The Rambles of Neil Monnery

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On Layla Moran, domestic abuse and the sexist lack of Lib Dem outrage…

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Equality is an easy word to comprehend but sometimes not an easy word to live-by. Treating people equally should be something that is second nature but the truth is that we fail to do this in every day life. Many of us think we succeed in this but the reality is we only succeed in this to varying degrees.

On Saturday night Layla Moran tweeted out a story about how she’d once been charged with domestic abuse for slapping her then partner. The charges were subsequently dropped. You can read the full version of events in this embedded tweet.

Hi everyone. I have a story I want to share…. pic.twitter.com/iy9uKOCKau— Layla Moran (@LaylaMoran) March 23, 2019

Everyone can have their own opinions on what happened based on reading the above. I have mine and if I’m being 100% honest, I don’t think it is right or fair of me to air my own personal views on what I do think is a private matter. However I will blog about the response and the tone of the statement, which I think is fair game.

Firstly this statement went out at 6:52PM on a Saturday night after the People’s Vote March in London. If you are cynically going to bury what is clearly at best, embarrassing news then this is exactly when to do it. In the middle of the night is too brazen but people aren’t on social media as much on Saturday evening’s. Add to that the media are all over the Punch & Judy show that is the cabinet playing with our futures that the dealings of a Lib Dem MP is not uppermost in their minds.

Also she makes it very clear that this statement is in response to rumours that have been bandied about. So this is all about getting in front of a story. Clearly someone or some publisher had it and it was coming out. The MP for Oxford West & Abingdon did the right thing to address it head on, no question about that. However all the responses calling her brave are to be frank, disgusting. It isn’t brave to come out and admit to being a domestic abuser if the story is going to come out anyway.

It isn’t brave just to come out to the public and admit to your faults. If she’d said this years ago or if this Mea culpa had come out organically then it would garner more sympathy. For it to come about just because the story was coming out anyway is anything but brave or courageous, it is just trying to control the narrative.

Reading some of the tweets from prominent Lib Dems in response to her tweet embedded above just blows my mind. It is like she is being treated with kid gloves and I’m trying to work out why that is. Could it be because she was the most articulate and impressive woman currently in the position of MP within the party? Could it be because by coming out and addressing her faults, it shows she is human? Could it be because many people don’t truly understand domestic abuse or could it be because many believe domestic abuse is different when handed out by a woman instead of by a man?

I’ll address that last question first, if say this was Ed Davey (another potential leadership candidate) who tweeted out exactly the same story, would the responses have been the same? Hell no. There would be very loud calls coming from within the party membership to strip him of the whip and be kicked out of the party. We all know this and isn’t that just fucking hypocritical? Why should we treat two people differently just because they have contrasting sexual reproductive organs? Isn’t that the very definition of sexism?

Domestic abuse happens in this world and it is abhorrent to its core. Whether it is a man to a woman, a woman to a man, a man to a man, a woman to a woman, our perception of what is bad about hitting another person should not change.

Getting out in front of the story does show media savvy and the art of crisis management but brave, oh come on, give me fucking strength. We are all human and all flawed, every single one of us. Facing up to those flaws is part of humanity but doing so only when being strong-armed doesn’t show me much.

I’ve read the statement several times this morning and there is one little word missing, ‘sorry.’

It may seem like a trivial thing but Layla has to understand that she has let people down. The vast majority of survivors of domestic abuse don’t just move on with their lives. Richard may well of done and it may have been an isolated incident but for others it leaves deep psychological scaring that never goes away.

The statement itself comes across as a non apology apology and also comes across as victim-blaming. Saying the relationship was under stress and you felt threatened is not an excuse to ever hit somebody.

My disappointment with Layla is pretty severe but my anger is not. Being flawed isn’t anything new and recognising those said flaws isn’t a bad thing. However not once did she address her sorrow for hitting another person nor once did she say what she learnt from this incident and how she deals with losses of temper these days.

This should not completely derail her career. This one incident doesn’t mean that she’s not the most articulate and impressive woman currently earning their pay cheque as an MP for the Liberal Democrats. However whilst she’s placated many within the party, who are shamefully happy to sweep it under the carpet as it doesn’t fit with their narrative, the wider public rightly or wrongly expect Lib Dems to be squeaky clean. People are desperate not to vote LD and will find any reason not to do so. We saw in 2017 that Tim Farron’s position on gay sex in relation to it being a sin in the eyes of God cost the party plenty of votes from people who could’ve voted our way.

To get people to overcome the past nine years of Lib Dem dislike is tough and whilst it is patently unfair, the general public hold Lib Dems to a higher standard than those of Labour or the Tories. Sadly that is just the way it is and no amount of moaning about unreasonable that is, that is the reality. A potential leader who has admitted she slapped a partner in the heat of the moment will not play well out there.

So yes disappointment with her is flooding through my veins and I can to some degree understand this should be a private matter. People don’t deserve to know about every little detail in their elected officials personals lives. Yet just because criminal charges were dropped doesn’t alter the fact the incident happened.

As a party who purports to be on the side of domestic abuse victims, letting this slide doesn’t seem to send out the right message. Congratulating her and telling her how brave she is though takes it to another level for me. I saw the statement for the first time 14 hours ago and I’m still shaking my head at some of the replies.

If I were on the outside looking in, I’d say that the Lib Dems are against domestic abuse dished out by men but women who partake in it should be applauded for being honest and brave about it. Just re-read that sentence and if it doesn’t blow your mind then I wonder whether your mind is open at all.

