The Rambles of Neil Monnery

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Archive for September, 2015

On the new ‘kinder, gentler’ politics…

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I haven’t blogged for a couple of weeks. Not because I haven’t had things to say but because I’ve been in some sort of a malaise in terms of writing on the blog. Not that I haven’t been writing a lot mind you, I’ve been writing elsewhere doing a fair amount of sports writing. This blog though has developed more into politics as the years have gone on.

Still here I am. On the back of two Labour conference speeches I feel compelled to tap tap tap on the keyboard once more. Jeremy Corbyn I actually have few problems with. He doesn’t live in the real world but what he has to say sounds good. He would be a fantastic President or Prime Minister of Utopia. Sadly for all of us Utopia isn’t where we live but his sentiments are nice all the same. He needs to remember that he isn’t talking to the Labour membership any more, he has to speak to the wider electorate but he may well get there in time. He speaks of a kinder, gentler politics. Something I could fully endorse and get behind.

I’ve been actively involved in politics for several years and I have found it challenging I must say. People trawl through Facebook and Twitter posts to find something that they can twist and manipulate to fulfil a narrative that they have. People lie. People will say that there is one rule for them but another rule for everyone else. It is a constant bugbear of mine. You can be the biggest arsehole you like if you choose to be, that is your prerogative, but if you whine when people treat you the way you treat them then I have issues with it. You treat others how you’d like to be treated but if you think people should treat you better than you treat them then surely that isn’t fair or right?

So kinder, gentler politics. Good. I actually liked Jeremy’s style at PMQs. I’m not sure six questions from the public is the best idea and his lack of follow-up allowed the PM to have a relatively easy time of it but it was conducted in a far more civilised tone. The House of Commons as a whole needs to grow up and if Jeremy Corbyn helps drag it there then good times.

And then today Tom Watson, who is the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party had his speech at conference. The memo I’m guessing didn’t reach his desk. You can read his speech here. If that is kind and gentle then I’m both an experienced and well recommended lover as well as a three Michelin starred chef. Just bear with me a second whilst I go and prick my microwave chilli…

Tom Watson is a big bruiser who thinks politics is done by being populist, attacking enemies and not putting your policies out there for people to debate and vote on. He is essentially the anti-Corbyn. JC is quiet but says what he thinks in a progressive manner. Watson is loud and in a way quite brutish. Calling the Lib Dems, a ‘useless bunch of lying sellouts’ and the Tories ‘nasty’ isn’t progressive. It is easy, lazy, old school politics. The type that Corbyn wants to move beyond.

The issue I have is the Lib Dems aren’t useless (as we are seeing now in government at all the Lib Dem policies that the Tories are cutting out) and aren’t sellouts. You can debate lying but when you consider how much of the Lib Dem manifesto made it into coalition policy then they punched above their weight in government. The Tories aren’t nasty either. You may disagree with their policies (I do a lot) but they aren’t nasty. Labour aren’t all bad either. The truth is (as I see it) that all parties have some genuinely interesting policies that could take this country forward. Heck even UKIP had a policy about reopening all the nursing colleges that had closed and that seemed like a sensible idea to help repopulate the nursing industry as it were.

I’m not saying consensus politics is the way forward but I do think treating the electorate like adults would be a great thing. Sadly as we know the way to win elections is to scare people (see Tories, 2015) so I’m not sure the ‘kinder, gentler’ politics that Jeremy Corbyn desires will be embraced by his party, let alone by the wider world. This is JC’s biggest problem. Lots of Labour MPs have things engrained into them and it will take more than a leader’s vision to take it out of them. This will be one of Labour’s biggest issues going forward, it gives other parties a free license to throw the words ‘kinder’ and ‘gentler’ in the face of any Labour MP or candidate who throws mud.

Lastly one final bugbear of mine, these ‘Never kissed a Tory’ t-shirts, badges etc. – do these people actually ask everyone they kiss what political party that they are affiliated with if any? Do they go to a club, get drunk, spy someone on the dancefloor, shimmy their way over to them and say, ‘hey baby, I just met you, and this is crazy, I think I want to snog you but before I do I want a breakdown of everyone you’ve ever voted for?’ I think not somehow.

