The Rambles of Neil Monnery

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Archive for the ‘lib dems’ tag

On tuition fees and how the Tories and Labour both love this issue…

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Oh tuition fees. The millstone around the neck of the Lib Dems. We all know what happened. The Lib Dems pledged not to vote for an increase in tuition fees. They then joined in a coalition and part of the deal was tuition fees would go up. Everyone got mad and hated Nick Clegg and his party and then they voted en masse to evict the party from parliament in 2015.

Everyone rejoiced. The Lib Dems were cast in the wilderness and it allowed the Tories to seek a hard line right-wing agenda. You see there are many universal truths but one is that people don’t care if others are arseholes. They just don’t want those they trusted to betray them.

For example, we all know about the bad boy stereotype. Some women gravitate towards bad boys. They know exactly what they are getting into. The highs will be high but the lows will be low. He’ll wine and dine them but suddenly not be available when needed. This is the the Conservative Party is a nutshell. We all know what they are like but we’ll let them get away with a lot because we knew what they are like.

When the Lib Dems joined with the Tories to provide a strong and stable government. Yes I used those adjectives on purpose. It was like the Lib Dems were a bad boy but we thought they were one of the good ones. We didn’t like the fact that they pretended to be a good boy and turned out to be bad. So to punish them we took them to sling their hook and got together with that bad boy once again. We know they’ll screw us over but so be it, better to be screwed over by someone we knew was going to screw us over, right?

I used the word screw three times in a sentence. I don’t think that is good English.

So even though the Tories were the driving force behind putting up tuition fees, they skated free on the issue because we knew what they were. The electorate expected them to do bad things and as long as they do what we thought they were going to do, we are happy to let them do it. Tuition fees was a huge win for the Tories and it was also a huge win for Labour.

Labour were able to act all pious, forgetting the fact it was Labour who first introduced and then trebled tuition fees when they held massive majorities and weren’t a junior partner in a coalition. The media swept that under the carpet. No-one needs to know political history. Instead they decided to was time for Lib Dem pinata as they were an easy target. The fact the Lib Dems put more of their manifesto into law than the Tories did was a mere footnote. n one issue they were forced into a u-turn and that was enough for five years of lazy journalism before all but three national newspapers endorsed another Tory-Lib Dem coalition.

Yeah.

So after five years of saying how terrible the Lib Dems were, editors and media owners were all saying, ‘you know what, we were a bit harsh on the Lib Dems, they actually did a pretty good job and kept the Tories in check. They weren’t so bad. Maybe if they did this for another five years it wouldn’t be so bad. Honest.’

Even today the BBC News had two headline stories on the Lib Dem manifesto. One was on the Brexit Referendum (fair enough) and the other was the fact the Lib Dems weren’t calling for tuition fees to be culled. So one of the two stories was about something not in the manifesto. Why did the BBC decide to run this story? Is it because it was pertinent to today’s news? God no. It was all to do with lazy and easy journalism. The media had built up a narrative about the party. Just attack the Lib Dems for tuition fees. People like that story and aren’t sick of it so its an easy win.

You see these days journalism isn’t about getting to the heart of the matter. Not about finding out the truth. It is about getting eyeballs and page clicks. Give the people what they want. People want to say the Lib Dems are bad so lets give them that. If like me you often watch old episodes of Mock The Week on Dave when falling asleep, you’ll see the comedians falling over themselves to make Lib Dem/Nick Clegg jokes. It was easy and would get laughs. The fact many of them are naturally not exactly right-wing had to get thrown away. Easy laughs above personal feelings.

Now we have a right-wing government that is only going to drift further right. The reason for this is the media have decided we know what the Tories are so just leave them to it. Smash the Lib Dems because it is funny. Attack Jeremy Corbyn because he’s different and there we have it. So simple. So easy. It reinforces what the public think and the more those thoughts get reinforced then the more people’s opinions will get hardened.

The Tories loved tuition fees because it allowed the media and public to go off on the Lib Dems. Labour loved tuition fees because it allowed them to pick up Lib Dem voters. The fact it allowed the Tories to pick up more than them is by-the-by. They didn’t care. As long as they crushed the party that dared become part of a government then who cares what happens next?

Tuition fees was a small issue in the Lib Dem manifesto which was blown out of all proportion because both the major parties thought it would help them long term. Are people right to be angry over the tuition fees issue? Sure. I can’t tell people how to feel and what to be mad over but all I would say did you vote for a political party based solely on one aspect of their manifesto?

If you did then fair enough. I’d prefer to read through all the manifestos to find which party would overall do what I think would be best. Do I agree with every single aspect of the 2017 Lib Dem manifesto? No. No I don’t but I won’t say that because one paragraph goes against what I think, I’ll sit on my hands or vote for someone else. That seems very short-sighted. I know of a Lib Dem member who calls himself a passionate saboteur and cares deeply about stopping Brexit, who is considering voting Tory because the Lib Dems want to legalise cannabis. I mean really…?

