Archive for the ‘nick clegg’ tag
Oh what could have been…
I didn’t watch last nights Question Time Brexit Special because well, I tend to not watch Question Time in general but also a mate popped over to catch up. In fact in the past five years I’ve only seen one regular episode (when it was from Portsmouth after the government had given the two new aircraft carriers to a Scottish dockyard) but anyway I digress. I woke up this morning and was scrolling through my time line. One thing struck me (apart from a fellow SIAD grad and a football commentator reminding me of the fact Michael Gove existed and that Sarah Vine wakes up next to him daily, for which I am still traumatised) and that was that people are missing Nick Clegg. I’m not surprised.
If you go back through this very blog you’ll see numerous blurbs from me extolling the virtues of the MP for Sheffield Hallam. I make no bones about it. I agree with Nick. I did then, I do now and I pretty much have done so for the vast majority of the times in-between. The fact he unfollowed me on twitter hasn’t lessened my feelings towards the man (but the fact I’m bringing it up shows it is still galling…)
The thing is had things been different. Lets say Chris Huhne had become leader of the Lib Dems instead of Nick when they faced off against each other. Or had say Gordon Brown not said what he did with a hot mic about Gillian Duffy. Had the Greek economy not collapsed several days before the 2010 UK General Election. Had Lib Dem Conference done what Nick wanted to got rid of the pledge about tuition fees (because Nick knew in any coalition talks that was a big obstacle to overcome). Had the instant poll after the second leaders debate put Clegg ahead of Cameron by 1% instead of the other way round. Had just one of these things gone the other way then in all likelihood history will have been very different. Not just for Clegg personally but also for the country and the Lib Dems. Fine margins…
In my (albeit) brief lifetime (ok I am in my mid 30s now – eek) there have been two truly inspirational politicians in the UK. One was Tony Blair and the other is Nick Clegg. Whether you like them or their politics, they were the two people that you could see were a) natural leaders but more importantly b) had the potential to be great.
Blair’s legacy will forever be tarnished by Iraq and people forget that those Labour governments were not bad. They won three landslide elections on the spin (including one after the Iraq War) for a reason. Not just because the Tory party kept finding leaders who couldn’t lead their way out of a paper bag or inspire people but because the general quality of life was getting better for many people.
For Clegg his legacy will be tied to tuition fees and a pledge he was fully committed to had he been Prime Minister but one he knew he couldn’t deliver in coalition. I have spent many calories typing away words about the difference between having a majority government and being a junior partner in the coalition but those words fell flat. Raw anger won and logic became something to be spoken about in hushed corners fearing that the mob would overhear.
Then 2015 happened. Most political pundits expected the Lib Dems to once again hold the balance of power. Ed Miliband was as hopeless a leader as expected and couldn’t deliver a Labour victory whilst the rest of the country decided they hated the coalition government so much that they would punish the junior party in that coalition. Let the Tories be free to do what they wanted is what people cried as they buried the Lib Dems with a hearty laugh and a cheer as they walked away from the ballot boxes.
Nick Clegg did the only thing he could, fall on his sword. The country had spoken and instead of another five years taming the right-wing Euro-sceptic part of the Conservative party. He would become a backbencher and watch as they dragged the government away from where most people actually wanted them to be. He would refuse a part in Tim Farron’s initial cabinet as he either felt like he had to lick his wounds or thought he was just too toxic. Then the EU Referendum came and things changed. The Cleggster was unleashed and he had that swagger back.
When people ask me who I would like to see as leader of the Lib Dems and Prime Minister it won’t surprise you as to my answer. Yet I know deep down that sadly that will never be the case. Tuition fees is a millstone around that neck and even though plenty of worse things are going on in government (both then and now) too many people would point to that one thing. It saddens me greatly that a man who could have been one of the great leaders of the world (yes I know some just spit out their cup of tea at that notion but I stand by it) will never have the opportunity to fulfil his potential.
For now though he’s become arguably the most articulate politician of the Anti-Brexit coalition. Tim Farron has been a clear and strong voice for it. Ken Clarke has been fighting from within and has shown deep courage in his convictions. Nicola Sturgeon is trying to use it as a lever to get an independent Scotland but Nick Clegg just gets it. He still has it. Put Clegg in a situation where people only listen to words with an open mind and no preconceived ideas then he’s the greatest asset the Anti-Brexit coalition has – by far.
The problem is though is that a situation enough people put themselves in? I fear not but after nigh on two years out of the limelight and out of the daily grind of the newspapers and comedians using him as their favourite low fruit punching bag then maybe the toxicity is evaporating. Will it ever happen to the degree that he could either lead the party again or potentially have a roll to play in a future coalition or Lib Dem government? I doubt it (and lets be honest – we have no idea if he wants to stand again in 2020 when he surely has a plethora of offers out there).
This is why I often look at things like timing and see it as so important. Not just in this example but in life for all of us. Sometimes opportunities come along at the right time but also sometimes the right thing happens but at the wrong time. Sometimes events conspire for you, sometimes against you. Had Nick Clegg not been leader of the Lib Dems in 2010 or been Deputy Prime Minister in a coalition government and was now the fresh faced face of the Anti-Brexit movement, I suspect that movement would have its inspirational leader and that ball wouldn’t just be rolling, it would be gathering pace at a vast rate of knots.
I’ll leave you with these two questions:
Who would you trust to get the best deal for the UK in any Brexit negotiations, David Davis or Nick Clegg?
Who would you prefer to see as our Foreign Minister, Boris Johnson or Nick Clegg?
I suspect the answer is Clegg – to both.
I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.
Lets not beat around the bush. I am a Nick Clegg guy. A total Nick Clegg guy. I have always been a Liberal Democrat voter but Nick is the reason why I’m a card carrying member. Nothing against any leader before or since but there was something extremely special about Nick Clegg. He could’ve been a great leader of this country but instead it’ll be a generation before people truly understand what they’ve missed out on by essentially nailing him to the cross based mainly on the tuition fees situation and of course some voters believing that working with the Tories in any capacity was treachery.
In the past week we’ve seen much upheaval in the political sphere. A Labour Party held at gunpoint by a leader who has an army of followers but no way to ever win a war at a wider level and a Conservative Party where the big beast expected to be Prime Minister has bottled it after one of the most egregious pieces of back stabbing we’ve seen in modern political history by one of the nastiest and slimiest MPs around.
Amongst all that the Lib Dems have seen a surge in new members, over 12,000 in the past week at last count and having already spoken to a few around where I live in Southend, I was surprised (and very pleased) that none of them so far have had a bad word to say about Nick Clegg. Quite the opposite in fact. This gives me the sense that some of the stigma surrounding the party is starting to evaporate and that opens up big opportunities for the party.
I don’t think its exactly breaking news that I’m sceptical about our leader, not in his convictions, I think on that issue he ticks the boxes but in terms of being at ease in the spotlight and being a natural orator then I think there are still questions to answer. Yet his speech at Conference in 2015 was fast rate, it was passionate, it was heartfelt and it gave hope. The big question now is whether he can make enough waves to get the media attention when the party are now arguably the fifth most important in the United Kingdom political sphere behind the big beasts, UKIP and the SNP.
