Archive for the ‘politics’ tag
Manchester Gorton is one of Labour’s safest seats if we look solely at the numbers. A majority of over 24,000 coupled with none of the other parties clearing 10% means that is any normal by-election, it wouldn’t really interest politicos. Yet we don’t live in a normal political era anymore and anything can happen.
One of the biggest reasons it was so safe came down to having an extremely popular and long-time MP. As we saw in 2015 for the Lib Dems, popularity and incumbency couldn’t save a plethora of MPs but this wasn’t a problem for Labour here. Sir Gerald Kaufman never had a majority of under 5,000 and never was truly challenged by the Lib Dems. He never even dipped below 50% of the vote. Yet here I am with writing a blog post with the title it has so I suppose I should explain why.
First things first, politics is changing and as I’ve said before as people we are less likely to identify with our ideology at the moment but are more likely to identify with our status on the EU Referendum. Are we remainers of leavers first and foremost? I know I’d still identify as liberal above being a remainer but that sentiment is not the norm these days. This of course may well change in the relatively near future but in the immediacy, that is the case.
Second is the CLP is in complete disarray. There is a good piece in the Manchester Evening News entitled The Labour battle for Gorton, which details some of the issues going on within the local Labour party. Now this isn’t abnormal, this happens to all parties in various places at various times. Still since the rise of Jeremy Corbyn and his radical new agenda of not holding the government to account (ok I’m being slightly facetious here) but since his supporters have flooded in, many local parties are pulling in different directions. They have fierce disagreements of where the party should go.
This leads me to the third reason, what if Labour select a Brexiteer Corbynite? This would be a good place for them to roll out this strategy. It is what a lot of the newer Labour members want. Jeremy Corbyn’s public and private views on Brexit seem pretty much at odds. Publicly he supports staying in the EU but he only seems to bang on about the European Workers Directive as to why. He told Adam Hills when he appeared on The Last Leg that he wanted to stay in the EU ‘seven or seven and a half out of ten’ and that is not a ringing endorsement at all. So why not go with a Brexiteer in this seat?
Honestly if the Lib Dems were to make a staggering (and lets not beat about the bush here – it would be staggering) then it needs Labour to have this strategy. If they put up a passionate Pro-EU voice or someone who isn’t on the ultra left of the party then they should cruise home with ease. However with the way Labour are functioning at the moment, who knows what will happen?
As for how the Lib Dems manage to navigate their way through the Labour carnage should it come about, well it will not be easy. In Richmond Park they threw the proverbial kitchen sink at it, in an ultra Remain area and still only just squeaked home. This though whilst being a 61-62% Remain area (based on estimates) has one very different thing in play, this would be the first time in the post EU Referendum era where the Lib Dems are the primary opponents to a Labour hold. This in itself is going to be enough for politicos to watch what happens closely.
Can the Lib Dems make serious inroads into Labour in Remain areas? This will be the first indication of whether they can or not. The Lib Dems got over 30% in both 2005 and 2010 but saw their vote share collapse after the coalition in 2015. Very quickly we’ve seen those numbers start to reverse. The Lib Dems haven’t lost their deposit yet in a parliamentary by-election since the EU Referendum. They lost it in Manchester Gorton in 2015 but that means nothing for the upcoming by-election.
All logic will point to Labour winning with less than 50% of the vote. The Lib Dems should finish second with over 25% (my guesstimate at this point would be 28-32%) but there is plenty of time to go. Plenty of hoops to jump through. Remember Sarah Olney wasn’t winning in Richmond Park until the final 72 hours as a very well executed campaign came to a head.
If Labour pick the wrong candidate, if Jeremy Corbyn continues to have dire ratings and if the Lib Dems get the right person with a clever campaign strategy then you never know. The party are between 7 and 10/1 around. That seems about right at this juncture but I wouldn’t be blown away if they hit 3/1 before polling day.
This by-election will be far more interesting than the raw numbers suggest…
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Well what do we have here? The most pro EU area of the country has been a rather dramatic change in polling as the Lib Dems polled in the YouGov London sub-section yesterday at 23%, which I think we’d all agree is worthy of a second glance.
For a long time I have held the belief that London would be the most ripe part of the country for the #LibDemFightback to gain serious momentum. The Richmond Park result was huge as overturning a 23,015 majority in under 18 months isn’t exactly chopped liver. I will admit that this by-election had some very localised issues involved and Zac Goldsmith didn’t have the might of the Conservative party machine behind him but he was a relatively popular constituency MP and he went down.
If the party can overturn a 23,015 majority running on essentially a sole ‘Pro fighting Brexit’ ticket then why can’t they do that elsewhere in the capital? Plenty of seats are suddenly in play due to the fact the whole shape of politics is changing. The electorate aren’t stupid and they can see that the Labour party aren’t exactly sure where they stand on Brexit. They have two constituencies, the pro Brexit lobby in the midlands and north and the anti Brexit lobby in the capital and other big cities. They can’t be all things to all people so they will either damage one by going one way or both by standing in the middle with their fingers in their ears.
The party that will pick up those votes – certainly in the capital are the Lib Dems. The membership of the party is growing considerably and at a vast rate of knots in London. Plenty of seats therefore become winnable – far more than anyone could ever have predicted a year ago. As an example I’m looking at Vauxhall. A seat that has only ever had a Labour MP but their current MP is Kate Hoey, who is vehemently anti-EU but she represents an extremely pro EU constituency. A large part of Lambeth is in this Westminster constituency and that area voted 79% to Remain in the EU. When an MP is so out of step on Brexit with their constituents then all bets are off.
If you’d asked me a year ago how many seats do I think the Lib Dems would win in 2020, I’d have put the number at around 20. The stigma of tuition fees would have been diluted somewhat by time and seats such as Cambridge, Lewes and Eastleigh would swiftly return back to the yellow column. Add a few good local campaigns and that 20 mark seemed like a good guesstimate.
Now though with Brexit being the Lib Dems back into the picture as having a strong voice on a matter, add with the fact the Labour party do not have a strong leader nor a strong voice on Brexit and even though we are over three years out and plenty could change, suddenly 40-50 seats isn’t beyond the realm of possibility.
Remember since the party was formed, the Lib Dems have done best in years where the winner of the General Election was generally well known going into polling day. When this happens people aren’t necessarily voting for who they want to be Prime Minister but are thinking much more locally about who they want to represent them.
Back to London though, this could be the start of the new politics that many people think could happen as we start to identify ourselves as Remainers and Leavers and not as Labour, Tory, UKIP, Lib Dem etc… if the party can build on the momentum we have both at local and at national level then a rebirth some the lows of 2015 could happen far earlier than any of us expected.
London isn’t the golden goose but it can certainly be a springboard. 23% of a small sub-section of one poll is statistically insignificant but it is a guide to what could happen. To see the Labour polling number collapsing in the capital and when you add in that for every 2015 voter Labour have lost to UKIP nationally, they’ve lost five to the Lib Dems, then the door might be opening for a big change not only against the Tories in south and south western seats but also against Labour in the big cities.
Everything is to play for…
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Sometimes in life you just need a good belly chuckle. Some of us get this from recalling a funny incident from our past, maybe by watching a YouTube video or two, maybe some of us are so ticklish that a few clearly stroked feathers will induce laughter from the gut. Some of us though just look at what is going on in UKIP, have a wry smile and laugh.
