The Rambles of Neil Monnery

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Archive for the ‘politics’ tag

On whether a woman ‘needs’ to be selected for Oldham West and Royton by-election…

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Needs is the key word in the title.

The first by-election of the 2015-2020 will be called following the sad passing of Michael Meacher MP, who died this week following a short illness. He had been a representative in the House of Commons since 1970 and had always been an MP of them seat (and the seat under its previous boundaries and guise of Oldham West). The result of the by-election itself should be a straightforward Labour hold, although no doubts UKIP will have their eyes on the prize but in reality Labour should triumph here with relative ease, therefore this won’t be the first real referendum on Jeremy Corbyn or on the Conservative government.

For the Lib Dems this is a seat where they’ve never finished higher than third and never really been in the game in win it as it were. In the 1990s, the party were the kings of shock by-election wins as people protested against the major parties before returning home during a General Election. These days a lot of that protest vote goes towards UKIP, so I don’t think the party should be expecting much here but that doesn’t mean the party should be ignoring the by-election. This is a good grounding for Lib Dems in the local area to get back out of the streets to promote liberal values.

Jonathan Fryer over on LibDemVoice has written that the party must take the by-election seriously and I agree with him. I certainly wouldn’t be advocating an open cheque book in the attempts to pull out something surprising but a good well run campaign seems like a sensible approach.

One key will be finding the right candidate. I have seen multiple Lib Dems saying on social media that the party needs to find a female candidate because our current line-up of eight male MPs looks bad. Whilst I would agree with the second part of the sentence, selecting a woman for this by-election is highly unlikely to change the make-up of the Liberal Democrat parliamentary team, no matter how much we’d like for it to do so.

In 2015, the party chose only one man in a seat where the incumbent was standing down, in every other situation the party chose a woman. I’m not sure the fact the parliamentary party was all but wiped out can be laid at the feet of not having enough female candidates. I’m not sure deselecting Clegg, Farron, Mulholland, Lamb, Brake, Carmichael, Pugh or Williams and replacing them with a female candidate was ever truly advocated by people, yet in all likelihood that is what would have had to have happened for a woman to be selected as a Lib Dem MP in the 2015 General Election.

So I think looking back at the campaign and the gender breakdown our our representatives on the green benches and blaming the party as being sexist or not fair to women is pretty harsh. If we select a woman here and she doesn’t pull off the upset of all upsets then will people still call the party sexist for not having a female MP?

I’ve always advocated the best candidate for the job as being the bottom line. If it is a man, a woman, I don’t really care. If they are gay, bi or straight, I don’t really care. If they are white, black or of other regional descent, I don’t care. If they are atheist, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh etc. I don’t care. I think you catch my drift. All seats at all levels will have better or worse candidates, some people just don’t fit in an area, some are already well known locally. It all comes down to individuals.

Yet having said all this, this word ‘optics’ is a key one. The optics of the Liberal Democrats is not good on this front. The optics won’t change after this by-election, certainly not from the outside, yet maybe the internal optics are just as key? I think that whatever the decision it won’t change much as we have to wait until a by-election in a Lib Dem winnable seat. Should Edinburgh West go tits up then that would be a seat where the Lib Dems could feasibly win a by-election but if that did come up, Mike Crockart would seem highly likely to be the candidate having been the disposed MP in May.

Richmond Park though is probably the key. There was no sitting MP in 2015. A by-election is very possible for 2016 should Zac Goldsmith win the London Mayoral Race (which he is very much in) and although he had a 19,000 majority, political parties traditionally do not do well when they are defending a seat in a by-election. It would be a tough win for the Lib Dems but it would be very much possible. This is a seat where the lights would shine bright for the party and the optics would be glaring. Getting women as candidates into winnable seats is far more important than the likes of Oldham West and Royton.

To answer my original question, no the party doesn’t need to field a female candidate. It would probably be preferable for most people but deep down it won’t make too much of a difference in how the party is perceived on this matter. Now getting female candidates in seats where they can win, that is another story entirely. The party has many impressive women who would be excellent candidates (and indeed many men as well) but just putting females names on the ballot won’t solve a damned thing. Getting women the right experience and putting them in the right situation is the key.

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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October 22nd, 2015 at 10:29 am

Posted in Politics

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On a Lib Dem saying something offensive and dumb, a petty Tory and local journalism…

with 8 comments

Sometimes I come across a story where literally everyone involved in it comes out badly. Today I saw such a story that the more I looked into it, the worse the secondary characters looked. sadly for the main characters, they just never looked good.

For those who don’t know anything about the story to which I can referring then you can read the write-up in the Portsmouth News. The long and short of it is a ‘rising star’ in the Lib Dems apparently said something stupid whilst drunk, well lets be fair, something beyond stupid, something flat out disgusting. She should learn to deal with alcohol better, tell her friends not to post her stupid remarks on social media or to be frank have less vile words spilling from her mouth. The words she used were, ‘joining the Tories is like joining IS.’ Yikes. You can’t defend it so I won’t but lets look at the rest of the players in this story.

She had a friend who shared the comments online, first things first, don’t share such crap. It is wrong but will also come back to bite you in the bum and make you look stupid. It isn’t a bit of fun. In this era where all our communications on social media can be scrutinised with a click of a button, learn to be careful about what you share online. If people (and I actually know activists from other parties have done so looking for dirt) went through my timeline on twitter or my Facebook books or my instagram pictures, whatever, they would find that I love Nadiya from GBBO maybe a little bit too much, I love George from Masterchef Australia maybe a little bit too much. I talk a lot of sport and talk a lot of politics but plain offensive things, no siree bob, a) it isn’t on and b) your online identity is rightly or wrongly a part of you. So don’t share things that will get you into trouble.

