The Rambles of Neil Monnery

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On the £6,000 tuition fees that Labour are proposing…

without comments

Well the NHS won’t win them the election so now it is time to pull at the heartstrings against the other party.

So Ed Miliband says that under a Labour government, they’ll reduce tuition fees to a top level of £6,000. Hurray, Hurrah etc…. This sounds great and I have no doubt that when I watch the six o’clock news tonight it will be the lead story and it will sound great. The problem (as it often is) is that is you go beyond the headline, you’ll notice that actually this tuition fees drop would actually most effect the rich and actually do very little for the poorer people in society when it comes to how much they repay in terms of tuition fees. This is part of the total misconception about tuition fees that Labour have pandered to and fanned the flames of.

Tuition fees are without a doubt the most popular policy that most people simply do not understand. I was once told that actual finances and the reality meant nothing when it came to politics, all people want are the headlines and those with the loudest voices get the headlines. Oh joy.

Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis has an excellent breakdown of the policy and why it will actually only effect those who earn above £35,000 per year. You can read it in his article entitled, Labour’s plan to cut tuition fees to £6,000 is a financially illiterate policy. In it you’ll actually get some sense and some detail behind the headline grabbing policy.

The key line is thus, ‘It shows that only those with a STARTING SALARY of at least £35,000 – and then rising by above inflation each year after – would pay less if you cut tuition fees (we have assumed the student also takes out £5,555 in maintenance loans per year). Now £35,000 is a solid income but many people in their 20s won’t reach that type of level, in fact many people won’t throughout their lives. So why would Labour want to push ahead with a policy that in effect actually doesn’t help those they are saying they are trying to help?

The fact is simple. Politics isn’t about substance. Politicians don’t actually want to do the right thing, they want to sound like they are doing the right thing. I don’t include all politicians in here obviously but it is something that if you read policies and go beyond the stories in the newspapers and on the TV news, you’ll start to learn this more and more. If you want a complete story then you have to read beyond the headlines and beyond whatever bias a media firm has (more so with print that broadcast media).

This isn’t about actually helping students, it is politics, pure and simple. It is a great sound bite that evokes an emotional response. Labour had been pinning their hopes on making this election over saving the NHS but that hasn’t done much in the polls. Now it is time to do a populist attack on the Lib Dems on a policy that the Lib Dems won’t be too proud of. Not because the policy is bad per se but it goes against what they wanted (and still actually want) to do.

Coalition politics, when Labour have to do it with the SNP for the next five years you can bet the Lib Dems will jump on any policy Labour don’t get through that is on their manifesto.

The facts are that more people from disadvantaged backgrounds are going to university than ever before. Once people get their head around the system and realise that you only start paying the fees/loan back when you are earning £21,000 a year and not a penny more, people are understanding that they indeed can afford to go to university because the fees don’t actually cost them a penny until they are earning a decent salary.

Labour introduced tuition fees, then they trebled them, now they want to double them from where they were when they were in power and in doing so only help those that are most well-off and I thought Ed Miliband was trying to take Labour back to their ideological roots, in fact either he’s a) chasing headlines or b) going for the middle class vote.

Either way it will be popular with many people, the problem for Labour is it’ll be popular to those people who are already intending to vote for them. You see the Lib Dem emotional vote has gone and it isn’t coming back this year but it has already gone, putting the squeeze on a vote that has already disappeared seems relatively pointless. It puts Ed out there but if enough people read beyond the headlines and look at the finances behind the plan they’ll realise who it benefits. The question is will the electorate do such a thing? Time as they will tell all…

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Written by neilmonnery

February 27th, 2015 at 2:37 pm

Posted in Politics

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On Danny Alexander’s chances in Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey…

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The media and activists are obsessed with Nick Clegg potentially going down in Sheffield Hallam despite all the signs pointing towards a Lib Dem win. If they really wanted to get excited about a potential cabinet big-wig going down though then they should go into the Scottish highlands where a real interesting battle will play out between the SNP and the Lib Dems.

Whilst the public polling has Nick Clegg in a nip/tuck battle in his seat, the public polling has Danny Alexander getting a right mullering in Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey. As we all know, the public polls don’t generally name a candidate and the power of incumbency is diluted. Still though this wouldn’t account for the seemingly big hole than Danny Alexander finds himself in.

Still the so called, ‘ginger rodent’ seems cheerful enough and doesn’t think it is such a foregone conclusion. In what I have to say is one of the rare pretty fair long political pieces I’ve read in a while, BuzzFeed followed Danny Alexander around for a day in a piece published today entitled, Danny Alexander Fights To Save His Political Career: “The Tories Piss Me Off”.

The key for Danny is clearly to paint himself (as is the case with many Liberal Democrats MPs across the country) as not being Tories and that being in government has helped stop the Tories from pursuing their own agenda. This is not an easy sell and many will just not buy into it but the key will be to get a proportion to do so. Also of course trying to squeeze the Labour and Tory votes as he’ll try and make it an SNP v the world argument.

Speaking about the Tories taking full credit for the turnaround in the economy, Alexander said, ‘It sticks in the craw. It really pisses me off that the Tories try to claim credit for everything we’ve done in government. Tax cuts – none of that would be happening if it wasn’t for the Liberal Democrats in government. If we allow the Tories to govern by themselves, it frightens me actually, because I think it’s a wrecking approach. Beyond a certain point it becomes ideology.

This is going to be a key issue across the country. The coalition has turned the economy around, unemployment is down and continues to drop with every set of results, employment is unsurprisingly up as well along the same lines. The economy will always be the biggest issue in any election. Other factors will come and go but the economy is key and if the public believe that a party can improve the economy then that will often the key issue – especially for swing voters.

So the fact the public as a whole do not give the Lib Dems credit for things like the rise in the Income Tax threshold, something which David Cameron said we couldn’t afford to do in the first leaders debate in 2010, is something which sticks in the throats of many. This policy effects more people directly than any other policy in the coalition government because it effects everyone who earns more than £6,475, which was the personal income threshold under the last government.

If Danny can persuade enough voters that he (and his party) should take just as much credit for the economic recovery as the Tories, then the party will do ok on May 7. Danny’s issues in Scotland are not helped by the collapse of the Labour vote, which is drifting to the SNP in droves. Having two strong opponents is something you can feel comfortable with in our FPTP system but when one of those strong opponents loses a significant proportion of their vote to the other strong opponent then you have issues.

