The Rambles of Neil Monnery

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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

On Vince Cable’s tweet about Jeremy Corbyn’s student debt ‘promise’…

with one comment

Oh Vince. Vince, Vince, Vince. Why? Why? Why?

So as some will have noted over the past few days, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has backtracked from his promise that he would deal with student debt. The issue is he never promised anything. He just said that he hoped he’d be able to deal with it. If anyone took it as meaning that he would cancel student debt along with scraping tuition fees then that is on them, not on him.

It was super smart politically. By saying that he hoped to deal with the issue surrounding student debt, he would firm up the support of young people, not just those going to university but also those in their 20s and 30s who still have student loan repayments to pay back. The fact he didn’t throw about the word promise and is saying it is an aspiration means he has plausible deniability. He can honestly say he never promised anything and people were free to interpret his words as they saw fit.

Most people looking at it without any political bias would say it was at best misleading but it most certainly was never a lie. I was talking to a Corbynista the other day about it and I called Corbyn super smart for how he worded what he said and not making it is clear that it wasn’t a policy but a goal. The Corbynista wouldn’t take that as praise but just went on about how it was everyone else’s fault if they thought it was a promise and that everyone bar Corbyn and his supporters are basically dumb. This is the world we now live it. Frustrating as fuck.

Anyway on to the new leader of the Lib Dems response. Vince tweeted on Sunday the following:

I just hung my head. Labour have never backtracked because they were just way smarter than the Lib Dems in 2010. How any Lib Dem can say they didn’t know what they were doing when campaigning on tuition fees in 2010 is beyond me. Yes I know of the nuance was how it wasn’t a Lib Dem majority government and that is a really important distinction but not many people will see that important difference. They saw the pledge, they saw the fact 28 Lib Dems voted for increasing fees and that is quite simply that.

Aspiration. Goal. Hope. Promise. One of those four words has a completely different connotation to the other three. A promise if broken hurts whereas an aspiration, a goal or a hope that doesn’t materialise disappoints but you don’t feel anywhere near as used or mislead or lied to as you do when someone breaks a promise.

As much as I hate it, sometimes politics isn’t about honesty but about smoke and mirrors. In elections when you are trying to court a particular vote but can’t get a costed policy out there, the best thing to do is hint but stop short of saying that is what you’ll do. That means if you fall short, the hurt the voter experiences will be minor. This is why the Lib Dems should’ve scrapped the tuition fees pledge before the 2010 General Election. Nick Clegg wanted to do so as we all know. Senior activists disagreed and conference voted to keep it in 2009. I often wonder how things would’ve turned out had that vote gone differently.

Going back to Corbyn though, that is the difference. He cleverly made/allowed people to think if he won that he’d cancel student debt when it was never a Labour policy, just essentially an idea that he had if he won and money was no object. The Lib Dems put it in black and white that they would not vote to raise tuition fees. That is politics folks and to claim Labour have backtracked and to call on Jeremy Corbyn to apologise is lazy and just won’t wash with the electorate.

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Written by neilmonnery

July 24th, 2017 at 2:58 pm

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

with 2 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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July 18th, 2017 at 2:27 pm

Posted in Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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July 14th, 2017 at 9:11 am

Posted in Politics

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

with 3 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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July 4th, 2017 at 11:28 am

Posted in Politics

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On why we should be rejoicing the fact Vince Cable actually wants the job…

with 2 comments

‘Nobody wants Vince Cable’ so says a vast twitter echo chamber. Oh to be sure that you and your friends speak for everyone. I wish I had that type of certainty in life. Yet still Vince Cable is all but assured of being the next leader of the Liberal Democrats. No doubt some will decide that is it for them and they will leave the party. That happens whenever a new leader takes over in any party. The thing is even you are aren’t exactly sucking at the teat of the former Business Secretary, you have to at least admire the fact he wants to be the leader.

We all expected Jo Swinson to be on her way to assuming the mantle of the top Lib Dem in the country. The returning MP for Dunbartonshire East was the red hot favourite and in all likelihood was set to cruise to victory if there was going to be a contest. She ticked far more boxes than anyone else who would potentially have put themselves forward. Sadly though for many, one small issue emerged. One teeny-tiny problem. She didn’t want the job. At that point everything changed in the contest.

