Archive for the ‘lib dems’ tag
My blood is boiling folks. There is one thing that I hold dear and that is that we are all created equal. One human life is of the same value as the next. So if I get murdered the person who killed me should get the same sentence as if they killed anyone else in exactly the same way. Now of course not all murders are equal, some are premeditated, some involve sexual crimes, some include torture before killing their victims but if I am killed in exactly the same way as another person then I’d expect sentencing to be the same.
Theresa May today outlined new proposals that will mean any police officer or prison officer slain would see the perpetrator given mandatory whole life sentences. This is because we ask them to put themselves in harms way to ensure that society are safe. However last I saw Army, Navy and Royal Air Force personnel did exactly the same. What about the coastguard who risk their lives to safe others? What about the Fire Brigade? Are we seriously saying that one section of society deserve more retribution than others?
What about when police officers kill members of the general public? Do these people deserve less time in jail and the opportunity of being free one day? Isn’t that kinda mad?
I am not a ‘lock ‘em up and throw away the key’ person. In fact I am quite the opposite. I believe there is a better way to deal with criminals but when it comes to serious crimes such as murder and rape then prison very much has its place. However mandatory life terms for a crime against one section of society to me seems wholly wrong and only goes to show that we are not all equal. All crimes are not equal. That is why we have judges who have leeway to use their judgement to decide on how long a guilty person should spend inside. Mitigating circumstances have to be taken into account.
This policy seems to me to smell strongly of the Home Secretary trying to get the police back onside and trying to sound strong on crime. That is what everyone seems to want. Labour have welcomed this policy and I don’t know what the Liberal Democrats think but I’d be disappointed if they are happy to say that one persons life is worth more than another’s. It goes against our very principles of equality.
Should people that kill police officers and prison officers face heavy sentences? Darn tootin’ they do but you know what – so does anyone who takes another human life deliberately. Whether that person is a police officer, a member of our armed forces, a teacher, a student, a homeless person or whoever. Taking another human life is a despicable act but you won’t convince me that killing one person is less reprehensible than killing another.
Local election campaigns are in full swing across the country (although not here in Southend-on-Sea) and there is only one story that seems to be coming out. This story isn’t about whether Labour will make gains against the Tories. The story isn’t about whether the Lib Dems will stop the hemorrhaging of votes/councillors. The story isn’t about whether the austerity will hurt the Tories. The only story I keep reading about is the surge of the UK Independence Party and what this means for the future.
I must admit my gut feeling is that UKIP will be like a fast burning love affair. They will burn oh so bright but they will not burn for a long time. The fact of the matter is there are a significant number of people who don’t like nor trust politicians. The whole expenses scandal has left politicians looking up at journalists in the respected by stakes, which is not a good place to be. Heck divorce lawyers are more respected than politicians at the moment. UKIP are promising a breath of fresh air and to put Great Britain first and not to kowtow to Brussels and the EU. It isn’t like the UKIP leader has taken (to 2009) around £2million in tax payers money from the EU in expenses. Oh wait…
They are basically scratching the itch of those who are disenchanted with modern politics. They are different they say. The system is crooked they say. Nigel Farage has seen a stronger eye on his party in recent days as it has come out that they have struggled to vet their candidates. Some of them seem to be less than desirable and certainly not the type of people you’d want in any position of power. The main issue is a lot of people vote for the party and not the candidate so if you don’t vet properly then you may find you have councillors representing the party who don’t truly reflect the views of the party.
The UKIP leader is not happy with all of this, ‘Have you met the cretins we have in Westminster? Do you think we can be worse than that?’ exclaims the 49 year-old. On one hand he has a point that all parties have the odd person who deep down you aren’t sure truly reflects the parties values and you get a sense they aren’t being their true self. When it comes to UKIP though who knows?
However this blog isn’t about that. It is about the talk over the possibility of more PM TV Debates in 2015. Stories in the press over the weekend have linked Labour to the Tories in wanting to keep out UKIP. Remember Labour do not want the Lib Dems in because they formed a coalition with the Tories so think any Lib Dem leader should share a platform with the Tories and Labour’s deputies because that is as high as they could ever be. Gotta love Labour’s stance on that. So in Labour’s eyes any debate would be two-way between them and the Tories. The Tories are happy for three-way with the Lib Dems also involved. We don’t know the Lib Dem view as yet.
My view though is extremely simplistic. If a party is putting up enough candidates to form a government then their leader should be invited to join the other leaders in these debates. The SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Green Party and others were unhappy about being left out last time but none of them were fielding enough candidates to form a government and their leader could never be Prime Minister so their place in any ‘Prime Ministerial Debate’ did seem relatively pointless. The likelihood though is that UKIP will be putting up enough candidates across the country and in the interest of democracy they deserve the to share that platform in my eyes.
We saw last time that Nick Clegg’s profile rose dramatically throughout the process last year and at one point, in one Sunday poll the Lib Dems actually led. As we all know though that extra exposure translated to over a million more votes but actually fewer MPs. It also led to far more scrutiny in the right-wing media as they went to town on the Lib Dems and on Nick Clegg in particular. This worked to some degree and should Nigel Farage and his party get the same exposure they would be subject to the same level of scrutiny.