Looking at the betting trends and the SNP are very strong favourites ranging from 1/12 to 1/3 depending on your bookies of choice. Danny and the Lib Dems are between 9/4 and 11/2. The other parties are all beyond 10/1. Most of these betting movements have been predicated on the seeming strength of the SNP in Scotland coupled with Labour’s fall.

I was looking at some ICM fieldwork from the constituency taken in May last year and one table I found more interesting than others. According to the fieldwork, more of the responders voted SNP than Lib Dem in 2010, despite their being an 22% difference in the actual result (19% SNP, 41% Lib Dem) but according to this poll, of those who responded, 19% voted LD whereas 22% voted SNP. The fieldwork also didn’t take into account the likelihood of voting.

It all makes is rather interesting. The SNP are favourites and rightly so but Danny isn’t out of it just yet. If Danny Alexander holds on in Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey then the Lib Dems will probably be in for a good night. If he loses then it means that Scotland will be voting very strongly for the SNP, leaving maybe only 10-15 non SNP seats across the country.

Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey is more of a bellwether seat for the SNP than it is for the Lib Dems but it is certainly one more media folk should be paying attention to, it will be a very good indicator for how the SNP and the Lib Dems are doing and how they’ll do on May 7.

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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Written by neilmonnery

February 24th, 2015 at 4:51 pm

Posted in Politics

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On needing a thick skin in politics and why it isn’t for many of us…

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I was reminded by someone the other day that to be involved in politics, to whatever degree, you need a thick skin. You put yourself out there and people will take shots at you and think that pretty much everything is fair game. The line seems not only be be blurred but indeed it doesn’t exist at all.

Indeed I’ve seen people go trawling through others social media accounts from months and years previously to when they were adopted as candidates to try and find something to trip them up. Some will call this good thorough journalism, I call it cheap. In this social media era, so much of what we say is recorded for everyone to read, years later in some instances and people change, circumstances change, yet people will find whatever they can to use against them, is this the world I want to live in?

For months I have told family members that in my next stop it is very unlikely that I’ll get actively involved in local politics. That sense has only become more hardened in recent times.

I’m reminded of an MP, I can’t remember who off hand who was going hammer and tongs with one of the ‘celebrity’ panellists on Question Time one week. The MP was a Tory and the ‘celebrity’ was well known for their left wing views. After recording he turned round and said to them that it was all part of the show and a bit of fun and walked off. It just goes to prove that politicians are often playing characters and aren’t being totally open and honest. They are playing up to their core vote.

Ian Swales, Lib Dem MP for Redcar didn’t plan on winning in 2010, deep down he didn’t even want to. He is a one-term MP who is standing down. He called the thrill of it all a bit like a game, you want to win because winning is good but winning means you have to do your best to represent your electorate. He said his ideal result was to lose but closely, then hand over to a younger person to win the next time round. Having spoken to people from all parties, this isn’t a totally isolated viewpoint. Winning is like a drug and winning is great but with winning comes long-term responsibilities.

On the other side of the ledger is losing. Losing is not fun, most people don’t want to lose but losing badly is a different thing altogether. The only time I’ve personally stood I got a battering and in all honesty it was mostly fair. I also knew it was coming and it didn’t effect me one jot.

The only thing from the campaign that jawed with me externally was being woken up at stupid o’clock by someone demanding to know why I thought the hustings should have free for all entrants. After the best part of half an hour of pretty much being shouted at I told her that it didn’t matter, I was going to lose handsomely anyway and she really shouldn’t worry too much about my thoughts that the ability to hear politicians speak should not be influenced by having to pay money to do so. I stand by my PoV that all hustings events be free but I know it cost me not only votes (I might have broken 100!) but it also cost the party some good will.

Thinking about it, I also recall an incident where at the hustings I was asked a question, I can’t remember exactly what it was about but I think the crux of it was along the lines of some children get cheaper bus travel than others and some poorer kids were being disadvantaged by this. It was something along those lines. I said that a possible answer was to make the discounted rate for the journey higher by 10p or 20p a journey but allow all students to get the discounted rate.

Another candidate from another party and ward came up to me afterwards and wasn’t happy with my suggestion as they had kids and get the discounted rate and that would make that family worse of and they couldn’t afford anything extra. Interestingly enough I have seen that person buying their groceries in M&S on many an occasion. That same person offered me ‘information’ on a Tory candidate in last years elections but didn’t want their hands on it but wanted me to run with it. I declined the offer. This is the way politics works folks. In all fairness the Lib Dem candidate had the information as well but also declined to use it and for that, I applaud them.

On to politics in general, what I find most disturbing is how people revel in the defeat of others. People win, people lose, you just get on with it but some people want parties to lose badly as they think it would be funny. When you get people wanting the Lib Dems for example to get battered by UKIP but they in fact despise UKIP but their hate for UKIP is less than their dislike for the Lib Dems then you have to stand there and think, ‘really?’ They see it as part of the game and this happens across all parties. I don’t see how people can see it as a game and that the aim isn’t just to win but they want to win and see someone else lose badly because it will give them more personal gratification.

I know I’m dumb and idealistic that people should only concentrate on themselves and what they have to offer to the electorate but so many people from across the political spectrum seem to want to console themselves that a person or a party they don’t like lost – and not only that – the severity of their defeat. In my dumb mind it is all very simple, candidates put forward their cases to the electorate, the person with the most votes wins and the others take what they can and either regroup, regress or re-up their efforts to win the seat next time.

May is very much going to be a tale of two stories for the Lib Dems. The vote is going to collapse but yet the number of MPs won’t collapse to anywhere near the same degree. The power of incumbency is going to do well for the party in many places, including some that the bookies have written off as Lib Dem losses.

Internal polling data shows that the strong grass-roots in these areas are holding up and not collapsing. A great seat to watch will be Redcar which should go Labour easily but with all the trouble they are having at council level and the fact the Lib Dem MP is well-liked, that seat isn’t a given to go (although the fact Ian Swales is stepping out negates the incumbency somewhat).

