The Rambles of Neil Monnery

Another pointless voice in the vast ocean that is the interweb

On Charles Kennedy’s passing…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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June 2nd, 2015 at 1:15 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The National Newspaper House of Commons

The National Newspaper on Twitter 01/06/2015

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

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June 1st, 2015 at 12:47 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No pressure folks…

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May 31st, 2015 at 2:12 pm

Posted in Politics

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On why I don’t automatically support the English at sport…

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England won a thrilling first test at Lords on Monday and usually I’d be dead chuffed but I slumped as I saw New Zealand just about not make it over the line. For you see in this Test series I’m rooting for the Black Caps and not the English and it is isn’t an abnormality and I’ll tell you why.

When Andrew Strauss banged on about ‘brand of cricket’ upon his hire, he hit the nail on the head for me. In all sports I root for various things but the way a person or team plays a sport is a big part of it and that includes personality. In this instance there can be little doubt that New Zealand play a brand of cricket that people the whole world over can get behind. Brendon McCullum can grabbed New Zealand cricket and dragged it forward with an all-out attacking approach and it is great to see. A team that stand as a unit and all buy into what their captain is doing. At the World Cup there was one team you wanted to watch and that was New Zealand because you knew what you were getting – a thrill a minute. He is the only man who when he comes into bat, you stop whatever you are doing to watch and his team follow his example.

Speaking yesterday the New Zealand captain opined about England, ‘What is their style that they want to be known for as a team, heading forward? Was their last performance how they want to play the game, or was it more of a case of maybe stumbling on it?‘ and he’s spot on. So much talk about a revival of English cricket based on this one win but there was a reason for it – when you get drawn into a slug match with New Zealand then the only way you can ever win is it to toe-to-toe with them. Dour plodding cricket that can win you matches but doesn’t win you friends. Lets be honest here as well, England won the first Test but they did so by always bowling in the favourable conditions and in cricket and at Lords – that is a big slice of luck to fall into.

All teams win teams in different ways, Chelsea were one of the most beautiful sides to watch for half a season and then they became pragmatic and less exciting. Still they kept winning. You play to your strengths and to the players that you have available at the time. If England’s best players aren’t attacking gung-ho players then they can’t play like that and win repeatedly. That just isn’t going to happen. The second Test gets under way in just under an hour and a half )weather permitting) at the time of writing and I’ll be fascinated to see if England revert back to type or whether McCullum’s swashbuckling approach will drag them out of their shell. The Ashes are only what, six/seven weeks away and England need to know what their identity is going into a series against the best team in the world.

My stance doesn’t just stop at cricket, for example I was all over the shop watching Goran Ivanisevic beating Tim Henman at Wimbledon in 2001. Goran’s approach and personality was fun to root for and Tim – as nice as he may be – just isn’t someone you can root for based on anything but his nationality. In Formula 1 I always rooted for Senna, then Barrichello and now I quietly root for Alonso and the Ferrari’s and now Vettel has left Red Bull I feel as though I can root for him a bit. I liked Mark Webber when he was the underdog in that team as well. Nothing against Lewis or Jenson but I’ve just never found them that likeable (although I think Jenson was more to do with the fact ITV slobbered all over him when they had the rights – he is clearly a pretty likeable chap now we actually hear about him and not just how amazing he is via James Allen).

In golf I don’t automatically support our players (unless it is the Ryder Cup of course) but if Lefty or the Big Easy are in the mix on Sunday in a major then it is very likely that I’ll be rooting for them. Lefty because of the way he plays and the Big Easy because he is a great player who didn’t get the credit he deserved in his pomp. It is also wel known that I root for old players who were past greats to have on big run at a big title again. Look at when both Ian Woosnam and Tom Watson led The Open going into Sunday, I was pulling for them both to win.

