The Rambles of Neil Monnery

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On having one mildly successful tweet…

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If you are reading this then I suspect there is a decent chance that you know me or at the very least follow me on twitter. In that case you’ll know I’m pretty much a nobody. An insignificant speck that resides on this great vast planet we call the Earth. I have around 1,500 people who follow me on twitter. That isn’t a large number by any means. So in terms of having a social media platform, I have one just like oh so many others, it is just infinitesimal.

This takes me to this past weekend. On Friday night just before I went up the stairs to Bedfordshire, I saw the story in The Sun that Diane Abbott had been photographed drinking from a can of Mojito on public transport. I was seething so much that I couldn’t sleep that night. Oh no, wait a minute, what I actually thought was I can’t believe this is the top story in a newspaper.

The next morning before I arose from my pit that I call bed, I composed a tweet about said story and my thoughts about how it said more about the state of journalism in this country than it did about what the Shadow Home Secretary actually did.

Said tweet is embedded below:

After I hit send, I went about my Saturday morning. Getting up, having a shower, cleaning my teeth, you know the bog standard normal Saturday morning stuff. I left my mobile phone on the floor by my bed blissfully unaware that it was starting to go off repeatedly with notifications.

It got to about half past eight when I finally picked up my phone but still I didn’t notice anything. Strolling downstairs I opened the patio door, took a camping chair into the garden and opened up my laptop to read the overnight news and sort out my fantasy baseball team.

As I opened said laptop, the last page I’d been looking at before closing it down the night before was apparently my TweetDeck. My notification block was streaming with updates. It was quite bewildering. In that hour to an hour and a half between writing the tweet and first seeing my TweetDeck, it had 81 likes. Crazy I thought.

Then as the morning progressed that stream became a torrent. By now I’d noticed and my phone was buzzing constantly next to me. 500 likes, 100 likes, 250 retweets and still going. Every so often someone that I recognised hit the RT button and the notifications would speed up even more. People were replying to my tweet at a far greater rate than I could even consider reading them, let alone reply to their replies.

Most people either wanted to tell me off for buying said newspaper (which I didn’t, the tweet expressively said I had read it online), lambast me for regarding it as journalism or just agreeing with me. A handful did contact me to tell me that laws are laws and she deserves to face further action from the authorities.

The thing that stood out though wasn’t the vast array of opinions but just how much time having a semi successful tweet could take out of you. It makes you appreciate what famous or at least semi famous people have to content with regarding social media. I chose not to interact because I had other things to do on Saturday and didn’t want to be tied to my tiny screen all day. Even by the early evening when the other half and myself went out for dinner, my phone was still beeping away at a rapid rate of knots.

Now I know I could’ve switched off all notifications from that tweet (well I know now…) but it was an interesting insight into how all-encompassing social media can be. Both on Saturday and Sunday nights the notifications were still coming in at a pace so I turned my phone on to silent so I wouldn’t get interrupted.

It is now Tuesday afternoon and my phone has stopped doing its thing. My tweet has been liked and retweeted out. My subsequent pithy comments are once more generally being ignored and rarely interacted with. Normality has returned but for one small moment in time, I wrote something that would appear on over half a million people’s timelines around the world. It wasn’t even that successful in the grand scheme of things but it once more it shows just how powerful this medium is.

If a nobody like me can have his bleary eyed Saturday morning thoughts shown in front of over half a million sets of eyes then imagine just how influential other people are. If that doesn’t scare you then I don’t know what will. The fact we are all exposed to the random thoughts and whims of oh so many people leads me to think this is why we are where we are today. With one third of young Americans apparently not convinced the Earth is round, with a President who lied his way to power, with the Leave campaign having lied their way to victory on the side of a bus. Truth and honesty doesn’t seem to have a place in the world of instant spin and murky truth.

Shit.

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April 23rd, 2019 at 2:28 pm

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On Layla Moran, domestic abuse and the sexist lack of Lib Dem outrage…

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Equality is an easy word to comprehend but sometimes not an easy word to live-by. Treating people equally should be something that is second nature but the truth is that we fail to do this in every day life. Many of us think we succeed in this but the reality is we only succeed in this to varying degrees.

On Saturday night Layla Moran tweeted out a story about how she’d once been charged with domestic abuse for slapping her then partner. The charges were subsequently dropped. You can read the full version of events in this embedded tweet.

Hi everyone. I have a story I want to share…. pic.twitter.com/iy9uKOCKau— Layla Moran (@LaylaMoran) March 23, 2019

Everyone can have their own opinions on what happened based on reading the above. I have mine and if I’m being 100% honest, I don’t think it is right or fair of me to air my own personal views on what I do think is a private matter. However I will blog about the response and the tone of the statement, which I think is fair game.