Lib Dems shouldn’t stand for double standards but in this instance, it seems like we do.

There are no winners from this revelation, only more reasons to not vote Lib Dem. What a tough start to the week…

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March 25th, 2019 at 9:24 am

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On the depressing road to where reasonable politics goes to die…

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On Monday (or was it Tuesday?) whenever it was, 14 Labour MPs walked through the government lobbies in an attempt to ensure Brexit happens on March 29, whatever that Brexit is. They did so for a variety of reasons but lets be honest, who honestly gives two hoots?

The reason I say that is because is actually doesn’t matter. All that matters these days is our own opinions and whatever actually happens in the real world, we’ll find a way to match up our own pre-deposed thoughts with what is going down in reality.

The other morning I was reading a story in the Guardian about Nick Clegg and his role at Facebook. The comments were a sight to behold. Probably 80% of the people were raging on Facebook and the fact that the former leader of the Liberal Democrats had taken a job with the company. Many said that if he truly cared about helping then he would campaign against Facebook on his own dime instead of trying to help from within.

Some even belittled Clegg as a nobody and had no idea why Facebook would want an experienced politician who knows his way around the European Union, is respected on the continent and speak five languages fluently. Yeah it is a complete mystery to me…

The point is people don’t like Nick Clegg. Some may say justifiably so but people have made up their opinions and anyone who doesn’t think he’s awful and a complete waste of space is just plain wrong. He could invent a teleportation device or cure the common cold and a significant number of people would say he’s only done so because he’s a Tory stooge or that it didn’t negate the damage of tuition fees.

Take Jeremy Corbyn as another example. He has followers who would follow him to the end of the Earth and still hail him as their saviour. People who hate Brexit would still vote loyally for the Labour leader as they believe he is playing the long-game. The same can be true of Bernie supporters, Trump supporters, Farage supporters. Name any politician who stands more than a stones throw away from the centre and you’ll find their supporters are far more loyal and unwavering.

This is what scares me. People aren’t questioning politicians any more, not even ones they generally agree with. If you’ve followed my politics or even just know me, you’ll know that I’m a Cleggite. I think being socially slightly left of centre and economically slightly right of centre is a good place to be. That doesn’t mean I think he walks on water or gets everything right. I like being able to engage my own brain and seek out some answers for myself. Being spoon fed and lapping up the party line just doesn’t sit well for me.

As long as we put our faith in people and not policies/actions then we are doomed to become diminished as a race. Democracy only works when people look at elections with open eyes. People can and often do change their minds and just loyally voting for any person or party with blind loyalty is bad.

The world of social media allows us to stay within our bubble and have our own viewpoints reinforced with spectacular ease. People don’t like debate any more. They like being right and having those thoughts backed up.

Politics is far from reasonable these days. When elections turn on the likes of Gillian Duffy and how someone eats a bacon sandwich, does that sound like reasonable politics to you? It sure as hell doesn’t me but what the hell do I know? I don’t think anyone is perfect and therefore clearly something must be wrong with me…

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January 31st, 2019 at 12:09 pm

On Renewing my Lib Dem membership in the age of Brexit and Corbynmania…

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This wasn’t a slam dunk decision. Since moving away from my local party in 2017 where I was relatively active, albeit in the background, I haven’t attended any type of political meeting or undertook any real campaigning. Being detached from such things does weaken the ties but that wasn’t what I was truly struggling with.

The big problem was the fact Brexit has become this all consuming behemoth of a monstrosity that is suffocating the life out of actual politics. You know, the day to day things that actually make a difference to all of our lives. It is clear that the vast majority of those coming into politics at the moment are here for one of two reasons, either they are inspired by Brexit one way or the other or Jeremy Corbyn is giving them (false?) hope of a brighter tomorrow and that socialism is really going to cure the nation of all of its ills.

Personally, I didn’t get involved in politics because of the European Union. I voted Remain and would do so again if there was a second referendum. The merits of remaining in the EU far outweigh the negatives in my opinion. To paraphrase James Carville, who some would know as the man behind Bill Clinton’s shock Presidential win in 1992 but others will know from making betting picks on The Tony Kornheiser Show, it’s the economy stupid.

Yes, being better off isn’t the be all and end all but it is a pretty darn good starting position for working out where we all want to be in life. Having a strong economy and growing our workforce with well paying jobs is surely what most of us want to see.

Seeing some Brexiteers saying things like having the economy go into the tank will be good as it will bring us all together and forge our bulldog spirit makes it seem that not everything thinks this. Some are happy to pay a price to get Brexit, the problem from my vantage point is most of those people either know they’ll be ok so don’t care or don’t fully understand the ramifications of any potential No Deal Brexit.

Yet I’ve hit the point where I just don’t care. Well maybe don’t care isn’t the right term. I am just Brexited out as it were and it isn’t just the side I disagree with that I’m tarring with this brush. Some strong Remainers do my nut in as well because they don’t see the bigger picture. Both sides are becoming more and more entrenched in their position and as a result, our country is being paralysed.

In the past couple of decades we’ve seen many big changes push through parliament. Some for the better and some for the worse. Still shit was getting done. Now it might be just me and the fact I’m holding politics at arms length at the moment but what has happened in this parliament bar lots of bickering about Brexit?

