The Rambles of Neil Monnery

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Nick Clegg v Nigel Farage – A debate that would be well worth watching

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If you were not listening to Nick Clegg’s LBC phone-in programme this morning and you don’t follow any Lib Dems on Twitter or are friends with any Lib Dems on Facebook, then you may have missed the open offer that the leader of the Liberal Democrats made to his UKIP counterpart this morning about debating the merits of being in or out of the EU. You may have been say on the exercise bike watching the Curling for instance but I have no idea who’d be doing such a thing…

Anyway…

This is what Nick Clegg said:

I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I will challenge Nigel Farage to a public, open debate about whether we should be in or out of the European Union. That’s the choice facing the British people.

He is the leader of the party of OUT, I am the leader of the party of IN. It’s time for a proper public debate so that the public can listen to the arguments and decide for themselves.

It is a bold move but a move that (short-term) at least won’t harm the Lib Dems. As a member of the party but someone who isn’t wed to the EU (I do think we are better in than out based on simple economics of it all) I would like to actually hear the case for both options straight up in a debate. I think there are a lot of people who are firmly ensconced in the out camp because they have lapped up the ‘small island’ mentality believing that immigration is the biggest problem facing the country, however I think there are a lot of people who still have open minds on this front and would actually like to hear both sides of the debate straight up.

Of course I think Nick would perform fantastically because I think he’s a very good speaker. Farage would be firmly more style over substance. Also the public perception of Nick Clegg is so low that any victory (even a small one) would be seen by the press and people at large as a real boost for the Deputy Prime Minister.

The only problem is whether this opens the door to Farage in terms of Prime Ministerial debates come the spring of 2015. Personally I am fine with any party who puts up MPs in enough seats where they could mathematically be Prime Minister being involved in these debates. I have held this position for a long time. The public have the right to hear these people speak and debate many topics. Of course we don’t know if they will return in 2015 and even if they do, in what guise, but I think they added something to the national debate and would welcome them returning.

Nigel Farage’s press people have said he’ll reply tomorrow to the offer and we wait with baited breath (well maybe not) but it would be a fascinating debate between two people on complete opposite sides in this regard. Our position within the EU is something that we should openly discuss, but to do that we need to know more than what we hear through the biased media.

Hearing things straight from the politicians mouths I think only enhances our knowledge of where they stand and why they have those opinions and in turn we can weigh up the pros and cons of each side of the debate to decide how we feel about it. I genuinely believe most people don’t have enough knowledge of why EU membership is important or not (I include myself in that) so anything that gives me more knowledge is something I’d like to see.

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February 20th, 2014 at 1:36 pm

Posted in Politics

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In real praise of Nick Clegg on the EU…

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I’m a Nick Clegg guy. It isn’t anything new and a big revelation but I am. I think he is the most intelligent of the party leaders. I think he is the best speaker of the four main party leaders and when you look solely at what he says then it makes the most sense. His biggest problem at the start of this parliament was clearly he was outmaneuvered by the Conservatives and showed a distinct lack of political nous. Also despite putting up good overall numbers, he actually oversaw his party losing seats in the House of Commons, spreading our resources too quickly instead of concentrating on seats where we should have won or should have held on. That was poor.

However four years on and he is facing the toughest fight with the electorate to date. The European Elections. The Lib Dems are going to get an ass-whooping, not because the electorate are pissed off with the Lib Dems but because the anti-European brigade are dominating the political landscape. UKIP are surging on the back of that sentiment and both Labour and the Tories are being a bit woolly-minded as to what they really think about the European question. They are both grown-up enough as a political party to know that being part of the European Union brings the country great benefits as well as the downsides, it is a two-way street, however they know the way the wind is blowing so they don’t want to fly the pro-European flag to any significant degree.

This is where Nick Clegg has decided to step out and put his party and his own position very much out there. In a terrific letter in the i on Tuesday, the Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister puts forward a cohesive and sensible viewpoint for why he believes that being part of the European Union is an important position for the country.

The problem is most people do not see the benefits unless they are involved directly in business. They don’t see that billions of pounds are generated and pumped into our economy due to our links with the largest single market on the planet. They don’t see that if we pull out and become an isolationist state that we will no longer have any say about what goes on politically in our back yard. It really is a better situation for all to try and piss from inside your tent to outside than attempting to do so the other way round. Also the long-term strategy of climate change is an issue. Look at the way our weather patterns are changing, this is clearly an issue that needs to be dealt with and being part of the EU can help us tackle what might be the biggest crisis to ever face the human race. Yet far too many people only see another Polish shop on the high street and they complain.

The one paragraph that really stood out though was the following:

I understand why Nigel Farage’s brand of pub-friendly Euroscepticism is appealing. It plays on the fear of the ‘other’, the fear of change, the belief that someone else must be to blame for the ills of the modern world. It offers beguilingly simple solutions: pull up the drawbridge, close the door and turn our back on the world. It is an appealing offer but one that is extremely dangerous.

Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner. This is exactly it. People are scared and want someone to blame for their lives not being as perfect as they believe they should be. The two easy targets are Europe and bankers. We have heard Labour lead the fight against bankers and what an evil sort they are and it sickens me. Talk about scapegoating one section of society believing it will mask all of their ills for not managing the economy but that is another subject for another day. Europe, and immigration of EU nationals is the issue that is now creating the most buzz. People don’t want non English people here as they are taking our jobs so they say, jobs that most English people do not want. In the early part of this century when the Poles decamped over here to do our cleaning, our data entry, our receptionist jobs, our hotel work and the like no-one cared because they worked hard and did jobs people didn’t want. Now people want them gone because they have seen the economy tank.

Did the economy tank because of an influx of EU nationals? No. No it didn’t. Would the economy recover if we kicked out all the EU nationals we didn’t want and did those jobs for ourselves? No it wouldn’t. That is such a simplistic view of the world and the economy and one that doesn’t bear any resemblance to reality. If we kicked out all foreigners how would we staff our National Health Service? There are not enough qualified health professionals to staff the NHS so in turn we’d lose front-line patient care. Is that what people want or do people that want to leave the EU want special dispensation put in to allow foreigners work visas if they are working in certain sectors?

What about foreign sports stars? I’m a football fan and enjoy watching great players from around both Europe and the World ply their trade in the Premier League. Do we not want these people playing in our leagues and paying the huge amount of tax that they give to the Treasury? See that is the thing, you know these foreigners? They are working over here and actually paying in to our Treasury and enhancing our society.

The problem is people are looking for the easy excuse, the simple narrative and that is that all our ills are due to Europe and foreigners. Recent reports on the flooding have said that we should pull out of the EU to sort out the floods. These reports say that with the money we spend putting into the EU pool we could sort out all our flood defences and on a simplistic level we could easily, however we’d also then in turn lose a lot of money that we come into the coffers due to our position within the EU and then in turn we wouldn’t have the money.

‘It’s the economy stupid’ was a war cry of the Bill Clinton 1992 Election campaign, well not the war cry but it was a slogan they used to remind staff about their primary message. The economy is the key to everything and it is a very hard thing to know in great detail. Do we get more out of being in the EU compared to what we’d get if we left? I don’t know the answer in a strict economical sense because I don’t have the figures but clearly we do get genuine benefits from being in rather than out. For that I’m happy to be involved with the party that has put its cards firmly on the table as wanting to protect the economic revival. I am pretty sure that leaving the EU would see the economy take a hit not only in the City but also in businesses up and down the country and businesses employ people and give people jobs and then they pay taxes etc. etc. etc.

So I’m very happy Nick has set out his stall so firmly. It might not be what people want to hear and it might go against the popular narrative but it is honest and it is a genuine position based on real economic and sociological issues. It isn’t based on scaring people with mis-truths and that is why the Lib Dems are I believe fast growing up as a political party.

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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February 11th, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Posted in Politics

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The bad name of the Liberal Democrats

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Ah the Lib Dems. The sandal wearing, beard loving, irrelevance of a political party. When Millwall chanted ‘no-one likes us, no-one likes us, we don’t care’ they did so as a badge of honour. For the Lib Dems it was all very different, it was ‘no-one worries about us, no-one particularly dislikes us, no-one cares’ as the party bumbled along being relatively popular at local level across the country but when it came to national governance, people wanted to see the two big parties battle it out. There was no third way.

Then things changed.

In the space of a few weeks the Liberal Democrats suddenly became relevant and when they did so they got tarred with a big brush, the big brush of disappointment and that stain is one we find hardest to cope with.

The long and short of it is as we all know, a significant proportion of people who voted for the Lib Dems in 2010 nationally did so as a bit of a protest vote. They public were not convinced about Gordon Brown and Labour, nor were they enthused by David Cameron and the Conservatives. They looked for that third way and the fresh faced Nick Clegg provided that hope and aspiration that things could be different.

The thing is deep down the likelihood of things being different because the party were never going to either win a majority in the House of Commons and nor were they going to be the largest party in any governing coalition. The party could only prop up a Tory or Labour led government or sit in opposition. In essence they couldn’t ever be the party that people hoped they would be after 2010 because whatever way they went they were stuffed. Either they propped up an unpopular party or they showed they didn’t have the cojones for government. A lose/lose situation.

Why am I bringing this up today?

Well I read this piece entitled I am not a “Liberal Democrat” and it sums up the problems that, we as activists, and the party in general face. The good, unsullied name of the Liberal Democrats is now not so pristine and that is quite the understatement. A lot of people are angry that the Lib Dems didn’t change everything when they became the junior member in a coalition, a lot of people are just angry and aren’t exactly sure why.