My feelings on UKIP are pretty clear but I also believe in fairness and equality (good liberal traits there) and if UKIP are in a position where they could feasibility (no matter how unlikely) form a government if everything went right for them on polling day in 2015 then they deserve the right to share that platform. It is up to the other parties and particularly their leaders to show UKIP for what they are and to get the public to vote for them and not Nigel Farage’s lot.
The thing is we all know that the moment UKIP get any power (either at local or national level) the public will quickly realise what they have done. At a local level voting UKIP will not change anything to do with the EU or tax rates or immigration which is basically what UKIP are all about. So a vote for UKIP locally on Thursday is basically saying, ‘we hate them all and even though they can’t follow through with their primary objectives in local governments we’ll vote for them as a symbol of our anger towards national issues.’ When it comes to national issues though their rhetoric of being anti-EU and anti-foreigners is actually something they could act on.
UKIP are unlikely to ever have a Prime Minister, they are unlikely to ever be in a position to form a coalition but as they say – you never know. UKIP’s core support is with the older generation – a YouGov poll in February found that only 15% of UKIP support comes from those under 40 – the fact is the older generation are more likely to vote.
For me I don’t see UKIP as a viable party and are just a protest against the status quo and the current financial climate. The moment the economy pulls itself out of its funk and the countries finances are balanced then the need for a protest party will dissipate. This will happen but it won’t happen before 2015. So let UKIP play with the established parties and give them the opportunities that they deserve. I just hope they shoot themselves in the foot when they are under a serious national spotlight. It is easy to protest when their are few repercussions but when it comes to a General Election protests are harder because actions (and votes) have consequences.
Ah. Who doesn’t love a good Nadine Dorries story? It has been a while since her name has even passed into my consciousness. No doubt she has been extremely busy doing great things and saving the world. Or something. Anyway tonight there seemed to be a bit of a stir on my Twitter Timeline about her and the fact she was blocking Lib Dems from communicating with her via the medium on account that they were ‘Lib Dem.’
Please see the screenshot below.
Now blocking someone from communicating with you based solely on their political persuasion is fair enough if you are a muppet but if you are an MP then you kinda can’t do that – certainly if the person who instigated the conversation was in fact a constituent (which seemingly they are – or at least were). So yeah blocking people for that reason seems pretty petty and pathetic but it is no surprise.
My biggest issue with this whole thing is her saying that she has been ‘totally savaged’ – yeah Liberal Youth on twitter are the vicious ones. The fact she was getting slaughtered in the national media for her decision to swan off to the jungle and her other shall we call them eccentricities? Yeah it is those nasty Liberal Youthers who are the savages. If Nadine actually read everything about her on twitter she would know that the twitterati basically think as much of her as I do of mushrooms*.
I’m pretty sure Nadine has a brain inside of her head and she probably knows what a savaging was and a few people saying she hadn’t visited a school isn’t a savaging. Blocking people on twitter is all well and good if they are being abusive but for reasons such as this and then bleating that Liberal Youth are savaging her is about as pathetic as my attempts to get out of going to church when I was 11.
Ah well. We all love a good Nadine Dorries story don’t we…?
*Mushrooms are the most disgusting thing on the planet. They grow them ugly to warn everyone off the and they smell worse than a fried egg and yet people happily eat them. Are you mad people of the world. Are you mad? Can you honestly say you look at a mushroom growing in a field and think ‘I think I’ll put that in my mouth’ No. No you wouldn’t and yet people do…*shakes head in despair*
Being a member of a political party is slightly different to being just a supporter and a voter. It is that time of year where my membership of the Liberal Democrats is up for renewal and after a couple of years as a member it is always good to look at yourself and ask whether it is worth it.
I have decided that there are three reasons to be a member of a political party – National Issues, Local Issues and Personal Ideology. The big question is how many of those three do I (or anyone for that matter) have to be happy with to continue membership (or indeed join in the first place).
I’ll start with Personal Ideology.
Several weeks ago I was challenged to write about my Lib Dem Values. In a way it was also a way to see if my thoughts meshed well with that of the party. I am a liberal. I believe in liberal philosophy. I don’t really have to challenge myself on this at any level because I have always had a very similar viewpoint of the world and our place in it. No one person is born better or worse than the next person. Every person deserves the same chances and opportunities in life. If the Liberal Democrats still sit broadly in the liberal realm of the political spectrum then I can tick this box.
However National Issues is a harder thing to sit with.
I joined the party after the coalition was forced. Despite having always voted and leaned Lib Dem I never actually joined until March of 2011. So I was not a member of the party when solely in opposition so I do have a slightly different viewpoint to many others who have been members for far longer. The biggest difference between opposition and government is that sometimes principles and practicalities are mutually exclusive and something has to give way.
The question is at what point do principles become compromised unnecessarily? That is the problem the I personally wrestle with. Being part of a coalition does mean that we as a party will have to do things that we are not personally comfortable with. If we want to live in an isolated Utopian state and only do things that as a party we would be happy with then either win a General Election or be in opposition until the point where an outright victory occurs. Coalition will always mean two parties (or more) doing things that they are both comfortable and uncomfortable with. This is just the nature of the beast.