I am sitting here racking my brains trying to think of some major policy that has gone through the House of Commons and I’m just coming up short. This country faces so many problems but they all need to sit and wait whilst the Brexit shit is sorted out.

The complication in all this is of course it is nigh on impossible for it to actually get sorted out. There will be a great swathe of the electorate who will be unhappy whatever happens. This country of ours has rarely been divided along such toxic lines. Both sides believe they are right and the other just flat out wrong. Belittling someone with an opposing view is just not on and to be perfectly honest, I’m just oh so tired of it. The #FPBE crowd do my head in as much as the arch Brexiteers.

Still despite my absolute despair at the current political climate, the Lib Dems got another few quid from me and I’ll roll on. Getting actively involved again may have to wait until the country is ready to actually get on with things that aren’t all Brexit, all the time. To be fair to my new local party where I moved to this year, the ward I live in has very active campaigners who focus on local issues. It makes a welcome break from the constant noise surrounding the referendum.

I suppose my major issue is there are few places in politics for people like me at the moment. Unless you are all over the Brexit situation and live and die by the latest news or are part of the cult of Jeremy Corbyn, there isn’t much for you. If you are/were politically aware but want to focus on a non-Brexit issue or aren’t infatuated with Magic Grampa then where do you go? They are the big political stories at the moment, one is straitjacketing the country and the other is willing to burn everything to the ground so that their starry eyed hero can rebuild everything in the way they want.

Politics wasn’t really ever much fun but it was interesting. Now it isn’t even really that.

Still you never know, 2019 might not all be about Brexit and Corbyn. I mean is possible…

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December 28th, 2018 at 3:44 pm

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On tuition fees being a more important issue than racism…

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The following is a conversation that may or may not have happened over social media last night following the Survation poll that put UKIP ahead of the Lib Dems.

Person 1: Lib Dems down 4% again. They get what they fucking deserve.

Person 2: Eh?

Person 1: Lying about tuition fees. The sooner they become extinct the better.

Person 2: So you are happy with the poll?

Person 1: Fuck yes.

Person 2: But you’ve received plenty of racist abuse over the years and you are rejoicing that UKIP are polling above the Lib Dems.

Person 1: No, I’m happy the Lib Dems are down because why anyone votes for them when they lied about raising tuition fees is beyond me.

Person 2: But the poll shows there is more support for a party I know you think is populated by racists and xenophobes but that isn’t important to you?

Person 1: It is but I hate the Lib Dems.

Person 2: You also hate Brexit.

Person 1: And?

Person 2: UKIP are pretty much the reason Brexit is happening. Oh and the fact it was a plan for David Cameron to quell his backbenchers followed by Jeremy Corbyn refusing to really put his whole muster behind the Remain campaign.

Person 1: Jeremy Corbyn can’t be blamed for any of this. He said he wanted to Remain on The Last Leg.

Person 2: Yeah it wasn’t exactly a wholehearted endorsement was it?

Person 1: If he said it then he meant it.

Person 2: Didn’t he say he was behind Remaining in the European Union like 7 or 8 out of ten or something like that?

Person 1: Good enough for me.

Person 2: Why didn’t he campaign with the other party leaders on it then?

Person 1: Jeremy is his own man and does things how he wants.

Person 2: Really…?

Person 1: Yes.

Person 2: Has Jeremy ever done anything wrong in your eyes?

Person 1: He speaks for me and everyone who cares about others and not capitalist ideals.

Person 2: What did you make of Ed Miliband’s Labour leadership?

Person 1: He lost. He was a loser. Just like Brown and Blair before him.

Person 2: Blair won three landslides.

Person 1: Only because the Tories were so shit. No-one voted for him just against the Tories.

Person 2: Did Jeremy win the 2017 General Election then?

Person 1: Yes.

Person 2: No he didn’t.

Person 1: He did better than everyone expected and that is the important thing.

Person 2: No it isn’t. Surely actually you know, winning and being able to implement his policies and manifesto is the most important thing?

Person 1: That is what people like you always say, winning is secondary to doing the right thing.

Person 2: Surely in politics, if you don’t win then you can’t do anything that your supporters actually voted for?

Person 1: He is holding the government to account.

Person 2: Do you actually believe anything you’ve said in this conversation?

Person 1: Of course. All of it.

Person 2: So you are still happy the Lib Dems are below UKIP in that one poll?

Person 1: The sooner the Lib Dems die, the sooner more people will vote for Jeremy Corbyn.

Person 2: That isn’t strictly true now is it?

Person 1: Yes, they wouldn’t vote for the Tories and the Greens are nothing.

Person 2: Did you not see the 2015 General Election?

Person 1: I did.

Person 2: And the way all those Tory/Lib Dem seats went Tory. Even places with like a 20,000 Tory majority went blue. So all those people who had voted Lib Dem before didn’t suddenly all vote for Labour then did they?

Person 1: That was Ed Miliband though.

Person 2: So under Jeremy Corbyn that wouldn’t have happened?

Person 1: No.

Person 2: So why didn’t all those seats suddenly turn red in 2017?

Person 1: Change takes time. Jeremy is building momentum and soon everyone will see that he’s the future. The Tories are the past and the sooner the Lib Dems die or become completely irrelevant the better.

Person 2: So let me get this straight. You hate Brexit. You hate the Tories. You hate UKIP but most of all, the top of your list is hatred of the Lib Dems over tuition fees.

Person 1: I suppose when you put it like that no.