The thing is, more people sit in the ground occupied by the Liberal Democrats on the political spectrum than any other political party. If people voted solely on ideological principles then the Lib Dems would be the ones to beat, but people don’t do that. They vote based on a multitude of things including trust, who they like/dislike personally, policies, ideologies, tactically, historically, I could go on and on but ideology has been pushed further and further down this list as the years and decades have gone by.

Now, in an age where people can learn more about the people on a ballot paper and the parties they represent, people actually learn less. The electorate are not as switched on as they were in the past. Now it is a lot to do with personalities and not policies and that brings us to the Nick Clegg issue. Nick Clegg is not toxic but his name certainly isn’t exactly helping the situation. He might actually be doing a pretty good job of steering the Lib Dem Westminster ship but if people refuse to listen to someone then what can you do? I am positive that there are people out there who would disagree with Nick Clegg if he did everything they wanted from a politician, quite simply because of who he is.

So that leads me to wonder what the best way forward is, not for the party per se for members of the Lib Dems to not feel as though they’ve killed puppies and kittens for fun. I speak to people who talk about the Lib Dems with more disdain than they would talk about murderers, I wish I was joking but it sometimes just feels that way.

The fact is that more people sit in the centre ground of the political spectrum than do any other and yet that advantage doesn’t equate to people going out and voting for the party that sits in their ideological spectrum. That is the biggest problem the party faces today. Nick Clegg isn’t exactly an asset but until we can get people to vote for policies and vision first and foremost above personalities, then we will struggle. Moving what a political party actually wants to do to the forefront of the debate and things will look much rosier at the ballot box and Lib Dems won’t feel as though they are pariahs.

They say one thing you shouldn’t do on a first date is talk religion or politics, I don’t need any help in screwing up first dates but the fact I’m a Lib Dem certainly doesn’t help, and if you think that is conjecture then I can assure you it isn’t, I’ve been told bluntly that is an issue, not because of the policies (bar tuition fees) but mainly because of the notion that the Lib Dems are now just Tories by another name.

Many people don’t get the nuances of a coalition government and there is often very little chance they’ll allow you to talk about it (by the way this isn’t my dating spiel, I don’t talk religion or politics on a first date, well unless they bring it up). The thing is many Lib Dems don’t get the nuances of coalition government. They think that if we disagree then we should stop it and only back Lib Dem policy. Wouldn’t that be a Liberal Democrat government and didn’t we only get 57 MPs at the last General Election?

Coalition isn’t easy and even harder than actual governing is trying to tell people what you are doing as the junior member of a coalition. Coalition has cost the party their innocence and their good name but on the other hand it has shown the party has matured and now isn’t just an ‘anti-everything’ option. Some people will acknowledge this but sadly many many more will now not touch the Lib Dems – or their candidates – with a ten-foot barge-pole, just like the vast majority of the female species with me.

So maybe the Lib Dems and myself are in the same boat. I think the bad name of the Lib Dems will sink them in percentage of the vote nationally but I don’t see a wipe-out. I see resources being very targeted and where the Lib Dems hold, they are actually well liked, both on councils and in Westminster. Elections are becoming increasingly localised and that is why I take little notice of national polls and projected national swings. They deep down mean jack and are just there to give politicos something to talk and write about.

The bad name of the Lib Dems won’t be vanquished overnight and may well stick around well beyond Nick Clegg’s departure – whenever that maybe. Still Labour now lead the polls just ten years after going into a very unpopular war and five odd years after overseeing the tanking of the economy. They are doing that with a leader who has zero personality or political nous and a shadow Chancellor who is, to be frank, vastly out of his depth. That says a great deal about how politics can ebb and flow…

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December 12th, 2013 at 5:24 pm

Nick Clegg’s ideology represents more voters than any other political leader

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6% of people think Nigel Farage is an extreme left-winger, which is pretty funny but that isn’t the important thing that Ipsos-Mori has uncovered. The pollster asked people in one of their latest polls to describe their place on the political spectrum and the place of all the main party leaders. Now unsurprisingly the poll has found that most people see Ed Miliband on the left with David Cameron and Nigel Farage on the right. Nick Clegg is placed in the centre. Ticks all round.

Now when it comes to how people describe their own political views then there is a bigger spread, but the highest number based themselves in the centre-ground and that is exactly where Nick Clegg is placed.

Nick Clegg represents the bulk of us

Nick Clegg represents the bulk of us

This goes to support my long-held belief that if people truly believed that the Lib Dems could form a government on their own, then they would be far more happy to vote for them. The thing is Labour and the Conservatives have dominated government for just so long that people still think that the Lib Dems are a wasted vote. If we could get people over that prospect and just looked at all the manifestos without knowing who write them, more people would vote for the Lib Dems than any other party.

