The Rambles of Neil Monnery

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Archive for the ‘politics’ tag

Labour shoot themselves in the foot in Southend

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Sometimes you think it is just about getting the best candidate for the gig, however sometimes it really isn’t if you actually want to win. The more you get exposed to the inner workings of politics you come to understand that to win you have to prioritise, you have to work out where your money is, how to spend it, where to spend it, how the activist is, where the activist base is, how best to use the activist base and so on.

When the 2015 General Election comes round it is highly unlikely I’ll be voting here as it seems now all but certain I’ll be moving out of Southend in the near future. However the seat where I am living is, despite what might be seen as an extremely safe Tory seat, actually not that safe. James Duddridge is an odds on favourite to win again but if you delve into the numbers (which I like to do) then you’ll see that he’s a big favourite, but a big favourite who could lose if everything goes against him. Should Duddridge fall short then it’d be Labour who’d pick up the seat.

Over in the west of Southend David Amess will win another term at as the MP. Of that there isn’t any doubt whatsoever barring a significant scandal coming out about him and even if that happens, I’d expect him to still hold on just. If he lost he’d lose to the Liberal Democrats.

So why am I talking about Labour shooting themselves in the foot? Well they’ve decided to field their arguably two strongest candidates in both seats. Cllr. Ian Gilbert beat out Cllr. Julian Ware-Lane for the Rochford & Southend East nomination. At this point it still was a long shot they could pull off the win here but the fact the Tories failed to win a single seat here in the council elections this year, coupled with the rise of UKIP and what will be a total collapse of the Liberal Democrat vote in the east of the town then Labour are live dogs. If Cllr. James Moyies stands in the seat for Parliament next May (as far as I’ve read there hasn’t been any decision on this) then Labour are very live dogs in this seat.

Labour lost by 11,000 odd last time around and 11,000 is quite a majority to overturn, certainly if the party trying to overturn it isn’t exactly sweeping all away in the council elections (which they aren’t) but lets look at the maths again.

The Lib Dems will lose 4,000-5,000 votes in the seat at a pretty well educated guess. You would expect Labour to pick up around half of them, so that majority is now around 9,000 to win. The Tories have been in power, so Labour now aren’t the party of government. This means that the vote for change now is in the hands of Labour and for whatever David Amess’ faults on the other side of the borough, people you speak to (who aren’t staunchly political) say that he is a good constituency MP, I don’t hear the same about James Duddridge. He is kind of an anonymous MP. So his name carries very little cachet. So his personal vote will not be strong.

Then throw in the UKIP factor. I don’t want to put words in Cllr. Gilbert’s mouth but you have to think that he is out in his garden every night looking up at the sky searching for a shooting star and has his ‘Please let UKIP stand here’ wish ready to go. The Tories got just a tick over 19,500 votes last time around, if UKIP took 20% of that vote (which is entirely possible and might even be a low estimate) then that is 4,000 plus votes. Now of course UKIP would also take votes from Labour, certainly in places like Kursaal but not to the same degree.

Strangely the key ward may actually be right here in Thorpe Bay, where Labour are nowhere and will get very few votes. The Tories should sweep this seat in a General Election and this ward votes. If UKIP (or heck how about an ambitious independent?) could make serious inroads into the Tory vote here then it is really game on.

All sounds good for Labour, no?

Well, yes and no. To win they have to throw every resource they have at Rochford & Southend East. They need to run a skeleton campaign in the west and put all their eggs in the one basket. They have a straight choice whether to go for first in the east and finish third in the west, or settle for second in the east in an attempt to finish second in the west. Personally a shot at first and settling for third seems like a no brainer.

Yet they have chosen a man who will certainly go and try to win in the west in Cllr. Ware-Lane. Admirable yes, good politics, most certainly not. Good strategy wins elections often just as much as good policy. I just cannot see Cllr. Ware-Lane being a paper candidate who would spend his time in the east trying to get Cllr. Gilbert elected, which would certainly be the best decision for them strategically. Of course I could be wrong and whilst Cllr. Ware-Lane is saying all the right things publicly, he knows the best thing for Labour would be to hit the east and support Cllr. Gilbert to the fullest of his abilities.