Person 2: Then why rejoice the fact UKIP climbed above them in that poll?

Person 1: Because they lied and I can’t forgive them.

The mind boggles. I still think the Lib Dems biggest problem isn’t tuition fees per se but more the fact that many people feel like a jilted lover. They feel for Nick Clegg and his hopes of doing things a third way but when it came to the parliamentary maths, the only plausible way to provide a stable government was to form the Con/LD coalition. That isn’t what people voted and when he couldn’t honour all his manifesto (with particular reference to that one bit) then that was enough.

Voting isn’t about reason anymore. It is about emotion. Few people actually look at the candidates they are going to have on their ballot. Few look at the manifestos in full. What is en vogue is going to the ballot box and have a feeling, whether they is voting for somebody or indeed voting against somebody.

To get people to go out and vote you need to give them that emotional reason to do so. A million more people did that for the Lib Dems in 2010 than they had done five years previously. Hope was in the air but a lot of people these days want everything or nothing. Small steps of progress is not enough. This is why Jeremy Corbyn does well up to his limit. People feel that he has the power to change everything in one foul swoop and until he has a semblance of power to actually do so, he can talk the good game and doesn’t need to back it up.

In American Football the most popular player on a bad team is always the backup Quarterback because they provide hope that things can get better. Until they get their chance then they don’t have to prove it and that is exactly how it is with JC at the moment. He can promise the Earth and a socialist revolution but until he gets his chance, people will always believe he can do it all.

Logically the Lib Dems should be recovering. The majority of people seem to back a second vote based on the outcome of the Brexit Deal, which is the key issue facing the country today. Most of the big names tainted with the coalition are gone. In most of their key areas they are Tory facing and they are in absolute disarray. Labour aren’t doing too much better on that front. Yet when it comes to actually voting, people vote with their hearts and not their heads and that stench of betrayal isn’t leaving the Lib Dems anytime soon. It is tough but when you are a Labour Remain voter but prefer UKIP to the Lib Dems, that says an awful lot about where people’s heads are at…

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September 5th, 2018 at 9:30 am

On Kate Hoey and Vauxhall Labour…

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Kate Hoey and the constituents of Vauxhall are one of my pet projects on twitter. Every time the MP makes a statement about Brexit or votes for as hard a Brexit as possible, I get out on iPhone and write a pithy tweet about the people getting what they voted for. Last year the country went to the polls and in Vauxhall, a constituency that voted overwhelmingly to Remain in the European Union, they flocked to the ballot box in their droves to ensure that the arch Brexiteer Hoey was the person representing them in Parliament. Why did they do that? Well it is because they decided that MPs aren’t important.

In the past few years we’ve become more Presidential in our style of politics. The fact that during the last campaign, Theresa May and her team decided that instead of being called the Conservatives, being called Theresa May’s Team would be more effective branding. They were wrong. Not because the Conservative Party have a very strong and desirable brand but because she was bloody awful on the campaign trail.

For Labour, Jeremy Corbyn went from panel show punching bag to potentially the Prime Minister of this country. People started to buy into his vision once they understood just how vulnerable Theresa May was and in fact there was an alternative to a stonking Tory majority. The problem with this was instead of looking at all the candidates on the ballot paper, people started to just look at the party and in effect, solely the leadership. It was a referendum on Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn and Tim Farron to a large degree across England. In Scotland throw in Nicola Sturgeon too.

When people do this (and lets be honest, this is what the media has dictated over the past couple of decades) then it allows people to vote for someone who plainly doesn’t represent them. Whose fault is this? Well it on the electorate.

Using Vauxhall as the example, people will say they went out and voted for Jeremy Corbyn and his vision of the country but what they were in fact doing was voting for Kate Hoey. It was her name on that piece of paper and with every x in a box, it was an endorsement from the people of Vauxhall that her strong views on a hard Brexit were the ones that people felt aligned to. I know many will say that wasn’t the case but we vote for representatives in Parliament in this country, we don’t vote for a directly elected Head of State.

Only once have I voted for someone I knew absolutely nothing about. Looking back I am a little bit disappointed that I voted that way without at least Googling something about the candidate or reading something about them. Having been involved in politics, it is pretty clear to me that all parties can have good candidates who would be excellent councillors and MPs. On the flip side all can have bad ones as well. The person you are voting for is just as and often even more important the the rosette they wear.

Vauxhall Labour activists last night voted to deselect Kate Hoey as their candidate going forward, claiming that she doesn’t represent them. The pertinent parts of the motion are quoted below:

‘In June 2017 Kate Hoey was elected on a manifesto which explicitly rejected Theresa May’s approach to Brexit and pledged in a letter to constituents that she endorsed Labour’s plans.

‘This CLP censures Kate Hoey MP for repeatedly reneging on those commitments, and ignoring the clearly stated views of her constituents and the national and local Labour Party.’

‘This CLP therefore requests that the leader of the Labour party and chief whip suspend Kate Hoey from the Parliamentary Labour Party and remove the whip; and that the National Executive Committee declare Kate Hoey ineligible for re-selection or endorsement as a Labour party parliamentary candidate.’

You see I disagree with a lot of that. It was clear and obvious where Kate Hoey stood with regards to the EU. It doesn’t matter what the manifesto said, her position was there for all to see. It is hard therefore to attack her now for those views. It is akin to hiring someone totally unsuitable for a job despite them telling you in an interview that they would be shit and had no idea. Kate Hoey was a hard Brexiteer when 31,576 people voted for her in June 2017 and she is that now. A leopard doesn’t change its spots and just because you’ve only just noticed what she’s about, that doesn’t mean you should be surprised.