I do genuinely believe that most people sit in the centre-ground or lean slightly to the right or to the left. Whilst extreme views are growing, they aren’t anywhere near the number of people who sit in the middle ground. This is the Lib Dems biggest problem, getting people to vote for the political party who best represents them and not just listen to the highlights. If the party can do this then we can progress and keep moving forward

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October 20th, 2013 at 2:56 pm

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Free School Meals. Good. Marriage Tax Allowance. Bad. However…

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So the coalition government have found a billion pounds a year from somewhere and they had to decide how to spend it. Middle England believes that keeping parents in unhappy marriages will help solve some of the issues of ‘Broken Britain’ as apparently marriage and that piece of paper can change everything. I think this is bizarre and doesn’t exactly add up but still I’m going to look at the other portion of the one billion pounds a year and where it is going.

It is going to the kids, ‘why won’t somebody think of the children?’ shrieks Mrs Lovejoy but wait a minute wife of the poor beleaguered reverend. Somebody is thinking of the children. In July a review recommended a hot meal for all primary school children and this is a big step towards providing that as all children – no matter what the financial situation of their families – will get these free meals and this is an attempt to combat poverty from September next year.

The DPM said, ‘It’s my idea, it’s a Liberal Democrat idea. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long period of time. If we ever had the money, I’d like to go further and give all primary school children a good hot healthy meal at lunchtime.

My ambition is that every primary school pupil should be able to sit down to a hot, healthy lunch with their classmates every day. Millions of parents across the country are feeling the squeeze. Over the course of a year families spend over £400 lunch money for each child. I am determined to do all we can to help put money back in the pockets of these families.

‘We will start with infant school pupils because teaching healthy habits young, and boosting attainment early, will bring the biggest benefits. Universal free school meals will help give every child the chance in life that they deserve, building a stronger economy and fairer society.

Who doesn’t think this a good thing? Anyone? I thought as much. This is the type of thing that the Lib Dems can do in coalition government. If the Lib Dems were running the country then they would be able to fund this across all primary school children but for now this is progress. Of course if the Tories didn’t get their marriage tax allowance then we could do more but I think we have to realise than coalition politics is all about giving and taking.

In my (simple) mind it comes down to this. Is it better to have free school meals for all children in primary school in the first couple of years and the marriage tax allowance or have neither and that billion pounds going somewhere else or just sitting in the coffers? I think it is better to have the step forward in tackling child poverty even if it is coupled with a disappointing marriage tax break.

Coalition is all about compromises and this is one that I can certainly sit comfortably with. I think it is a sign that the party are growing up and tackling the things they can whilst in coalition. I know many Lib Dems disagree and think that we shouldn’t do any deals that allow the Tories to get anything they want in government if it doesn’t sit well with us but I think at some point people need to understand what is really important, married couples getting an extra three quid a week or 1.5million young people getting five hot meals a week?

To me this one is a complete no brainer. Nice one Nick.

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September 17th, 2013 at 5:53 pm

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No Nick, this is simply not good enough.

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A spokesman for Nick Clegg has released the following statement to the media this morning regarding David Miranda, The Guardian and National Security issues. This statement was reported by multiple outlets but I saw it first on LibDemVoice

We understand the concerns about recent events, particularly around issues of freedom of the press and civil liberties. The independent reviewer of terrorism legislation is already looking into the circumstances around the detention of David Miranda and we will wait to see his findings.

On the specific issue of records held by the Guardian, the Deputy Prime Minister thought it was reasonable for the Cabinet Secretary to request that the Guardian destroyed data that would represent a serious threat to national security if it was to fall into the wrong hands.

The Deputy Prime Minister felt this was a preferable approach to taking legal action. He was keen to protect the Guardian’s freedom to publish, whilst taking the necessary steps to safeguard security.

It was agreed to on the understanding that the purpose of the destruction of the material would not impinge on the Guardian’s ability to publish articles about the issue, but would help as a precautionary measure to protect lives and security.

My initial reaction is quite simple. Nick that quite simply is not good enough. I was laying in bed last night thinking about the time I met Nick Clegg at conference in 2011 (because that is what I do in bed – I worry about myself – as should you) and I was thinking about how impressed I was with him and how I was fully convinced as to his liberal philosophies. The reason I was thinking about it was because of how impressed I was with Julian Huppert on BBC News yesterday afternoon and it got me thinking about how often I hear Nick – or any of his Liberal Democrat cabinet colleagues – say anything that I thought was inherently liberal.

I realised that I just don’t hear Nick, Vince, Danny, Michael or Ed come out and say anything in the media that would make me nod and approve as to its liberalness. They might say things I agree with but they don’t say things that would prompt me to think how liberal they are.

Now on this situation it has clearly been pretty clumsy. The Whitehouse knew about it and the Deputy Prime Minister did not. This cannot be. Nick should either be banging the drum and asking why America was told and he wasn’t or he should be just banging his drum and asking relevant questions. Instead he seemingly backs the Prime Minister, ‘the Deputy Prime Minister thought it was reasonable for the Cabinet Secretary to request that the Guardian destroyed data that would represent a serious threat to national security if it was to fall into the wrong hands. What bollocks. Flat out bollocks.