Political parties stand on a wide and varied platform. If they win, they’ll attempt to get as much of that manifesto done as they can. Sometimes they fall short on many issues but just because they don’t tick every box, it doesn’t mean they are awful and untrustworthy. Yet if you listen to the narrative that is true of the Lib Dems and tuition fees. It isn’t true of the Tories or Labour because well, who cares? Lib Dems are untrustworthy and the media keep reminding us of that so it must be true.

The media allow the Tories and to a lesser degree Labour fall short of manifesto pledges because it won’t fan the flames as much. Tuition fees was an easy open goal for five years. The fact they are still going to that well in 2017 says everything about the media. They want two party politics. It makes their lives so much easier. The quicker they can get rid of the SNP, Plaid Cymru, Greens and the Lib Dems the better. As for the medias view of UKIP, it is similar to the Lib Dems, they are an easy open goal so happy to keep going to that well. UKIP bring eyeballs and clicks. That is all they care about these days…

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May 17th, 2017 at 1:02 pm

On the Lib Dems being 3/1 to beat Kate Hoey and win Vauxhall…

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They’ll be a multitude of interesting individual seat contests up and down the United Kingdom over the next few weeks but one that will really show just how big of an issue Brexit is will be in Vauxhall. A seat where the sitting MP Kate Hoey has called her own since winning a 1989 by-election and one which has never been represented by any other party since its creation for the 1950 General Election.

So why is it one of the Lib Dem target seats? Well quite simply because this is the barometer of whether politics is fundamentally changing or not. As we saw after the Scottish Referendum vote, voters habits changed and they became more engaged on the top of the ticket issue, in their case whether Scotland should be independent or not. This led to the SNP sweeping to widespread gains across the country in 2015.

If the same is to happen in the UK, people stopping looking at the issues like the NHS, Education and the like and are focused on what will happen regarding our future relations with the European Union then this is the type of area where you need to be Pro-European and that is certainly not something that can be said of Kate Hoey.

The moment you campaign alongside Nigel Farage then you’ve pretty much nailed your colours to the mast with regards to your feelings on that front. She was out of step with the vast majority of her constituents. Vauxhall resides in the London district of Lambeth and that district voted 79% to Remain in the EU with 21% voting to leave. That is a pretty big difference of opinion on the big issue between an MP and the people who vote for her.

This is why it is going to be one of the most interesting seats to be fought at the 2017 General Election. The early money though seems to be on Kate Hoey winning her seat back. The Lib Dems opened at 15/8 to take the seat on the Betfair Sportsbook and have since drifted to 3/1. On PaddyPower they are 2/1 and SkyBet have them at the shortest price of 6/4. Even at the best price though, 3/1 is amazing considering she has a 12,000 majority, the seat has never voted anything but Labour and the Lib Dems were beaten and kicked into fourth place just two years ago.

It will be one of the seats also where Labour are fighting and the challenger will not use Jeremy Corbyn as a weapon to attack them with. This will be a very localised and specialised campaign linking Hoey with UKIP. The posters going out already are a testament to that.

They say a day is a long time in politics but two years is a lifetime. Personally I have Kate Hoey as the slight favourite with the Lib Dems closing in. I think SkyBet have the prices about right but as momentum builds this could be a squeaker so 3/1 is a value bet. The Lib Dems revival will start in London. I don’t see anywhere else where they’ll gain a seat they didn’t hold going into 2015 (Montgomeryshire and Oxford West and Abingdon are likely the most likely seats outside of London with a chance of a gain of a non 2015 held seat) but this is of course the great unknown. In fact I’m ready to pile into the Oxford West and Abingdon market if the price is good. I have a very good feeling about that seat but I digress.

Vauxhall will be where the line in the sand is drawn. If Kate Hoey holds on then Brexit and the EU will likely not tip the balance of how we perceive politics but if she goes down then all bets are off and we are in a bold new era of politics.

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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April 25th, 2017 at 9:11 am

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On Tim Farron and his gay sex issue…

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Oh dear. Here we go again. It is like waking up in the morning only to find that you are in Groundhog Day (or to use a much cooler reference Window of Opportunity – Stargate SG1) and instead of hitting golf balls billions of miles through a wormhole or learn how to make pottery, once more my twitter timeline is full of conversation about Tim Farron’s thoughts on gay people. Sigh.

I have two points of view on this, the first is Tim has made a rod for his own back by constantly fudging the answer when he is asked. His voting record is superb on all these issues and he clearly has no intention of using his own personally held beliefs (whatever they are) to sway what he thinks the right thing to do is in the modern world. This I find is a grown-up way of doing things. Other people may have differing beliefs but they can all live their lives as they see fit because those differently held beliefs do not interfere with other peoples lives. Pretty simple no?

The second point of view is clearly the political one. Everyone saw this coming when Tim was running for the leadership of the party. I was told by several Christian Lib Dems that his personal beliefs should not ever be questioned and by doing so, it was morally reprehensible. The only issue with that is that isn’t the way the world works. If you are running for high political office then your personal beliefs are going to be something the media and the electorate will want to know, even if those beliefs don’t influence how you do your job. That is just the way it is. It might not be right. It might not be fair but tough shit.

