The Rambles of Neil Monnery

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On why sometimes being a Lib Dem makes me lose sleep…

without comments

Last night folks I was ticking. Not tickling, which would’ve probably been a lot of fun but ticking. I’ve been ticking on a certain subject for quite a while but last night it exploded and I was still awake at 3 and possibly even 4 this morning seething. What could be making me so mad? Well it is the air of arrogance that some members of the party have and how instead of engaging in debate, they prefer to make a pithy comment in an attempt to show their moral superiority. I’m sure all parties have these people but as a member of this one, I see these more and they are so cocksure of themselves that anyone even attempting to engage in debate needs to be swatted away in a dismissive style.

The story that brought it out last night was one from last year that people only noticed yesterday and the hand wringing was in full flow. The story was that Alison McInnes MSP wasn’t selected at number one in the North East Regional list for the Scottish Parliament. This showed that the Lib Dems were still anti-women, deep down sexist and morally wrong according to a number of people. I don’t know Alison nor Mike Rumbles, who got the top spot, but the issue wasn’t about them as candidates to some people, it was solely about gender and the fact the members who selected the candidates position on the lists got it wrong.

For writing this blog post I’ve just gone back to the thread that really charcoaled my Chilean Sea Bass (does that work?) and it got a tonne worse after I ducked out. This is the comment that first got me rumbling:

I don’t believe anyone accused individual members as being sexist, but sexist outcomes are sexist outcomes.

So this member put the result down as a result of sexism. Now in isolation this is essentially saying that any time a man beats a women in a selection then it is a sexist result. Surely no-one can actually believe that? I mean if that is the case then they are saying that any woman is superior to any man because any woman would be a better candidate than any man in any scenario. That is what people are saying if they actually believe that.

At this point I have no doubt that people reading this will be thinking, ‘oh that is such bullshit, that isn’t what they are saying, they are saying that Alison is better than Mike and anyone who disagrees is sexist’ but that thought process alone suggests that selecting candidates is a black and white process and one selection is right and one is wrong. As I said earlier, I have no idea of the credentials of either candidates in this case but the members who do have more of a knowledge will have a better insight and maybe they are best placed to select who they think the best candidate is rather than someone 100s of miles away and only sees the sex of the candidates as a determining factor.

So I waded into the thread. I won’t c&p the full comment as you need to read the whole thread for full context but I essentially said that if members in that particular area weren’t mature enough to pick the right person then you’d expect that those members are just as mature as the rest of the membership ergo none of us are mature enough to make the right selection so who should make every selection? I suggested Tim Farron but then questioned what some people would say if he picked the wrong person according to some people, it didn’t need to be a majority of dissenters because as we’ve seen the majority can get things wrong as seen by Rumbles > McInnes in the regional lists.

The response I got:

The big irony about the comment above is the historically it is *women* who got dismissed for being hysterical.

Boom. Man talk about lowering the boom and not engaging in the actual point. This is the type of person that blows my mind. Instead of engaging in debate they instead have an opinion and anyone who points out the issues in their opinion or indeed has a different opinion needs to be dismissed as being inferior (or indeed in my case hysterical). Why would I take such a thought from the above, well later in the thread after I’d ducked out the same person speaking to someone else said:

I don’t think that everyone in North East Scotland is sexist but I am working on the fairly safe assumption that anyone who comments on this thread with “are you accusing x of being sexist?” is sexist. Or dim. Take your pick.

So no-one in NE Scotland is sexist but they got a sexist result (not sure how that can happen – smells rather oxymorony* to me) but then to call people dim if they disagree with your PoV is self-righteous to the max and is a problem I have come up against on many an occasion (although to be fair this is mostly online and rarely do you find this attitude with people you meet).

The person who got that comment responded thusly and sums up my thought process perfectly:

Blinkered self righteous people like you are part of the problem not the solution , bend the knee to your view or we are all sexist or dim….ever looked in a mirror?

Some people believe that they are right and that is quite simply that. Those that disagree are not smart enough to see the world like they see it. That air of superiority stinks and a disproportionate amount of Lib Dems have that. Now I can counter that with having met many Lib Dems and having debated issue where we disagree but there are been a debate and you understand each others views but still disagree and move on and that is great, that is exactly how it should be. We can’t and won’t always see eye to eye on the best way forward to fix issues, that is human nature but when someone says that they are right and anyone else who disagrees is dim, it frustrates the hell out of me that some people are just so dismissive of other views and other people.

You see the issue here (after over 1,000 words) isn’t about what the issue should be about. The issue should be about whether a woman should ever be deselected/moved down a list. That is the point that is up for debate on this. Instead it has turned into a debate about how the result was sexist and proves that the Lib Dems need more provisions in place to ensure a greater proportion of women are in place as candidates. That is a legitimate debate and one I might get into at some point but instead I am just mad at people who have decided that because they have an opinion and you might not share that opinion then they are better than you.

I’m not singling out this one person as I’ve seen in on many occasions by a group of people. It is times like these that make me less inclined to go to Conference and instead spend the money on a holiday to Barbados or somewhere (scarily the prices aren’t that much different) because it makes you question whether you belong amongst so many people who are clearly on a different plane of existence to my humble self that I might not even be intelligent enough to be worthy of a hello.

Apparently this may sound hysterical to some people (I think that term is great, most people who know me accuse me of being too cold and emotionless but apparently I have so much emotion that I can be hysterical – beautiful) but some people really can make others feel inferior and that isn’t right. There needs to be a way to bring more equality to the elected representatives across sex, sexuality, ethnicity etc. but there are different opinions on how to do this but there is also the issue that many members see how others are treated and instead of standing up instead roll their neck in and don’t put themselves out there in case they have different opinions to the most vocal. That is just as much of an issue with encouraging people to step forward to stand as candidates.

To put your head above the parapet, man or woman, gay or straight, white or black takes a lot and if you see others being dismissive you really would naturally think twice. I know I would. The most unedifying part of politics is being dismissed out of hand as being wrong. I’m sure I’m wrong a lot, I’m human but if I am I want to know why and not just get the sense that others believe that I’m inferior. That is where I struggle and it is sad to say that a number of Lib Dems (again online mostly, haven’t really found that much locally or face to face when out and about) have made me feel this and that sucks and makes me lose sleep. Sad times.

