well be how many have seen the party in recent years and in part why many voters are currently switched off from the party. They voted for the Lib Dems not because they felt that they were the party for them because they felt that they were the best compromise of what they really wanted – or in many instances – flat out the best choice to stop the people they didn’t want.
It is no secret that the Lib Dems have been the greatest beneficiaries of tactical voting in the UK for a long time. The party was seen as generally good eggs who weren’t tainted by having to actually make decisions. People remembered the bad times with the Tories and with Labour and went to the party that were different. The problem is of course in coalition (with Lab or Con) then suddenly that taint befalls the party. They are not simply the party of protest any more and you know what – they can’t be for a generation. The party of protest is now either UKIP or Green depending on where your protests lie and north of the border the SNP are hoovering up all that protest with a vacuum cleaner that is on full to keep up with the demand.
Going into coalition was the first step to pissing off a significant portion of the electorate who are just ‘Anti-Tory’ and when the tuition fees issue came then the party had to make a decision. Either walk away then and show the electorate that the party was principled but were unwilling to make compromises in government or decide to show that the party was grown up and not a party of protest but indeed a party of government.
The second avenue was of course harder because many activists actually came in because they were ‘Anti-Tory’ and therefore the activist base faced issues and secondly poll numbers went downhill faster than my chances with a woman once they find out that I own care bears. Having bottle when the ship is careering towards the rocks isn’t easy so what actually happened was a mish-mash that has not sat well with most.
For those who want to be a distinctive voice, the party are still in coalition and being a junior partner in a coalition is not the best way to be that distinctive voice. For those who want to embrace government and being grown up and a natural party of government, they are unhappy that publicly all the Lib Dems seem to hang their hat on is blocking bad policies. It is a no-man’s land that is a turn off to many members let alone the electorate at large. Where the Lib Dems will do well in May are areas where the activists have either bought into government and haven’t been disheartened by national politics or areas where the top dog is an extremely distinctive voice (see Russell, Bob, in Colchester).
Browne’s basics points aren’t inaccurate. The 2011 local election results was the point where the party lost their nerve. They decided at that point (whether it was member led or not) that the primary role of the Lib Dems in government was to water down the Tories. This has been a success to a significant degree but that type of government doesn’t lead to the vast majority people being passionate about the Lib Dems let alone vote for them.
Being a liberal isn’t something anyone should be ‘ashamed’ of and instead it should be shouted from the rooftops. The Lib Dems don’t care what your background is and want a fairer society for all. A child’s education shouldn’t be adversely effected by the income their parents have. Equal opportunity for all is where the party stands and that is great position to be in. It isn’t just about pulling up those from poorer backgrounds, it is about creating better education for all whatever school they go to.
The party have done some very good things in government but endlessly picking fights isn’t the way forward. Pick your fights and your ‘differention’ strategy wisely. The Tories are all in a muddle on Europe, the cabinet mostly know that being part of the EU is vital to the UK economy but the backbenches are thinking of their seats and the little England mentality that a significant proportion of the population has. This is something where the Tories and Lib Dems have distinct differences and these should be screamed from the roof-tops.
I don’t care if MPs or councillors are uneasy about the fact immigration is a buzz topic. Be loud and proud that we believe is the EU and its importance in society and the economy. Be loud and proud that we believe in immigration for people as there is a bigger world than just these shores. The economy is doing well, unemployment is going down, more people are in work, job creation and confidence in the economy is high and we should be able to take a lot of the credit for that. Instead many will see the Tories as the reason and will only associate the Lib Dems with the issues that they don’t like. Differentiating is important yes, but where it is needed. The Tories and the Lib Dems together have turned around the economy and should take a significant proportion of the credit each for this, this though will not be reflected at the ballot box.
Should the party not enter another coalition then Browne believes that Nick Clegg will resign as leader and Tim Farron will be the takeover and we’ll return to opposition. I think this is exactly what will happen. The appetite for coalition politics isn’t strong within the party and unless the numbers were such that no other form of stable government could be formed, then opposition is where the party will be watching a Tory minority or a Labour/SNP pact that will just be surreal.
Jeremy Browne’s voice will be a loss in Westminster. Any distinctive voice worth listening to will be a loss. Whether you agree or disagree with him, he stands up and says what he truly believes that that is something I admire not only in a politician, but also in a human being. I’d prefer to disagree with someone knowing what they stood for than not know what they stand for in a luke-warm attempt to get re-elected. So many candidates say what they think people want to hear and not what they truly believe. This is doing the country a disservice. If only everyone said what they truly thought then the electorate would have a clear idea of all the candidates and would be able to make a better informed opinion.