In 2010 the Lib Dems had the most votes in Oxford yet won neither seat, they came a close second in both seats. Had they concentrated on one seat, either seat, they would have won. There are many stories similar to this. If Southend Labour want to gain an MP then they know all their eggs have to be in the east because they have a shot of winning. If they decide to fight both seats to any significant degree then it is highly likely we’ll end up with two Conservative MP’s again across the two seats.

If I was a betting man I’d back Amess and Duddridge to both be returned to parliament next May but on a very good day for the Labour party, they have a shot at dethroning Duddridge. Amess is safe as houses but Duddridge, whilst looking safe could go if the dominoes all fall the wrong way for him and the right way for Labour. So it should be full steam ahead for Labour in the east but you just get the sense that by selecting Cllr. Ware-Lane in the west that they aren’t putting all their eggs in one basket and on this occasion, that would have been the most logical strategy if their end goal was to return an MP to parliament in 2015.

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Written by neilmonnery

August 22nd, 2014 at 11:55 am

Lord Rennard kinda but doesn’t really win, the Lib Dems lose. Sums up a lot doesn’t it?

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First things first. I have no idea what Lord Rennard did or did not do. I don’t have access to the evidence. I have an opinion but that is based solely on the evidence that has been leaked through the media. This opinion is pretty hardened and it would take significant new evidence to move me from my position but I suspect that will not happen.

Lord Rennard was ‘won’ in that he’s had his party membership restored. The allegations against him are credible but not proven. A situation that happens all the time in many different guises in many different professions. In many of these situations I look at those accusing and try to work out if they have a hidden agenda or a bias that would make me skeptical as to their allegations. In this situation I haven’t seen any of that.

The problem Lord Rennard has is that whilst he may feel vindicated, he is perceived as guilty by the vast majority of Liberal Democrats. Most want him gone because they feel he encapsulates the older part of the party and doesn’t embrace what younger liberals think. The Lib Dems as a party do have an issue with gender equality but I don’t think this is because of any inherent sexism within the party, but more to do with legacy and some older members of the party (and lets be honest here – some older members of society as a whole) still struggle with equality as a concept.

The Lord released the following statement:

I am obviously pleased that all disciplinary investigations against me have been brought to an end and that the suspension of my party membership has been lifted.

This has taken a long time. The English Regional Parties Committee began a new disciplinary investigation in January 2014. I was informed by the Committee that this latest investigation was on the basis of, “media and social media comments made by you, endorsed by you and made on your behalf that have attacked the party and the party processes publically (sic) since the announcement of the Webster report results.”

This investigation followed the one conducted last year by Alistair Webster QC, and which resulted in a finding of “no further action through insufficient evidence.”

I am grateful to Chris Willmore, a barrister, parliamentary candidate and now a law lecturer who acted as the ‘independent investigator’ in this latest process. She was extremely thorough in her approach. I was informed by telephone late this afternoon of the conclusion that “there would be no further action”. The rules provided for the investigator either to recommend “charges,” or to say that there was insufficient evidence to proceed further to a disciplinary hearing.

All allegations made about me have now been investigated thoroughly, including by the Metropolitan Police Service, and fell at the first hurdle as there was insufficient evidence to proceed further.

The English Appeals Panel confirmed in July that I could not be criticised over my reaction to the previous report by Alistair Webster QC, as I was not given sight of the report for eleven weeks. The worst that might be said of me in that independent report was that I may have inadvertently encroached on the “personal space” of some of the complainants, and I apologised for this to all four of them.

I remain a committed member of the Liberal Democrats and a strong believer in the principles of the party, as set out in the constitution, and based on the values that led me to join the Liberal Party in my teens.

So basically reading between the lines his defence is that there was insufficient evidence to move forward. He never once said he did not do what he had been accused of or that he was innocent. Just that there was insufficient evidence to proceed with disciplinary procedures and the same at the Met.

He says that at worst he inadvertently encroached on the personal space of several people. Now not to be a wise-ass here but it is pretty hard to inadvertently encroach on someone’s personal space. As human beings we all know what our personal space is and should know what another person’s is. If you don’t then I have serious doubts as to your ability to function as a human being. It isn’t rocket science.

