The Rambles of Neil Monnery

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On growing older, the wisdom of youth and how it applies to my feelings towards politics…

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Oh hello there blog. It has been a while. What have I been up to that has kept me from writing copious amounts of words being pious on whatever the topic of the day is I hear you not ask. Well the truth of the matter is I just haven’t felt the need nor more importantly want to actually sit here and write. It isn’t like I’ve had a zillion e-mails wondering where I’ve gone either but I’m writing now, but what is the topic that has dragged me back?

Being young, knowing everything and the futility of treading water.

When I was a young I wonder if I felt I knew everything or not. I suspect I probably did. Yet as I’ve grown older I have learned three important things. Firstly that there is far less black and white than what I used to think, instead their are increasing numbers of shades of grey (and not in that quite terrible book/movie way). Secondly that as you get older you gain knowledge and wisdom based on your life experiences far more than I could ever believe when I was young but here is the kicker and most important thing, the third thing I’ve learnt is that the more I grow and learn, the more I realise how little I actually know in the grand scheme of things.

I am sure I used to be cocksure of myself and my place in the world, I may have even felt that I was important and significant when in fact the opposite is true. I am more insignificant than I could ever have imagined when I was younger. This isn’t meant to sound depressing and I don’t see it as such but I have realised my influence is far more sparse than I thought it would be when I was growing up.

Sometimes I sit here and look at the bright eyed young people who have the world in front of them and I am filled with mixed emotions. I will think how many of them will sell out to provide for themselves and their loved ones. Doing a job they hate (or at least not what they wanted to do when they were growing up) but going forward and making their little world that little bit better. On the other hand I look at them and hope that they succeed in making sweeping changes to make not only their world that little bit better but in doing so make the world a better place as a whole.

In terms of politics this is being played out in the Democratic nomination in the US of A. Bernie Sanders wants to change the world and lots of people are buying into that hope. Changing the world requires big thinking and I admire that. Oh my do I admire that. The problem with changing the world is a lot of people don’t want to change the world so its nearly impossible for him to ever do what he says he wants to do. On the other side of the ledger you have Hillary Clinton who doesn’t want to change the world but make small incremental changes to make things better. A less ambitious but more realistic goal.

The problem with hope is that once you don’t deliver what people thought you could then you are savaged and people are more disillusioned than ever before. We saw that here to some degree with Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems in 2010. A surge of popularity and doing things differently but when push came to shove, he couldn’t deliver the big sweeping changes people hoped for and could only make small incremental changes that would either a) makes things better or b) curb the bad things the Tories wanted to do. When you put yourself out there wanting big change and fail to deliver on that hope that people will be hurt.

We are coming up to a year after the 2015 General Election when the Lib Dems got massacred/got what they deserved* and suddenly lots of people joined the party that were to be frank lying on their back like a tortoise with no idea of how to right itself. Have these people who have thrown their lot in with the party made a difference or maybe more importantly, do they feel as though they’ve made a difference?

One man who doesn’t believe so is Josh Lachkovic whose piece Why after a year of #libdempint, I won’t be renewing my membership went live earlier today. Lets not beat around the bush here, in my opinion large chunks of what he has to say is fair criticism. Even I sometimes struggle to understand what the Lib Dems stand for and what platform they are standing on. Maybe the party is still licking its wounds and maybe they’ll (or should I type we’ll?) continue doing that for a while.

I suspect that the plan is to rebuild from the bottom up with starting to claw back the councillor base that has just dried up in the past five years. If people start believing that the Lib Dems are the party who’ll sort the issues that councils deal with that maybe they’ll start being trusted to do the big things. There seems to be this thought that if you deliver x amount of leaflets then you’ll get x amount of votes, I don’t really agree with this notion. You have to offer people a reason to go out and vote for you, a reason for them to believe that you can help make the lives of them and their loved ones better than if they didn’t vote or voted for someone else.

I don’t see any vision or long-term planning with the national party about making the UK a more liberal place. That might be because the party has been decimated at the top and also because the media who have enjoyed (and trust me – they have absolutely loved it) using the Lib Dems as a political football to kick as hard as possible for five years now see little interest in doing so, being irrelevant is even worse than being kicked repeatedly.

Bringing this full circle, this is something that I find sad but also I find doesn’t anger me the way it used to. The fight is gone. I wanted to drag people kicking and screaming into looking at the big picture but too many people don’t want to do that. The party at a national level has been far too inward looking and they celebrated the #LibDemFightback with much pizazz. In the next month or two many of those members will have to make a decision as to whether they renew or not. I wonder how many will just choose to let it slide, it wouldn’t overly shock me if the number is statistically very significant.

Yes the Lib Dems have performed well in by-elections up and down the country. There are legitimate green shoots of recovery but they are very small green shoots and need lots of water and nurture to get anywhere. Every victory is a slog.