To wrap this up as I have a Chinese to work-off on the exercise bike, I saw someone link Jeremy to Lembit Opik. Oh boy. Yes they both might like the sound of their own voice but there is one distinct difference, one is worth listening to and the other really is not and I’ll give you a clue as to which is which, the one who isn’t worth listening to I can name some of his previous sexual partners. The one who is I have no idea as to his sexual history. None whatsoever.
I promise I’ll write something non-political soon. I promise…
Ah this is fun. It has been a while since I’ve had a tit for tat in the blogosphere and all these politics posts. I need to write about why Robbie Savage is rubbish or something to appeal to my non-political audience.
So many (well about three people in the world) will have seen my blog which has been described as ‘witheringly sarcastic’ that I wrote on Tuesday night about the staggering news that Blenheim Park is a two horse race between the Tories and Labour, no other candidates had declared 79 days before the election and that meant it was done. That was the view of Matthew Dent, the prospective Labour candidate for Blenheim Park. I came back with sarcasm and facts and he’s come back with worrying memory issues and a lack of understanding. Go to the doctor quick Matt, a youngish man like you shouldn’t have such a bad memory.
Why does he have a bad memory? Well he has written, ‘Neil seems sure that their vote will hold up, that everyone will forget that Nick Clegg reneged on his pledge to vote against tuition fee increases, and he’ll walk into 10 Downing Street as Prime Minister.’ He seems to forget that we’ve actually spoken about this on twitter. I have long stated that the Lib Dem vote across the country will collapse and that I expect haul in the 30-35 MP range. I’m pretty sure that you need a few more MPs than to to become Prime Minister but what do I know?
My position on 2015 has been the same for several years, where the grass root game is strong, the Lib Dem vote will hold up well. Where the grass root game isn’t strong then many will drift. It seems to be the position of most people who don’t wear spectacles of a particular tint, so it isn’t exactly an ‘out there’ position.
He also states that he believes that candidates should declare themselves by this point. Well his old mate Julian Ware-Lane blogged the other day that the Tories were the first party to announce a full slate of candidates for May’s elections, so this means that Labour have yet to do so, what Labour candidates haven’t been announced yet? Does Matthew want to slag them off for having not been announced yet? Talk about throwing your own team mates under the bus Matthew, that isn’t very team like is it? They’ve let you down Dent, they have let you down.
Dent in a quite hilariously desperate retort says that the Lib Dem candidate is too ashamed to announce themselves. Actually they are keen to do so and will announce themselves to the people in Prittlewell in a leaflet that is due mid-March. Saying that they are too ashamed, really Matthew, really…some people still believe (either rightly or wrongly) that these things should be done very leaflets instead of via the internet. I of course disagree as I’m an internet guy but every candidate is free to do things how they see fit, if that doesn’t fit in with your view of the world then I’m sorry to disappoint you.
I actually know the full slate of prospective Lib Dem candidates unless there are any last-minute changes that haven’t filtered through to me. Full. Slate. This also means that Blenheim Park has a prospective candidate. I will await to see if Matthew’s little pixies or little birds tell him who it is because he likes being first with the news. When Tony Cox got the jump on the litter bin news then boy Matthew was pissed. It was quite funny to watch.
He notes that there is a lack of Lib Dem activity on the ground and that shot is fair. I’m not going to sit here and say otherwise (because you see, I can actually be fair and reasoned, I don’t just wear tinted specs). That will change as the campaign kicks into gear. On his main accusation that the Lib Dems are a spent force in Southend, I think it is fair that the party are in a down cycle locally, spent though is probably too far. Will the party have a good night on May 7? We’ll see. However should the party not do well then it will be at the expense of the Tories and UKIP so all I’ll say is be careful what you wish for, a bad Lib Dem performance in Southend cannot help Labour one jot so picks your foe. Slagging off everyone is not a wise strategy. Although he obviously knows that the Lib Dems are a rival in Blenheim Park otherwise he wouldn’t be talking about them…
Labour are unlikely to gain even one seat in Southend West, in fact they may even lose the one they are defending (if this was only a local election year then David Webb may well have taken Westborough for he is a passionate campaigner and local man who I’m personally still sad that he was unable to stand for the Lib Dems as planned last year because he will rattle the feathers of the officers, of that I’m sure) but as its a General Election year, that is always tough for the Indy’s. They’ll hold on here in Thorpe and St. Lukes will be close but otherwise it will be a tough year for them as lots of people who don’t usually vote locally, will vote because they’ll be at the ballot box to vote for nationally anyway. Labour will have in all likelihood a much better day in the east of the borough.
So to round this all up as I actually have a leaflet to write (and you know, work to do), the Lib Dems are not the natural opposition to the Tories for the Anti-Tory vote any more. That is obvious. The Anti-Tory vote will now be split three ways here because none of the Lib Dems, Labour or Greens have made themselves as the distinctive home of those voters. Matthew believes he hit a nerve in his initial blog post, he didn’t hit a nerve, I just call out when a local blogger writes total bollocks, writing with severely tinted specs is fine but total bollocks, not so much.