In general though this comes back to a wider issue. Just because I was born here doesn’t mean I feel I should idly support fellow teams and players from these islands. I may be British but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a mind of my own. Many believe that we as a nation need to be more British than we currently are and get back to British values instead of becoming a multicultural society. To those people I shake my head in despair. We are one nation but more importantly we are but one race in a universe full of different ones. We should stand side-by-side and learn from and grow with each other. we are more the same than we are different, so why are some people so intent on forcing divisions and cultural differences when in fact we as a race have far more important issues to deal with than the sense of nationality? That my friends is a question to which I do not have the answer.

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May 29th, 2015 at 8:39 am

Posted in Other Sport,Politics

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On The Rambles of Neil Monnery alternative Queen’s Speech…

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Ah yes I’m sure you’ve watched or at least read about what the government are planning on doing via their official mouth voice – the Queen. Yet what if I was in charge? I’m sure that is something everyone has thought about in the past few days but don’t you worry folks, no more lying in bed tossing and turning about what life would be like under me, I’ll inform you all.

So here is my Queen’s Speech, it may not be as serious as the real thing in parts…

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons, my government will legislate against Dion Dublin being part of the Homes Under The Hammer presenting team. It will be passed into law that Martin Roberts and Lucy Alexander are the only presenters of this stable for the unemployed, students, those who are ill and those who work from home. Speaking about daytime TV we shall also reunite the Working Lunch team from the 1990s to get that show back on the air.

Papi Le Batard will be given his own TV show and not just appear on his son’s, he’ll get a talk show. We will also make it clear to ESPN that Brent Musburger should be restored to his previous position of #1 play-by-play announcer for College Football games on the ESPN/abc family of channels.

(Here is a reason why Papi is amazing – here is a video of him and his son talking about his escape from Cuba)

When it comes to sport, we shall make the Scottish Football League a summer league, allowing it to flourish in a time when there is naff all else on the telly. Tickets for top sporting occasions will also be capped so that clubs and associations cannot excessively profit from the public public. Test cricket will be added to the Crown Jewels list on the proviso of a simulcast with Sky so we can still hear Michael Atherton and Michael Holding. Sky Box Office will cease to exist and all Sky boxing will be added to the standard Sky Sports package.

Looking at Europe and we’ll have closer ties with our European neighbours. We are a multicultural society and we should embrace that. The Isle of Wight will be kicked out of the union and will either become a Tax haven of the rich and famous or a prison colony, the country will have a referendum on this. Wightlink and Red Funnel either way will stop charging insane amounts for such a short journey.

Measures will be introduced to ban Speedo’s from swimming pools and beaches up and down the country because who really wants to see that? The school day will be lengthened to allow children to engage will more activities outside of the curriculum but homework will be abolished.

When it comes to social media, legislation will be put in place that will force companies to ensure that they provide opt-out buttons for all baby pictures and comments about someone and their significant other and how in love they are. Looking at the House of Commons, the dress code will be relaxed so that if Caroline Lucas wants to wear a ‘No more Page 3′ t-shirt then she will be allowed. Suits and so last century.

Two final pieces of legislation, during the southern hemisphere summer, George Calombaris, Gary Mehigan and Matt Preston will be invited over to the United Kingdom to present Masterchef – and do it the way the Aussies do it and finally Dion Dublin will be stopped from elbowing in on Martin & Lucy on Homers Under The Hammer. I know I have already said this but my government has it as a big priority.

So there we go. I might actually write a real alternative QS but also I may not. We’ll see how I feel…

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May 27th, 2015 at 12:02 pm

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On why 16 & 17 year-olds voting in the EU referendum is a no brainer…

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Like duh. This really isn’t too complicated in terms of issues is it? Are people who are old enough tet married or register a civil partnership with consent, drive a moped or invalid carriage, consent to sexual activity with others aged 16 and over, drink wine/beer with a meal if accompanied by someone over 18, get a National Insurance number, join a trade union work full-time if you have left school, get paid the national minimum wage for 16/17 year-olds, join the Armed Forces with parental consent, change name by deed poll, leave home with or without parental consent, choose a GP, consent to medical treatment, buy premium bonds, pilot a glider, buy a lottery ticket, register as a blood donor (but you won’t be called to give blood until you’re 17 and apply for a passport without parental consent then surely you can have a say on the future of the country?

