The Rambles of Neil Monnery

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Equality in politics – why are women in politics seen as the end game?

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I have an opinion that more women should be involved and fully engaged in the world of politics. I am also of the opinion that more men should be involved and fully engaged with the world of politics. I think more gay people should be. I think more straight people should be. I think more working class people should be. I think more middle class people should be. I think more people who love Marmite should be. I think more people who loathe Marmite should be. I think you get my point. I want a world where people from all walks or life who have an interest in politics are fully able to get involved and feel as though they fulfill their ambitions and if not, that they at least have the opportunity to do so.

Because you see my view of liberalism is all about equal opportunities for everyone. No matter a persons gender, sexual orientation, ethnic background, financial situation, views on whether exercising is better in the morning or in the evening, all these people should have the chance to do what they want, whether they succeed or not isn’t the end game, the fact they had the chance is. We can’t all be Prime Minister. We can’t all go into space. We can’t all put on the #9 shirt of Portsmouth FC and score a winning goal against the Scummers in an FA Cup Final at Wembley. Life doesn’t work that way but when I came out into this world all of those possibilities were feasible, if maybe a touch unrealistic, but the opportunities were there.

When it comes to politics, the world might not exactly be my oyster but opportunities lay ahead of me. If my reproductive organs were on the inside of my body and not dangling between my legs then those same opportunities would lay ahead of me. Now there is a question, a legitimate question, about whether it is harder for women than men and that is a question that needs to be fully explored but the fact is I don’t think anyone would say that being a woman, in this country, automatically takes away some of those same opportunities.

I saw a petition today that wanted a 50/50 makeup of parliament in terms of gender balance by 2025. I think that is a good target to aspire to but there is only one way to ever get that parity, make 50% of seats solely for women candidates of all parties and the other 50% for men. That is the only way that could ever actually be achieved. I’m not exactly sure this is realistic and nor do I think the public as a whole would support this idea.

I would love to see the House of Commons be more representative of the country as a whole but it doesn’t stop at gender. I think having MPs from all forms of backgrounds is actually a far bigger issue but it is less ‘sexy’ – pardon the pun. I look at the vast majority of MPs and I wonder whether they understand the struggles that effect every day people. The problem is many MPs say one thing but actually do another. It is very much a ‘do as I say and not as I do’ approach to life. TIn fact if I’m being totally honest I think the idea of a career politician is one that rankles.

It is just human nature that the more you are removed from a problem then the less effective you’ll be at recognising such a problem. MPs who have only ever known politics in their adult life will not be as rounded as individuals. For example how can you be the leader of what is traditionally seen as the party of the working classes when you are a multi millionaire and apart from one year as a researcher for a political TV programme and a sabbatical that included lecturing in the States, has only made a living from politics? Not knocking Ed (well I suppose I kinda am) but his knowledge of the real world is vastly limited. I’d expect the leader of the Labour Party to be one who had more of a solid grounding in what the problems were.

Sitting alongside him is a man who went to Harvard in Ed Balls and even Harriet Harman, who has an excellent grounding and has spent significant time in the ‘real world’ before becoming an MP in her early 30s went to a fee paying school. Now I’m not saying that the big three of Labour aren’t the best people for the job (they aren’t but this is not the reason) but for the party of the working man or woman, it could be argued that they don’t fully understand the struggles that people face day in and day out. If Labour are having these problems then you know the other major political parties are having the same.

The problem is how to get these people from different backgrounds who show the spark and enthusiasm to get involved to stick. Making politics more accessible is one of the biggest problems facing the political system in this country. To get elected requires an enormous amount of hard work, money and dedication. Points one and three are probably par for the course and we need to find ways to make the workload more workable for those who have to work regular jobs but money is a big issue.

Everyone moans about the amount that MPs get paid but how are you ever going to attract people to work as an MP for a small salary? I saw a radical left winger say that she thinks all MPs should live off a minimum wage to see what it is really like, she then in turn said that she had many offers to be a PPC. However she has turned of these down because she is making a significant wage elsewhere and doesn’t feel as though being an MP would be financially prudent for her at this juncture considering she has a child. So she wants MPs to take a what, 85% odd pay-cut but she herself doesn’t want to be an MP because she earns more money elsewhere. Sounds like another ‘do as I say and not as I do’ person. Does seem to be a lot of them around doesn’t there?

The answers are not clear but it is clear that the majority of people think as much as politicians as they do bankers or journalists. Lucky I never got into banking really or I really could have gone for the most hated trifecta.