The Douglas Carswell/Nigel Farage feud has been rumbling on for years. Pretty much ever since the former defected from the Conservative party to join the UKIP ranks. He became their first MP. One more would come in the form of Mark Reckless. He though would lose in 2015 and Nigel Farage would fail to win a seat in the House of Commons (yet again) leaving Carswell as their only elected representative in the chamber.
This doesn’t sit well with Farage. Not solely because he’s jealous as deep down he still thinks of himself as the top dog within the party but mainly because Carswell is relatively sensible and doesn’t think a radical agenda is what the party needs.
This morning Nigel Farage was on BBC Radio 4 and said the following about how he thinks the party should move forward regarding Carswell:
“The time has now come to have a clean break. To make sure we don’t have influences like Carswell taking us away from the key arguments like immigration.
“There have been some in UKIP who want to turn us into a mainstream political party with very bland messages and I would say Ukip is a radical party or it is nothing.
“This question of immigration is still the number one issue in the minds of voters in this country. UKIP must not be squeamish about it. People like Douglas Carswell wrote in the Times last year we should not make immigration synonymous with EU membership. I thought, ‘Crikey, I have spent 10 years trying to do that very thing’.”
Of course this comes mere days after it was widely reported (and yet to be refuted) that it was Douglas Carswell who blocked attempts to give Nigel Farage a knighthood. This action alone is enough for me to raise my bottle of coke to Carswell in appreciation. Not that Farage will be pissed off by that of course. No, not at all…
The future of the UK Independence Party is a big question considering they’ve seemingly achieved their goal. They say they have other policies but it was always a one-issue party. They wanted to pull the UK out of the EU and they look set to do just that. Where they go from here is a question that politicos have long been pondering. Farage wants it to become even more radical. He has seen what is going on in America and believes there is a future for a party who want to pursue an extreme agenda. Carswell has always thought that by sitting just to the right of the Tories they could become less toxic and more electable. Something old Nige fiercely disagrees with.
Yet if you sit back and look at UKIP’s electoral success in the House of Commons, it boils down to two people winning by-elections as incumbents having defected and only one of them was able to just hold on in the 2015 General Election (with a greatly reduced majority). They have had no history of success and even in by-elections at the height of UKIP’s public hype they failed where they didn’t have a Tory incumbent defending his seat. In Stoke they had every opportunity to win but they decided to field a terrible candidate (who happens to be their own leader) whose campaign put people right off both him and the party.
If we had Proportional Representation then Farage’s radical anti-everything agenda could see a swathe of UKIP MPs but we have a FPTP system in place and there just isn’t the amount of people in a concentrated area to ever see a truly radical right-wing party make any sort of significant impact in a General Election. To be successful going forward they need to drag themselves towards the Tories and essentially become a hard line Tory party. That could bring in many more voters. Yet all Farage wants to do is keep doubling down on being increasingly right-wing.
From where I sit it looks like Nigel Farage wants to be the main man yet again. Luckily for him the media fawn over him so he’s able to get whatever exposure he wants. He misses the limelight and knows that with Douglas Carswell in the fray, he’ll never completely be the boss. If he moves him out of the way then he can once more ascend to the throne and with Donald Trump now in the White House, who knows what influence that can bring?
This internal row is a rare bright light in the cloudy overcast world that we all currently live in. The future of UKIP is just as cloudy and overcast as the world we all inhabit, the sad truth though for me at least is their legacy is likely to live on far beyond this row and far beyond whenever UKIP either becomes a political irrelevance or disbands.
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Mark Clattenberg has decided it is time to up sticks and walk away from being the best referee in not only the UK but in all of Europe and take on a new role in Saudi Arabia. I have no doubt it is mostly due to bundles of money that he has been offered and I have no issue at all with him making that decision. I mean who wouldn’t take a massive salary hike to to a similar job elsewhere? We all would.
The reason why I am likening it to politics is just watching the comments on this coming in is the fact that football fans are celebrating his decision. It is clear that he’s the best referee in the business but people because of their opinions based not on facts but on biased personal opinions they welcome the fact he won’t be refereeing games involving their clubs any more.
Football fans generally think that all referees are biased against their teams. It is only natural I suppose. They’ll remember the bad decisions they got but won’t recall the correct ones. Most refs get the vast majority of decisions right and those that they don’t, they often get wrong not because of bias but because they saw it at a bad angle or whatever. People makes mistakes but apparently football referees are not allowed to do so.
Now on to the politics aspect. People like to hear politicians who agree with their point of view. They don’t like to be challenged. This is why we’ve seen a rise in extreme views being either accepted or at least more widely reported than we did in the past.
People liked the fact we’d bring back £350m a week to the NHS because it synced up with what they wanted so they felt happy to believe it. It was of course total bollocks and a lie but that doesn’t matter. If someone says something that just enhances what you thought already then you are more likely to just go with it and believe it. Look at Donald Trump in the States, lie after lie after lie but people were willing to believe him because he just reinforced what they already thought.
People want to think Mark Clattenberg is rubbish because then suddenly they can point to games where he’s made decisions against their team and say that they only lost because of his bad decision making. It then stops the blame going towards the players and then they can feel good about their team once more. Simple eh?
Remember Clattenberg was widely disliked by the powers that be within the FA. Former referees David Elleray and Mike Riley are widely reported to have not been a fan and actively pushed the FA to not award him the FA Cup Final and to send Martin Atkinson to the Euro’s instead of Clattenberg. When Pierluigi Collina found out he changed the rules to get Clattenberg to Euro 2016 by granting him a wildcard. He got the Champions League Final and the Euro 2016 Final. He also got the FA Cup Final basically because the powers that be at the FA realised how dumb they would look by giving the final to someone else.
It is another link to how politics works. Sometimes peoples personal views taint what they are actually voting for. In the EU Referendum we saw many people vote out just to piss off the Westminster Elite. They thought it was worth giving them a bloody nose for that reason. People went away from the Lib Dems in their droves in 2015 in large part as a punishment for going into coalition with the Tories and now look at what has happened in the past 21 months and think ‘what did we do?’
Personal opinions will often trump reasoned points of views. People will often only appreciate what they had after it is gone. Whether it be the Lib Dems or Mark Clattenberg. The first is starting to see that people really are missing them. The local by-election results have shown us that the Lib Dem vote share is flying.
I am sure in the near future as we now have even fewer referees with the temperament and ability to handle big games they’ll start to miss Clattenberg as well as the microscope will focus in hard on the likes of Atkinson, Oliver and Taylor and if they make big mistakes in games people will just ponder, ‘where is Mark Clattenberg when you need him…?’
That is how I describe modern day politics all over the world. Can it be just eight years since a black man was first elected as the leader of the free world? That win was born out due to both hope and disappointment in the other choice. A landslide victory in a two-horse race doesn’t solely come down to people liking you, but in people liking the alternative less. We are seeing the same thing happen in the States now but instead of two politicians going at it, an angry man is fanning the flames of hate in an attempt to gain power and whether he’s ultimately successful or not, the fact that he’s in the race in the first place says everything.