Jenny Willott in Cardiff Central looked a shoo-in to drop to Labour but internal polling puts it neck and neck. I’ve consistently said that 30-35 MPs is where I think they’ll stand and if you forced me to go higher or lower than that range, I’d go higher. Another good example is Cambridge where Labour opened up as favourites and now all the bookmakers with a book open have the Lib Dems at odds on to hold. Of course they’ll be losses and the gains will be minimal but Watford is a genuine three-way marginal, in Maidstone & Weald the Lib Dems are live dogs as they are in a handful of other seats that they are looking to take from other parties.

On the other side where the local party have either collapsed or become disillusioned and their is neither an incumbent MP nor an energised local party then the vote will just tank. This will happen in many places across the UK. It won’t be pretty but that is the way it is. Such is life as it were.

I made a decision to not blog about local politics for the rest of this campaign. I did the same in 2014 but this year I was teased out by people writing things that were either plain wrong or laughable and it has only brought me anguish and sadness. I blog because I love to write, not to be right. I struggle every day with the idea of being right or knowing whether or not I’m doing the right or the wrong thing. If writing about certain subjects is only going to bring me anguish and sadness then why should I do it? I feel that way about politics in general to a significant degree.

I would love to help make the world around me a better place, a fairer place, a greener place, a happier place but sometimes you just have to be selfish and worry about your own peace of mind and happiness. My skin is neither thin but nor is it thick. I’m just a guy who enjoys a quiet and peaceful life. Politics brings with it a lot of baggage and that is baggage I thought would disappear if you weren’t actually a candidate, seemingly I was wrong.

So there we have it. To all people who want to get actively involved in politics I tell them to think long and hard about it. You will meet some good people, you’ll win, you’ll lose, you’ll meet some less good people, you’ll have good times, you’ll have bad times but you have to ask yourself whether you want to put your head above the parapet. People will shoot you down even if you make valid points because your point of views contradict with their own and you’ll find in politics there is far too much testosterone flying about to get actual debate flowing.

People want to be right and not only that, they’ll believe with every fibre that they are right. This is something I’ve found from across the political spectrum. To hang in there you’ll need not only a thick skin but a complete confidence in your own abilities and your own mind. If you are like me and struggle, not with your inner-beliefs but with what is actually the best thing to do and the best way forward then it will be a hard slog and one you may want to avoid if you want a happier, less stressful life. You’ll meet people who will have such a strong sense of self-belief that you’ll cave under their sense of gravitas and self-belief.

Active politics will be without a shadow of a doubt be the most frustrating thing you do in your life if you do choose to get involved. I look forward to walking away when my commitments are done with but I have them and will continue to fulfil them to the best of my abilities but when I up sticks and move on to pastures new then I will enjoy watching from the sidelines – at least for a while.

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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Written by neilmonnery

February 23rd, 2015 at 2:13 pm

Posted in Politics

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On Labour candidates using my dad’s death as a reason to attack me personally…

with 3 comments

I have sat out a lot of the local blogosphere recently because I have other things to do, my work life is very busy at the moment with it being our busy time of the year and that has just taken up a lot of my time. I jumped it two-footed though when I saw a candidate state that the Lib Dems would not be putting up a candidate in Blenheim Park ward because only Labour and the Conservative’s had announced their candidates 79 days before the election. It was total bollocks and I called him out on it. That is literally all I called him out on (I actually also wrote about what a hard-worker and campaigner he was but seemingly that bit got by-passed), the fact that he said there would only be two candidates in the seat because only two had declared by now was the bollocks bit. However apparently that didn’t sit well with the Labour PPC for Southend West or the Labour prospective candidate for Blenheim Park himself.

This rebuke has led to two of the Labour blogosphere heavy-hitters rounding on me and attacking me personally, which is fine but when they attack me for not campaigning in my 2012 due to the fact that my dad suffered a stroke, a stroke that he would never regain conciousness from and die right at the start of the campaign, then I get pissed off. Like fucking pissed off. Not everything is fair in love and war despite what they say and the same is true of politics.

I’m not going to sit here and say that I would’ve won Westborough ward in 2012 had circumstances allowed me to campaign fully, I fully expect I wouldn’t have and indeed in all likelihood third was the top position that I could have aspired to behind the incumbent Independent and the Labour candidate. I know that but I didn’t campaign because you know, I had to mourn a death of my old man. That was more important than local politics at the time and I think most people would agree that it was. At the time my fellow candidates knew the situation and none of them said a word about it attacking my lack of activity and I am grateful for that.

Three years later though and I’m not a candidate but still two candidates think they can use my bad result and lack of campaigning in Westborough in 2012 as a reason to score cheap points. I find it genuinely disgusting. I have no issue with candidates scoring political points but when you want to use someone mourning the death of a father to score points then you are really scraping the barrel.

Cllr. Ware-Lane, PPC for Southend West has written, ‘If Matt Dent was to do a Monnery, and reduce the Labour vote to a third of what it was in Blenheim Park last year, then Neil may be right, he might be talking absolute bollocks. You see, magnificent Monnery as he is known in Westborough ward obviously followed his own advice in 2012, because his derisory vote must have been the result of doing nothing until the very last moment.

Matthew Dent prospective candidate for Blenheim Park has written, ‘They lost Westborough last year, to a solid Labour double-win — Lib Dems losing in Westborough presumably being something with which Neil is familiar, finishing sixth in 2012 in that ward.

Now Matthew may not have been about in 2012, I am willing to concede that he may not have known the circumstances surrounding my result in 2012 but Julian was – and does – and yet he still decides to take a personal shot. All class folks, all class.

I just don’t know what to say really apart from I am hacked off. People wonder why people don’t get involved in politics and are put off. These are the reasons. I made a very fair point that just because candidates hadn’t been announced doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be one and that has turned into this. By all means take shots at me but to use this situation as a political point-scorer. I mean just come on…

Well Matthew, Julian, I hope you are both pleased with yourself. You’ve won the race to the bottom and hurt me and brought back memories of what was without a doubt the worst time of my life, when my dad died, something that I have successfully buried. Last night I even dreamed about my dad and rushing to try to get to the hospital in time to say goodbye. Thanks for that. I’m sure you are pleased with your work and are beaming with delight that you’ve inflicted personal pain through your words.