I am very much an innocent until proven guilty guy but in this case I think it is pretty clear that Lord Rennard’s behaviour was not acceptable. Whether that equates to criminal charges I think possibly not because they have investigated and cannot prove anything, fair enough. However internal disciplinary requires a different standard of proof. the fact the Lib Dems bottled it – and lets not beat around the bush here – the people who had this decision to undertake bottled it – the fact they decided to take no further action showed two things. They didn’t want a long protracted fight that would have rumbled in the media for weeks and months more and secondly that Lord Rennard believes that he didn’t do anything significantly wrong.

And that folks might be the most depressing thing of this whole matter. Lord Rennard doesn’t believe his actions were wrong to any significant degree. If I inadvertently encroached on someone’s personal space and they informed me of it I’d be freaking out about it for months. He seems to not see it as a problem. I’m sitting here writing this and still shaking my head.

He hasn’t won anything bar his membership of a political party that doesn’t want him any more. He won’t be a pariah but he is the figurehead for everything wrong within the party according to many people. The Lib Dems should be the radical party who want to make the world a better place, a more equal place, equality in all terms, sex, race, background, sexual persuasion, equality across the board and you have a senior party member who at best (and I stress at best) seems to not know how to act as a basic human being when it comes to women that he has come in contact with.

Now I’m not saying the Lib Dems are the only party with these issues. I am positive other political parties have similar issues as do many businesses. I would like to think that these issues are being dealt with and that the next generation of people coming through are more about equality and believe in it not only to give it lip-service but also in terms of actually looking at other human beings and treating them as equals no matter what their differences are.

The end game is though that the public perception of the party is not good. As the party of the radicals, it comes across that we aren’t that radical and that we can’t take the big decision when faced with one. The party would without a doubt be stronger had Lord Rennard either not been allowed back or had he walked away. Sometimes in life you find that you are not wanted and that the best way to move on is to walk away.

I have found that recently in what was a significant aspect of my life and no matter how much I didn’t want to walk away, it was the only way forward. Lord Rennard should have done the same. If he truly believes in the Lib Dems as the radical party of change then he should know that by him being in the party, that radical change will be harder to accomplish and that is the dagger to the heart. He is too selfish to put the liberal philosophy before his own ego and sense of self-worth.

Lord Rennard will never have the respect of the Lib Dems again and the party as a whole has another big bruise that it will struggle to shake off. All in all everyone loses and nobody wins.

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Written by neilmonnery

August 21st, 2014 at 8:38 am

Posted in Politics

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Nick Clegg will win Sheffield Hallam. I don’t understand why Labour disagree?

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Sometimes I read something that I want to blog about so I leave it on a tab on my Google Chrome and it can stay there for days. This time I’m blogging about it within a day. Not too shabby for me.

Rich Clare wrote yesterday in an article entitled Nick Clegg to lose Sheffield Hallam? You’re having a laugh where he speaks about all the reasons why Nick Clegg will hold on to his seat, despite lots of press stories suggesting this he is at best, in trouble, but at worst set for a slam dunk defeat that would rival the Portillo moment from 1997.

The thing is, anyone who has any sense of numbers will know that Nick Clegg isn’t in trouble next year. That might sound ludicrous considering national polling and how disliked he is but the people of the United Kingdom are not voting on whether to have Nick Clegg as their local MP, the people of Sheffield Hallam are and that is the difference. Until people can get their heads around the fact that national polling cannot be extrapolated across different constituencies to give accurate predictions then all this crap will never stop.

Students used to love Nick Clegg. Now they are at best indifferent and at worst down right angry. I suspect most are in the latter group depressingly but such is life. However as Rich points out quite pointedly, the university itself is not based in the Sheffield Hallam constituency and students do not live in that constituency in great numbers. This is one of the lazy misnomers that people have regarding this seat and how Clegg won here and how the Lib Dems turned it into a relatively safe seat 17 years ago.

Labour control South Yorkshire but they’ve never returned an MP in this seat, never, never ever, never never ever. I think you get the point. Since 2010 that constituency has seen 21 councillors get elected, of those 21, 19 were Lib Dems and two were Labour. In a recent by-election Labour threw the kitchen sink at the Lib Dems expecting a win that would cause panic and embarrassment for Nick Clegg. The Lib Dem candidate won with over half of the vote.

Sheffield Hallam is affluent, not just affluent, but stinking rich. The average income is higher than places like Windsor and Twickenham. It has the lowest level of child poverty amongst any constituency in the country. More people in Sheffield Hallam have a degree than Cambridge. The level of professionals in the constituency exceeds practically every other seat in the country. What about all of this screams out a Labour victory?