Here in the UK we don’t have a two-party system but the truth is people are becoming radicalised and instead of progress they want change. People who want change think that the game is fundamentally wrong and the only way to change it is by doing a complete u-turn. For generations the major party closest to the political centre has won because that is where the majority of the voters lie and here’s the kicker, they still do but the activist bases are increasingly moving further and further apart.
Jeremy Corbyn has essentially won the soul of the Labour Party by tapping into this base of people who think the game needs to be changed. The game is rigged against them they think and he’s the man who speaks up for them. They are supercharged and energised to fight for him and for what he believes in. They do not believe he can do anything wrong and wherever he’s erred according to the media, it is the medias fault for highlighting it. By vetting him on his actions it proves that they have bias against him so goes the logic. It just dumbfounds me.
The people in Labour should rally behind him and back him. If they don’t like him as leader then they should get out. Yet when it is pointed out that he himself rebelled against his previous leaders more than any other Labour MP during the 1997-2010 Labour government, it is stated that he is principled and fighting for what he believes in. You can’t have it both ways yet many believe that you can. You can call Jeremy principled for standing up for what he thought was right under a previous leader because he is just one man but when lots of people disagree then that is just plain wrong. You have to laugh.
As a sidebar anecdote, as many of you know who read this I am hilariously unattractive and one of the worst human beings on the planet in terms of potentially forming a relationship with (true story) but I potter around on dating websites from time to time and on around a third of the profiles I click on on OkCupid, they’ll be some form of line saying something like ‘don’t message me if you are a Tory or ever voted for them’ or ‘Tories are evil’ something along those lines.
Now I’ve never voted Tory nor ever considered voting for them but if I found an amazing woman who had voted Tory or even still did, would that automatically mean that I wouldn’t want to date them? Hell no. That type of shallow shit is furthering the ‘us’ and ‘them’ narrative that I fear is taking over many people’s thought process.
This goes to another issue that I think has helped causes this division between people. The social media era. I got involved in a Facebook thread last week (which I try not to do because they are a distraction from the important things in my life – MasterChef Australia) but one thing I brought up that people disagreed with was that in this social media, we can talk to many more people than we would before it and we tend to talk to people who broadly agree with us. People who we find we disagree with regularly we tend to block or disconnect with. We don’t like to have our opinions questions, we prefer to have them confirmed.
I firmly believe that if you surround yourself with people who think like you then you are bound to become more cock-sure that you are correct. Most of us will have friends on Facebook from school who say voted radically different to us in the EU Referendum. We’ll have been shocked by it and wonder where they went wrong. Back in the day when you went to school with them you won’t have cared that they had differing political views than you. Some won’t care now. Yet I bet you a significant number of people who are extremely politically motivated will resassess those friendships with those who thought differently to them on such a passionate issue.
As people we want to be right and if we are to be right then those who disagree with us must be wrong.
The problem with that sentence is of course that if we are to believe that then we have to believe that everything is a black and white issue. Right and wrong. In reality that is very rarely the case in any form of life except facts. An opinion can never be wholly right or wholly wrong. The thing is the ore we surround ourselves with people with the same opinions, the easier we’ll see our opinions as facts and fall into groupthink.
Across the world we are seeing radical people and voices rising us because they feel emboldened by having their views re-enforced by others on social media. It is more accepted to have a strong view that goes against conventional wisdom because you can easily find many more with the same view. Donald Trump is pretty clearly a misogynist and a racist. Put those two things together and you can’t see how he’d ever gain political traction but yet here he is. He has gained traction because he is exploiting those fears that the Leave campaign exploited in the EU Referendum. Emotional fears based not on facts but on opinion. With more and more people being able to share opinions, the groupthink net widens and voila, here we are.
In the Democratic nomination process Bernie Sanders would likely have won had he not had such a slow start. Had he been able to gain traction say two-three months earlier or at least put together a real plan that he’d run a year or two before he did then he likely wins. It is because party members want it all. They don’t want compromise. They want to be 100% right.
Bernie of course also did very well with independents because he appealed to those who thought with ideals instead of electability. The middle ground is no longer a safe place politically (bugger) because you are right or you are wrong. Had the Republicans nominated John Kasich against Hillary Clinton then Kasich would have likely won in a landslide. He was the candidate that people wouldn’t have to hold their nose for, would have appealed to the broad independent base and even Reagan Democrats. He was a slam dunk winner but remember, political leaders aren’t voted for by the electorate but by the membership.
That is what Labour here in the UK have to understand. Yes Corbyn has won two internal elections of Labour members but does that automatically translate into a wider electoral success? No it does not. If there was a vote within my own family as to who the person was who’d make the best next England manager, I would win in a landslide. If I open up that vote to include non-Monnery candidates then I think I might struggle. That is of course an extremely analogy but winning an internal vote amongst people who are energised by you does not equate to winning over the larger electorate who are deeply sceptical.
Yet if you speak to a Corbyn (or a Trump) supporter you’ll often make them saying very similar things. The media is out to get them. Their man is right and everyone else is oh so wrong. They don’t see nuance and they don’t question their leader on any level. The extremes of politics say exactly the same thing regarding their electability, they have exactly the same excuses when they get negative press and they both not only worship their leaders but also believe anyone who disagrees is not only wrong but also a bad person who they don’t want to associate with.
The extreme left and extreme right aren’t very different when it comes down to it. They both want someone to blame and someone to hold up as the gold standard. The more politics (and indeed society) goes down the route of ‘us’ and ‘them’ the more the human race goes back to a period I had hoped was in our past. I wrote a few months back that the older I get the more I realise that life is less black and white than I thought when I was younger. I fear that for many the opposite is true and that is not good for anybody.
Lets not beat around the bush. I am a Nick Clegg guy. A total Nick Clegg guy. I have always been a Liberal Democrat voter but Nick is the reason why I’m a card carrying member. Nothing against any leader before or since but there was something extremely special about Nick Clegg. He could’ve been a great leader of this country but instead it’ll be a generation before people truly understand what they’ve missed out on by essentially nailing him to the cross based mainly on the tuition fees situation and of course some voters believing that working with the Tories in any capacity was treachery.
In the past week we’ve seen much upheaval in the political sphere. A Labour Party held at gunpoint by a leader who has an army of followers but no way to ever win a war at a wider level and a Conservative Party where the big beast expected to be Prime Minister has bottled it after one of the most egregious pieces of back stabbing we’ve seen in modern political history by one of the nastiest and slimiest MPs around.
Amongst all that the Lib Dems have seen a surge in new members, over 12,000 in the past week at last count and having already spoken to a few around where I live in Southend, I was surprised (and very pleased) that none of them so far have had a bad word to say about Nick Clegg. Quite the opposite in fact. This gives me the sense that some of the stigma surrounding the party is starting to evaporate and that opens up big opportunities for the party.
I don’t think its exactly breaking news that I’m sceptical about our leader, not in his convictions, I think on that issue he ticks the boxes but in terms of being at ease in the spotlight and being a natural orator then I think there are still questions to answer. Yet his speech at Conference in 2015 was fast rate, it was passionate, it was heartfelt and it gave hope. The big question now is whether he can make enough waves to get the media attention when the party are now arguably the fifth most important in the United Kingdom political sphere behind the big beasts, UKIP and the SNP.
