The Rambles of Neil Monnery

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Archive for the ‘nick clegg’ tag

On why Nick Clegg was fair and accurate in his ‘Join Labour’ comments this week…

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Come on then, a show of hands. Whoever thought that I’d be defending Nick Clegg? Me of all the people. The person who has defending him a pretty much every turn in the road. Oh wait, all of you? Fair enough.

So yes, Nick Clegg has ruffled a few feathers in the past day or so after he came out and said that the country is in a state of emergency regarding Brexit. I think we can all agree on that so fantastic. What he proposed though has caused a lot of Lib Dems to want the former leader to be thrown out of the party. For you see, he advocated those whose primary objective was solely to stop Brexit and you hadn’t been politically active before then maybe the time was now to get involved and join either Labour or the Tories.

The extracts are below:

“Join the Labour Party and make your voice heard. It may seem odd for a former leader of the Liberal Democrats – and someone who has fought against the illiberal habits of Labour all my political life – to advocate joining the Labour Party.”

“And, as a lifelong card-carrying member of another party, I won’t be doing so myself.

“But if you are someone who has never joined a party, or perhaps has been inclined to join Labour but has never got round to it, or if you are simply someone who recognises that the importance of Brexit is far greater than individual.

“At a time of national emergency, and for as long as Parliament is dominated by Labour and Conservative MPs, it is undoubtedly true that what happens within the two larger establishment parties is of the greatest importance.

“So if you can’t stomach joining the Labour Party, if you are ideologically inclined in a Conservative direction in any event and if you also believe that Brexit is the issue of our times, then joining the Conservatives is another route to make your views felt.”

How very dare he I hear you cry. How could any former leader of the party ever advocate joining another party. Not even Paddy Ashdown did that with More United, he just wanted an Anti-Tory alliance but Nick Clegg, well I never.

Yet unsurprisingly I can very much see his point. The Lib Dems have 12 MPs and will not be able to significantly move the needle on the Brexit issue in this parliament. So if the EU question is your overriding reason for wanting to get involved in politics at this point then the Lib Dems isn’t a natural home. If you want to stop Brexit from happening then you need a time machine or have one of the two big parties move their position on Brexit.

The Tories have a pretty clear position and are unlikely to move unless Theresa May goes and somehow Ken Clarke runs for and gets elected leader. I wouldn’t be putting much money down on that. So that leaves Labour where the party as a whole are generally Pro-Europe but the leadership aren’t and they are scared to stick their flag in the sand to show what side of the line they are on. Pitiful but depressingly, they are the only party who could really force the Tories hands if they swung wildly to the Remain side of the debate.

For us, we had our Brexit surge after the EU Referendum and then when the 2017 General Election was announced, three was a further influx of new members. The Lib Dems were (and are) the party of Remain but instead of really staking out our position, we dithered and put together a terrible GE campaign position. That left those people who were ready to back us enthusiastically wondering whether they should bite the bullet and vote Labour in the vague hope that they would win enough to hold the Tories to account or even win and then Jeremy Corbyn might change his position.

Once Jeremy Corbyn got his momentum (no pun intended) and Theresa May’s campaign fell around her like letters on a speech backdrop, the dye was cast. The floating voter looking to stop a hard Brexit didn’t flock to the yellows but instead went red. Many Lib Dem members (many of the new ones if you read online forums etc.) were pleading for tactical voting and for alliances. A not insignificant proportion of those did not vote Lib Dem as they just wanted to vote for the best person that could stop Brexit. In many clear LD/Con battles, they went Labour anyway and they bypassed the Lib Dems in many traditional LD/Tory battlegrounds to the point of winning the seat. Depressing.

Still though that has left us with little influence in this parliament. With the country not set to go to the polls again until after Brexit has started and we are either in a transitional period or out altogether, if you want to influence it then it is highly unlikely you’ll be able to do it via us.