Of the remaining candidates, one said he was ready to lead. The other two decided that they were not. What would have happened if Sir Vince had decided he didn’t want it? Would we be in a position where literally no-one out of the parliamentary party wanted the gig? Where would we be then?

Unlike a great deal of others, I’m not ready to tear up my membership card just yet if Vince is the next leader. I’m not exactly going to be full of the joys of spring either but sometimes you aren’t going to be totally in tune with the leader of your party. I am sure many Blairite Labour folk are struggling on under Jeremy Corbyn because they still see their party as the best hope for the country despite their disagreements with the person leading them. I am in a similar boat.

For me, my politics starts at Nick Clegg. Regular readers will know all about this as I’ve waxed lyrical about the man on numerous occasions. Many disagree and see Clegg as a villain for even entertaining the notion going into a coalition government with the sworn enemy. When Nick resigned after the catastrophe that was the 2015 General Election, my heart and my hope for the future broke a little bit. It has yet to recover due to what the country (and the party has seen in the two years since).

Yet when Tim Farron became leader I wasn’t ready to walk because sometimes in life you are not going to always agree with other people, yet you can still work for the perceived greater good. How many people disagree with their bosses but still are able to work for them? I once worked for a pretty strong-minded UKIPper and even though we disagreed on politics, we could still work together and bring success to our part of the business.

Vince may not be your cup of tea (he certainly isn’t mine) but he isn’t the devil either. I think it is fair to at least pose the question as to whether the party would have done better in the General Election earlier this month if Sir Vince was leader. Of course he wasn’t an MP and therefore couldn’t be but Vince wasn’t as harmed by the tuition fees issue as a lot of the twitterati want to make us believe.

Indeed multiple polls commissioned in 2012 suggested that Cable would have put the Lib Dems 3% higher in the polls and would have helped several key MPs hold their seats (most notably I suspect – his!). This all happened after the tuition fees vote and as for Royal Mail – if that is in the top 25 things voters are looking for when they go and cast their ballot I would be stunned.

His stance on free movement is clearly not in sync with the vast majority of the party. That is an issue and his political manoeuvring sticks in the throat but here we are, a fortnight or so after Tim Farron was knifed in the back/was persuaded to fall on to his sword (it is up to you which interpretation you believe) and only one person wants to do the job. When you are in this position outside of parliament you would reopen nominations. When your constitution says one of only 12 people can do the job and the other 11 say they don’t want it then what choice do we have? Do you attempt to force someone to do a job they don’t want or do you just back the person that does?

I’d go for the latter. Trying to coerce someone into running who doesn’t want it is selfish in the extreme. As liberals surely we all agree in individuality and being allowed to make our own choices in life? That includes if Jo Swinson or Ed Davey decide they don’t want to run to be leader of the party for whatever reason they like.

I have seen a few members say they would run because their needs to be a contest. I am pretty sure that if the constitution dictated that you didn’t have to be an MP to be the leader, a certain former Deputy Prime Minister would get a whole lot of love from many in the party. That might piss off even more of the membership but if we are being realistic, a straight Cable v Clegg battle would result in only one winner and it isn’t the sitting MP for Twickenham.

So for those who don’t want Cable, it could be worse, much worse. If no-one else emerges and he takes over then as members we will face a choice. Sit on our butts and sulk that the person we want leading the party isn’t or we can carry on at local level working for our communities and bringing forth motions to conference for the membership to vote on. Remember the members have far more power in the Lib Dems than in any other party, so if you have issues with the leader, you can control them policy wise pretty well. We should use that power wisely.

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June 29th, 2017 at 3:09 pm

Posted in Politics

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On Vince Cable’s chances at being Lib Dem leader…

with one comment

So the first candidate to throw their hat into the ring is Vince Cable. The MP for Twickenham has government experience and is the most known of the potential candidates. He could easily have been leader three years ago when an attempted coup on then leader Nick Clegg was executed. The only problem was it was as well executed as my business of Texas hot chilli in a heatwave. Who knew people didn’t want to eat said food in this heat?