If you lived in Vauxhall and voted for Kate Hoey, you knew what you were getting. This wasn’t like the EU Referendum where it can be argued that there was some ambiguity about what people were voting for. Not all 17.4million who voted to Leave wanted the hardest Brexit possible. Some will have wanted looser ties towards the EU but on a cliff edge being jumped off of. Yet the people in Vauxhall knew what they were voting for. They voted in their droves for Kate Hoey and she is doing the job that her electorate clearly endorsed her to do and that is make Brexit as UKIPpy as possible.

If the constituents wanted an MP who’d fight Brexit then they had a more than capable alternative in George Turner. The vast majority however decided to approve of Kate Hoey and her love of Brexit. The people knew it her views, the local party knew her views so why they are making a fuss about it now I have no idea. I think Hoey is awful and is a shocking representative for the people of Vauxhall in Westminster but the voted and they got what they plainly voted for – a hard Brexiteer.

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July 27th, 2018 at 9:32 am

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On Nick Clegg’s comments Re: Freedom of Movement in the Financial Times…

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The last time I took any interest in the figures, the Lib Dems had around 100,000 members. It would probably be fair to say that I’m in the top 1% of those people with regards to my support of the former leader and Deputy Prime Minister. I have written many blog posts defending Nick Clegg but the moment I saw the words that he’d typed out in his Financial Times column, I knew it was going to be a lightning rod for criticism.

The premise of the piece is that freedom of movement within the European Union shouldn’t be a given. An unchallenged principle. He puts forward that this is the right time to look at reforming both internal and external immigration. If they did this then it would grease the wheels between the UK and the other 27 states.

It is probably accurate to say that immigration played a significant role in the outcome of the EU Referendum in 2016. If being part of the EU came with an opt-out of freedom of movement then I suspect that would be sufficient for enough people who voted Leave to have actually voted Remain. The problem in this scenario is that this option wasn’t on the table and is goes against a fundamental principle of the modern EU.

When Nick Clegg penned the article, he knew it would fly in the face of what many grass root Lib Dems believe. He’s never been one to be overtly political when it comes to appeasing the members, so putting forth such an opinion shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. With his political ambitions seemingly in his rear view mirror, it has allowed him to be even more bold in airing his points of view.

When I first read the piece and saw some of the responses from the Twitterati, I thought back to how Labour members now view Tony Blair. It seems that political parties are broad coalitions of people who generally have similar views but don’t always think the same. When one leader comes then a significant number of the membership will shy away. When they go these people may come back and get more involved with those that strongly supposed the previous leader stepping back. Tony Blair is a swear word within Labour at the moment and Nick Clegg isn’t too far away from that within the Lib Dems.

This is why Tim Farron probably got more leash than he arguably should have had. The membership after 2015 didn’t want another Centrist and instead wanted someone untainted from the coalition. Had Nick Clegg had such a gay sex issue that Tim Farron seems to hold then the clamour to remove him would’ve been far more fierce than it was for the leader who led the party into the 2017 General Election.

Still, Clegg’s name is far more muddied than Farron’s. This column will not have helped. On one hand you can put your own views to one side and understand that maybe it is a debate worth having. I wouldn’t personally say it was but you can at least understand that point of view. Well I can anyway. Yet all that will come about from this piece is more Lib Dems will deride Nick Clegg and look forward to him leaving the party. If he resigned then many would rejoice. This is part of the problem within political parties, many people only want those who agree with them on every issue to be fellow members. If you have a differing position to the majority then you are pilloried.

The truth is across Europe, more people are questioning both the internal and external migration situation. On a personal level, I believe migration across the Globe should be far more open than it is. We are but one race and are all supposedly born equal. Should where you are a born give someone more of a birthright to live and work somewhere? Should an Englishman have more or less of a right to live and work in England compared to someone from say Nigeria or Costa Rica? It may sound a bit Utopian but I believe borders should be even more open.

Yet even though I believe in that, I can understand that the majority of people disagree and that the idea of Freedom of Movement within the European Union shouldn’t be unchallenged. I can disagree with Nick Clegg without hating on the man. Sadly we are at the point where discussion and nuance has become a tiny part of political discourse. Now we only see headlines and compare them to our personal beliefs.

Politics is poorer these days and the reaction to this article is a prime example of why. On a day when Theresa May promised £20bn for the NHS but pretty much refused to say how she’d pay for it, the Lib Dem membership are concentrated on an article from their former leader about how to make membership of the EU work better for those that are sceptical. Kicking Nick Clegg has become a comfort blanket, just like Labour members love kicking Tony Blair.

Disagreement is normal in both life and politics. Just because someone floats an idea different to what you think doesn’t make them bad. It means they are tackling an issue from a contrasting angle and that is rarely a bad thing. If we all had a hive mind, we’d be a cult and UK politics already has one of them, it doesn’t need another…

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June 17th, 2018 at 2:45 pm

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On the Lewisham East by-election result…

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When this by-election was called, the conventional wisdom was that Labour would win with around 50% of the vote, the Lib Dems would put their by-election game into a high hear and get second with around 25% of the vote and then the Tories would slip into third. When I woke up this morning and flicked through twitter to find out what had happened overnight, the result wasn’t exactly a shocker.