*I know oxymorony isn’t a word but it just felt right

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Written by neilmonnery

July 29th, 2015 at 12:31 pm

Posted in Politics

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On Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘Tea Party’ issue for Labour…

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Jeremy Corbyn. Wow. Seriously what a run this is. This is a bit like the time Michelle McManus came from a 50/1 outsider to storm through and win whatever Simon Cowell show she won, was it Pop Idol?

He got on the ballot in a blaze of MPs feeling guilty and wanting to have a proper debate about where the party were and where they were going. Now he is third favourite but coming in at a rapid pace on Betfair and indeed in the first poll (YouGov/The Times) it was predicted that he would actually win the Labour Labourship contest. Holy Shit.

Still, I still find it unlikely that he can actually win but lets play the game because the title of the post actually does have some merit and brings up a legitimately interesting question/point.

I think it is very hard to win an election in any modern democracy from the fringes unless you are in a time of deep recession or rise of national identity. People generally like parties and politicians who are somewhere around the centre. Whether they are centre-right or centre-left doesn’t really matter and the majority of voters can sway with the wind between these ideological viewpoints.

The word in the previous sentence that is key is the word ‘majority’ for you see you only win if the majority of people vote for you. Tony Blair’s three victories came from the centre-left ground and Ed Miliband decided to throw the blueprint of victory away and move the party further to the left. This of course solidified the core vote but it left the floating voters with a long way to travel to vote for him.

Jeremy Corbyn is coming in and lets be honest, saying a lot of things that people want to hear. The thing is many look at socialism and see it as a good thing but does socialism lead to people aspiring to do better and more importantly is it a position where the majority of floating voters will really gravitate towards? Modern political history says that it does not but it will once more solidify the core vote.

Labour’s recent political success all came when the party spoke to those who wanted to get further in life. Blair knew that people wanted a helping hand and not a hand out. Blair proved that you can not only win from the Centre-Left but you can win in a landslide. Now there is a surge of people within the Labour party who seemingly want to forget the good times and go back to the time when they stood for a small proportion of the electorate but really bloody stood for them. They didn’t win and therefore couldn’t help that section of the electorate but that didn’t matter.

I had a conversation with someone recently on this and they said they thought Jeremy Corbyn was principled and that is exactly what the country needs as no-one else was principled. I don’t know his voting past or his voting intention but he seemed enthused by Corbyn. He may be a swing voter but many of the newer Labour members do seem very enamoured by Corbyn’s words and don’t seem to look at how he can actually deliver what he wants.

The policy that anyone earning over £50k a year should have a 7% tax hike to pay for free education for students is not going to win over the people that you need to win over to win. 7% is quite the tax hike for a lot of people who don’t even consider themselves as that well off.

Nuclear disarmament sounds good and is something I would personally see as a good aspiration but is JC doing to dismantle all our nuclear weapons without getting the rest of the world to do the same? That leaves us kinda vulnerable, no…?

How much money is he going to borrow to renationalise all the utility and transport companies that he wants to? That seems to be something that would plunge the country back into a state of deep national debt and that doesn’t sound like a good thing.

He also wants to reunite Ireland and that is an interesting one. I don’t think that I’m going out on a limb here to say that might be rather hard to get over the line.

So he has lots of policies that’ll be extremely tough to actually make happen even if he wins the leadership contest and then a General Election. The issue is again look at these and how are the party going to win over the moderates that they need to actually win?

And this my friends is where the link to the Tea Party comes in. The Tea Party as we all know is the very vocal and furthest mainstream part of the Republican Party. They get a lot of air time and the Republicans keep moving further right to appease this section of the party but in doing so, all they are doing is making it even harder for the moderates to go out and vote for them. There are millions of American who believe in the small state that is at the heart of Republicanism but can’t bring themselves to vote for a Republican Party that are drifting further to the right and away from the centre, instead choosing not to vote for voting for a moderate Democrat.

I’m a Hillary guy and think she would make a superb President of the United States but her chances of winning against a moderate Republican aren’t as slam dunk as many of us outsiders are led to believe. In the electoral system in the US you really have to dominate the larger states in the Electoral College and in recent years the Republicans have struggled in many of these (Texas/Florida being the large states that seem solid in). If the Republicans find a moderate then they can be competitive in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana and the like but they won’t vote for an extreme and this is what Corbyn followers have to look at.

Jeremy Corbyn might speak to you but will he speak to enough people to actually win an election? If the answer is no then surely you have to vote for someone else who can. If you think that politics is all about principles and standing up for what you believe in but not getting anywhere to actually act and help those you want to help then Corbyn is your guy. If you want to do some good for those people but not get everything you might want/believe in then you have to be more moderate.

Winners come from the moderate ground and to win you have to be there. Being idealistic but getting nowhere seems noble but also seems pointless. There is a reason the Tories and Lib Dems are cheering Corbyn on from afar and that isn’t because either of the parties think he’ll eat into their support. Putting significant ground between Labour and the centre ground will leave a lot of voters sitting on their hands or going somewhere else.

My last analogy (and if this doesn’t worry Labour voters I don’t know what will) but a Labour General Election victory is actually less likely than me having a successful date whilst wearing my new tie-dye fleece. Yes folks it is just that unlikely.

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Written by neilmonnery

July 22nd, 2015 at 5:10 pm

Posted in Politics

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On Tim Farron struggling to answer the homosexuality/sin question…

with 2 comments

Who could ever have seen this coming? *rolls eyes*

This was always going to be Tim’s biggest problem, which is to be honest is crazy if you look at it from outside the political bubble. Tim’s fundamental Christian beliefs should not be the most posed question that he faces from the media but whoever said life was fair?

Everyone knew he’d face these questions and the fact he didn’t have a good answer for it is a big cross against the work from his inner-circle. The questions were going to come and they were going to come thick and fast and whilst it may be unfair, Tim put himself out there on the Christian ticket with two pieces in The Guardian within the past fortnight talking about it. If you are going to speak about it so openly then expect scrutiny. Don’t bleat about how other religions wouldn’t get scrutiny, that isn’t fair. I’m pretty sure plenty of politicians from around the religious fraternity have faced questions as to how their faith interacts with their politics.