What the past week has shown though is the Lib Dems now clearly stand for something. They have that headline sign around their neck. The Lib Dems are very much Pro-EU. This means they are pro international business, they are pro the City of London being the heart of the world’s financial sector, they are pro small business. They are pro the freedom of movement of people across the EU, they are pro having an open and tolerant multicultural society.
It is something I think many Lib Dems have struggled with in recent years, telling people via canvassing or leafleting exactly what the party stand for. Did they stand for keeping the Tories in check (which I still think they did very well considering the electoral math against them) or did they stand for just local issues and try to ignore the national scene. The sad truth is national swings will often effect local races when they shouldn’t so I’m always been a proponent of talking about national issues as well as local ones, this isn’t something that has been widely shared amongst some that I know.
Still now is an opportunity for people to join or rejoin the party and the softening of the distrust and dislike of the party by the voters. This isn’t going to change overnight but the Lib Dems now sit at the heart of the centre-left on the ideological spectrum, a position not too far away from where Tony Blair won office in three consecutive landslides from 1997 to 2005.
The Labour Party are in complete disarray, their leader is so far left that they are now unelectable and he can’t even command his own party. Either he goes or his party splits and should that happen and a split Labour Party alliance or amalgamation with the Lib Dems and suddenly the centre-left once more has a party at the heart of it. This isn’t beyond the realm of possibility and in this era of political uncertainty, things move fast and flexibility will be key but the signs are everything is in play.
Over in the blue camp, they are undergoing a leadership contest where it is assumed that a pretty hard-lined right-winger in Theresa May is set to win. Should that come to fruition then she will drag the party away from the centre ground where David Cameron has cleverly put it to win a surprise second term at Prime Minister. With the Tories potentially abandoning the centre, Labour way out left and UKIP way out right, imagine a progressive party sitting in that centre-left spot consisting of non Corbynista Labour and the Lib Dems. Has some real potential no?
Still that is a long way off, for now the Liberal Democrats now have a clear identity. They know who they are and can mix the national scene with local politics once again. The Lib Dems aren’t just Tory-lite or Tory-curbers, they have their own clear electoral platform. Whether they take this opportunity, well we’ll find out in time but as it stands they are the only party in England who firmly want to stay in the EU and aren’t placed on either extreme flank of political ideology.
If you believe in this country being part of the world and not a backwater island, want the country to be a player on the world stage, want to keep down racism and xenophobia and hopefully eradicate it altogether, want to be part of an all-inclusive multicultural society and want the next generation to have the opportunities that we had then at this moment there is one clear political party for you. I’m not saying the Lib Dems are the greatest things since Cherry Bakewells (we’re not) but we do believe in looking forward and not backwards and know exactly what direction we want to take the country in and that isn’t something either the red or blue teams can say at this juncture.
Well that was fun wasn’t it? Wait, no, that isn’t right, that was a fucking disaster and one of the most stupid things that any country has ever done it itself. Bugger.
Still, whilst my views on the result are pretty clear, I am pretty fed up with people who are ragging on those who voted in a different way or want a second referendum. You don’t just keep going until you get the decision you want (I’m looking at you Scotland…) that isn’t how democracy works. So I don’t want a second referendum and won’t sign a petition to say such a thing. I would love to go into my time machine and shows 17million people the first 24 hours in the markets where if we spread out the loses in just one day total £6,000 for all of us but alas my time travelling capabilities are still pretty rustic.
The truth is three sets of people voted to leave and two of them I don’t have an issue with. Firstly the racists and xenophobes, I think you are quite awful people for a variety of reasons but if that is how you voted sincerely then so be it, I can’t rag you for having an opinion (no matter how horrendous I believe those opinions are).
Secondly those people who genuinely believe they know better than the overwhelming majority of economists, I think you are stupid when you say things like, ‘what do experts know?’ and I wonder to myself when you go to the doctor, do you ask the receptionist to oversee your visit or do you listen to the fucking person employed to try and fix you? When your car breaks down do you wander over to your local coffee shop and ask the barista to take a look at it or do you go to the mechanic? I think I’ve made my point but if you sincerely believe that you know what is best for the economy then so be it, you are a moron but entitled to be a moron.
The third group though, which is significant, are people I can’t can’t get on board with at all. These are the people who used this referendum that would change the way the world sees us, change the way laws are made, change the economy is a frighteningly devastatingly manner, these people voted just as a protest or to show the Tories and/or the Westminster elite that they were angry. Bravo people, bravo. It is like tearing down your plasma TV from the wall and smashing it on the floor because England can’t score against Slovakia. It makes you feel good for a few seconds but then you realise what an eejit you’ve been and how it is going to cost you. If you voted to leave and are in this camp then I quite simply do not have time for you.
There are plenty of reasons about why Great Britain voted to become little England and I don’t have time to write 10,000 words on all of them so I’ll just touch on a few of them.
I would like to start with the banking crisis and the way the media portrayed it. This was the seed that would grow into the anger that a lot of the country felt on Thursday. The belief that the bankers caused the financial mess and pretty much got away scot free. This perception was fuelled by the media and bankers because one of (if not the) most distrusted set of people in the country for a short while. It was fun to bash the bankers and it was also an easy way to get a laugh. Comedians lived off of banker attacks for several years and whilst it was a cheap and easy laugh, all it did was intensify the resentment for the City of London amongst many people.
I touched on the media there and there is no doubt in my mind that they deserve a large slice of the blame due to the lazy journalism that has swept through the industry for many years. Good journalism is hard and is often expensive to produce because it takes time and money to investigate fully. If you are an owner of a media outlet and can get a million clicks for a story about Chris Evans and Matt leBlanc feuding about hosting Top Gear for near even free or pay for two journalists to investigate and write about the real banking crisis then what are you going to do? You are going to be lazy. That is just modern journalism for many media outlets.
For years they pilloried Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems for being ‘liars’ or ‘caring more about ministerial cars’ and yet what was it, all of the dailies bar the Guardian, Daily Mirror and Morning Star endorsed some form a Lib Dem influence on the 2015-2020 government knowing that they had actually done a good job? Well do you know what thickwads (which isn’t a word) if you tell your readership for five years how fucking awful a political party is and how much of a lying toerag their leader is, don’t be surprised if at the very little minute one editorial doesn’t erase the five years of horse shit you’ve shovelled.
Next up the political parties themselves, the Tory party essentially were playing with house money and finally came up against a Royal Flush and still bet big. They danced with losing Scotland but kept it just about. Then they won a General Election that no-one expected them to due to Labour being shit, everyone hating the Lib Dems and as it turns out, they may have been fiddling the books and just buying the election if multiple police investigations bear any fruit. They felt invincible and the Prime Minister thought he could finish the EU situation once and for all and go down in history as the man who governed for the best part of two terms, kept the union together, destroyed a real rival in the south and kept the country in the EU on favorable terms.
However history will say that he was the man who lost the referendum and oversaw the rise of intolerance within his nation and of course it is possible he’ll be the man that causes a long and deep recession. All because he wanted to roll the dice once last time on a big issue that he wasn’t sure he could win. As any gambler will tell you, at some point your luck runs out and boy did luck run out for the PM. Sadly for all of us, we’ll also share in the suffering and it won’t be just him who deals with the embarrassment.