However when we see MP’s and the national party doing things that go against the will of the membership without getting an obvious trade back on another issue then it is immensely troubling. It can be said that the Tories have backed things they would have preferred not to during the past 35 months or so. It most certainly can be said that the Lib Dems have done just that and on multiple occasions.
People have left the party due to various issues since the formation of the coalition. Many leave strictly because of one principle gone too far and others because of an accumulation of principles they believed in being ignored and in some cases actively campaigned against by the upper echelons of the party.
It is hard to really back some of what is going on at Westminster. I like Nick Clegg. I like him a lot but unless he explains why he does some of the things he does and listens to the grass roots then it is hard to fully back him. We have gone past the point where we can believe in Nick Clegg and the national party with blind faith that they know what they are doing.
So this box I probably can’t tick so I’ll say it is an incomplete.
Lastly Local Issues.
I currently live in Southend. We have a Conservative run council (with a majority of one) and a rather interesting local political scene. The Lib Dems locally are good people (which is always a pretty decent start) and I think we can see some progress here. I wish the councillors would be better at talking about their achievements as it is rare to see them in the local paper talking about what they do – and some of them do excellent work and genuinely make a difference.
I do like to think that I live in the real world and the financial situation makes things very difficult for the Tory run council. Cuts do have to be made to make ends meet but there is always a question of what cuts and where. Do we cut along ideological lines or do we cut where those effected are those who can deal with being effected? This is where I struggle with what the Tories have done going into a voting pact with the Thorpe councillors (although now that pact isn’t needed) because Thorpe is the ward where people can deal with issues better than any other. So whilst those in Thorpe will be delighted at the reduction in car parking charges in the Broadway, that is money that is now not going into the coffers.
Also we have to work on what things are spent on – certainly the big projects. The Shoebury Youth Centre was a £2.9million building but it is hardly being used. Firstly we have to question why it was built in the first place but secondly we need to find a way for that building to become a viable part of the Shoebury community. There are issues like this all over the place and in general the local Lib Dems seem to be actively working on finding solutions to difficult situations and aren’t just sticking their heads in the sand and saying ‘those evil Tories are really evil’ etc…
So locally I think I can probably tick that I’m relatively content with what is going on. The local party are active and I do think that being part of it is worthwhile and it can benefit the local community if we continue to work hard and deliver on what we can do.
So two ticks and an incomplete. The National Party do concern me and do the pros outweigh the cons of being in coalition? I’m not sure. Are we losing our soul? Some may argue that and in all honesty I do not know the answer. However my ideology has not changed and being a member of the local party is I think worthwhile therefore it’ll be another year as a member for me…
No not me (although I doubt I’d be missed) but the fabulous Louise Shaw did such a thing and she had written her thought up on her blog over here. It is a rather interesting look into the effect that social media has on our lives in this modern day and age.
As someone who uses social media to a significant extent (but not to a crazy level of having many prolonged conversations through it) I was intrigued to see how she coped and found it. She still used Facebook and Google+ but just cut out Twitter. She makes the clear point that it is easier to stop following someone on Twitter than it is to unfriend someone on Facebook. Even though a lot of us have the same people on both Facebook is still seen by many to be more inclusive of people you actually know/interact with more frequently. For example I follow a large amount of politicos on Twitter but very few of them have I become ‘friends’ with on Facebook. It is more socially acceptable to stop following someone on Twitter than it is to unfriend some on Facebook. I’m sure of that.
One thing I was surprised with was when she said she felt a bit less stressed being away from Twitter. I have never felt stress on Twitter (nor any social media really) as is someone is having a go at you or at your opinions they are just someone behind a computer screen or tapping away at their tablet or mobile phone. Not even sure if I’m ever had an argument with someone over Twitter (although I remember one person who was giving me constant personal attacks and subsequently wrote a blog post about what a bastard I was) and I decided ‘sod this’ and gave her a 4,000 odd word blog reply which surprised said person.
I in fact think the opposite. I use Twitter for several reasons but one of them is to relax. I follow something like 750 accounts and they are a mixture of politicos, sports journalists, people I know and randoms. I even purposely follow (and still follow) several accounts that I always find amusing. Several of these are politicos that are so blinkered for one side and that every other side is wrong it amuses me greatly. One person I follow seems to get drunk every evening and every evening tweets great revelations about her life and what she needs to do to make it better and yet every night she tweets the same and never does anything about it. Oh how I internally laugh. Not laughing at her sentiments but about the repetitiveness of them.
So social media relaxes me. However the main thing it does is inform me. Twitter is rightly or wrongly the best source for breaking news that we have these days. I read most of the newspaper websites daily but news breaks first on Twitter. If I walked away from Twitter that would be the biggest thing that I missed. The feeling of not knowing significant events until later. Whilst it might not be significantly later – it is still later.