The House of Commons should indeed be a good representation of the country as a whole, how to get there though is far bigger a challenge than just getting more women into politics. That is just one aspect and how that happens is something we all have differing viewpoints on. I have never subscribed to the all women shortlists idea as to me the idea of getting equality via inequality just doesn’t compute. I have been told repeatedly by women (and men) that they want to be treated as equals (rightly) but then some of them think they should get preferential treatment in certain situations. Equality is equality, it isn’t equality for 95% of the time and then inequality for 5%.

So we need to find a way to get more women into politics but we also need to find a way to get the House of Commons look and sound like more of a cross-section of society. This is a big job and one and I see no cohesive plan for reform of how we as a party deal with things, let alone how parliament deals with the stark problem. I would be happy if political parties were funded by the state and prospective MPs had a small budget that they could use – and not just in an election period. Now prospective MPs with money or from a rich local party can spend for years with no limitation apart from in that election period. This doesn’t encourage a level playing field. Would people from less well off backgrounds be more inclined to get engaged and involved if they knew the playing field was level financially? It is a question that I think merits some thought.

Politics at every level is less about ideas and more about money and manpower and that is where politics has gone wrong. The best and the brightest don’t always get in because they are straitjacketed by other reasons. I want the best and the brightest to be in the House of Commons. I want the best and the brightest to be in council chambers up and down the land. People shouldn’t get elected solely because of the logo next to their name on the ballot box. People shouldn’t get elected because they can outspend their opponents. People shouldn’t get elected because they have more manpower.

People should get elected because they are the person the majority of the voters feel will do the best job regardless of anything else. This may seem like pie in the sky stuff but that has to be the end game and until we know exactly what the end game is then how can we plan and prepare to reach it?

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

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Written by neilmonnery

July 15th, 2014 at 2:40 pm

Posted in Politics

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Nick Clegg & Ed Miliband photographed with a copy of The Sun – cue over the top reactions across the board

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Holy crap. Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband have been photographed with a copy of the countries most popular newspaper. Burn them both at the stake now. I mean seriously. Anyone who does that is surely not capable of representing the country. Sometimes politicos live in this ridiculous political bubble where we think we are right and that those who disagree with us are just plain wrong. That is part of politics that I truly despise.

Ed Miliband was snapped with a copy of the paper and got an attack from the leader of the Labour group on Liverpool Council. No surprise and probably fair game. Ed is not a stupid man and he knew that photograph would go down like a lead balloon and would piss off Labour voters in Liverpool. Here is the thing though, they still aren’t voting for anyone else so he can piss them off with no real consequences. Apparently he is ‘very very sorry’‘ for both endorsing the newspaper and being photographed with it. Why should he be? He is the leader of a national party, not just a localised party in an area that rightly despises the newspaper. More people who buy The Sun vote than any other newspaper. It is a big potential electorate for him and for the other party leaders.

The Green Party tweeted out a photo of Miliband, Cameron and Clegg endorsing the newspaper and saying that there was another way and that people should join the party based on the fact they hadn’t been photographed with a copy of The Sun nor seemingly endorsed it. Are they for fucking real? Seriously Green Party? What type of person bases their vote let alone membership of a political party based solely on their newspaper of choice? I’ll give you the answer to that question because I’m a kind fellow – a numpty – an absolute numpty. Surely people who join political parties have a wider scope of reasoning to do so that the newspapers that political leaders are photographed with? I didn’t see Nigel Farage endorsing The Sun yesterday – does that mean everyone should join them too? Idiots.

Ok I got sidetracked a bit there. Now to attack my own lot *cracks knuckles* – yet again we had the whole Page 3 issue come up on Lib Dem Voice with regards to this. I’m not surprised. When I saw it pop up on my twitter timeline I also knew exactly who the author was and what they were writing about. I also knew exactly how the comment string would go. If there is something that will unite liberals it will be an air of superiority as depressing as that sounds – we all know it is true.

So on to the article itself. Nick shouldn’t have endorsed The Sun’s England Football Team Special Edition because of boobs. Yes those two things that protrude from a woman’s chest to generate milk for babies is at the crux of this. Boobs should not be seen on page three of a national newspaper. Everyone knows my views on this, if you don’t like it then don’t buy it. The women are free to pose for the newspaper if they so desire. It is a free country. This is the type of issue where liberalism and equality come to blows in the eyes of some people. Still it isn’t really the issue today and I have written about it so many times and been told that because a) I don’t have milk producing organs on my chest and b) I’m not a parent means that I have two strikes against my name and have no standing to have an opinion on it. I do love liberals.