That’s right. Nothing.

Of course the Tories could take back the seat but they have no real local campaign and are fighting with UKIP, their vote is getting split. so they aren’t going to mount a significant challenge to Clegg next year and nor are UKIP. Seats with lots of rich, educated and professional people are not going to be at the top of the UKIP plan to win seats. Immigration is not exactly an issue in Sheffield Hallam.

So it comes down to whether Labour can change the narrative in the next nine months which they haven’t been able to do in the past four years. Of course they could but I could also get second dates with women that I want to – and we all know that doesn’t happen. Labour need to gain at least 12,000 votes and nothing about the ward demographics or recent history suggests that they’ll get anywhere near that.

Personally I hope Labour keep believing they can unsettle and beat Nick Clegg. If they throw the kitchen sink at an unwinnable seat then they’ll be taking resources away from other places. It would be terrible strategy for Labour to go after a seat they have never won and are in no position to win. However I wouldn’t be stunned if terrible strategy gets deployed and Labour make Sheffield Hallam one of their key battlegrounds. If they do, they’ll lose and lose badly and all they’ll say if they were never expected to win anyway. Sounds like they can’t lose.

Yet if they don’t win a majority and fall just a few seats short, they’ll rue the fact they spent so much time and effort on a vanity campaign. Nick Clegg’s majority will no doubt go down but it will not collapse. Rich sums it up well and if you get on the ground with an open mind then you’ll come away with the feeling that the Lib Dems are safe in this one, but I doubt that will stop the stories because ‘Nick Clegg safe in Sheffield Hallam’ isn’t exactly a sexy story and won’t sell papers or garner page views. Sometimes the news can be just factual but those times are sadly few and far between.

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Written by neilmonnery

August 12th, 2014 at 5:45 pm

Posted in Politics

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Nick Clegg doesn’t get tough on drugs – he gets smart

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A lot of people think being tough on drugs is the only way to combat the use of drugs that society is plagued by today. I have never had this thought. Whilst at the age of 31 I have never tried – nor had any desire – to try out illegal substances, I think those that do should be helped to get over their problems should their drug use consume them.

Nick Clegg has spoken about this today and has indicated that the party want to end imprisonment for those who are caught with drugs for their own personal use and instead get them medical treatment to get over their drug addiction.

Speaking on the Lib Dem website, Nick Clegg said:

“We are never going to win a ‘war on drugs’. Illegal drugs still cause immense harm to the people who use them and to the communities they live in. We need a radically smarter approach if we are serious about tackling this problem.

“Liberal Democrats believe the first step to ending the war is to recognise that drug use is primarily a health problem. Addicts need treatment, not locking up. And it is a nonsense to waste scare resources on prison cells for cannabis users.

“That’s why we will commit to ensuring that nobody in future will go to prison where their only offence is possession of drugs for their own personal use.

“Instead these people should receive non-custodial sentences, and addicts should get the treatment they need to stop using drugs.

“In the longer term we will develop a more effective approach that frees up resources currently spent on prosecuting users, and reinvests that money in treatment and in the fight against organised crime.

“Liberal Democrats believe in a stronger economy and a fairer society. These liberal reforms will ensure that drug users get the help they need and that taxpayers don’t foot the bill for a system that doesn’t work.”

In short, it is a new grown-up approach to drug issues and one I stand up and applaud. As a society, many people think that punishment is more important than dealing with the cause of the problem. People going to jail are only going to spend time with more criminals and therefore find it much easier to get on to more hardcore drugs and come out of prison less prepared to become a productive member of society.

Drug use is a health problem. That is clearly what it is first and foremost. You don’t punish those caught up in it if you can help them first. Those who are addicted to drugs can turn their lives around and shouldn’t be left to fend for themselves. We all need a helping hand in life from time-to-time and getting over addiction, whether it be drugs, alcohol, gambling or anything else is something people both want to do but they also need someone to help them.

This has been one of the best things Nick Clegg has said in a very, very long time. Rehabilitation is just as important as punishment for criminals and when you can help small-level criminals with drug issues, to a) help them get their lives back on track but also b) will long-term ensure their drug problem doesn’t get worse meaning they are less of an effective member of society and in turn more of a danger to others then it is something that we should do.