So he has some fault for sharing the comment (or should I say alleged comment Mr. Lawyer?) but whatever. Next up is the Tory councillor in Portsmouth who saw it and instead of looking at it and thinking, ‘oh what a foolish young woman’ instead decided to tweet the local media alerting them to the Facebook status. I mean for real. Cllr. New, you are a grown man, act your fucking age (yes I said fucking, I’d edgy and uncouth like that – big up my Portsmouth upbringing under a Conservative council – or I should say Havant Council if I’m being strictly accurate). Some 17 or 18 year-old girl apparently said something fucking stupid whilst drunk, someone who heard it thought it was either funny or true so posted it online and the adult response is to go crying to the local media? Fucking hell.

So Cllr. New has some blame and then the Pompey News itself. Oh I love the Pompey News. I have had several friends pass through those doors. It was my hometown newspaper but what on Earth are you doing giving this story the time of day? The person who said it doesn’t live in Portsmouth, the person who shared it doesn’t live in Portsmouth (although either studies or studied in Pompey). So where is the Pompey angle? No fewer than three Tory councillors in Portsmouth are quoted in the story about it. I mean come on. I know local newspapers are dying and the written media as a whole is on life support but when you are calling up or e-mailing multiple Tory councillors for a comment on a story about a drunk girls comments who doesn’t live in the area then boy that is a tenuous link for a story.

So I think a lot of people come out badly in this. Both young Lib Dems need to learn not to say (or be amused by) offensive stuff (let alone let it be shared on social media). I suppose in the old days (of you know – ten years ago) a person says something to friends when drunk and no-one else hears of it. This desire to share everything on social media is something people need to curtail (and I say that as an avid social media user). The Tory councillor who squinnyed like a fucking baby (see I am from Pompey – I used the word squinny) needs to grow the fuck up and if the local newspaper is going to react to every story where someone says something offensive when drunk then the Pompey News is going to be the main reason for the rainforests to die out.

Just maddening. The lot of it.

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October 1st, 2015 at 3:48 pm

Posted in Media,Politics

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On the new ‘kinder, gentler’ politics…

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I haven’t blogged for a couple of weeks. Not because I haven’t had things to say but because I’ve been in some sort of a malaise in terms of writing on the blog. Not that I haven’t been writing a lot mind you, I’ve been writing elsewhere doing a fair amount of sports writing. This blog though has developed more into politics as the years have gone on.

Still here I am. On the back of two Labour conference speeches I feel compelled to tap tap tap on the keyboard once more. Jeremy Corbyn I actually have few problems with. He doesn’t live in the real world but what he has to say sounds good. He would be a fantastic President or Prime Minister of Utopia. Sadly for all of us Utopia isn’t where we live but his sentiments are nice all the same. He needs to remember that he isn’t talking to the Labour membership any more, he has to speak to the wider electorate but he may well get there in time. He speaks of a kinder, gentler politics. Something I could fully endorse and get behind.

I’ve been actively involved in politics for several years and I have found it challenging I must say. People trawl through Facebook and Twitter posts to find something that they can twist and manipulate to fulfil a narrative that they have. People lie. People will say that there is one rule for them but another rule for everyone else. It is a constant bugbear of mine. You can be the biggest arsehole you like if you choose to be, that is your prerogative, but if you whine when people treat you the way you treat them then I have issues with it. You treat others how you’d like to be treated but if you think people should treat you better than you treat them then surely that isn’t fair or right?

So kinder, gentler politics. Good. I actually liked Jeremy’s style at PMQs. I’m not sure six questions from the public is the best idea and his lack of follow-up allowed the PM to have a relatively easy time of it but it was conducted in a far more civilised tone. The House of Commons as a whole needs to grow up and if Jeremy Corbyn helps drag it there then good times.

And then today Tom Watson, who is the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party had his speech at conference. The memo I’m guessing didn’t reach his desk. You can read his speech here. If that is kind and gentle then I’m both an experienced and well recommended lover as well as a three Michelin starred chef. Just bear with me a second whilst I go and prick my microwave chilli…

Tom Watson is a big bruiser who thinks politics is done by being populist, attacking enemies and not putting your policies out there for people to debate and vote on. He is essentially the anti-Corbyn. JC is quiet but says what he thinks in a progressive manner. Watson is loud and in a way quite brutish. Calling the Lib Dems, a ‘useless bunch of lying sellouts’ and the Tories ‘nasty’ isn’t progressive. It is easy, lazy, old school politics. The type that Corbyn wants to move beyond.

The issue I have is the Lib Dems aren’t useless (as we are seeing now in government at all the Lib Dem policies that the Tories are cutting out) and aren’t sellouts. You can debate lying but when you consider how much of the Lib Dem manifesto made it into coalition policy then they punched above their weight in government. The Tories aren’t nasty either. You may disagree with their policies (I do a lot) but they aren’t nasty. Labour aren’t all bad either. The truth is (as I see it) that all parties have some genuinely interesting policies that could take this country forward. Heck even UKIP had a policy about reopening all the nursing colleges that had closed and that seemed like a sensible idea to help repopulate the nursing industry as it were.

I’m not saying consensus politics is the way forward but I do think treating the electorate like adults would be a great thing. Sadly as we know the way to win elections is to scare people (see Tories, 2015) so I’m not sure the ‘kinder, gentler’ politics that Jeremy Corbyn desires will be embraced by his party, let alone by the wider world. This is JC’s biggest problem. Lots of Labour MPs have things engrained into them and it will take more than a leader’s vision to take it out of them. This will be one of Labour’s biggest issues going forward, it gives other parties a free license to throw the words ‘kinder’ and ‘gentler’ in the face of any Labour MP or candidate who throws mud.