Gareth Epps in the comments said, ‘It is more than ‘not just a good idea’, it is insensitive, politically damaging and stupid beyond belief. Absolutely a ‘heads must roll’ moment.. Politically damaging? So showing support for the countries football team and posing with the most popular daily publication in the land is politically damaging? Stupid beyond belief? Do these people live in the same world that I do?

You see this goes back to the whole bubble issue. The political bubble is very much something that politicians are tainted with by members of the public but lets be honest – plenty of politicos are in the same boat. Liberals are probably the worst in our air of moral superiority. We pronounce this freedom for individuals to live their lives as they please but the moment someone decides to do so that is against one of our opinions we turn on them. This isn’t just about this issue but it is something I have noted for many years.

Personally I don’t buy The Sun. I don’t read it online. However I don’t care who does or doesn’t. I don’t judge people on their choice of newspaper. I used to buy the Daily Star for the train because it was cheap and easy to read. Do I think I should be judged because of that? People will say that I am but one man and no-one cares what newspaper I buy but Nick Clegg is the leader of a political party and should be more sensitive. Liberals don’t like The Sun and therefore he shouldn’t have anything to do with them. Yey 18% of people who identified as readers of The Sun in 2010 voted for the Liberal Democrats – doesn’t our leader represent those people as well as those of us who don’t buy The Sun?

In 2005 Labour were +10% compared to the Tories amongst readers of The Sun but in 2010 they were -15%. They is a 25% swing within five years amongst a readership of just over 3million at the time. This is why – rightly or wrongly – The Sun is important. Should Nick (or Ed) be lambasted for posing with a copy of The Sun? No way, no how. Yes they’ll piss off many people who don’t buy The Sun but many people do. On the doorsteps of everywhere except Liverpool will who posed for a picture with The Sun be an issue on the doorstep above the economy, immigration, the NHS, crime, green issues, housing, banking etc…? Of course it won’t.

So politicos it is time to get our heads out of our own arses and realise that a photograph of a political leader with the most popular newspaper in the country is not a big issue. We like to think it is but it really isn’t. The time when someone solely bases their vote or their opinion based on one photograph is a time that scares me. I like to think that humans have the capacity to use their brains and I give them the credit for doing so. If some believe that this photograph solely will crush either Ed or Nick in the polls or at the ballot box then I am disappointed that those people have such little faith in the people of this country.

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

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Written by neilmonnery

June 13th, 2014 at 11:25 am

Posted in Politics

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Lib Dems set to be part of coalition to run Southend Council

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Losing seats and gaining power. It reminds me of the 2010 General Election. The Lib Dems lost four seats whilst only holding one last week as the voters spectacularly said they weren’t enamoured with the party. Yet according to reports in the local rag (and lets be honest logic) they will form a rainbow coalition with Labour and the Independents to run Southend Council for the next twelve months.

I wrote earlier this week that the voters had voted positively for Labour and UKIP and whilst the Tories lost seven seats, they still got the most votes across the town and therefore these parties would represent the views of the voters of Southend to the best degree. Still doing a deal involving these parties was always going to be problematic due to the clear ideological differences between the Tories and Labour and the inexperience and relative unknowns of the new UKIP councillors. I fully acknowledge this but felt it would sum up the views of the voters.

So the Independents, Labour and the Lib Dems altogether. On paper it can clearly work but mathematically it gives them a majority of just one and this is where I have little faith. I don’t feel any Labour members nor Lib Dem members would walk away from their parties but the independents are meant to be just that – independent – and as such have a variety of different politics across their group.

Keeping that band of twelve together without one of them deciding that enough is enough and they remove themselves from the group (like Dr. Vel did) will take some doing. A majority of one is precarious at the best of times but when it is a three-way coalition with one of the three being a band of independents with views across the political spectrum from socialist through liberal to right-wing Tories. If they stay together through the budget then huge kudos.

The electoral maths were really not helpful and this might be the best option available. I honestly don’t know. If the three run the council well over the next year then it will be a huge fillip and will help them politically. For the Lib Dems they do not face up to the independents nor Labour in any obvious target seat in 2015, so if the council does good work then seats such as Blenheim Park, Prittlewell and maybe even St. Laurence will be back into play. For the independents and Labour, both parties play more in the east of the borough where they face up against the Tories in most places and UKIP in one of two. Good governance will help them and with Cllr. Ian Gilbert’s run to win a seat in Westminster as well.