Was his interview with Cathy Newman a car-crash? No. Was it uneasy? Oh yes, yes it was. In a piece entitled, On why I voted the way I did in the Lib Dem leadership election… I openly questioned whether Tim was prepared for the obvious questions that were coming on this subject. It seems as though he wasn’t. I actually took quite a lot of stick for even bringing it up and whether it was fair, my thought process was as a judge would say, ‘well counsel, you’ve opened the door…’ and if the door has been opened, prepare yourself for the onslaught.

The problem with religion is it doesn’t sound good in a sound bite. We are not a deeply religious nation and whilst in the good ol’ U S of A you have to be very public in your Christianity, over here all that will do is make people look at you with slightly narrowed eyes, rightly or wrongly.

So whilst it was a tough question to answer, he had to actually answer it and not in a wishy-washy way that he did. ‘Well all of us are sinners’ is not an acceptable response unless you want the electorate to believe that you think it is a sin. Here’s a good analogy, if someone asks you, ‘does my bum look big in this?’ and you respond, ‘well all bums look big in that dress’ then the person posing the question will infer that you think their bum looks big.

If Tim thinks that it is a sin then so be it. Part of liberty is the freedom of thought and the freedom of expression. Tim is fully entitled to believe that homosexuality is a sin. You and I may not agree with him but heck he’s entitled to that view (if indeed it is his view, which the evidence implies it probably is). The issue is whether his personal view will influence how he acts on such issues in his role as leader of a liberal political party. He has repeatedly stated that it wouldn’t and that should be the end of that in a perfect world. Still, we aren’t in a perfect world are we?

I have been disappointed by people who have said that this is a vendetta against Tim, the Lib Dems, Christianity when in fact it was a legitimate question and one that was always going to be posed. Plenty in the LGBT+ community are fully supportive of Tim whilst other do seem to have been concerned by his comments. I also think it is very fair to say that as a collective, had Nigel Farage for example made these comments then there would’ve been a more united assault on his character because of them. Some people are basing their reaction based on who said what instead of what was said and that I feel is not right.

This is a really small issue in the grand scheme of things for Tim and the Lib Dems but it is one that the media will peck at and peck at until they have a definitive answer. Tim (and his team, but in reality mainly Tim) needs to find a better answer to the question and once he does, the question will stop coming. I told him several weeks ago that he needed better answers to these questions and he chose to ignore me (which is fair enough, I know bugger all) but maybe now having seen the backlash not just within certain section of the party he now leads but also from potential voters, he’ll understand that he isn’t a backbencher any more and he will face a very different level of scrutiny (once more, rightly or wrongly on such an issue) but it comes with the territory.

Tim should be facing questions about how to rebuild the party, grow liberal values, make the party more gender balanced both in terms of councillors and MPs, what policies he wants to bring to the core of the party and the like. Instead the narrative is all about his Christianity, which is not good for neither himself personally nor the party.

So the answer is simple. Find the answer to the fecking question and then we can move on and start talking about the actual important shit.

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.

Written by neilmonnery

July 18th, 2015 at 11:49 am

Posted in Politics

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On ‘meeting’ and listening to Tim Farron but also thinking about leadership as a whole…

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I put meeting in inverted commas because we didn’t actually meet or speak but I got to see him and listen to what he had to say. Tim did tweet me and say that it was lovely to meet me, which I laughed at on the train home when I saw it. I’ll put it down to the amount of people that he has had to meet and greet in the past few weeks but if he can tell me who I was then I’ll be impressed. I’ll give a hint at the end of this blog post.

So yesterday I had nothing on and I knew Tim was heading down to Guildford so I thought I’d pop on down to meet him (which I didn’t) and to listen to what he had to say (which I did). I had been informed by most people that had met him that he was an extremely impressive individual both face-to-face and in small groups. I have already written about how I think that he is more effective across the media than his leadership rival Norman Lamb so that wasn’t up for debate in my mind.

First things first, my gut reaction was that Tim was shattered after a long leadership contest where no doubt he has driven/been driven and leaned on the railways up and down the country for hustings and meet and greets with various local parties. I didn’t sense the energy that others had told me he had. I am happy to put this down to being at the end of this campaign though, I cannot imagine how I’d be after such a schedule and Guildford was his final stop on the road and I understand he had already had several stops on that Saturday.

The whole idea of energy being an important factor in politics in an interesting one. I don’t want an Ironman as leader. I want someone who is a leader, an effective communicator and someone who can reach out to beyond the current Liberal Democrat voter demographic. So this whole idea of needing bundles of energy I think is a newfangled thing that isn’t that important anyway.

More importantly I wanted to hear what he had to say. He walked in to rapturous applause and I glanced around to see a lot of excited faces. It reminded me of a rock star somewhat and not of a leader. When I met Nick Clegg and he walked into the room I didn’t sense he was a rock star, I sensed he was a leader. That was one distinct difference that I immediately felt.

On to what he had to say though and several things stood out that I certainly agreed with. This naval gazing bollocks that is going on (he didn’t use the term bollocks – I am) is not how you earn back the trust and the votes of the electorate. You start getting back the trust by speaking to people and telling them of what you stand for and what you’ll fight for – certainly at local level. If there are issues that effect people that councillors can help with then you need to work hard and tell people that you’ll help them. You don’t get votes without people knowing that you are out there fighting for them in this current climate.

Secondly about black holes or as he preferred to name them, Lib Dem deserts. He said that the best way to start fixing this is to ‘Pick a ward and win it’. All parties have areas where they aren’t natural territory for them but they can still win there. Locally we can see that on Rochford District Council where Cllr. Chris Black does an excellent job in his ward of Downhall & Rawreth where he is joined by Cllr. Ron Oatham. This isn’t what you’d call natural Lib Dem territory but the ward has been solidly Lib Dem for a while due to hard work by the local Lib Dem group there.

It isn’t exactly breaking any trade secrets to say that the Lib Dems in the east of Southend have issues but the PAWAWI strategy in one that needs to be and will be implemented. I’m not saying the party will win a ward out east in 2016 but you have to have a strategy to start making inroads and have a longer-term ambitions instead of just going from one election to the next.