Politically this should have been a non-story but instead the party (and really Tim himself) is allowing it to get oxygen and stay in the news cycle. When the leaders personal opinions of gay sex is the top story instead of the parties new membership figures or the policies for this upcoming General Election then there is a problem. This question was always going to come up. Always. Everyone knew it and bloody hell, he’s been leader since 2015, they’ve had time to sit down and actually find out what the answer is.

Personally speaking I couldn’t give a damn what Tim’s personal beliefs are and neither should anyone. If he votes for more gay rights and brings up issues within that community and stands up for them then that is all that should matter. Yet in politics that isn’t really the be all and end all.

The party broke the 100,000 member barrier today but all I’m reading is how Tim decided not to answer that question from Sky Television. That is what is getting the air play. No matter how clear you are with wavering voters or even wavering supporters with data showing how tim has voted, they’ll see and hear the sound bites and their fears will not be placated. This was a damaging story last week but instead of it being put to bed, it will stay for at least one more news cycle.

I’m 99.9% sure Tim Farron isn’t homophobic. All the data points to the fact he isn’t but if I were a floating voter and I only saw his clips where he’s been asked it on the news in recent days then I really wouldn’t know what to think.

This story takes away from the really important issues. To be honest the press should also be asking the same questions of other significant politicians. Theresa May herself has a much worse voting record on bills that are intended to make things better for the LGBT community. Yet I haven’t heard her being asked her personal thoughts on this subject. Maybe it is because it isn’t as easy and she hasn’t opened herself up to criticism on that front. Whether that is on the media or on her political savvyness is up for debate.

Still here we are. About to embark on what is in all likelihood the last chance to stop a fully fledged hard Brexit from the European Union that could cripple the country for generations and the big Pro-EU party are still floundering about this instead of leading the debate on the EU. As we saw in Richmond Park, where we stick to the script and get the narrative on our playing field we can win. If we can’t then this will be a truly golden opportunity derailed due to an issue that should not be hard to resolve.

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April 24th, 2017 at 4:16 pm

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On the Lib Dems continuing strong support in London – at 20% in latest poll

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Last month I wrote about how the Lib Dems were at 23% in the London sub section of a YouGov Poll. Well today I’ve seen another YouGov poll breakdown and even though the numbers are ever so slightly worse for the party, it shows that there is a real consolidation of support for Tim Farron’s lot within the capital city and that it wasn’t just a rogue. You can see the chart below.

YouGov Poll – April 2017

The sense of opportunity to rebuild the base of the party in London town seems to be one that has been created by the EU Referendum. It also goes towards my hardening belief that the way we define ourselves is changing. Many people for years would have defined themselves along party lines more than ideologically. These days people are starting to define themselves by how they feel about our relationship with our European neighbours. In areas where the majority of people voted to Remain then these people will be far more inclined to come over and put their x’s in the boxes next to Liberal Democrat candidates then they would be had the European question not been first and foremost in their mind.

This of course doesn’t mean that in areas where the majority voted to Leave the European Union should be barren wastelands for the party. We have seen many huge swings in local by-elections
towards the Lib Dems in places which wouldn’t seem like natural Lib Dem territory based on the EU question. Just last week the Lib Dems took a seat off of UKIP. How can an area vote UKIP and then Lib Dem? Well that all comes down to who the motivated voters are and this is part of something I’ll get into more detail on at some other point in the near future.

My main point of this blog is that London is now in a bizarre situation where three political parties could all compete in many seats. There are still areas where the Lib Dems are not strong, this would in turn lead us to extrapolate that there are places where support is significantly beyond the 20% polling average across the Big Smoke.

I have heard of canvass data coming in, in areas which wouldn’t be considered natural Lib Dem territory which if replicated at the ballot box would be mind blowing. The next three years until 2020 will be fascinating to watch to see how Brexit impacts people. At the moment you have one set of people who think it’ll make their lives so much better and another group who believe it’ll make it so much worse. The probability is it won’t be as extreme as either set of people think but if jobs move out of the financial sector and London becomes less diverse then this will surely be a huge part of the Lib Dem platform in the capital.

Opportunity knocks for the party and from where it stood after what happened in 2015, I don’t think anyone really thought the party would be in a position to recover for a generation. Yet here we are. The party stands for something (not just to hold the Tories back) and when the party stands for something and the race to be Prime Minister seems to be less a race but more a foregone conclusion, it allows people to not only vote at the ballot box for the person they want to be PM (which they often do in close elections) but more about who best would represent their views and ideals.

Huge swathes of London wanted to stay in the EU. The Conservative party want to run out of the EU and Labour kinda sorta want to stay but if people say they want to leave then that is fine too. So we have three parties with two very strong points of view on this issue and one whose view changes with the wind (or the audience) and that means people will have a pretty clear choice.