Lastly one final bugbear of mine, these ‘Never kissed a Tory’ t-shirts, badges etc. – do these people actually ask everyone they kiss what political party that they are affiliated with if any? Do they go to a club, get drunk, spy someone on the dancefloor, shimmy their way over to them and say, ‘hey baby, I just met you, and this is crazy, I think I want to snog you but before I do I want a breakdown of everyone you’ve ever voted for?’ I think not somehow.

Why would you be proud of the fact that you hadn’t kissed a Tory anyway? Isn’t that you know, just a bit pathetic? I have friends who are Tories, who are Labour, who are Lib Dems, who are Greens, heck I have even been known to have UKIP friends (albeit a smaller amount). Someone’s political allegiance isn’t the overriding factor of a friendship or indeed whether I want to snog them. I would be stunned if it was an issue that stopped most people deciding if they wanted to play tonsil tennis with another.

If Labour really do want to be kinder and gentler then stop calling the Lib Dems ‘useless’ ‘lying’ ‘sellouts’ and stop calling the Tories ‘nasty’ and ‘Scum’. Seems pretty straightforward to 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.

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September 30th, 2015 at 3:23 pm

On remembering the six gay weddings in the USA in 1975…

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How many of us have heard the story of the Boulder County Clerk and Recorder Clela Rorex and what she did in 1975 by issuing wedding licenses for two men to get married? I suspect not many of us. I know I hadn’t until I was pointed in its direction last night but it is a quite wonderful story and I’ll allow Clela to recount it in her own words via NPR:

The couple came in. They asked for a marriage license. And it’s the first time I met openly gay people. I said, I don’t know if I can do this. And at that point, I went to the district attorney and he said the Colorado marriage code did not specify that marriage had to be between a man and a woman, and therefore, I did it. I honestly did not anticipate the degree of hate. It was threats, people needed to kill me for doing this, and that kind of stuff. And I had entire church congregations writing me that it would be Sodom and Gomorrah in the area. I had a small son, he was about 8, and people would call on the phone and if he answered, they’d spiel their hatred to him. And one day, I walked into my office.

I was standing and looking out my window and this horse trailer drives up and some media vans. This cowboy gets out. All of a sudden, it just dawned on me – he was going to ask for a marriage license for his horse. My deputy and I were flipping through the marriage code like crazy, you know, what are we going to do? So the cowboy comes in and asked for a marriage license. And I started taking information. I ask him his name and Dolly’s name – Dolly was the horse – and I said, and how old is Dolly? He said, 8. And I put my pen down, calm as could be, and said, well, I’m sorry, but that’s too young without parental approval.

This woman to be frank is an unsung hero. She just looked at people and looked at the law and saw nothing on the statute that prohibited a wedding between two people of the same gender. She wasn’t afraid of the unknown, she issued the wedding license and got on with things. She would issue five more before the lawyers and the Colorado Attorney General made her stop. Sadly for her she had to leave office before her term was up and she knew she would never have won re-election.

The whole question of whether the government should ever have been (or indeed still should be) involved in weddings is a legitimate one to raise. I think it is clear that as a society we are evolving at a rapid rate and the speed that gay marriage has been accepted throughout the western world shows that public perception is changing on homosexuality. Love is love is one of my favourite sayings. Whether it is love between people of the same gender, people of wildly different ages, who cares? Life is so short and in large parts miserable, I never understood why some people thought that if others didn’t follow life via the convention that they believed was right, that they were wrong.

The friend who pointed me to the story did so following telling me about a gay proposal at a Houston Astros game he was at that came up on the big screen. Texas is about as red as red can get (bar Austin) and the crowd went wild and cheered as the embarrassed person being asked said yes. If the vast majority of a baseball crowd in redder than red Texas is cheering for a wedding proposal between two men then progress is more than considerable on this front.

40 years ago Clela Rorex saw two men wanting to get married, she didn’t see anything in the law that said they couldn’t so issued the marriage license. Considering Kim Davis is still sitting in jail having been found guilty of contempt of court in Kentucky for failing to issue same-sex marriage licenses, we aren’t at the finishing line yet where it just isn’t an issue full stop. Still progress is clear and people like Clela Rorex show us that even the best part of half a century ago, some people didn’t just see gender, they saw love and as we move forward I think more and more people are not looking at partners and seeing gender first and foremost but seeing love and happiness ans isn’t that in the end what it is all about?

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September 7th, 2015 at 11:25 am

Posted in Politics

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On Jeremy Corbyn and the possibility of women-only carriages…

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Madness. Just madness.

So Jeremy Corbyn has been speaking about sexism and he mused that he’d like to consult women about whether they thought the idea of women-only carriages on public transport would be a good idea. I’m pretty sure I could tell him the answer to that but I am a man, no wait, let me rephrase, I am a boy, so maybe I have a viewpoint that doesn’t fit with the women of the world but wait, what is this? Every single woman I follow on twitter who has commented on this since the story broke sees the idea as bonkers and not just that, they see it as dangerous. The bizarre thing is though that some men do seem to think it is a good idea and they know what is better for women.

Here is what JC said on the matter:

“Some women have raised with me that a solution to the rise in assault and harassment on public transport could be to introduce women-only carriages.

“My intention would be to make public transport safer for everyone from the train platform, to the bus stop, on the mode of transport itself.

“However, I would consult with women and open it up to hear their views on whether women-only carriages would be welcome – and also if piloting this at times and on modes of transport where harassment is reported most frequently would be of interest.”

Now looking at the quotes then a consultation on the idea isn’t completely crazy, although the idea of actually having segregation in the 21st century is. What I find crazy is that some people really think this is a solution to the problem. Of course several countries already have such rules in place including Japan, India, Egypt, Iran, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates.