He was asked about tuition fees and winning back the student vote, replying to this he stated that the fees weren’t the issue but the (perceived) loss of trust. The tuition fees fiasco as I like to call it was one we know Nick Clegg foresaw before the election as he wanted to scrub it from the manifesto knowing it would be hard to keep in any coalition negotiations. He knew it was something that could be hard to keep and would be something that could be used to flog him and the party going forward. Conference voted him down and the rest as the say is history.

Trust is a hard thing to regain in any form of life. Once someone betrays you then you are wary of them for a long time. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me so they say. The Lib Dems went into a coalition with the hated Tories and did an apparent public U-turn on a well publicised policy led to anger. The only way to gain that trust back is by working hard and delivering at local level.

Sadly due to time constraints at the end of the meet and greet many people didn’t get to speak to meet him. As I said earlier about the rock star line, everyone wanted to see, speak and have their picture taken with him and even though it was tried to have him split his time equally between the two tables of Lib Dem members who had rocked up to meet him, the first table wouldn’t let him go and Tim had a train to catch to breathe and see his family, which is fair enough.

I wrote last week about how I was voting for Tim, not because he really spoke to me individually but because I felt he was the right person to speak to the nation as a whole on behalf of the Liberal Democrats. I suspect Norman would be a better voice of British liberalism but people shouldn’t be surprised that I would say such a thing. I’m clearly and unashamedly a Cleggite. I am a Nick Clegg guy and watching him on Sunday Politics this morning there wasn’t one occasion where I winced or drew in breathe at something that he said. He is my guy and he speaks to me.

Yet as Harriet Harman put it so well on Sunday Politics this morning, she urged Labour members not to vote for the person they felt more comfortable with but the person who’ll be able to best deliver the message and lead to electoral success. That seemed to be a veiled (or not so veiled) shot at the rise of Jeremy Corbyn but when it comes to the Lib Dems, this is why Tim Farron is the right man for the gig.

I looked around the group of people who were enthused (to say the least) about meeting Tim and listening to what he had to say. He brought out excitement and people were eager to listen. Yes it was an audience you’d expect to listen but his effective in terms of communication and I suspect the fact he’ll drag the party slightly to the left of centre whereas Norman will stick right in the centre-ground, is something that will appeal to potential Liberal Democrat voters going forward.

I would have liked to hear more about his thoughts on being the radical party of the centre-ground but he didn’t get that opportunity and I could tell time was an issue so I didn’t bring it up. I have long believed that is part of what the Lib Dems should stand for. Sometimes you have to inch closer to where you want to be but sometimes you have to blow things up and start again as it were.

I’d like to know what areas he believes would be better served by starting from scratch and starting again to try and change the culture of an area of government. Personally I have written on multiple occasions about the education system and how I believe it doesn’t best serve the young people of this country to best prepare them for the future. I’m not expecting Tim to say that (although trust me Tim – should you agree with my education PoV then I’m your man) but he must have some gut check areas in life where he believes things would be better served by radical change.

Still overall it was a worthwhile day. I don’t think he was on tip-top form but he said enough (and got the reaction) to make me think he was the right guy for the party going forward. I shall go and post my ballot now (well I say now, I’m sitting in my boxers, I’ll do it after I’ve gotten dressed because no-one wants to see that) and I hope he wins on Thursday. The future of a liberal voice in this country is vital in this age of nationalism that is spreading not only just across this country but also across Europe. His views on the importance of the Welfare State are good and whilst he’s not Nick Clegg, not many people are.

Lastly just to solve the riddle if Tim has indeed read this, has he worked out who I was yet? Have a guess…

Backwards baseball cap, sunglasses and the most ‘outrageous’ (as a date once termed them) sunset orange/yellow Nike Air Max 95 trainers.

We’ll probably meet one day. Until then I shall continue to blog from afar…

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.

Written by neilmonnery

July 12th, 2015 at 11:40 am

Posted in Politics

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On why I voted the way I did in the Lib Dem leadership election…

with 2 comments

Tim Farron has been the prohibitive favourite to be the next Lib Dem leader since May 8. Norman Lamb decided to run as well as well so it became a two-man battle. They each got roughly the same amount of ‘celebrity’ Lib Dem endorsements and many people looked at them to help make up their own minds.

I’m not one of them.

For you see, I’ve always been my own man. If someone tells me that I should do something then instinctively I try and go in the opposite direction. Considering I’m not exactly a rebel this is surprising but it is the way it is. So I decided to look at the two candidates but I decided not to vote for who I thought would be the best leader of the party but who I thought the electorate would be more impressed with and who would galvanise the grass roots of the party. This wasn’t about me but about the party as a whole.

It is no secret that I’m a Nick Clegg guy. I have been for the past several years and lets be honest here, I still am. Yet I clearly see that the party and the electorate have decided that it is time to move on so I can deal with that. Nick will always be one of my guys and even when I’m old and grey I’ll look back on Nick Clegg and see him as a thoroughly decent guy, who whilst he made mistakes, his actions helped make the country slightly more liberal and his legacy, whilst tarnished with the tuition fees and the crippling defeats will always have the silver lining of actually getting shit done. That is something no other leader of the party can say.

So on to the candidates and one one huge issue that I had to struggle with – Tim Farron’s Christianity. As some of you will know but most reading this won’t, I am the son of a now retired Methodist Superintendent minister. My views on the church are clear and they are made up of my own system of beliefs. I have no issue with anyone having any faith whatsoever, we are all fully entitled to belief in whatever we do (or don’t as the case maybe) so what issue do I have with Tim’s Christianity?

In an interview in The Guardian entitled, ‘Maybe God’s plan is for me to lose a bunch of elections and be humbled’ the very title goes to the very heart of my issue. The idea that someone out there who is all powerful has a divine plan for us all and therefore the idea that we aren’t in full control of our own lives is something that is so diametrically opposed to my own that I struggle to support him.