What it means in the grand scheme of things is very little. Labour won with half the vote. Yes this is slightly down but it was still a comfortable victory and doesn’t send any sort of message to Jeremy Corbyn on Brexit. No doubt some natural Labour voters drifted to the Lib Dems because of this issue but nowhere near enough to get anyone at Labour HQ to consider changing course.

For the Lib Dems it was a solid result that will remind some that the party isn’t comatose. Winning was never a realistic option despite what some members seemed to think. That wasn’t Richmond Park where the party had a network and a very distinctive position compared to who they were up against in the last big by-election victory. With many Labour supporters still believing that a soft Brexit would be provided by Corbyn, that isn’t too far away from the Lib Dems new position of a second vote.

One person who’ll come out of this with an enhanced profile is the Lib Dem candidate Lucy V. Salek. With the party desperate for articulate and impressive younger women, Lucy has clearly shown that she is another one to add to the mix as hopefully a starlet of the future.

I firmly believe that every person who puts themselves forward to stand for parliament deserves all the help and support possible. The party is moving that way and many talented women are coming to the fore. Supporting in a by-election however is much easier than at a General Election and that is where the party let themselves down last year. A lot of fingers have been pointed at certain candidates for under-performing but those doing the pointing should be looking not only at the lacklustre national campaign but also at where resources were being poured into. Targeting has for a long time been a Lib Dem asset but in the past two elections at least, it has been severely lacking.

So many words will be typed out on computers over the next few days with people trying to work out what this result means but the long and short of it is, it means very little. All three of the main English parties did exactly what was expected. No-one can claim to have done staggeringly well but Labour won, the Lib Dems showed they still have something about them to the tune of if a by-election happened in a Tory facing Remain seat, they would be in the game. As for the Tories, they knew they weren’t getting anywhere and pretty much didn’t care.

So when all is said and done, it is pretty much a Status Quo. If I were a betting man and could get odds on a Lib Dem parliamentary gain in a by-election (should the parliament last a full five-year term) I would be all over them at anything longer than Evens. All you hope for is that the people of Lewisham East continue to hear from their local Lib Dem team and this wasn’t a six-week blitz followed by tumbleweed of epic proportions…

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Written by neilmonnery

June 15th, 2018 at 2:32 pm

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On Lib Dem Targeting…

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First things first, when I started to write this blog post I had to work out whether it was targeting or targetting. I always thought it was the latter but that is apparently an obsolete British spelling of the word and the version with only one T is now the preferred way to spell that word. You learn something new every day so they say.

So anyway this piece is about targeting resources within the party. There have been numerous words written about this over the years. The party had a good record in focusing resources through the Tony Blair Labour years as they were able to really harness their vote where it was most needed. Some 2010 and the Nick Clegg bounce however, this seemed to disappear as there were not enough activists nor cash to attack potential fertile ground at a national level. Locally many paper candidates actually won in 2010 on the back of Nick Clegg as what were usually poor areas for Lib Dems significantly outperformed expectations.

Since then things have not gone well. At local level the activists deserted the party in droves because of the coalition and what can you say about the General Election in 2015? When external polling data has people like Julian Huppert up over 20 percentage points and he still loses, sometimes you just gotta admit that you were whacked and had little chance of succeeding. At that General Election the national party were even looking at a handful of potential gains, I’m guessing they weren’t exactly watching the news or the media narrative surrounding the party.

Two years on and the party were given a surprising opportunity to actually regain at least some of its lost ground. This is where I think the national party didn’t do half as bad a job in terms of targeting as I know many other members think. The issues last year weren’t where resources where placed at the outset of the election but the lack of movement when it became clear the election had changed.

Tim Farron did his gay sex bit that foot the party in the foot but more than that, the whole thing stopped being a semi-second referendum on Brexit. It became something more. Kudos to Jeremy Corbyn and Labour for achieving this but this took away the hard Pro-EU vote from the Lib Dems and instead made it an open field. The talk of Vauxhall is the big one but all the data points to that seat very much being in-play as long as the campaign was about one issue and stopping Theresa May having a mandate to push through hard Brexit.

Resources then should’ve been pulled out of any Labour/Lib Dem seat where we weren’t defending. Sheffield Hallam and Leeds North West could still have been saved although the way things went down, the likelihood was unlikely but they weren’t dead causes by a fortnight out. Vauxhall alas was by then.

This however is not a blog about the national party but more about local politics. I think we should stand in every seat we can just so people have the option to vote Liberal Democrat on their ballot paper. The issue is not every seat has an equal opportunity of victory, so you have to have laser like focus to give you the best bang for your buck in terms of both money but also man (or I should say people) hours. That is how bosses run businesses, they don’t just give every department the same amount of cash, they give more money to the areas that are likely to bring in more custom, politics has to work in the same way.

If you have enough man hours and cash to put out enough extra leaflets and knock on enough extra doors to give you 1,000 more votes say across a whole local party, do you do that across all the wards or do you focus in on the ones where those extra resources are more likely to result in holding or gaining a seat or two?

Is it better to have say one win, four second places and ten finishes third or lower than three wins and 12 finishes third or lower? I’d argue the latter. Once you win a seat, you are in a better position to win that seat again next time, you get more involved in the council, you get a better platform to speak from, you have more influence, you give yourselves a better chance to grow.