Drug use is a big issue and being tough on drug users has not really helped, so it is time to take a different approach and this is personally one that I’m very much in favour of.

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Written by neilmonnery

August 8th, 2014 at 12:14 pm

Posted in Politics

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Vote Green, Get UKIP. What uninformed bull-plop from local Labour bloggers

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A month or so ago Cllr. Ware-Lane wrote the blog post entitled Vote Green get UKIP and I shook my head in despair. It was utter bollocks and he knew it but I thought I would let it pass. I have come to understand that Julian’s knowledge of basic maths and reality isn’t the best. He uses one example where had the Greens not stood a candidate in Kursaal ward then Labour may have won and therefore concludes that if you vote Green then you get UKIP. One example folks. One example.

He decided to ignore other examples of where the maths would have been different had certain other parties not won. For example the January West Leigh by-election. Did we see a plethora of ‘Vote Labour, Get Tory’ blog posts? I don’t think so, even though had Labour not stood a candidate in that by-election then the likelihood is that the Liberal Democrat candidate would have won. This happens everywhere. In every council and in every parliamentary constituency. Certain parties will win or lose not because of the strength of their support but because of how the support against them is spread. If it is focused on one party then there is trouble, if it is spread amongst several parties then there is not. That is FPTP politics folks.

So anyway Matthew Dent weighed in recently on the same topic. Splitting the vote: Vote Green, Get UKIP where he comes to pretty much the same conclusion. That being that voting for the Green Party is pointless in a ward where they have no chance of winning and if they don’t want a UKIP councillor then they should back the party in the best position to stop UKIP. All well and good but Labour don’t do that so why should other parties fall in line?

There is an argument that parties should do reciprocal deals within boroughs to help get the most hated opposition out, whoever they are. In Southend that could mean Labour agreeing to not standing candidates in places like West Leigh, Prittlewell and St. Laurence where they are not winning any soon soon and can only help split the vote in the favour of the Tories and UKIP. In return this could mean Liberal Democrats could choose not to run in places like Kursaal, St. Lukes and Victoria, places where they aren’t winning any time soon. This would help both parties gain councillors but it would also stop potential Labour and Liberal voters in those wards from voting for who they actually want to vote for but is that fair or right?

Cllr. Ware-Lane, himself a West Leigh resident chose to support the Labour candidate unsurprisingly in the West Leigh by-election even though he knew it was a wasted vote and would help ensure the Tories won. Did he deride himself for doing this or did he exercise his democratic choice for voting for the party he wanted to win instead of choosing to back the party most likely of toppling the administration party at the time? I think we know the answer to that and this Vote Green, Get UKIP bollocks is exactly the same but in this instance quoted potentially hurt his party, Labour.

It is an issue with our electoral system but it is what it is and people need to stop moaning about it. The country had the chance to move towards a system that would enable the voter to have more influence on that make-up of their parliament (and no doubt councils would have followed) but they decided that because it was a Lib Dem idea that they didn’t want it. I would bet a fair few quid that if we went to the polls in this UKIP surge era then the vote would be a hell of a lot closer but that ship has sailed for now.

So unless Labour (and other parties) want to do deals borough wide then this is going to be the norm. Parties are going to win with under 50% of the vote and when in all likelihood the majority of those who voted wouldn’t want them to win. As politicians, or activists, or just members of the electorate then we are just going to have to deal with that fact. If people want to go out and vote Green then fair do’s and they shouldn’t be blamed or have it insinuated that their vote is the reason a party like UKIP won Kursaal ward. Most people vote for who they want to vote for and some choose to vote for the party most likely to defeat the party they dislike the most.

In some places Labour voters help get in the Tories or UKIP. In some places Green voters help get in Tories or UKIP. In some places Liberal voters help get in Tories or UKIP. In some places UKIP voters help get in Labour. In some places Tories help the Green party to win. In some places the SNP help the Liberals win. This thing happens everywhere and in every direction. To claim that a vote for the Green party helps UKIP citing one or two examples and ignoring all the other examples from all parties across the nation is just pure politics and not reality and that disappoints me frankly. It is lazy and it is cheap but most importantly it is wrong to make sweeping generalisations based on such minuscule ‘evidence’ and I’d hope for better but sadly I don’t expect it.

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Written by neilmonnery

August 1st, 2014 at 9:14 am

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?

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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.

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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

Tagged with , ,

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