Why would you be proud of the fact that you hadn’t kissed a Tory anyway? Isn’t that you know, just a bit pathetic? I have friends who are Tories, who are Labour, who are Lib Dems, who are Greens, heck I have even been known to have UKIP friends (albeit a smaller amount). Someone’s political allegiance isn’t the overriding factor of a friendship or indeed whether I want to snog them. I would be stunned if it was an issue that stopped most people deciding if they wanted to play tonsil tennis with another.

If Labour really do want to be kinder and gentler then stop calling the Lib Dems ‘useless’ ‘lying’ ‘sellouts’ and stop calling the Tories ‘nasty’ and ‘Scum’. Seems pretty straightforward to me?

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Written by neilmonnery

September 30th, 2015 at 3:23 pm

On Labour’s one enemy – the Tories. If only they had kept that mantra 2010-2015…

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I had a link retweeted into my timeline just now and it made me shake my head in despair over what might’ve been. Paul Flynn MP has written a blog post entitled, One Leader, One Party, One Enemy. The blog is about how Labour’s coronation of Jeremy Corbyn as leader should further focus the minds of the party on who the real enemy is for them and that is the Tories. If only that was their mantra for the past five years then who knows how things would’ve panned out but of course is most certainly wasn’t.

For as we all know Labour spent more time, more column inches, more media sound-bytes and more leaflet words on berating the Lib Dems than they did on attacking the Tories. It was a easy win for them as winning over disaffected Lib Dem voters was a far easier job than winning over potential Tory voters. The only problem to this strategy was it was doomed to lead to another Tory led government and isn’t that exactly what the Labour party didn’t want? They had to decide whether they hated the Lib Dems more than they hated the Tories and they decided that the Lib Dems were the target of choice and to allow the Tories to lead the 2015-2020 government.

I choose the word ‘allow’ with thought because that is what they chose to do. Attacking the Lib Dems the way they did consistently over the five years of the previous government could only ever lead to a Conservative led government (note I don’t say majority as I don’t think anyone really saw that coming but still). This is a case of simple electoral mathematics that people don’t like but that is the way of the world. If there are more Tory/LD marginals than Labour/LD marginals then the wholesale collapse of the LD vote would lead to more Labour MPs but would lead to even more Tory MPs. It is quite basic stuff and when you are targeting LD seats at the expense of a Tory/Labour marginal then you know that you’ve drawn your line in the sand and that is that you prefer the Tories to the Lib Dems.

Take for example Ed Balls and Nick Clegg. One of the very few ‘surprises’ that wasn’t a surprise to me was Ed Balls going down. Everyone knew that he was in trouble and that it was an extremely marginal seat. Ed Balls wasn’t a popular consistency MP and he’d barely scraped home in 2010 so with the Tories not exactly down in the polls, basic logic had the seat as tight. However Tom Watson had a vanity project that was more important that ensuring Ed Balls’ survival and that was seeing Nick Clegg go down in nearby Sheffield Hallam. So instead of going all out to defend Ed Balls from a very embarrassing defeat, he had a mission to kick Nick Clegg out of parliament. He visited Sheffield Hallam on five occasions. Nick Clegg as we all know just about survived but Ed Balls did not.

If you asked Labour whether they would’ve preferred to win Sheffield Hallam but sacrifice Morley and Outwood then I suspect the blood lust would say that they would do that deal in a heartbeat. Swapping a Lib Dem for a Tory is a deal they would’ve done in a heartbeat. This has goes to more than suggest that the whole strategy and ire of the Labour party 2010-2015 wasn’t pointed at winning a General Election but by kicking the Lib Dems.

In the UK there is clearly a broad anti-Tory majority but in our political system to knock them off the other parties need to essentially have some form of cohesive strategy. That would include not to point their cannons mainly on other anti-Tory parties. Sadly in politics too many people like to play politics and shoot at everyone and in turn allow the Tories to come through the middle and win.

In 2015 the Lib Dem vote collapsed rightly or wrongly but in those seats where they could beat the Tories but didn’t, they didn’t win not because of poor local campaigns but because for five years the Labour party had been launching a vast media attack on the Lib Dems and thus allowed the Tories to take those seats. It is the classic case of winning individual battles but losing the war. That might actually saw up the 2015 General Election pretty well for Labour.