Local politics folks. Its a joy…

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Written by neilmonnery

February 20th, 2015 at 2:53 pm

Posted in Politics

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On Jeremy Browne not leaving quietly…

with 5 comments

Last week I noticed that Jeremy Browne had said something that seemed to piss off some folk. That is all I noticed as I didn’t investigate further as it just passed me by. Well last night whilst sitting in the Chinese waiting for my beef with fried rice and slightly too overdone Chicken Balls (chicken balls need to have very soft batter, crispy batter is a no-no in the Neil Chinese takeaway world) I was reading the newspaper and the paper laying there was Friday’s edition of the i and in it was an article about Jeremy Browne’s ‘controversial’ interview and I read the story. I didn’t find it as dramatic or insulting as I had been led to believe by the comments I glanced at on Facebook last week.

Speaking in said publication, the outgoing MP said:

We are defining liberalism as the precise mid‑point between conservatism and socialism. Whatever liberalism is, it is not defined by where the other parties choose to pitch themselves or by measuring the distance between them and splitting it in half.

All we offer is a desire to water down their strong views. We offer an insipid moderation. Whichever party is the biggest one, we will stop them implementing a large number of their ideas. It is entirely negative. It is a deeply conservative position. We have become the most small-‘c’ conservative party.

Ding. Ding. Ding.

Liberalism should never be defined by offering a watered down version of other ideologies. Liberalism is a fully fledged ideology of its own. Whilst the electorate may well actually like the idea of a ‘Labour Lite’ or a ‘Conservative Lite’ party, that shouldn’t be how the Lib Dems are defined. That may well be how many have seen the party in recent years and in part why many voters are currently switched off from the party. They voted for the Lib Dems not because they felt that they were the party for them because they felt that they were the best compromise of what they really wanted – or in many instances – flat out the best choice to stop the people they didn’t want.

It is no secret that the Lib Dems have been the greatest beneficiaries of tactical voting in the UK for a long time. The party was seen as generally good eggs who weren’t tainted by having to actually make decisions. People remembered the bad times with the Tories and with Labour and went to the party that were different. The problem is of course in coalition (with Lab or Con) then suddenly that taint befalls the party. They are not simply the party of protest any more and you know what – they can’t be for a generation. The party of protest is now either UKIP or Green depending on where your protests lie and north of the border the SNP are hoovering up all that protest with a vacuum cleaner that is on full to keep up with the demand.

Going into coalition was the first step to pissing off a significant portion of the electorate who are just ‘Anti-Tory’ and when the tuition fees issue came then the party had to make a decision. Either walk away then and show the electorate that the party was principled but were unwilling to make compromises in government or decide to show that the party was grown up and not a party of protest but indeed a party of government.

The second avenue was of course harder because many activists actually came in because they were ‘Anti-Tory’ and therefore the activist base faced issues and secondly poll numbers went downhill faster than my chances with a woman once they find out that I own care bears. Having bottle when the ship is careering towards the rocks isn’t easy so what actually happened was a mish-mash that has not sat well with most.

For those who want to be a distinctive voice, the party are still in coalition and being a junior partner in a coalition is not the best way to be that distinctive voice. For those who want to embrace government and being grown up and a natural party of government, they are unhappy that publicly all the Lib Dems seem to hang their hat on is blocking bad policies. It is a no-man’s land that is a turn off to many members let alone the electorate at large. Where the Lib Dems will do well in May are areas where the activists have either bought into government and haven’t been disheartened by national politics or areas where the top dog is an extremely distinctive voice (see Russell, Bob, in Colchester).

Browne’s basics points aren’t inaccurate. The 2011 local election results was the point where the party lost their nerve. They decided at that point (whether it was member led or not) that the primary role of the Lib Dems in government was to water down the Tories. This has been a success to a significant degree but that type of government doesn’t lead to the vast majority people being passionate about the Lib Dems let alone vote for them.

Being a liberal isn’t something anyone should be ‘ashamed’ of and instead it should be shouted from the rooftops. The Lib Dems don’t care what your background is and want a fairer society for all. A child’s education shouldn’t be adversely effected by the income their parents have. Equal opportunity for all is where the party stands and that is great position to be in. It isn’t just about pulling up those from poorer backgrounds, it is about creating better education for all whatever school they go to.

The party have done some very good things in government but endlessly picking fights isn’t the way forward. Pick your fights and your ‘differention’ strategy wisely. The Tories are all in a muddle on Europe, the cabinet mostly know that being part of the EU is vital to the UK economy but the backbenches are thinking of their seats and the little England mentality that a significant proportion of the population has. This is something where the Tories and Lib Dems have distinct differences and these should be screamed from the roof-tops.

I don’t care if MPs or councillors are uneasy about the fact immigration is a buzz topic. Be loud and proud that we believe is the EU and its importance in society and the economy. Be loud and proud that we believe in immigration for people as there is a bigger world than just these shores. The economy is doing well, unemployment is going down, more people are in work, job creation and confidence in the economy is high and we should be able to take a lot of the credit for that. Instead many will see the Tories as the reason and will only associate the Lib Dems with the issues that they don’t like. Differentiating is important yes, but where it is needed. The Tories and the Lib Dems together have turned around the economy and should take a significant proportion of the credit each for this, this though will not be reflected at the ballot box.

Should the party not enter another coalition then Browne believes that Nick Clegg will resign as leader and Tim Farron will be the takeover and we’ll return to opposition. I think this is exactly what will happen. The appetite for coalition politics isn’t strong within the party and unless the numbers were such that no other form of stable government could be formed, then opposition is where the party will be watching a Tory minority or a Labour/SNP pact that will just be surreal.

Jeremy Browne’s voice will be a loss in Westminster. Any distinctive voice worth listening to will be a loss. Whether you agree or disagree with him, he stands up and says what he truly believes that that is something I admire not only in a politician, but also in a human being. I’d prefer to disagree with someone knowing what they stood for than not know what they stand for in a luke-warm attempt to get re-elected. So many candidates say what they think people want to hear and not what they truly believe. This is doing the country a disservice. If only everyone said what they truly thought then the electorate would have a clear idea of all the candidates and would be able to make a better informed opinion.