Firstly this statement went out at 6:52PM on a Saturday night after the People’s Vote March in London. If you are cynically going to bury what is clearly at best, embarrassing news then this is exactly when to do it. In the middle of the night is too brazen but people aren’t on social media as much on Saturday evening’s. Add to that the media are all over the Punch & Judy show that is the cabinet playing with our futures that the dealings of a Lib Dem MP is not uppermost in their minds.

Also she makes it very clear that this statement is in response to rumours that have been bandied about. So this is all about getting in front of a story. Clearly someone or some publisher had it and it was coming out. The MP for Oxford West & Abingdon did the right thing to address it head on, no question about that. However all the responses calling her brave are to be frank, disgusting. It isn’t brave to come out and admit to being a domestic abuser if the story is going to come out anyway.

It isn’t brave just to come out to the public and admit to your faults. If she’d said this years ago or if this Mea culpa had come out organically then it would garner more sympathy. For it to come about just because the story was coming out anyway is anything but brave or courageous, it is just trying to control the narrative.

Reading some of the tweets from prominent Lib Dems in response to her tweet embedded above just blows my mind. It is like she is being treated with kid gloves and I’m trying to work out why that is. Could it be because she was the most articulate and impressive woman currently in the position of MP within the party? Could it be because by coming out and addressing her faults, it shows she is human? Could it be because many people don’t truly understand domestic abuse or could it be because many believe domestic abuse is different when handed out by a woman instead of by a man?

I’ll address that last question first, if say this was Ed Davey (another potential leadership candidate) who tweeted out exactly the same story, would the responses have been the same? Hell no. There would be very loud calls coming from within the party membership to strip him of the whip and be kicked out of the party. We all know this and isn’t that just fucking hypocritical? Why should we treat two people differently just because they have contrasting sexual reproductive organs? Isn’t that the very definition of sexism?

Domestic abuse happens in this world and it is abhorrent to its core. Whether it is a man to a woman, a woman to a man, a man to a man, a woman to a woman, our perception of what is bad about hitting another person should not change.

Getting out in front of the story does show media savvy and the art of crisis management but brave, oh come on, give me fucking strength. We are all human and all flawed, every single one of us. Facing up to those flaws is part of humanity but doing so only when being strong-armed doesn’t show me much.

I’ve read the statement several times this morning and there is one little word missing, ‘sorry.’

It may seem like a trivial thing but Layla has to understand that she has let people down. The vast majority of survivors of domestic abuse don’t just move on with their lives. Richard may well of done and it may have been an isolated incident but for others it leaves deep psychological scaring that never goes away.

The statement itself comes across as a non apology apology and also comes across as victim-blaming. Saying the relationship was under stress and you felt threatened is not an excuse to ever hit somebody.

My disappointment with Layla is pretty severe but my anger is not. Being flawed isn’t anything new and recognising those said flaws isn’t a bad thing. However not once did she address her sorrow for hitting another person nor once did she say what she learnt from this incident and how she deals with losses of temper these days.

This should not completely derail her career. This one incident doesn’t mean that she’s not the most articulate and impressive woman currently earning their pay cheque as an MP for the Liberal Democrats. However whilst she’s placated many within the party, who are shamefully happy to sweep it under the carpet as it doesn’t fit with their narrative, the wider public rightly or wrongly expect Lib Dems to be squeaky clean. People are desperate not to vote LD and will find any reason not to do so. We saw in 2017 that Tim Farron’s position on gay sex in relation to it being a sin in the eyes of God cost the party plenty of votes from people who could’ve voted our way.

To get people to overcome the past nine years of Lib Dem dislike is tough and whilst it is patently unfair, the general public hold Lib Dems to a higher standard than those of Labour or the Tories. Sadly that is just the way it is and no amount of moaning about unreasonable that is, that is the reality. A potential leader who has admitted she slapped a partner in the heat of the moment will not play well out there.

So yes disappointment with her is flooding through my veins and I can to some degree understand this should be a private matter. People don’t deserve to know about every little detail in their elected officials personals lives. Yet just because criminal charges were dropped doesn’t alter the fact the incident happened.

As a party who purports to be on the side of domestic abuse victims, letting this slide doesn’t seem to send out the right message. Congratulating her and telling her how brave she is though takes it to another level for me. I saw the statement for the first time 14 hours ago and I’m still shaking my head at some of the replies.

If I were on the outside looking in, I’d say that the Lib Dems are against domestic abuse dished out by men but women who partake in it should be applauded for being honest and brave about it. Just re-read that sentence and if it doesn’t blow your mind then I wonder whether your mind is open at all.

Lib Dems shouldn’t stand for double standards but in this instance, it seems like we do.

There are no winners from this revelation, only more reasons to not vote Lib Dem. What a tough start to the week…

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March 25th, 2019 at 9:24 am

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On the depressing road to where reasonable politics goes to die…

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On Monday (or was it Tuesday?) whenever it was, 14 Labour MPs walked through the government lobbies in an attempt to ensure Brexit happens on March 29, whatever that Brexit is. They did so for a variety of reasons but lets be honest, who honestly gives two hoots?