21 months ago I thought the Lib Dems winning 20 seats across the country in 2020 would be a realistic aim. Today winning 20 seats in London seems like a stretch, a real stretch but do you know what? It isn’t just a pipe dream…

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April 11th, 2017 at 4:09 pm

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On Nick Clegg, timing and the chance of a political comeback…

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Oh what could have been…

I didn’t watch last nights Question Time Brexit Special because well, I tend to not watch Question Time in general but also a mate popped over to catch up. In fact in the past five years I’ve only seen one regular episode (when it was from Portsmouth after the government had given the two new aircraft carriers to a Scottish dockyard) but anyway I digress. I woke up this morning and was scrolling through my time line. One thing struck me (apart from a fellow SIAD grad and a football commentator reminding me of the fact Michael Gove existed and that Sarah Vine wakes up next to him daily, for which I am still traumatised) and that was that people are missing Nick Clegg. I’m not surprised.

If you go back through this very blog you’ll see numerous blurbs from me extolling the virtues of the MP for Sheffield Hallam. I make no bones about it. I agree with Nick. I did then, I do now and I pretty much have done so for the vast majority of the times in-between. The fact he unfollowed me on twitter hasn’t lessened my feelings towards the man (but the fact I’m bringing it up shows it is still galling…)

The thing is had things been different. Lets say Chris Huhne had become leader of the Lib Dems instead of Nick when they faced off against each other. Or had say Gordon Brown not said what he did with a hot mic about Gillian Duffy. Had the Greek economy not collapsed several days before the 2010 UK General Election. Had Lib Dem Conference done what Nick wanted to got rid of the pledge about tuition fees (because Nick knew in any coalition talks that was a big obstacle to overcome). Had the instant poll after the second leaders debate put Clegg ahead of Cameron by 1% instead of the other way round. Had just one of these things gone the other way then in all likelihood history will have been very different. Not just for Clegg personally but also for the country and the Lib Dems. Fine margins…

In my (albeit) brief lifetime (ok I am in my mid 30s now – eek) there have been two truly inspirational politicians in the UK. One was Tony Blair and the other is Nick Clegg. Whether you like them or their politics, they were the two people that you could see were a) natural leaders but more importantly b) had the potential to be great.

Blair’s legacy will forever be tarnished by Iraq and people forget that those Labour governments were not bad. They won three landslide elections on the spin (including one after the Iraq War) for a reason. Not just because the Tory party kept finding leaders who couldn’t lead their way out of a paper bag or inspire people but because the general quality of life was getting better for many people.

For Clegg his legacy will be tied to tuition fees and a pledge he was fully committed to had he been Prime Minister but one he knew he couldn’t deliver in coalition. I have spent many calories typing away words about the difference between having a majority government and being a junior partner in the coalition but those words fell flat. Raw anger won and logic became something to be spoken about in hushed corners fearing that the mob would overhear.

Then 2015 happened. Most political pundits expected the Lib Dems to once again hold the balance of power. Ed Miliband was as hopeless a leader as expected and couldn’t deliver a Labour victory whilst the rest of the country decided they hated the coalition government so much that they would punish the junior party in that coalition. Let the Tories be free to do what they wanted is what people cried as they buried the Lib Dems with a hearty laugh and a cheer as they walked away from the ballot boxes.

Nick Clegg did the only thing he could, fall on his sword. The country had spoken and instead of another five years taming the right-wing Euro-sceptic part of the Conservative party. He would become a backbencher and watch as they dragged the government away from where most people actually wanted them to be. He would refuse a part in Tim Farron’s initial cabinet as he either felt like he had to lick his wounds or thought he was just too toxic. Then the EU Referendum came and things changed. The Cleggster was unleashed and he had that swagger back.

When people ask me who I would like to see as leader of the Lib Dems and Prime Minister it won’t surprise you as to my answer. Yet I know deep down that sadly that will never be the case. Tuition fees is a millstone around that neck and even though plenty of worse things are going on in government (both then and now) too many people would point to that one thing. It saddens me greatly that a man who could have been one of the great leaders of the world (yes I know some just spit out their cup of tea at that notion but I stand by it) will never have the opportunity to fulfil his potential.

For now though he’s become arguably the most articulate politician of the Anti-Brexit coalition. Tim Farron has been a clear and strong voice for it. Ken Clarke has been fighting from within and has shown deep courage in his convictions. Nicola Sturgeon is trying to use it as a lever to get an independent Scotland but Nick Clegg just gets it. He still has it. Put Clegg in a situation where people only listen to words with an open mind and no preconceived ideas then he’s the greatest asset the Anti-Brexit coalition has – by far.

The problem is though is that a situation enough people put themselves in? I fear not but after nigh on two years out of the limelight and out of the daily grind of the newspapers and comedians using him as their favourite low fruit punching bag then maybe the toxicity is evaporating. Will it ever happen to the degree that he could either lead the party again or potentially have a roll to play in a future coalition or Lib Dem government? I doubt it (and lets be honest – we have no idea if he wants to stand again in 2020 when he surely has a plethora of offers out there).