Later in the piece Tim says, ‘Well, God is sovereign. Dreadful things happen in this world, but that reminds us that we need a saviour. I don’t go round fixating that God has some major plan for me. Maybe his plan is for me to lose a bunch of elections and be humbled. God’s plan could be that some pretty brutal things happen to you. But the one thing I fall back on is that God’s overall plan is good.’

Tim doesn’t fixate upon any possible plan but he does believe in a plan. So whether Tim or Norman wins, he believes it is part of a higher plan and not because of the free will and thought of the Liberal Democrat membership. I really (and I mean really) struggle with this and I know many people believe in a plan and that God has our lives planned out for us but most of those people believe that God puts us in positions to make decisions for ourselves but the word sovereign doesn’t allow for that. If we are but mere pawns in a giant tapestry of human existence (and indeed that of all other species that God should he exist have no doubt created) then what is the point of life?

I asked Tim last night whether he would answer to God or to the electorate first and foremost? He replied that he answers first to his constituents. Yet what if his constituents say one thing and through the power of prayer, God tells him differently? That is the issue not with Christianity but in using the term sovereign to describe God. If God is all-powerful and all-knowing then surely anything he says through prayer would be the correct form of action? Therefore should he go with his constituents (should they be on the other side of the ledger) then he would be going against an all-powerful being. I really struggle with this.

My main issue though is if I two-bit nobody like me can read that interview and see issues then I’m sure plenty of smarter people than I can (and will) as well. You can’t have a sovereign being plotting out our lives but then say that he isn’t your first point of call. It just doesn’t add up.

Yet despite all this I will vote for Tim Farron when I open the ballot paper envelope that is sitting on my living room table.

The reason is simple, despite the likelihood that he is going to get grilled on this issue and he needs to formulate a much better answer that he seems to have at the moment, Tim is able to communicate far better than Norman Lamb and rightly or wrongly, this is a key part of being a part of being a political force in the digital era. Norman Lamb is clearly a smart man but every time I’ve seen him on TV it hasn’t been too far short of a car crash. Tim, whilst not being a TV natural, is extremely good face-to-face from all accounts and indeed has a stage presence about him. This gives him the nod in one key category.

In the other key category of being able to engage and enthuse with the activist base and the electorate then this is where Tim excels. His own electoral performance in his constituency is a clear example of this but also he seems better placed to be the front man.

A month or so ago I tweeted that Norman Lamb would be my choice over Tim Farron to be a minister but that Tim Farron would be my choice for leader, mainly because of the previous paragraph. The next leader has to be the best communicator we have and not only be able to win over the electorate, but more importantly win over the activist base and get them enthused and working again. There are plenty of liberals shying away and licking their wounds at the moment. The only way the party can recover is to get these people feeling as though we are still the radical liberal voice and that to get it, we need to work for it.

In cricket you don’t always have your best player as captain. So far this year we’ve seen a cricket World Cup and a New Zealand tour where Brendon McCullum has shown us that. He is a destructive player in the short-form and a very handy player in the long-form of the game but I see little doubt that Ross Taylor and particularly Ross Williamson are better batsmen and indeed Trent Boult may well be more important to the side but McCullum’s leadership has changed the way the cricketing world views New Zealand. The brand of cricket they have displayed is exciting and aggressive but all played with a smile on their faces, win or lose. McCullum is a captain and a leader but isn’t the best player they have. Tim Farron I believe is the same.

The Lib Dems don’t need the smartest or the most experienced guy in the room to lead them. They need the person who’ll get the best out of the resources they have and put the party in the best position to grow and recover. Being a leader isn’t about policy making but it is about being the face of the party. Being the person who people listen to and see on TV around election time. I think Tim has the edge here but his big lead comes in the form of appealing to the grass roots and the activist base.

You may well read this and wonder why I’m voting Tim when I clearly have big question marks surrounding him. Well I’ll have big question marks over whoever. I think Tim needs to find some better answers to some questions that he has faced and will continue to face regarding times where his faith will not sit neatly alongside the liberal viewpoint. I also think he also needs to improve his TV appeal. He is not bad but he’s not a natural. I know we’ve been spoilt by Nick, but if you look at any recent election in the digital era then apart from David Cameron’s performance this year (when people weren’t necessarily voting for him but more voting against the others) then the big winners in terms of vote share have all had people who were strong in front of the camera (Blair, Clegg, Sturgeon, Farage) so that is still a small issue but if he can get that activist base and the stay at home liberals out again (which I think he can) then that is why I think he’s the right man for the job at this current juncture.

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June 29th, 2015 at 1:15 pm

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On Lib Dem excuses…

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Sometimes in life no matter how many excuses you can provide, you have to look yourself in the mirror and say that maybe it wasn’t everyone else’s fault, in fact it was quite the opposite.

You see as Lib Dems we often point at factors that didn’t help us during the past few years, some of them are very legitimate but at some point all the excuses start to pile up and they become implausible.

One excuses I would like to bring up that I believe is a significant factor in both the Lib Dems and Labour’s performance in the May 2015 General Election was the media. The media fucked up their election coverage woefully and whilst the commercial stations can duck a bit and shield themselves, the BBC is paid for by a tax that we are all forced to pay if we want to watch the idiot box in the corner of the room, they are meant therefore as part of that tax to bring a fair and balanced approach to their news and politics output. They didn’t and boy do they know that now. They let polling run the whole election campaign so this election in the media wasn’t fought on policy but instead fought on which coalition of parties people wanted to run the country.

The Lib Dems pleaded with James Harding, who is the BBC’s director of news to focus their output based on policy and not polling data but James sat back in his chair, stroked his cat and told the Lib Dems to do one as he was the most powerful man in the land and he could do whatever he wanted. As the Lib Dem representatives walked out of his office he threw his glass of wine at them, staining their clothing before laughing so hard that he did a hernia whilst looking over his shoulder at a signed photo of Lynton Crosby whose left eye had been replaced by a small spy camera to ensure that Harding stayed on course. I may have used a little bit of poetic license in that paragraph…

Still the point remains, the BBC fucked up and on reflection, they know it badly. The fact they kowtowed (which is one of my favourite words – rising fast but still not at meander levels) to David Cameron by not allowing Nick Clegg into their live TV debate, which they called ‘the challengers debate’ before saying that it wasn’t a challengers debate at all, it was just David Cameron and Nick Clegg had turned down the chance to appear, which was half-true, 50% truth isn’t bad for the BBC in this election, but the fact they allowed this and then gave Nigel Farage his own show after he put up a pissy that he wasn’t involved in the Question Time debate shows that they didn’t have a fucking clue what they were doing. It wasn’t even like they couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery, they couldn’t organise food in an all you can eat buffet.