The first Louise makes is about people missing her. Now that is an interesting one. I have gone weeks without making any updates to Facebook and nobody noticed (not on purpose, I just had nothing to say) and have dipped in and out of Twitter over the years. The big question a lot of us have to answer is how big a part Twitter plays in our social life. I read more than interact and in general only ever interact when I think I have something significant to say. Considering I have been around the internet and chat rooms for half my life now and in the advent of broadband and mobile phone technology I now know more people than ever before through social media and I actually have actual conversations with less people than I did when I was a teenager and at university.
Last year I met not one person that I had first communicated with via Twitter. Actually thinking about it I do not think I have ever met with someone who I had first communicated with through Twitter (taking Lib Dem conferences out of this scenario). Back in the day I met people from chat rooms all the time and felt stronger friendships with those people. Some of them I still have a friendship with today. Those people I talked with for hours whereas now with twitter there are far more people I interact with but how many of them do I have a proper conversation with? Far fewer. Ask me a question about what most people I interact do for a living or who they live with or if they are in a relationship and the majority of the time I wouldn’t be able to answer. Ask me those same questions about people I communicated with on the internet pre-social media and I’d be able to answer those questions far more.
I’m trying to work out which I prefer. Having a small group of people I actually spoke with properly and met up with a lot or having a larger group of people of whom we both just dip in and out of each others lives when we see each other tweeting something that we find interesting. I can see the pro’s and con’s for both sides. It is an interesting one. On Twitter I think it is harder to progress an acquaintanceship to a friendship (or anything else for that matter) because you never really converse. You just interact.
Another thing she says is she found a lot more done – and I think that is a very fair point. I can be busy working and I flick up TweetDeck and scroll through and then my mind drifts. Same with Facebook and I’m not someone who gets a lot of tweets or Facebook messages and if I can lose hours a week to social media then I worry about those who are actually social media popular!
If I wasn’t on social media would I miss it? Sure I would. However I don’t feel like I’d come out in hives. It is a good way to unwind. I found Louise’s experiment very interesting and her conclusions seem to broadly agree with how I thought it’d go. Well worth a read I say and one last thing before I bring this ramble to a close…
Congratulations to the said person behind this – Louise Shaw – as she is now on the approved list to become a Lib Dem PPC. I look forward to seeing her applying for either Southend West or Rochford & Southend East in the future. Although if she does apply for either of those it would mean having to deal with me so she might do better going elsewhere…but in all seriousness it is great to see another intelligent and passionate young person on the approved list.
Immigration is one of the biggest issues facing our country today. Not because it actually is but more because that is what the media is telling us. Ten years ago immigration was a footnote when questioning the public about what they wanted the government to sort out. These days it has become a bigger talking point on the doorstep than everything bar the economy. Yes even the NHS and Education are less of a talking point than immigration. So why the sea change?
Basically the economy has gone down the tubes and someone has to be to blame and it can’t all be the bankers fault, can it? We have gone from one of the most tolerant societies to one that openly talks about immigration in a bad light. The media whip up a firestorm with stories such as the benefits cheats who get to live in mansions at the tax payers expense but the stories about the hard working people who come over here, pay taxes and enrich our culturally diverse society don’t seem to get as many inches in the written media for some reason?
If I’m awake in time I often leave BBC1 on in the mornings (because Homer Under The Hammer is fantastic) and there is a show called ‘Saints & Scroungers) and practically every single scrounger is a foreign national who shouldn’t be living here. Am I to believe that these people account for more benefits being illegally received than born and bred Brits? Yeah. Right…
The argument I often hear is, ‘well I was born and bred here and they weren’t so why should my taxes pay for their benefits.’ On the face of it a fair point of view but when you dig deeper they don’t just chastise those who don’t work and claim benefits, they chastise those who have jobs as well because they are doing jobs that born and bred Brits could do. I ask them what they think about Brits moving abroad and they don’t have a problem with it. So Brits moving abroad and working is fine but others coming to the UK and doing the same isn’t. I bash my head against a brick wall sometimes.
Angry voices are swelling about immigration and you hear that people want the government of the day – whoever they are – to be tough on immigration. One of my main issues is the loudest voices want the government of the day to be tough on everything. Being tough is the way forward they say but it isn’t however a political party can never be shown to be anything other than tough otherwise they’ll be torn apart in the media. Being tough on crime is one of the main ones and yet locking everyone up and throwing away the key doesn’t actually solve all the problems. The penal system isn’t just about punishment but also about rehabilitation but you can’t say that out loud without sounding soft in the eyes of many.
This leads me to the immigration issue. The country and the economy will prosper if we are open for business. That means foreign companies investing in the UK and it also means skilled nationals from other countries coming here and working. It also means foreign nationals coming to the UK to learn and get educated.
On a society front I hear people argue that they feel more uneasy being around foreigners instead of UK nationals. Personally I have never felt this is the case. It is akin to people saying that foreigners are more criminal than people in this country and that just doesn’t wash with me. We are all human beings when it comes down to it and yes there are bad people in this country who are not helping our economy or society but you know what – the majority of those people are British. Should we tolerant these people and persecute the others just because they were born here? Does being born somewhere give you the right to be treated differently to another person when that is the only difference between the way you are acting? I think not.
