The Rambles of Neil Monnery

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Archive for July, 2017

On why assisted dying/suicide is a human rights and liberal issue the Lib Dems should take up…

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This is back in the news as Noel Conway is challenging the 1961 Suicide Act that by stopping his right to die in a dignified manner breeches his human rights. It is an extremely emotive issue for many. MPs debated it just two years ago and the eight Lib Dem Members of Parliament split three ways with three voting for the bill, three against and two sat on the fence.

Back then it was Alistair Carmichael, John Pugh and Norman Lamb who supported the bill. The latter even commenting during the debate that he had changed his mind in recent years. The paragraph that sticks out is below:

I have changed my mind on this issue. I used to oppose change, but I am now very clear in my mind that reform is necessary. We are all shaped by the conversations we have and by our own personal experiences, sometimes within our own families. Talking to people who are terminally ill has forced me to think about the principles at stake and led me to change my mind. I came to this view through one man in particular, Douglas Harding, who, for six years, has lived with terminal cancer, and is now very close to the end. When I hear him argue the case to me about his right to decide when to end his life as he faces the closing stages of a terminal illness, I find it impossible to reject that right. When I ask myself what I would want in those circumstances whether I would want that right, I am very clear in my mind that I would. I do not know whether I would exercise it, but I would absolutely want it for myself. How can I then deny it to others?

It is one of those rare occasions when I am on the opposite side of the aisle to Nick Clegg who voted against the bill. At Conference in 2014 he found that he was in the minority within the party during a Q&A session. A show of hands showed that the majority of Lib Dem members in that room believed that a change in the law was necessary. “I am personally quite sceptical about the ability to capture what is a very, very delicate decision about when you endorse, under the law, the taking of someone’s life” said the then Deputy Minister at the time.

For me though I don’t see it as a tough decision and I think Norman Lamb hit the nail on the head. It is all about rights and if someone is in a position where they want to end their own life but need help, they should have that opportunity. This isn’t about state sanctioned murder but about not criminalising doctors or loved ones for bringing an end to pain.

I have it on record with my mum and my partner that should I ever be in a position where I have zero quality of life, I do not want to live. This is of course a very narrow interpretation that only takes into account two scenarios where I wouldn’t be able to clearly communicate my wishes, firstly locked in syndrome, which would be hell on Earth in my opinion and the other is where I lose so many of my faculties that I do not know who I am or who anyone is around me. For me that isn’t life but existing and again for me, that isn’t life.

This is of course just one persons opinion – mine – but shouldn’t I be able to control whether or not I live or die in such a scenario? If I want the freedom to end my life if I didn’t think it was worth living then how could I ever have the position where I don’t think another person has that same right?

The issue of coercion is a real one and I can fully see that is a potential problem to making this law. If assisted dying/suicide was decriminalised then scrupulous people could get vulnerable people to agree to end their life for a variety of reasons from freeing them of a burden to financial gain. This is where the whole issue hits the rocks as many will argue that if it could be used by people against the wishes of the person then it should be avoided at all costs. This is why safety checks should be put in place and that is plausible albeit difficult.

As liberals we should fight for individual choice in life and in this instance death. I find it hard to constitute that people couldn’t comprehend of a scenario where they see themselves diagnosed with a terminal illness, which is only only to get worse, more painful for them and more painful for their loved ones watching them in pain and slipping away and not want to end the pain for all. For you see dying slowly and painfully whilst watching your loved ones go through this with you must be nearly as bad (or even more so) than going through it yourself.

I’ve always believed in individual freedom and I think assisted dying/suicide comes under that umbrella. I would love the Liberal Democrats to look into this once more. In 2004 at Spring Conference the party promised to, ‘introduce legislation that would legalise assisted dying for patients with a terminal or severe, incurable and progressive physical illness‘ but nothing happened. In 2012 a motion brought by Chris Davies MEP at Party Conference was passed which reaffirmed our support for a change in the law on assisted dying. Still nothing has happened.

This is an issue of human rights and liberalism. One I think the party should seriously take up and not just pay lip service to…

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July 18th, 2017 at 2:27 pm

Posted in Politics

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On Sol Campbell’s hopes of becoming a manager in English football…

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Stepping away from politics, I read an interesting piece in The Guardian today entitled Sol Campbell: ‘I’m prepared to go to a non-league club and just get a win bonus’. The former Spurs, Arsenal and Portsmouth defender is looking to get on to the managerial ladder but has been disappointed that teams aren’t banging on his door to get his attention.