So that excuse has more than a ring of truth to it, which hurt both the Lib Dems and Labour to some degree because of the obsession the media had over whether Alex Salmond would be propping up Ed Miliband. The people of this country shouldn’t have their news output affected by hypothetical situations, the news is there to report on what has happened and what is going to happen, not to ponder what might happen.

Yet that wasn’t the sole reason the Lib Dem vote collapsed. The party ran an ineffectual campaign and weren’t putting to the people of this country a plan for progressive liberal politics. The manifesto was a mish-mash of random ideas and a call that we would be a stabilising force with either Labour or the Tories in any potential coalition. On paper this might sound like a good position to be but in reality when the whole election was moulded by the media (with a large slice of help by the Tories – seriously they ran this campaign beautifully) about a potential coalition, then the electorate weren’t voting on policy but they were voting with emotion. Did people want Scotland running England and did people want the Lib Dems propping up the Tories were the two buzz topics that a lot of voters looked at when they went to the ballot boxes.

Now whether this is the sign of things to come I don’t know, but hopefully the media have learned their lesson about what their role is in society but also I hope the Lib Dems have remembered what is important. Yes if the media won’t report on policy then you try to get them to notice you through other means but when we brought out the idea of ‘Blukip’ then most of us knew things were a lot worse than we thought. No-one (well I say no-one, what I mean is no-one who wasn’t a UKIP voter) thought that UKIP were going to get anything more than the one MP that they got (and that was a lot closer than what people thought) so they were never going to be in a position to help prop up a Tory government. It was a Hail Mary pass but instead of all the Wide Receivers running down field into the end zone, they all stayed back in case the other team caught the ball and started running it back. It was total nonsense and bollocks and whilst it probably made no difference in the grand scheme of things, that was the moment where you knew that HQ wasn’t as confident as they had been trying to portray.

Many people have realised that by voting elsewhere and not going Lib Dem, they have helped to create the majority Conservative government that we now have and a not insignificant portion of them are now disappointed. They wanted to give the Lib Dems a slap for going into coalition with the Tories and they didn’t like that, but by doing this they gave the Tories more power, yeah that makes sense but again it goes to show that people were voting emotionally. The problem is that we as a party didn’t address these potential pitfalls and we weren’t offering much apart from, ‘we’ll make the next government a bit less unpalatable’ and that isn’t something that will motivate people to vote.

We all know that our performance within the coalition was mixed, some things we did well, some things we did badly but one thing we did woefully was communication. The communication between the party and the electorate was just abject. If you are the junior partner in a coalition then many people will automatically think you are the whipping boys and have gone against your principles but unless you challenge this notion head on and very loudly then you are creating resentment and the longer than lasts, the harder it is to get over. We have to understand that our communication was our responsibility and that is something whoever the new leader is will have to tackle head on.

You see most people want the party of the centre-ground not to be a moderating force but instead be a party of the radical centre. That is where the Lib Dems should live and breathe. Being a Lib Dem isn’t about curbing other parties but instead broadening the ideas of the radical centre-ground and campaigning on them.

Yes some things have conspired against us at times but we haven’t helped ourselves and it is time to stop blaming others for our downfall. We went down for a plethora of reasons and more of these were self-inflicted wounds than those dealt from elsewhere. Some of these wounds weren’t fair but when has life ever been fair people? It is time to snap out of our prolonged funk (which it does seem is happening) and start remembering the reason why we got popular (certainly at local level).

Blaming other people and the world around us is so uncouth and when you keep doing it people will just switch of and switching people off in politics is something you never want to do.

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June 25th, 2015 at 10:30 am

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On all eyes on Richmond Park for a mid-late 2016 by-election…

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Ah Richmond Park. The seat that everyone has their eyes on for a potential by-election in the near future. There are two reasons for this, firstly Zac Goldsmith’s long-standing viewpoint on what he’d do if the government decided that Heathrow should have a third runway and latterly his potential bid to become Mayor of London.

Well the second of the two possibilities is now out of the bag as Zac announced that he intends to run for Mayor of London, as long as his constituents give him the a ok.

He has written to all the constituents of Richmond Park asking, ‘Do you give your consent to Zac Goldsmith to stand for election to be Mayor of London?’ If the majority come back with a yes verdict then he’ll very quickly become the Tory frontrunner (sorry Sol Campbell) and would also become the favourite to win despite Labour’s strength in the capital. If they say that they would prefer that he didn’t then he would listen to the voice of the people who elected him and put his personal political ambition on the back-burner.

Zac isn’t what you’d call the typical Tory when you take out his background and money. As a strong environmentalist, he attracts support from Liberals and Greens and would without a doubt get a significant amount of second preference votes. He’d be very much in the mix to win it and extend the Tories run of running London since Boris deposed Red Ken in 2008.

The big question is whether of course he’d resign his seat in parliament should he win. The general consensus is that he would. Boris Johnson is currently an MP and the Mayor of London but that is a short-term job share. To do it over four years would surely be a very unsatisfying situation for both the residents of Richmond Park and London as a whole. Personally I don’t see it but the former winner of the ‘Best New Lib Dem blog’ who is actually on the ground in Richmond Park, Richard Morris, says that the rumour is that he intends to do both, which would harm his election bid I’m sure as I’m not sure floating voters would vote for a part-time mayor.

If he did quit and set into motion a by-election then lets be honest here – from a pure selfish point of view – it is exactly the seat that the Lib Dems would love to see a by-election in. A recent Lib Dem seat, a seat where the local party hasn’t fallen apart, a seat where the Lib Dems are still the clear alternative to the Tories, a seat in an region of London where the Lib Dems have recently been strong and therefore have a plethora of activists on the doorstep, a seat where the Lib Dems, now in opposition and not part of a coalition government can really attack.