Now though with the runaway favourite and unification candidate having ruled herself out, it is all up for grabs. Cable is the first to openly state that he is going to run but Norman Lamb is all but assured of having a go as well. Ed Davey is the dark horse.

This though is about Cable’s chances and if you go just by the social media bubble then he has no chance. His belief that free movement of people within Europe is unfair on people from outside of the EU does not sit well within a significant group of the membership. I’ve been told by several people that he has no chance of winning because of this policy. No chance though seems a bit too extreme to me.

My thought process is outside of the social media echo chamber, many members actually like and respect Sir Vince. In 2010 his face was plastered across the Lib Dem battle bus along with Clegg because the party were worried that no-one knew who the former leader was. After the first leaders debate though everything changed but Cable was still widely respected by people from across all political spectrum’s.

Cable’s biggest issue is not his age. As we’ve seen in recent years, Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn have courted and won over a huge percentage of younger voters. His biggest issue is that freedom of movement issue and how it aligns itself to the membership.

The Lib Dems have attempted to portray themselves as the unabashed Pro-EU party but Cable seems to be pro-EU but with some caveats, mainly conceding the fact that freedom of movement isn’t popular and should be an important negotiating standpoint. This will not sit well with many but for how many will it be a red line issue?

Within the party many of the newer membership have their primary objective not towards liberalism but towards remaining a member of the EU or at worst getting a legitimately good exit deal involving continued tariff free access to the single market. Vince has repeatedly stated that the single market is vitally important but how he can get that without free movement I have no idea. It seems a bit pie in the sky but we shall see.

Another large swathe of the membership are older members who have been around since day dot of the party. These people will have a large affinity with a man who has been around for an age. Norman Lamb and Ed Davey have both been involved with the party pretty much since its formation as well in one form or another but it is Cable who many still look at as the most experienced current member of the parliamentary party.

If this contest was just the under 40s then Cable’s chances would be relatively remote. Luckily for him though it isn’t and he has every opportunity to pile up the votes from those outside of this age group. His business secretary background should also put him in good stead with a large proportion of the city community that seem to have drifted towards the Lib Dems in the past year or so.

Personally I am not enthused by any of the potential candidates at this point and nor was I in 2015. I want a leader who inspires and seems to be a breath of fresh air. I want a leader who I listen to and instantly know is far smarter and articulate than I can ever aspire to be. At this point I don’t see that candidate being or entering into the field and at that point all bets are off and very few will know how the membership will vote.

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

June 20th, 2017 at 2:57 pm

Posted in Politics

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On the seeming rush to get the Lib Dem leadership contest underway…

with one comment

Tim Farron resigned last night. You may have seen the news. I missed it live because I was eating some battered cod. True story. Anyway that happened and instead of taking a step back and seeing what happens next, we’ve seen a rush to get everything moving and I have to admit I find it deeply disturbing.

Should a certain candidate decide to stand then I anticipate that I’ll be fully behind them but there is plenty of time to see how things shake out. I suspect most didn’t see Tim’s departure coming after he stayed on after the election result. Running for political office requires and deserves a lot of careful thought and consideration. Running to be leader of a political party is that times 100.

The MPs all have plenty of time to sit down and think about what they want to do next. To speak with their friends, colleagues and family. Nothing will happen overnight and nor should it. We should allow people the time to make their decisions.

It is human nature to want things sorted as soon as possible. I’m in the middle of a home move and boy I just want it done. Impatience is rarely a good thing but sometimes we just have to understand that big life-changing decisions don’t happen like that.

I wrote about the upcoming contest for betting.betfair.com earlier today. One of the things I said was, The Swinson bandwagon is rolling and only she can stop it if she so desires. The MP for Dunbartonshire East has been installed as the heavy betting favourite on the markets and scanning social media, she certainly has the support of a great proportion of the social media active section of the membership.

