The Rambles of Neil Monnery

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On the seeming rush to get the Lib Dem leadership contest underway…

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Tim Farron resigned last night. You may have seen the news. I missed it live because I was eating some battered cod. True story. Anyway that happened and instead of taking a step back and seeing what happens next, we’ve seen a rush to get everything moving and I have to admit I find it deeply disturbing.

Should a certain candidate decide to stand then I anticipate that I’ll be fully behind them but there is plenty of time to see how things shake out. I suspect most didn’t see Tim’s departure coming after he stayed on after the election result. Running for political office requires and deserves a lot of careful thought and consideration. Running to be leader of a political party is that times 100.

The MPs all have plenty of time to sit down and think about what they want to do next. To speak with their friends, colleagues and family. Nothing will happen overnight and nor should it. We should allow people the time to make their decisions.

It is human nature to want things sorted as soon as possible. I’m in the middle of a home move and boy I just want it done. Impatience is rarely a good thing but sometimes we just have to understand that big life-changing decisions don’t happen like that.

I wrote about the upcoming contest for betting.betfair.com earlier today. One of the things I said was, The Swinson bandwagon is rolling and only she can stop it if she so desires. The MP for Dunbartonshire East has been installed as the heavy betting favourite on the markets and scanning social media, she certainly has the support of a great proportion of the social media active section of the membership.

There is though time. So much time. She only won her seat back last week and even though many of us were pretty confident that she would do so, it must be a big adjustment period. Going from candidate to MP to potential leader within a week must be scary as all heck. So even if she does have leadership ambitions, it will take time for her to be sure that is what she wants to do.

Lib Dem Peer Baroness Grender tweeted this morning, ‘Dear LibDems there is time for our MPs to decide whether or not to stand as leader. It is a big ask of anyone. Major challenges ahead‘ and she’s not wrong. I would be surprised if any of the expected candidates are unsure of how their colleagues or the membership feel about them. All four will likely have some support.

So I’m imploring the members to just hold back and take a deep breath. Everything will play out how it plays out. Tim Farron only announced he was going to step down yesterday and I know human nature is what it is, still moving so fast screams of a lack of respect. Tim himself didn’t announce his intentions to stand in 2015 until a week after Nick resigned and we all knew he was going to.

No-one wants to stand straightaway, you need to take your time both for personal and for professional reasons. So lets leave the potential contenders be and let them decide what they want to do. The leadership contest is not underway and until we have some people announce they are in the running it won’t be.

We have (well the contenders) have all the time in the world (well at least a few days, maybe a fortnight or so) so what is the rush? Sit back, relax and when whoever stands for the job goes for it, lets listen to what they have to say. Until then let them decide whether they want to do the job. If/As/When they do, it is time to get behind your chosen candidate…

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Written by neilmonnery

June 15th, 2017 at 11:22 am

Posted in Politics

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On Tim Farron’s performance in the 2017 Lib Dem General Election campaign…

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I wrote in dispatches about this yesterday, certainly Tim’s problem with the gay sex question. I will reiterate that I don’t think it is fair that he (or anyone) gets those kind of questions when all that matters is how they vote and treat people, yet that is just the way of the world. Everyone knew the question was coming and not having a simple and straightforward answer that would have ended that line of questioning once and for all was a whopper of a mistake.

Another issue I had was his interview on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday 30 April. Instead of trying to own what the party (and he) were all about, he tried to pander to a section of the electorate who would agree with many Lib Dem policies but don’t on the European Union question.

I don’t want to go off on a little bit of a rabbit hole here, but you will remember that I resigned from the Liberal Democrat front bench about 10 years ago because I am a bit of a Eurosceptic

The last seven words were poison. Instead of being the unabashed Pro-EU party that seemed to be the way the strategy was set up for, he tried to just gingerly dip a toe in the other camp. This would have surprised many who joined solely because of Brexit and wanting to fight it at all costs.

The USP for the Lib Dems in 2017 was quite simply they were looking to pick-up the Pro-EU vote. By trying to appeal to those who wanted to leave the EU, it watered down that message and did very little to help any MPs representing leave areas win. I think only Eastbourne and North Norfolk voted to leave but returned Lib Dem MPs.