Campbell of course is black and this is part of the story. However a bigger part of the story is he is Sol Campbell. ‘When Sol, walked up, to lift the FA Cup, I was there, I was there…‘ chant Pompey supporters. I count myself among them. That day in 2008 is still as surreal now as it was then. A Portsmouth captain walking up the famous Wembley steps to lift the FA Cup. So I have quite a bit of time for the former England defender. Yet his history does provide clues as to why he isn’t in demand with respect to a managerial position.

First of all he has walked out of clubs before when things were not to his liking. He left Spurs for Arsenal on a Bosman deal. This was of course entirely within his rights and I can still recall when it happened. Everyone expected the press conference to be about Richard Wright’s signing but over walked Campbell with Arsene Wenger. The way it was handled though seemed pretty poor.

He then got his release from Arsenal on a free because he wanted to play abroad, only to turn up at Fratton Park. Look I know Portsea Island is technically an island off the English mainland but I don’t think that it what Arsenal envisioned when they let him out of his contract. It is hard to forget that he signed a five-year deal with Notts County in 2009, only to walk out after one game.

So this has to factor into the minds of perspective employers to some degree. Campbell also has a history of getting involved in issues outside of football for which he should be lauded in my opinion but is something Chairmen will be wary about. Not only do they think it might put off some of their supporters but they will question whether he is totally committed to football.

Remember, Campbell did put his name forward to be the Conservative candidate for the London Mayoral elections in 2016. In 2015, he refused to rule out running in what was then the safe London seat of Kensington in the General Election. The 42 year-old also came out for Brexit primarily because it would limit the amount of foreign players in the English football league. The fact the EU Referendum was about far more than that seemed to pass him by. This means that any potential employer would surely question whether Campbell wants to dedicate himself long-term to the game or if he has other ambitions in life.

If you read the piece though you’ll start to get a sense of why clubs outside of the top tier haven’t offered him even an interview yet. Seemingly he hasn’t applied for any job. The former England international, who has had no managerial experience is waiting for clubs to approach him. It takes quite some arrogance to expect potential employers to come to you when you have no experience for the potential job. This is a key paragraph:

I’ve spoken to a couple of agents to help get the word out that I’m available but so far there’s only been tentative inquiries

Some clubs may be thinking: ‘We don’t want to talk to Sol because of his history,’ but that’s what an interview is for – meet the person and get to know what he’s actually like. If I don’t impress you in an interview then fine, but at least give me that chance. That’s all I want; to talk to a chairman or owner about my philosophy and what I can do for their team. I’m a winner. I love to build. I’ve got great ideas. I’ve got the passion. I’m very diligent, and if given a chance I’ll work my rear end off to be a success.

Surely you have to apply for a job before getting an invitation for an interview?

Then we have to look at another quote later in the piece:

I’ve got to the stage where I don’t want to keep banging the same drum. I’m a doer and I just want to do it. Whatever attitudes, prejudices, stereotypical ideas that are in front of me, I will break them. But the only way I can break them is by getting a job, and if I need to start in the gutter, I will start in the gutter and work my way up. Money isn’t an issue.

How many L1, L2 or non-league owners would like to be referred to as ‘the gutter’ do you think? I’m hypothesising not too many. Sol Campbell’s problem in getting a job isn’t because of institutional racism. I think it is clear that the sport does have issues to address on that front, significant ones at that. With regards to Campbell though, it is much more of a Sol Campbell issue. Is he serious about football? Is he ready to not walk out if things don’t go his way? Does he really think the lower leagues are a gutter? These are all far more important questions to lower league owners than the colour of his skin.

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July 17th, 2017 at 5:43 pm

Posted in Football

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On whether Tim Farron’s ‘decided to quit before the GE’ confession adds up…

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I’m not a cynical person by nature. Wait no, that is a lie. I’m extremely cynical and when bleary eyed this morning I sat there on the sofa and saw the news that Tim Farron had decided to quit before the General Election, I was caught up in mixed emotions. First of all I was tired (that had nothing to do with the news, I was just tired) then I was kinda pissed off and then I started wondering whether it was actually true.

I’ll tell you why I have some issues with the truth of this confession. First of all, the timing. If he had decided to quit a month or so before polling day then surely he then walks away swiftly after the result is known. He doesn’t wait until the Grenfell Tower Fire and squeezes out the news in a very hastefully arranged press announcement. That doesn’t add up at all. Either he’s a pretty awful man and wanted to wait for a tragedy to happen so he could sneak out his news or he had no plans to quit that day. Fair to say that I don’t think he’s a pretty awful man so I’ll go for option B on that one.