The reason I say that is because is actually doesn’t matter. All that matters these days is our own opinions and whatever actually happens in the real world, we’ll find a way to match up our own pre-deposed thoughts with what is going down in reality.

The other morning I was reading a story in the Guardian about Nick Clegg and his role at Facebook. The comments were a sight to behold. Probably 80% of the people were raging on Facebook and the fact that the former leader of the Liberal Democrats had taken a job with the company. Many said that if he truly cared about helping then he would campaign against Facebook on his own dime instead of trying to help from within.

Some even belittled Clegg as a nobody and had no idea why Facebook would want an experienced politician who knows his way around the European Union, is respected on the continent and speak five languages fluently. Yeah it is a complete mystery to me…

The point is people don’t like Nick Clegg. Some may say justifiably so but people have made up their opinions and anyone who doesn’t think he’s awful and a complete waste of space is just plain wrong. He could invent a teleportation device or cure the common cold and a significant number of people would say he’s only done so because he’s a Tory stooge or that it didn’t negate the damage of tuition fees.

Take Jeremy Corbyn as another example. He has followers who would follow him to the end of the Earth and still hail him as their saviour. People who hate Brexit would still vote loyally for the Labour leader as they believe he is playing the long-game. The same can be true of Bernie supporters, Trump supporters, Farage supporters. Name any politician who stands more than a stones throw away from the centre and you’ll find their supporters are far more loyal and unwavering.

This is what scares me. People aren’t questioning politicians any more, not even ones they generally agree with. If you’ve followed my politics or even just know me, you’ll know that I’m a Cleggite. I think being socially slightly left of centre and economically slightly right of centre is a good place to be. That doesn’t mean I think he walks on water or gets everything right. I like being able to engage my own brain and seek out some answers for myself. Being spoon fed and lapping up the party line just doesn’t sit well for me.

As long as we put our faith in people and not policies/actions then we are doomed to become diminished as a race. Democracy only works when people look at elections with open eyes. People can and often do change their minds and just loyally voting for any person or party with blind loyalty is bad.

The world of social media allows us to stay within our bubble and have our own viewpoints reinforced with spectacular ease. People don’t like debate any more. They like being right and having those thoughts backed up.

Politics is far from reasonable these days. When elections turn on the likes of Gillian Duffy and how someone eats a bacon sandwich, does that sound like reasonable politics to you? It sure as hell doesn’t me but what the hell do I know? I don’t think anyone is perfect and therefore clearly something must be wrong with me…

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January 31st, 2019 at 12:09 pm

On Renewing my Lib Dem membership in the age of Brexit and Corbynmania…

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This wasn’t a slam dunk decision. Since moving away from my local party in 2017 where I was relatively active, albeit in the background, I haven’t attended any type of political meeting or undertook any real campaigning. Being detached from such things does weaken the ties but that wasn’t what I was truly struggling with.

The big problem was the fact Brexit has become this all consuming behemoth of a monstrosity that is suffocating the life out of actual politics. You know, the day to day things that actually make a difference to all of our lives. It is clear that the vast majority of those coming into politics at the moment are here for one of two reasons, either they are inspired by Brexit one way or the other or Jeremy Corbyn is giving them (false?) hope of a brighter tomorrow and that socialism is really going to cure the nation of all of its ills.

Personally, I didn’t get involved in politics because of the European Union. I voted Remain and would do so again if there was a second referendum. The merits of remaining in the EU far outweigh the negatives in my opinion. To paraphrase James Carville, who some would know as the man behind Bill Clinton’s shock Presidential win in 1992 but others will know from making betting picks on The Tony Kornheiser Show, it’s the economy stupid.

Yes, being better off isn’t the be all and end all but it is a pretty darn good starting position for working out where we all want to be in life. Having a strong economy and growing our workforce with well paying jobs is surely what most of us want to see.

Seeing some Brexiteers saying things like having the economy go into the tank will be good as it will bring us all together and forge our bulldog spirit makes it seem that not everything thinks this. Some are happy to pay a price to get Brexit, the problem from my vantage point is most of those people either know they’ll be ok so don’t care or don’t fully understand the ramifications of any potential No Deal Brexit.

Yet I’ve hit the point where I just don’t care. Well maybe don’t care isn’t the right term. I am just Brexited out as it were and it isn’t just the side I disagree with that I’m tarring with this brush. Some strong Remainers do my nut in as well because they don’t see the bigger picture. Both sides are becoming more and more entrenched in their position and as a result, our country is being paralysed.

In the past couple of decades we’ve seen many big changes push through parliament. Some for the better and some for the worse. Still shit was getting done. Now it might be just me and the fact I’m holding politics at arms length at the moment but what has happened in this parliament bar lots of bickering about Brexit?