Now in a couple of years once the shit has started to hit the metaphorical fan and we are the unabashed Pro-EU party then we might be the place to be if you love the EU. For now though, with no election due until after this all happens, the Lib Dem influence is not that great. So if (and only if) your political motivations are solely to stop Brexit then I can certainly see where Nick is coming from. Would I have preferred he not say it? Sure. Do I think it was unwise? Yes. Does it make sense though? It actually does.

The time is now for us as a party to focus on domestic policies and to find a way to get these out front and centre. Brexit is the beast whose shadow looms over politics and will do for years to come. The public though are resigned to it happening in some form because heck, that is what the country voted for. We might not like it but it was democracy in action.

Jeremy Corbyn surged not because of Brexit but because people liked that they heard about domestic policies. That is why we have a hung parliament and only 12 MPs instead of a large Tory majority and 30 odd Lib Dems. Sometimes I just feel we are all caught up in this Brexit world when in fact plenty of other things are happening every single day and if you aren’t do much about Brexit, why not start to try start influencing things you can?

Still, I fully expect Brexit, Brexit, Brexit to dominate the Lib Dem spectrum for years to come…

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Written by neilmonnery

October 6th, 2017 at 11:06 am

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On Vince Cable’s tweet about Jeremy Corbyn’s student debt ‘promise’…

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Oh Vince. Vince, Vince, Vince. Why? Why? Why?

So as some will have noted over the past few days, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has backtracked from his promise that he would deal with student debt. The issue is he never promised anything. He just said that he hoped he’d be able to deal with it. If anyone took it as meaning that he would cancel student debt along with scraping tuition fees then that is on them, not on him.

It was super smart politically. By saying that he hoped to deal with the issue surrounding student debt, he would firm up the support of young people, not just those going to university but also those in their 20s and 30s who still have student loan repayments to pay back. The fact he didn’t throw about the word promise and is saying it is an aspiration means he has plausible deniability. He can honestly say he never promised anything and people were free to interpret his words as they saw fit.

Most people looking at it without any political bias would say it was at best misleading but it most certainly was never a lie. I was talking to a Corbynista the other day about it and I called Corbyn super smart for how he worded what he said and not making it is clear that it wasn’t a policy but a goal. The Corbynista wouldn’t take that as praise but just went on about how it was everyone else’s fault if they thought it was a promise and that everyone bar Corbyn and his supporters are basically dumb. This is the world we now live it. Frustrating as fuck.

Anyway on to the new leader of the Lib Dems response. Vince tweeted on Sunday the following:

I just hung my head. Labour have never backtracked because they were just way smarter than the Lib Dems in 2010. How any Lib Dem can say they didn’t know what they were doing when campaigning on tuition fees in 2010 is beyond me. Yes I know of the nuance was how it wasn’t a Lib Dem majority government and that is a really important distinction but not many people will see that important difference. They saw the pledge, they saw the fact 28 Lib Dems voted for increasing fees and that is quite simply that.

Aspiration. Goal. Hope. Promise. One of those four words has a completely different connotation to the other three. A promise if broken hurts whereas an aspiration, a goal or a hope that doesn’t materialise disappoints but you don’t feel anywhere near as used or mislead or lied to as you do when someone breaks a promise.

As much as I hate it, sometimes politics isn’t about honesty but about smoke and mirrors. In elections when you are trying to court a particular vote but can’t get a costed policy out there, the best thing to do is hint but stop short of saying that is what you’ll do. That means if you fall short, the hurt the voter experiences will be minor. This is why the Lib Dems should’ve scrapped the tuition fees pledge before the 2010 General Election. Nick Clegg wanted to do so as we all know. Senior activists disagreed and conference voted to keep it in 2009. I often wonder how things would’ve turned out had that vote gone differently.

Going back to Corbyn though, that is the difference. He cleverly made/allowed people to think if he won that he’d cancel student debt when it was never a Labour policy, just essentially an idea that he had if he won and money was no object. The Lib Dems put it in black and white that they would not vote to raise tuition fees. That is politics folks and to claim Labour have backtracked and to call on Jeremy Corbyn to apologise is lazy and just won’t wash with the electorate.