This is why I often look at things like timing and see it as so important. Not just in this example but in life for all of us. Sometimes opportunities come along at the right time but also sometimes the right thing happens but at the wrong time. Sometimes events conspire for you, sometimes against you. Had Nick Clegg not been leader of the Lib Dems in 2010 or been Deputy Prime Minister in a coalition government and was now the fresh faced face of the Anti-Brexit movement, I suspect that movement would have its inspirational leader and that ball wouldn’t just be rolling, it would be gathering pace at a vast rate of knots.

I’ll leave you with these two questions:

Who would you trust to get the best deal for the UK in any Brexit negotiations, David Davis or Nick Clegg?

Who would you prefer to see as our Foreign Minister, Boris Johnson or Nick Clegg?

I suspect the answer is Clegg – to both.

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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March 28th, 2017 at 2:07 pm

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On what could happen if George Galloway jumps into the Manchester Gorton by-election…

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All bets as they say would be off.

I am on the record elsewhere as saying I think the Lib Dems will end up at around 3/1 to make the impossible possible and take one of Labour’s safest seats away from them. It would be one of the most sensational by-election swing in modern political history but as it stands they’ll probably fall short. Yet if George Galloway decides he wants to muddy the waters…

In a piece entitled George Galloway may enter race to become Gorton MP in the Guardian over the weekend, a ‘source close to George Galloway’ stated that he was considering standing but had actually been on the campaign trail for three weeks. He believes according to the source that the constituency fits in perfectly with his political beliefs and that, ‘You’re looking at the perfect demographics – big Asian working class community, relatively poor. I think he thinks he can represent their feelings and aspirations.’

Of course should he jump into the race suddenly people will start to paw over just what happened when he swept to a stunning Bradword West by-election win in 2012. He used the turmoil within the local Labour party to his advantage and lets us just look at the local Labour party in Manchester Gorton. Are they in turmoil? Well I think the answer to that would be yes, yes they are.

Now demographically the seat is slightly different to Bradford West but they do share some similarities due to the significant Asian population. The difference seems to be there doesn’t seem (from the outside looking in anyway) the tension that was apparent in Bradford West. This would make it harder for Galloway to use the same tactics as successfully should he decide to run at Manchester Gorton.

What would definitely happen should he throw his hat into the ring is all hell would break loose. The by-election would be played on a different playing field. In all likelihood Labour and Galloway would go at each other and take their eye off the ball. The Lib Dems are already up and running in the seat and their first leaflet shows Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn together in front of 10 Downing Street trying to show that they are arm in arm on Brexit. This is a clear attempt to follow the Richmond Park strategy of this by-election primarily over the consequences of leaving the EU. It worked last year but could it work again in a seat that whilst voting Remain, didn’t do so in the numbers that Richmond Park did?

This is the big question that people are unsure of. Of course one key difference is that in Manchester Gorton the incumbent was a Labour MP. An extremely popular one. Yet in the national polls Labour as a party continue to at best stagnate and in general drop a point or two as Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership continues to stumble along. This would be the first Labour/Lib Dem battle since the end of the coalition and the EU Referendum. It is a free hit for the Lib Dems. They have nothing to lose and a good showing (anything 30%+) would be scary for Labour knowing that they are suddenly in danger of losing many of their Lib Dem gains from 2015.

When it was clear we’d have a by-election I thought that Labour would win but with a severely reduced majority. This makes sense considering in 2005 and 2010 the Lib Dems had very good showings but like it did near enough everywhere, their vote collapsed in 2015. Labour are in the weeds and the Lib Dems suddenly are not as toxic as they once were. Still winning Manchester Gorton should be a step too far unless Labour are totally done.

Yet if George Galloway does get involved then the current 7/1 you can get around on the Lib Dems seems like an incredible price. For the punters it is very much a speculative bet hoping that Galloway makes it official and the price will drop dramatically. You could probably just cash-out for a quick profit. For those looks beyond the odds though, if Galloway is in this then expect the Lib Dem machine to go from being interested to going into Richmond Park to find that kitchen sink they threw at winning that seat and bundling it in the back of a van to go up the M6 and throw it at Manchester Gorton.

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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March 14th, 2017 at 11:40 am

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On whether the Lib Dems can pull of the shock win in Manchester Gorton…

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Manchester Gorton is one of Labour’s safest seats if we look solely at the numbers. A majority of over 24,000 coupled with none of the other parties clearing 10% means that is any normal by-election, it wouldn’t really interest politicos. Yet we don’t live in a normal political era anymore and anything can happen.

One of the biggest reasons it was so safe came down to having an extremely popular and long-time MP. As we saw in 2015 for the Lib Dems, popularity and incumbency couldn’t save a plethora of MPs but this wasn’t a problem for Labour here. Sir Gerald Kaufman never had a majority of under 5,000 and never was truly challenged by the Lib Dems. He never even dipped below 50% of the vote. Yet here I am with writing a blog post with the title it has so I suppose I should explain why.