I thought the PM was right to resign and essentially roll a hospital pass to his successor. Why should the PM deal with the shit storm that is coming? Yes he helped create it but he at least tried to stop it and put the genie back in the bottle. He has colleagues (and probable successors) who actively wanted to leave so why don’t they help shape the new emboldened UK, free from EU red tape. The sombre look on Michael Gove and Boris Johnson’s faces on Friday morning said more than 1,000 words could. They won yet are mortified that they helped create this and now have to deal with the repercussions.
Now on to Jeremy Corbyn, the spineless leader of the Labour party (at the time of writing, I haven’t checked Twitter in 20 mins or so) whose lukewarm endorsement of the EU essentially shifted the balance of power. Had the Corb thrown his weight fully behind the remain camp then that side would have in all likelihood won. Yet his history of railing against the EU and clear wanting to not share a platform or fully campaign alongside Tories led in part to the result on Thursday. Jeremy Corbyn played politics with the future and he helped screw all those young people he said he cared deeply about just because he didn’t like David Cameron and the Tories.
I hope Jeremy sleeps well at night because he has to take a large swathe of the blame to go around and that is why the Labour party are ready to revolt against him. Corbyn has been in power less than a year and in that time he has helped destroy the EU and is on the verge of seeing Labour genuinely split and officially break apart. Not a bad years work for the lad…
Whilst many people were surprised at the result, some of course are already saying they predicted it, that politicos only exist within their own bubble and don’t know what real people think out in the world. I surround myself mostly with people who wanted to remain as part of a reformed EU, these are the people I speak to and work with. People for who a strong economy and opportunity for them and their loved ones are a priority. People for whom multiculturalism is a good thing and that there is a great big world out there and we are but a small part of it. The overwhelming majority of those people are absolutely gutted today knowing that the future is bleaker, not just for them but for those they care about.
On the other side of the ledger I do know some people who voted to leave and they mostly sit in the casual xenophobic camp. People who have never themselves actually had an issue with foreigners, never lost a job because of a foreigner yet will blame them for hogging up the road or for being ill and ensuring they can’t get a doctors appointment when they need one or believe that foreigners are living on our benefits system. I shake my head and despair and ask them for proof of these things but they just say they know and that I can’t see because my head is too far up my own backside. I don’t live in the real world accordingly to them because…well I don’t know why but I presume it is because I disagree with them politically and anyone who does so doesn’t live in the real world.
As some of you know I work from home so often have the idiot box on in the corner and I like to watch/half watch Homes under the Hammer most mornings so after that there is sometimes a show on the BBC called ‘Saints and Scroungers’ where people are talking about their need for housing benefit. I have casually watched this and I’d say 95% of the ‘saints’ are white English folk and 95% of the ‘scroungers’ are people of foreign descent. I’m relatively sure this isn’t a good indicator of the housing benefit issues facing the country but is just lazy propaganda by the BBC that reinforces some peoples view about the world that they live in.
It is also true that is the vast majority of instances on Thursday, places with a lower rate of immigration voted far more to leave than in places where immigrants live to a more significant degree. In places like Yorkshire, Cornwall, Wales, the Isle of Wight and even around where I live in Southend, where the immigration rates are extremely low voted to leave. It either shows that people voted for immigration reasons based on what they think they know and not what they’ve actually experienced or that immigration wasn’t the issue and I think immigration was the key.
We as a country have made great strides forward to becoming a more open and tolerant society, for example on LGBT issues know whilst there are some dickheads who will still hassle people for the way they choose to live their life or who who they love, steps have been going in the right direction. We aren’t there yet but things are better now. Yet in large parts of the country on Thursday, people voted to show the world that we are more intolerant. People have showed that abusing those who are different is to be more accepted and my word is that a depressing state of affairs.
For me the EU Referendum question was a no brainer, I didn’t even have to think about it because I knew firmly that the best thing for the country was to remain. For economic reasons it just isn’t a question and for tolerance issues that shows the world that we are an open and accepting people. We had it great with the EU, we had an unbelievable deal that gave us the Veto on many important issues and all number of preferential treatments. Instead though we’ve seemingly decided to throw it all away to go our own way.
The fact we have potentially shot ourselves in the foot economically speaking is maddening and stupid but the fact we’ve embraced xenophobia and latent racism is the real result of Thursday. We’ve decided that our place isn’t in the world, it is as an island on our own. We, the country that invaded and conquered most of the world, have now turned our back on the rest of the globe and its 7billion people and want England just for us because we know better. The arrogance of it all is just bewildering.
Yet we have made our bed. It is time to lie in it. It sucks but that is life. I’m just grateful that I’m not going to have any kids because the next generation are going to have it so much tougher than we had. We lived in a golden era of opportunity where anything seemed possible. For the kids of my friends, that will not be the case and for those children I can only apologise. Had young people engaged and gone out to vote then everything would’ve been different but what was it, 36% of 18-24 year-olds voted, a statistic in itself that should send shivers through the spine.
There is plenty of blame to go around and not one person, party or segment of society can shoulder all of it. This is the country we’ve created where lazy journalism wins, where short-term political ambitions are more important than issues that will shape the next 100 years of this country, where internal party feuds are decided by national referendums, where intolerance and distrust of anyone different isn’t lambasted but welcomed and where the disenfranchised can vote for something as a protest not realising that what they thought they voted for wasn’t actually what they voted for.
It has been a good couple of months since I’ve even clicked on my blog link to write anything. I just haven’t had the gumption as I remember no-one really gives two hoots about what I write and I’ve been busy being an NFL columnist elsewhere. Yet the one subject that has always threatened to drag me back kicking and screaming has been the internal debate on All Women Shortlists for the Lib Dems because the parliamentary party is too ‘male and pale’ (although AWS doesn’t even attempt to fix the pale part but still).
It looks likely (has it been confirmed?) that it will be debated and voted on at Spring Conference. It is going to be the most divisive internal debate the party has faced in a long time. You have people who believe AWS are needed to fix the problem at the top and those who believe that AWS doesn’t fix the issue and that AWS goes against the whole ethos of a liberal party. I think it is generally well known what camp I’m in and if it isn’t, lets put it this way, I believe in equality. That should make it clear.
Before I get into the nuts and bolts of this, I have been told by more than one prominent female in the party that I shouldn’t be able to have an opinion on this matter because I don’t know what it is like being a woman. Only women know the issues that they face and therefore only women’s opinions matter on this subject. That is nice. I’m sure these women (and others who express a similar sentiment but haven’t told me) haven’t cheered when a multitude of men have come out in favour of AWS. They have instead lambasted them for having an opinion. I’m sure this is exactly what has happened.
Anyway into the issues facing the party on diversity. They are very real and one that the party needs to be addressing. I think the amount of people who don’t think there is an issue (to varying degrees) are relatively small in number and percentile. So the big question AWS looks at is how to fix the problem at parliamentary level. This has speeded up considerably since May 2015. The Lib Dems were left with just eight MPs, all of them white and all of them unable to wear a dress in the House of Commons without violating the dress code.
I have seen many men point to this has the reason for them finally switching over from against AWS to supporting it. The reason that all our MPs are men is enough evidence in itself that there is a problem they say. What these people seem to forget is the total obliteration of the Lib Dem vote in 2010. Total obliteration. The only way any woman had any chance of being elected in 2015 in retrospect is if Nick Clegg or Tim Farron resigned or stood down and a woman was selected for Sheffield Hallam or Westmoreland. This is saying absolutely nothing about the quality of female candidates, but just looking at things objectively.