If this deal does go ahead as reported then Cllr. Woodley would become leader and the three parties (well two parties and one group) will have a year to pretty much make or break their political ambitions in Southend for the next few years. If they do well and stop the seawall, stop the closures of care homes as well as restoring paid staff to all libraries then I have little doubt they’ll be popular. If they are unable to find the money for the latter two then it will be tough.

The UKIP leader feels that his party and councillors have been unjustly shutout of any potential coalition and they may have a point but that’s politics. Had UKIP had won one more seat (probably Victoria) then they would be in a much better position due to that bone that I bang one about – electoral maths. Had the Tories won Leigh from the Lib Dems then the same could be said. Still the maths and makeup of the chamber are what they are and UKIP could be shutout by this proposed coalition. I wonder if they regret their pact with the independent group now?

Still here we are. It looks like the Tories are going to sit on the sidelines for a year and it is over to the Independents, Labour and the Lib Dems to show that they can run the town better than the Tories did. I hope that they can because if they don’t then it is very possible that UKIP will be the kingmakers next year and personally I would prefer this not to happen.

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Written by neilmonnery

May 29th, 2014 at 11:05 am

A tale of the type of voter the Lib Dems need to speak to

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So the past few days have been even more disappointing than my private life. I know you didn’t think it was possible but returning one councillor in Southend whilst the UKIP took five seats in the Civic Centre coupled with only one MEP showed that the countries (and Southend’s) appetite for Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats is not shall we say…on the rise.

However this isn’t the time to panic and nor is it the time to either change our leader or run away from the coalition. This is the time for us to not look at ourselves or our policies, but to look at how we can get people to both listen to us to believe in us once again.

Let me tell a story about my family. I was brought up in an Anti-Tory home. I was brought up to believe that they were the political devil. I suspect I wasn’t alone in this regard. Therefore the voting record in our household was quite simply vote for whoever had the best chance to beat the Tory. The sad fact though is that as a young person we only ever lived in an area with a safe Tory MP. In 1997 though Dr. Peter Brand won the Isle of Wight for the Lib Dems, sadly he was not a good constituency MP and he would lose in 2001 and ever since my local MP has been of the blue persuasion.

I knew of my brothers and younger of my two elder sisters political beliefs (both LD) and my mum was always left leaning but would vote on the Anti-Tory ticket. The one person I didn’t know about was my eldest sister. Well we spoke about this last night and I think she is a fantastic example of the type of person that we need to be speaking to as a party. She votes on the Anti-Tory ticket, where she lives that means Lib Dem. She was very angry with Nick Clegg for going into coalition with the Tories and wasn’t sure if she could bring herself to vote for his party again. On Thursday she voted Liberal Democrat.

Why?

She came to the conclusion that in 2010 the Lib Dems really didn’t have much choice but to go into coalition. The electoral maths didn’t add up for a Lib/Lab coalition and to get any form of left-sided coalition to work, it would need the help of all the minor parties and that realistically that wasn’t feasible. She also decided that she preferred the Lib Dems to be curbing the right-wing of the Tory party instead of letting them run wild. She can see the economy picking up and business at her place of employment doing ok. So whilst she was angry that Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems helped keep the Tories in power, she could see that the only other option was for a second General Election where the Tories would have likely won a majority and that was a worse idea in her mind.

My eldest sister isn’t what you’d call overtly political but she reads the newspaper and watches the news, she’d what you’d probably call the average voter, unlike me who reads political blogs, watches political TV all the time etc. and yet she could see that given the options – having the Lib Dems in a coalition was the best way forward given the alternatives.

My sister is exactly the type of person that whilst angry, could still be receptive to the party. She has no problems with EU nationals working in her place of employment. She can see the benefits of freedom of movement and trade across the EU, she probably isn’t what you’d call a passionate European but thinks that the pros outweigh the cons. She is someone who is essentially an Anti-Tory but who can understand that the real world sometimes beats out ideology and when it does, you go for the best option available.

There is no doubt that she would have preferred a Lib/Lab coalition, as would have I but sadly the maths didn’t allow that to happen. I suspect had Gordon Brown not called Gillian Duffy a bigot that the maths would probably have allowed that coalition to form. Alas we shall never know.

Plenty of people are angry and I won’t lie when I say plenty will just not listen any more. However many still will and many will begrudgingly acknowledge that what happened in 2010 was the best option available. They may not have liked it but when given the realistic options available then they start to understand why it happened and that the Lib Dems didn’t just sell their soul for ministerial cars as the lazy rhetoric dictates.