What the past week has shown though is the Lib Dems now clearly stand for something. They have that headline sign around their neck. The Lib Dems are very much Pro-EU. This means they are pro international business, they are pro the City of London being the heart of the world’s financial sector, they are pro small business. They are pro the freedom of movement of people across the EU, they are pro having an open and tolerant multicultural society.
It is something I think many Lib Dems have struggled with in recent years, telling people via canvassing or leafleting exactly what the party stand for. Did they stand for keeping the Tories in check (which I still think they did very well considering the electoral math against them) or did they stand for just local issues and try to ignore the national scene. The sad truth is national swings will often effect local races when they shouldn’t so I’m always been a proponent of talking about national issues as well as local ones, this isn’t something that has been widely shared amongst some that I know.
Still now is an opportunity for people to join or rejoin the party and the softening of the distrust and dislike of the party by the voters. This isn’t going to change overnight but the Lib Dems now sit at the heart of the centre-left on the ideological spectrum, a position not too far away from where Tony Blair won office in three consecutive landslides from 1997 to 2005.
The Labour Party are in complete disarray, their leader is so far left that they are now unelectable and he can’t even command his own party. Either he goes or his party splits and should that happen and a split Labour Party alliance or amalgamation with the Lib Dems and suddenly the centre-left once more has a party at the heart of it. This isn’t beyond the realm of possibility and in this era of political uncertainty, things move fast and flexibility will be key but the signs are everything is in play.
Over in the blue camp, they are undergoing a leadership contest where it is assumed that a pretty hard-lined right-winger in Theresa May is set to win. Should that come to fruition then she will drag the party away from the centre ground where David Cameron has cleverly put it to win a surprise second term at Prime Minister. With the Tories potentially abandoning the centre, Labour way out left and UKIP way out right, imagine a progressive party sitting in that centre-left spot consisting of non Corbynista Labour and the Lib Dems. Has some real potential no?
Still that is a long way off, for now the Liberal Democrats now have a clear identity. They know who they are and can mix the national scene with local politics once again. The Lib Dems aren’t just Tory-lite or Tory-curbers, they have their own clear electoral platform. Whether they take this opportunity, well we’ll find out in time but as it stands they are the only party in England who firmly want to stay in the EU and aren’t placed on either extreme flank of political ideology.
If you believe in this country being part of the world and not a backwater island, want the country to be a player on the world stage, want to keep down racism and xenophobia and hopefully eradicate it altogether, want to be part of an all-inclusive multicultural society and want the next generation to have the opportunities that we had then at this moment there is one clear political party for you. I’m not saying the Lib Dems are the greatest things since Cherry Bakewells (we’re not) but we do believe in looking forward and not backwards and know exactly what direction we want to take the country in and that isn’t something either the red or blue teams can say at this juncture.
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.
Well that was fun wasn’t it? Wait, no, that isn’t right, that was a fucking disaster and one of the most stupid things that any country has ever done it itself. Bugger.
Still, whilst my views on the result are pretty clear, I am pretty fed up with people who are ragging on those who voted in a different way or want a second referendum. You don’t just keep going until you get the decision you want (I’m looking at you Scotland…) that isn’t how democracy works. So I don’t want a second referendum and won’t sign a petition to say such a thing. I would love to go into my time machine and shows 17million people the first 24 hours in the markets where if we spread out the loses in just one day total £6,000 for all of us but alas my time travelling capabilities are still pretty rustic.
The truth is three sets of people voted to leave and two of them I don’t have an issue with. Firstly the racists and xenophobes, I think you are quite awful people for a variety of reasons but if that is how you voted sincerely then so be it, I can’t rag you for having an opinion (no matter how horrendous I believe those opinions are).
Secondly those people who genuinely believe they know better than the overwhelming majority of economists, I think you are stupid when you say things like, ‘what do experts know?’ and I wonder to myself when you go to the doctor, do you ask the receptionist to oversee your visit or do you listen to the fucking person employed to try and fix you? When your car breaks down do you wander over to your local coffee shop and ask the barista to take a look at it or do you go to the mechanic? I think I’ve made my point but if you sincerely believe that you know what is best for the economy then so be it, you are a moron but entitled to be a moron.
The third group though, which is significant, are people I can’t can’t get on board with at all. These are the people who used this referendum that would change the way the world sees us, change the way laws are made, change the economy is a frighteningly devastatingly manner, these people voted just as a protest or to show the Tories and/or the Westminster elite that they were angry. Bravo people, bravo. It is like tearing down your plasma TV from the wall and smashing it on the floor because England can’t score against Slovakia. It makes you feel good for a few seconds but then you realise what an eejit you’ve been and how it is going to cost you. If you voted to leave and are in this camp then I quite simply do not have time for you.
There are plenty of reasons about why Great Britain voted to become little England and I don’t have time to write 10,000 words on all of them so I’ll just touch on a few of them.
I would like to start with the banking crisis and the way the media portrayed it. This was the seed that would grow into the anger that a lot of the country felt on Thursday. The belief that the bankers caused the financial mess and pretty much got away scot free. This perception was fuelled by the media and bankers because one of (if not the) most distrusted set of people in the country for a short while. It was fun to bash the bankers and it was also an easy way to get a laugh. Comedians lived off of banker attacks for several years and whilst it was a cheap and easy laugh, all it did was intensify the resentment for the City of London amongst many people.
I touched on the media there and there is no doubt in my mind that they deserve a large slice of the blame due to the lazy journalism that has swept through the industry for many years. Good journalism is hard and is often expensive to produce because it takes time and money to investigate fully. If you are an owner of a media outlet and can get a million clicks for a story about Chris Evans and Matt leBlanc feuding about hosting Top Gear for near even free or pay for two journalists to investigate and write about the real banking crisis then what are you going to do? You are going to be lazy. That is just modern journalism for many media outlets.
For years they pilloried Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems for being ‘liars’ or ‘caring more about ministerial cars’ and yet what was it, all of the dailies bar the Guardian, Daily Mirror and Morning Star endorsed some form a Lib Dem influence on the 2015-2020 government knowing that they had actually done a good job? Well do you know what thickwads (which isn’t a word) if you tell your readership for five years how fucking awful a political party is and how much of a lying toerag their leader is, don’t be surprised if at the very little minute one editorial doesn’t erase the five years of horse shit you’ve shovelled.
Next up the political parties themselves, the Tory party essentially were playing with house money and finally came up against a Royal Flush and still bet big. They danced with losing Scotland but kept it just about. Then they won a General Election that no-one expected them to due to Labour being shit, everyone hating the Lib Dems and as it turns out, they may have been fiddling the books and just buying the election if multiple police investigations bear any fruit. They felt invincible and the Prime Minister thought he could finish the EU situation once and for all and go down in history as the man who governed for the best part of two terms, kept the union together, destroyed a real rival in the south and kept the country in the EU on favorable terms.