The only real argument against it is that some 16 and 17 year-olds won’t understand the full ramifications of what they are voting for, but do you know what, a lot of adults won’t fully understand the situation either and I include myself in that statement. Very few will understand the full issue but instead they’ll get an overview and make their decision based on the information that they know. That is pretty much how all referendums and elections work.

As a 16 year-old do I think I could have done some Googling (not that Google was the search engine of choice when I was 16, we had Yahoo, Altavista, Lycos and many others, even maybe Ask Jeeves…) but the point remains, I’m sure I could have done some research and made an informed decision to some degree. If people can join the armed forces at such an age then I have zero doubt, let me repeat that, zero doubt, that people of that age should have the right not only to vote in this referendum but also to vote in general. Voting not only helps shape the country but if you old enough to pay taxes to the government then you should have your say on who that government is.

Of course the probability is that younger people voting would help my preferred answer in this referendum as younger people are more broad minded and are thinking about the future and not the past. The younger you are then in general you care more about the economy and less about immigration and that is the reverse of the older generation. Many of them (in my opinion) aren’t thinking about the future and what is best for their kids and grandkids but instead care about the ‘good old days’ and hark back to how things were better back then instead of noticing that the world has moved on – and continues to do so.

I am very much into multiculturalism and believe that this planet should be free for us all to live and work where we please. Many people who were born in the UK have moved elsewhere for work, for love, just for the sake of it and many people do the reverse. The more integrated we get as a society we get then the more tolerant we become. I firmly believe that the older generation are less tolerant for reasons unbeknown to me but I’d hypothesise it is because they got brought up in a different era, the war, the Cold War and the like.

My generation have never worried about the bomb or being invaded and I’m sure if we did then we may think differently. Still the fact is we haven’t and many of us have foreign friends and we aren’t scared about the differences. I lived with a guy of Indian descent at uni and he was great, I’m only ever truly fallen for one person and she was (well still is) Polish, I worked with several Poles and they were great people, even crazy crazy Dangerous D. I’ve worked with Spaniards, people of Malay origin, Portuguese folk, Aussies and I could go on. Who cares if they were born in a different country, should that and that alone determine where they should spend their life?

The world is our oyster and we should all be free to go where we please. Still though just because I think that and I think 16 & 17 year-olds will in the main agree that isn’t why I think they should get the vote. Heck had they gotten the vote earlier this month then things may have been even worse for the Lib Dems but they deserved the vote then and still do today. The young Scots voted in their referendum and got actively engaged in politics because of it and even if I think they made the wrong decision, that isn’t my decision to make, it is there’s and they have the right to make it.

Lastly I keep seeing UKIP members saying about this being a free and fair referendum. It will be so just shut up. David Cameron isn’t going to be stuffing ballot boxes with votes to stay in so just shut up. The country will vote and we’ll deal with the outcome when the countries voice has been heard. I just hope that the voices of 16 and 17 year-olds are included in the countries voice.

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May 25th, 2015 at 8:05 pm

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On caffeine addiction, withdrawal symptoms and energy gaps…

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For over a decade this eejit was a slave to Coca-Cola and I can assure you there are better things to be a slave to than a giant American corporation who are keen on ruining my teeth. In 2010 I went cold turkey and having essentially not drunk anything but carbonated beverages I fought through the withdrawal and saw cherry coke in my rear view mirror. On the upside this change alone knocked off around 800 calories a day (yes I was drinking that much coke) and unsurprisingly this led to losing rapid amounts of weight. It also had other advantages such as the relaxation of night sweats.

Why am I writing about this now? Well a few weeks ago I slipped back into a routine of drinking more cherry coke than I had been. Not to the amounts of before but easily 2-3 cans a day and I had noticed that suddenly I’d become far more lethargic than I had been in a long time. My sleep pattern changed and I’d be going to bed far earlier than usual because I had less energy than I did before and in the afternoons I’d sit trying to work and struggle to keep my eyes open.

