Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category
Madness. Just madness.
So Jeremy Corbyn has been speaking about sexism and he mused that he’d like to consult women about whether they thought the idea of women-only carriages on public transport would be a good idea. I’m pretty sure I could tell him the answer to that but I am a man, no wait, let me rephrase, I am a boy, so maybe I have a viewpoint that doesn’t fit with the women of the world but wait, what is this? Every single woman I follow on twitter who has commented on this since the story broke sees the idea as bonkers and not just that, they see it as dangerous. The bizarre thing is though that some men do seem to think it is a good idea and they know what is better for women.
Here is what JC said on the matter:
“Some women have raised with me that a solution to the rise in assault and harassment on public transport could be to introduce women-only carriages.
“My intention would be to make public transport safer for everyone from the train platform, to the bus stop, on the mode of transport itself.
“However, I would consult with women and open it up to hear their views on whether women-only carriages would be welcome – and also if piloting this at times and on modes of transport where harassment is reported most frequently would be of interest.”
Now looking at the quotes then a consultation on the idea isn’t completely crazy, although the idea of actually having segregation in the 21st century is. What I find crazy is that some people really think this is a solution to the problem. Of course several countries already have such rules in place including Japan, India, Egypt, Iran, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates.
They were introduced for the reasons that JC would consider it here, for safety of women from sexual attacks. Some people think it makes it safer but others have said that it makes them feel that if they don’t use the women-only carriage then it gives license to the sexual predator that they have chosen not to avoid them whilst travelling on public transport and thus giving them encouragement.
The issue of safety for women is a clear one to address but by keeping some women away from men for a proportion of a journey doesn’t eliminate the problem. I have never faced the issue that many women face but I would guess the most dangerous part of any journey isn’t the part where they are on public transport but the travel to and from said public transport.
Of course we have had women-only carriages in the UK before before they were halted due in large part to gender equality laws. People should not be treated any differently based on their gender and of course should women-only carriages be introduced then you are treating the genders differently. This would (as I read it) contravene article 14 of the Human Rights Act that says, ‘Article 14 requires there be no discrimination in the application of human rights on any ground, and this includes (but is not exhaustive of) grounds such as (amongst other things) sex‘ Does this mean JC would consider walking away from the Human Rights Act or have I just interpreted it wrong?
A local Labour member and candidate has been tweeting about how good of an idea it is and how passionately he believes in the safety of women (we all do mush) but he says that drink is one of the big issues and that he’d feel his wife/daughter/mother would be safer on a train carriage that only had other women. He of course is fully entitled to that opinion but at what point do you draw the line? Do you say that because of workplace sexual harassment there should be men and women only offices if women want them? I just firmly don’t believe by physically keeping two sexes apart that it actually confronts the issue at hand.
You don’t fix an issue by shunting it down the line. You fix an issue head on and tackle the cause and not the effect. Until society does this to a successful degree then all you are doing in moving the effect to another time and another place, you aren’t eliminating it at all. How society does this is another debate entirely but the majority of women I know don’t seem to think the idea of women-only carriages is the solution to the problem because they’ve experienced at best unwelcome attention from men in many other places, many of them is much less safe locations.
Sexual harassment is a huge issue but you don’t fix it by segregation. As a person I believe that we are all born equal and therefore should be treated as such and treating people as unequal is the start of a slippery slope, one that we are desperately trying to get away from. I’ll end this with a brilliant sarcastic tweet I’ve just seen RT into my TL from a lady called Muriel Gray (@ArtyBagger)
Woman only train carriages. Super idea. Gender separation is so progressive. Urge MPs to think seriously about NHS funded chastity belts.
That I think is a good place to end.
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We have to give the Labour Party their due here because without them what would we be talking about in the dog days of the political summer? Bravo Labour for stringing out this leadership contest and keeping yourselves very much in the news (albeit not in a great way and certainly not providing the Tory government with an effective opposition) but we’ll gloss over that for now and plough on through to the crux of this blog post.
The Railway Network. More people than not would be in favour of it returning to the hands of being publicly owned. Of that I have very little doubt and even I myself would have no issue with it because when push comes to shove no-one actually gives much of a shit about it either way. Someone is going to get our money and the government get a lot in terms of franchise fees, so the question is just what do the government get? Would they get more with renationalisation? Would the commuters get lower fares under a nationalised service and would they get a better quality of service under nationalised trains?
Well we actually have a recent franchise fee/award where it has not been taken from a private company to another private company, the East Coast Main Line was under public ownership but the services are now being run by Virgin Trains in a joint venture with Stagecoach. They are paying £3.3bn for the franchise license over eight years. This amount to £412.5million a year to the Treasury. Under public ownership the East Coast Main Line was generating £220million for the Treasury. So the tax payer is getting a better deal under private ownership.