The reason I am discussing this today is simple. Nick Clegg spoke today on this issue and the headline is about looking into the feasibility of visitors from certain countries having to pay a bond that they would collect on their way out of the UK once their visa was up. It is a pretty dumb policy in my opinion but they are just looking into it, just like the previous Labour government did twice and the coalition has already looked into. If civil servants think it is feasible then a pilot will be run.
Now that is the headline that was on the news and is in all the online editions of the written media. It doesn’t come across well but the speech wasn’t just about that. A very interesting part was about exit checks and the way they had been scaled down by the previous government. To me it just seems logical that you count and check people in and then check them on the way out as well. Isn’t that just good practice so you know who is where?
I have no issue with being ‘zero-tolerant on abuse’ as long as it doesn’t impinge on those who are wanting to do things legally and would benefit the economy and our society. I know Nick wants to sound tough on immigration and wants to be at the forefront of the debate but the issue now isn’t about actual immigration – it is about how to differentiate between all the main political parties on this issue. They all want to sound tougher and more outraged than the next party whereas in reality the best practical solution would be to sort out the management of the system and ensuring that we know who is here, for what purpose and for how long. If we know that then that is the majority of the battle won. The way I see it our biggest problem isn’t the amount of people who are here but that we don’t know who is here.
Whilst immigration is an issue – as I said earlier it is seen as such a large issue because those with the loudest voices have dictated it to be so. UKIP, the Tories and Labour all want to be seen as the hardest and toughest on immigration and that will play well with many. However there is plenty of room for a sane and reasonable approach to immigration and that is where I hope Nick and the Lib Dems go. If a political party could say (and more important achieve) a situation where they could effectively manage immigration to the point where the country was open to anyone with the skillset that was deemed needed and that students on education visas were free to come and study but with the important caveat that when their visas ended they had to either leave or apply again for either an extended or a different visa then that would be music to my – and a lot of other people’s ears.
Politicians need to remember that the loudest voices are not always the majority of voices. If you can put yourself in a position where the more reasoned voter could believe you could deliver something that made sense then you have a chance with these people. Not everyone votes on the strength of what the media tells them. In fact the truth is most vote based on their own opinions. Not everyone is extreme in their views on immigration so I’d like to see a political party talk to these people – and I for one would like that political party to be the Liberal Democrats.
Immigration is not bad. Uncontrolled immigration might be but the whole issue of immigration is a good thing for all countries around the globe. Finding a way to ensure our doors are flung wide open to the right people is far more important than ensuring the wrong people are finding a way in but we need a balance. If we can find a way to manage immigration – both the good and the bad – then we’ll be going someway to building a better society and economy. The biggest story in Nick’s speech wasn’t the bond issue but the fact we are building up our network of exit checks that the party has been calling for since 2004. Once we have a handle of who is where and who hasn’t left when they should have then we can start effectively managing the whole immigration system. It was a Labour mistake but it is one the Lib Dems are helping to fix.
Ah Secret Courts or to be more formal The Justice and Security Bill. It is legislation that no-one will talk about on the doorstep. No-one. People will talk about many national issues but whether in certain circumstances evidence can be heard in secret is not one of them. Equal marriage is something most people said was a waste of time and even that is 100x more likely to be a topic that fires up the average voter. They care about many things but secret courts is not one.
Yet the fact is for liberals it is vastly important and the terms ‘National Security’ and ‘Terrorism’ are in essence buzz words to defend anything. If a political party wanted to say that they wanted to close all borders and used ‘anti-terror’ as their reasoning it would work to a far larger degree than saying ‘we don’t like those damn foreigners’. George Bush won an election in 2004 not just because John Kerry was an awful candidate but because he scared the electorate. People believed that if tough legislation wasn’t in place then terrorists would blow them up and eat their offspring – so anyone who wasn’t a hard right-liner was opening the door for this to happen. So I’ve always been rather dubious when any politician ever tries to stats that anti-terror legislation is a good enough reason to ignore civil liberties.
I heard Ken Clarke say in the House of Commons during the debate on this bill, ‘I believe that British judges are the best in the world’ as that was an important issue. He is implying that because they are the best that they’ll only ever allow evidence is private if if was indeed in the interests of national security. The issue is if the secret services had their way every piece of evidence they give would be in private. They don’t want to ever put one of their men or women on the stand. The term ‘National Security’ doesn’t automatically actually equate to genuine ‘National Security’ issues.
Now I think it is well known that I like Nick Clegg. I like Nick Clegg a lot. I think he is a very intelligent man and believe that he has genuine liberalism running through his veins. Personally I would go as far to say that if Nick Clegg had no advisers he’d probably be doing a far better job than he is. The problem is that the civil service and advisers often don’t think about what the party Nick Clegg represents stands for but more about what is best and right for them.
The coalition agreement is a framework for the 2010-2015 government and not a comprehensive guide to what the government will do. Equal marriage as we all know was not specifically in the coalition agreement and when that got brought to the table it pissed off a lot of Tories and Lib Dems rejoiced. Well in a way this is payback and this is not a Lib Dem agenda at all (although I’m unsure why it would be a Tory one either) basically it opens the door further to corruption and it potentially puts people – defendants – in a position where they have no public right to reply and the general public will not have access to the full facts of a case. Surely a pretty scary scenario for all of us?