Why do I say this I hear you ask (or at least think)? Well any time I hear the words ‘serious threat to national security’ all I actually hear is ‘we had no actual reason so we need a good all encompassing cover story that people will swallow.’ If the No More Page 3 campaign started claiming that boobs were harming national security then they would get a whole lot more traction. If Wayne Rooney moving to Chelsea would destabilise national security then the PM would have a word with the Manchester United board and ensure he stays. National Security is a term used when politicians don’t actually know why they’ve done something.

There was probably a time when I would believe politicians and take them at face value but that good will has long since evaporated and I firmly believe anyone in power would go a long way to suppress free speech in an attempt to justify their actions. They are happy for The Guardian to publish articles on this subject but want everything destroyed. Yeah that doesn’t add up. I may not be the sharpest tool in the tool shed but I’m no tool (see what I did there?)

Tony Blair took on to war in the guise of National Security and as hindsight clearly states it was done not in National Security interests. It was done to finish a job that a President was too scared to finish as he had an election to win and feared the US citizens didn’t care about that war any more. ‘National Security’ this and ‘National Security’ that. That good will ship has sailed and quite frankly I don’t believe it one jot any more – certainly when it comes to this situation. All logic dictates that our National Security wasn’t in any jeopardy and in fact the only thing here was to blow smoke up America’s butt and to show Edward Snowdon and any other person interested in whistle-blowing against America that it has allies who are willing to help out all under the guise of ‘national security.’

I am suspicious of politicians in general but when I start getting suspicious of the leader of the Liberal Democrats then it is probably time to worry.

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August 21st, 2013 at 11:05 am

Posted in News,Politics

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Nick Clegg’s comments Re: Lawson/Saatchi that have caused a stir shall we say.

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Nick Clegg has put himself in some hot water this morning following these comments regarding what he would have done if he had seen the Nigella Lawson/Charles Saatchi incident/assault:

What a difficult question. I find it so difficult to imagine… I don’t know what happened, I’m like you, I don’t know what happened …

When you see a couple having an argument, most people just assume that the couple will resolve it themselves. If, of course, something descends into outright violence that is something different.

I just don’t know, there was this one photograph, I don’t know whether that was a fleeting thing. I’m really sorry Elizabeth [the name of the caller], I am at a loss to put myself into that position without knowing exactly [what happened].

You are asking me to comment on photographs everybody has seen in the papers – we don’t know if that was a fleeting moment so I’d rather not comment on a set of events that I wasn’t …

Let’s say if a man who is much stronger than the woman is physically threatening the woman then I hope everybodies’ instincts will be to protect the weaker person, to protect the person who is likely to be hurt.

Trying to re-imagine how you might react to very specific events which still are not entirely clear, that is the bit that I feel it is difficult to now comment.

The thing is…no-one knows exactly how they would have reacted. It is something I bang on about all the time. No-one can say they know how they would have reacted to a situation they were not actually involved in. No-one would have known exactly what was going on. You can’t say exactly what you would have seen or heard. So answering a hypothetical with a lack of knowledge is basically taking a stab in the dark at an answer.

Now of course what Nick should have said was ‘I’d have seen and heard everything, stepped in, asked Nigella to go and sit with my wife whilst I restrained Charles and called the police’ but of course that isn’t an honest answer because he would not have known what he would have seen or heard if he was a fellow diner in the restaurant.

Nick has issued the following statement after being lambasted for his comments:

“I completely condemn all forms of domestic violence.

“As I said on the radio, my instinct would always be to try and protect the weaker person, to try and protect the person who otherwise would be hurt.

“But I was asked a very specific question about how I would have reacted to a specific incident which I did not see.

“I said I did not know how I would have reacted to that specific incident because I do not know what happened.

“The point I was making is that I don’t know what other people in the restaurant saw and I don’t want to make a judgement on their reaction.”

Yvette Cooper (who is actually a pretty awesome MP) has jumped in:

Nick Clegg revealed how little he understands violence against women this morning.

Far too often violence against women is dismissed as fleeting or unimportant. Too often public institutions don’t take it seriously enough. Domestic violence is still a hidden crime – and victims suffer or are ignored as a result.

Mr Saatchi has accepted a police caution for assault and the images from the restaurant are disturbing.

Ministers should show they are prepared to condemn this kind of violence against women and that they recognise the seriousness of domestic abuse. Nick Clegg completely failed to do that this morning.

A quite wonderful statement. Doesn’t really connect the truth with the words but in politics we all know that doesn’t matter. She makes out like Nick Clegg thinks violence against women is unimportant, which I think it is pretty clear he doesn’t think. The best bit is Yvette Cooper doesn’t even believe what she just said in a statement. she knows Nick Clegg doesn’t think this but is happy to use anything to further her point. This my friends is why I dislike politics at times. People on purpose telling mis-truths in aid of furthering their viewpoint/cause.