Clegg was very much the ‘Marmite’ candidate of 2015 and there was a clear Anti-Clegg vote. However on the flip-side many Tories lent him their vote to keep him in. Would they have done that for another Lib Dem candidate? we’ll never know. Also Tim had a huge majority and a lot of that is very much a personal vote, yet there is an off chance the Lib Dems survive without him in 2015 in his seat. The other six holds, the likelihood of a hold without the incumbency bounce is minimal (whether the new candidate was male or female).
So using 2015 as an accurate measuring stick about the Lib Dems and women is like me putting up pictures from ten years ago on a online dating profile, not strictly accurate.
In 2015, many Lib Dem MPs who stood down were replaced by female candidates and none of them won because as history has showed us, no-one was going to make a Lib Dem gain in 2015. The deep rooted dislike of the party was far more widespread than many of us ever thought. Most thought (me included) that people would still vote Lib Dem (certainly in LD/Con) seats as the Lib Dems were holding back the Tories but instead most people actually said they preferred the Tories to the Lib Dems and what happened, happened. David Laws lost Yeovil FFS and look at Eastbourne and Lewes.
So plenty of excellent female candidates were given chances in seats where we were either the incumbent party or were a close second. These women were impressive and were given the candidacy in these good seats without the need for AWS. Going forward even though no seats have formally adopted their candidates for 2020 yet (as far as I’m aware) due to the possibility of border changes, I have noted well known women and potential candidates moving across the country into seats that are going to be considered target seats in 2020. You would assume that they aren’t doing this for fun and that they have a nod and a wink that they are going to be the 2020 candidate.
I think it is fair to say that in 2015, women made up the majority (yes majority) of new candidates in our top seats. The numbers bare (or is it bear) that out. Isn’t that exactly the type of thing AWS is meant to do and we did it without the need for it?
Personally I have always felt the biggest issue facing some women and some men who are looking to progress upwards is the support that they need. Both emotional and financial. To put yourself out there to be a candidate is quite a decision. The Lib Dems as we all know have no safe seats and to win you are essentially putting in at least four years of work for no money with no guarantees. Many will have to move across the country, find new employment and find time to embed themselves into a new community. It is no easy task.
You are basically living two lives within one body, you are a full-time worker to earn money and also a full-time candidate. This is extremely difficult and causes a lot of stress. It is partly why a greater proportion of candidates are of a vintage that have progressed up the career ladder to the point where they have more flexible working hours and are financially more secure than others.
I think that addressing this situation is actually far more key than ensuring that there are some seats that are designated as women only. This help needs to be ensuring that chosen candidates get help to find new work, a strong team around them to help them and of course some sort of financial help to ensure that they can afford to live and be the strong candidate that the party members believe them to be. We need to put candidates into the best position to be themselves as possible. Be the best they can be. This is a far bigger issue for the party to help get younger candidates and those with a less stable financial situation to get involved and put themselves up for key seats.
We can all agree (well ok, only some of us) can agree that we want everybody who wants to put themselves forward to get the leg up and support they need. Former MP for Redcar Ian Swales has written about the issue on LibDemVoice and some of the comments from people on twitter and Facebook make me despair. It is a well reasoned and thought out piece. He points out that plenty of excellent candidates got put in a position where in a normal year for the Lib Dems, they were in places where they could do damage and for some of them, win. 2015 though was an anomaly and we got our backsides handed to us. His comments that AWS is only a solution if women aren’t being selected by local parties is dead right, we all know this, that is obvious but some people still disagree for reasons unbeknown to me.
Going forward this debate will become extremely bitter. People are very much entrenched into their positions. I’ve seen supporters of AWS tell people who disagree that they are sexist for disagreeing with the idea. So someone who thinks that the genders should be treated as equals is sexist and that if you think they shouldn’t, then you aren’t. Sexism has moved on seemingly. This will not be pretty. However it goes down in York some people will be bitterly disappointed and disillusioned with the party. Some will wonder if the party is about equality any more or if they are all about ticking quotas whereas if AWS doesn’t go through, some will call it the old establishment ensuring that women are disadvantaged (because they aren’t being given an extra advantage due to their gender).
It is not going to be pretty. It will help split the party however it goes down. At a time when Labour are in a nasty civil war over the future direction of the party, we have decided it is time to answer whether we are about equality or inequality.
When you have an issue you have to seek a solution. When the solution doesn’t fix the problem then you really aren’t doing much. If women aren’t getting selected for key Westminster seats when they are vacant and have no incumbent then AWS would be a solution. The numbers though suggest clearly that this isn’t the case. the fact we have a 8:0 men to women ratio in the HoC has little to do with internal party wrangling on women and all to do with a disliked party, a poor campaign and a proper shellacking. The optics do suck but they are just that, optics.
I can see why people are passionate on both sides. However if AWS was instigated in 2015, we don’t have any extra female MPs and how many extra female candidates are in key seats? We put up an overwhelming selection of women in seats we held but had an MP standing down and even on the next step down, plenty of strong female candidates were selected. Women are getting selected where they are seemingly the best candidate and isn’t that the key?
Seats like Lewes, Yeovil, the seats in SW London will be top of the tree for the Lib Dems come 2020 and excellent women seem to be the frontrunners for the vast majority of those seats. Excellent. They have seemingly been given the nod and a wink not because the local party were told they could only select women but because they went out and found fabulous people who happened to be women and essentially head-hunted them.
The cream will always rise to the top. If a woman is the best candidate who applies for a seat then they’ll get selected. I do think that the other issue of financial and emotional support is a much more pressing one, to attract younger voices and those who aren’t as financially secure into politics and into key seats for the party. That is a much more liberal way to potentially help open up the parliamentary party to other backgrounds.
Still what do I know, I’m but a man and as I’ve been told, I can’t hold an opinion of this subject because of this fact.
This really isn’t about the Lib Dem position on Syria but more about the hysteria from the membership about our position. This evening Nick Clegg (this is apparently another bone of contention) announced/was on Sky News and said that the Lib Dem MPs would be backing the government proposal to join with our allies in bombing on ISIL targets in Syria.
I’m in a strange position here as I essentially have no position on what we should do because I quite simply do not have enough information to form a considered opinion. What I do know is these MPs have more information than I do and and therefore in a much better position to form an opinion than myself. I would also contend that they have more information than most (if not all) Lib Dem members but as I’ve found out, they all know many things, apart from those who don’t, but they are wrong.
Recently on this very blog I was called many names and told I was uneducated because I had an opinion on something. On that subject I had far more information on which to form an opinion because that is what I do. I form opinions on subjects based on the information at my disposal, those opinions are fluid depending on learning more information. Therefore my opinion can change but unless I have at least some information then I find it hard to form an opinion on a subject. Others seemingly don’t have that problem.
Over on Lib Dem Voice, the comment thread underneath the article on this news is quite something to behold. I’ve also read elsewhere of people who are seriously considering their positions within the party and whether they can be associated with the party any more. I find this puzzling, I really do. There is a difference between ideology and the real world and if you don’t believe that there is then no wonder some people are perpetually disappointed.