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Written by neilmonnery

July 24th, 2017 at 2:58 pm

On whether Tim Farron’s ‘decided to quit before the GE’ confession adds up…

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I’m not a cynical person by nature. Wait no, that is a lie. I’m extremely cynical and when bleary eyed this morning I sat there on the sofa and saw the news that Tim Farron had decided to quit before the General Election, I was caught up in mixed emotions. First of all I was tired (that had nothing to do with the news, I was just tired) then I was kinda pissed off and then I started wondering whether it was actually true.

I’ll tell you why I have some issues with the truth of this confession. First of all, the timing. If he had decided to quit a month or so before polling day then surely he then walks away swiftly after the result is known. He doesn’t wait until the Grenfell Tower Fire and squeezes out the news in a very hastefully arranged press announcement. That doesn’t add up at all. Either he’s a pretty awful man and wanted to wait for a tragedy to happen so he could sneak out his news or he had no plans to quit that day. Fair to say that I don’t think he’s a pretty awful man so I’ll go for option B on that one.

The timing of his resignation hasn’t had enough scrutiny within the party. It was fucking repulsive. Repugnant if you will. How dare at a time of such an incident do the party allow their leader to publicly resign and take some of the focus away from the real news that day. We all get angry when governments try and sneak out bad news on days when it might be buried and we did that. The party should be ashamed.

So what other things could have changed Tim Farron’s mind after the General Election result? Could the fact Nick Clegg lost his seat have played a part? The former leader and Deputy Prime Minister went out in the great Corbynista wave where all Lib Dems in Labour facing seats got swept aside as voters flocked to the Labour party. Was he the reason Tim decided to leave or possibly stay on?

Time heals all wounds to some degree and while it is fair to say many people will never forgive the former MP for Sheffield Hallam, it is also not untrue to say his toxicity had been slowly receding. He had found a second wind as the European spokesman for the party in this post EU Referendum world in which we live and those who are firmly opposed to Brexit seemingly had a very positive opinion of him. Did Farron see the writing on the wall that the membership (and maybe the electorate) actually preferred Clegg to him and therefore wanted to go and when Clegg went down, Farron saw he had a clearer path to staying on?

Who knows (well at least one person does but that person is not me) but it is certainly something worth thinking about. If Tim Farron had decided to quit weeks in advance of the General Election then the obvious point to resign would be the morning after. Instead he came out and praised the fact we had increased our representation in parliament by 50% compared to the 2015 debacle. So something must have changed and the obvious thing to point at and question is the fact Nick Clegg wasn’t an MP any more.

If we take him at his word though that he decided to walk away in the early days of the campaign then that doesn’t paint him in a good light either. Had he left a fortnight into the campaign, it would have allowed the party a month to put someone else in the spotlight and interim leader. Logically that would have been Nick Clegg but it obviously may not have been. It could have been Norman Lamb.

If a change had happened though it should be done like a band-aid. You pull it off quickly, deal with the stinging and then get on with it. I have written about Tim’s performances in the media during the campaign and they were mixed. Couple of stinkers but also a couple of good ones. He was certainly far better than the Prime Minister (although I admit, that is a pretty low bar) but maybe the damage had already been done.

The party had all the momentum early but it ground to a halt when talking about the gay sex issue and it was something we all knew was going to be something the party (and Tim) had to nip in the bud. The fact they (and he) did not just knee-capped the campaign and when the decision to move away from hope and towards scare tactics happened, it was game set and match for the party to ever hit the 30-40 MP mark that some (maybe many) thought was possible on April 18 when the General Election was called. Was Farron damaged goods or was the party? That is a great question.