Last weekend I was out and I realised that over a 24 hour period all I drunk was coke and I sat there thinking that I was slipping back into old bad habits. So I looked at the cherry coke in the fridge and told myself that it wasn’t moving for a week just to see how my body would react. I haven’t had one energy gap since Monday where I was feeling that I needed a lie down in the afternoon, this is a distinct difference to the previous few weeks. I’ve also started staying awake longer and drifting back into my more regular sleep pattern. Now this does have one downside as previously I had been going to bed far earlier as I had no energy so fell asleep instantaneously, which was nice, but on the other hand I was waking up in the night and early. This week I’ve had solid sleeps every night albeit starting at a later point.

I also had just started to feel the mild headache that I remember from when I was really addicted to caffeine. I recall the days, certainly in the summer, when I’d think that lemonade would be a nice change from coke and then a few hours later having a harsh headache reminding me that I shouldn’t think like that and coke was what my body needed. After a couple of days without it I once more passed through that phase.

Caffeine is surprisingly addictive and whilst I broke the back of the nasty addiction in 2010, it was easy to slip back into old lazy habits and it didn’t take long for the body to notice that caffeine was coming in once more and when it didn’t get any for a day or so it started to remind me. For nearly five years I had found a happy medium, the odd can or the odd bottle here and there if I fancied it. This is how I need to go back to dealing with my relationship with the black bubble stuff. Coke should be a treat and a rarity in my diet and not something that becomes so usual that my body misses it when it is gone.

I’m sure many people have some form of mild caffeine addiction either via carbonated beverages or coffee. The amount of people who say they don’t feel human until after they’ve had a cup of coffee in the morning surprises me but then I look back and think that I used to get up and swing by the fridge to pick up a cold can before I did anything most days, so I can’t exactly say too much about it can I? Still all I’ll say is I am a healthier individual with caffeine broadly on the outside looking in, not just physically but also mentally. It is never fun getting to the afternoon and struggling to keep the eyes open knowing that you actually have work and things to do.

Whilst writing this my mind drifts back to days at a previous employment when I can distinctly remember afternoons, regular afternoons, when I’d sit at my desk and have giant energy gaps where upon I’d really struggle to do anything constructive. I wonder how much of that was down to diet/caffeine because I used to sleep fine and get 7-8 hours a night and I should easily have had the energy to get through the day but could it just be a legacy of the fact I have never eaten breakfast? I’d say no because I still don’t and apart from the past few weeks my daily energy hasn’t been an issue for years.

So for now cherry coke and I are on a break (and I hope it won’t be as dramatic and Ross & Rachel…). In recent weeks I have piled on the pounds so much that when I saw a friend I hadn’t seen in years, my belly was the first thing he commented on (oh the shame…) will just cutting out caffeine stop the rapid development of my belly? Maybe, maybe not but I suspect it certainly won’t harm and if I can easily keep my eyes open all day then I think I’d be getting something worthwhile from knocking the cherry coke on the head.

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Written by neilmonnery

May 24th, 2015 at 7:32 pm

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On the Lib Dem leadership race…

without comments

We have two horses in the starting stalls in the race to rebuild the Liberal Democrat party and they have two very different jockeys saddling up on them. First to clamber on to his horse was Norman Lamb, an MP I didn’t really know. He’s seen as the more ‘Cleggite’ candidate and has the support of Dappy from N-Dubz. Then Tim Farron jumped aboard a horse and was quickly dubbed the favourite. Farron is seen as more receptive to the grass roots but he has questions to answer about his faith in relation his LGBT issues.

He has already come out and said that he regrets abstaining on the final reading of the Same Sex Marriage bill and that the reason was because of minor amendments in the bill and not because he was actually against the principle. In 2012 he wrote about how he believed that God could heal, which also got the membership up in arms as believing in faith and not science doesn’t sit too well with many. I defended him on that to some degree believing that people should be free to believe what they want to believe and Tim clarified his position a couple of days later after everyone attacked him.