To wrap this up as I have a Chinese to work-off on the exercise bike, I saw someone link Jeremy to Lembit Opik. Oh boy. Yes they both might like the sound of their own voice but there is one distinct difference, one is worth listening to and the other really is not and I’ll give you a clue as to which is which, the one who isn’t worth listening to I can name some of his previous sexual partners. The one who is I have no idea as to his sexual history. None whatsoever.

I promise I’ll write something non-political soon. I promise…

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Written by neilmonnery

February 19th, 2015 at 4:07 pm

Posted in Politics

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On Southend Council closing nominations before they even open in Blenheim Park…

with 7 comments

Stunning news hit the blogosphere today. With election day still the best part of three months away, Southend Council have decided to close nominations for one of the wards before the election has officially been called. The quite staggering occurrence has been revealed by the prospective Labour candidate for Blenheim Park in a blog posted entitled, ‘BLENHEIM PARK IN 2015 IS A TWO-HORSE RACE: LABOUR OR CONSERVATIVE (seriously change your blog templates so that titles aren’t all in capitals), Matthew Dent explains that it is a two-horse race 79 days away from election day.

Well The Rambles of Neil Monnery was of course flabbergasted by this news and immediately (well we watched the PSG v Chelsea game first, then went to the loo and did some other stuff) but then we immediately rung the council only to be told that office hours were between 9 and 5 and to call back then (actually we didn’t ring, we just assumed that at 22:39 that no-one was available to answer our frantic query) but still, the council didn’t deny this shocking revelation.

This type of move is unprecedented. Closing nominations before you’ve even opened them and granting only two candidates the right to field candidates because they’ve announced that they are candidates on their blog or website is a dangerous precedent to set.

Oh wait, hang on, I think, I think that maybe the writer of the blog has jumped the gun somewhat. Actually there are no candidates in the ward because nominations haven’t actually opened, until that point they are just prospective candidates and the council are going to (shockingly) allow the parties or any interested individual who gets the ten valid signatures required on a nomination form to stand. I think that is probably a wise move from the council.

The whole pretext of Matthew’s blog is of course that he wants it to be a two-horse race because then he’d be second instead of fighting for third or fourth. Making it a straight Tory v Labour fight in Blenheim Park would lead to a thumping win for the Conservative Party. This means that Matthew isn’t confident of winning because if he was, he’d want as many parties in the mix to muddy the waters.

Labour keep banging on about how there is no difference between the Lib Dems and the Tories because of the national coalition (so so lazy) and of course it is well known that the Tories are losing more votes to UKIP than the other parties in areas such as Southend where the Tories are the dominant party. Therefore locally that would mean that voters would split votes between the three and when votes get split then a fourth party can slip through the middle. Basic electoral maths folks. I get bored with the amount of people who don’t understand basic electoral maths.

It could of course also be a subtle dig at the Lib Dems for their continued use of the two-horse race graphic in some of their Focus leaflets (that dig would be fair – using that graphic and sentiment in a ward where it isn’t actually a two-horse race is disingenuous – I said that at the time and no leaflets that I have ever written or edited have ever used this graphic). The truth though is come May, they’ll be in all likelihood at least four candidates on the local ballot paper in Blenheim Park, not the two that Matthew Dent has written about. If Blenheim Park is a two-horse race then Labour won’t be one of those horses. They haven’t been in the running in Blenheim Park in recent history and were a distant fourth just last year.

Working and campaigning hard doesn’t automatically equate to winning or even really significantly fighting to win a seat. I was surprised Matthew went after Blenheim Park considering he (to his full credit) is clearly working hard and it is a seat he is distinctly unlikely to win. Why he didn’t go after Milton, St. Lukes or taking Westborough after their sitting councillor was deselected? These are seats where Labour are favoured to actually win and with Matthew living in Victoria, staying relatively local would seem like the obvious move. Still you have to admire someone who’ll put in so much work knowing they’ll lose. That takes dedication. Just stop writing absolute bollocks…

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February 18th, 2015 at 7:00 am

Posted in Politics

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On the Green Party’s belief they can storm to victory in Southend West…

with 4 comments

A dramatic thing folks, a political party coming from nowhere to take out a knight of the realm. Well that is what is going to happen in just under three months as the Green Party surge has reached Southend West and the party now have confidence that they can pull off the dramatic upset of all upsets, in what would be a bigger surprise than me breaking my lip-locking duck with members of the opposite sex that I’ve been rolling for a depressingly long time. Well that is if you believe their candidate Jon Fuller anyway.

I have long been the type that believe that personal social media account should be just that and not ‘reported’ on by eejits like me or anyone else in the blogosphere, but the Green candidate has written a long post outlining why he is standing and it is clear that he wants to get the word out. You can read the full thing here but here is the synopsis, he’s running because old Labour don’t exist and because voters are deserting the Lib Dems and drifting away from Labour and the Tories, the Green’s are ready to swoop in and save the day…

Well I’m here to defend my lot (to some degree) and actually bring some realistic analysis to the situation. Yes I know I have ties to a party and to this exact election but I can also write from a detached point of view.

He writes, ‘The electorate has one important function to perform, beyond the obvious role of casting a vote on the ballot paper – we have to punish a political party if it promises one thing and delivers another. That is what the Lib-Dems have done.‘ I have two points on this, firstly the electorates important function is to vote for PPC that they believe will best represent them and their values in the House of Commons. The electorate have to make a choice via our FPTP system whether they want to vote tactically or not but the function of the electorate is not to punish anything. That is warped logic but still I’m going to let it go because if he truly believes that then we need to punish the Green Party too.

‘Why is that oh jogging bottom decked one?’ I hear you cry, well I’ll tell you. The Green’s only have ‘power’ in one area. Brighton. They run a minority council there so are not in a position where they can do everything they want, the opposition parties can vote them down. It is a variation of being in a coalition as the Lib Dems cannot do everything they want in government but if the Lib Dems deserve to be punished then lets look to see if the Green Party have kept their promises to the electorate of Brighton.