When he only just held on to his seat despite the usual boost that party leaders get, that says a lot. Norman Lamb managed to hold on in North Norfolk despite facing real Brexit related challenges. Tom Brake held off the Tories yet again in Carshalton & Wallington. Stephen Lloyd was able to wrestle back Eastbourne despite it being a leave area. Tim Farron is (and I still say is) a very popular constituency MP but he nearly lost. This has to be down in some degree to his performance as leader of the party.

Maybe had he quit in early May then the party would have been able to wrestle back some of that momentum. I don’t think any party leader should not want to carry on with the job certainly relatively early on in the campaign. Look at Paul Nuttall for example. I do think Tim gave everything but if your heart isn’t deep down in it then people can see that.

I have serious doubts as to whether Tim decided to quit two weeks into the campaign. The timeline just doesn’t fit with how he acted post June 8. If he’s speaking the truth and he knew he was going post General Election and still quit in the Grenfell Tower aftermath then that is not a good look and not a good legacy to leave. People talk about things leaving a bad taste in the mouth, if that is how it went down then bloody hell, that looks terrible.

Lastly he said that his job was to save the party and that it still exists and is moving forward. Well it does still exist but whether it is moving forward is still very much up in the air. The country is clearly veering towards two-party politics once again (more so than two years ago) due to the fact so many LD/Con battles have seen the party move into third behind Labour. Depressingly I don’t see any real recovery unless Brexit is an utter disaster.

Until Jeremy Corbyn gets his chance then the country will want to see what he can do. The next General Election (whenever it will be) will surely see more of a Labour surge and due to the lack of tactical voting prowess of many voters, that will lead to even fewer Lib Dem MPs.

The future’s bright, The future’s orange says a popular advertising slogan. For the Lib Dems though this does not feel accurate at the moment.

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

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July 14th, 2017 at 9:11 am

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On why we should be rejoicing the fact Vince Cable actually wants the job…

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‘Nobody wants Vince Cable’ so says a vast twitter echo chamber. Oh to be sure that you and your friends speak for everyone. I wish I had that type of certainty in life. Yet still Vince Cable is all but assured of being the next leader of the Liberal Democrats. No doubt some will decide that is it for them and they will leave the party. That happens whenever a new leader takes over in any party. The thing is even you are aren’t exactly sucking at the teat of the former Business Secretary, you have to at least admire the fact he wants to be the leader.

We all expected Jo Swinson to be on her way to assuming the mantle of the top Lib Dem in the country. The returning MP for Dunbartonshire East was the red hot favourite and in all likelihood was set to cruise to victory if there was going to be a contest. She ticked far more boxes than anyone else who would potentially have put themselves forward. Sadly though for many, one small issue emerged. One teeny-tiny problem. She didn’t want the job. At that point everything changed in the contest.

Of the remaining candidates, one said he was ready to lead. The other two decided that they were not. What would have happened if Sir Vince had decided he didn’t want it? Would we be in a position where literally no-one out of the parliamentary party wanted the gig? Where would we be then?

Unlike a great deal of others, I’m not ready to tear up my membership card just yet if Vince is the next leader. I’m not exactly going to be full of the joys of spring either but sometimes you aren’t going to be totally in tune with the leader of your party. I am sure many Blairite Labour folk are struggling on under Jeremy Corbyn because they still see their party as the best hope for the country despite their disagreements with the person leading them. I am in a similar boat.

For me, my politics starts at Nick Clegg. Regular readers will know all about this as I’ve waxed lyrical about the man on numerous occasions. Many disagree and see Clegg as a villain for even entertaining the notion going into a coalition government with the sworn enemy. When Nick resigned after the catastrophe that was the 2015 General Election, my heart and my hope for the future broke a little bit. It has yet to recover due to what the country (and the party has seen in the two years since).

Yet when Tim Farron became leader I wasn’t ready to walk because sometimes in life you are not going to always agree with other people, yet you can still work for the perceived greater good. How many people disagree with their bosses but still are able to work for them? I once worked for a pretty strong-minded UKIPper and even though we disagreed on politics, we could still work together and bring success to our part of the business.