Unless there are national swings, at local elections you know whether you have a chance months out. You do the work all year round and you’ll know which seats are in-play along with those you’ll run a skeleton campaign in. One of the biggest problems is candidates often think they can win even when they can’t in reality. If your strategy is to send out leaflets but not speak to many people on the doorstep, unless you are ahead going in, it seems awfully unlikely that you’ll win coming from behind.

So I’d love to be able to give every candidate the best opportunity to win but there is only so much money in the kitty and only so many doors that can be knocked, or leaflets that can be delivered. Every journey starts will just one step and every councillor returned is a step towards more. It is better to play to win fewer seats than play to just play many seats with lower chances of success.

Local parties need to have long-term vision instead of short-term reactions. Hopefully up and down the land that is being borne out but if I see lots of time and money spent in dead areas at the detriment of potential winnable seats, I’ll sigh once more and wonder why the same problem continues to not get fixed…

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April 9th, 2018 at 8:35 am

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On the future after #LibDemsAt30…

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I don’t write much about politics any more. It isn’t that my interest has waned or that I don’t care about the issues facing the country and world but it is mainly because Brexit is the overbearing presence that sucks the oxygen out of everything else. Yes in my opinion, leaving the EU and in all likelihood the way we are going to leave will be extremely problematic in terms of the economy. We aren’t going to get the best trade deals the world has ever seen just because Liam Fox, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Boris Johnson or David Davis want it to be the case. The United Kingdom is not the global power it once was and going it alone in the current climate is going to be extremely tough.

Away from this issue though, the globe keeps spinning. The issues of inequality are still present. The country (and most of the world seemingly) is becoming far more intolerant of those who disagree with their view of the world. The rise of social media has allowed people who would usually be cautious about airing their views to have the confidence that people who agree with them, will find them. This is in large part why UKIP did well in the 2014 European Elections. People voting for candidates who basically say they won’t do the job they are running for is maddening. Yet clearly the previously silent minority came out and pushed that party forward. It happened in the US with Donald Trump. Who knows what will happen in Italy today?

So what does this all have to have to do with the Lib Dems? Probably nothing but as time has gone on, it has become ever clearer to me that the party (and indeed the activists) suffer from a similar issue. Living in an echo chamber and having deep entrenched views that cannot be questioned. Having a debate within the party is tough because should you disagree with someone on social media, the common reaction is for others to pile in and tell you that you are wrong. It is why I just don’t engage any more. I sit back and watch and see the same people backing each other up and picking on people who disagree. In my younger days I wouldn’t been more up for the debate but these days I just don’t see the point.

The party had a pretty darn good manifesto in 2017 but Brexit seems to be the be all and end all. The party saw an influx of new members who are just anti-Brexit but don’t hold many liberal values. I see it all over the place. I have seen people join the party who disagree with Gay Marriage for example. I know of people who have joined who think any drugs offence should be met with locking the person up and throwing away the key. I know of people who have joined the party that think we should all vote Labour as they are the only people who can stop the Tories.

In 2017 the party had all the momentum to fight back from the brink of oblivion but of course things didn’t go as expected. People who are vocally against Brexit and believe it is the biggest issue facing the country in decades still had to jump through hoops to vote Lib Dem. If they could find a way to vote Labour they would. It is because their is no natural Lib Dem vote and the memories of coalition are still fresh in the memory.

I follow multiple people on social media who voted Lib Dem in 2010 and vowed never again after going into coalition with the evil Conservative Party. That isn’t a shocker but when you see some of these people start voting Tory and not only that, joining that party, you just have to laugh. The Lib Dems are the worst ever for doing what they did but I’ll do the same and it is all fine and dandy. Logic.

Of course another issue the party faces is Jeremy Corbyn. A lot of people believe you can get everything for nothing. We saw this is the US when Bernie Sanders took it to Hillary Clinton in the race to become the Democrat nominee in 2016. Corbyn’s appeal doesn’t seem logical to me as he’s basically saying we should turn back time to how things were decades ago. Renationalising everything, giving huge power back to the unions, abolishing tuition fees and his position on the EU depends on who he’s talking to but he’s consistently been against the UK/EU relationship.

His rise however shows off another factor in play in this social media era. The idea of compromise and nuance have been pushed to one side. People like right and wrong. They like black and white. If you agree with 95% of what Jeremy Corbyn says but disagree with 5%, well a lot of his supporters will tell you to rack off and to leave the party. They don’t want your opinion but when it comes to the ballot box, boy they’ll want your vote.

This I suppose is what I’m trying to get at. When I go to the supermarket I tend to bring back three or four options for dinner and my partner and I will choose what we fancy that night. At the ballot box, an ever increasing amount of people want two options, one they like and one they detest. That is the Tories and Labour here in England and Wales. In Scotland the SNP are the party people have a strong opinion over and those that detest them, they are ready to split in any direction depending on whose most likely to take the nationalists down.

The Lib Dems aren’t good and they aren’t bad. People’s opinions of the party seems to basically be that they are irrelevant. In politics its better to be hated than not cared about. Things are tough for the party right now, extremely tough and even if Brexit is a disaster, no-one wants to be told that we were right all along. With every day that passes I believe that until Jeremy Corbyn (or a discipline of his) has got their shot to run the country, we’ll see two-party politics, certainly at a national level. This is why the party needs to start building up its council base once again as that is the road back to relevance.