The Lib Dems locally had a very poor year in 2014 but in 2012, both Prittlewell and Blenheim Park were held. In 2014, with the anti-European lobby being a more motivated electorate than the pro-European lobby, the party got beaten by the anti-European parties (well the perceived anti-European parties – no-one knows exactly where the Tories really sit on this issue) in Prittlewell, Blenheim Park and St. Laurence. All those seats are still winnable for the Lib Dems, whether they will or not, only time will tell but the retreat of the Lib Dem vote hasn’t been as pronounced as others will make people believe. Am I saying they’ll win all three? No. What I am saying is it isn’t beyond the realms of realistic possibility.
Lastly the shot about finishing sixth in Westborough in 2012 that I endured. It is well-known that I didn’t really campaign due to my dad suffering a stroke and dying during this period. No-one at the time took any shots at me due to my inactivity as they all understood the position, including all the other Westborough candidates, from all parties and groups. I’m sorry if that doesn’t sit well with Matthew and he still believes that taking shots at my performance is fair. If the people of Blenheim Park want a councillor who believes that local politics is more important than family, that mourning over a fathers passing is no excuse for a poor electoral performance, who thinks everyone else sucks and only Labour candidates are right (apart from those who haven’t announced yet – they suck) then Dent is your man.
That. That Matthew. That struck a nerve. Show some class and dignity.
Stunning news hit the blogosphere today. With election day still the best part of three months away, Southend Council have decided to close nominations for one of the wards before the election has officially been called. The quite staggering occurrence has been revealed by the prospective Labour candidate for Blenheim Park in a blog posted entitled, ‘BLENHEIM PARK IN 2015 IS A TWO-HORSE RACE: LABOUR OR CONSERVATIVE (seriously change your blog templates so that titles aren’t all in capitals), Matthew Dent explains that it is a two-horse race 79 days away from election day.
Well The Rambles of Neil Monnery was of course flabbergasted by this news and immediately (well we watched the PSG v Chelsea game first, then went to the loo and did some other stuff) but then we immediately rung the council only to be told that office hours were between 9 and 5 and to call back then (actually we didn’t ring, we just assumed that at 22:39 that no-one was available to answer our frantic query) but still, the council didn’t deny this shocking revelation.
This type of move is unprecedented. Closing nominations before you’ve even opened them and granting only two candidates the right to field candidates because they’ve announced that they are candidates on their blog or website is a dangerous precedent to set.
Oh wait, hang on, I think, I think that maybe the writer of the blog has jumped the gun somewhat. Actually there are no candidates in the ward because nominations haven’t actually opened, until that point they are just prospective candidates and the council are going to (shockingly) allow the parties or any interested individual who gets the ten valid signatures required on a nomination form to stand. I think that is probably a wise move from the council.
The whole pretext of Matthew’s blog is of course that he wants it to be a two-horse race because then he’d be second instead of fighting for third or fourth. Making it a straight Tory v Labour fight in Blenheim Park would lead to a thumping win for the Conservative Party. This means that Matthew isn’t confident of winning because if he was, he’d want as many parties in the mix to muddy the waters.
Labour keep banging on about how there is no difference between the Lib Dems and the Tories because of the national coalition (so so lazy) and of course it is well known that the Tories are losing more votes to UKIP than the other parties in areas such as Southend where the Tories are the dominant party. Therefore locally that would mean that voters would split votes between the three and when votes get split then a fourth party can slip through the middle. Basic electoral maths folks. I get bored with the amount of people who don’t understand basic electoral maths.
It could of course also be a subtle dig at the Lib Dems for their continued use of the two-horse race graphic in some of their Focus leaflets (that dig would be fair – using that graphic and sentiment in a ward where it isn’t actually a two-horse race is disingenuous – I said that at the time and no leaflets that I have ever written or edited have ever used this graphic). The truth though is come May, they’ll be in all likelihood at least four candidates on the local ballot paper in Blenheim Park, not the two that Matthew Dent has written about. If Blenheim Park is a two-horse race then Labour won’t be one of those horses. They haven’t been in the running in Blenheim Park in recent history and were a distant fourth just last year.
Working and campaigning hard doesn’t automatically equate to winning or even really significantly fighting to win a seat. I was surprised Matthew went after Blenheim Park considering he (to his full credit) is clearly working hard and it is a seat he is distinctly unlikely to win. Why he didn’t go after Milton, St. Lukes or taking Westborough after their sitting councillor was deselected? These are seats where Labour are favoured to actually win and with Matthew living in Victoria, staying relatively local would seem like the obvious move. Still you have to admire someone who’ll put in so much work knowing they’ll lose. That takes dedication. Just stop writing absolute bollocks…