However history will say that he was the man who lost the referendum and oversaw the rise of intolerance within his nation and of course it is possible he’ll be the man that causes a long and deep recession. All because he wanted to roll the dice once last time on a big issue that he wasn’t sure he could win. As any gambler will tell you, at some point your luck runs out and boy did luck run out for the PM. Sadly for all of us, we’ll also share in the suffering and it won’t be just him who deals with the embarrassment.
I thought the PM was right to resign and essentially roll a hospital pass to his successor. Why should the PM deal with the shit storm that is coming? Yes he helped create it but he at least tried to stop it and put the genie back in the bottle. He has colleagues (and probable successors) who actively wanted to leave so why don’t they help shape the new emboldened UK, free from EU red tape. The sombre look on Michael Gove and Boris Johnson’s faces on Friday morning said more than 1,000 words could. They won yet are mortified that they helped create this and now have to deal with the repercussions.
Now on to Jeremy Corbyn, the spineless leader of the Labour party (at the time of writing, I haven’t checked Twitter in 20 mins or so) whose lukewarm endorsement of the EU essentially shifted the balance of power. Had the Corb thrown his weight fully behind the remain camp then that side would have in all likelihood won. Yet his history of railing against the EU and clear wanting to not share a platform or fully campaign alongside Tories led in part to the result on Thursday. Jeremy Corbyn played politics with the future and he helped screw all those young people he said he cared deeply about just because he didn’t like David Cameron and the Tories.
I hope Jeremy sleeps well at night because he has to take a large swathe of the blame to go around and that is why the Labour party are ready to revolt against him. Corbyn has been in power less than a year and in that time he has helped destroy the EU and is on the verge of seeing Labour genuinely split and officially break apart. Not a bad years work for the lad…
Whilst many people were surprised at the result, some of course are already saying they predicted it, that politicos only exist within their own bubble and don’t know what real people think out in the world. I surround myself mostly with people who wanted to remain as part of a reformed EU, these are the people I speak to and work with. People for who a strong economy and opportunity for them and their loved ones are a priority. People for whom multiculturalism is a good thing and that there is a great big world out there and we are but a small part of it. The overwhelming majority of those people are absolutely gutted today knowing that the future is bleaker, not just for them but for those they care about.
On the other side of the ledger I do know some people who voted to leave and they mostly sit in the casual xenophobic camp. People who have never themselves actually had an issue with foreigners, never lost a job because of a foreigner yet will blame them for hogging up the road or for being ill and ensuring they can’t get a doctors appointment when they need one or believe that foreigners are living on our benefits system. I shake my head and despair and ask them for proof of these things but they just say they know and that I can’t see because my head is too far up my own backside. I don’t live in the real world accordingly to them because…well I don’t know why but I presume it is because I disagree with them politically and anyone who does so doesn’t live in the real world.
As some of you know I work from home so often have the idiot box on in the corner and I like to watch/half watch Homes under the Hammer most mornings so after that there is sometimes a show on the BBC called ‘Saints and Scroungers’ where people are talking about their need for housing benefit. I have casually watched this and I’d say 95% of the ‘saints’ are white English folk and 95% of the ‘scroungers’ are people of foreign descent. I’m relatively sure this isn’t a good indicator of the housing benefit issues facing the country but is just lazy propaganda by the BBC that reinforces some peoples view about the world that they live in.
It is also true that is the vast majority of instances on Thursday, places with a lower rate of immigration voted far more to leave than in places where immigrants live to a more significant degree. In places like Yorkshire, Cornwall, Wales, the Isle of Wight and even around where I live in Southend, where the immigration rates are extremely low voted to leave. It either shows that people voted for immigration reasons based on what they think they know and not what they’ve actually experienced or that immigration wasn’t the issue and I think immigration was the key.
We as a country have made great strides forward to becoming a more open and tolerant society, for example on LGBT issues know whilst there are some dickheads who will still hassle people for the way they choose to live their life or who who they love, steps have been going in the right direction. We aren’t there yet but things are better now. Yet in large parts of the country on Thursday, people voted to show the world that we are more intolerant. People have showed that abusing those who are different is to be more accepted and my word is that a depressing state of affairs.
For me the EU Referendum question was a no brainer, I didn’t even have to think about it because I knew firmly that the best thing for the country was to remain. For economic reasons it just isn’t a question and for tolerance issues that shows the world that we are an open and accepting people. We had it great with the EU, we had an unbelievable deal that gave us the Veto on many important issues and all number of preferential treatments. Instead though we’ve seemingly decided to throw it all away to go our own way.
The fact we have potentially shot ourselves in the foot economically speaking is maddening and stupid but the fact we’ve embraced xenophobia and latent racism is the real result of Thursday. We’ve decided that our place isn’t in the world, it is as an island on our own. We, the country that invaded and conquered most of the world, have now turned our back on the rest of the globe and its 7billion people and want England just for us because we know better. The arrogance of it all is just bewildering.
Yet we have made our bed. It is time to lie in it. It sucks but that is life. I’m just grateful that I’m not going to have any kids because the next generation are going to have it so much tougher than we had. We lived in a golden era of opportunity where anything seemed possible. For the kids of my friends, that will not be the case and for those children I can only apologise. Had young people engaged and gone out to vote then everything would’ve been different but what was it, 36% of 18-24 year-olds voted, a statistic in itself that should send shivers through the spine.
There is plenty of blame to go around and not one person, party or segment of society can shoulder all of it. This is the country we’ve created where lazy journalism wins, where short-term political ambitions are more important than issues that will shape the next 100 years of this country, where internal party feuds are decided by national referendums, where intolerance and distrust of anyone different isn’t lambasted but welcomed and where the disenfranchised can vote for something as a protest not realising that what they thought they voted for wasn’t actually what they voted for.
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.
This really isn’t about the Lib Dem position on Syria but more about the hysteria from the membership about our position. This evening Nick Clegg (this is apparently another bone of contention) announced/was on Sky News and said that the Lib Dem MPs would be backing the government proposal to join with our allies in bombing on ISIL targets in Syria.
I’m in a strange position here as I essentially have no position on what we should do because I quite simply do not have enough information to form a considered opinion. What I do know is these MPs have more information than I do and and therefore in a much better position to form an opinion than myself. I would also contend that they have more information than most (if not all) Lib Dem members but as I’ve found out, they all know many things, apart from those who don’t, but they are wrong.
Recently on this very blog I was called many names and told I was uneducated because I had an opinion on something. On that subject I had far more information on which to form an opinion because that is what I do. I form opinions on subjects based on the information at my disposal, those opinions are fluid depending on learning more information. Therefore my opinion can change but unless I have at least some information then I find it hard to form an opinion on a subject. Others seemingly don’t have that problem.
Over on Lib Dem Voice, the comment thread underneath the article on this news is quite something to behold. I’ve also read elsewhere of people who are seriously considering their positions within the party and whether they can be associated with the party any more. I find this puzzling, I really do. There is a difference between ideology and the real world and if you don’t believe that there is then no wonder some people are perpetually disappointed.