By weakening that message, it didn’t appeal to gentle leavers but instead made the leader out to be less authentic. If you are leading a party that is trying to attract the vote from the section of the electorate who wanted to remain as part of the EU, don’t then try to say that deep down you understand the issues with the EU, not only that but to use the eurosceptic word. It just rankles. Own what you are (or at least what you are trying to portray). You can’t please all of the people all of the time, so it is better to try and please some of those people instead of making everyone look at you with narrowing eyes wondering what it is that you really stand for…

That authentic aspect is another where Tim fell down. I understand that he grew up in Preston. I think I heard that once or twice on the campaign trail. The ‘just a regular northern bloke’ schtick did not come across well. I know that is who he is but I have seen him perform much better than how he came across in those big important TV moments. You cast your eye across to Jeremy Corbyn and he owns exactly who he is and people like authenticity.

This is where Theresa May fell down. She didn’t come across as likeable (not that she ever expected to) but she also came across as scared. Nicola Sturgeon was taken apart by the special Question Time audience and they exposed her as a one-issue candidate. Tim looked (and sounded) like someone that didn’t truly believe some of the things he was saying. He was rarely on the front foot. I wonder why this was?

We’ve all seen Tim at Conference freaking knock speeches out of the park. He may not be the orator that Nick Clegg is but he does have great passion and he is able to win you over when he’s shooting from the hip. I felt that he was never fully unleashed during this campaign. Whether that was planned or whether it was because he didn’t fully believe in the second referendum offer I just don’t know but Tim can perform much better than he did.

Tim’s approval ratings dropped throughout the course of the campaign. Those that saw him as performing well started at 16% before the campaign started but ended at only 20%. Those on the other side of the ledger started at 34% before moving to 42% and 46% according to YouGov. This meant that he started on -18% and ended at -26%. Not great but even worse, 35% said at the end of the campaign that they didn’t know. So a third of people had no opinion, he’d made that little impact. That is a killer.

Jeremy Corbyn started at -58% and ended at -2%. Theresa May started at 24% and ended at -5%. This shows that the campaign is vital and that opinions can be swayed. By seeing a small but modest drop but still having a third of people have no opinion, that has to be put down as a big miss for Tim and the party.

Last up I was just reading some newspaper articles from mid-late April. Tim Farron himself was saying things like the Lib Dems have the ‘wind at our sails’ and that Labour were ‘holed below the waterline’. If they are both true (which seemed to be the case at that point) then how did Labour increase their parliamentary party by so many whereas the Lib Dems added only four compared to the 2015 General Election? How did the momentum shift so much? Did Labour nail it or did the Lib Dems crap the bed as it were?

I suspect it was a mixture of the two but it was Tim himself who was building up our chances and even becoming the main opposition. Instead we are the fifth most important party of government (the DUP may have two fewer MPs but they have a whole lot more influence). By his own measuring stick we have greatly under-performed.

The question is why and what lessons are being learned? Tim was not outstanding during this campaign, he probably wasn’t as awful as some are saying either. The biggest problem was it was hard to believe him at times but when you are trying to sell a terrible offer to the electorate (the second referendum) then even the best salesman would struggle.

Tim will no doubt stay leader in the short-term as we watch to see whether the Tory/DUP pact can hold up. If it doesn’t then he probably leads the party into another General Election. If it does though then Jo Swinson is looming and she has all the potential in the world to have a very bright future as the next leader of the Liberal Democrats.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.

Written by neilmonnery

June 14th, 2017 at 12:19 pm

Posted in Politics

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On the 2017 Liberal Democrat campaign…

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I want to preface whatever I write in this blog post with I don’t think anyone can say any campaign manager, any campaigner or any activist didn’t really go for it. The hard work and dedication of these people should not be questioned in any way, shape or form. However lessons need to be learned with regards to what message needs to be used for future election campaigns.

Quite simply the Lib Dem message was muddled and watered down to such a degree that it made little impact. It wasn’t gruel but it was a long way from a nice thick, rich soup. Instead of campaigning for either stopping Brexit at all costs or that we wanted a soft Brexit that put the economy, Single Market access and freedom of movement at the heart of the message. The decision was to try and please both the stop Brexit at all costs and the ‘we have to respect the result of the EU referendum’ camps and it pleased neither. That was always a bad strategy if you are genuinely looking to recoup a significant number of the losses from two years ago.

The electorate do not want nuance and thoughtfulness. They want a clear, simple, concise message. The Lib Dems did not have that this time around and it was always going to be a tough sell.