Tim is the prohibitive favourite and rightly so. His campaign has been years in the making and he has clearly positioned himself on the centre-left of the party which is where many of the party want the Lib Dems to shift over into. The party whilst not split in two is clearly in two factions, one that believes in being socially left leaning but economically right leaning and those who are left with regards to both. This has led to some people just not dealing with the coalition well at all because any deal with a right-wing party just not sitting well with them no matter the reality of the situation. So the two potential leaders will need to be able to temper both factions if they are going to completely unite the party.

Not knowing Norman too well I was glad that when I turned on the idiot box yesterday morning and he was on the Sunday Politics and boy was I disappointed. He interviewed very poorly and the main thing I got from him was that Tim has questions to answer with regards to his stance on SSM and then he went on about one example of being a good constituency MP, which I don’t think stands him apart from any other Lib Dem MPs. To be a leader I think you have to be able to be comfortable in front of the camera as well as impressive and he just didn’t tick either of those two boxes. I’ll obviously give him another chance but I was turned off rather quickly.

Knowing that most people I know were already backing Tim, I suppose it is just my typical wanting to be different self that meant I hadn’t made up my mind as yet. I think pretty clearly that Tim is the right leader for the current state of play. The party needs to be rebuilt from the bottom up and get the activist base enthused again and that means in general speaking to the liberal base. He will get them engaged and as much as I hate the fact that its true, you need a good speaker and this is something Labour have been hurt by with Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband, neither are impressive nor comfortable on TV and whilst David Cameron isn’t great, he’s passable and of course even those that detest Nick Clegg would admit he’s comfortable and impressive in front of the TV cameras and I think Tim has a clear edge over Norman at this point.

I don’t think it would shock anyone to hear that my ideal leader is Nick Clegg but I think that he had to resign because the country had made it clear what they thought. The party has taken a five-year kicking and whilst I do genuinely think with every passing bill, the country will start missing the Liberal Democrat influence in government, Nick has been very unfairly tarred by his tuition fees stance and leading the party into a coalition. He had to step down not because he wasn’t the best leader we had but because he wasn’t what the party needed nor the country wanted.

Norman has a lot to prove in my opinion if he is to show that he is the right man for the job. Tim is a more than able communicator, will speak to the base more effectively than Norman and seems like the person who is best positioned to not just re-engage the activist base but also engage with the new members and attract back liberal members and voters who deserted the party over the past five years.

This leadership election is about who is best placed to get the activist base up, the councillor base up and in turn get more Lib Dem MPs in five years time and all the while get more people to vote Lib Dem not because they are the least-worst option in a seat but because they believe in the Lib Dems and their values. We found out this year that too much of the Lib Dem vote was borrowed from other parties because they wanted the Lib Dems to beat someone else. This isn’t a good long-term business model. The more people that vote Lib Dem because they want Lib Dem the better and I think Tim is probably the best man for the gig.

I’m not ruling out voting and backing Norman but he is a long-way behind in my mind and the finishing post is fast approaching.

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May 18th, 2015 at 9:43 am

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On Nick Clegg…

with 2 comments

From more popular than Winston Churchill to being less popular than me in Speedo’s. It has been quite the ride for the former leader of the Lib Dems and whilst the country turned against him due to him being an easy target, he should go to bed at night knowing that lives are better because of what he did than what would have happened had he not acted how he did in 2010.

You see I’m a long-term liberal but a short-term member having joined in 2011 during the coalition. I liked Paddy Ashdown (he visited my school in the 1997 General Election campaign but I wasn’t allowed to meet him because I wasn’t deemed important enough), I liked Charles Kennedy, I was indifferent to Sir Menzies Campbell but I loved Nick Clegg. Why was this?

The reason is simple, Nick was a economic realist but a passionate liberal. He did offer something different to what we had seen before. He was a breath of fresh air. You felt that he could take his vision of liberalism and imprint it on to the masses. Most of all you felt that his burning desire to make the world that little bit better was coupled with him just being a bloody good bloke. I am a Nick Clegg guy but I also know that his time had passed thanks to what the electorate did last week.