There is though time. So much time. She only won her seat back last week and even though many of us were pretty confident that she would do so, it must be a big adjustment period. Going from candidate to MP to potential leader within a week must be scary as all heck. So even if she does have leadership ambitions, it will take time for her to be sure that is what she wants to do.

Lib Dem Peer Baroness Grender tweeted this morning, ‘Dear LibDems there is time for our MPs to decide whether or not to stand as leader. It is a big ask of anyone. Major challenges ahead‘ and she’s not wrong. I would be surprised if any of the expected candidates are unsure of how their colleagues or the membership feel about them. All four will likely have some support.

So I’m imploring the members to just hold back and take a deep breath. Everything will play out how it plays out. Tim Farron only announced he was going to step down yesterday and I know human nature is what it is, still moving so fast screams of a lack of respect. Tim himself didn’t announce his intentions to stand in 2015 until a week after Nick resigned and we all knew he was going to.

No-one wants to stand straightaway, you need to take your time both for personal and for professional reasons. So lets leave the potential contenders be and let them decide what they want to do. The leadership contest is not underway and until we have some people announce they are in the running it won’t be.

We have (well the contenders) have all the time in the world (well at least a few days, maybe a fortnight or so) so what is the rush? Sit back, relax and when whoever stands for the job goes for it, lets listen to what they have to say. Until then let them decide whether they want to do the job. If/As/When they do, it is time to get behind your chosen candidate…

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Written by neilmonnery

June 15th, 2017 at 11:22 am

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On Tim Farron’s performance in the 2017 Lib Dem General Election campaign…

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I wrote in dispatches about this yesterday, certainly Tim’s problem with the gay sex question. I will reiterate that I don’t think it is fair that he (or anyone) gets those kind of questions when all that matters is how they vote and treat people, yet that is just the way of the world. Everyone knew the question was coming and not having a simple and straightforward answer that would have ended that line of questioning once and for all was a whopper of a mistake.

Another issue I had was his interview on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday 30 April. Instead of trying to own what the party (and he) were all about, he tried to pander to a section of the electorate who would agree with many Lib Dem policies but don’t on the European Union question.

I don’t want to go off on a little bit of a rabbit hole here, but you will remember that I resigned from the Liberal Democrat front bench about 10 years ago because I am a bit of a Eurosceptic

The last seven words were poison. Instead of being the unabashed Pro-EU party that seemed to be the way the strategy was set up for, he tried to just gingerly dip a toe in the other camp. This would have surprised many who joined solely because of Brexit and wanting to fight it at all costs.

The USP for the Lib Dems in 2017 was quite simply they were looking to pick-up the Pro-EU vote. By trying to appeal to those who wanted to leave the EU, it watered down that message and did very little to help any MPs representing leave areas win. I think only Eastbourne and North Norfolk voted to leave but returned Lib Dem MPs.

By weakening that message, it didn’t appeal to gentle leavers but instead made the leader out to be less authentic. If you are leading a party that is trying to attract the vote from the section of the electorate who wanted to remain as part of the EU, don’t then try to say that deep down you understand the issues with the EU, not only that but to use the eurosceptic word. It just rankles. Own what you are (or at least what you are trying to portray). You can’t please all of the people all of the time, so it is better to try and please some of those people instead of making everyone look at you with narrowing eyes wondering what it is that you really stand for…

That authentic aspect is another where Tim fell down. I understand that he grew up in Preston. I think I heard that once or twice on the campaign trail. The ‘just a regular northern bloke’ schtick did not come across well. I know that is who he is but I have seen him perform much better than how he came across in those big important TV moments. You cast your eye across to Jeremy Corbyn and he owns exactly who he is and people like authenticity.

This is where Theresa May fell down. She didn’t come across as likeable (not that she ever expected to) but she also came across as scared. Nicola Sturgeon was taken apart by the special Question Time audience and they exposed her as a one-issue candidate. Tim looked (and sounded) like someone that didn’t truly believe some of the things he was saying. He was rarely on the front foot. I wonder why this was?