I want to go back a week and look at Zadok Day quitting the party as he felt at times all we care about is votes and not about showing off our liberalism. If you speak to the younger generation – those who aren’t carrying the scars of either the world wars or the cold war then you’ll find people who are more open minded regarding civil liberties. That isn’t an all encompassing thing – there are plenty of people who lived through those instances who are big on civil liberties and plenty who did not who don’t give a stuff – but I think it is fair to say when you have never lived in a world where you genuinely feared bombers or nuclear war then you have a slightly different outlook.
Now these people care about liberal issues – and if civil liberties isn’t a liberal issue then I’m the perfect new cast member for TOWIE (for those who don’t know I don’t drink, don’t go out to clubs and my main passion in life is not ‘having a good time’). This is what I think most liberals would see as a red-line issue. What is the point on being in government if you can’t stop illiberal laws making it on to the statute book? It is a pretty good question to ask.
This bill is clearly better than the first draft but that doesn’t mean it should go through and we should pat ourselves on the back about it. Heck when I write my first novel I’m sure it’ll get crucified but a few cosmetic changes may not be enough to make it worthwhile to actually publish. If it’s shit then it will only ever sit on my hard-drive taunting me over my lack of story-telling abilities. Basically what I’m saying is this bill never had to go through. The Lib Dems could have all voted it down and then if a few members of the opposition voted with the Conservative Party and it still became law then we could hold up our heads and say we are the party of civil liberties no matter what. For activists, members and those with a general liberal viewpoint this would have been respected.
Instead members are looking at themselves and thinking ‘can we really call ourselves the party of civil liberties when we do something so illiberal and worst of all – unneeded?’ I can’t answer that but I can say that Nick – in my opinion – played this one badly. Very badly. Members in general aren’t easy about coalition. Many have left because of it but many others have stayed because it is better to have some influence than none at all. However when it comes to issues that are so core to the party – and have no doubt that any civil liberties issue is core then to basically say we made a bad bill better isn’t good enough.
The members spoke. Well I should start that again. The member shouted, hooted and hollered that they didn’t want any part of this. Now I know we the grass roots don’t have the full story about why these powers are deemed necessary but if there are real reasons behind it then don’t just hide behind the ‘National Security’ or ‘Anti-Terror’ bullshit. Gives us real reasons. Give us facts. Give us figures. Oh wait you can’t in the interests of national security…
Look I know the party is having to grow up and face the real issues instead of living in our Utopian idealistic minds but if we are going to do something that is – on the face of it – so illiberal then you have to tell us why. The fact is you haven’t and now we all feel let down.
Imagine this scenario. The Lib Dems win Eastleigh on the Thursday, vote down Secret Courts on the Monday and have Spring Conference on the Friday-Sunday. Imagine the good feeling that would be pouring through our veins now. The grass roots would be energised and full of passion that the party can still win, can still look ourselves in the mirror and say that we are doing exactly what we say on the tin and we can stop bad bills in the House of Commons.
We all like winning. However do we really want to win at all costs, certainly if the cost is one of our core values? (I won’t say souls because I think that would be too far). I’d prefer to lose with pride and honour than win but not live up to our billing.
Whilst it might not make waves on the doorstep – The Justice and Security Bill has made waves amongst liberals – and not in a good way. The Lib Dems do stand for something and one of those things is the protection of civil liberties. Just because leadership have failed us on this occasion it doesn’t stop the notion. If I had a diretc line to the powers that be I’d tell them one thing – do whatever you feel you need to do – but if you do something that goes directly against the will of the party and the notion of liberalism you better give us a full and comprehensive reason why you did so – and in this situation you failed to do that.
This could have been a huge game changer for the party these past ten days. Instead it has been a deflating experience. Start listening to members and not civil servants and advisers. That is something for all Lib Dem MPs to take to heart. You may have been elected to serve but if you don’t listen to your heart and the people who work for – and support you – then you’ll end up lonely and not an MP.
As much as I’m crushing Nick here (and rightly so) 49 other MPs did not vote against the bill (although a handful were away from the HoC for legitimate reasons). So it isn’t just Nick but he is the head honcho. Nick – we are all friends in the party (actually that is a lie but lets pretend…for now) – Nick – we are all friends and you can tell us stuff. Tell us why you backed this illiberal bill and if you convince us that it was the right thing to do we’ll understand. The problem is there was no good reason and it wasn’t needed was it? You can’t defend it without using buzzwords. Get back to your roots and don’t let those non liberals scare you into thinking this is a good idea. You have a great brain and it might be an idea to use it and not ignore it at times…
Disappointed. Still a Lib Dem.
Whilst I wasn’t tagged in this meme I thought it was more than interesting and I would implore all Lib Dems (not just in the blogosphere) but all Lib Dems to sit down for a few minutes and think about their values and how they mesh with the party.