As a party and as activists we need to decide whether to embrace what the national party are doing or not. In some areas of the country activists seem embarrassed by the national party and in others they are proud of the rise in the tax threshold, the pupil premium, the triple lock in pensions etc. – it just seems there is no cohesive strategy and that it is left to local parties, who are often split themselves on the coalition and how to handle it to decide how to campaign. This seems like a mistake and doesn’t lead to a clear vision of what the Lib Dems stand for.

Until we decide on what our clear vision is and everyone is on board I fear that what we say won’t get through. However I definitely feel that once everyone is on board and sings from the same hymn sheet then people will listen.

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Written by neilmonnery

May 26th, 2014 at 11:30 am

Posted in Politics

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D.C. Lobbyist pushing for a homophobic bill that would ban gay professional athletes in the USA

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Well that isn’t a blog post title I ever expected to write.

Every so often I get Press Releases via the blog. In recent weeks I have started to get quite a lot. I usually scan read them and then do nothing with them. I’m quite busy at the moment working on two large projects outside of work, firstly the locals elections and secondly my weight. When you are working out for two hours a day then your free time suddenly dissipates rather quickly.

So anyway I got a Press Release this afternoon entitled, ‘DC Lobbyist Boycott of Visa, Rams after Michael Sam drafted‘ and my eyes focused sharply. For those who don’t know who Michael Sam is, in short he was a very good college football player in the States who came out as gay earlier this year. He finished college and was eligible for the NFL draft. He was a fringe prospect and no-one knew if he would get selected but with just seven picks left in the draft the St. Louis Rams drafted him and he is the first openly gay player in the NFL. He celebrated getting drafted by kissing his boyfriend live on national TV. It was a deeply important cultural moment.

Now my e-mail thought it was a scam so I did some googling and you know what, it wasn’t and it isn’t. In February he was widely reported to be working on this bill and with Michael Sam getting drafted he is trying to generate publicity again. Michael Sam signed an endorsement deal with Visa and the lobbyist believes that people should boycott the company for being associated with a gay athlete.

The following is from his PR release that for some reason found its way to me – yes a liberal blogger – because I’d really write about it in a positive light for him *rolls eyes*

Visa and the Rams will learn that when you trample the Christian community and Christian values, there will be a terrible financial price to pay. Openly gay football players send a terrible message to our youth about morality. Somebody needs to step up because the moral fiber of the nation is eroding.

You fucking what?

First of all learn how to spell fibre American people – if you are going to pretend you use the English language then at least learn how to spell it correctly. Secondly and probably more importantly – what the hell is this man on? I was brought up in a Christian household and I am pretty sure that Christian’s are taught to be a tolerant people. When I read garbage like this then I just shake my head and wonder if there really was a God then how would he (or she or it) like seeing people being persecuted in his/her/its name?

So anyway on to the proposed bill that he is trying to get support for – you can read it in full here but for those too lazy to click on the link then here is the first section of the bill:

Section 1. The National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League and all teams thereof shall hereby be prohibited from employing players who are homosexual. This provision shall apply only in cases where a player has openly declared himself to be a homosexual.

So yes, if you are secretly gay then that is fine but anyone who is open about their sexuality should be blocked from earning a living in any of the listed professional sports leagues. This is in his opinion to stop young people growing up and seeing and hearing about practicing homosexuals in professional sports. What rock did this buffoon crawl from?

Young people should be taught to treat everyone as the same. If God does exist then he/she/it created us all and that includes gay people. I’m pretty positive that if this is the case then gay people weren’t created to give non gay people a group of people to persecute. Young people being exposed to gay people doesn’t damage the moral fibre of society, anyone who thinks that this is the case is a grade A moron.

The sooner that the likes of Jack Burkman are castigated for their points of view then the better society as a whole will be. Jack Burkman is no way shape or form speaks for the Christian community and believing that he does is nearly as galling as what he says.

Michael Sam coming out and having to bare the brunt of this type of homophobic abuse is courageous is the extreme. I hope he will be a trendsetter and I am sure that the United States of America as a whole will support him. Sadly there are not so insignificant pockets who won’t and by all means we aren’t exactly the most tolerant society over here in the UK but I’m not sure the public as a whole would have any stomach for banning gay people from any form of life.

I just felt that I had to write something about it as I couldn’t stomach the fact that the Press Release got sent to me. I hope that his efforts go unrewarded and I have no doubt that even if he got enough sponsors to get the bill debated that it would never gain the traction or support it would need to get passed into law but it makes me deflated that people still think persecuting fellow human beings in the name of Christianity is acceptable behavior.