If the Labour party concentrate on taking on the Tories then it will do the opposite of what happened earlier this year. If it is Tory attack after Tory attack then in those Tory/LD marginals, the Tories might slip up and lose and in the Tory/Labour marginals the Tory vote will slip and go towards the red rose. In politics you have to pick your battles and know both who your real opposition is and know the best path to being the leading party in Westminster. For Labour it is training the cannons on the Tories and the same for the Lib Dems.

In 2015 the Lib Dems ran what was a defensive campaign aimed at keeping the seats where they were entrenched and dug in but sadly for them it failed because the national narrative was so anti-LD that people who were angry at the Lib Dems for betrayal were more happy to see them lose than they were for the Tories to lose. If you voted Lib Dem to keep out the Tories but felt betrayed by them because the Tories were so evil, then allowing the Tories to win just seems oxymoronic to me but what the hell do I know?

If Paul Flynn is right that the latest incarnation of Labour are there to take on the one enemy that is the Conservative party then that is a strategy that will best serve the anti-Tory cause. I still firmly believe that a Jeremy Corbyn led party can’t make the gains they need to win a majority. There are just too many constituencies where the demographics are not favourable for an extreme left party to come through. Yet having said that, Labour can dig themselves out of holes they created for themselves in many Tory/Labour marginals and if the narrative is once more not on how evil the Lib Dems are but how bad the Tories are then there are enough Tory/LD marginals that can turn yellow and keep the blues out of power.

I await with interest to see what the plan is, will raw emotion or shrewd strategy win the day? We shall see as they say…

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Written by neilmonnery

September 13th, 2015 at 3:06 pm

Posted in Politics

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On remembering the six gay weddings in the USA in 1975…

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How many of us have heard the story of the Boulder County Clerk and Recorder Clela Rorex and what she did in 1975 by issuing wedding licenses for two men to get married? I suspect not many of us. I know I hadn’t until I was pointed in its direction last night but it is a quite wonderful story and I’ll allow Clela to recount it in her own words via NPR:

The couple came in. They asked for a marriage license. And it’s the first time I met openly gay people. I said, I don’t know if I can do this. And at that point, I went to the district attorney and he said the Colorado marriage code did not specify that marriage had to be between a man and a woman, and therefore, I did it. I honestly did not anticipate the degree of hate. It was threats, people needed to kill me for doing this, and that kind of stuff. And I had entire church congregations writing me that it would be Sodom and Gomorrah in the area. I had a small son, he was about 8, and people would call on the phone and if he answered, they’d spiel their hatred to him. And one day, I walked into my office.

I was standing and looking out my window and this horse trailer drives up and some media vans. This cowboy gets out. All of a sudden, it just dawned on me – he was going to ask for a marriage license for his horse. My deputy and I were flipping through the marriage code like crazy, you know, what are we going to do? So the cowboy comes in and asked for a marriage license. And I started taking information. I ask him his name and Dolly’s name – Dolly was the horse – and I said, and how old is Dolly? He said, 8. And I put my pen down, calm as could be, and said, well, I’m sorry, but that’s too young without parental approval.

This woman to be frank is an unsung hero. She just looked at people and looked at the law and saw nothing on the statute that prohibited a wedding between two people of the same gender. She wasn’t afraid of the unknown, she issued the wedding license and got on with things. She would issue five more before the lawyers and the Colorado Attorney General made her stop. Sadly for her she had to leave office before her term was up and she knew she would never have won re-election.

The whole question of whether the government should ever have been (or indeed still should be) involved in weddings is a legitimate one to raise. I think it is clear that as a society we are evolving at a rapid rate and the speed that gay marriage has been accepted throughout the western world shows that public perception is changing on homosexuality. Love is love is one of my favourite sayings. Whether it is love between people of the same gender, people of wildly different ages, who cares? Life is so short and in large parts miserable, I never understood why some people thought that if others didn’t follow life via the convention that they believed was right, that they were wrong.

The friend who pointed me to the story did so following telling me about a gay proposal at a Houston Astros game he was at that came up on the big screen. Texas is about as red as red can get (bar Austin) and the crowd went wild and cheered as the embarrassed person being asked said yes. If the vast majority of a baseball crowd in redder than red Texas is cheering for a wedding proposal between two men then progress is more than considerable on this front.

