The Rambles of Neil Monnery

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

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

I’m not one of them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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June 29th, 2015 at 1:15 pm

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On Lib Dem excuses…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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June 25th, 2015 at 10:30 am

Posted in Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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June 9th, 2015 at 10:29 am

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On Charles Kennedy’s passing…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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June 2nd, 2015 at 1:15 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The National Newspaper House of Commons

The National Newspaper on Twitter 01/06/2015

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

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June 1st, 2015 at 12:47 pm

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On the Lib Dem leadership race…

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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…

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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.

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

May 14th, 2015 at 1:09 pm

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

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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

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On the Lib Dem (and other parties) record on gay rights and equal marriage…

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Equal marriage. Something that has recently come about and an issue that is still causing some ramifications across various western democracies. Some people are concerned that by allowing people of the same sex to marry that it is an affront to God.

The bible states that a marriage is between a man and a women is two places. Genesis 2:24, ‘Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh’ and Matthew 19:4-5 where Jesus said, ‘Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one?’

Yeah. A book of stories from 2,000 plus years ago really has any resemblance to modern day life. As if. At best the bible should be an indicator of living a good life but anyone who takes it literally word for word is someone I worry about.

You see I have a very simple outlook on life. Some may say too simple. I simply think that people should be allowed to live their lives in a way that would make them the most happy as long as your actions don’t effect anyone else’s happiness. If what someone does doesn’t effect another then who are we to say that they shouldn’t act like that? A man marrying another man or a woman marrying another woman effects no-one negatively. It doesn’t anger the big man (should he exist, which in all likelihood he doesn’t) because should he exist, then he wants to see his children happy.

This brings me to this video. Two Lib Dems, who I may or may not have met at Conference (I think I have but I wouldn’t put a lot of money on it – I can’t remember) put together the following embedded video about equal marriage. They got married and seem excessively happy for having done so.

Equal marriage was something the Lib Dems have been positive about for a long time and something the party should be very proud of. They brought in legislation (that wouldn’t have happened had the party not been in coalition) that hasn’t harmed anyone and instead has just brought happiness to some. It is essentially legislation with no feasible drawbacks. Yes some people will say its immoral but in all honesty, does it effect them and their lives in any tangible way if two people of the same sex get married? Of course it doesn’t. That’s absolute tripe.

So watch the below video about the recent history of gay people and how their lives have intertwined with the political parties. It is something that I think it is very fair to say is a real tick for the Lib Dems. I know they aren’t flavour of the month for many because of tuition fees and because they couldn’t stop everything the Tories wanted to do but instead of concentrating on what the party didn’t do in government, concentrate on the positive things and this is one of them. Two people are happier than they would have been without equal marriage legislation.

Isn’t that what life is all about? It is hard enough to find happiness in this world without some people’s ill-conceived prejudices. So good on the Lib Dems for pushing forward with legislation to help make people happy. Marriage is not about God but is about two people wanting to show their loved ones that they are in love. More people now have that freedom than they did before and that can’t be a bad thing…

You can read all the text from the video here.

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April 28th, 2015 at 6:25 pm

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On Lord Ashcroft Polling, Iain Dale’s Predictions & Odds – Sheffield Hallam Special Edition

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STOP THE PRESSES. The Big Cheese is going down. After a dramatic new poll Nick Clegg’s defeat in Sheffield Hallam is all but certain. Yes in the biggest shock since me going through a whole Marks & Spencer food shop without anyone looking down on me, Clegg is going down in one of the most affluent constituencies in the country to a Labour Party who aren’t even campaigning, are generally hated in that part of the country and aren’t trusted to run the economy. You’d have thought well-off people would care about this kind of thing but apparently not. Go unknown guy whose standing for Labour, your dreams are coming true.

This though relies on a poll of 1001 people and takes into account some ‘interesting’ findings the closer you look into it. I have looked deep into the Lord Ashcroft polling several times in recent weeks and I find that the deeper you look, the more information you get that doesn’t back-up the headline numbers.