They were introduced for the reasons that JC would consider it here, for safety of women from sexual attacks. Some people think it makes it safer but others have said that it makes them feel that if they don’t use the women-only carriage then it gives license to the sexual predator that they have chosen not to avoid them whilst travelling on public transport and thus giving them encouragement.

The issue of safety for women is a clear one to address but by keeping some women away from men for a proportion of a journey doesn’t eliminate the problem. I have never faced the issue that many women face but I would guess the most dangerous part of any journey isn’t the part where they are on public transport but the travel to and from said public transport.

Of course we have had women-only carriages in the UK before before they were halted due in large part to gender equality laws. People should not be treated any differently based on their gender and of course should women-only carriages be introduced then you are treating the genders differently. This would (as I read it) contravene article 14 of the Human Rights Act that says, ‘Article 14 requires there be no discrimination in the application of human rights on any ground, and this includes (but is not exhaustive of) grounds such as (amongst other things) sex‘ Does this mean JC would consider walking away from the Human Rights Act or have I just interpreted it wrong?

A local Labour member and candidate has been tweeting about how good of an idea it is and how passionately he believes in the safety of women (we all do mush) but he says that drink is one of the big issues and that he’d feel his wife/daughter/mother would be safer on a train carriage that only had other women. He of course is fully entitled to that opinion but at what point do you draw the line? Do you say that because of workplace sexual harassment there should be men and women only offices if women want them? I just firmly don’t believe by physically keeping two sexes apart that it actually confronts the issue at hand.

You don’t fix an issue by shunting it down the line. You fix an issue head on and tackle the cause and not the effect. Until society does this to a successful degree then all you are doing in moving the effect to another time and another place, you aren’t eliminating it at all. How society does this is another debate entirely but the majority of women I know don’t seem to think the idea of women-only carriages is the solution to the problem because they’ve experienced at best unwelcome attention from men in many other places, many of them is much less safe locations.

Sexual harassment is a huge issue but you don’t fix it by segregation. As a person I believe that we are all born equal and therefore should be treated as such and treating people as unequal is the start of a slippery slope, one that we are desperately trying to get away from. I’ll end this with a brilliant sarcastic tweet I’ve just seen RT into my TL from a lady called Muriel Gray (@ArtyBagger)

Woman only train carriages. Super idea. Gender separation is so progressive. Urge MPs to think seriously about NHS funded chastity belts.

That I think is a good place to end.

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August 25th, 2015 at 11:35 pm

Posted in Politics

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On Jeremy Corbyn’s People’s Railway…

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We have to give the Labour Party their due here because without them what would we be talking about in the dog days of the political summer? Bravo Labour for stringing out this leadership contest and keeping yourselves very much in the news (albeit not in a great way and certainly not providing the Tory government with an effective opposition) but we’ll gloss over that for now and plough on through to the crux of this blog post.

The Railway Network. More people than not would be in favour of it returning to the hands of being publicly owned. Of that I have very little doubt and even I myself would have no issue with it because when push comes to shove no-one actually gives much of a shit about it either way. Someone is going to get our money and the government get a lot in terms of franchise fees, so the question is just what do the government get? Would they get more with renationalisation? Would the commuters get lower fares under a nationalised service and would they get a better quality of service under nationalised trains?

Well we actually have a recent franchise fee/award where it has not been taken from a private company to another private company, the East Coast Main Line was under public ownership but the services are now being run by Virgin Trains in a joint venture with Stagecoach. They are paying £3.3bn for the franchise license over eight years. This amount to £412.5million a year to the Treasury. Under public ownership the East Coast Main Line was generating £220million for the Treasury. So the tax payer is getting a better deal under private ownership.

Now on the issue of lower fares, we don’t know for sure what would happen and it is true that private companies will be wanting to make money because otherwise why are they in the game? Action for Rail, who don’t even have an About Us section on their website (but are supported by trade unions) say that according to research carried out by Transport for Quality of Life under public ownership, Season Tickets could go down by 10%, which would be quite significant, certainly in the South East commuter belt. The word ‘could’ always worries me but that would means that fares would still be extremely high and not as low as many would think under a renationalised network.

Rail fares are due to go up an average of 1% in January, adding £24 to an average Season Ticket. That in itself is not a big rise and isn’t one that will raise too many eye brows amongst commuters. No doubt they’ll be news stories in January about how much of a rip-off it is but it won’t really make too much of a difference on a commuters finances. That rise would not even be a cup of coffee a month.

Lastly the quality of service issue, again one we don’t really know but what we do know is that private companies have invested heavily in new Rolling Stock. I know in Jeremy Corbyn’s (very short) pdf document about the People’s Railway it says that we have a lot of outdated stock but I call BS on that. Anyone who is old enough to remember British Rail (and yes I am that old) can remember the slam door trains that were cold, dirty, slow and when you compare that to the air-conditioned, clean, fast rolling stock that most of us use then it is not even close. Yes there are some routes where the stock isn’t as up to date as others but in general private companies know they need to invest to attract customers, British Rail didn’t really do such a thing.

I read a story on LabourList this morning by Manuel Cortes, who is the General Secretary of TSSA (so I expect him to have a bias) but he said one of the funniest things I’ve ever read, ‘I was proud to stand at Kings Cross station yesterday morning, alongside representatives from all the rail unions, as Jeremy set out his vision for A People’s Railway. The public has been crying out for this bold policy for the past 20 years.’ The bit in bold is the funny bit, the rest had to be there for context.