Vince may not be your cup of tea (he certainly isn’t mine) but he isn’t the devil either. I think it is fair to at least pose the question as to whether the party would have done better in the General Election earlier this month if Sir Vince was leader. Of course he wasn’t an MP and therefore couldn’t be but Vince wasn’t as harmed by the tuition fees issue as a lot of the twitterati want to make us believe.

Indeed multiple polls commissioned in 2012 suggested that Cable would have put the Lib Dems 3% higher in the polls and would have helped several key MPs hold their seats (most notably I suspect – his!). This all happened after the tuition fees vote and as for Royal Mail – if that is in the top 25 things voters are looking for when they go and cast their ballot I would be stunned.

His stance on free movement is clearly not in sync with the vast majority of the party. That is an issue and his political manoeuvring sticks in the throat but here we are, a fortnight or so after Tim Farron was knifed in the back/was persuaded to fall on to his sword (it is up to you which interpretation you believe) and only one person wants to do the job. When you are in this position outside of parliament you would reopen nominations. When your constitution says one of only 12 people can do the job and the other 11 say they don’t want it then what choice do we have? Do you attempt to force someone to do a job they don’t want or do you just back the person that does?

I’d go for the latter. Trying to coerce someone into running who doesn’t want it is selfish in the extreme. As liberals surely we all agree in individuality and being allowed to make our own choices in life? That includes if Jo Swinson or Ed Davey decide they don’t want to run to be leader of the party for whatever reason they like.

I have seen a few members say they would run because their needs to be a contest. I am pretty sure that if the constitution dictated that you didn’t have to be an MP to be the leader, a certain former Deputy Prime Minister would get a whole lot of love from many in the party. That might piss off even more of the membership but if we are being realistic, a straight Cable v Clegg battle would result in only one winner and it isn’t the sitting MP for Twickenham.

So for those who don’t want Cable, it could be worse, much worse. If no-one else emerges and he takes over then as members we will face a choice. Sit on our butts and sulk that the person we want leading the party isn’t or we can carry on at local level working for our communities and bringing forth motions to conference for the membership to vote on. Remember the members have far more power in the Lib Dems than in any other party, so if you have issues with the leader, you can control them policy wise pretty well. We should use that power wisely.

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June 29th, 2017 at 3:09 pm

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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.

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 12th, 2017 at 1:59 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

Posted in Politics

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

with 2 comments

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.

Written by neilmonnery

July 1st, 2016 at 3:00 pm

On the EU Referendum and the shit storm that created and will follow from it…

without comments

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.

Bugger.

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 26th, 2016 at 10:45 am

Posted in Politics

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On the Lib Dem position on Syria…

with 2 comments

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.

REFUGEES

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.

CONCERNS

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.

CONCLUSION

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.

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

December 1st, 2015 at 9:48 pm

Posted in Politics

Tagged with , , ,

On Nick Clegg…

with 2 comments

From more popular than Winston Churchill to being less popular than me in Speedo’s. It has been quite the ride for the former leader of the Lib Dems and whilst the country turned against him due to him being an easy target, he should go to bed at night knowing that lives are better because of what he did than what would have happened had he not acted how he did in 2010.

You see I’m a long-term liberal but a short-term member having joined in 2011 during the coalition. I liked Paddy Ashdown (he visited my school in the 1997 General Election campaign but I wasn’t allowed to meet him because I wasn’t deemed important enough), I liked Charles Kennedy, I was indifferent to Sir Menzies Campbell but I loved Nick Clegg. Why was this?

The reason is simple, Nick was a economic realist but a passionate liberal. He did offer something different to what we had seen before. He was a breath of fresh air. You felt that he could take his vision of liberalism and imprint it on to the masses. Most of all you felt that his burning desire to make the world that little bit better was coupled with him just being a bloody good bloke. I am a Nick Clegg guy but I also know that his time had passed thanks to what the electorate did last week.