Can it be true that Brighton has actually gone down in the recycling stakes since the Green Party took over? By jove it is. Did they promise a brand new secondary school to be built to ease the overcrowding on 11-16 year-old students? They did but with under 100 days to go they still haven’t even identified a plot of land, let alone had plans drawn up or ground being broken. How about that bin strike that led to waste building up on the streets? Not very eco-friendly is it to have litter strewn all over the streets? If you look into the Green’s running of the council there, you’ll see why they’ll be booted out in May. They know it is coming and they have to just hope that the electorate can vote with their heads and vote out Green locally but keep Caroline Lucas in nationally, it is a nip/tuck battle but if she goes it will solely be because the Green’s had power locally and sucked and made things worse.

I think – and have always thought – that it is hard to run anything as a minority administration or be a junior partner in a coalition. The UK electorate aren’t used to these situations and react badly to them. That will happen to the Lib Dems nationally and that will happen to the Green’s locally in Brighton. Unless you have enough power to do everything you want then it is hard to be truly judged. If you have some perceived power though, unless you do everything you want then people will be disappointed. It is just the way it is.

On to Southend West as a constituency and whether the Green surge (they haven’t been above the Lib Dems in many national polls in the past few weeks but of course people don’t report this as it isn’t a sexy news story) but that green surge is not going to be felt in Southend West. The demographics are all wrong for where the Green’s are on the political spectrum right now. If Southend West has never gone Labour then they aren’t going to vote in an MP from a party to the left of Labour. It just isn’t going to happen. The constituency has always voted in a Conservative MP and the only time it was even remotely close was in 1997 when the Tory incumbent, Paul Channon, stood down after 38 years, coupled with the Blair surge and the distinct lack of love for the Tories in 1997 led to the Tories winning by only 2,615 from Lib Dem Nina Stimson, yet they still won by 5.6%. Had Labour’s national surge not been so pronounced then the Lib Dems would have won and likely would have held it to this day as they have done in many seats they took for the first time in 1997.

So punters would probably be wise to think that Sir David Amess is going to be the favourite down the bookies. Voters are more likely to leave the Tories for either the lib Dems or UKIP as they are the two parties that are closest ideologically to the Tories than Labour or the Green’s. No doubt many who voted Lib Dem will be unhappy and move to Labour or the Green’s but not everyone will go there and a lot of the protest votes against the Lib Dems will also go to UKIP. So splitting a significant portion of the 2010 Lib Dem vote three ways will dilute any parties hopes of actually taking the seat. It is just basic electoral maths.

The Green Party are highly likely to finish fifth in the constituency, so fifth is quite a long way away from first. I admire his ambition but if I were him, I wouldn’t be going to the tailors for any suit fittings for a new job as an MP. I also want to say that speaking about MP pay rises and bankers bonuses bugs the hell out of me in this respect, MP pay rises aren’t allocated by MPs but by an independent commission so he, even if elected could do nothing about that and as for bankers bonuses, only the banks that are partly owned by the taxpayer can be limited, the rest are independent companies who can pay their staff whatever they like. Bankers bonuses have no effect on nurses pay and vice versa, to link them is lazy politics at best and deceitful at worse.

Realism and politics do not go hand in hand in the blogosphere or amongst many activists. Being starry eyed and projecting hope despite the evidence is the much preferred option. Neither the Southend West nor the Rochford & Southend East constituencies look that exciting at this juncture, plenty of much more juicy seats and and down the land where big swings are possible. To get a big swing you need a disliked incumbent (and/or disliked local party), a big local issue and only one significant opposition where over 50% of the voters are defecting to. This is not the case in Southend in either constituency.

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February 10th, 2015 at 3:36 pm

On…’Let Clegg Be Clegg’

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‘Let Bartlet be Bartlet’ is one of the most famous sayings from the US show The West Wing. The saying becomes a recurring theme throughout the series and it basically means let the president be himself and the politics and public perception be damned. This is obviously a TV show but if you look at the political leaders in the UK and you’ll see that only two of them have any sort of personality that can engage with people and they are Nigel Farage and Nick Clegg. Cameron doesn’t, Miliband doesn’t and Bennett doesn’t. The Lib Dems are in the tank but their biggest weakness is also their greatest strength – Nick Clegg.

We aren’t in 2010 any more, we all know that. The Cleggmania that swept the nation will not happen again, not by a long chalk. However whilst many, many people are completely closed off to the Lib Dems – and Clegg in particular – because of mostly the tuition fees issue and the coalition as a premise when they voted strategically for the best possible Anti-Tory party in 2015, there are people out there whose minds aren’t closed off just yet and who are willing to listen and to get through to those people Nick Clegg has to be himself, warts and all.

I know of many Lib Dems who don’t like him because he took the party into coalition with the Tories and because despite his popularity, the party actually lost seats in 2010. This is just one of the warts of the FPTP electoral system. UKIP and the Green Party will find that out in May. Lots of votes and national vote share means relatively little until you hit a certain mark and neither of those parties will even approach this. Therefore they’ll have to target their resources wisely and fight ground battles in targeted seats, just like the Lib Dems will do this time around (albeit playing defence much more than offence).

Nick Clegg has his pitfalls as do we all, his personality though is not one of them. He is an engaging individual who if let off the leash can possibly help the party not suffer the crushing defeat that most pundits are gleefully predicting.

The Lib Dems are not the choir boys any more. They have held some power in a coalition government national, with all the issues that brings. They will take some blame for things they have done but on the flip side they should also take some credit for positive things that have happened that wouldn’t have happened with a Conservative (or indeed Labour) government. Clegg has been tainted somewhat and he has seemed too comfortable in the coalition for most people but then you look and he helped provide a stable government that has turned the economy around.

Clegg is not the poison that people think he is. Let him off the leash and whilst he’ll not get near the heights of 2010 – certainly not nationally – in the seats where the party have a strong ground game, people are still receptive albeit hesitant. The party have to extol the virtues of being a grown-up party and being able to deal with everything that entails. Many people voted for the party because they were untainted but also many people didn’t vote for the party because they didn’t believe they could make the difficult decisions that a government has to. This issue has been resolved.

May is not going to pretty for the Lib Dems, most pundits and activists know this but it doesn’t have to be that bad. Nick Clegg impressed most reporters with his appearance on The Last Leg that Friday night. It reminded some people that he is human and he got through a difficult interview very well. Whether it will make much of a difference is unlikely but it showed us that the Clegg we liked is still knocking about in there.