The public have been crying out for this for 20 years? They have? When? I do not recall there ever being a significant backlash against the privatisation of the railway network. Most people will agree that in an ideal world it would be under government control but for most people it has doesn’t really move the needle as it were. I have seen more public crying out over scraping TV Licenses or heck even stupid shit like Sachsgate or Jeremy Clarkson’s sacking from Top Gear. We might have seen more column inches devoted to the Chelsea team doctor in the past week than we have on the renationalising of the Railway Network in the whole of the last government.

Unions are unsurprisingly all pro this because under public ownership their members will get more strength, power and most importantly arguably a better pension and conditions but in 2004, ASLEF general secretary, Lew Adams stated on a radio phone-in program, ‘All the time it (the railway network) was in the public sector, all we got were cuts, cuts, cuts. And today there are more members in the trade union, more train drivers, and more trains running. The reality is that it worked, we’ve protected jobs, and we got more jobs.’ Maybe the good old days of a nationalised rail network weren’t as good as some people remember.

My point on all this isn’t to rubbish Jeremy Corbyn’s ideas as they aren’t bad per se but to rubbish the fact that deep down people care. There are so many more important things than who runs our rail industry and to win back support from those he needs to if he has any intention of putting any of his ideas into law, then he has to stop pussyfooting (which according to Google Chrome is actually a legitimate word) around with things that appeal to the unions and start tackling the issues that appeal to the aspirational working class and lower middle class that he needs to convince to win their vote.

The 2020 General Election will not be won and lost on the railways. Heck if Ed Miliband couldn’t win it on the NHS, which is often up there is the top issues people bring up that is facing this country then how on Earth is Jeremy Corbyn going to win when one of his big ticket items is an issue no-one ever brings up in their top ten issues facing the country today?

All Jeremy Corbyn is doing is winning the die hard Labour vote and making it all the more solid. He can sweep the north (as would Andy Burnham) but can he even get close to winning over enough voters in the south that he needs to if he wants to walk into Downing Street? Not the way he is going.

I have written it before but I’ll keep saying it, Labour are in the same situation as the Republicans in the US of A. To win the leadership you have to move so far away from centre that you stand out to the core vote enough, the problem with that is you are so far away from centre that the swing voters can’t vote for you. Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, heck even Joe Biden should not be having a cakewalk to the White House but at the moment unless Jeb Bush can start really dragging the party back to somewhere near the centre then the Democrats are waltzing back up Pennsylvania Avenue and if Jeremy Corbyn wins and sticks to his path then either George Osbourne or Boris Johnson will be the next Prime Minister and it won’t even be close.

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

August 19th, 2015 at 9:11 am

Posted in Politics

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On why on Earth is public ownership of companies a burning issue…?

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At some point within the next couple of hours I’ll have a shower, get dressed and walk the 100 metres or so to Thorpe Bay Railway Station and hop on a choo choo into town to do some food shopping. Not that exciting you might think (and you’d be right) but you see when I go to the railway station and pay my £3.60 for a day return to Southend Central, the money won’t be going to the government but to a private company (c2c) who have paid the government for the right to run trains along this train route.

Personally I don’t give a stuff who is getting my £3.60 (or indeed the money I pay for longer journey’s) but for some reason despite the many real and actual problems the country is currently facing, it has become a significant issue in the Labour Leadership Contest.

Both Andy Burnham and Jeremy Corbyn have said that bringing both the transport system and utility companies back under public ownership is a long-term goal, whether to do it in one foul swoop or doing it gradually over time is up for debate but they both want it and it has broad public support. Yet I find myself sitting here wondering why it is such a story when we have far more important issues to face up to.

The NHS is amazing but as amazing as it is, it is also creaking. The NHS now deals with an ageing population who are living longer as well as many more treatments that are available that cost a lot of money. Put these two things together and you’ll see why the NHS is being stretched. As the NHS is currently constituted all that will happen is it will take up a larger and larger percentage of tax revenue and unless a government faces up to the hard questions, the NHS will continue to creak. I have no idea what the solution is but something needs to be done if the NHS is to survive and flourish in the 21st century without other any of government getting squeezed.

You see that folks is a real issue facing this country, not who gets the revenue from the trains (and remember, these companies pay a shed load of dosh to win these franchises) but people like the idea of the railway system and utility system being under public ownership because it makes them feel safer and many people don’t like big business, as a nation we have a big chasm between those who are pro big business and those that aren’t. Costa Coffee opened in The Broadway a few days back and some people think it’ll kill Ciao (the local coffee shop/bar) but other traders will love Costa as it is clearly drawing in custom to the row of shops that before wouldn’t have come here, that though is an aside and not really the issue here.

The private train franchises are there to make money, yes, yet they can only do so by making their business one that people want to use. Yes I know many people don’t really have a choice as they commute but many others do. Most franchises have invested in much better rolling stock, I may be 32 years of age but I do remember the old slam door trains, heck even when I was at university only half of SW Trains stock were new and the old slam doors still populated the Alton to London Waterloo Route and the non rush hour Portsmouth Harbour to London Waterloo Route. Now most trains are faster, cleaner, safer, more punctual and we should treat that like it is a bad thing? Would the government of the day have invested so much public money into the railway system and in turn, if they had, what would the public have thought about this?

I just think there are far more important issues facing the country than renationalising industry. When Labour drifted away from Clause IV in 1995 they went on to win three landslide elections on the bounce and whilst losing a fourth, they were probably set to be the majority party until Gordon Brown’s ‘bigotgate’ gaff, which I think stalled the campaign. Now two of the leadership candidates see that ideal as one to return to and indeed one that will be popular amongst their supporters and very much so within the unions, yet will it really raise too much of an eyebrow from those who would consider voting Labour? I suspect not.

It is still all about the economy and economical competence. It always has been and always will be (unless a nation is in a time of non-economic turmoil). The secondary issues will be about the NHS, Education, Crime, the EU, defence, our place in the world, the environment, immigration and you know what isn’t pushing the needle amongst the all important swing voters? Who gets the money from their bills and their transport tickets.