The long and the short of it is thus. No-one can tell you with 100% accuracy how they would have reacted to a hypothetical situation. If you think you can then you are a liar. You can be 99% sure but you can never be 100%. Nick Clegg doesn’t think domestic violence against woman is unimportant. Nick Clegg actually answered the question honestly but the longer you get sucked into the world of politics the more you understand that honesty isn’t a good weapon. Spin, spin, spin is the name of the game and if you can spin it like Shane Warne did to Matt Gatting all those years ago then you’ll be doing just fine.

Sadly this story has the potential to actually blow up thanks to the nature of it but when you actually read his words you’ll see that he was asked a specific, hypothetical question and he couldn’t answer it in the way he should’ve answered it without lying. So he told the truth and that hasn’t helped anybody.

Oh the joys of politics…

The funny thing is my next blog will be about Lib Dem Women…

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June 20th, 2013 at 12:08 pm

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Tonight I am disappointed in both Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats. Sad times.

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Yesterday I went through the formalities of renewing my membership. Today I am disappointed. Oh the emotions of being a member of a political party. As you all will have heard this evening Mike Hancock MP has resigned the parliamentary party whip to concentrate on clearing his name against a civil action against him. He will continue as an independent MP. Which basically makes his resignation sound so see through it is as transparent as I am when someone tells me that they’ve made me a mushroom and fried egg sandwich and I’ve said ‘ooo that sounds lovely’ – it doesn’t. It really doesn’t.

In a letter to the Chief Whip Mike Hancock writes:

Following our meeting today I have decided to offer to temporarily withdraw from the parliamentary party in the Commons until the civil court case against me has been concluded.

I can assure you that I will continue to vigorously defend my position and that I completely refute the allegations made against me.

I’m doing this in the best interests of the party nationally and in Portsmouth and for my family.

I will continue to work hard for my constituents in Portsmouth as I have always done.

He says he is doing it in the best interests of the party nationally and in Portsmouth and for his family. Considering up until a few hours ago he certainly didn’t think this then it is relatively clear that in his meeting with the powers that be today he was pretty much strong armed into this position.

Now we know Mike Hancock faces a very serious civil action against him but remember the police and CPS have investigated and decided there was no case to answer. At this point the party decided not to do anything. Now a civil suit has been forthcoming they have been extremely proactive and decided they want to put him at arms length (at best) until the case against him has been concluded.

Now I am in no position to judge the merits of the court case and I won’t. However I believe strongly that the Lib Dems decision to act has been influenced by the lack of action on Lord Rennard. The Liberal Democrat peer is under investigation from both the Met Police and the party but nothing has happened as yet and I think the party are keen to be seen as proactive in these situations – just like most companies are. The difference in my eyes is the fact it is not a criminal investigation, it is a civil action. To me that is an important distinction as to how an employer or representative should be judged.

The Lib Dems have decided that they want to judge and instead of letting the matter unfold they want him out. Of course the door is open to him to return should the case against him be unproven, the chief whip said, ‘If, at the end of your case, your name is cleared then I would fully expect to have you back in the parliamentary party to play again your role in the Commons.’ However I wouldn’t be so sure that Mike would want to return having been told that essentially the party want rid of him. Lets be blunt here. I know I wouldn’t if I were in the same situation.

I don’t think the party should pre-judge anyone and that is the role of the courts. The fact of the matter is that Mike Hancock not having the parliamentary party whip will do nothing to help the MP concentrate on his case. If that were the case he’d have resigned as an MP. This is all a PR situation and shows that the party either do not believe Mike Hancock’s side of the story or were just looking for a way to get him as far away from them as possible. Either way it is either disappointing to me that they have decided to judge Mr Hancock or they have used this situation to get rid of who they perceived to be a problem.

Reading through Twitter this evening and most Lib Dems are practically rejoicing his departure. To call Mike Hancock a ‘colourful figure’ would be doing the term a disservice. Some just think he is a bit too out there, some think that there is no smoke without fire whilst others think that anyone with serious allegations over them should be gone until they have proved their innocence. Yeah the old ‘innocent until proven guilty’ line doesn’t apply in certain circumstances when it suits… *vomit*

The reason I’m disappointed is because of this last line. The party have decided that they either think he’ll lose and/or that he is more trouble than he is worth. So instead of doing nothing they want to be seen as being proactive. As of this moment the MP for Portsmouth South has not been found guilty in a criminal court (and the police and CPS have decided there is no case to answer) and has yet to face a civil court. When Chris Huhne was facing allegations (albeit of a less serious nature) he was not strong-armed into a resignation. Whilst the allegations against Mr Huhne were far less serious they did come with the possibility of prison and they were criminal charges. The civil action Mr Hancock is facing does not.