I am sitting here racking my brains trying to think of some major policy that has gone through the House of Commons and I’m just coming up short. This country faces so many problems but they all need to sit and wait whilst the Brexit shit is sorted out.

The complication in all this is of course it is nigh on impossible for it to actually get sorted out. There will be a great swathe of the electorate who will be unhappy whatever happens. This country of ours has rarely been divided along such toxic lines. Both sides believe they are right and the other just flat out wrong. Belittling someone with an opposing view is just not on and to be perfectly honest, I’m just oh so tired of it. The #FPBE crowd do my head in as much as the arch Brexiteers.

Still despite my absolute despair at the current political climate, the Lib Dems got another few quid from me and I’ll roll on. Getting actively involved again may have to wait until the country is ready to actually get on with things that aren’t all Brexit, all the time. To be fair to my new local party where I moved to this year, the ward I live in has very active campaigners who focus on local issues. It makes a welcome break from the constant noise surrounding the referendum.

I suppose my major issue is there are few places in politics for people like me at the moment. Unless you are all over the Brexit situation and live and die by the latest news or are part of the cult of Jeremy Corbyn, there isn’t much for you. If you are/were politically aware but want to focus on a non-Brexit issue or aren’t infatuated with Magic Grampa then where do you go? They are the big political stories at the moment, one is straitjacketing the country and the other is willing to burn everything to the ground so that their starry eyed hero can rebuild everything in the way they want.

Politics wasn’t really ever much fun but it was interesting. Now it isn’t even really that.

Still you never know, 2019 might not all be about Brexit and Corbyn. I mean is possible…

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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December 28th, 2018 at 3:44 pm

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On Late Night Poker…

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Whilst reading ESPN the other day I came across a link talking about Phil Hellmuth Jr. winning yet another World Series of Poker bracelet and it started taking me back. You see many years ago I would watch a TV show called Late Night Poker, which was broadcast on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom. It was the first time that Poker had been shown on TV in the UK and it quickly became a late night hit amongst young people.

The under the table cameras brought a unique insight into what was going on and it brought in a brand new wave of poker enthusiasts to the sport. Without these then it would be extremely difficult for poker to ever succeed as a spectator sport, who would want to watch several people sitting around a table and only know what was going on when the cards were turned over? There is a big difference between playing poker and watching it on TV.

Players who appeared on this show, which started nearly nearly two decades ago are still fresh in the mind. The aforementioned Hellmuth won Season 3 and was one of the big stars but people like Devilfish, Ross & Barney Boatman and Ram Vaswani quickly became names and faces that the casual fan would know.

What Late Night Poker did however was slow-play the way in which the viewer would find out exactly what cards all the players around the table had. Instead of just showing all hands on screen, which is the norm nowadays, the producer would only show one or two hands, putting the person at home in the position of trying to work out what they might do if they were in the position of the players whose hand we hadn’t seen.

In 2017, Josh Hesp, a 67 year-old man who runs a caravan park in Bridlington became the second biggest winner from the UK, having secured just over £2,000,000 for his fourth placed finish at the main event. Playing in the Main Event was part of his bucket list and it sure was a change of scenery compared to his local casinos in Hull. Wgilst he didn’t win, this payout is part of the legacy of the original Late Night Poker as its brand of poker, No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em wasn’t very popular in the United Kingdom before the TV show. Since then however it has become the bread and butter version of the card game played across these four nations.

It would help spawn a whole new group of people who would go on to create poker schools or get involved in the internet revolution that has enabled fans of card games, slot games and the like to play from the comfort of their own PC or laptop. One of these website is NetBet Casino. With several video poker options along with a variety of slot games and roulette tables, it is a one stop shop for the online gambler.

Late Night Poker helped create a poker school that I was part of in the early 2000s. The stakes weren’t high, maybe the winner won a bag of doughnuts or a pint from the other players but it was extremely enjoyable. The show was revolutionary and if Channel 4 wanted to bring it back, I’m pretty sure it would be a late night hit once more…

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 Ian Pope

July 16th, 2018 at 10:24 am

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On watching a parent litter in front of their kids…

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On Sunday I got a bit riled up. I’d nipped out to the supermarket to grab myself some goodies and dinner. It was a lovely day and the stroll into town was pleasant enough. Nothing in my short trip should’ve fazed me nor tripped me up. Yet well, it did.

Walking towards the supermarket, I noticed a man, woman and two kids walking in front of me. I didn’t think twice about them but moments later, I watched as the dad veered out from the right hand side of the walkway to the left. Immediately I knew exactly what he was going to do. Sipping the last dregs out of his KFC drink, he simply lobbed the cup into the mud by the river. I was aghast and full of rage. So much so that I very nearly yelled out at him.

Why people litter is just beyond me, it truly is. I have never littered and have no understanding of why anyone would. The worst bit wasn’t that he’d thrown his rubbish into the mud but that his two children were both of very impressionable age. If they see their dad acting in such a loutish manner then they’ll believe that acting in that manner is totally acceptable. Not less than five seconds later, he’d have passed a rubbish bin outside the shop.