I know many Lib Dems do not like Nick Clegg and believe going into a coalition government with the Tories was against everything we as a party stood for. I understand their PoV but I vehemently disagree. You can have ideals and a vision but unless enough people back them then you can’t enact them. Instead you have to be pragmatic. I have always said that it is better to do some good when you can than not do any good if you can’t get everything that you want.

The tuition fees issue was disgracefully reported by the media and indeed leapt upon by other political parties. The Lib Dems kinda shot themselves in the foot over it but in reality the Lib Dems would never have realistically been able to stick to that pledge. Both Labour and the Tories knew of the financial situation regarding further education and both would have put up fees so the Lib Dems in another coalition would have had to bring down a government because of it or voted for a rise. Damned either way. Would the country have praised Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems for bringing down a government over this issue at a time of economic instability? I suspect not.

Personally I think Nick grew into the role of being Deputy Prime Minister and his role within the coalition. He did seem ‘too comfortable’ within the first couple of years but his facade was covering lots of work behind the scenes. I’ve heard from multiple sources about the fire fights in Whitehall as the Lib Dems led by Nick threw water on Tory proposals left, right and centre. The party couldn’t win every fight but boy they were putting up quite the fight considering the influence their representation deserved.

The party wasn’t the radical party that Lib Dems believe they are but the party was curbing Tory excesses and getting progress on several real liberal values. The job Nick Clegg and the parliamentary party did was nothing short of miraculous and in time their role in the government of the United Kingdom 2010-2015 will be truly appreciated.

I have no idea what Nick will do next but I personally will always adore his brand of liberalism and near enough everything he did whilst leading the Lib Dems. Could he have done things better? Sure, none of us do everything right, for example I have drunk from 1000s of cans and yet still every so often I miss my mouth and pour coke down my t-shirt. He fought the good fight and was learning from his mistakes but his biggest mistake was believing that the electorate would appreciate the nuance of coalition government. Alas they didn’t. In the next five years we’ll truly find out whether the 2010-2015 government was a centre-right coalition or just a right-wing one propped up by the Lib Dems. The early signs seems to dictate that it was the former.

So whoever takes over as leader, Norman Lamb or prohibitive favourite Tim Farron, they have giant shoes to fill. Nick Clegg led us into government but whilst in two elections he saw a reduction of Lib Dem MPs, he made a difference. He wasn’t just an idealist but also a realist. I want a leader who has a view of liberalism but also has a view of liberalism within the context of the United Kingdom in the early 21st Century. I want someone who’ll fight for what good he can get and not just fight for good for the cameras knowing they he can’t actually deliver.

Nick Clegg was a divisive leader because he wasn’t radical enough. People thought that he should have been more radical and more progressive but he fought for what he could get and not for what he wanted. Do we want to be true to ourselves but get nowhere or do we want to be willing to compromise but actually achieve something? That is a question many of us have to look at ourselves in the mirror and answer.

We can be radical and progressive but also we need to know when to say when. Nick did and without a shadow of a doubt, young pupils have a better start in life thanks to his role in government, people are free to marry who they want, people earn more money before they start paying tax, more people are in work, shared parental leave, two million apprenticeships, the triple lock on pensions and plenty more. We did well. Could we have done better? Sure but everyone could always do better with a mulligan.

So be proud Nick Clegg. You are a great man and were a great leader. You got pilloried by the public and by many other politicians but in time people will realise just how good you were. I can only hope Norman or Tim can carry on the flame and even if they do it in a different way, they can learn a lot from you as a politician but just as much from you as a person.

Finally Nick, thank you for making me believe that the country can become a more liberal and tolerant society. We all have a Utopian vision but you were the first leader to actually make a step towards that and for that, I’m grateful and so should we all.

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

Written by neilmonnery

May 14th, 2015 at 1:09 pm

Posted in Politics

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