First things first, politics is changing and as I’ve said before as people we are less likely to identify with our ideology at the moment but are more likely to identify with our status on the EU Referendum. Are we remainers of leavers first and foremost? I know I’d still identify as liberal above being a remainer but that sentiment is not the norm these days. This of course may well change in the relatively near future but in the immediacy, that is the case.

Second is the CLP is in complete disarray. There is a good piece in the Manchester Evening News entitled The Labour battle for Gorton, which details some of the issues going on within the local Labour party. Now this isn’t abnormal, this happens to all parties in various places at various times. Still since the rise of Jeremy Corbyn and his radical new agenda of not holding the government to account (ok I’m being slightly facetious here) but since his supporters have flooded in, many local parties are pulling in different directions. They have fierce disagreements of where the party should go.

This leads me to the third reason, what if Labour select a Brexiteer Corbynite? This would be a good place for them to roll out this strategy. It is what a lot of the newer Labour members want. Jeremy Corbyn’s public and private views on Brexit seem pretty much at odds. Publicly he supports staying in the EU but he only seems to bang on about the European Workers Directive as to why. He told Adam Hills when he appeared on The Last Leg that he wanted to stay in the EU ‘seven or seven and a half out of ten’ and that is not a ringing endorsement at all. So why not go with a Brexiteer in this seat?

Honestly if the Lib Dems were to make a staggering (and lets not beat about the bush here – it would be staggering) then it needs Labour to have this strategy. If they put up a passionate Pro-EU voice or someone who isn’t on the ultra left of the party then they should cruise home with ease. However with the way Labour are functioning at the moment, who knows what will happen?

As for how the Lib Dems manage to navigate their way through the Labour carnage should it come about, well it will not be easy. In Richmond Park they threw the proverbial kitchen sink at it, in an ultra Remain area and still only just squeaked home. This though whilst being a 61-62% Remain area (based on estimates) has one very different thing in play, this would be the first time in the post EU Referendum era where the Lib Dems are the primary opponents to a Labour hold. This in itself is going to be enough for politicos to watch what happens closely.

Can the Lib Dems make serious inroads into Labour in Remain areas? This will be the first indication of whether they can or not. The Lib Dems got over 30% in both 2005 and 2010 but saw their vote share collapse after the coalition in 2015. Very quickly we’ve seen those numbers start to reverse. The Lib Dems haven’t lost their deposit yet in a parliamentary by-election since the EU Referendum. They lost it in Manchester Gorton in 2015 but that means nothing for the upcoming by-election.

All logic will point to Labour winning with less than 50% of the vote. The Lib Dems should finish second with over 25% (my guesstimate at this point would be 28-32%) but there is plenty of time to go. Plenty of hoops to jump through. Remember Sarah Olney wasn’t winning in Richmond Park until the final 72 hours as a very well executed campaign came to a head.

If Labour pick the wrong candidate, if Jeremy Corbyn continues to have dire ratings and if the Lib Dems get the right person with a clever campaign strategy then you never know. The party are between 7 and 10/1 around. That seems about right at this juncture but I wouldn’t be blown away if they hit 3/1 before polling day.

This by-election will be far more interesting than the raw numbers suggest…

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March 3rd, 2017 at 1:18 pm

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On the Lib Dems polling at 23%…in London.

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Well what do we have here? The most pro EU area of the country has been a rather dramatic change in polling as the Lib Dems polled in the YouGov London sub-section yesterday at 23%, which I think we’d all agree is worthy of a second glance.

For a long time I have held the belief that London would be the most ripe part of the country for the #LibDemFightback to gain serious momentum. The Richmond Park result was huge as overturning a 23,015 majority in under 18 months isn’t exactly chopped liver. I will admit that this by-election had some very localised issues involved and Zac Goldsmith didn’t have the might of the Conservative party machine behind him but he was a relatively popular constituency MP and he went down.

If the party can overturn a 23,015 majority running on essentially a sole ‘Pro fighting Brexit’ ticket then why can’t they do that elsewhere in the capital? Plenty of seats are suddenly in play due to the fact the whole shape of politics is changing. The electorate aren’t stupid and they can see that the Labour party aren’t exactly sure where they stand on Brexit. They have two constituencies, the pro Brexit lobby in the midlands and north and the anti Brexit lobby in the capital and other big cities. They can’t be all things to all people so they will either damage one by going one way or both by standing in the middle with their fingers in their ears.

The party that will pick up those votes – certainly in the capital are the Lib Dems. The membership of the party is growing considerably and at a vast rate of knots in London. Plenty of seats therefore become winnable – far more than anyone could ever have predicted a year ago. As an example I’m looking at Vauxhall. A seat that has only ever had a Labour MP but their current MP is Kate Hoey, who is vehemently anti-EU but she represents an extremely pro EU constituency. A large part of Lambeth is in this Westminster constituency and that area voted 79% to Remain in the EU. When an MP is so out of step on Brexit with their constituents then all bets are off.