For example, they are using the understanding that 23% of the electorate will be over 65 compared to 17% in the 18-24 age-range. We all know that the retired age range vote far more than younger people and of course they have a much large expanse of ages to come from. The likelihood that the 18-24 age range provides 75% of the votes compared to over 65 is low. It is much more likely that the retired generation will at least double the amount of votes that the 18-24 age range provides. Why is this important?

Well the 65+ age range is the best for Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems, 47% of 65+ year-olds in this poll say that will vote for the Lib Dems compared to 23% who say this will vote for Labour. This isn’t a surprise as the older generation will remember the days when Labour were really disliked in these parts. The 18-24 age range has Labour up big (49-17) and if you look at that data list, you’ll see that the older you are, the more likely it is you’ll vote LD and the less likely it is you’ll vote Labour. This is very good news for the big cheese.

Another surprise in the polling is that men are more likely to vote Labour than women. This goes against the popular theory that women are more likely to lean Labour than men but actually backs up Lib Dem internal polling that says that women are coming back into the fold at a faster rate than men. This is thought to be because women look more logically at where to place their vote and less emotionally. Men feel betrayed by Clegg and the Lib Dems and refuse to consider them more than women, who whilst feeling betrayed are more willing to give them a second chance.

One last thing to note from this poll – the vast majority of respondents believe that the economy is on the right track at the moment. 75% of people believe the economy will do very well or quite well over the course of the next year for them and their families. This again looks good for Clegg as he’s part of the reason the economy is going the way it is.

So whilst the politicos and the twitterati and of course journalists are all looking at the headline number and getting a little bit too excited, not all the facts support the headline results.

Lets look at what Iain Dale has to say on Sheffield Hallam…

Sitting MP: Nick Clegg (LibDem)
Prediction: LibDem hold

This used to be a Tory seat, but it would take a political earthquake for them to take it off Nick Clegg. Interestingly the Labour vote has started to rise, but not enough to cause the LibDems to panic. Yet. If the LibDems are obliterated, then Clegg will probably be obliterated too, but if they retain around half their seats, this ought to be one of them. Or will there be a Clegg effect, which means the LibDems will fare worse here than elsewhere.

So Iain is sticking with the Lib Dem hold line and that seems to be a constant throughout most people who are actually predicting the seat. I did read a post earlier that was dated just a couple of weeks back that said this was a genuine three-way marginal and the Tories were in play. Boy and some people think I have tinted specs…

Betfair still have the Lib Dems as the favourite at a 60% chance to win the seat with Labour on 37%. This is a high number for Labour and takes into account very much the headline numbers from the latest LA poll. However when it comes to the actual odds, the Lib Dems and Clegg are still sitting at shorter than 1/2 at most places with Labour edging in towards 6/4. I have to say there are far better 6/4 shots around in this election than putting your money down on a Labour win here. I remember Julian Huppert at 9/2 to hold in Cambridge and you can’t even get him at evens any more…

All the talk on the front line is that Nick is looking good. Labour are putting up a skeleton campaign and the Tories aren’t going hard after Clegg believing that their time and money are best used in genuine marginals. Nick is having to work harder than many expected and his margin of victory will drop considerably. Yet still the polling and those who get excited about Nick’s potential defeat in Hallam keeps this story in the news. I genuinely wonder why. If you are looking for a big wig to go down then look at Danny Alexander, Caroline Lucas, Alex Salmond, Nigel Farage, they are all a far better chance at losing than Nick Clegg.

Still I could be wrong and the affluent people of Sheffield Hallam are going to vote for a party that wants to crush well-off people just to spite Nick Clegg. It could happen but I could also open a packet of M&S Triple Chocolate Cookies and not eat the whole packet in one sitting. Both are as likely as each other.

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

April 1st, 2015 at 2:09 pm

Posted in Politics

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