We’ve all seen Tim at Conference freaking knock speeches out of the park. He may not be the orator that Nick Clegg is but he does have great passion and he is able to win you over when he’s shooting from the hip. I felt that he was never fully unleashed during this campaign. Whether that was planned or whether it was because he didn’t fully believe in the second referendum offer I just don’t know but Tim can perform much better than he did.

Tim’s approval ratings dropped throughout the course of the campaign. Those that saw him as performing well started at 16% before the campaign started but ended at only 20%. Those on the other side of the ledger started at 34% before moving to 42% and 46% according to YouGov. This meant that he started on -18% and ended at -26%. Not great but even worse, 35% said at the end of the campaign that they didn’t know. So a third of people had no opinion, he’d made that little impact. That is a killer.

Jeremy Corbyn started at -58% and ended at -2%. Theresa May started at 24% and ended at -5%. This shows that the campaign is vital and that opinions can be swayed. By seeing a small but modest drop but still having a third of people have no opinion, that has to be put down as a big miss for Tim and the party.

Last up I was just reading some newspaper articles from mid-late April. Tim Farron himself was saying things like the Lib Dems have the ‘wind at our sails’ and that Labour were ‘holed below the waterline’. If they are both true (which seemed to be the case at that point) then how did Labour increase their parliamentary party by so many whereas the Lib Dems added only four compared to the 2015 General Election? How did the momentum shift so much? Did Labour nail it or did the Lib Dems crap the bed as it were?

I suspect it was a mixture of the two but it was Tim himself who was building up our chances and even becoming the main opposition. Instead we are the fifth most important party of government (the DUP may have two fewer MPs but they have a whole lot more influence). By his own measuring stick we have greatly under-performed.

The question is why and what lessons are being learned? Tim was not outstanding during this campaign, he probably wasn’t as awful as some are saying either. The biggest problem was it was hard to believe him at times but when you are trying to sell a terrible offer to the electorate (the second referendum) then even the best salesman would struggle.

Tim will no doubt stay leader in the short-term as we watch to see whether the Tory/DUP pact can hold up. If it doesn’t then he probably leads the party into another General Election. If it does though then Jo Swinson is looming and she has all the potential in the world to have a very bright future as the next leader of the Liberal Democrats.

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

June 14th, 2017 at 12:19 pm

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On the 2017 Liberal Democrat campaign…

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I want to preface whatever I write in this blog post with I don’t think anyone can say any campaign manager, any campaigner or any activist didn’t really go for it. The hard work and dedication of these people should not be questioned in any way, shape or form. However lessons need to be learned with regards to what message needs to be used for future election campaigns.

Quite simply the Lib Dem message was muddled and watered down to such a degree that it made little impact. It wasn’t gruel but it was a long way from a nice thick, rich soup. Instead of campaigning for either stopping Brexit at all costs or that we wanted a soft Brexit that put the economy, Single Market access and freedom of movement at the heart of the message. The decision was to try and please both the stop Brexit at all costs and the ‘we have to respect the result of the EU referendum’ camps and it pleased neither. That was always a bad strategy if you are genuinely looking to recoup a significant number of the losses from two years ago.

The electorate do not want nuance and thoughtfulness. They want a clear, simple, concise message. The Lib Dems did not have that this time around and it was always going to be a tough sell.

You win elections in one of two ways. You scare an electorate that the alternative is so bad that you should vote one way or you give people hope. The Tories won in 2015 because they scared the electorate that any coalition involving Labour and the SNP would screw over England. It was a huge success. They tried the same this time around but it didn’t work because they were red hot favourites and a near shoo-in for a big majority. In that situation you have to give the electorate a positive reason to vote for you. Theresa May refused to do that and we all saw what happened.

Jeremy Corbyn though put forward a manifesto of hope that everything could be better. The fact they couldn’t afford much of what they promised wasn’t important. On one side you had a Conservative party that was all doom and gloom and the electorate wanted something different. The biggest problem for the Lib Dems was they chose to go negative and you couldn’t out-negative where the Tories put themselves and therefore it had no traction.