I know many Lib Dems do not like Nick Clegg and believe going into a coalition government with the Tories was against everything we as a party stood for. I understand their PoV but I vehemently disagree. You can have ideals and a vision but unless enough people back them then you can’t enact them. Instead you have to be pragmatic. I have always said that it is better to do some good when you can than not do any good if you can’t get everything that you want.

The tuition fees issue was disgracefully reported by the media and indeed leapt upon by other political parties. The Lib Dems kinda shot themselves in the foot over it but in reality the Lib Dems would never have realistically been able to stick to that pledge. Both Labour and the Tories knew of the financial situation regarding further education and both would have put up fees so the Lib Dems in another coalition would have had to bring down a government because of it or voted for a rise. Damned either way. Would the country have praised Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems for bringing down a government over this issue at a time of economic instability? I suspect not.

Personally I think Nick grew into the role of being Deputy Prime Minister and his role within the coalition. He did seem ‘too comfortable’ within the first couple of years but his facade was covering lots of work behind the scenes. I’ve heard from multiple sources about the fire fights in Whitehall as the Lib Dems led by Nick threw water on Tory proposals left, right and centre. The party couldn’t win every fight but boy they were putting up quite the fight considering the influence their representation deserved.

The party wasn’t the radical party that Lib Dems believe they are but the party was curbing Tory excesses and getting progress on several real liberal values. The job Nick Clegg and the parliamentary party did was nothing short of miraculous and in time their role in the government of the United Kingdom 2010-2015 will be truly appreciated.

I have no idea what Nick will do next but I personally will always adore his brand of liberalism and near enough everything he did whilst leading the Lib Dems. Could he have done things better? Sure, none of us do everything right, for example I have drunk from 1000s of cans and yet still every so often I miss my mouth and pour coke down my t-shirt. He fought the good fight and was learning from his mistakes but his biggest mistake was believing that the electorate would appreciate the nuance of coalition government. Alas they didn’t. In the next five years we’ll truly find out whether the 2010-2015 government was a centre-right coalition or just a right-wing one propped up by the Lib Dems. The early signs seems to dictate that it was the former.

So whoever takes over as leader, Norman Lamb or prohibitive favourite Tim Farron, they have giant shoes to fill. Nick Clegg led us into government but whilst in two elections he saw a reduction of Lib Dem MPs, he made a difference. He wasn’t just an idealist but also a realist. I want a leader who has a view of liberalism but also has a view of liberalism within the context of the United Kingdom in the early 21st Century. I want someone who’ll fight for what good he can get and not just fight for good for the cameras knowing they he can’t actually deliver.

Nick Clegg was a divisive leader because he wasn’t radical enough. People thought that he should have been more radical and more progressive but he fought for what he could get and not for what he wanted. Do we want to be true to ourselves but get nowhere or do we want to be willing to compromise but actually achieve something? That is a question many of us have to look at ourselves in the mirror and answer.

We can be radical and progressive but also we need to know when to say when. Nick did and without a shadow of a doubt, young pupils have a better start in life thanks to his role in government, people are free to marry who they want, people earn more money before they start paying tax, more people are in work, shared parental leave, two million apprenticeships, the triple lock on pensions and plenty more. We did well. Could we have done better? Sure but everyone could always do better with a mulligan.

So be proud Nick Clegg. You are a great man and were a great leader. You got pilloried by the public and by many other politicians but in time people will realise just how good you were. I can only hope Norman or Tim can carry on the flame and even if they do it in a different way, they can learn a lot from you as a politician but just as much from you as a person.

Finally Nick, thank you for making me believe that the country can become a more liberal and tolerant society. We all have a Utopian vision but you were the first leader to actually make a step towards that and for that, I’m grateful and so should we all.