The timing of his resignation hasn’t had enough scrutiny within the party. It was fucking repulsive. Repugnant if you will. How dare at a time of such an incident do the party allow their leader to publicly resign and take some of the focus away from the real news that day. We all get angry when governments try and sneak out bad news on days when it might be buried and we did that. The party should be ashamed.

So what other things could have changed Tim Farron’s mind after the General Election result? Could the fact Nick Clegg lost his seat have played a part? The former leader and Deputy Prime Minister went out in the great Corbynista wave where all Lib Dems in Labour facing seats got swept aside as voters flocked to the Labour party. Was he the reason Tim decided to leave or possibly stay on?

Time heals all wounds to some degree and while it is fair to say many people will never forgive the former MP for Sheffield Hallam, it is also not untrue to say his toxicity had been slowly receding. He had found a second wind as the European spokesman for the party in this post EU Referendum world in which we live and those who are firmly opposed to Brexit seemingly had a very positive opinion of him. Did Farron see the writing on the wall that the membership (and maybe the electorate) actually preferred Clegg to him and therefore wanted to go and when Clegg went down, Farron saw he had a clearer path to staying on?

Who knows (well at least one person does but that person is not me) but it is certainly something worth thinking about. If Tim Farron had decided to quit weeks in advance of the General Election then the obvious point to resign would be the morning after. Instead he came out and praised the fact we had increased our representation in parliament by 50% compared to the 2015 debacle. So something must have changed and the obvious thing to point at and question is the fact Nick Clegg wasn’t an MP any more.

If we take him at his word though that he decided to walk away in the early days of the campaign then that doesn’t paint him in a good light either. Had he left a fortnight into the campaign, it would have allowed the party a month to put someone else in the spotlight and interim leader. Logically that would have been Nick Clegg but it obviously may not have been. It could have been Norman Lamb.

If a change had happened though it should be done like a band-aid. You pull it off quickly, deal with the stinging and then get on with it. I have written about Tim’s performances in the media during the campaign and they were mixed. Couple of stinkers but also a couple of good ones. He was certainly far better than the Prime Minister (although I admit, that is a pretty low bar) but maybe the damage had already been done.

The party had all the momentum early but it ground to a halt when talking about the gay sex issue and it was something we all knew was going to be something the party (and Tim) had to nip in the bud. The fact they (and he) did not just knee-capped the campaign and when the decision to move away from hope and towards scare tactics happened, it was game set and match for the party to ever hit the 30-40 MP mark that some (maybe many) thought was possible on April 18 when the General Election was called. Was Farron damaged goods or was the party? That is a great question.

When he only just held on to his seat despite the usual boost that party leaders get, that says a lot. Norman Lamb managed to hold on in North Norfolk despite facing real Brexit related challenges. Tom Brake held off the Tories yet again in Carshalton & Wallington. Stephen Lloyd was able to wrestle back Eastbourne despite it being a leave area. Tim Farron is (and I still say is) a very popular constituency MP but he nearly lost. This has to be down in some degree to his performance as leader of the party.

Maybe had he quit in early May then the party would have been able to wrestle back some of that momentum. I don’t think any party leader should not want to carry on with the job certainly relatively early on in the campaign. Look at Paul Nuttall for example. I do think Tim gave everything but if your heart isn’t deep down in it then people can see that.

I have serious doubts as to whether Tim decided to quit two weeks into the campaign. The timeline just doesn’t fit with how he acted post June 8. If he’s speaking the truth and he knew he was going post General Election and still quit in the Grenfell Tower aftermath then that is not a good look and not a good legacy to leave. People talk about things leaving a bad taste in the mouth, if that is how it went down then bloody hell, that looks terrible.

Lastly he said that his job was to save the party and that it still exists and is moving forward. Well it does still exist but whether it is moving forward is still very much up in the air. The country is clearly veering towards two-party politics once again (more so than two years ago) due to the fact so many LD/Con battles have seen the party move into third behind Labour. Depressingly I don’t see any real recovery unless Brexit is an utter disaster.

Until Jeremy Corbyn gets his chance then the country will want to see what he can do. The next General Election (whenever it will be) will surely see more of a Labour surge and due to the lack of tactical voting prowess of many voters, that will lead to even fewer Lib Dem MPs.