If you’d asked me a year ago how many seats do I think the Lib Dems would win in 2020, I’d have put the number at around 20. The stigma of tuition fees would have been diluted somewhat by time and seats such as Cambridge, Lewes and Eastleigh would swiftly return back to the yellow column. Add a few good local campaigns and that 20 mark seemed like a good guesstimate.

Now though with Brexit being the Lib Dems back into the picture as having a strong voice on a matter, add with the fact the Labour party do not have a strong leader nor a strong voice on Brexit and even though we are over three years out and plenty could change, suddenly 40-50 seats isn’t beyond the realm of possibility.

Remember since the party was formed, the Lib Dems have done best in years where the winner of the General Election was generally well known going into polling day. When this happens people aren’t necessarily voting for who they want to be Prime Minister but are thinking much more locally about who they want to represent them.

Back to London though, this could be the start of the new politics that many people think could happen as we start to identify ourselves as Remainers and Leavers and not as Labour, Tory, UKIP, Lib Dem etc… if the party can build on the momentum we have both at local and at national level then a rebirth some the lows of 2015 could happen far earlier than any of us expected.

London isn’t the golden goose but it can certainly be a springboard. 23% of a small sub-section of one poll is statistically insignificant but it is a guide to what could happen. To see the Labour polling number collapsing in the capital and when you add in that for every 2015 voter Labour have lost to UKIP nationally, they’ve lost five to the Lib Dems, then the door might be opening for a big change not only against the Tories in south and south western seats but also against Labour in the big cities.

Everything is to play for…

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March 2nd, 2017 at 2:22 pm

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On the next step for the Lib Dems and finally regaining that all important identity…

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Lets not beat around the bush. I am a Nick Clegg guy. A total Nick Clegg guy. I have always been a Liberal Democrat voter but Nick is the reason why I’m a card carrying member. Nothing against any leader before or since but there was something extremely special about Nick Clegg. He could’ve been a great leader of this country but instead it’ll be a generation before people truly understand what they’ve missed out on by essentially nailing him to the cross based mainly on the tuition fees situation and of course some voters believing that working with the Tories in any capacity was treachery.

In the past week we’ve seen much upheaval in the political sphere. A Labour Party held at gunpoint by a leader who has an army of followers but no way to ever win a war at a wider level and a Conservative Party where the big beast expected to be Prime Minister has bottled it after one of the most egregious pieces of back stabbing we’ve seen in modern political history by one of the nastiest and slimiest MPs around.

Amongst all that the Lib Dems have seen a surge in new members, over 12,000 in the past week at last count and having already spoken to a few around where I live in Southend, I was surprised (and very pleased) that none of them so far have had a bad word to say about Nick Clegg. Quite the opposite in fact. This gives me the sense that some of the stigma surrounding the party is starting to evaporate and that opens up big opportunities for the party.

I don’t think its exactly breaking news that I’m sceptical about our leader, not in his convictions, I think on that issue he ticks the boxes but in terms of being at ease in the spotlight and being a natural orator then I think there are still questions to answer. Yet his speech at Conference in 2015 was fast rate, it was passionate, it was heartfelt and it gave hope. The big question now is whether he can make enough waves to get the media attention when the party are now arguably the fifth most important in the United Kingdom political sphere behind the big beasts, UKIP and the SNP.

What the past week has shown though is the Lib Dems now clearly stand for something. They have that headline sign around their neck. The Lib Dems are very much Pro-EU. This means they are pro international business, they are pro the City of London being the heart of the world’s financial sector, they are pro small business. They are pro the freedom of movement of people across the EU, they are pro having an open and tolerant multicultural society.

It is something I think many Lib Dems have struggled with in recent years, telling people via canvassing or leafleting exactly what the party stand for. Did they stand for keeping the Tories in check (which I still think they did very well considering the electoral math against them) or did they stand for just local issues and try to ignore the national scene. The sad truth is national swings will often effect local races when they shouldn’t so I’m always been a proponent of talking about national issues as well as local ones, this isn’t something that has been widely shared amongst some that I know.

Still now is an opportunity for people to join or rejoin the party and the softening of the distrust and dislike of the party by the voters. This isn’t going to change overnight but the Lib Dems now sit at the heart of the centre-left on the ideological spectrum, a position not too far away from where Tony Blair won office in three consecutive landslides from 1997 to 2005.

The Labour Party are in complete disarray, their leader is so far left that they are now unelectable and he can’t even command his own party. Either he goes or his party splits and should that happen and a split Labour Party alliance or amalgamation with the Lib Dems and suddenly the centre-left once more has a party at the heart of it. This isn’t beyond the realm of possibility and in this era of political uncertainty, things move fast and flexibility will be key but the signs are everything is in play.

Over in the blue camp, they are undergoing a leadership contest where it is assumed that a pretty hard-lined right-winger in Theresa May is set to win. Should that come to fruition then she will drag the party away from the centre ground where David Cameron has cleverly put it to win a surprise second term at Prime Minister. With the Tories potentially abandoning the centre, Labour way out left and UKIP way out right, imagine a progressive party sitting in that centre-left spot consisting of non Corbynista Labour and the Lib Dems. Has some real potential no?