For a minute or so I was berating myself for not saying something but then what was the best case scenario for doing such a thing? Maybe he would’ve listened, understood and promised to do better in future, therefore showing his kids a valuable lesson that littering is not ok. That alas would not be a realistic outcome.

The realistic best case scenario would be a string of obscenities followed by the word off. Another very plausible outcome would’ve involved a punch or two heading in my direction and that certainly was what I wanted and nor would that have been good for the watching kids.

Walking home I decided that I’d made the best decision but isn’t it a sad indictment of society that people are scared to intervene when people are acting boorishly? Carrying your rubbish to a bin isn’t exactly a hardship and you can’t go a couple of minutes without passing one around shops. Those who treat the planet with such clear and obvious disdain are really rather selfish. Whilst the planet struggles with what mankind is doing to it, he’ll be fine as he’ll be long gone before the effects are fully felt but what about his children and their children?

This blog has very little point bar wondering why some people act the way they do. I just don’t understand it…

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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May 8th, 2018 at 10:21 am

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On legality of online gambling in Canada…

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When you are talking about the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, one of the important things regarding getting licensed with them is that the casino platform must be hosted on secure servers based in the land of Kahnawake itself and nowhere else. Although many have raised questions about the legality I often indulge in Royal Vegas online casino games in Canada, but of late have been wondering if online gambling is actually illegal or legal in Canada?!

As more and more people start to use the internet and online world every day, this is something I felt was worth clarifying. I looked up the length and breadth of the Internet, but couldn’t find a conclusive answer to that question! Some people say yes, some say no; eventually what I figured is that you can gamble legally in Canada only at places licensed by the government of Canada. Technically, that would mean gambling on the Internet is illegal in Canada, unless of course you play at Provincial casinos running on the Internet. Although majority of provinces in Canada are actively launching their own online casinos, they’re limiting their usage only to the residents of those provinces. Gambling on the whole falls in a fairly grey area in Canada as no specific law, allowing or disallowing has been written so far.

Can you get prosecuted?

Regardless, there is a very old Canadian law as per which its considered unlawful for a person to be present inside a ‘common betting house!’ This could possibly be used against anyone who indulges in gambling on the Internet, but no one in Canada has been prosecuted so far. If we talk about prosecution, even in the United States, where there are clear laws against online gambling, it’s pretty rare for a person to get charged. One of the cases to have come to light in that regard is that of a person who had to pay $500 in fine as he had won $100,000 playing poker on the Internet in US. US authorities have for long been targeting only companies and banks that facilitate online gambling transactions for the players from United States, instead of going after individuals.

Here in Canada, the attitude is comparatively relaxed. Apparently, provinces are taking things as they come and have opened their own Internet casino establishments to compete with others. There has only been one case of an online casino getting charged in Canada, which was way back in year 2001; and that’s the only one so far to do with online gambling.

About Kahnawake Gaming Commission in Quebec

Another interesting fact not many casino players are aware of is that a good number of online casinos are actually regulated and licensed by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission based in Quebec, Canada. This commission has been involved in such regulation and licensing business for online gaming industry since 1999, much longer compared to any other gambling jurisdiction in the world. An important restriction placed by them on any casino of this gaming commission operating out of Canada, for so many years now, no action has been taken against it as yet.

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 Ian Pope

August 1st, 2017 at 9:00 am

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It is time for the Lib Dems to be truly radical on education

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Nick Clegg has spoken today about how too much teacher time is taken up with box ticking and paperwork, which is pretty fair but he doesn’t speak about just what is wrong with our education system but also about the mindset of far too many people.

This is something that has been building inside of me for a long time and I have written about it several times in recent weeks and months. The crux of the issue is I disagree with what the primary function of schooling seems to be – exams. I would love to know a breakdown of parents thoughts as to whether they would prefer their child to be as best prepared academically for the world to give them the best career options or whether they would prefer their children to be as best prepared to make their own decisions and be the person they want to be.

This falls under the whole envelope I think about regarding the future of society and I could draw inspiration from many places. Last night I flicked over and saw a bit of a TV show called, ‘Secret Life of Living Dolls’ and it was about guys that like to dressing up as latex dolls. Not a fetish I’ve ever dabbled in I must admit but I can see the appeal. A group of them went out in public and got a pretty positive response until some douche started hassling them and screaming at them for doing it. Were they harming him? No. He just didn’t think that people should be allowed to express themselves in a way that he wasn’t comfortable with.

It didn’t shock me but that one person will have undoubtedly caused them more distress than all the positive the other people did. As a race we are generally accepting of those who are different and we are making strides towards making it even better. Homosexuality is now much more, I want to say mainstream but that isn’t the word, it is generally more accepted although some people still can’t do so, many of these people look at religion for a reason to treat these people differently. Religion is the biggest problem that the human race faces but that is a story for another day.