When the party released that poster of Theresa May merged with Nigel Farage I despaired. It was just awful. Whoever approved that poster or thought it was even a good idea has been in the Westminster bubble for way too long and needs to reengage with the voter. The problem wasn’t even the transphobic nature of the poster, which was awful enough. The biggest problem was at that point in the campaign, more than 50% of voters wanted the Tories or UKIP to win so why would you ever commission a poster that reminded the majority of voters that the Lib Dems view of Brexit was not what they wanted?

I know it was clearly designed to shock and remind the soft-Tory voter of the type of Brexit that Theresa May was proposing but that was never the right way to get those voters to switch. Once again you can’t out-negative a negative Tory party (Blukip anyone?) so you have to give hope to in this case soft Tory voters that the Lib Dems can be a vital influence in ensuring Brexit is not the hard right-wing version that the Tories seemed to be campaigning on. Instead we chose to scare them and when that didn’t work, they looked elsewhere.

The place they looked was to Labour. The party whose leader is deeply EU sceptic himself. The fact that according to Lord Ashcroft’s exit poll data, two thirds of those that voted Labour actually wanted to Remain in the European Union must spin heads at Lib Dem HQ. How can a party who seemed happy to allow Article 50 be triggered really have scooped up so many Remain voters? Quite simply that put the economy first and prioritised Single Market access.

From Labour’s manifesto, ‘We will scrap the Conservatives’ Brexit White Paper and replace it with fresh negotiating priorities that have a strong emphasis on retaining the benefits of the Single Market and the Customs Union – which are essential for maintaining industries, jobs and businesses in Britain. Labour will always put jobs and the economy first.

That my friends (as well as enemies and those who are neutral towards me) is the ding, ding, ding moment. Labour promised some fantastic things with regards to sticking it to the Tories and on domestic issues. With regards to Brexit though they cleverly manoeuvred themselves as the party of the soft Brexit where the economy wouldn’t be impacted as much. This is the position a lot of the 48% (and some of the 52%) wanted. It moved Labour into being electable for those who cared about the economy. It was smart and it meant the Lib Dems position was wishy-washy in the eyes of many potential voters.

Of course we have to look at Tim Farron’s gay sex issue. Is it right that politicians are put in a position where they have to talk about their personal beliefs without how it impacts the way that they vote? No. No it is not. Yet that is a reality of the world we live in and Tim had the best part of two years to find the answer to that question. He failed to do so. This led to a lot of momentum being stagnated early on in the campaign. Tim is a brilliant campaigner and surely he would have known he needed to to ready for this issue. The fact he wasn’t stunned me.

I have no idea if he truly has issues with this. My best guess would be that he doesn’t but that is all it is, my best guess. However whenever anyone twice in an interview uses the term, ‘theological announcements’ then you have to think they are trying to worm their way out of answering a question directly.

Tim’s performances on TV were certainly a mixed bag. In the BBC Debate he was very good. He got slammed by Andrew Neil though one-on-one, it was brutal. Neil didn’t come off as anything more than a schoolyard bully but Farron failed to make any inroads. If I were a floating voter and was watching, I certainly wouldn’t have thought much of either person on my TV.

In terms of targeting, I actually have little to say as I think in general they did a good job. I’ve seen plenty moan about the time and resources being put into Labour facing seats where we didn’t hold incumbency, Vauxhall, Bermondsey & Old Southwark, Hornsey & Wood Green, Cambridge for instance but I feel as though those seats were certainly winnable. Certainly at the start of the campaign. When the runaway carriage known as Jeremy Corbyn’s populism really got going though, this is when some time and resources could have easily been pulled and sent towards Tory facing seats (Vauxhall, Bermondsey and Hornsea to Richmond Park, Cambridge to St. Albans for example) but in general I think a good job was done here.

One thing that is clear in retrospect is the next generation of Lib Dems need to fully appreciate what it takes to get elected as a Liberal Democrat MP. Several quite brilliant younger candidates saw disappointing results and a lot of it is because the electorate don’t really know them yet. This isn’t the fault of anyone but it takes time for an electorate to get to know a new candidate, certainly if they aren’t already a councillor.