Remember back in the 80s and 90s, the Lib Dems (and predecessors) were the kings of by-election successes in the south and only one party in recent political history has ever held a by-election seat when part of a government (that was the Lib Dems in Eastleigh but boy that was close) so holding a seat when you have a by-election when you are a party of government is notoriously difficult.

If Zac Goldsmith is the next Mayor of London and indeed does resign his seat then come the late summer or autumn of next year then we’ll see an opportunity for the Lib Dems to pick themselves up off of the floor and show that the party isn’t dead. I know its a year plus away but what better fillip to the party than a by-election in a seat where the Lib Dems have recent electoral success? If things go down this way and the Lib Dems could actually win then that would turn the corner of the party and of the perceptions of the party.

Many if’s make Neil hope (or something like that…)

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June 9th, 2015 at 10:29 am

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On Charles Kennedy’s passing…

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I woke up to the news like others with a sense of shock. I woke up after a really strange dream that involved me killing Osama Bin Laden in the House of Commons with a former school colleague and being involved in a man hunt, that led to me being recognised by AFC Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe and him trying to apprehend me, yeah what on earth was my subconscious doing this morning? But still, I woke up, rolled over a flicked through social media and saw the news.

I never met Charles although I brushed past him on several occasions so I don’t have a personal story about him to share. Yet what I saw from a distance is seemingly what many others who were a lot closer to him saw and knew. The one thing that stands out is how many people described him as ‘human’ a trait that isn’t one that most people would use to describe a politician but Charles was that. He wasn’t perfect but none of us are, yet he treated everyone as equal no matter their political persuasion.

A friend of mine on Facebook, who has become extremely politically aware in the current climate and if a fierce SNP supporter shared her sadness at his passing and how she had voted for the Lib Dems in the past because of him. Most of her SNP friends commented with various praise that whilst he wasn’t one of them, he always came across as a decent person who worked hard for his constituents and was a principled man. Yes there were two or three people that seemed happy that a person who wasn’t aligned with them politically has passed on but the large percentage of comments were very glowing of the man and that in itself I think says everything, when so many who was vastly radicalised still think he was a good man then that shows the type of man that he was and what esteem he was held in.

He took the Lib Dems to their highest finish in terms of MPs and no-one could ever say that he played the game of politics, he knew what he thought and he knew what he believed in and that was that. He made a stand against the Iraq war despite the establishment seemingly convinced that it was the right thing to do and was willing to go against popularist movements if they didn’t align with his principles.

It should also be noted that he gave 32 years of his life to public service having been first elected at just 23 years of age and having retained his seat in the House of Commons until May this year. That is quite something and whilst many of us often feel as though MPs should have real world experience, this man didn’t hide inside the Westminster bubble and that is key.

You’ll read far better blogs and articles about Charles Kennedy today I’m sure but a good man, a good human, passed away today and the human race is just a little bit poorer today. I’ll leave the final word to the outgoing leader Nick Clegg who had this to say about Charles Kennedy this morning, ‘Charles Kennedy on form, on a good day when he was feeling strong and happy, had more political talent in his little finger than the rest of us put together.’

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June 2nd, 2015 at 1:15 pm

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On Alistair Carmichael’s behaviour and that of the SNP mob…

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Two pieces involving the SNP in successive days? I must need my head seeing to…

So yes. Alistair Carmichael. What a bleedin’ eejit. Authorising the leak of the memo was a very political thing to do wasn’t it? The thing is, all politicians brief against other politicians and they nearly always do it on the condition of anonymity. This isn’t new and will continue to happen as long as politics is a thing. Denying he knew of it though when in fact he knew perfectly well what was going on, that was foolish and had he been my MP and I’d voted for him before finding out that he’d lied about something, then I suspect I’d be a bit peeved.

Carmichael’s political career is pretty much over in terms of what happens the next time he is up for election. Even Lib Dem supporters who believe that he has been a good constituency MP won’t automatically go to the ballot box and put their x next to his name any more. If you can’t guarantee your core vote turning out then you are in all sorts of trouble. People don’t like exposed liars, whether the lie itself as big or not isn’t an issue, being exposed as one will always hang around the neck of a politician.

Should he step down though and force a by-election is the next question? Legally it does seem as though he’s on pretty solid ground. Any dishonest statements that he made was not about anyone who was up for election at all, let alone up for election against him in his seat. Nicola Sturgeon has become the fresh face of Scottish politics because quite simply, the Scottish people needed a fresh face because Alex Salmond didn’t inspire any more and the Scottish people liked what she had to say because she spoke of populist policies. It is interesting to see just how different Scotland was compared to the rest of the UK in terms of this, the Scots voted for populist policies whereas the rest of the union voted for more economic prudence.

So legally Carmichael looks pretty secure but morally is another issue altogether. Does he have legitimacy for winning his seat? I think he probably does because whatever he knew or didn’t know, it didn’t effect his election as people weren’t thinking about that memo when they went to vote in Orkney & Shetland Islands. Yet he lied but as Sir Malcolm Bruce accurately put it, ‘my point is if you’re suggesting every MP who has never quite told the truth or indeed told a brazen lie, including ministers, including Cabinet ministers, including prime ministers, we’d clear out the House of Commons very fast, I would suggest‘.

I think that probably most politicians lie, or at least don’t tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth every time they open their mouths. That just isn’t the way politics works but also that just isn’t the way humanity works. We all tell white lies or don’t fully admit to things when we’ve done wrong. Should politicians be held to a higher standard than the rest of us? Is that fair? Aren’t politicians human like the rest of us?

Still though despite my disappointment in Alistair Carmichael’s actions, the very vocal mob that are trying to force him out aren’t much better and they are led by none other then their numero uno, Nicola Sturgeon herself. As Toby Young points out in The Spectator on her predecessor Alex Salmond, ‘On almost every critical point raised during the debate about Scotland’s future, Salmond was deliberately misleading. I’m not just thinking of his claim that he’d received legal advice reassuring him that an independent Scotland wouldn’t need to reapply for membership of the European Union. When the Information Commissioner ordered the Scottish government to respond to an FOI request to disclose the advice it had received, Salmond’s ministers spent £19,452.92 of public money appealing the decision, only to admit later that the ‘advice’ was a figment of Salmond’s imagination. So the First Minister misled the Scottish people on this point and spent taxpayers’ money to try to conceal the fact‘.