Going back to the education point. A few weeks ago I saw a piece on the BBC News where a failing school had been ‘turned around’ and the headmaster was telling the reporter how he’d done it. The kids are literally not allowed to talk at any time except in break and lunch times unless told it was acceptable by a teacher. Walking between classes had to be done in silence. He had the children line up in register order on three separate occasions during the school day in the main hall to take a register to ensure no-one was truanting. Of course this was in silence. Add to that incredibly strict uniform rules and people wonder why children do not feel free to express themselves.

I am sure Middle England loved it but I wanted to throttle the guy. He is doing so much damage to these young minds yet he is there patting himself on the back because exam results are up. The fact he has robotic children who I suspect are scared to find out who they are seemingly means very little to him.

The young mind is one of the greatest things about our formative years. We all have dreams and aspirations and good schooling can help that. I know what I wanted to be all the way through my younger years and I dabbled in it but here we are at 31 and that part of my life is seemingly in my rear view mirror. You grow up and you have other priorities. Yet I think every adult at some point comes to the realisation that all they truly want is to be happy. Oh happiness. There is a blog post all in itself. Money is great and having a good career is great but that alone won’t make most of us happy.

We all find happiness in different ways and what makes us happy as a teenager may well not make us happy in our 20s, 30s, 40s etc. We continue to grow and evolve as adults but for many of us that involves going back to our teenage years and remembering what our dreams were then and trying again as adults to achieve them. Last week Byron, a 27 year-old contestant in Masterchef Australia was eliminated but said that he now knew what he wanted to do for the rest of his life, he wanted a career in food because it made him happy. He hadn’t got involved in food after school for a variety of reasons but many of the contestants are like that. They chose a career path that they were expected to do or just fell into instead of going for what they truly wanted. This is a flaw in education and in society. We do what is expected of us instead of what we think will make us happiest.

I am all for being realistic but also I am slowly coming around to the fact that we are often better than what we think we are. We are amazing creatures who can adapt and grow in ways many of us never thought possible. Personally I have only taken one big career gamble in my life. One leap of faith that was not to do with happiness but in fact the total opposite. I was so unhappy and frustrated in what I was doing I had to break free and try something different, even if it didn’t work out. Luckily for me it did work out but it did feel like a huge risk at the time and it was done with my mental health squarely in mind.

This is what I want to see in our education system, people daring to be who they want to be. Being brought up in a very tolerant environment where people don’t judge you based on what sex you are, what sexual orientation you are, what colour you are, what clothes you wear, what make-up you wear, what style your hair is, what your teeth look like, what you do in your spare time, whatever. This all sounds very Utopian I know but unless we dare to dream and have the guts to act then we’ll never create the society that would be a truly wonderful place to live.

I want to see an education system where children have a plethora of opportunities and are able to explore them to the best degree possible instead of being taught a regimented syllabus that gives them the best academic possibilities as defined by the government of the time. Another thing I want to throw in here is the why schools deal with social studies. It is laughable. Social studies are marginalised for more academic lessons. I had five lessons of maths a week but in Year 10 & 11 I had no social studies lessons at all, at all. I’m not even sure I had any in Years 7 & 8 so it was only Year 9 where I had any social studies lessons at all and that was a joke.

Social studies is more important than algebra. It is more important than history, more important than geography, more important than science, more important than foreign languages and I could go on, I think you get my drift. Young people need to learn about the world and being part of a positive and welcoming society. This encompasses sex education as well. The hardest part of growing up is not learning academic things but learning about being part of society. These are the skills that many young people struggle with but we shun it as to give more time to academic pursuits.

Putting the social aspect firmly at the heart of education policy would be a giant step forward both for the children of today and for society as a whole. Teach young people about tolerance and about how our differences are only on the surface. Teach them about how to treat one another. Teach them that just because they dress or act a certain act then you shouldn’t treat them any differently. I know it sounds obvious to many of us but we are seeing a lurch away from tolerance and it scares the living bejesus out of me. This is coming mainly from the elder generation but it filters down.

We need a generation of people who feel free to express themselves without fear of persecution in any way shape or form. It isn’t going to be easy but until we understand the whole journey of life starts how we perceive ourselves and the world around us, allowing us the freedoms to live our lives how we see fit and how how society dictates that we should then we’ll always have a problem. I don’t mind taking small steps but we need to know what the end goal is and find the best way to get to that end goal. Ridding society of intolerance should be that end goal at it starts with our education system. Letting young people discover who they are and letting them express themselves is the starting point as the more different people we are exposed to at the young age then the more accepting we are.

We are all different and until we understand that and embrace that then we’ll never get to where we want to be. So it is time to be radical. Put forward a plan to let our young people grow and if they grow outside of the perceived norms that society expects then so be it. A diverse future will lead to a happier place and isn’t that what we all want at the end of the day – to just be happy?