You win elections in one of two ways. You scare an electorate that the alternative is so bad that you should vote one way or you give people hope. The Tories won in 2015 because they scared the electorate that any coalition involving Labour and the SNP would screw over England. It was a huge success. They tried the same this time around but it didn’t work because they were red hot favourites and a near shoo-in for a big majority. In that situation you have to give the electorate a positive reason to vote for you. Theresa May refused to do that and we all saw what happened.

Jeremy Corbyn though put forward a manifesto of hope that everything could be better. The fact they couldn’t afford much of what they promised wasn’t important. On one side you had a Conservative party that was all doom and gloom and the electorate wanted something different. The biggest problem for the Lib Dems was they chose to go negative and you couldn’t out-negative where the Tories put themselves and therefore it had no traction.

When the party released that poster of Theresa May merged with Nigel Farage I despaired. It was just awful. Whoever approved that poster or thought it was even a good idea has been in the Westminster bubble for way too long and needs to reengage with the voter. The problem wasn’t even the transphobic nature of the poster, which was awful enough. The biggest problem was at that point in the campaign, more than 50% of voters wanted the Tories or UKIP to win so why would you ever commission a poster that reminded the majority of voters that the Lib Dems view of Brexit was not what they wanted?

I know it was clearly designed to shock and remind the soft-Tory voter of the type of Brexit that Theresa May was proposing but that was never the right way to get those voters to switch. Once again you can’t out-negative a negative Tory party (Blukip anyone?) so you have to give hope to in this case soft Tory voters that the Lib Dems can be a vital influence in ensuring Brexit is not the hard right-wing version that the Tories seemed to be campaigning on. Instead we chose to scare them and when that didn’t work, they looked elsewhere.

The place they looked was to Labour. The party whose leader is deeply EU sceptic himself. The fact that according to Lord Ashcroft’s exit poll data, two thirds of those that voted Labour actually wanted to Remain in the European Union must spin heads at Lib Dem HQ. How can a party who seemed happy to allow Article 50 be triggered really have scooped up so many Remain voters? Quite simply that put the economy first and prioritised Single Market access.

From Labour’s manifesto, ‘We will scrap the Conservatives’ Brexit White Paper and replace it with fresh negotiating priorities that have a strong emphasis on retaining the benefits of the Single Market and the Customs Union – which are essential for maintaining industries, jobs and businesses in Britain. Labour will always put jobs and the economy first.

That my friends (as well as enemies and those who are neutral towards me) is the ding, ding, ding moment. Labour promised some fantastic things with regards to sticking it to the Tories and on domestic issues. With regards to Brexit though they cleverly manoeuvred themselves as the party of the soft Brexit where the economy wouldn’t be impacted as much. This is the position a lot of the 48% (and some of the 52%) wanted. It moved Labour into being electable for those who cared about the economy. It was smart and it meant the Lib Dems position was wishy-washy in the eyes of many potential voters.

Of course we have to look at Tim Farron’s gay sex issue. Is it right that politicians are put in a position where they have to talk about their personal beliefs without how it impacts the way that they vote? No. No it is not. Yet that is a reality of the world we live in and Tim had the best part of two years to find the answer to that question. He failed to do so. This led to a lot of momentum being stagnated early on in the campaign. Tim is a brilliant campaigner and surely he would have known he needed to to ready for this issue. The fact he wasn’t stunned me.

I have no idea if he truly has issues with this. My best guess would be that he doesn’t but that is all it is, my best guess. However whenever anyone twice in an interview uses the term, ‘theological announcements’ then you have to think they are trying to worm their way out of answering a question directly.

Tim’s performances on TV were certainly a mixed bag. In the BBC Debate he was very good. He got slammed by Andrew Neil though one-on-one, it was brutal. Neil didn’t come off as anything more than a schoolyard bully but Farron failed to make any inroads. If I were a floating voter and was watching, I certainly wouldn’t have thought much of either person on my TV.

In terms of targeting, I actually have little to say as I think in general they did a good job. I’ve seen plenty moan about the time and resources being put into Labour facing seats where we didn’t hold incumbency, Vauxhall, Bermondsey & Old Southwark, Hornsey & Wood Green, Cambridge for instance but I feel as though those seats were certainly winnable. Certainly at the start of the campaign. When the runaway carriage known as Jeremy Corbyn’s populism really got going though, this is when some time and resources could have easily been pulled and sent towards Tory facing seats (Vauxhall, Bermondsey and Hornsea to Richmond Park, Cambridge to St. Albans for example) but in general I think a good job was done here.