If we do have a full five-year parliament (big if) then many of these people should be in a position where they’ve embedded themselves within their community and are much more likely to have a personal connection with their electorate. If you look at many of our MPs, they’ve not won on the first go-around. They’ve won after continuing to show the local community that they are there for the long haul and aren’t just being parachuted in. This seems to be the way forward and one of the issues of this snap election, it didn’t give these candidates the time they needed.

It just felt as though the Lib Dems weren’t actually promoting anything apart from a second referendum instead of actually offering something that the public could get their teeth into. The manifesto was pretty good overall I thought but apart from the second referendum, the only other parts that made any real impact were the cannabis and 1p on Income Tax for social care policies. This shows that manifesto’s aren’t as important as we once thought, it is all about the headline policies. Labour offered everything and the Tories had a big cock-up over the so-called Dementia Tax that caused momentum to shift.

One issue we all know the party has is when the electorate aren’t sure who’ll form a government, they tend to look only at Labour or the Tories. When landslides are expected, they are happier to look at other parties. We saw this in 2010 when despite having some real momentum and more votes, the MPs went down. The 1997-2005 era showed steady growth as people knew Labour were set to win but in 2010, when push came to shove, many still went red or blue and thus the party saw a reduction in MPs.

So this is something that looked good for us when the campaign started but as polling showed that Labour could actually form a government, the electorate started to drift that way once more. This hurt in Labour facing seats but also meant lots of people who would lend a vote in Tory facing seats decided to vote tribally instead of just to oust the Tories.

The Lib Dems are no longer the party of protest. They are also no longer the party of the radical centre. They have positioned themselves as a lite version of the other two main parties and that is not a winning position going forward. I’d like to see the party move towards standing solidly for something again and not a watered down version of something else.

Labour are not liberal in any way, shape or form. They are authoritarian and want to give away free stuff but at some point we all have to pay for it through taxation. This sounds good for most, kicking the debt into the long-grass for another day. It though isn’t the smart way to deal with the problems facing the country today. Yet many did vote for this last Thursday. The fact many Remain voters went to them and indeed many natural Lib Dem voters seemed to switch showed that people are fed up and voted for the party they believed could deliver real change. That party is not the Lib Dems, or at least it wasn’t last Thursday.

If I could from my outside of HQ eyes say anything then it would be that the party has to look hard at itself in the mirror and decide what it actually is. This is not a short-term fix, this is a long haul towards being the third party in the House of Commons again but it could easily happen in five years. However what the Lib Dems need is to have that clearer and more concise message. Use positivity more than negativity.

My generation grew up with Tony Blair telling us anything was possible, the next generation is seeing that with Jeremy Corbyn, they should be seeing it with us and they aren’t. That is the most damning indictment of the 2017 General Election that any natural liberal can give.

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

June 13th, 2017 at 10:49 am

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On the despair of losing Nick Clegg and the moment my view of liberalism died…

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This is not going to be upbeat folks.

Nick Clegg is the reason I’m involved in politics. Plain and simple. His view of the world and what is worth campaigning for is extremely aligned to mine. He is the person I’ll defend to the hilt most of all when people come at me with various views that aren’t liberal. The personal vendetta against him by a large section of society has made me question just how other people can see the same as me but see it completely differently. This isn’t just outward looking towards those not voting for (nor members of) the Lib Dems but also inward looking. Many in the party do not like him and I often struggle to understand why.

We’ll start from the very beginning, its a very good place to start so I’ve heard. I did A-Level politics and have always had interest in the subject. I was always more liberal than anti-Tory. I found that my views of the world are extremely liberal and they haven’t really changed as I’ve gotten older. Yet I had very little interest in actually getting involved. I went off to university and then after uni I bounced about a bit. I would trundle along to the local primary school or church hall on election days and put my x in the Lib Dem box but that was that.

Come Cleggmania though I was starting to be getting drawn in. The truth of the matter was I looked at him the way many looked at Tony Blair in 1997, I looked at him and I genuinely believed that he could deliver a brighter and more prosperous future. Not only that but that he could engineer a more tolerant and welcoming society. This was an era before UKIP’s popularity was inflamed by the media normalising racist and xenophobic behaviour but still I thought a future where intolerance would be shunned.