Next up the whole fact that Nick Clegg spoke on it, seriously why is this a fucking issue? Tim is said to be writing to all the members as I type and that e-mail could well be in my inbox before I post this. Nick Clegg is one of only eight MPs we have and if Tim wants to go and write his letter to the members then so be it. I’m surprised some people haven’t got annoyed about the fact it was on Sky News.
As I’ve said already, I have no real opinion as I don’t have any information but here is what we do know. We know that these are bad bad people. They have already murdered Brits, they have murdered allies, they have murdered their own, they take young women as sex slaves just because it makes them feel powerful. I think we are all in agreement that a way is needed to stop them, whether that is air strikes who knows? The fact is probably none of us do but we elect representatives to parliament and ask them to listen to their constituents, their party and their own conscious to make decisions for the good of the people of this country.
Military intervention is part of the world and unless we want to turn a blind eye to atrocities that are being done around the world and become a complete isolationist country then it will continue to be part of the United Kingdom. Whether it is right or not in this case isn’t clear (and trust me – it isn’t) but people revolting, leaving the party and such just for getting involved in military action (and heck, we’ve been involved in military action in Iraq and Afghanistan for ages) seems bizarre to me.
As Brian Paddick just tweeted, ‘V difficult decision with no “right answer”. @LibDems parliamentarians debated the issues, respecting different views, rightly not in public’ and he’s right. There isn’t a right answer, there isn’t a wrong answer. We can’t see into the future, it is drawback of the human mind. All our MPs can do is discuss and debate the situation with the information at hand and make the best decision that they can. I wish it was a cut and dry issue with a clearly defined right and wrong answer but it isn’t. I trust that our MPs are good people, I’m actually extremely confident that they are and they won’t have made any decision in haste without careful consideration.
Making decisions is difficult as I was typing that sentence, Tim’s letter was passed on to me. You can read it in full below. Having just read it I don’t think it will soothe the concerns of some of the party but I do believe it to be sincere and honest, which is all I could personally ask of him. Being an MP isn’t easy and when you actually have to make tough decisions, it is much harder than when you don’t actually have to make that decision.
I still have no real position on air strikes in Syria but I’m willing to trust that those with more information have a better idea of what might be the best course of action, one thing I certainly wouldn’t back is to sit back and do nothing, which I fear many people would back until terror hit UK shores and that would not be right.
The rest of the blog post is Tim’s letter:
When the government asked MPs to support military action in Syria against Assad in 2013, I refused to provide that support. I was not convinced our intervention would be effective, nor that it was fully backed by a diplomatic effort to establish a lasting peace, nor would it prevent more suffering than it caused.
In response to that deep-rooted scepticism last time I wrote to the Prime Minister last week, together with Nick Clegg, Paddy Ashdown, Ming Campbell, Kirsty Williams and Willie Rennie, setting out five principles against which the Liberal Democrats believe the case for military action should be based.
It is my judgement that, on balance, the five tests I set out have been met as best they can at this moment, and I will therefore be voting in favour of extending our operations to allow airstrikes on ISIL in Syria.
I have written in more length about how I have reached my decision below.
I am well aware that many in the party will disagree with me. I hope that, even if you cannot support me, you can support the approach I have taken, and recognise that I have taken this difficult decision after the fullest consideration.
ACTION AGAINST ISIL
Having considered the five principles I set out last week, having read the Foreign Affairs Select Committee report and the government’s response, having listened to the Prime Minister’s case for action, having listened to impassioned arguments for and against supporting military action from inside and outside the party, I am clear that this conflict is very different to Iraq in 2003 and I think it is important I explain why I believe that.
THE ILLEGAL WAR IN IRAQ
In 2003 a ‘dodgy dossier’ was used in an attempt to convince us that Saddam Hussein represented an imminent threat to international peace and security. In 2015 there is no dodgy dossier.
Instead, ISIL murdered 129 people on the streets of Paris. In restaurants, at a concert, on the pavement, those killed could just as easily have been here in Britain, in London, already a top target for ISIL.
This is before even considering how ISIL is threatening the security and stability of Iraq, a sovereign nation that has requested the help of the United Nations in protecting itself.
Unlike 2003, ISIL’s evil is apparent to the world in the beheading of journalists and aid workers for a worldwide audience, the rape and enslavement of tens of thousands of women, the summary execution of gay men and women, its brutal occupation of vast tracts of Iraq and Syria, and the terrified exodus of humanity we see in refugee camps from Lebanon to Calais.
THE UNITED NATIONS
The role of the UN Security Council should matter to us. In 2003 it was impossible to secure support for a further UN resolution to legitimise action. It was the crux of our argument against the illegal Iraq war.
On this occasion, the UN Security Council has not simply supported a passive resolution, it has made an active call for action “to eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Iraq and Syria”.
UNSCR2249 was passed with the support of France and without objection from Russia and China. As members of an internationalist party that has placed great store on the framework of international law established by the United Nations, I urge you to read the text of that resolution which can be found here.
I would also ask you to consider that Article 51 of Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter provides countries with the right to take military action in collective self-defence.
Iraq has asked for help in defeating ISIL, now commanding its operations from Syria. Just earlier this month, ISIL launched a savage attack on our closest neighbour and ally in Europe. We know, too, that so far this year seven terrorist attacks by ISIL against the UK have been thwarted. ISIL is a direct threat to the UK, our allies and to international peace and security. We are being dishonest if, already engaged against ISIL in Iraq, we pretend that inaction now in Syria somehow makes us safer.
In 2003 there was the thinnest veneer of international support for action in Iraq. In 2015 there is a wide-ranging coalition of nations who are committed to the eradication of ISIL, including states from the region who understand the threat ISIL poses to their security and stability. Those same nations recognise that it is crucial there is a strategy for Syria beyond air strikes.
In 2003 there was no thinking about the post-conflict situation in Iraq. The result was a disgraceful corporate free-for-all that paid no heed to Iraq’s infrastructure and prioritised corporate greed ahead of reconstruction.
It is not just Iraq we should learn from. Similar criticisms have been levelled at the UK and her allies over Libya and Afghanistan. In 2015 we have a diplomatic process in the Vienna talks aimed at ensuring the world remains engaged with Syria through this period of conflict and beyond, supporting the Syrian people to rebuild in a post-ISIL, post-Assad Syria.
Earlier this year I went to Calais. More recently I went to Lesbos. I saw young children exhausted and terrorised as they’d made the dangerous crossing across the Mediterranean. I heard through an interpreter a terrified seven year old boy’s first words as he landed on the beach from his rickety life raft: ‘Daddy, are ISIL here?’
I saw elderly women huddled beneath thin blankets as the evening came to the camp and the temperatures dropped below zero. I saw broken and desperate people who had witnessed horrific things in their own communities including the murder of loved ones. They pretty much all had one thing in common: they were fleeing for their lives from Syria and Iraq and in particular from ISIL.