One thing that is clear in retrospect is the next generation of Lib Dems need to fully appreciate what it takes to get elected as a Liberal Democrat MP. Several quite brilliant younger candidates saw disappointing results and a lot of it is because the electorate don’t really know them yet. This isn’t the fault of anyone but it takes time for an electorate to get to know a new candidate, certainly if they aren’t already a councillor.

If we do have a full five-year parliament (big if) then many of these people should be in a position where they’ve embedded themselves within their community and are much more likely to have a personal connection with their electorate. If you look at many of our MPs, they’ve not won on the first go-around. They’ve won after continuing to show the local community that they are there for the long haul and aren’t just being parachuted in. This seems to be the way forward and one of the issues of this snap election, it didn’t give these candidates the time they needed.

It just felt as though the Lib Dems weren’t actually promoting anything apart from a second referendum instead of actually offering something that the public could get their teeth into. The manifesto was pretty good overall I thought but apart from the second referendum, the only other parts that made any real impact were the cannabis and 1p on Income Tax for social care policies. This shows that manifesto’s aren’t as important as we once thought, it is all about the headline policies. Labour offered everything and the Tories had a big cock-up over the so-called Dementia Tax that caused momentum to shift.

One issue we all know the party has is when the electorate aren’t sure who’ll form a government, they tend to look only at Labour or the Tories. When landslides are expected, they are happier to look at other parties. We saw this in 2010 when despite having some real momentum and more votes, the MPs went down. The 1997-2005 era showed steady growth as people knew Labour were set to win but in 2010, when push came to shove, many still went red or blue and thus the party saw a reduction in MPs.

So this is something that looked good for us when the campaign started but as polling showed that Labour could actually form a government, the electorate started to drift that way once more. This hurt in Labour facing seats but also meant lots of people who would lend a vote in Tory facing seats decided to vote tribally instead of just to oust the Tories.

The Lib Dems are no longer the party of protest. They are also no longer the party of the radical centre. They have positioned themselves as a lite version of the other two main parties and that is not a winning position going forward. I’d like to see the party move towards standing solidly for something again and not a watered down version of something else.

Labour are not liberal in any way, shape or form. They are authoritarian and want to give away free stuff but at some point we all have to pay for it through taxation. This sounds good for most, kicking the debt into the long-grass for another day. It though isn’t the smart way to deal with the problems facing the country today. Yet many did vote for this last Thursday. The fact many Remain voters went to them and indeed many natural Lib Dem voters seemed to switch showed that people are fed up and voted for the party they believed could deliver real change. That party is not the Lib Dems, or at least it wasn’t last Thursday.

If I could from my outside of HQ eyes say anything then it would be that the party has to look hard at itself in the mirror and decide what it actually is. This is not a short-term fix, this is a long haul towards being the third party in the House of Commons again but it could easily happen in five years. However what the Lib Dems need is to have that clearer and more concise message. Use positivity more than negativity.

My generation grew up with Tony Blair telling us anything was possible, the next generation is seeing that with Jeremy Corbyn, they should be seeing it with us and they aren’t. That is the most damning indictment of the 2017 General Election that any natural liberal can give.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.

Written by neilmonnery

June 13th, 2017 at 10:49 am

Posted in Politics

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On the despair of losing Nick Clegg and the moment my view of liberalism died…

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This is not going to be upbeat folks.

Nick Clegg is the reason I’m involved in politics. Plain and simple. His view of the world and what is worth campaigning for is extremely aligned to mine. He is the person I’ll defend to the hilt most of all when people come at me with various views that aren’t liberal. The personal vendetta against him by a large section of society has made me question just how other people can see the same as me but see it completely differently. This isn’t just outward looking towards those not voting for (nor members of) the Lib Dems but also inward looking. Many in the party do not like him and I often struggle to understand why.

We’ll start from the very beginning, its a very good place to start so I’ve heard. I did A-Level politics and have always had interest in the subject. I was always more liberal than anti-Tory. I found that my views of the world are extremely liberal and they haven’t really changed as I’ve gotten older. Yet I had very little interest in actually getting involved. I went off to university and then after uni I bounced about a bit. I would trundle along to the local primary school or church hall on election days and put my x in the Lib Dem box but that was that.

Come Cleggmania though I was starting to be getting drawn in. The truth of the matter was I looked at him the way many looked at Tony Blair in 1997, I looked at him and I genuinely believed that he could deliver a brighter and more prosperous future. Not only that but that he could engineer a more tolerant and welcoming society. This was an era before UKIP’s popularity was inflamed by the media normalising racist and xenophobic behaviour but still I thought a future where intolerance would be shunned.