The Lib Dems want to be proactive. Great. However I fully believe in innocent until proven guilty and certainly that is the case when it comes to civil action. The differences between a civil suit and a criminal case cannot be understated. Anyone can bring a civil suit and no weight of evidence is needed to get the ball rolling whereas in a criminal case it should be different. If the party now have the motto that anyone facing any legal action either civil or criminal needs to be suspended/strongly encouraged to resign from the party until that situation is resolved then we are going down an extremely slippery slope.

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 3rd, 2013 at 10:40 pm

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Attention Politicians: Where is your leadership?

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When did we get to the point where the seemingly marginalised viewpoints of society stopped being so out there? Over the past few years as the economic downturn has gripped the country, people have looked for someone to blame and the easiest people to blame are those who are different. So politicians are easy to blame but the problem with that is of course someone has to govern so whoever gets voted in will be a politician. Bankers have seen blame laid at their feet but yet again bankers aren’t going away any time soon so the problem has been who can people blame who they can a) get rid of and b) don’t understand.

Step forward religion and foreigners.

The term, ‘I’m not racist but…’ has become a bit of a running gag, albeit not very funny. People say this with a completely straight face. The people that are saying it are not the people that you would generally look at and think they are racist either. However a spectre of what I won’t call hate, but will call intolerance now hangs over far more people than I’ve ever known in my 29 years on this Earth and that spectre is becoming an ever bigger presence in society.

My problem is working out where this has come from? It must have come from somewhere and looking around the most obvious parts of society I can point my finger at and believe they are the reason is the media and politicians. The media will always tap into whatever the mood of the nation is and then play up to it. If the nation are happy then the media will be happy. If the nation has a sense of unease then the media will portray that and start to feed off it. If we are being told constantly about bad things people are doing then it will seep into the public’s consciousness and I believe this is what has happened.

Look at the media coverage yesterday. It was by a person who seemingly was a Muslim. Now was he described first of all as a terrorist or was he first of all classed as a Muslim? You bet it was the latter and not the former. Whilst so many bleat that the English Defence League do not speak for us we must understand that just because people do terrorist attacks are of one faith, they do not speak for an entire religion. When the IRA where blowing things up left, right and centre did they speak for all Catholicism? I’m pretty sure they didn’t.

We though as a nation are far more scared of the unknown than we ever have been before. In this modern age where people can interact with anyone, at any time, people get disturbed. If you are on a tube and two people are speaking to one another in a foreign tongue then instead of being calm and ignoring it, more than ever people are worried because they don’t understand and there we get it the crux of the issue. People in general are far more afraid of what they don’t understand than ever before and we have to ask ourselves, ‘why is that?’

However I want to point a very stern finger at politicians because I see a distinct lack of leadership. In all honesty the last person who displayed leadership qualities was Tony Blair. Like it or not he led this country. Ever since politicians have been too scared to truly stand for what they believe in. As a friend put it to me last night, ‘they pander to the lowest common denominator’ and he was right. Politicians are afraid to say what they really think in case the most vocal of critics attack them. This needs to stop.

I would love to see David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband at a joint Press Conference where they said that intolerance would not be accepted. We live in a multi-cultural society and I love that. Great Britain isn’t just for those who were born here, it is for people who want to live and work here. Should people not be allowed to move from place to place to live with different people, different cultures, experience a different way of life? Should we go back to the day of ‘If you were born in Essex then you’ll live and die in Essex’ and so on? I certainly do not believe so. No-one owns the Earth or any country therein and people should be free to move around.

As we all know though this isn’t the way the tide is going. People think there is always someplace greener and those greener pastures might be to leave the European Union. Some want to leave the European Human Rights Act and have a British Bill of Human Rights instead. My fear though is what if we do this and still things are no better then who do people blame? Do they blame themselves for pushing this through or do they find another scapegoat? What if we started turning on all blondes? Would that be accepted in society the way that intolerance towards people of foreign backgrounds and different religions seemingly are?

The crux is no matter how hard David Cameron wants to bang on about fixing our broken society – the more he says this then the more people will look for where the cracks and the problems are. It is a bit like saying how terrible the economy is, the more you say it the more people will believe it. Society is not perfect. We all know this. However society is not perfect throughout the globe and there are bad people all over the world doing bad things every day. This isn’t just confined to us in the UK, it is a far larger problem than that and one that has to be addressed through education for the next generations coming through.

No matter what our differences are we all bleed when we are cut. We are all but one race – the human race. We all broadly want the same things for our loved ones and for society as a whole but the problems are some believe there are short-cuts and scapegoats to why we don’t all have what we would like.

Immigration is not a problem to the degree that people believe it is. People can live with people of different religious backgrounds. Not all people who are different are our enemies. The vast majority of people who practise the Christian faith are good people. The vast majority of those who follow Islam are good people. The vast majority of those who are Jews are good people and so on and so forth. Being different isn’t a reason to be scared of someone.