So I came home from Lesbos and I angrily tore in to the Prime Minister for his callous refusal to take any of these desperate refugees. I proposed that we take three thousand orphaned refugees from the camps, and that the UK plays its full part by accepting others. I am personally enormously moved and angry about the plight of these desperate people, who want nothing more than to return home to a Syria and Iraq that is safe and stable and where they can live the lives they wish to in their own country.
Airstrikes alone of course are not going to resolve the hugely complex political situation in Syria. But I am clear that unless something is done to remove ISIL from Syria, from where it is coordinating its actions, there is no hope of progress towards that goal of a safe and stable Syria. And there is no hope for a home for refugees to go back to.
Of course I have tremendous concerns.
I have pressed these directly with the Prime Minister. I believe it is critical that the Gulf states are vocal in their condemnation of ISIL. I believe much, much more must be done to cut off the funding and supply routes for ISIL.
I think that we have not paid enough attention to the way in which extremists here in the UK have been funded.
It is imperative that everything possible is done to minimise the likelihood of civilian casualties.
I have been crystal clear that the future of Syria, after any action, must be at the forefront of the minds of all those asking for support for airstrikes, here in the UK and also amongst our international partners.
I realise, too, there is great uncertainty over the ability to command and control disparate ground forces which will be necessary to hold territory recaptured from ISIL inside Syria. All of these are reasons to question action.
None of them in and of themselves are reasons not to act.
AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE
There is no doubt that military action means diplomatic failure, and the formation and spread of ISIL is the ultimate display of our failure as an international community over the last five years.
We cannot undo the mistakes of the past, but we have the chance now to take action against an organisation that cannot be reasoned with and that does not obey international borders.
There is no quick fix solution for dealing with ISIL, nor is there an easy route to peace and stability in Syria, and it would be wrong of me to pretend otherwise. The military action we are supporting is just one part of a long process that will be needed to make that happen.
I cannot promise you that this will succeed. What I can promise you is that in supporting this action, in no way am I giving my unreserved and uncritical support to the government.
I can promise you that we will be holding the government to account on their strategy, that I will be ensuring that they continue to act in the national interest and in the interests of the millions of Syrians and Iraqis who deserve a stable home in a peaceful country.
The Prime Minister has set out what I believe is a comprehensive motion which gives us the ability to take action against ISIL in Syria and also restates our commitment to a long term solution in Syria. Those of you who disagree with this decision may find little comfort in this, but it is my commitment to you as leader that if at any point these objectives are no longer possible I will not hesitate to withdraw support.
I am instinctively inclined towards peace. I am deeply sceptical of the ability of military action to achieve positive political outcomes. But I am not a pacifist. Just as I was proud to stand with Charles Kennedy against the illegal war in Iraq, so I was proud to stand with Paddy Ashdown as he was a lone voice calling for military intervention to stop the massacres in Bosnia and Kosovo.
As a Liberal Democrat I am an internationalist. I believe in acting collectively with our friends and allies, and in responding to threats to our security within a framework of international law. I believe that our decision-making should be governed by what we consider to be in the long-term interests of the UK.
I believe we should not take action without considering the long-term objectives of that action for Syria. And I believe we have a moral duty to the people living in the despair of Calais and Lesbos, who want a secure and stable future in Syria, to take the necessary steps to attempt to bring that about.
It is my judgement that, on balance, the five tests I set out have been met as best they can.
I believe it is right to support a measured, legal and broad-based international effort to tackle the evil regime that has helped trigger the wave of hundreds of thousands of desperate refugees, fleeing for their lives.
I will therefore be asking my parliamentary colleagues to join me in the lobby to support this motion. I am well aware, too, that many in the party will disagree with me. I hope that, even if you cannot support me, you can support the approach I have taken and recognise that I have taken this difficult decision after the fullest consideration.
From more popular than Winston Churchill to being less popular than me in Speedo’s. It has been quite the ride for the former leader of the Lib Dems and whilst the country turned against him due to him being an easy target, he should go to bed at night knowing that lives are better because of what he did than what would have happened had he not acted how he did in 2010.
You see I’m a long-term liberal but a short-term member having joined in 2011 during the coalition. I liked Paddy Ashdown (he visited my school in the 1997 General Election campaign but I wasn’t allowed to meet him because I wasn’t deemed important enough), I liked Charles Kennedy, I was indifferent to Sir Menzies Campbell but I loved Nick Clegg. Why was this?
The reason is simple, Nick was a economic realist but a passionate liberal. He did offer something different to what we had seen before. He was a breath of fresh air. You felt that he could take his vision of liberalism and imprint it on to the masses. Most of all you felt that his burning desire to make the world that little bit better was coupled with him just being a bloody good bloke. I am a Nick Clegg guy but I also know that his time had passed thanks to what the electorate did last week.
I know many Lib Dems do not like Nick Clegg and believe going into a coalition government with the Tories was against everything we as a party stood for. I understand their PoV but I vehemently disagree. You can have ideals and a vision but unless enough people back them then you can’t enact them. Instead you have to be pragmatic. I have always said that it is better to do some good when you can than not do any good if you can’t get everything that you want.
The tuition fees issue was disgracefully reported by the media and indeed leapt upon by other political parties. The Lib Dems kinda shot themselves in the foot over it but in reality the Lib Dems would never have realistically been able to stick to that pledge. Both Labour and the Tories knew of the financial situation regarding further education and both would have put up fees so the Lib Dems in another coalition would have had to bring down a government because of it or voted for a rise. Damned either way. Would the country have praised Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems for bringing down a government over this issue at a time of economic instability? I suspect not.
Personally I think Nick grew into the role of being Deputy Prime Minister and his role within the coalition. He did seem ‘too comfortable’ within the first couple of years but his facade was covering lots of work behind the scenes. I’ve heard from multiple sources about the fire fights in Whitehall as the Lib Dems led by Nick threw water on Tory proposals left, right and centre. The party couldn’t win every fight but boy they were putting up quite the fight considering the influence their representation deserved.
The party wasn’t the radical party that Lib Dems believe they are but the party was curbing Tory excesses and getting progress on several real liberal values. The job Nick Clegg and the parliamentary party did was nothing short of miraculous and in time their role in the government of the United Kingdom 2010-2015 will be truly appreciated.
I have no idea what Nick will do next but I personally will always adore his brand of liberalism and near enough everything he did whilst leading the Lib Dems. Could he have done things better? Sure, none of us do everything right, for example I have drunk from 1000s of cans and yet still every so often I miss my mouth and pour coke down my t-shirt. He fought the good fight and was learning from his mistakes but his biggest mistake was believing that the electorate would appreciate the nuance of coalition government. Alas they didn’t. In the next five years we’ll truly find out whether the 2010-2015 government was a centre-right coalition or just a right-wing one propped up by the Lib Dems. The early signs seems to dictate that it was the former.
So whoever takes over as leader, Norman Lamb or prohibitive favourite Tim Farron, they have giant shoes to fill. Nick Clegg led us into government but whilst in two elections he saw a reduction of Lib Dem MPs, he made a difference. He wasn’t just an idealist but also a realist. I want a leader who has a view of liberalism but also has a view of liberalism within the context of the United Kingdom in the early 21st Century. I want someone who’ll fight for what good he can get and not just fight for good for the cameras knowing they he can’t actually deliver.