The future’s bright, The future’s orange says a popular advertising slogan. For the Lib Dems though this does not feel accurate at the moment.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.

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July 14th, 2017 at 9:11 am

Posted in Politics

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On the women’s lacrosse world cup that started in Guildford yesterday…

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I get many press releases come in through the e-mail address associated with this blog and I rarely do much with them. However once in a while I see something which I think would be interesting to use and comment on. One of those things happened this morning when I got a press release about the women’s lacrosse world cup. This event got underway yesterday and I like to think that I have my finger on the pulse of sport but I hadn’t even come across one single murmur on this event and it is going on right here in the UK, Guildford to be precise.

In the notes section English Lacrosse state that, ‘English Lacrosse drives participation of the sport in England. Lacrosse has experienced unprecedented growth over the last five years with now over 30,000 people picking up a stick and playing the game each year. With the 2017 FIL Rathbones Women’s World Cup taking place in England, the exposure and interest in our game has never been greater.

My knowledge of lacrosse is minimal but I know former Penn State running back Evan Royster played the sport and I’m pretty sure Chris Hogan of the Super Bowl winning New England Patriots did as well, also at Penn State.

Below is the press release and here is the playing schedule, so if you are in the area and fancy watching some top level sporting action then get down to Guildford’s Surrey Sports Park at some point over the next ten days…

The FIL Rathbones Women’s Lacrosse World Cup kicked off today at Guildford’s Surrey Sports Park, with tournament hosts England facing off against Wales.

England got their 2017 FIL Rathbones Women’s Lacrosse World Cup campaign off to a winning start with a 12-6 victory over home nation rivals Wales.

A strong all-round display spearheaded by England captain and game MVP, Laura Merrifield, saw the hosts home after a tight first-half.

Princess Anne, who has been the patron of English Lacrosse for more than 20 years, attended the opening ceremony yesterday, marking the start of the largest women’s sporting event in the UK during 2017.

Twenty five nations will play a total of 97 games of lacrosse over the course of the tournament, building to the showpiece final on Saturday 22nd July.

A 2,500 seat stadium has been created around the main pitch at Surrey Sport Park. A total of 17,000 tickets have been sold for the event, reflecting the worldwide growth in popularity of the sport.

Mark Coups, CEO, English Lacrosse, commented: “What a fantastic way to kick of FIL Rathbones Women’s Lacrosse World Cup. Whether you’re an avid follower of the sport, or a new-comer, we encourage everyone to get involved and join in the fun. We look forward to welcoming fans and players from all around the world to Surrey, for what is set to be a thrilling tournament.”

Philip Howell, Chief Executive of investment management firm, Rathbones, commented: “2017 is shaping up to be a watershed year for women in sports, with events such as the Cricket World Cup, Rugby World Cup, and FIL Rathbones Women’s Lacrosse World Cup set to boost interest in women’s sports. It’s our hope that the Rathbones World Cup will inspire existing and prospective lacrosse players to pick up a stick and get involved. We at Rathbones are very passionate about the opportunities and values that sport provides, such as team work, commitment and resilience. We are proud of our collaboration with English Lacrosse and Lacrosse Scotland over the past 6 years and look forward to a brilliant world cup.

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July 13th, 2017 at 10:40 am

Posted in Other Sport

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On the festering civil war that has the potential to blow apart the Lib Dems…

with 3 comments

Gee Neil. That seems like a bit of a sensationalist headline, do you work for The Sun? Well that is an interesting question disembodied voice that lives only when I want to write in the third person. Many moons ago I did go for a job at that very newspaper but it was not to be. They would tell me no and I would go on to work elsewhere.

So yes. The festering civil war. We all know what it is. It is those who oppose Sir Vince Cable against those who don’t/are at least willing to give him a chance. The MP for Twickenham is never going to appeal to the youth of today. He just isn’t. It has nothing to do with his age, both Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn could apply for a free bus pass due to their age but are adored by their followers. The reason they are beloved and that Sir Vince is not by these people is the message they are ready to peddle.

The independent senator for Vermont and the current leader of the Labour party essentially don’t believe in the financial system. They think money does grow on trees and that everything can be paid for by the super rich. This appeals to a great many people because why wouldn’t it? Who actually has the time or inclination to actually listen to and understand figures? If someone says it is all bollocks and actually you can have all this free stuff and extra money into public services just because you say so, then who wouldn’t see their hearts light up with glee?