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

October 22nd, 2014 at 12:06 pm

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Labour hatch ‘secret (but very public) plan’ to unseat Nick Clegg in 2015′ aren’t they cute?

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It is a bit like your granddad telling you about his plan for how he’s going to woo Katy Perry or your old man talking about how he’s still ready and able if Roy Hodgson calls on him for the World Cup squad. We all have dreams and we certainly all have daydreams but the thought of Labour beating the Lib Dems in Nick Clegg’s Sheffield Hallam is fanciful at best, at worst it is a waste of resources and a short-term PR exercise.

Like most of the new breed of activist, I’m a believer in electoral math, or as I’m English I should say maths. National polling is all well and nice but elections are won and lost in the vast majority of cases due to what is happening on the ground. We are seeing this more and more and many people still cling on to national polling as a good indicator of what is going to happen at elections, heck I’ve seen people say that national polls dictate what happens in parish town elections, I know, madness.

So anyway on to Sheffield Hallam, a seat the Lib Dems have held since the 1997 collapse of the Tories and John Major’s exit. Every General Election since (and including) that one, the Lib Dems have won going away. As it stands it is the third safest Liberal Democrat seat in the land. It isn’t a target seat for Labour and whilst I can’t say never will be, it certainly won’t be for a long, long, long time. The area is broadly liberal and social conservative, not exactly the home of people who embrace Labour.

Now of course the national trend on the Lib Dems and certainly Nick Clegg is negative, quelle surprise. I won’t sit here and type that the country love Nick Clegg and his party, because that would be wide of the mark. The party have hemorrhaged votes and support in the past four odd years but that has come primarily in areas that weren’t natural Lib Dem territory. People and areas that have been respective to the party for many years have seen the drop-off being far less.

Moving on to Sheffield Hallam itself, it has a university, students loved Nick Clegg, students now don’t love Nick Clegg, that means Nick Clegg will lose a seat where there are lots of students, that is the lazy thought process. Now I haven’t checked how many students are enrolled at Sheffield Hallam, far less those who have got their vote at their university home instead of the parental home, far less those who actually bothered to vote in 2015, but if all of these people voted LD and now switch their allegiance to Labour, will that be enough to overcome the 19,000 deficit they had in 2010? Somehow I doubt it.

Now it is true that others will have drifted away, so lets look at how the councillors in this seat are doing. Well they are still doing rather well, in 2012 they received just shy of 50% of the vote, even in 2011, which was probably the Lib Dems bottoming out, they got over 44% of the vote. Labour were 11% shy and last time out they were 20% shy. Yes local elections and national elections are different and there will be those that support Lib Dems locally but won’t nationally but enough to overturn such a large deficit?

libdempressofficesheffieldhallam

Lastly – and this is the biggest issue – if the Lib Dems and Nick Clegg lose in Sheffield Hallam in 2015, and that is a huge if but we’ll play the game. They’ll lose it to the Conservative party and not the Labour party. The last time Labour won this seat? It hasn’t happened yet – in history. The area just isn’t receptive to Labour and they will not win. It was Tory all the way through its history bar a 1916 by-election until the Lib Dems came in and built a power-base locally.

The whole issue of Labour unseating Nick Clegg in Sheffield Hallam is just the delusions of a madman. It won’t happen. No matter how much you say it will and how hard you are going to try, it just won’t happen. History tells you that, polling tells you that, demographics tells you that, there is nothing that tells you a win there is possible in any way whatsoever. The only thing this story does is publicly say that Labour are still anti Lib Dem and not give an excuse for those Labour voters who have come across from the Lib Dems to go back. They want no public softening of their approach to the Lib Dems.

This whole story is quite simply a short-term PR stunt. If they fail to win Sheffield Hallam and get egg on their face then they won’t care because this story will be consigned to the annals of election history quite swiftly after the 2015 General Election. They want to show the electorate how much they dislike Nick Clegg and maybe even get the party to pour in extra resources themselves in the seat. The fact of the matter is Labour’s chances of winning Sheffield Hallam are identical to me winning the EuroMillions tonight, I suppose in that case I should at least buy a ticket…

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

February 18th, 2014 at 11:18 am

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The bad name of the Liberal Democrats

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Ah the Lib Dems. The sandal wearing, beard loving, irrelevance of a political party. When Millwall chanted ‘no-one likes us, no-one likes us, we don’t care’ they did so as a badge of honour. For the Lib Dems it was all very different, it was ‘no-one worries about us, no-one particularly dislikes us, no-one cares’ as the party bumbled along being relatively popular at local level across the country but when it came to national governance, people wanted to see the two big parties battle it out. There was no third way.

Then things changed.

In the space of a few weeks the Liberal Democrats suddenly became relevant and when they did so they got tarred with a big brush, the big brush of disappointment and that stain is one we find hardest to cope with.