Nick Clegg was a divisive leader because he wasn’t radical enough. People thought that he should have been more radical and more progressive but he fought for what he could get and not for what he wanted. Do we want to be true to ourselves but get nowhere or do we want to be willing to compromise but actually achieve something? That is a question many of us have to look at ourselves in the mirror and answer.
We can be radical and progressive but also we need to know when to say when. Nick did and without a shadow of a doubt, young pupils have a better start in life thanks to his role in government, people are free to marry who they want, people earn more money before they start paying tax, more people are in work, shared parental leave, two million apprenticeships, the triple lock on pensions and plenty more. We did well. Could we have done better? Sure but everyone could always do better with a mulligan.
So be proud Nick Clegg. You are a great man and were a great leader. You got pilloried by the public and by many other politicians but in time people will realise just how good you were. I can only hope Norman or Tim can carry on the flame and even if they do it in a different way, they can learn a lot from you as a politician but just as much from you as a person.
Finally Nick, thank you for making me believe that the country can become a more liberal and tolerant society. We all have a Utopian vision but you were the first leader to actually make a step towards that and for that, I’m grateful and so should we all.
STOP THE PRESSES. The Big Cheese is going down. After a dramatic new poll Nick Clegg’s defeat in Sheffield Hallam is all but certain. Yes in the biggest shock since me going through a whole Marks & Spencer food shop without anyone looking down on me, Clegg is going down in one of the most affluent constituencies in the country to a Labour Party who aren’t even campaigning, are generally hated in that part of the country and aren’t trusted to run the economy. You’d have thought well-off people would care about this kind of thing but apparently not. Go unknown guy whose standing for Labour, your dreams are coming true.
This though relies on a poll of 1001 people and takes into account some ‘interesting’ findings the closer you look into it. I have looked deep into the Lord Ashcroft polling several times in recent weeks and I find that the deeper you look, the more information you get that doesn’t back-up the headline numbers.
For example, they are using the understanding that 23% of the electorate will be over 65 compared to 17% in the 18-24 age-range. We all know that the retired age range vote far more than younger people and of course they have a much large expanse of ages to come from. The likelihood that the 18-24 age range provides 75% of the votes compared to over 65 is low. It is much more likely that the retired generation will at least double the amount of votes that the 18-24 age range provides. Why is this important?
Well the 65+ age range is the best for Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems, 47% of 65+ year-olds in this poll say that will vote for the Lib Dems compared to 23% who say this will vote for Labour. This isn’t a surprise as the older generation will remember the days when Labour were really disliked in these parts. The 18-24 age range has Labour up big (49-17) and if you look at that data list, you’ll see that the older you are, the more likely it is you’ll vote LD and the less likely it is you’ll vote Labour. This is very good news for the big cheese.
Another surprise in the polling is that men are more likely to vote Labour than women. This goes against the popular theory that women are more likely to lean Labour than men but actually backs up Lib Dem internal polling that says that women are coming back into the fold at a faster rate than men. This is thought to be because women look more logically at where to place their vote and less emotionally. Men feel betrayed by Clegg and the Lib Dems and refuse to consider them more than women, who whilst feeling betrayed are more willing to give them a second chance.
One last thing to note from this poll – the vast majority of respondents believe that the economy is on the right track at the moment. 75% of people believe the economy will do very well or quite well over the course of the next year for them and their families. This again looks good for Clegg as he’s part of the reason the economy is going the way it is.
So whilst the politicos and the twitterati and of course journalists are all looking at the headline number and getting a little bit too excited, not all the facts support the headline results.
Lets look at what Iain Dale has to say on Sheffield Hallam…
Sitting MP: Nick Clegg (LibDem)
Prediction: LibDem hold
This used to be a Tory seat, but it would take a political earthquake for them to take it off Nick Clegg. Interestingly the Labour vote has started to rise, but not enough to cause the LibDems to panic. Yet. If the LibDems are obliterated, then Clegg will probably be obliterated too, but if they retain around half their seats, this ought to be one of them. Or will there be a Clegg effect, which means the LibDems will fare worse here than elsewhere.
So Iain is sticking with the Lib Dem hold line and that seems to be a constant throughout most people who are actually predicting the seat. I did read a post earlier that was dated just a couple of weeks back that said this was a genuine three-way marginal and the Tories were in play. Boy and some people think I have tinted specs…
Betfair still have the Lib Dems as the favourite at a 60% chance to win the seat with Labour on 37%. This is a high number for Labour and takes into account very much the headline numbers from the latest LA poll. However when it comes to the actual odds, the Lib Dems and Clegg are still sitting at shorter than 1/2 at most places with Labour edging in towards 6/4. I have to say there are far better 6/4 shots around in this election than putting your money down on a Labour win here. I remember Julian Huppert at 9/2 to hold in Cambridge and you can’t even get him at evens any more…
All the talk on the front line is that Nick is looking good. Labour are putting up a skeleton campaign and the Tories aren’t going hard after Clegg believing that their time and money are best used in genuine marginals. Nick is having to work harder than many expected and his margin of victory will drop considerably. Yet still the polling and those who get excited about Nick’s potential defeat in Hallam keeps this story in the news. I genuinely wonder why. If you are looking for a big wig to go down then look at Danny Alexander, Caroline Lucas, Alex Salmond, Nigel Farage, they are all a far better chance at losing than Nick Clegg.
Still I could be wrong and the affluent people of Sheffield Hallam are going to vote for a party that wants to crush well-off people just to spite Nick Clegg. It could happen but I could also open a packet of M&S Triple Chocolate Cookies and not eat the whole packet in one sitting. Both are as likely as each other.
‘Let Bartlet be Bartlet’ is one of the most famous sayings from the US show The West Wing. The saying becomes a recurring theme throughout the series and it basically means let the president be himself and the politics and public perception be damned. This is obviously a TV show but if you look at the political leaders in the UK and you’ll see that only two of them have any sort of personality that can engage with people and they are Nigel Farage and Nick Clegg. Cameron doesn’t, Miliband doesn’t and Bennett doesn’t. The Lib Dems are in the tank but their biggest weakness is also their greatest strength – Nick Clegg.
We aren’t in 2010 any more, we all know that. The Cleggmania that swept the nation will not happen again, not by a long chalk. However whilst many, many people are completely closed off to the Lib Dems – and Clegg in particular – because of mostly the tuition fees issue and the coalition as a premise when they voted strategically for the best possible Anti-Tory party in 2015, there are people out there whose minds aren’t closed off just yet and who are willing to listen and to get through to those people Nick Clegg has to be himself, warts and all.
I know of many Lib Dems who don’t like him because he took the party into coalition with the Tories and because despite his popularity, the party actually lost seats in 2010. This is just one of the warts of the FPTP electoral system. UKIP and the Green Party will find that out in May. Lots of votes and national vote share means relatively little until you hit a certain mark and neither of those parties will even approach this. Therefore they’ll have to target their resources wisely and fight ground battles in targeted seats, just like the Lib Dems will do this time around (albeit playing defence much more than offence).