Vince is not going to spread that type of hope, He’s a business oriented guy. He looks at the numbers and works out the best way to use the money available. He won’t promise the Earth and therefore he will never appeal to a great deal of younger people who want everything instead of incremental steps forward.

The problem the party has is who out of the 12 MPs both a) wants the job and b) can appeal to the youth. Well only Vince wants it so the second part of the equation is moot.

This is where the civil war will start to unfold. The undertones are there already. Activists are looking for hope and a forward looking leader. Someone they can look at and believe in to drag the party back towards relevance both at local and national level. Despite what some say, the result in the General Election last month was not good. Not good at all. Some of this is because of the Corbyn surge that would’ve caught many by surprise but a lot of it is laid at the feet of the piss poor national campaign. The party had a diluted message and a leader who nobody warmed to. This can’t happen again.

With Vince the party will have a leader who a certain section of the electorate will warm to. Despite what many people say, Vince still speaks to a certain section of society. The City in particular. Those potential voters will like his business acumen and experience. The question is, what other sections of the electorate can he speak to? This is where the issues arise.

With many activists not being keen on ‘Strong and Cable’ where do they go? What do they do? I’ve even seen some members on social media wanting a leadership election just so they can R.O.N. him and force Jo Swinson to run the party as Deputy Leader. This is so not cool. Jo has decided for whatever reason that she doesn’t want the job, so is it fair to essentially force her to do something that she doesn’t want to do? How is that in any way liberal? The truth is everyone knows it isn’t but some people are desperate. They don’t want Vince and will do anything they can to stop him.

The former member of the cabinet though is going to be the next leader of the party. No-one else wants the job and you only have 12 people who can even apply for it. So we as activists have three choices. One we leave. Two we support and get on with the job of local and national activism or three we stay, throw shade and moan in public and act just like the Labour party have done for the past two years. Yes folks, if we pick the third of those three options (which I think many will) we are set to be 2015-17 Labour.

We all know the story. I don’t need to write about it. Plenty of people actually liked winning elections and Jeremy Corbyn and his followers preferred a movement. They spent two years fighting among themselves and that ended with Labour badly losing a General Election but everyone falling into line because he outperformed expectations. It would be fair to say they only performed as well as they did because Theresa May was so abysmal it is unreal. It made Corbyn look so much better. David Cameron would have wiped the floor with the Labour leader.

Still for those two years it was pretty vitriolic within the Labour ranks. The two factions going at each other and losing ground in council by-elections as well a terrible loss in Copeland at Westminster level showed what a party at war does result wise. Now Corbyn is emboldened that civil war could still somehow spill over as he wants to purge all the non-believers and that could make local parties even more acrimonious. Do we really want that for the Lib Dems?

No. No we don’t. Yet so many are so lost and so disillusioned that they think Cable is so bad that they want to nip his leadership in the bud. The problem though keeps going back to the premise of no-one else wanting the job. How can you stop something when no-one else is willing to step up?

I foresee some pretty bad times ahead for the party. That hope of a bounceback from the disaster that was 2015 due to the EU Referendum has all but been extinguished. A generation of voters have been swayed by the unbridled hope that Jeremy Corbyn and his party are offering. It feels as though until we see Corbyn crash and burn, too many people will want to see him and his ideas get a shot before going back towards the centre ground.

One thing that people often throw at the Lib Dems is that we spend too much time naval gazing. They may have a point and I really do fear that for the next few months all we’ll do is fight about how to remove/stop Vince as he’s not the right person for the job instead of going out there, speaking to the electorate, finding out what their issues are locally and working on them to try and build up our council base at the local elections next May.

Fighting among ourselves is not a good use of time or energy. Even if you don’t think Vince Cable is the right person for the job, does that mean it is best to stop working to promote liberal values? It is tough out there. Really tough. Certainly for those with parliamentary ambitions but things change. Time to keep working within the community and hopefully by the time the next General Election comes along, our national campaign aids and assists candidates instead of hurting their chances of getting elected.

Vince Cable won’t make or break the party. A large percentage of activists losing morale though will. For those who are concerned (and I count myself within that group) I think the best way to move on is to become selfish. Work on local plans and campaigns and get back to the basics of what the Lib Dems do well. Work hard for their local communities and whatever happens in Westminster happens in Westminster.

If we make the leader the centre of our political world then we can push back our hope for gaining ground for another few years…

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Written by neilmonnery

July 4th, 2017 at 11:28 am

Posted in Politics

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