The long and short of it is as we all know, a significant proportion of people who voted for the Lib Dems in 2010 nationally did so as a bit of a protest vote. They public were not convinced about Gordon Brown and Labour, nor were they enthused by David Cameron and the Conservatives. They looked for that third way and the fresh faced Nick Clegg provided that hope and aspiration that things could be different.

The thing is deep down the likelihood of things being different because the party were never going to either win a majority in the House of Commons and nor were they going to be the largest party in any governing coalition. The party could only prop up a Tory or Labour led government or sit in opposition. In essence they couldn’t ever be the party that people hoped they would be after 2010 because whatever way they went they were stuffed. Either they propped up an unpopular party or they showed they didn’t have the cojones for government. A lose/lose situation.

Why am I bringing this up today?

Well I read this piece entitled I am not a “Liberal Democrat” and it sums up the problems that, we as activists, and the party in general face. The good, unsullied name of the Liberal Democrats is now not so pristine and that is quite the understatement. A lot of people are angry that the Lib Dems didn’t change everything when they became the junior member in a coalition, a lot of people are just angry and aren’t exactly sure why.

The thing is, more people sit in the ground occupied by the Liberal Democrats on the political spectrum than any other political party. If people voted solely on ideological principles then the Lib Dems would be the ones to beat, but people don’t do that. They vote based on a multitude of things including trust, who they like/dislike personally, policies, ideologies, tactically, historically, I could go on and on but ideology has been pushed further and further down this list as the years and decades have gone by.

Now, in an age where people can learn more about the people on a ballot paper and the parties they represent, people actually learn less. The electorate are not as switched on as they were in the past. Now it is a lot to do with personalities and not policies and that brings us to the Nick Clegg issue. Nick Clegg is not toxic but his name certainly isn’t exactly helping the situation. He might actually be doing a pretty good job of steering the Lib Dem Westminster ship but if people refuse to listen to someone then what can you do? I am positive that there are people out there who would disagree with Nick Clegg if he did everything they wanted from a politician, quite simply because of who he is.

So that leads me to wonder what the best way forward is, not for the party per se for members of the Lib Dems to not feel as though they’ve killed puppies and kittens for fun. I speak to people who talk about the Lib Dems with more disdain than they would talk about murderers, I wish I was joking but it sometimes just feels that way.

The fact is that more people sit in the centre ground of the political spectrum than do any other and yet that advantage doesn’t equate to people going out and voting for the party that sits in their ideological spectrum. That is the biggest problem the party faces today. Nick Clegg isn’t exactly an asset but until we can get people to vote for policies and vision first and foremost above personalities, then we will struggle. Moving what a political party actually wants to do to the forefront of the debate and things will look much rosier at the ballot box and Lib Dems won’t feel as though they are pariahs.

They say one thing you shouldn’t do on a first date is talk religion or politics, I don’t need any help in screwing up first dates but the fact I’m a Lib Dem certainly doesn’t help, and if you think that is conjecture then I can assure you it isn’t, I’ve been told bluntly that is an issue, not because of the policies (bar tuition fees) but mainly because of the notion that the Lib Dems are now just Tories by another name.

Many people don’t get the nuances of a coalition government and there is often very little chance they’ll allow you to talk about it (by the way this isn’t my dating spiel, I don’t talk religion or politics on a first date, well unless they bring it up). The thing is many Lib Dems don’t get the nuances of coalition government. They think that if we disagree then we should stop it and only back Lib Dem policy. Wouldn’t that be a Liberal Democrat government and didn’t we only get 57 MPs at the last General Election?

Coalition isn’t easy and even harder than actual governing is trying to tell people what you are doing as the junior member of a coalition. Coalition has cost the party their innocence and their good name but on the other hand it has shown the party has matured and now isn’t just an ‘anti-everything’ option. Some people will acknowledge this but sadly many many more will now not touch the Lib Dems – or their candidates – with a ten-foot barge-pole, just like the vast majority of the female species with me.

So maybe the Lib Dems and myself are in the same boat. I think the bad name of the Lib Dems will sink them in percentage of the vote nationally but I don’t see a wipe-out. I see resources being very targeted and where the Lib Dems hold, they are actually well liked, both on councils and in Westminster. Elections are becoming increasingly localised and that is why I take little notice of national polls and projected national swings. They deep down mean jack and are just there to give politicos something to talk and write about.

The bad name of the Lib Dems won’t be vanquished overnight and may well stick around well beyond Nick Clegg’s departure – whenever that maybe. Still Labour now lead the polls just ten years after going into a very unpopular war and five odd years after overseeing the tanking of the economy. They are doing that with a leader who has zero personality or political nous and a shadow Chancellor who is, to be frank, vastly out of his depth. That says a great deal about how politics can ebb and flow…

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

December 12th, 2013 at 5:24 pm