The Liberal Democrats stand for freedom for every individual – freedom from poverty, ignorance and conformity. – AW
The Liberal Democrats stand for the freedom to live your life enjoying the rewards for your own endeavour*, governed by your own choices – with equality before the law; without harming others. – RF
First of all I think I should look at what I stand for – and why I think my values reflect those of liberals and in turn the Liberal Democrats. For me the most important thing in politics and in life is that everybody should be treated as an equal and that life should not be dictated by what opportunities people get. It shouldn’t matter if you were born with a silver spoon or if you were born in a bathroom stall at Heathrow. Every single person deserves to have every opportunity to fulfill their dreams and ambitions.
You see I’m 29 and I have a dream and I have ambition. Now whilst that dream and ambition seems a long way off I am slowly making steps towards making at least one part of that dream happen. If you ask every single person you’ll see different dreams and ambitions but often life gets in the way whether we like it or not. As an (I suppose) adult my dreams are now less fanciful than when I was growing up. However I still have a dream and I strive to make my life more to how I’d like it.
So it is clear one of my strongest drives is education – and not just education in making people clever – but education to make people more understanding and an education system that caters for all and doesn’t just pigeonhole young people into getting exam qualifications. I know asking people at 11 when they want to do and then building an education around that is a fruitless experience as people will change their minds. Heck look at my university Journalism course and only two of the 40 people still make their primary living within the journalism industry as far as I’m aware (I suppose it may be more but only by one or two).
However when we are young we dream and we should never be told that anything is impossible. We shouldn’t tell someone that they can’t grow up to be whatever they want if they want it hard enough and are willing to work hard at it. How many of us sit there some days and dream of doing something else? I know I do and by the time we have decided that often we have commitments that stop us from pursuing our dreams.
So to sum up – opportunity is something that burns a fire in my belly.
Another thing is that people should have the freedom to choose however they live their life. I know in a large way we do now but so many of us live our lives with our main aim is not to be happy but to be secure. This goes back to the feeling of people being allowed to pursue their dreams. I know I am – nor is any political party – ever going to do away with the concept of money but I work to keep a roof over my head and to pay the bills. I don’t work to enjoy my life and yet I know I have it pretty good compared to others.
We need enterprising ways for society not to look down upon any other section of society for whatever reason – be in colour, nationality, sex, sexual orientation, income, benefits or anything else I haven’t mentioned. No one person is born better or worse than the next. Not one. Even in my tentative steps in this world I have seen so much prejudice for so many different reasons and it depresses me greatly.
I could ramble on and on but I need to be succinct (only about two people in the world will know why that word is so funny to me) so I need to sum up what the Liberal Democrats are to me:
The Liberal Democrats stand for ensuring that every single person has the same opportunities in life to pursue their dreams without the fear of being treated unfairly or unlawfully. If we are all treated with the same level of basic dignity by everyone then prejudice will disappear.
Lastly I just want to add a quick thought about taxation as it sadly has a large effect on all of our lives. I have no issue with taxes as long as that money is going towards building a fairer society. I don’t mind taxes if education standards are increased even if I’m never having kids. I don’t mind paying taxes if we have great hospitals that are free at the point of use. I don’t mind paying taxes to ensure we live in a clean and safe environment.
People should pay their fair share and it is right that those with more money should pay higher taxes. It is not right that these people though are taxed to the level that it would actually pay to avoid tax or to earn less. Tax should not be an ideological thing but more about ensuring more money is in the pot to provide the services to create a fairer society and closing the gap between the have’s and have not’s. For example the 45p tax rate doesn’t rile me up if indeed it does lead to more money recouped than by a 50p tax rate which is what the economists are saying it will (due to more people paying it and not moving themselves/their money overseas). Tax is not about fleecing the rich but it is about finding the best way to provide the services everyone needs and deserves.
With that I shall stop but yes equality and the freedom to pursue dreams whether young or old but education – and finding a better way to nurture young talent, inspire young minds and developing a more tolerant society is where I would start with what makes me fired up about politics and where I would love to see the Lib Dems reflect on when they look at what they do in government – and both national and local levels.
Miriam González & Nick Clegg have decided what school their eldest son will go to – why should we care?
Oh well that was a brief blog post. Oh wait I actually have to flesh it out a bit? Oh brain you are a slavedriver to my poor fingers on my right hand.
So yes. Antonio is going to a catholic school around two miles away from the González/Clegg residence. His dad is an atheist but his mum is a devout catholic and all the boys are brought up following the catholic faith. The school has around 160 places each year to give out to pupils and the main criteria is that these people are practicing catholics. Well I think that is a fair representation of Antonio as they are taken to church weekly by their mother and are brought up within the faith. So why the hoo-hah?
Well because apparently as leader of a political party Nick Clegg should do things ideologically instead of doing the right thing for his family. The way things are his son has the chance to go to a school that he and his wife agreed would be the best place for him so why shouldn’t they send their son there?
I might shock a few people here but when I was Antonio’s age I went to a catholic school. Yes I’m very much an atheist but it was far better than my local school and I do not doubt that I had a better education there. I got in because they had a policy of taking a small percentage of their intake from other denominations (but they had to be from Christian families) and my mum was a local Methodist minister at the time. Both my older brother and older sister went to the same school.