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Written by neilmonnery

May 13th, 2014 at 4:43 pm

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

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

Anyway…

This is what Nick Clegg said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Written by neilmonnery

February 20th, 2014 at 1:36 pm

Posted in Politics

Tagged with , , ,

In real praise of Nick Clegg on the EU…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Written by neilmonnery

February 11th, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Posted in Politics

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Mr Mark Steel – A perfect example of why Labour can never win a grown-up debate

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Ah Mr Mark Steel. A voice against Capitalism and a voice against the system. Allegedly a comedian but I support if Michael McIntyre can call himself a comedian then anyone can these days. I think it is fair to say that Mark Steel is a Labour man and it has heavily influenced his life. I have no problem with that, we are all shaped by our upbringings and our political ideologies. Some from all parties believe in everything they do and disparage anyone who disagrees wit them. This always galls me as I like to think there is something to be learned from so many views.

Why am I writing about this today?

Well the ‘funny man’ has written a piece in the Independent entitled If his 2015 manifesto is going to feature a load of pledges he can’t stick to, shouldn’t Nick Clegg at least have some fun with it? with the sub-title, If it’s grown-up to ignore what you said to get elected, why have a campaign at all?

It is exactly what you think it is, a poorly thought-out piece saying that because the Lib Dems didn’t win a majority in the House of Commons at the last General Election then they basically should have told the Tories to stuff it and allow the economy to funk for a few months whilst we had a second General Election where the Tories would have won a majority. That is what he thinks would have been the best way to deal with the issues of the summer of 2010. It is a shame that yet another person fails to understand what the basic ethos of a coalition is but there are plenty of those about, so he’s in fine company.

I remember the same ‘comic’ on panel shows such as Have I Got News For You? and Mock The Week deriding the Lib Dems in the build up to the 2010 General Election as a waste of space, because quite simply they couldn’t win and couldn’t see any of their policies implemented. David Mitchell is one that really resonates in the memory banks, going on about how considerate it was to have the Lib Dem party conferences before the Tory and Labour ones so all the political hacks could have a warm-up before the important ones. Oh my sides split.

Well a strange thing happened on the way to being irrelevant. The Lib Dems became relevant and boy did it piss off a lot of people. Not solely because they became relevant but because they sided with the Tories over Labour in terms of a coalition. Not to mention the fact that the election maths made a Labour coalition impossible, meaning only a rainbow alliance could have had the MPs to hold a majority and imagine that, Labour, Lib Dems, SNP, DUP, Plaid Cymru, SDLP, Green etc… – could these guys really all sit around a table and form a stable government? I think the chances of that are similar to those of me ever getting laid – PS: if you don’t know me then I can assure you, the odds of me ever getting laid are long, very long.

Also the country had voted for more Conservative MPs than any other party, surely this meant they deserved to run the country? They didn’t win the election outright but they were closer to the winners post than any other party. The financial situation at the time of the election meant that confidence and supply for an emergency budget wasn’t really a goer and a stable coalition had to be formed. The Tories and the Lib Dems were the unlikely bed fellows. Did that sit well with me? No, of course it didn’t but I could see that stable government was needed and this was the best route forward.

I can see why many voters were unhappy about this. A significant proportion of the Lib Dem vote wasn’t really a Lib Dem vote, but an anti-Tory vote. In vast areas it is a two-horse race and Labour voters lent their vote hoping to keep the Tories out of office. The fact the Lib Dems then went into coalition with the Tories meant they felt betrayed. This is just a pitfall of our election system that we could have changed but the country decided they didn’t want it to be changed. Sod fairer votes as it might favour the Lib Dems. Now of course many people are slowly figuring out that FPTP is going to screw UKIP and they are outraged again but I digress.

Could Nick Clegg have handled certain things better? Of course he could. Sadly though we don’t have a Stargate or a Quantum Mirror to go into a parallel universe and see how things would’ve shaken out had Clegg not had taken the Lib Dems into a coalition. However to turn around and say that he could write whatever he wanted in the 2015 Lib Dem manifesto because he didn’t see through his 2010 manifesto is just a fallacy, one linked to the authors lack of grasp of basic coalition politics. Not just coalition politics, but coalition politics with a very junior partner.

If Labour had gone into a coalition with the Lib Dems and benched some of their manifesto then would they be a bunch of liars as well? Yeah I wonder what he’d say to that…

However what really gets my goat about his piece isn’t the bollocks he’s spewing about how pointless the Lib Dem manifesto is, comedians have been doing that for years in various guises believing that a third party was easy prey for laughs. The fact the irrelevant party became a party of government just meant they had to find other ways to deride the party. That is ok. That is fair game in comedy apparently. Who cares about accuracy when you can get cheap laughs, oh look my trousers have fallen down, I need stitches in my sides it is so funny.