Nick Clegg has his pitfalls as do we all, his personality though is not one of them. He is an engaging individual who if let off the leash can possibly help the party not suffer the crushing defeat that most pundits are gleefully predicting.
The Lib Dems are not the choir boys any more. They have held some power in a coalition government national, with all the issues that brings. They will take some blame for things they have done but on the flip side they should also take some credit for positive things that have happened that wouldn’t have happened with a Conservative (or indeed Labour) government. Clegg has been tainted somewhat and he has seemed too comfortable in the coalition for most people but then you look and he helped provide a stable government that has turned the economy around.
Clegg is not the poison that people think he is. Let him off the leash and whilst he’ll not get near the heights of 2010 – certainly not nationally – in the seats where the party have a strong ground game, people are still receptive albeit hesitant. The party have to extol the virtues of being a grown-up party and being able to deal with everything that entails. Many people voted for the party because they were untainted but also many people didn’t vote for the party because they didn’t believe they could make the difficult decisions that a government has to. This issue has been resolved.
May is not going to pretty for the Lib Dems, most pundits and activists know this but it doesn’t have to be that bad. Nick Clegg impressed most reporters with his appearance on The Last Leg that Friday night. It reminded some people that he is human and he got through a difficult interview very well. Whether it will make much of a difference is unlikely but it showed us that the Clegg we liked is still knocking about in there.
There are three growth up parties now and not just the two. Put Clegg, Miliband and Cameron up against one another in a debate form and Miliband will be squeezed. This is part of why the Lib Dems are so desperate that Clegg get on a platform with just Miliband and Cameron. The debates as currently constituted would not favour the Lib Dems at all, they need Clegg to be able to be himself as much as possible and as openly as possible. Clegg’s biggest hope now is for the broadcasters to change their minds (again) or that Cameron bottles it and they empty chair him, which would leave the Lib Dem leader as the only person with government responsibility at the debates, leaving him free to take as much credit as he likes for the good things the coalition has done.
Whatever happens though the Lib Dems are (rightly or wrongly) married to Nick Clegg at this point and need to let him off the leash completely. He is the biggest asset and also the biggest problem. To use a cricket analogy, his best shot is the free flowing cover drive a la David Gower but the best way to get him out is nicking off to slip outside of off stump. He’s going to nick off a fair few times over the course of the General Election campaign so its best to let him try and hit a few cover drives and score a few runs (points) whilst he does so.
Let Clegg Be Clegg.
Oh Sheffield Hallam. The baying public are looking for this seat to provide the Michael Portillo moment. The evil bugger Clegg who sold his soul for a car. Sold out Forgemasters for reasons unbeknown to his mere mortals. Laughed in the faces of students when he turned around and not only didn’t consign tuition fees to history but in fact actually increased them. He also married someone he loved but she was foreign, I mind how fucking dare he fall in love with a non English person and then naming his kids with traditional Spanish names, who wears the trousers Clegg, who wears the trousers? I know that happened ages ago but it still needs to be reiterated.
There is of course no doubt that he’ll lose his Sheffield Hallam seat because he is the most evil of the evil. A man so evil that Montgomery Burns bows down to him as a hero. A man so two-faced that he actually wears a prototype invisible neck brace that was paid for by you – the tax payer – after millions of secret pounds of research were poured into it to stop him feeling the effects of whiplash. A man so dastardly that Mutley now lives with him. A man so blue that unlike every other smurf, he even pisses blue and not yellow.
In case you can’t tell I’m being sarcastic.
The Guardian wrote an article that they have written before and will write many times between now and May over the weekend, Could Nick Clegg lose his Sheffield seat in May general election?. The first five paragraphs of the article concentrate on an encounter Clegg has with a 53 year-old who usually votes Lib Dem but intends to vote UKIP this time. Is he voting against Clegg because he thinks that he is evil? Well no, he’s voting UKIP based on the issue of foreigners and actually says he likes Clegg and has listened to him talk many times and is impressed by him. However his vote is going to someone who hasn’t been selected yet based on reasons that Clegg couldn’t actually do anything about.
The writer goes on to say that the Labour candidate is playing up two things against Clegg, one the Forgemasters loan and one is he doesn’t care about Sheffield Hallam and is busy in Westminster. The article also states that he actually spends two days a week in his constituency, which is actually a very high number for a minister in a non London based constituency but still. The Labour candidate is getting no central money, is starting from a standing start with no ground game, in a seat which is very affluent and remembers the bad old days of Labour in south Yorkshire before the Lib Dems came in and wrestled the seat from the Tories in 1997. This is not a seat where Labour have any realistic hope of winning yet all the talk from the media will amp it up to a crazy and unfair level.
I have just had a look at the Betfair Exchange and Nick Clegg is 1/10 to win. Labour are hilariously at 3/2 – I mean lay that bet as much as you can folks. If people want to throw their money away then feel free to help them. Labour are 19,000 odd votes behind in a seat with no history, where the council seats even in recent elections have been flat out dominated by the Lib Dems and people don’t think Clegg is evil.
As I’m a kind type of person I’m going to help you try to understand how likely a Nick Clegg defeat in May in Sheffield Hallam.
List of things that are as likely as Nick Clegg losing:
Kermit the frog coming out and admitting that he has cheated on Miss Piggy with George from Rainbow.
Pat Sharp not being greeted as the second coolest student union visitor (Karl Kennedy from Neighbours will always be #1)
Jeff Stelling resisting a pun whenever Gareth Jellyman scores.
I get asked to be the fifth coach on The Voice and the fifth judge on The X Factor is a shock duel role as the main influential voice in the music industry.
Kevin Pietersen captaining England in the World Cup.
The existence of dragons gets confirmed and they in fact don’t like the Welsh.
Kay Burley gets through the General Election campaign without being involved in a clash with someone on camera.
Nigel Farage quits his role of leader of UKIP to play basketball for the Harlem Globetrotters.
Ginger kittens will stop being cute.
Ginger women will stop being feisty and extremely attractive.
The People’s Republic of Southsea finally declares independence from the UK.
Leprechauns not liking Lucky Charms.
The Mirror publishing the Ed Miliband bacon sandwich photo on the front page for every day of the General Election campaign with the headline, ‘Ed has Tommy K instead of HP Brown because he’s red through and through’
I’ll attract a female partner before the General Election.
I think that sums up the odds of Labour winning Sheffield Hallam seat once and for all. Look I know Nick’s majority will be reduced, I know he won’t waltz it based on his name but I also am a man of numbers and logic. Despite what Labour activists believe, not everyone pours scorn on Nick Clegg. Plenty of people still believe that the Lib Dems are the better option than the Tories and in seats like these, that is the decision they have. UKIP will take votes from all three parties but nowhere near enough to challenge. Labour will pick up some disaffected Lib Dem voters, of that I have no doubt but look at the numbers. I know in politics people like to publicly say that they are always in it to win it but most of the time candidates are in it to fight the good fight, to give the electorate the option and to build momentum going forward.