Alex Salmond misled the Scottish people in the independence referendum on multiple occasions. We all know that now and many of us knew it then. It isn’t exactly a shock but it just goes to show that the SNP are just as bad as the rest so to take the moral high ground against Alistair Carmichael seems churlish at best.

With the success of the SNP in May and the rise of the party, many of its activists have become radicalised and therefore see issues through a prism of hate instead of through clear spectacles. The sense you get is that if you aren’t for the SNP then you are against Scotland and are unpatriotic. I hilariously saw an SNP tweeter get retweeted into my timeline telling people to let him know if they were planning on watching the English FA Cup Final so that he could unfollow them for being unpatriotic and fraternising with the enemy. Today The National newspaper in Scotland tweeted out the following:

The National Newspaper House of Commons

The National Newspaper on Twitter 01/06/2015

In the lair of the enemy. This is the way things are now, many people see non-Scottish people as the enemy and that is sad to see. People get concerned over the radicalisation of terrorists but anyone can get radicalised for a cause and the independence referendum has led to a great swathe of people becoming radicalised in terms of nationalism. This isn’t good or isn’t bad per se, it is what it is, but what it leads to is people not thinking and acting with cool heads, they act on instinct and raw emotion and if you disagree with them then you are deemed wrong, very wrong, no matter what it is.

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June 1st, 2015 at 12:47 pm

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On the SNP and the ‘quality’ of their new MPs…

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Ok tin hat on, fake beard in place, different clothing ready to be worn. I’m going in…

First things first. The SNP have won 56 of the 59 Scottish seats and they’ve won them fairly and squarely under the system that we currently have in place, so this blog won’t say they aren’t a legitimate force in the House of Commons. I’ll be looking at how they may act and what pitfalls that they may have to face.

On the first day of parliament I had TweetDeck open and a well-known Lib Dem blogger said that they wished that Lib Dem MPs acted like the SNP ones, I typed in a reply of, ‘what, like douchebags?’ but decided it wasn’t worth the fight. The thing is many of the SNP candidates that became MPs in May had no experience whatsoever and were essentially warm bodies to put on a ballot paper. Then suddenly the surge in support for the party following the referendum meant that many of these people would win and therein lies a big problem.

For the established parties, they generally have a set of candidates who have some experience or some involvement in politics to get to the stage where they can win a Westminster seat. Parties may put up paper candidates around the country but they do this in seats they know they won’t win and little campaigning is done. This happens at both Westminster and local council level. The problem happens when a national surge means that parties who didn’t expect to win come through and then candidates are suddenly thrust into the role of councillor or MP.

When this happens it often leads to people who aren’t either ready for or prepared for the role being elected. I don’t blog about local issues here much any more but I think considering the events of UKIP and their elected representatives from the 2014 local elections then it is clear many (if not all bar James Moyies) of their victorious candidates were not ready to take on the responsibility of winning. It has seen big fall out, one resignation and plenty of newspaper inches being devoted to just what a clutterfuck they had been (and yet the guy who resigned was actually replaced by another UKIP councillor – madness).

I saw it happen in Guildford too, two paper Tory candidates came through to second and third in a ward (where three are victorious) and neither of them wanted to win but wanted to help the Tories put up a full slate. They won because of a national surge and now will be representing the people of that ward for four years despite having no desire to do so whatsoever. I have a feeling many of the SNP victors will have this sense to, maybe not now but in the near future.

Being an MP is not a job, it is a labour of love. I know many folk say that their salary is huge but when you compare it to an average job in the city then it is actually nothing special and the workload that an MP undertakes is vast. Yes they do get significant holiday time away from the House of Commons but that doesn’t mean that work stops. Constituents still have issues and therefore if you are thrust into a job and position that you weren’t really planning for, that will turn your life upside down then you are bound to take a second look at it once the reality sets in.

Many of the new intake of SNP MPs have come in believing that they’ll be able to make a difference but as many backbench MP will tell you, you come in full of enthusiasm but soon that gets knocked off and reality sets in. It is a bit like journalism, you may dream of breaking big stories, changing the world and making it a better place but instead you find yourself rewriting a press release about how the bee population is down 9% and that it is the fault of farmers, or something equally tedious.

Now this isn’t to say being an MP (or councillor for that matter) doesn’t have its rewarding moments, the trick is to quickly recalibrate your mind set to small victories being rewarding and that the big fights will be long, hard slogs. If the SNP MPs come in, get their head down, work hard for the people they represent and understand quickly that they are not in a position to change the world then they’ll do ok. If they think they’ll be able to change Tory policy and force another referendum then they’ll get dispirited rather quickly I suspect.

Lastly on this, the bullshit about where they sit, clapping and the like, grow the fuck up. You are not a bunch of frat kids on a piss up in the big city. You are the third biggest party and you get the rights and privileges that go along with that. However you are the third party, not the second, Labour are the elected opposition and you have to deal with that. I know the old two parties act like petulant school children way too often but you don’t have to act like petulant school children who have eaten too much haribo on the coach.

The SNP have to make a decision, do they want to play at being politicians or do they want to be good representatives for those that they represent? So far it looks like they prefer the former option, I will be interested to see how they react as the weeks and months go by and the Tories push through their agenda and the SNP MPs can’t do a damned thing about it, how will they react then? Will they throw their toys out of the pram or will they do what they were elected to do? It will be fascinating to watch as I have no doubt that a significant percentage of them are woefully unprepared for what lies ahead, will they sink or swim? Will they even try swimming?

Very few Labour, Conservative or Lib Dem MP’s who have been elected in recent times have been as woefully unprepared as the current crop of SNP MPs are. It will be one to watch to see whether people should vote for party over person If they impress and succeed then it may well open up the Commons to more backgrounds as the argument that you need to be embedded in politics to be a success will be diluted. I fear for them but if they do well then suddenly the Commons could be a much more open place and that would be fantastic.

No pressure folks…

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May 31st, 2015 at 2:12 pm

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