Next up the whole fact that Nick Clegg spoke on it, seriously why is this a fucking issue? Tim is said to be writing to all the members as I type and that e-mail could well be in my inbox before I post this. Nick Clegg is one of only eight MPs we have and if Tim wants to go and write his letter to the members then so be it. I’m surprised some people haven’t got annoyed about the fact it was on Sky News.
As I’ve said already, I have no real opinion as I don’t have any information but here is what we do know. We know that these are bad bad people. They have already murdered Brits, they have murdered allies, they have murdered their own, they take young women as sex slaves just because it makes them feel powerful. I think we are all in agreement that a way is needed to stop them, whether that is air strikes who knows? The fact is probably none of us do but we elect representatives to parliament and ask them to listen to their constituents, their party and their own conscious to make decisions for the good of the people of this country.
Military intervention is part of the world and unless we want to turn a blind eye to atrocities that are being done around the world and become a complete isolationist country then it will continue to be part of the United Kingdom. Whether it is right or not in this case isn’t clear (and trust me – it isn’t) but people revolting, leaving the party and such just for getting involved in military action (and heck, we’ve been involved in military action in Iraq and Afghanistan for ages) seems bizarre to me.
As Brian Paddick just tweeted, ‘V difficult decision with no “right answer”. @LibDems parliamentarians debated the issues, respecting different views, rightly not in public’ and he’s right. There isn’t a right answer, there isn’t a wrong answer. We can’t see into the future, it is drawback of the human mind. All our MPs can do is discuss and debate the situation with the information at hand and make the best decision that they can. I wish it was a cut and dry issue with a clearly defined right and wrong answer but it isn’t. I trust that our MPs are good people, I’m actually extremely confident that they are and they won’t have made any decision in haste without careful consideration.
Making decisions is difficult as I was typing that sentence, Tim’s letter was passed on to me. You can read it in full below. Having just read it I don’t think it will soothe the concerns of some of the party but I do believe it to be sincere and honest, which is all I could personally ask of him. Being an MP isn’t easy and when you actually have to make tough decisions, it is much harder than when you don’t actually have to make that decision.
I still have no real position on air strikes in Syria but I’m willing to trust that those with more information have a better idea of what might be the best course of action, one thing I certainly wouldn’t back is to sit back and do nothing, which I fear many people would back until terror hit UK shores and that would not be right.
The rest of the blog post is Tim’s letter:
When the government asked MPs to support military action in Syria against Assad in 2013, I refused to provide that support. I was not convinced our intervention would be effective, nor that it was fully backed by a diplomatic effort to establish a lasting peace, nor would it prevent more suffering than it caused.
In response to that deep-rooted scepticism last time I wrote to the Prime Minister last week, together with Nick Clegg, Paddy Ashdown, Ming Campbell, Kirsty Williams and Willie Rennie, setting out five principles against which the Liberal Democrats believe the case for military action should be based.
It is my judgement that, on balance, the five tests I set out have been met as best they can at this moment, and I will therefore be voting in favour of extending our operations to allow airstrikes on ISIL in Syria.
I have written in more length about how I have reached my decision below.
I am well aware that many in the party will disagree with me. I hope that, even if you cannot support me, you can support the approach I have taken, and recognise that I have taken this difficult decision after the fullest consideration.
ACTION AGAINST ISIL
Having considered the five principles I set out last week, having read the Foreign Affairs Select Committee report and the government’s response, having listened to the Prime Minister’s case for action, having listened to impassioned arguments for and against supporting military action from inside and outside the party, I am clear that this conflict is very different to Iraq in 2003 and I think it is important I explain why I believe that.
THE ILLEGAL WAR IN IRAQ
In 2003 a ‘dodgy dossier’ was used in an attempt to convince us that Saddam Hussein represented an imminent threat to international peace and security. In 2015 there is no dodgy dossier.
Instead, ISIL murdered 129 people on the streets of Paris. In restaurants, at a concert, on the pavement, those killed could just as easily have been here in Britain, in London, already a top target for ISIL.
This is before even considering how ISIL is threatening the security and stability of Iraq, a sovereign nation that has requested the help of the United Nations in protecting itself.
Unlike 2003, ISIL’s evil is apparent to the world in the beheading of journalists and aid workers for a worldwide audience, the rape and enslavement of tens of thousands of women, the summary execution of gay men and women, its brutal occupation of vast tracts of Iraq and Syria, and the terrified exodus of humanity we see in refugee camps from Lebanon to Calais.
THE UNITED NATIONS
The role of the UN Security Council should matter to us. In 2003 it was impossible to secure support for a further UN resolution to legitimise action. It was the crux of our argument against the illegal Iraq war.
On this occasion, the UN Security Council has not simply supported a passive resolution, it has made an active call for action “to eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Iraq and Syria”.
UNSCR2249 was passed with the support of France and without objection from Russia and China. As members of an internationalist party that has placed great store on the framework of international law established by the United Nations, I urge you to read the text of that resolution which can be found here.
I would also ask you to consider that Article 51 of Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter provides countries with the right to take military action in collective self-defence.
Iraq has asked for help in defeating ISIL, now commanding its operations from Syria. Just earlier this month, ISIL launched a savage attack on our closest neighbour and ally in Europe. We know, too, that so far this year seven terrorist attacks by ISIL against the UK have been thwarted. ISIL is a direct threat to the UK, our allies and to international peace and security. We are being dishonest if, already engaged against ISIL in Iraq, we pretend that inaction now in Syria somehow makes us safer.
In 2003 there was the thinnest veneer of international support for action in Iraq. In 2015 there is a wide-ranging coalition of nations who are committed to the eradication of ISIL, including states from the region who understand the threat ISIL poses to their security and stability. Those same nations recognise that it is crucial there is a strategy for Syria beyond air strikes.
In 2003 there was no thinking about the post-conflict situation in Iraq. The result was a disgraceful corporate free-for-all that paid no heed to Iraq’s infrastructure and prioritised corporate greed ahead of reconstruction.
It is not just Iraq we should learn from. Similar criticisms have been levelled at the UK and her allies over Libya and Afghanistan. In 2015 we have a diplomatic process in the Vienna talks aimed at ensuring the world remains engaged with Syria through this period of conflict and beyond, supporting the Syrian people to rebuild in a post-ISIL, post-Assad Syria.
Earlier this year I went to Calais. More recently I went to Lesbos. I saw young children exhausted and terrorised as they’d made the dangerous crossing across the Mediterranean. I heard through an interpreter a terrified seven year old boy’s first words as he landed on the beach from his rickety life raft: ‘Daddy, are ISIL here?’
I saw elderly women huddled beneath thin blankets as the evening came to the camp and the temperatures dropped below zero. I saw broken and desperate people who had witnessed horrific things in their own communities including the murder of loved ones. They pretty much all had one thing in common: they were fleeing for their lives from Syria and Iraq and in particular from ISIL.
So I came home from Lesbos and I angrily tore in to the Prime Minister for his callous refusal to take any of these desperate refugees. I proposed that we take three thousand orphaned refugees from the camps, and that the UK plays its full part by accepting others. I am personally enormously moved and angry about the plight of these desperate people, who want nothing more than to return home to a Syria and Iraq that is safe and stable and where they can live the lives they wish to in their own country.