There are three growth up parties now and not just the two. Put Clegg, Miliband and Cameron up against one another in a debate form and Miliband will be squeezed. This is part of why the Lib Dems are so desperate that Clegg get on a platform with just Miliband and Cameron. The debates as currently constituted would not favour the Lib Dems at all, they need Clegg to be able to be himself as much as possible and as openly as possible. Clegg’s biggest hope now is for the broadcasters to change their minds (again) or that Cameron bottles it and they empty chair him, which would leave the Lib Dem leader as the only person with government responsibility at the debates, leaving him free to take as much credit as he likes for the good things the coalition has done.

Whatever happens though the Lib Dems are (rightly or wrongly) married to Nick Clegg at this point and need to let him off the leash completely. He is the biggest asset and also the biggest problem. To use a cricket analogy, his best shot is the free flowing cover drive a la David Gower but the best way to get him out is nicking off to slip outside of off stump. He’s going to nick off a fair few times over the course of the General Election campaign so its best to let him try and hit a few cover drives and score a few runs (points) whilst he does so.

Let Clegg Be Clegg.

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February 3rd, 2015 at 4:38 pm

On the return of boobs to Page 3 and the next step…

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Who is shocked or even in the least bit surprised that Page 3 of today’s edition of The Sun has a woman with her boobs out on it? Anyone…? If you have your arm raised then I’m looking at you very quizzically.

You see the newspaper never said that it had dropped the topless photo from its daily editions. They actually went out of their way to say very little on the issue. If they were dropping it then you know what, they would’ve said it very openly and very loudly for the positive publicity that they would get from the media and from those who do not buy the newspaper.

Wait a minute…what were those last few words again?

those who do not buy the newspaper

And that my friends (and those who are indifferent and heck enemies if any of them read) is the issue. I wrote this a couple of years back and it still stands true today as much as it did then:

Page 3 to The Sun is nothing to do with their thoughts of sexual objectification. It is all about money (like most businesses) and financially it obviously is worth it to them otherwise they wouldn’t do it. The people who don’t like it don’t buy it anyway so why would they care what these people think? Isn’t that a very bizarre way to run a business? Would you run a business where the people who make you money like what you do but those who don’t make you money are complaining and you listen to the latter and not the former?

So this is what in most likelihood happened over the past few weeks. The Sun decided that they were going to experiment with dropping the tits and seeing how it effected circulation. No-one said anything after Friday’s edition had no boobs but when none appeared on Monday, the news ran with it and ran with it hard. This meant that Tuesday was the first day the newspaper had no tits on show where most people knew about it and what happened? By Thursday the boobs were back.

Either they were trolling the world or they lost a whole load of sales because maybe, just maybe, some people buy the newspaper not for the news but for a picture of a naked woman’s top half. Another newspaper still has topless photos of women on its page 3 and I bet the Daily Star’s sales went up dramatically on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Sun is not a bastion of morality. It is about making money. If they get more sales by having a picture of a woman baring her chest then they’ll continue to do it. That is just business logic. Those who don’t like Page 3 in its current guise don’t buy the newspaper anyway and they won’t return to the paper just because the picture stopped appearing, whereas they would lose sales from those who like it and don’t have it any more, those people will find an alternative tabloid and look what else is out there, is that the Daily Star I see…?

Quoting myself again:

Sometimes we see the world from our own point of view and not from the point of view of others. Page 3 sells newspapers. I don’t like it. You probably don’t like it but it is a fact and until it doesn’t then why would they stop? The Sun as we all know isn’t the bastion of moral fortitude and it doesn’t pretend to be. It is a newspaper that serves as the news of the lowest common denominator. I don’t think that is an unfair statement and the people that buy it are not those who care about tits on Page 3.

I know people will say I back Page 3 because I’ll say I’m not shocked that they continue to publish it. It is either that or I can be the business logic behind it. I don’t understand why people would ever think that a newspaper would change its content to suit those who didn’t buy the newspaper in the first place. If The Sun drops Page 3 then it loses money and also it loses influence and that shouldn’t be overlooked. Having the biggest circulation gives (or at least gives the perception) of more influence over more people. One thing we know about Rupert Murdoch, he likes having influence!

Page 3 will continue to exist as long as more people buy The Sun (and the Daily Star) than would if those newspapers didn’t have a topless woman photo. It is just business plain and simple. Sexual objectification of women and changing attitudes towards that won’t be achieved by cutting off the access to boobs in a newspaper. This is a deeper problem in society and this one symbolic gesture was never going to work as long as they went after one newspaper only and the left the other newspaper who did exactly the same alone.

I’ve said it repeatedly over the years and people say I don’t know what I’m talking about, that is because they are only seeing things from their own PoV and not from a business point of view. Nearly 2.75million people buy either The Sun or the Daily Star daily at a near 5:1 ratio. If just 10% of The Sun’s readership switches to the Daily Star that is a dramatic change and puts The Sun in the clutches of the Daily Mail for biggest daily newspaper and in turn moves the Daily Star above both the Daily Express and the Daily Telegraph.

The Sun wants to have the largest circulation in the UK. Tits help them do that. I just wish people would take a step back and understand that this has nothing to do with how The Sun perceive women. This is all about how much money they make, how big a circulation they have and how much influence the newspaper (and its owner) has over the British electorate. It is no less and no more. It is that simple. Whether we like it or not that is why the boobs are back. I’m not a fan. I don’t buy the newspaper. I won’t buy the newspaper with tits or with no tits but I’m not their clientèle and that is the issue. Those that buy The Sun knows it has tits and either doesn’t care or actively like them.

Having written about this several times and along the same lines, I know that people think I’m a moron because I can compartmentalise both my personal opinion and the business decision behind the tits. To get boobs out of newspapers it needs a ban and not out of the goodness of the hearts of the editors of the two dailies who put boobs there. Turkey’s wouldn’t vote for Christmas so why would newspaper editors vote for something that would lose them money? They wouldn’t. The Sun has now seen that they sell more newspapers with boobs than they do without so the boobs will stay until their is legislation that says they can’t. The fight to get tits out of the newspaper has to go to through government, it always has been, now maybe those who are leading the fight will understand this.