So lets not all get our knickers in a twist (for the record at this juncture I am not wearing knickers but boxers) about Labour’s chances of pulling off a Michael Portillo moment. It isn’t going to happen. There will be 100 more interesting battles in March-May but sadly because of the narrative the media will have this seat as #1 because it fits their storyline and that my friends is oh so depressing, the media attempting to create the story because they want sex and excitement. The fact Labour aren’t giving their candidate here any money shows what they really think but still it is the good local man trying to beat the evil Nick Clegg, I mean who wouldn’t want that to be the big story of the campaign? It isn’t the big story of the campaign but the news media don’t report the news these days, they direct and set up the news narrative and that is a problem with modern society and modern news companies.
Sometimes I read something that I want to blog about so I leave it on a tab on my Google Chrome and it can stay there for days. This time I’m blogging about it within a day. Not too shabby for me.
Rich Clare wrote yesterday in an article entitled Nick Clegg to lose Sheffield Hallam? You’re having a laugh where he speaks about all the reasons why Nick Clegg will hold on to his seat, despite lots of press stories suggesting this he is at best, in trouble, but at worst set for a slam dunk defeat that would rival the Portillo moment from 1997.
The thing is, anyone who has any sense of numbers will know that Nick Clegg isn’t in trouble next year. That might sound ludicrous considering national polling and how disliked he is but the people of the United Kingdom are not voting on whether to have Nick Clegg as their local MP, the people of Sheffield Hallam are and that is the difference. Until people can get their heads around the fact that national polling cannot be extrapolated across different constituencies to give accurate predictions then all this crap will never stop.
Students used to love Nick Clegg. Now they are at best indifferent and at worst down right angry. I suspect most are in the latter group depressingly but such is life. However as Rich points out quite pointedly, the university itself is not based in the Sheffield Hallam constituency and students do not live in that constituency in great numbers. This is one of the lazy misnomers that people have regarding this seat and how Clegg won here and how the Lib Dems turned it into a relatively safe seat 17 years ago.
Labour control South Yorkshire but they’ve never returned an MP in this seat, never, never ever, never never ever. I think you get the point. Since 2010 that constituency has seen 21 councillors get elected, of those 21, 19 were Lib Dems and two were Labour. In a recent by-election Labour threw the kitchen sink at the Lib Dems expecting a win that would cause panic and embarrassment for Nick Clegg. The Lib Dem candidate won with over half of the vote.
Sheffield Hallam is affluent, not just affluent, but stinking rich. The average income is higher than places like Windsor and Twickenham. It has the lowest level of child poverty amongst any constituency in the country. More people in Sheffield Hallam have a degree than Cambridge. The level of professionals in the constituency exceeds practically every other seat in the country. What about all of this screams out a Labour victory?
That’s right. Nothing.
Of course the Tories could take back the seat but they have no real local campaign and are fighting with UKIP, their vote is getting split. so they aren’t going to mount a significant challenge to Clegg next year and nor are UKIP. Seats with lots of rich, educated and professional people are not going to be at the top of the UKIP plan to win seats. Immigration is not exactly an issue in Sheffield Hallam.
So it comes down to whether Labour can change the narrative in the next nine months which they haven’t been able to do in the past four years. Of course they could but I could also get second dates with women that I want to – and we all know that doesn’t happen. Labour need to gain at least 12,000 votes and nothing about the ward demographics or recent history suggests that they’ll get anywhere near that.
Personally I hope Labour keep believing they can unsettle and beat Nick Clegg. If they throw the kitchen sink at an unwinnable seat then they’ll be taking resources away from other places. It would be terrible strategy for Labour to go after a seat they have never won and are in no position to win. However I wouldn’t be stunned if terrible strategy gets deployed and Labour make Sheffield Hallam one of their key battlegrounds. If they do, they’ll lose and lose badly and all they’ll say if they were never expected to win anyway. Sounds like they can’t lose.
Yet if they don’t win a majority and fall just a few seats short, they’ll rue the fact they spent so much time and effort on a vanity campaign. Nick Clegg’s majority will no doubt go down but it will not collapse. Rich sums it up well and if you get on the ground with an open mind then you’ll come away with the feeling that the Lib Dems are safe in this one, but I doubt that will stop the stories because ‘Nick Clegg safe in Sheffield Hallam’ isn’t exactly a sexy story and won’t sell papers or garner page views. Sometimes the news can be just factual but those times are sadly few and far between.
A lot of people think being tough on drugs is the only way to combat the use of drugs that society is plagued by today. I have never had this thought. Whilst at the age of 31 I have never tried – nor had any desire – to try out illegal substances, I think those that do should be helped to get over their problems should their drug use consume them.
Nick Clegg has spoken about this today and has indicated that the party want to end imprisonment for those who are caught with drugs for their own personal use and instead get them medical treatment to get over their drug addiction.
Speaking on the Lib Dem website, Nick Clegg said:
“We are never going to win a ‘war on drugs’. Illegal drugs still cause immense harm to the people who use them and to the communities they live in. We need a radically smarter approach if we are serious about tackling this problem.
“Liberal Democrats believe the first step to ending the war is to recognise that drug use is primarily a health problem. Addicts need treatment, not locking up. And it is a nonsense to waste scare resources on prison cells for cannabis users.
“That’s why we will commit to ensuring that nobody in future will go to prison where their only offence is possession of drugs for their own personal use.
“Instead these people should receive non-custodial sentences, and addicts should get the treatment they need to stop using drugs.
“In the longer term we will develop a more effective approach that frees up resources currently spent on prosecuting users, and reinvests that money in treatment and in the fight against organised crime.
“Liberal Democrats believe in a stronger economy and a fairer society. These liberal reforms will ensure that drug users get the help they need and that taxpayers don’t foot the bill for a system that doesn’t work.”
In short, it is a new grown-up approach to drug issues and one I stand up and applaud. As a society, many people think that punishment is more important than dealing with the cause of the problem. People going to jail are only going to spend time with more criminals and therefore find it much easier to get on to more hardcore drugs and come out of prison less prepared to become a productive member of society.
Drug use is a health problem. That is clearly what it is first and foremost. You don’t punish those caught up in it if you can help them first. Those who are addicted to drugs can turn their lives around and shouldn’t be left to fend for themselves. We all need a helping hand in life from time-to-time and getting over addiction, whether it be drugs, alcohol, gambling or anything else is something people both want to do but they also need someone to help them.
This has been one of the best things Nick Clegg has said in a very, very long time. Rehabilitation is just as important as punishment for criminals and when you can help small-level criminals with drug issues, to a) help them get their lives back on track but also b) will long-term ensure their drug problem doesn’t get worse meaning they are less of an effective member of society and in turn more of a danger to others then it is something that we should do.
Drug use is a big issue and being tough on drug users has not really helped, so it is time to take a different approach and this is personally one that I’m very much in favour of.