Faith schools are not full of devout Christians I can assure you of that and not all of them have a good reputation but isn’t part of the job description of a parent to give their offspring the best possible advantages in life? I would strongly contend that it is. Now in an ideal world of course every school is just as good as the next but we do not live in an ideal world. Different schools have different ethos and strengths and weaknesses.
We are not in a position to judge other human beings on their choice of school for their children. Not even if one of those parents was the leader of the Liberal Democrats. If between them they agree that the London Oratory School is the right place for Antonio then so be it. If David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nigel Farage etc… choose any school for their offspring then it should be their decision. A child’s place of education is not – nor should it ever be – a political pawn.
I hope his story dies a quick death and Antonio enjoys a great education and an enjoyable time at school. They say school is the time of your life. Whilst I contend that might actually be the case I would kinda love to go back and do my school days again knowing that in the grown-up real world things are far more stressful at times. When I was 11 all I cared about was running around the garden and what was for dinner. I never lay in bed trying to work out what I wanted from life or stressing about work or relationships etc…
Enjoy your time at school kid and lets hope the media leave you alone as well as respect the wishes of your parents.
Here’s a theory I’ve been working on: political parties are cults. They should be clubs for the like-minded, but instead become repulsive repositories that make the people inside more similar, not less, and farther away from the general public, not closer. They encourage closed minds, adoration of party leaders, disbelief of crimes committed, putting the good of the cult above the good of other people – in this case the country! Look at the way canvassers go from door to door, inquiring about votes, the currency of the cult, rather than ideology. We don’t want to change the minds of the electorate, we want them to support our particular cult getting into power instead of that other one, and ideally joining the cult and helping spread the membership..
writes Zadok Day as he blogs his departure from the Lib Dems here.
Now I should put it out there right now. I like Zadok and believe our politics are pretty well aligned so I more times than not will be on his side in any political discussion. His decision to leave the party is disappointing but it is understandable. I think we all reach the stage where we just struggle with banging our heads against a brick wall and wonder what the point of it all is. Sometimes time away from the front line will re-energise people and the fire can burn once more but sometimes it doesn’t.
Now to to his point about political parties being cults. It is an interesting and astute observation. Do political parties try to educate people into their ethos and values or do they just try to get people to vote for them? Sometimes I look at people in various political parties and don’t see them as people I’d expect to represent that parties ethos and values. Hence why so many people defect from one party to another – they do so for various reasons but councillors often defect for political reasons and not for reasons surrounding values. People defect for personal reasons that they do not like someone else in the party. Many have left the Lib Dems not because of the coalition (although many, many have) but they have left because they simply don’t like Nick Clegg, or don’t like David Laws, or don’t like Chris Huhne etc…
One thing I will say I disagree with Zadok on though is that unlike a cult – there is no slavish love of the leader. Nick Clegg is not someone who everyone likes even – heck many don’t even respect him but stay in the party because they see themselves as the true Lib Dems and they’ll be there even after Nick leaves.
However I have felt at times personally that if you have a different PoV to the majority then you are looked down upon and not engaged in conversation. Look at one of the most passionate things that many Lib Dems back at the moment on the ‘No More Page 3′ campaign. Now whilst they aren’t asking for legal reasons to ban Page 3 they are singling out one publication whereas other publications do exactly the same but are being ignored. It also seems wrong to me that one section of society can decide that they are the spokespeople for that section of society despite never being voted in. Some women may (and clearly do) want to sell topless pictures of themselves.
On to canvassing. It is a brilliant point that we don’t speak to people about their ideologies and values but we ask about who they vote for. Surely we should be finding out what people stand for and what they believe in. If we can understand that then we can better understand the electorate. I have said for eons that I think more people are broadly liberal in their views than vote Liberal Democrat. The issue is then do people not vote for the Lib Dems because they don’t see the point or because they don’t believe that the Lib Dems stand for liberals?
I have found in my time that the more you actually talk to someone about ideologies and values the more they come around to thinking liberally. Talking about votes and policy does the job short-term but the more you speak to someone about what they stand for and what liberalism is then I genuinely have found the more that people will think of themselves as liberal. Now converting this into votes is of course important if the Lib Dems are ever going to have the power to get their liberal ideologies into more people’s lives but maybe here upon lies yet another problem – are the Lib Dems really the natural home for liberals?
You’d like to think so but it isn’t that simple any more. Now the other major parties certainly can’t claim to be liberal – Iraq war, 42 days detention with no charges, a distrust of foreigners and the EU, secret courts etc.. are all things other parties have done or wanted to do. The Lib Dems have clearly done some good on this front but have they strayed away from ideology? That is a question for another day but it is probably a legitimate one.
I would love to live in a world where the liberals ran the show. However just as important is having more people broadly seeing themselves as liberals. With so many people these days migrating towards extremism and genuinely not having a liberal attitude to fellow human beings who may want to live and work in this country then it concerns me greatly. The liberal viewpoint sounds ideological but it is the ideology that I buy into.
It is a sad day that Zadok has decided to leave but I understand his PoV and even if he isn’t a member I hope he still engages with people with his liberal ideologies. The more liberal a society is then the better and happier I think it will be – and that – not votes – should be our number one aim.