The sad truth is to win the Labour Leadership Contest you have to win amongst the activists and the majority of those activists believe that Labour need to move left because that is why they didn’t win in 2015 (hint folks – you didn’t win because you weren’t left wing enough, you didn’t win because the swing voters didn’t trust Ed Miliband and Labour on the economy as well as not being strong enough to stand up to the SNP). The issue with this is to win the contest you need to move left but to win the country you need to move right. Liz Kendall seems like the only person who is actually saying things that swing voters would like, the problem is not enough Labour members are even giving her words the time of day.

Having 100s of Labour activists and supporters turning up to see and hear Jeremy Corbyn is great but is he inspiring swing voters to come out and listen to him? Not really. I’ll say this and I think this will sum up the situation extremely clearly, the country made their decision on Nick Clegg big time in May and that is their right but if he had stood in a leadership contest this time around he could still have won again because a lot of people respected him for what he did, I think Tim would still have won but it wouldn’t have been a fait accompli.

The members of a political party shouldn’t think about themselves but think about the country and the party. That is why I voted Tim over Norman in our leadership contest because I knew Tim held the key to advancing Liberal beliefs. Jeremy Corbyn can advance many things and he could solidify the core vote but can he branch out to those who aren’t the core vote? That I doubt, that I doubt very much and if he believes the railways are a burning issue then I think it is clear he isn’t ready to lead either his party or his country because it is so insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

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Written by neilmonnery

August 10th, 2015 at 11:25 am

Posted in Politics

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On why sometimes being a Lib Dem makes me lose sleep…

without comments

Last night folks I was ticking. Not tickling, which would’ve probably been a lot of fun but ticking. I’ve been ticking on a certain subject for quite a while but last night it exploded and I was still awake at 3 and possibly even 4 this morning seething. What could be making me so mad? Well it is the air of arrogance that some members of the party have and how instead of engaging in debate, they prefer to make a pithy comment in an attempt to show their moral superiority. I’m sure all parties have these people but as a member of this one, I see these more and they are so cocksure of themselves that anyone even attempting to engage in debate needs to be swatted away in a dismissive style.

The story that brought it out last night was one from last year that people only noticed yesterday and the hand wringing was in full flow. The story was that Alison McInnes MSP wasn’t selected at number one in the North East Regional list for the Scottish Parliament. This showed that the Lib Dems were still anti-women, deep down sexist and morally wrong according to a number of people. I don’t know Alison nor Mike Rumbles, who got the top spot, but the issue wasn’t about them as candidates to some people, it was solely about gender and the fact the members who selected the candidates position on the lists got it wrong.

For writing this blog post I’ve just gone back to the thread that really charcoaled my Chilean Sea Bass (does that work?) and it got a tonne worse after I ducked out. This is the comment that first got me rumbling:

I don’t believe anyone accused individual members as being sexist, but sexist outcomes are sexist outcomes.

So this member put the result down as a result of sexism. Now in isolation this is essentially saying that any time a man beats a women in a selection then it is a sexist result. Surely no-one can actually believe that? I mean if that is the case then they are saying that any woman is superior to any man because any woman would be a better candidate than any man in any scenario. That is what people are saying if they actually believe that.

At this point I have no doubt that people reading this will be thinking, ‘oh that is such bullshit, that isn’t what they are saying, they are saying that Alison is better than Mike and anyone who disagrees is sexist’ but that thought process alone suggests that selecting candidates is a black and white process and one selection is right and one is wrong. As I said earlier, I have no idea of the credentials of either candidates in this case but the members who do have more of a knowledge will have a better insight and maybe they are best placed to select who they think the best candidate is rather than someone 100s of miles away and only sees the sex of the candidates as a determining factor.

So I waded into the thread. I won’t c&p the full comment as you need to read the whole thread for full context but I essentially said that if members in that particular area weren’t mature enough to pick the right person then you’d expect that those members are just as mature as the rest of the membership ergo none of us are mature enough to make the right selection so who should make every selection? I suggested Tim Farron but then questioned what some people would say if he picked the wrong person according to some people, it didn’t need to be a majority of dissenters because as we’ve seen the majority can get things wrong as seen by Rumbles > McInnes in the regional lists.

The response I got:

The big irony about the comment above is the historically it is *women* who got dismissed for being hysterical.

Boom. Man talk about lowering the boom and not engaging in the actual point. This is the type of person that blows my mind. Instead of engaging in debate they instead have an opinion and anyone who points out the issues in their opinion or indeed has a different opinion needs to be dismissed as being inferior (or indeed in my case hysterical). Why would I take such a thought from the above, well later in the thread after I’d ducked out the same person speaking to someone else said:

I don’t think that everyone in North East Scotland is sexist but I am working on the fairly safe assumption that anyone who comments on this thread with “are you accusing x of being sexist?” is sexist. Or dim. Take your pick.

So no-one in NE Scotland is sexist but they got a sexist result (not sure how that can happen – smells rather oxymorony* to me) but then to call people dim if they disagree with your PoV is self-righteous to the max and is a problem I have come up against on many an occasion (although to be fair this is mostly online and rarely do you find this attitude with people you meet).

The person who got that comment responded thusly and sums up my thought process perfectly:

Blinkered self righteous people like you are part of the problem not the solution , bend the knee to your view or we are all sexist or dim….ever looked in a mirror?