As we’ve seen in the US of A, we aren’t in a world where small steps of progression is a political movement people want to get behind. If it was then John Kasich would be waltzing away with the Republican nomination. The people want more extreme people who speak specifically to them and in turn the media will promote these people all the more because it drives up ratings, page views and newspaper sales.

I was once told by someone at the Portsmouth News that if they had a headline on the back page about Portsmouth Football Club then they would see sales rise by 30% that day. The same is true of politics. Donald Trump gets more support because the news organisations fawn over him because he is so outrageous that people want to see what he has to say. Over here Tim Farron is a nice guy who wants to get his message across but his message isn’t as extreme as Jeremy Corbyn or Nigel Farage and whilst David Cameron has no real message apart from ‘winning’ he is the Prime Minister so people want to talk about him and his party as they are you know, in power.

For the Lib Dems to engage with the latent liberals at a national level then they need to find policies that will make the country a more liberal place. I will still contest Nick Clegg was that man. He could’ve been our Justin Trudeau, he really could’ve. Sadly the electoral math and the long established belief in this country of two party politics coupled with the media driven hatchet job and the fact the party couldn’t raise the money of their more established rivals meant that was never to happen.

When I was young I believed I could be anything I wanted to be. As I grew older I understood that maybe I couldn’t. As I grew even older I learned that there are more people who want to drag you down than help push you up. As I continued my path I learned that the amount of absolute right and absolute wrong answers to the trials and tribulations of life are far fewer than I could ever have believed. As I sit here now hopefully somewhere between a half and a third of my way through my journey of life I have learned that there is so much I’ll never know nor even understand but that is ok.

Sometimes I still wish I had the wide-eyed enthusiasm of my youth. I look at these young people with the world at their feet and endless possibilities with a mix of envy and hope. A lot of my hope for radical change in the world has dissipated but maybe they can deliver. One thing they have to realise is hope is a very dangerous thing. Hope gets you hurt and hurt doesn’t go overnight.

Changing the world one step at a time is achievable but changing the world a few steps at a time? Good luck with that. My hope for that has gone by the wayside. It might be time for others to take up that baton and I’ll concentrate my time and energies on issues that are more selfish. My love and enjoyment of politics is at an all-time low but I am not unhappy. Far from it. Maybe I’ll find some hope from somewhere, I can see one or two small pieces of hope bobbing about but whether they come to anything only time will tell. Politics has not be a particularly fun thing to get involved with and whilst the fun and enjoyment was never exactly high, when you couple that with feeling like its futile then you get to where I am and that isn’t ideal.

Life is good. I am waiting to be inspired on a political front but until I am once again then my feet will get less wet than they have previously and do you know what, that is just fine.

*delete as applicable

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Written by neilmonnery

April 6th, 2016 at 4:01 pm

Posted in Politics

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  1. Much to agree with here. But I think that you are wrong about the coalition. Nick Clegg’s problem was not that he could not deliver everything that he promised, but that he did not appear to be doing anything to help those who were adversely affected by the failures.

    On student fees, the coalition Liberals appeared to simply accept that they had been defeated, stuck to “Cabinet Responsibility”, and did not publicly – at least – consider how else they might help students, perhaps by increasing hardship funding, controlling top rates of fees, regulating minimum contact times etc. (Bad examples, I know, but we lost the image of being the champions of students. We made excuses for betraying them over fees, but there was no new “big policy” to take the edge off that betrayal. We displayed a complete lack of imagination, as well as a lack of sympathy.)

    When the numbers of people using food banks increased our leaders remained rather silent. When the first deaths were announced after benefit claimants had been sanctioned, they were very quiet, and yet I thought that having 500,000 food bank users with no deaths was something that they should have resigned over.

    Yes, bringing down the coalition might have had an electoral penalty, but bringing it down to save lives was exactly what a national leadership candidate should have done. There might have been personal risk to the career of a politician who brought down a government, but isn’t personal risk in support of a good cause what we expect from our heroes? Why should we expect anything less from our leaders? Voters were actually dying after implementation of a Coalition Government policy.

    The coalition has left a perception that Liberal politicians are too week to fight for their principals, too cowardly to make brave decisions, and too greedy to resist any scrap of power and wealth that is offered. That might be hard on some, who no doubt “did their very best in difficult circumstances”, but as a party we seemed to fail to give them adequate support. We failed to drag the leadership into the real world of the people who were effected by cabinet decisions, and failed to give the leadership support to make the right decisions.

    Liberals have always been a party of principle. We have always been more interested in getting the right decisions made, than the mere pursuit of power. The influence of Liberal MPs has always exceeded their numbers in the Commons, but in coalition we seem to have forgotten our principles, and forgotten why we held them.

    We must remember that people, not statistics, (or wealth or power) are what matter. It will take a few years, perhaps decades, to regain the trust of the electorate – or we need to find some really exceptional people to fill the top positions in the party. We need leaders (preferably from within the party), who are prepared to bravely take difficult decisions in defense of principle at the appropriate time, and with the courage to stand up and explain why.

    Huw Jones

    8 Apr 16 at 12:16 pm

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