Still that is a long way off, for now the Liberal Democrats now have a clear identity. They know who they are and can mix the national scene with local politics once again. The Lib Dems aren’t just Tory-lite or Tory-curbers, they have their own clear electoral platform. Whether they take this opportunity, well we’ll find out in time but as it stands they are the only party in England who firmly want to stay in the EU and aren’t placed on either extreme flank of political ideology.

If you believe in this country being part of the world and not a backwater island, want the country to be a player on the world stage, want to keep down racism and xenophobia and hopefully eradicate it altogether, want to be part of an all-inclusive multicultural society and want the next generation to have the opportunities that we had then at this moment there is one clear political party for you. I’m not saying the Lib Dems are the greatest things since Cherry Bakewells (we’re not) but we do believe in looking forward and not backwards and know exactly what direction we want to take the country in and that isn’t something either the red or blue teams can say at this juncture.

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July 1st, 2016 at 3:00 pm

On the night that was in Southend and the clear winners – Labour

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The local elections are over and I’m more free to write about what has gone down and I have to say that whilst it was an extremely poor evening for the Lib Dems (bar the huge win in Leigh) it wasn’t a surprise. I think most people fully expected the party to lose Prittlewell and Blenheim Park, two seats we were defending and not be able to pick up much traction elsewhere. There are reasons for this which it would be unfair to go into in such a public forum but the results in terms of what happened to the Lib Dems went down pretty much exactly as expected.

Whilst the news has finally surfaced that the Conservatives two gains (at the expense of the Lib Dems in the above two wards) helped them into a position where they could run the council (either in coalition or with a confidence and supply, which is indeed now widely reported to be the case with the two UKIP councillors) they didn’t have a great night at all. Beating the Lib Dems in those wards isn’t anything to write home about.

The biggest result for them was hanging on to Southchurch from a strong independent challenge. Had they stolen Belfairs from the Indy’s or managed to navigate through the warring independents in Shoeburyness then you could say they were the winners of the night. As it was they did what they were supposed to do but nothing more. John Lamb may be set to run the council but with a majority of just one (when you take into account the two UKIP members who will back them up) then it is a very weak majority and Southend is in for two years of council struggles.

No the big winner was clearly Labour and this has sweet fuck all to do with Jeremy Corbyn or the Corbynistas. It has to do with the fact their ground game is by far the most superior in the town. They have activists who go out come rain or shine throughout the year and engage with residents. You can have nothing but praise for them.

They held the three seats they were defending by very large margins in seats that were seemingly vulnerable. Cllr. Anne Jones moved wards to try and take out popular incumbent Dr. Vel and did so with relative ease to make Westborough a three Labour ward. However despite these admirable achievements, they weren’t their best moments.

The two results that will send shivers down the spines of the other parties will be Labour finishing a very close second in Prittlewell and a comfortable second in Blenheim Park. The former is demographically horrendous for Labour and they shouldn’t be anywhere even close to taking that seat. The fact they were 78 votes away from winning it is insane.

In Blenheim the demographics are slightly more favourable but still in the grand scheme of things they shouldn’t be outperforming the Lib Dems or the short-term the UKIP factor. It shows that hard work over a significant period of time, coordinated strategy, fielding a strong candidate and a party can perform well above national expectations at local level.

Labour can now legitimately say that they are the party that can stop the Tories in Blenheim Park and Prittlewell. Whether that is true come the next time people are voting in Southend come 2018, it could be another story entirely but as of right now they are clearly the main opposition party.

With 2018 seeing UKIP defending those two seats, whether they stay purple (highly unlikely) or go blue or red could easily be the deciding factor in the make-up of the council. They can easily put themselves as competitive or favourites in six wards going into 2018, only the Conservatives can say they are competitive in more seats.

My last point I want to write about though is strategic cross-party planning. To keep the Tories out of controlling the council (with/without the propping up of UKIP) will likely need some some of cross-party strategy. An agreement to not stand a candidate in a seat or two where they are only going to be paper candidates anyway in exchange for reciprocal agreements.

This is something Labour, the Lib Dems and the Independent Group should at least consider. I know it goes against the principles of certainly both Labour and the Lib Dems who believe you should put up candidates everywhere to give your voters a chance to vote for you but in terms of locking the Tories out and having a center-left coalition instead of a right-wing allience in charge at the Civic Centre, speaking very much in a personal capacity here, it deserves some real thought.

So to recap, a very impressive and deservedly so night for the Labour group. The Tories did what they were expected to do, nothing more. UKIP showed they are very much in decline locally, the Greens ran a nice spoiler campaign to enable the Tories across the town and as for the Lib Dems, well what can you say? A huge and comprehensive win in Leigh and then 16 other results (ok 15, West Leigh was more than solid too…)

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Written by neilmonnery

May 10th, 2016 at 4:36 pm

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