Now on the issue of lower fares, we don’t know for sure what would happen and it is true that private companies will be wanting to make money because otherwise why are they in the game? Action for Rail, who don’t even have an About Us section on their website (but are supported by trade unions) say that according to research carried out by Transport for Quality of Life under public ownership, Season Tickets could go down by 10%, which would be quite significant, certainly in the South East commuter belt. The word ‘could’ always worries me but that would means that fares would still be extremely high and not as low as many would think under a renationalised network.
Rail fares are due to go up an average of 1% in January, adding £24 to an average Season Ticket. That in itself is not a big rise and isn’t one that will raise too many eye brows amongst commuters. No doubt they’ll be news stories in January about how much of a rip-off it is but it won’t really make too much of a difference on a commuters finances. That rise would not even be a cup of coffee a month.
Lastly the quality of service issue, again one we don’t really know but what we do know is that private companies have invested heavily in new Rolling Stock. I know in Jeremy Corbyn’s (very short) pdf document about the People’s Railway it says that we have a lot of outdated stock but I call BS on that. Anyone who is old enough to remember British Rail (and yes I am that old) can remember the slam door trains that were cold, dirty, slow and when you compare that to the air-conditioned, clean, fast rolling stock that most of us use then it is not even close. Yes there are some routes where the stock isn’t as up to date as others but in general private companies know they need to invest to attract customers, British Rail didn’t really do such a thing.
I read a story on LabourList this morning by Manuel Cortes, who is the General Secretary of TSSA (so I expect him to have a bias) but he said one of the funniest things I’ve ever read, ‘I was proud to stand at Kings Cross station yesterday morning, alongside representatives from all the rail unions, as Jeremy set out his vision for A People’s Railway. The public has been crying out for this bold policy for the past 20 years.’ The bit in bold is the funny bit, the rest had to be there for context.
The public have been crying out for this for 20 years? They have? When? I do not recall there ever being a significant backlash against the privatisation of the railway network. Most people will agree that in an ideal world it would be under government control but for most people it has doesn’t really move the needle as it were. I have seen more public crying out over scraping TV Licenses or heck even stupid shit like Sachsgate or Jeremy Clarkson’s sacking from Top Gear. We might have seen more column inches devoted to the Chelsea team doctor in the past week than we have on the renationalising of the Railway Network in the whole of the last government.
Unions are unsurprisingly all pro this because under public ownership their members will get more strength, power and most importantly arguably a better pension and conditions but in 2004, ASLEF general secretary, Lew Adams stated on a radio phone-in program, ‘All the time it (the railway network) was in the public sector, all we got were cuts, cuts, cuts. And today there are more members in the trade union, more train drivers, and more trains running. The reality is that it worked, we’ve protected jobs, and we got more jobs.’ Maybe the good old days of a nationalised rail network weren’t as good as some people remember.
My point on all this isn’t to rubbish Jeremy Corbyn’s ideas as they aren’t bad per se but to rubbish the fact that deep down people care. There are so many more important things than who runs our rail industry and to win back support from those he needs to if he has any intention of putting any of his ideas into law, then he has to stop pussyfooting (which according to Google Chrome is actually a legitimate word) around with things that appeal to the unions and start tackling the issues that appeal to the aspirational working class and lower middle class that he needs to convince to win their vote.
The 2020 General Election will not be won and lost on the railways. Heck if Ed Miliband couldn’t win it on the NHS, which is often up there is the top issues people bring up that is facing this country then how on Earth is Jeremy Corbyn going to win when one of his big ticket items is an issue no-one ever brings up in their top ten issues facing the country today?
All Jeremy Corbyn is doing is winning the die hard Labour vote and making it all the more solid. He can sweep the north (as would Andy Burnham) but can he even get close to winning over enough voters in the south that he needs to if he wants to walk into Downing Street? Not the way he is going.
I have written it before but I’ll keep saying it, Labour are in the same situation as the Republicans in the US of A. To win the leadership you have to move so far away from centre that you stand out to the core vote enough, the problem with that is you are so far away from centre that the swing voters can’t vote for you. Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, heck even Joe Biden should not be having a cakewalk to the White House but at the moment unless Jeb Bush can start really dragging the party back to somewhere near the centre then the Democrats are waltzing back up Pennsylvania Avenue and if Jeremy Corbyn wins and sticks to his path then either George Osbourne or Boris Johnson will be the next Prime Minister and it won’t even be close.