The local elections this year on paper should be relatively good for the party. The people who vote in local elections (when there are no other elections on that day) are those that give a shit. The people who give two hoots are often those who are the most angry about what is going on. This helps the Lib Dems on two fronts. Firstly the most angry people regarding Brexit are those who firmly believe in Remain but secondly, the Lib Dems aren’t defending much. Plenty of areas that were traditionally liberal locally voted Labour or Tory nationally last year as activists poured in and people didn’t split their ballot. This year they’ll be no ballot to split. If the party can’t make solid gains at the ballot box in the current climate then bloody hell, we are in bigger trouble than anyone thought (and I think most people think the party are close to life-support anyway).

When 80% odd of voters vote Remain in a constituency but then 78% vote for strong Brexit candidates, that sums up the electorate at the moment.

So yeah, just a bit of a ramble on Lib Dem stuff. Nationally we have little hope at the moment unless a by-election came up in a seat that was ripe for the party but locally, hope hasn’t deserted me just yet.

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March 4th, 2018 at 1:22 pm

On the rabid inflation of tuition fees as a political issue…

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Tuition fees. No two words in the English language drive more fear into a Lib Dem heart. It has become not only a stick for other politicos and the media to beat the party with but the electorate themselves think a stick is far too tame and keep imploring the previously stated politicos and media to turn that stick into a baseball bat, then drive in some nails to said baseball bat, coat the baseball bat in cow pats and then and only then start swinging at the Lib Dems.

As has been written about here (and on many other fine websites – and some bad ones too no doubt) this has been a lot of the Lib Dems own doing. We can go around and around in circles about the nuance of the Lib Dems were a junior partner in a coalition and did actually put a lot of their 2010 manifesto into place but no-one cares about facts, facts are for losers, we live in a post-fact era and the only things that make sense are black and white, right and wrong, Will or Gareth (ok that last one is quite an old reference) but I think it is fair to say that the simpler the better when it comes to issues these days.

I do wonder though at times how we actually got to the position where we are. On Sunday Vince Cable penned a piece about Brexit and how it hurt the chances of young people not only now but potentially for generations to come. Most economists would agree that this is an accurate statement and that Brexit will not be beneficial in terms of either jobs, opportunities or salaries going forward. Yet instead of people going ‘right on Vince’ ‘You tell it like it is’ ‘fuck me that old geezer actually knows some shit’ or words to that effect, social media was full of one issue, yes, tuition fees.

Apparently tuition fees is an issue that won’t ever go away, it is radioactive and will still be used to bash the Lib Dems in 2197 when the aliens invade but allow humanity to have an election on whether they should be enslaved or not. The Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell will implore people to reject enslavement and embrace freedom but the hard left will go, ‘well you lied about tuition fees so I can’t trust you, now where do we sign up for a stint at the sulphur mines on Rigel IV?’

For you see tuition fees has very little to do with actual tuition fees. The policy is inconsequential to the emotion that people feel when talking about them. Families and young people want their children to have every opportunity going and therefore believe a free education for as long as they want it helps enhance those chances to find a path they’ll enjoy and will bring them a good life.

Fair point you would say but when the country is facing an obstacle that won’t just pinch financially but will actively shut down opportunities and jobs, the very same people who are desperate to keep education free are far more blasé. It is like they can’t see the big picture and that put side by side, tuition fees is a grain of sand whereas Brexit is the entire beach.

This doesn’t even take into consideration the actual cost to the tax payer of free education at higher institutes of learning. That is a debate that very few actually want to have but it is a legitimate one. Most people can understand and tolerate their taxes going towards health, defence, crime prevention, education up to adult years but why should someone who earns a low salary be part paying for someone they don’t know to study Philosophy at the University of Central Lancashire? I’m not saying I have that opinion but what I am saying is I can see that opinion and it is perfectly justified.

When Labour introduced tuition fees and then top-up fees when they were last in government, it was a story for a day or two and then life moved on. For the Lib Dems though it is something that everyone wants to throw at them mercilessly. Labour were able to win a fourth consecutive term in government even after an extremely unpopular war because the electorate took into account the whole picture. Now though people want to find a small issue and use it to supersede the bigger one.

Tuition fees was a dark day for the Lib Dems but Brexit will be an eclipse for the whole country for generations. Yet as Jeremy Corbyn leads Labour forward and quite possibly towards government, he does so still envisioning and supporting a departure of the EU that will leave his supporters poorer and with fewer life opportunities. They know this but they don’t care because they’ve grown to see that life (and politics) is simple. Good and bad, black and white and Jeremy Corbyn is good.

A lady called Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett wrote in the Guardian a piece entitled Brexit will be catastrophic. Yet I still support Jeremy Corbyn and it sums up everything I have said here. A devout Corbyn supporter who knows that he’s happy to screw her over but yet is still highly enthusiastic towards the man. ‘I felt politically homeless (because of tuition fees, I would never countenance voting Lib Dem)’ she writes as once again tuition fees is clearly a much bigger issue than Brexit and that my friends (and enemies and those who are indifferent towards me) is the where we are today.

Tuition Fees 1, Brexit 0. One day future generations will look back at ours and wonder why anyone ever felt that killing off the liberals was worth it just over an issue like whether adults should all be entitled to free education. It may be important but compared to what else is going on not only in the world but also in our back yard, it isn’t even in the top 25 issues yet for a great swathe of the electorate, being morally superior is vastly more important than making better lives for themselves, their loved ones and for those who come after them.

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August 8th, 2017 at 2:36 pm

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