40 years ago Clela Rorex saw two men wanting to get married, she didn’t see anything in the law that said they couldn’t so issued the marriage license. Considering Kim Davis is still sitting in jail having been found guilty of contempt of court in Kentucky for failing to issue same-sex marriage licenses, we aren’t at the finishing line yet where it just isn’t an issue full stop. Still progress is clear and people like Clela Rorex show us that even the best part of half a century ago, some people didn’t just see gender, they saw love and as we move forward I think more and more people are not looking at partners and seeing gender first and foremost but seeing love and happiness ans isn’t that in the end what it is all about?

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Written by neilmonnery

September 7th, 2015 at 11:25 am

Posted in Politics

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On the pure dumpster fire that was Penn State/Temple…

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Oh my word. What can I even say to comprehend what we witnessed yesterday? When you get stomped all over by a team that hasn’t beaten you in 74 years and even spotted you a ten-point lead to start the game then you know things didn’t exactly go to plan.

Where can you even start? You have a Quarterback who many draft analysts had as the best QB potentially coming out of the 2016 class and some even saw him going #1 overall who looked dazed and confused as wave after wave of Temple defensive players came charging at him untouched and unchallenged. Usually in the game of American Football you are allowed to employ a line of five men called the Offensive Line, whose primary task is to protect the Quarterback from such an assault but Penn State decided to abandon with tradition and just allow these guys to run free at Hackenberg all game long.

Yet I’m not willing to give Hackenberg a pass, not by a long shot. This was one of the top QB recruits in the country, if my memory serves me right he was the top Pro-Style QB recruit. He had a great freshman season, looked like he was ready to become a college superstar and under John Donovan’s system he has just regressed. Yes there have been glimpses of greatness but those glimpses are becoming fewer and further between. Even when he has time and open men he isn’t connecting. Up 10-0 he had DaeSean Hamilton open for an easy touchdown and a 17-0 lead but he overthrew him. One of the Temple players was quoted afterwards as saying, ‘He (Hackenberg) was out of it after the third quarter. He looked like he didn’t wanna play anymore’ and that isn’t an unfair assessment from what I saw.

Next up the play-calling. Look Hackenberg sucked. The whole offensive line sucked (but Paris Palmer really really sucked) but what on Earth was going on in the booth? Did John Donovan actually have a plan for this offense or was it all made up from the top of his head? One thing I failed to notice in the whole game was one crossing route, I certainly doin’t recall a completed pass on a crossing route. If Temple’s linebackers are just blitzing and bringing pressure then do one of two things, take advantage of the one on one defence on the outside with our excellent Wide Receivers or call some fucking quick screens over the vacated area in the middle of the field. Not one screen. We had a couple of bubble screens that were completely blown up but seriously draw up a screen pass or two.

There is a lot of blame to go around. You wait for the best part of nine months for the season and that is what you get served up. I have always been one of those very loyal fans that wants to give a coaching staff or a manager time to turn things around. I think I have rarely advocated for a change. Steve Cotteril and Richie Barker are the only two Pompey managers I’ve really wanted to see go for instance.

James Franklin was the guy I wanted and I don’t think he’s done a horrific job but his offensive coordinator is getting a right pelting amongst Nittany Nation and it is tough to not want to join in. He has been given a great hand in Hackenberg who was on the up but his scheme clearly doesn’t fit with Hackenberg’s skill set. Herb Hand is also taking a lot of heat for the O-Line and I give him a little more leeway due to the sanctions but Donovan’s seat has to be extremely hot. He has not done a good job coaching and his offensive play calling and his drawing up of plays to be honest – stinks. He needs to improve a hell of a lot or move on.

The defense was fine until it got completely gassed because it was only getting a minute or two breather between series. Jason Cabinda missed a potential pick-six. Nyeem Wartman-White got hurt and is out for the year. Carl Nassib had a terrific game but this loss and the 27 points that Temple put up isn’t on the defense at all. Could they have played better? Sure, but they played well enough to keep Penn State in it, yet the offense played well enough to just raise everybody’s blood pressure and rage.

You wait nine odd months and that is what you get. I think the only word that describes this is quite simply, ‘yugh’.

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Written by neilmonnery

September 6th, 2015 at 10:37 am

Posted in American Sport

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