Some people believe that they are right and that is quite simply that. Those that disagree are not smart enough to see the world like they see it. That air of superiority stinks and a disproportionate amount of Lib Dems have that. Now I can counter that with having met many Lib Dems and having debated issue where we disagree but there are been a debate and you understand each others views but still disagree and move on and that is great, that is exactly how it should be. We can’t and won’t always see eye to eye on the best way forward to fix issues, that is human nature but when someone says that they are right and anyone else who disagrees is dim, it frustrates the hell out of me that some people are just so dismissive of other views and other people.

You see the issue here (after over 1,000 words) isn’t about what the issue should be about. The issue should be about whether a woman should ever be deselected/moved down a list. That is the point that is up for debate on this. Instead it has turned into a debate about how the result was sexist and proves that the Lib Dems need more provisions in place to ensure a greater proportion of women are in place as candidates. That is a legitimate debate and one I might get into at some point but instead I am just mad at people who have decided that because they have an opinion and you might not share that opinion then they are better than you.

I’m not singling out this one person as I’ve seen in on many occasions by a group of people. It is times like these that make me less inclined to go to Conference and instead spend the money on a holiday to Barbados or somewhere (scarily the prices aren’t that much different) because it makes you question whether you belong amongst so many people who are clearly on a different plane of existence to my humble self that I might not even be intelligent enough to be worthy of a hello.

Apparently this may sound hysterical to some people (I think that term is great, most people who know me accuse me of being too cold and emotionless but apparently I have so much emotion that I can be hysterical – beautiful) but some people really can make others feel inferior and that isn’t right. There needs to be a way to bring more equality to the elected representatives across sex, sexuality, ethnicity etc. but there are different opinions on how to do this but there is also the issue that many members see how others are treated and instead of standing up instead roll their neck in and don’t put themselves out there in case they have different opinions to the most vocal. That is just as much of an issue with encouraging people to step forward to stand as candidates.

To put your head above the parapet, man or woman, gay or straight, white or black takes a lot and if you see others being dismissive you really would naturally think twice. I know I would. The most unedifying part of politics is being dismissed out of hand as being wrong. I’m sure I’m wrong a lot, I’m human but if I am I want to know why and not just get the sense that others believe that I’m inferior. That is where I struggle and it is sad to say that a number of Lib Dems (again online mostly, haven’t really found that much locally or face to face when out and about) have made me feel this and that sucks and makes me lose sleep. Sad times.

*I know oxymorony isn’t a word but it just felt right

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Written by neilmonnery

July 29th, 2015 at 12:31 pm

Posted in Politics

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On Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘Tea Party’ issue for Labour…

with one comment

Jeremy Corbyn. Wow. Seriously what a run this is. This is a bit like the time Michelle McManus came from a 50/1 outsider to storm through and win whatever Simon Cowell show she won, was it Pop Idol?

He got on the ballot in a blaze of MPs feeling guilty and wanting to have a proper debate about where the party were and where they were going. Now he is third favourite but coming in at a rapid pace on Betfair and indeed in the first poll (YouGov/The Times) it was predicted that he would actually win the Labour Labourship contest. Holy Shit.

Still, I still find it unlikely that he can actually win but lets play the game because the title of the post actually does have some merit and brings up a legitimately interesting question/point.

I think it is very hard to win an election in any modern democracy from the fringes unless you are in a time of deep recession or rise of national identity. People generally like parties and politicians who are somewhere around the centre. Whether they are centre-right or centre-left doesn’t really matter and the majority of voters can sway with the wind between these ideological viewpoints.

The word in the previous sentence that is key is the word ‘majority’ for you see you only win if the majority of people vote for you. Tony Blair’s three victories came from the centre-left ground and Ed Miliband decided to throw the blueprint of victory away and move the party further to the left. This of course solidified the core vote but it left the floating voters with a long way to travel to vote for him.

Jeremy Corbyn is coming in and lets be honest, saying a lot of things that people want to hear. The thing is many look at socialism and see it as a good thing but does socialism lead to people aspiring to do better and more importantly is it a position where the majority of floating voters will really gravitate towards? Modern political history says that it does not but it will once more solidify the core vote.

Labour’s recent political success all came when the party spoke to those who wanted to get further in life. Blair knew that people wanted a helping hand and not a hand out. Blair proved that you can not only win from the Centre-Left but you can win in a landslide. Now there is a surge of people within the Labour party who seemingly want to forget the good times and go back to the time when they stood for a small proportion of the electorate but really bloody stood for them. They didn’t win and therefore couldn’t help that section of the electorate but that didn’t matter.

I had a conversation with someone recently on this and they said they thought Jeremy Corbyn was principled and that is exactly what the country needs as no-one else was principled. I don’t know his voting past or his voting intention but he seemed enthused by Corbyn. He may be a swing voter but many of the newer Labour members do seem very enamoured by Corbyn’s words and don’t seem to look at how he can actually deliver what he wants.

The policy that anyone earning over £50k a year should have a 7% tax hike to pay for free education for students is not going to win over the people that you need to win over to win. 7% is quite the tax hike for a lot of people who don’t even consider themselves as that well off.

Nuclear disarmament sounds good and is something I would personally see as a good aspiration but is JC doing to dismantle all our nuclear weapons without getting the rest of the world to do the same? That leaves us kinda vulnerable, no…?

How much money is he going to borrow to renationalise all the utility and transport companies that he wants to? That seems to be something that would plunge the country back into a state of deep national debt and that doesn’t sound like a good thing.

He also wants to reunite Ireland and that is an interesting one. I don’t think that I’m going out on a limb here to say that might be rather hard to get over the line.

So he has lots of policies that’ll be extremely tough to actually make happen even if he wins the leadership contest and then a General Election. The issue is again look at these and how are the party going to win over the moderates that they need to actually win?