No what really gets my goat is the final paragraph and a bit and how out of touch and lazy it is:

To have any chance at the next election, even of saving his own seat in Sheffield, he’ll need to go much much further than that.

So instead of wasting effort compiling more promises, his one chance of saving his seat in Sheffield might be a collaboration with local heroes the Arctic Monkeys, in which he sings: “Oh what a scummy man, you can see it in my eyes yeah that I’ve got a nasty plan, I’d go into coalition with the bloody Taliban for a place in the cabinet. And you’ve seen me with Osborne and Hague, there ain’t no promise on which I won’t renege, students do better to vote for the plague ‘cos I’m a scumbag don’t you know.”

First of all, does Mark Steel really think that Nick Clegg is going to lose his own seat in Sheffield Hallam? I mean really? I know it’s cool to say he’ll lose his seat but there is absolutely no evidence to say that it is on the cards. He has a stonking majority, the party still does well locally and in 2012, which is probably fair to say will be the lowest point of the Lib Dems locally in this government, the party still pulled in 39% of the vote with Labour 16% behind in second place. In the five seats in the constituency, they all stayed solidly Lib Dem in 2012 and in a key by-election in 2013, when Labour and the Tories really attacked, the Lib Dems cruised home by 1,400 votes.

Now I know Mr Mark Steel loves his rhetoric and thinks that his view is the right view but at some point he’ll have to understand that wanting something to be true isn’t going to make it true. That isn’t how it works in the grown-up world. When it comes to politics, so much is child like and it depresses me but the most child like are the Labour party. They believe in polling data unless it isn’t favourable to them. When there is positive polling data they then use it like a blanket over the whole country to predict what will happen, neglecting the nuances of local politics, region by region, county by county, city by city, constituency by constituency, ward by ward, polling district by polling district.

So Mr Mark Steel, live in your own mind and hope against all hope that what you want will one day happen and you’ll wake up in a socialist state. It may well happen, well actually it won’t because the country doesn’t want socialism and in the past half a century the only Labour General Election wins have been when the party has moved away from the extreme left to the centre-left/centre but who cares about facts. When you live in Mr Mark Steel’s world then you can believe whatever you want to believe and if facts get in the way then the best way to deal with them is to ignore them. Who wants facts anyway?

This is a prime example of why I treat the Labour party with distain at the moment. They cry about the Lib Dems not being grown-up, when in fact it is them who are playing adolescent politics. This comes from a guy whose upbringing was very much in the ‘Anyone but the Tories’ mould but as it stands they are at least acting like a grown-up party, not just the MPs and councillors but also the memberships. My politics are centrist but if I had to lean left or right of centre then it would be left, however with the way the Labour party are acting at the moment I just couldn’t see myself supporting them.

Until the Labour party stop trying to play politics and start seeing politics as a serious business then I struggle to take them seriously. We all have ideologies but sometimes real world issues have to come above ideologies. For example if a 45p tax rate rakes in the most revenue for higher band earners then so be it. Proposing a 50p tax band that will bring in less money is just ideological claptrap designed to sound good and gain support whereas the finances say it’s a bad move.

I’m 30 and I like to think I’m relatively grown-up and that is how I act and that is how I like my politics. Until Labour acts grown-up then for me I think that maybe the best thing for the country in 2015 would be another Tory/Lib Dem coalition and lets be honest, there is no way I saw myself typing that three and a half years ago but Labour have just been so poor as an opposition and so lightweight on the economy that I’m not sure I trust them as much as I do the Tories and boy that is a scary thought.

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Written by neilmonnery

January 31st, 2014 at 12:23 am

Posted in Politics

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The story of the West Leigh by-election is the rise of UKIP

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So here we are. UKIP are four months away from having potentially several councillors on Southend Council. 410 votes in West Leigh was a staggering result but the thing that is worth noting is that people on the doorstep weren’t canvassing as UKIP at all. The UKIP vote is silent but it is there. The disenfranchised vote is loud and unless the three main parties address this quickly then it will be carnage come May in local elections, although I still think in the General Election things will be slightly different.

In Southend, UKIP and the Independent’s are either in an unofficial nod and wink allience or they are not depending on who you talk to and what their mood is at the time you speak to them. However lets put it this way, the UKIP literature is rather similar to what the independents have been saying, just with added anti-immigration phrases thrown in for good measure.