Airstrikes alone of course are not going to resolve the hugely complex political situation in Syria. But I am clear that unless something is done to remove ISIL from Syria, from where it is coordinating its actions, there is no hope of progress towards that goal of a safe and stable Syria. And there is no hope for a home for refugees to go back to.
Of course I have tremendous concerns.
I have pressed these directly with the Prime Minister. I believe it is critical that the Gulf states are vocal in their condemnation of ISIL. I believe much, much more must be done to cut off the funding and supply routes for ISIL.
I think that we have not paid enough attention to the way in which extremists here in the UK have been funded.
It is imperative that everything possible is done to minimise the likelihood of civilian casualties.
I have been crystal clear that the future of Syria, after any action, must be at the forefront of the minds of all those asking for support for airstrikes, here in the UK and also amongst our international partners.
I realise, too, there is great uncertainty over the ability to command and control disparate ground forces which will be necessary to hold territory recaptured from ISIL inside Syria. All of these are reasons to question action.
None of them in and of themselves are reasons not to act.
AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE
There is no doubt that military action means diplomatic failure, and the formation and spread of ISIL is the ultimate display of our failure as an international community over the last five years.
We cannot undo the mistakes of the past, but we have the chance now to take action against an organisation that cannot be reasoned with and that does not obey international borders.
There is no quick fix solution for dealing with ISIL, nor is there an easy route to peace and stability in Syria, and it would be wrong of me to pretend otherwise. The military action we are supporting is just one part of a long process that will be needed to make that happen.
I cannot promise you that this will succeed. What I can promise you is that in supporting this action, in no way am I giving my unreserved and uncritical support to the government.
I can promise you that we will be holding the government to account on their strategy, that I will be ensuring that they continue to act in the national interest and in the interests of the millions of Syrians and Iraqis who deserve a stable home in a peaceful country.
The Prime Minister has set out what I believe is a comprehensive motion which gives us the ability to take action against ISIL in Syria and also restates our commitment to a long term solution in Syria. Those of you who disagree with this decision may find little comfort in this, but it is my commitment to you as leader that if at any point these objectives are no longer possible I will not hesitate to withdraw support.
I am instinctively inclined towards peace. I am deeply sceptical of the ability of military action to achieve positive political outcomes. But I am not a pacifist. Just as I was proud to stand with Charles Kennedy against the illegal war in Iraq, so I was proud to stand with Paddy Ashdown as he was a lone voice calling for military intervention to stop the massacres in Bosnia and Kosovo.
As a Liberal Democrat I am an internationalist. I believe in acting collectively with our friends and allies, and in responding to threats to our security within a framework of international law. I believe that our decision-making should be governed by what we consider to be in the long-term interests of the UK.
I believe we should not take action without considering the long-term objectives of that action for Syria. And I believe we have a moral duty to the people living in the despair of Calais and Lesbos, who want a secure and stable future in Syria, to take the necessary steps to attempt to bring that about.
It is my judgement that, on balance, the five tests I set out have been met as best they can.
I believe it is right to support a measured, legal and broad-based international effort to tackle the evil regime that has helped trigger the wave of hundreds of thousands of desperate refugees, fleeing for their lives.
I will therefore be asking my parliamentary colleagues to join me in the lobby to support this motion. I am well aware, too, that many in the party will disagree with me. I hope that, even if you cannot support me, you can support the approach I have taken and recognise that I have taken this difficult decision after the fullest consideration.
Needs is the key word in the title.
The first by-election of the 2015-2020 will be called following the sad passing of Michael Meacher MP, who died this week following a short illness. He had been a representative in the House of Commons since 1970 and had always been an MP of them seat (and the seat under its previous boundaries and guise of Oldham West). The result of the by-election itself should be a straightforward Labour hold, although no doubts UKIP will have their eyes on the prize but in reality Labour should triumph here with relative ease, therefore this won’t be the first real referendum on Jeremy Corbyn or on the Conservative government.
For the Lib Dems this is a seat where they’ve never finished higher than third and never really been in the game in win it as it were. In the 1990s, the party were the kings of shock by-election wins as people protested against the major parties before returning home during a General Election. These days a lot of that protest vote goes towards UKIP, so I don’t think the party should be expecting much here but that doesn’t mean the party should be ignoring the by-election. This is a good grounding for Lib Dems in the local area to get back out of the streets to promote liberal values.
Jonathan Fryer over on LibDemVoice has written that the party must take the by-election seriously and I agree with him. I certainly wouldn’t be advocating an open cheque book in the attempts to pull out something surprising but a good well run campaign seems like a sensible approach.
One key will be finding the right candidate. I have seen multiple Lib Dems saying on social media that the party needs to find a female candidate because our current line-up of eight male MPs looks bad. Whilst I would agree with the second part of the sentence, selecting a woman for this by-election is highly unlikely to change the make-up of the Liberal Democrat parliamentary team, no matter how much we’d like for it to do so.
In 2015, the party chose only one man in a seat where the incumbent was standing down, in every other situation the party chose a woman. I’m not sure the fact the parliamentary party was all but wiped out can be laid at the feet of not having enough female candidates. I’m not sure deselecting Clegg, Farron, Mulholland, Lamb, Brake, Carmichael, Pugh or Williams and replacing them with a female candidate was ever truly advocated by people, yet in all likelihood that is what would have had to have happened for a woman to be selected as a Lib Dem MP in the 2015 General Election.
So I think looking back at the campaign and the gender breakdown our our representatives on the green benches and blaming the party as being sexist or not fair to women is pretty harsh. If we select a woman here and she doesn’t pull off the upset of all upsets then will people still call the party sexist for not having a female MP?
I’ve always advocated the best candidate for the job as being the bottom line. If it is a man, a woman, I don’t really care. If they are gay, bi or straight, I don’t really care. If they are white, black or of other regional descent, I don’t care. If they are atheist, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh etc. I don’t care. I think you catch my drift. All seats at all levels will have better or worse candidates, some people just don’t fit in an area, some are already well known locally. It all comes down to individuals.
Yet having said all this, this word ‘optics’ is a key one. The optics of the Liberal Democrats is not good on this front. The optics won’t change after this by-election, certainly not from the outside, yet maybe the internal optics are just as key? I think that whatever the decision it won’t change much as we have to wait until a by-election in a Lib Dem winnable seat. Should Edinburgh West go tits up then that would be a seat where the Lib Dems could feasibly win a by-election but if that did come up, Mike Crockart would seem highly likely to be the candidate having been the disposed MP in May.
Richmond Park though is probably the key. There was no sitting MP in 2015. A by-election is very possible for 2016 should Zac Goldsmith win the London Mayoral Race (which he is very much in) and although he had a 19,000 majority, political parties traditionally do not do well when they are defending a seat in a by-election. It would be a tough win for the Lib Dems but it would be very much possible. This is a seat where the lights would shine bright for the party and the optics would be glaring. Getting women as candidates into winnable seats is far more important than the likes of Oldham West and Royton.
To answer my original question, no the party doesn’t need to field a female candidate. It would probably be preferable for most people but deep down it won’t make too much of a difference in how the party is perceived on this matter. Now getting female candidates in seats where they can win, that is another story entirely. The party has many impressive women who would be excellent candidates (and indeed many men as well) but just putting females names on the ballot won’t solve a damned thing. Getting women the right experience and putting them in the right situation is the key.