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January 22nd, 2015 at 1:19 am

Posted in Media,Politics

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On the Lib Dems plans in Southend come May and local political blogging…

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Southend’s newest sensation of the political blogging scene has finally turned his attention to the Liberal Democrats after his recent attacks on the Greens, the Tories and UKIP. In a piece entitled, ‘Where have all the Liberal Democrats gone?’ he opines about the parties fortunes in the borough.

Now I’m not going to fill in all the blanks for him as I don’t want to spoil his fun by bringing knowledge to the situation, that isn’t seemingly what his blog is for. Julian Ware-Lane has always led the field in local political blogging but now he forms a two-headed tag-team and whilst I would love to sit here and be aggressive about it, it is actually fun reading and credit where credit is due, between them they do lead the way in Southend political blogging. Whether much of what they write is fair or written with strong Labour specs on is another matter but they do churn out content.

I was asked the other day if I had any advice for him and I casually replied that he should invest in a copy of McNae’s. All the cool kids have one (myself included) although I aced Journalism Law at university and am pretty confident that my blurbs never skate even near the line.

He questions whether Cllr. Paul Collins’ big defeat (and lets not beat around the bush – it was a big defeat) in Westborough last year is the reason for having no PPC selected for Southend West as yet. I can answer that question, No, No it isn’t. I can give a much more informed opinion of why there is no PPC in place at this point but this is not the forum. I’m being a good boy today.

As for when a PPC will be selected and announced, I’d expect movement to happen on this subject before I’ve raided the Cornish Bakehouse for my Monday four double chocolate doughnuts for £1.50 treat (seriously if I lived within walking distance of that bakery then I’d eat so many freaking double chocolate doughnuts it would be insane).

On the Rochford & Southend East issue, this is a much harder candidacy to fill, I think that is fair comment. The party across the land have lost many members and many good candidates are disillusioned, that is the truth and there is no hiding from this fact. The Lib Dems in Southend are not immune to this but I’m sure there will be a candidate on the ballot for people in Rochford & Southend East to give them a Lib Dem option. Who knows maybe it’ll be a 31 year-old double chocolate doughnut enthusiast? Who knows…? (I know but I don’t want to spoil Matthew’s hypothetical fun)

He really does think the Lib Dems are dead in the water as he predicts that the party will lose Leigh ward but still be a junior partner in the administration come the summer. Well with four councillors (which is the number he predicts) then the Lib Dems would be the smallest party (or group) on the council. If that is the case I’d hope the Lib Dems step aside and allow the other four groups to form an administration. I said this in 2014 that Southend had (rightly or wrongly) rejected the party and should they go down to the fifth largest party then I can see no reason why the party should be involved in the administration in any way. Also losing Leigh ward would be a real kick in the teeth for the party but if I was a bookmaker I wouldn’t be putting my mortgage on that result just yet.

Also he sincerely doubts that the party will be able to find a full slate of candidates across the borough, well lets see what happens eh? I’m not saying I know the answer as nomination papers etc. haven’t been sent out yet but I have an idea as to whether the party will go 17/17 I wouldn’t want Matthew to be unduly surprised so I’ll give him fair warning to not worry too much about the Lib Dems in Southend on this front. If the party goes 17/17 it won’t be a shock but if they don’t I wouldn’t exactly have a heart attack either. Sincerely doubts is probably over-stretching.

I’m not going to sit here and say everything is rosy in the Southend Lib Dem garden because it isn’t. I’m a realist but I also wouldn’t be writing the obituary just yet either. I expect a very good person will be selected as the Southend West Lib Dem PPC within a few days. Just because Matthew Dent isn’t briefed on the inner workings of the local party doesn’t mean nothing is happening. If he is so interested in finding out all the gossip before everyone else I will happily offer him the chance to resign from the Labour Party and join the Lib Dems, then he can write with all the facts, wouldn’t that be novel?

Look I enjoy his blog, I really do but I always struggle to trust any politco (including my lot) who basically say that the party they are a member of is great and everyone else sucks. The political spectrum is relatively narrow as the main political parties are all realists but when in opposition they’ll widen that spectrum to appeal to a wider set of voters before actually narrowing what they do in power because sometimes there is only so much money in the pot etc.

Labour introduced tuition fees and they introduced privatisation to the NHS. The two big sticks they use to attack the Lib Dems and Tories respectively, they actually started. This isn’t political rhetoric, it is fact. It just goes to show that all political parties will often take the same road when presented with similar financial options. The whole funding of new hospitals and new hospital wings with private money was fantastic short-term but has crushed many NHS trusts financially but as Julian Ware-Lane told me on twitter, ‘The GE will be a chance for voters to pass judgement on the ConDem Govt. What happened before is history.’

So the Iraq War, introducing (and trebling) tuition fees, starting the privatisation of the NHS, crushing NHS trusts long-term with sky high rental costs of new buildings, being in charge of an economy that collapsed and let the bankers run wild is all in the past and doesn’t matter. Therefore by the 2020 General Election I’m sure the fact the Lib Dems were in a coalition or anything the Tories did in power between 2010-2015 if they find themselves in opposition won’t matter and won’t be mentioned by any Labour candidate. Yeah right…

I’m not saying Labour are bad. I’m not saying the Lib Dems are great. The truth lies somewhere in the middle and determining where that is for all of us personally should determine where our vote goes. Same with the other political parties. This is one of the things that I really deplore about politics, just how black and white politicos and candidates get whereas in reality most things are a shade of grey to some degree. I’ve written many blog posts both praising and attacking the Lib Dems for what they are doing in government and I like to think that this is a mature attitude and not just acting like a political sheep.

So anyway that will be all. Short version is the Lib Dems in Southend aren’t dead yet and things are going on. Many local candidates are in place and just because they haven’t been announced yet, doesn’t mean that they aren’t. I think it is fair to say that bountiful success is not expected in May but nor do I expect being last in every seat with no votes whatsoever. The reality will be somewhere in the middle. The Southend West PPC will get selected and announced in the very near future and the Rochford & Southend East candidate will be next on the list but who knows who it will be…? *has a twinkle in his eye*

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Written by neilmonnery

January 16th, 2015 at 6:00 am