And this my friends is where the link to the Tea Party comes in. The Tea Party as we all know is the very vocal and furthest mainstream part of the Republican Party. They get a lot of air time and the Republicans keep moving further right to appease this section of the party but in doing so, all they are doing is making it even harder for the moderates to go out and vote for them. There are millions of American who believe in the small state that is at the heart of Republicanism but can’t bring themselves to vote for a Republican Party that are drifting further to the right and away from the centre, instead choosing not to vote for voting for a moderate Democrat.

I’m a Hillary guy and think she would make a superb President of the United States but her chances of winning against a moderate Republican aren’t as slam dunk as many of us outsiders are led to believe. In the electoral system in the US you really have to dominate the larger states in the Electoral College and in recent years the Republicans have struggled in many of these (Texas/Florida being the large states that seem solid in). If the Republicans find a moderate then they can be competitive in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana and the like but they won’t vote for an extreme and this is what Corbyn followers have to look at.

Jeremy Corbyn might speak to you but will he speak to enough people to actually win an election? If the answer is no then surely you have to vote for someone else who can. If you think that politics is all about principles and standing up for what you believe in but not getting anywhere to actually act and help those you want to help then Corbyn is your guy. If you want to do some good for those people but not get everything you might want/believe in then you have to be more moderate.

Winners come from the moderate ground and to win you have to be there. Being idealistic but getting nowhere seems noble but also seems pointless. There is a reason the Tories and Lib Dems are cheering Corbyn on from afar and that isn’t because either of the parties think he’ll eat into their support. Putting significant ground between Labour and the centre ground will leave a lot of voters sitting on their hands or going somewhere else.

My last analogy (and if this doesn’t worry Labour voters I don’t know what will) but a Labour General Election victory is actually less likely than me having a successful date whilst wearing my new tie-dye fleece. Yes folks it is just that unlikely.

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Written by neilmonnery

July 22nd, 2015 at 5:10 pm

Posted in Politics

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On Tim Farron struggling to answer the homosexuality/sin question…

with 2 comments

Who could ever have seen this coming? *rolls eyes*

This was always going to be Tim’s biggest problem, which is to be honest is crazy if you look at it from outside the political bubble. Tim’s fundamental Christian beliefs should not be the most posed question that he faces from the media but whoever said life was fair?

Everyone knew he’d face these questions and the fact he didn’t have a good answer for it is a big cross against the work from his inner-circle. The questions were going to come and they were going to come thick and fast and whilst it may be unfair, Tim put himself out there on the Christian ticket with two pieces in The Guardian within the past fortnight talking about it. If you are going to speak about it so openly then expect scrutiny. Don’t bleat about how other religions wouldn’t get scrutiny, that isn’t fair. I’m pretty sure plenty of politicians from around the religious fraternity have faced questions as to how their faith interacts with their politics.

Was his interview with Cathy Newman a car-crash? No. Was it uneasy? Oh yes, yes it was. In a piece entitled, On why I voted the way I did in the Lib Dem leadership election… I openly questioned whether Tim was prepared for the obvious questions that were coming on this subject. It seems as though he wasn’t. I actually took quite a lot of stick for even bringing it up and whether it was fair, my thought process was as a judge would say, ‘well counsel, you’ve opened the door…’ and if the door has been opened, prepare yourself for the onslaught.

The problem with religion is it doesn’t sound good in a sound bite. We are not a deeply religious nation and whilst in the good ol’ U S of A you have to be very public in your Christianity, over here all that will do is make people look at you with slightly narrowed eyes, rightly or wrongly.

So whilst it was a tough question to answer, he had to actually answer it and not in a wishy-washy way that he did. ‘Well all of us are sinners’ is not an acceptable response unless you want the electorate to believe that you think it is a sin. Here’s a good analogy, if someone asks you, ‘does my bum look big in this?’ and you respond, ‘well all bums look big in that dress’ then the person posing the question will infer that you think their bum looks big.

If Tim thinks that it is a sin then so be it. Part of liberty is the freedom of thought and the freedom of expression. Tim is fully entitled to believe that homosexuality is a sin. You and I may not agree with him but heck he’s entitled to that view (if indeed it is his view, which the evidence implies it probably is). The issue is whether his personal view will influence how he acts on such issues in his role as leader of a liberal political party. He has repeatedly stated that it wouldn’t and that should be the end of that in a perfect world. Still, we aren’t in a perfect world are we?

I have been disappointed by people who have said that this is a vendetta against Tim, the Lib Dems, Christianity when in fact it was a legitimate question and one that was always going to be posed. Plenty in the LGBT+ community are fully supportive of Tim whilst other do seem to have been concerned by his comments. I also think it is very fair to say that as a collective, had Nigel Farage for example made these comments then there would’ve been a more united assault on his character because of them. Some people are basing their reaction based on who said what instead of what was said and that I feel is not right.

This is a really small issue in the grand scheme of things for Tim and the Lib Dems but it is one that the media will peck at and peck at until they have a definitive answer. Tim (and his team, but in reality mainly Tim) needs to find a better answer to the question and once he does, the question will stop coming. I told him several weeks ago that he needed better answers to these questions and he chose to ignore me (which is fair enough, I know bugger all) but maybe now having seen the backlash not just within certain section of the party he now leads but also from potential voters, he’ll understand that he isn’t a backbencher any more and he will face a very different level of scrutiny (once more, rightly or wrongly on such an issue) but it comes with the territory.

Tim should be facing questions about how to rebuild the party, grow liberal values, make the party more gender balanced both in terms of councillors and MPs, what policies he wants to bring to the core of the party and the like. Instead the narrative is all about his Christianity, which is not good for neither himself personally nor the party.

So the answer is simple. Find the answer to the fecking question and then we can move on and start talking about the actual important shit.

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Written by neilmonnery

July 18th, 2015 at 11:49 am

Posted in Politics

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