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Written by neilmonnery

May 14th, 2015 at 1:09 pm

Posted in Politics

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On the Liberal Democrats difficult teenage years and trying to get dates and positive attention…

with 3 comments

So you are essentially the early 20-something who has just finished university and moved home and isn’t exactly sure what the future holds. You’ve been the spotty kid that no-one really liked but importantly no-one really disliked either. Then briefly in 2010 everyone noticed you as you had found some excellent spot cream and were looking all fresh and exciting. The watching world had become bored with the usual options and they wanted to try something new.

One problem though, people agreed to go on a date with you and suddenly you weren’t all fresh faced and new and instead you turned out to be a bit of a douche who went back on his word the first time you met and reminded you of those you had dated before and had decided to move on from. So you got ditched quicker than most people ditch the pointless salad that comes with a Burger in a cafe and everyone was bad mouthing you and no-one would hang out with you except your own kind, the thing is your own kind seemed to disappear into the ether as well.

You then went through university dateless with no-one wanting to even listen to you let alone be seen in public with you. People drifted to other potential beaus and remembered the douchebags they had been with before might not have been that much of a douchebag after all. The people that got so paranoid that they went to war suddenly didn’t seem so bad and the people that hated the poor might not really have hated the poor and might be better than you remembered.

Then suddenly new kids arrived and they were really fresh faced and they were saying things that you really wanted to hear, more half priced drinks at the student bar that someone else would pay for, no need for homework and the promise that the library porn filters would be taken down between certain hours during the day. It sounded amazing and everyone wanted to hang around with them instead of you.

Towards the end of the course people started noticing you more. You weren’t a spotty kid that didn’t know what you were doing any more. You could unfasten a girls bra with one hand and you’d been having around with the bad kids but you had been rubbing off on them and they were still eating copious amounts of pheasant but they were doing it in private instead of eating it right in front of those who couldn’t afford it and their plan to put keyloggers on all the library computers was stopped by you and one stern look.

You had made them better people and wanted to keep hanging out with them because you could curb their arseholeness but people didn’t think you were the reason they stopped acting like douches and decided that instead of hanging around with you, they would shun you to teach you a lesson about growing up and for not acting exactly how they thought you would on that first date several years before.

As university ended and you went home you were surprised how many people missed you. People started to get in contact who had thought you were awful throughout university but realised that they hadn’t given you a proper chance after that one bad date. You got in touch with a lot of your friends from around the country and they were reporting back something similar. Lots of people seemed to be giving similar people more of a chance and wanted to hang out with you more. You hoped that this would continue and people would listen to you and not just dismiss you out of hand for something you did years ago.

People understood that you weren’t the spotty kid to ignore any more but also you weren’t the lying toe-tag that everyone actually thought you were. You were just like them, growing up and were now someone to speak to and listen to and to generally hang out with. No-one is in love with you but those you thought hated you seemingly started to realise that you weren’t as bad as what everyone had said. You had taken your knocks and had grown up. You were still trying to find your place in the world but instead of being down and out and fearing for the future, you were enthused that the future could still be positive and things would get better.

Long story short folks. The Lib Dems are not just the party of protest any more. The Lib Dems have been a party of government and have made difficult decisions. The time is now for people to talk about the liberal philosophy as an ideal to aspire to. It isn’t solely about being ‘Labour-lite’ or ‘Socially Labour but Economically Tory’ – it is about giving people actual options. People shouldn’t vote for the Lib Dems because ‘they are the best placed to stop a party we really don’t like’ – we need to inform people about what a liberal future could be. I think many people understand this now and if the party are ever going to play a role in national government again then it’ll have to be because people want a liberal way and aren’t just voting against somebody else.

The Lib Dems have gone through their very difficult teenage years and many people didn’t like us but as adults people look less at how we were as children or as teenagers but how we act as adults. It is time to be proud of growing up. Over 8,000 people have joined the Lib Dems in the past few days because they actually believe in a liberal way to make their area a better place, do you want to join them? If so then click on the link and join the 50,000+ people who want to make this country a better place for all and not just for those in society who we think vote for us.

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Written by neilmonnery

May 12th, 2015 at 10:53 am

Posted in Politics

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