That first debate happened and suddenly everything seemed possible, no matter how far-fetched. The electorate saw their was a potential third way. It wasn’t just left or right but also centre. Voting for the Lib Dems wasn’t just a protest vote against one of the other two parties. It was a vote for something rather than against something else.

As we all subsequently know though, the media decided they didn’t like that. Hatchet jobs were done on him and polling data suppressed by The Sun that could have changed the course of the 2010 General Election. The key piece of data from that YouGov polling was that they found if people thought Nick Clegg’s party had a significant chance of winning the election, it would win 49 per cent of the votes, with the Tories winning 25 per cent and Labour just 19 per cent. So essentially if people thought the Lib Dems were in it, they would vote for them.

As it turned out, this was kept out of the limelight for weeks and allowed the other two main parties to once more get back into the front seat by saying it was only them that could win the election. Once momentum had gone it was difficult to get back. Of course the Lib Dems would eventually go into a coalition with the Tories and that would prove his downfall.

Tuition fees. Two words for which the Lib Dem membership and FPC will always skate away scot-free on. Those two words would become the millstone around the neck that caused the liberal dream to be shunted back a generation at best. The Lib Dems believed then (as do most now) that free university tuition is a good thing. The issue is when you go into coalition, you can’t actually put your manifesto into place. The country as a whole had firmly rejected the Lib Dem manifesto but when they voted for (in most cases – I think four Lib Dem MPs didn’t if my memory serves me right – my memory didn’t – I’m correctly told it was 21) the backlash and vitriol was paramount. The country said they didn’t want the Lib Dems but still smeared them for not doing what they proposed to the country. Tough crowd.

This brings me towards something I may well write about later if I have the time. The electorate do not seemingly want three-party politics. The media most certainly do not. They want things to be straightforward. You have the goodies and the baddies depending on your point of view. There is no wriggle room for nuance. No shades of grey. This makes everything a whole lot easier for many to get their head around.

Fast forward to last Thursday and I heard in the evening that Clegg was in considerable trouble and it was like someone had punched me in the gut. It was this soul-destroying pain. The realisation that the man you idolise in a political sense (and trust me, I do, even though he unfollowed me on twitter a couple of years ago, harsh Nick, harsh) is about to be turfed out of his job of 12 years just when his country needs him most is just bewildering to me. There are of course reasons, of which another blog post will get written but this is more of a personal account.

Now instead of being a key voice in talks protecting the form of Hard Brexit that most Remainers (and some Brexiteers) his role and future is more up in the air. He can pretty much do whatever he wants. He’s smarter than the average bear so to speak. There would/will be a queue of businesses and roles within politics that will be open to him. That is something that I am please about in a way, he’s now free to move on and get away from that vilification that has followed him for the past seven years.

One thing I do want to say is that I’m used to seeing Labour folks trashing him. They can rejoice in his demise because it is a fixation they have. What galls is how many Lib Dems are doing the same. They say he’s toxic and until he left then the party would never recover from tuition fees. Yet we just had an election that was called primarily as a referendum for giving the Tories a mandate for the harshest Brexit possible. Even the most ardent Clegg haters agreed that if you were against a hard Brexit then Nick Clegg’s voice and expertise were if not the best and most important (as I believed) in the House of Commons then definitely at the top tier. So him losing hurts those aspirations at what is a crucial time.

Nick Clegg was one of the smartest men in politics. One of the biggest assets the public had in the House of Commons. Love him or hate him but that is an accurate representation of the man. Now I know some people don’t want the best and the brightest representing them, they want more people like them and that is fair enough. That isn’t for me though. At such a time of volatility for the future, I want the best going in to bat for me. Sadly that will not be Nick Clegg at any point soon.

This saddens me deeply. If is such a small word but if things had just been that little bit different, Nick Clegg could have been the best Prime Minister this country had seen in generations. Instead we’ll never see what a Nick Clegg vision of the future would be and that might be the saddest thing of all.

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Written by neilmonnery

June 12th, 2017 at 1:59 pm

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