That first debate happened and suddenly everything seemed possible, no matter how far-fetched. The electorate saw their was a potential third way. It wasn’t just left or right but also centre. Voting for the Lib Dems wasn’t just a protest vote against one of the other two parties. It was a vote for something rather than against something else.

As we all subsequently know though, the media decided they didn’t like that. Hatchet jobs were done on him and polling data suppressed by The Sun that could have changed the course of the 2010 General Election. The key piece of data from that YouGov polling was that they found if people thought Nick Clegg’s party had a significant chance of winning the election, it would win 49 per cent of the votes, with the Tories winning 25 per cent and Labour just 19 per cent. So essentially if people thought the Lib Dems were in it, they would vote for them.

As it turned out, this was kept out of the limelight for weeks and allowed the other two main parties to once more get back into the front seat by saying it was only them that could win the election. Once momentum had gone it was difficult to get back. Of course the Lib Dems would eventually go into a coalition with the Tories and that would prove his downfall.

Tuition fees. Two words for which the Lib Dem membership and FPC will always skate away scot-free on. Those two words would become the millstone around the neck that caused the liberal dream to be shunted back a generation at best. The Lib Dems believed then (as do most now) that free university tuition is a good thing. The issue is when you go into coalition, you can’t actually put your manifesto into place. The country as a whole had firmly rejected the Lib Dem manifesto but when they voted for (in most cases – I think four Lib Dem MPs didn’t if my memory serves me right – my memory didn’t – I’m correctly told it was 21) the backlash and vitriol was paramount. The country said they didn’t want the Lib Dems but still smeared them for not doing what they proposed to the country. Tough crowd.

This brings me towards something I may well write about later if I have the time. The electorate do not seemingly want three-party politics. The media most certainly do not. They want things to be straightforward. You have the goodies and the baddies depending on your point of view. There is no wriggle room for nuance. No shades of grey. This makes everything a whole lot easier for many to get their head around.

Fast forward to last Thursday and I heard in the evening that Clegg was in considerable trouble and it was like someone had punched me in the gut. It was this soul-destroying pain. The realisation that the man you idolise in a political sense (and trust me, I do, even though he unfollowed me on twitter a couple of years ago, harsh Nick, harsh) is about to be turfed out of his job of 12 years just when his country needs him most is just bewildering to me. There are of course reasons, of which another blog post will get written but this is more of a personal account.

Now instead of being a key voice in talks protecting the form of Hard Brexit that most Remainers (and some Brexiteers) his role and future is more up in the air. He can pretty much do whatever he wants. He’s smarter than the average bear so to speak. There would/will be a queue of businesses and roles within politics that will be open to him. That is something that I am please about in a way, he’s now free to move on and get away from that vilification that has followed him for the past seven years.

One thing I do want to say is that I’m used to seeing Labour folks trashing him. They can rejoice in his demise because it is a fixation they have. What galls is how many Lib Dems are doing the same. They say he’s toxic and until he left then the party would never recover from tuition fees. Yet we just had an election that was called primarily as a referendum for giving the Tories a mandate for the harshest Brexit possible. Even the most ardent Clegg haters agreed that if you were against a hard Brexit then Nick Clegg’s voice and expertise were if not the best and most important (as I believed) in the House of Commons then definitely at the top tier. So him losing hurts those aspirations at what is a crucial time.

Nick Clegg was one of the smartest men in politics. One of the biggest assets the public had in the House of Commons. Love him or hate him but that is an accurate representation of the man. Now I know some people don’t want the best and the brightest representing them, they want more people like them and that is fair enough. That isn’t for me though. At such a time of volatility for the future, I want the best going in to bat for me. Sadly that will not be Nick Clegg at any point soon.

This saddens me deeply. If is such a small word but if things had just been that little bit different, Nick Clegg could have been the best Prime Minister this country had seen in generations. Instead we’ll never see what a Nick Clegg vision of the future would be and that might be the saddest thing of all.

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Written by neilmonnery

June 12th, 2017 at 1:59 pm

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

with one comment

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 and you can use sites like betulator to place that 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.

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April 25th, 2017 at 9:11 am

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On Tim Farron and his gay sex issue…

with 2 comments

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.

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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…

with one comment

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.

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March 14th, 2017 at 11:40 am

Posted in Politics

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