West Leigh is not where you’d expect a strong UKIP vote and clearly they did well on a minimal campaign. We have seen this before in Southend is more favourable wards for them, but with the next local elections being on the same day as European Elections they will fight a more vigorous campaign that will see them make their Southend breakthrough.

Nationally though this news is positive for the Lib Dems. In areas where we work hard our vote seems to be holding up whereas the Tories vote drops with UKIP sweeping up that vote. So when you look at these Lib Dem/Tory battlegrounds then the Lib Dems can either hold or take them at the next General Election. For ages the hope that Lib Dems have been clinging to is UKIP can split the Tory vote and it is perfectly possible it can happen.

However for us locally this is a rude wake up call and all parties should have taken really note of this result. Even though they came 17% away from winning, the fact they canvassed so badly (and we did a lot of canvassing) yet came through so strong says so much. At the count the votes counted from ballot boxes today actually had UKIP right up there with the Lib Dems and the Tories but the postal votes were a lot stronger for the two other main parties.

As for Labour, well it was nice of them to turn up. 7% is around what we expected so that canvassing data held up well. We also thought we’d be nip/tuck with the Tories and who got their vote out today would win it. That UKIP vote though came right out of left field.

UKIP will win seats on Southend Council, they will win seats on many councils, they’ll send more people to the European Parliament than any other party, yet I firmly believe they’ll do all this not because people support them but because they are so disenfranchised. This is where the three main parties have to step up and better engage people on issues and policies. If we fail to do that then I fear for the future.

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Written by neilmonnery

January 24th, 2014 at 12:56 am

Posted in Politics

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If Lord Rennard truly cared for the party and liberal ideals then he’d stand down.

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Oh boy. This is pretty darn ugly isn’t it?

I will not sit here and type about what he did or didn’t do. I don’t know so I won’t comment on it. However one thing is what happens next and I feel as though I can have an opinion on that.

No one man (or woman) is bigger than the party. The party would be better off if Lord Rennard left the party. That is the plain and simple truth. If he feels as though his membership and the fact he is a Lib Dem peer is more important than either the perception of the party and/or the feelings of the membership then I would be incredibly disappointed.

It is something I have been thinking about recently, whether people are too comfortable in being part of the establishment and their own self-importance. He has to decide what is more important, the party’s future and furthering our liberal agenda or his own beliefs that he’s done nothing wrong and should be allowed to continue?

I fear that he’s comfortable in being part of the establishment. I certainly believe that he is extremely arrogant. Even if, and I stress the word if, if he actually did no nothing wrong and all the stories were untrue, the party will never go forward with him in the fold. All he can do is drag the party down. Whatever he does, he can’t help the party anymore. Even if he disappeared and came back quietly in a few years then it wouldn’t work.

Lord Rennard is toxic. Not toxic with the electorate but toxic with the progressives within the party. I have always seen the liberal Democrats as a party with progressive people at the helm and the more progressive people the party has in its membership and subsequently in key positions, then the more forward-thinking the party can be. Lord Rennard’s position within the party is such that the progressives cannot abide him.

He has to go. Quite simply if he stays on he is saying that he is more important than the party. No-one is more important than the party. So it is now down to his arrogance and sense of self-worth against views of the party he claims to represent. I’m sure some people would say that if he hasn’t done anything wrong then why should he go. Well that if seems like one giant stretch of an if at this juncture but even if that were true, then he should go for the sake of the party and for the people of the country. As liberals we want to benefit the country, I suppose all political groups would say that but if the party gets weaker and unhappier then it doesn’t benefit our hopes to make the country more of a liberal bastion for the 21st century.

So whilst I am an innocent until proven guilty guy, I really am. I have to say that if he is truly a liberal, he will understand that his position will hurt the liberal cause because the party will lose members and with that he should leave the party. If someone said to me that if I left the party that it would stop a lot of progressive genuine liberals leaving the party, or if I left then a lot of progressive liberals would join the party then you’d know the right thing to do.

The party has the goal of making the country, at local, national and European levels, a better place to live. That is our goal and surely deep down it doesn’t matter who takes us there but getting there is the key. Lord Rennard cannot help the party reach our goals. He quite simply cannot. For that reason and that reason alone he should take his bow and leave. If he feels as though he has been unfairly scapegoated then I feel for him, but if he does want to put the future of the party and our liberal agenda first then he’ll understand that making our goals is much harder with him involved within the party.

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Written by neilmonnery

January 16th, 2014 at 8:31 pm

Posted in Politics

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