Our leaders need to step up to the plate here and now and stop this going forward. Do not pander down to the most vocal in an attempt to win votes. Stand for what you truly believe in. If you stand together and say that this type of intolerance will not be accepted then you’ll start drawing a line in the sand. This whole situation has meandered on for far too long. People can have different views on anything but still not persecute one another. Until such a time where this is the strong and constant viewpoint from our politicians (and in turn our media) then I fear the culture of intolerance will only grow and slowly shatter any illusions we have that we are a progressive society.

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 23rd, 2013 at 10:43 am

My Lib Dem membership is up for renewal so I ask myself ‘Why be a member of the Lib Dems?’

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Being a member of a political party is slightly different to being just a supporter and a voter. It is that time of year where my membership of the Liberal Democrats is up for renewal and after a couple of years as a member it is always good to look at yourself and ask whether it is worth it.

I have decided that there are three reasons to be a member of a political party – National Issues, Local Issues and Personal Ideology. The big question is how many of those three do I (or anyone for that matter) have to be happy with to continue membership (or indeed join in the first place).

I’ll start with Personal Ideology.

Several weeks ago I was challenged to write about my Lib Dem Values. In a way it was also a way to see if my thoughts meshed well with that of the party. I am a liberal. I believe in liberal philosophy. I don’t really have to challenge myself on this at any level because I have always had a very similar viewpoint of the world and our place in it. No one person is born better or worse than the next person. Every person deserves the same chances and opportunities in life. If the Liberal Democrats still sit broadly in the liberal realm of the political spectrum then I can tick this box.

However National Issues is a harder thing to sit with.

I joined the party after the coalition was forced. Despite having always voted and leaned Lib Dem I never actually joined until March of 2011. So I was not a member of the party when solely in opposition so I do have a slightly different viewpoint to many others who have been members for far longer. The biggest difference between opposition and government is that sometimes principles and practicalities are mutually exclusive and something has to give way.

The question is at what point do principles become compromised unnecessarily? That is the problem the I personally wrestle with. Being part of a coalition does mean that we as a party will have to do things that we are not personally comfortable with. If we want to live in an isolated Utopian state and only do things that as a party we would be happy with then either win a General Election or be in opposition until the point where an outright victory occurs. Coalition will always mean two parties (or more) doing things that they are both comfortable and uncomfortable with. This is just the nature of the beast.

However when we see MP’s and the national party doing things that go against the will of the membership without getting an obvious trade back on another issue then it is immensely troubling. It can be said that the Tories have backed things they would have preferred not to during the past 35 months or so. It most certainly can be said that the Lib Dems have done just that and on multiple occasions.

People have left the party due to various issues since the formation of the coalition. Many leave strictly because of one principle gone too far and others because of an accumulation of principles they believed in being ignored and in some cases actively campaigned against by the upper echelons of the party.

It is hard to really back some of what is going on at Westminster. I like Nick Clegg. I like him a lot but unless he explains why he does some of the things he does and listens to the grass roots then it is hard to fully back him. We have gone past the point where we can believe in Nick Clegg and the national party with blind faith that they know what they are doing.

So this box I probably can’t tick so I’ll say it is an incomplete.

Lastly Local Issues.

I currently live in Southend. We have a Conservative run council (with a majority of one) and a rather interesting local political scene. The Lib Dems locally are good people (which is always a pretty decent start) and I think we can see some progress here. I wish the councillors would be better at talking about their achievements as it is rare to see them in the local paper talking about what they do – and some of them do excellent work and genuinely make a difference.

I do like to think that I live in the real world and the financial situation makes things very difficult for the Tory run council. Cuts do have to be made to make ends meet but there is always a question of what cuts and where. Do we cut along ideological lines or do we cut where those effected are those who can deal with being effected? This is where I struggle with what the Tories have done going into a voting pact with the Thorpe councillors (although now that pact isn’t needed) because Thorpe is the ward where people can deal with issues better than any other. So whilst those in Thorpe will be delighted at the reduction in car parking charges in the Broadway, that is money that is now not going into the coffers.

Also we have to work on what things are spent on – certainly the big projects. The Shoebury Youth Centre was a £2.9million building but it is hardly being used. Firstly we have to question why it was built in the first place but secondly we need to find a way for that building to become a viable part of the Shoebury community. There are issues like this all over the place and in general the local Lib Dems seem to be actively working on finding solutions to difficult situations and aren’t just sticking their heads in the sand and saying ‘those evil Tories are really evil’ etc…

So locally I think I can probably tick that I’m relatively content with what is going on. The local party are active and I do think that being part of it is worthwhile and it can benefit the local community if we continue to work hard and deliver on what we can do.

So two ticks and an incomplete. The National Party do concern me and do the pros outweigh the cons of being in coalition? I’m not sure. Are we losing our soul? Some may argue that and in all honesty I do not know the answer. However my ideology has not changed and being a member of the local party is I think worthwhile therefore it’ll be another year as a member for me…

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

April 16th, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Posted in Politics

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