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At some point within the next couple of hours I’ll have a shower, get dressed and walk the 100 metres or so to Thorpe Bay Railway Station and hop on a choo choo into town to do some food shopping. Not that exciting you might think (and you’d be right) but you see when I go to the railway station and pay my £3.60 for a day return to Southend Central, the money won’t be going to the government but to a private company (c2c) who have paid the government for the right to run trains along this train route.
Personally I don’t give a stuff who is getting my £3.60 (or indeed the money I pay for longer journey’s) but for some reason despite the many real and actual problems the country is currently facing, it has become a significant issue in the Labour Leadership Contest.
Both Andy Burnham and Jeremy Corbyn have said that bringing both the transport system and utility companies back under public ownership is a long-term goal, whether to do it in one foul swoop or doing it gradually over time is up for debate but they both want it and it has broad public support. Yet I find myself sitting here wondering why it is such a story when we have far more important issues to face up to.
The NHS is amazing but as amazing as it is, it is also creaking. The NHS now deals with an ageing population who are living longer as well as many more treatments that are available that cost a lot of money. Put these two things together and you’ll see why the NHS is being stretched. As the NHS is currently constituted all that will happen is it will take up a larger and larger percentage of tax revenue and unless a government faces up to the hard questions, the NHS will continue to creak. I have no idea what the solution is but something needs to be done if the NHS is to survive and flourish in the 21st century without other any of government getting squeezed.
You see that folks is a real issue facing this country, not who gets the revenue from the trains (and remember, these companies pay a shed load of dosh to win these franchises) but people like the idea of the railway system and utility system being under public ownership because it makes them feel safer and many people don’t like big business, as a nation we have a big chasm between those who are pro big business and those that aren’t. Costa Coffee opened in The Broadway a few days back and some people think it’ll kill Ciao (the local coffee shop/bar) but other traders will love Costa as it is clearly drawing in custom to the row of shops that before wouldn’t have come here, that though is an aside and not really the issue here.
The private train franchises are there to make money, yes, yet they can only do so by making their business one that people want to use. Yes I know many people don’t really have a choice as they commute but many others do. Most franchises have invested in much better rolling stock, I may be 32 years of age but I do remember the old slam door trains, heck even when I was at university only half of SW Trains stock were new and the old slam doors still populated the Alton to London Waterloo Route and the non rush hour Portsmouth Harbour to London Waterloo Route. Now most trains are faster, cleaner, safer, more punctual and we should treat that like it is a bad thing? Would the government of the day have invested so much public money into the railway system and in turn, if they had, what would the public have thought about this?
I just think there are far more important issues facing the country than renationalising industry. When Labour drifted away from Clause IV in 1995 they went on to win three landslide elections on the bounce and whilst losing a fourth, they were probably set to be the majority party until Gordon Brown’s ‘bigotgate’ gaff, which I think stalled the campaign. Now two of the leadership candidates see that ideal as one to return to and indeed one that will be popular amongst their supporters and very much so within the unions, yet will it really raise too much of an eyebrow from those who would consider voting Labour? I suspect not.
It is still all about the economy and economical competence. It always has been and always will be (unless a nation is in a time of non-economic turmoil). The secondary issues will be about the NHS, Education, Crime, the EU, defence, our place in the world, the environment, immigration and you know what isn’t pushing the needle amongst the all important swing voters? Who gets the money from their bills and their transport tickets.
The sad truth is to win the Labour Leadership Contest you have to win amongst the activists and the majority of those activists believe that Labour need to move left because that is why they didn’t win in 2015 (hint folks – you didn’t win because you weren’t left wing enough, you didn’t win because the swing voters didn’t trust Ed Miliband and Labour on the economy as well as not being strong enough to stand up to the SNP). The issue with this is to win the contest you need to move left but to win the country you need to move right. Liz Kendall seems like the only person who is actually saying things that swing voters would like, the problem is not enough Labour members are even giving her words the time of day.
Having 100s of Labour activists and supporters turning up to see and hear Jeremy Corbyn is great but is he inspiring swing voters to come out and listen to him? Not really. I’ll say this and I think this will sum up the situation extremely clearly, the country made their decision on Nick Clegg big time in May and that is their right but if he had stood in a leadership contest this time around he could still have won again because a lot of people respected him for what he did, I think Tim would still have won but it wouldn’t have been a fait accompli.
The members of a political party shouldn’t think about themselves but think about the country and the party. That is why I voted Tim over Norman in our leadership contest because I knew Tim held the key to advancing Liberal beliefs. Jeremy Corbyn can advance many things and he could solidify the core vote but can he branch out to those who aren’t the core vote? That I doubt, that I doubt very much and if he believes the railways are a burning issue then I think it is clear he isn’t ready to lead either his party or his country because it is so insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
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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
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.
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 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…
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.
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.
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…)