The Rambles of Neil Monnery

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Archive for the ‘politics’ tag

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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August 8th, 2017 at 2:36 pm

Posted in Politics

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On George Turner’s must-read excellent piece on the Lib Dem campaign in Vauxhall…

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Vauxhall was an opportunity for the Lib Dems in the 2017 General Election. Traditionally about as safe a Labour seat as you can get, it had a hard Brexiteer MP in an area that voted heavily to Remain. When Theresa May stepped out on to Downing Street that Monday morning to announce that she was going to the country, this was the type of seat that no doubt had a big ring around it at Lib Dem HQ. Labour would of course go on to win by over 20,000 votes but that doesn’t tell half the story.

George Turner was the candidate and he expressed some of his thoughts in an article entitled Losing in Vauxhall to Brexit Kate. It is a fairly open and honest piece that seems to have hit home for many.

The main parts that are worth noting are the slow reaction of Lib Dem HQ to the moving barometer of Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity. He started the campaign as an electoral liability but the moment people started to look at Theresa May with more laser like focus coupled with his populist policies, he became Nick Clegg in 2010 but unlike Clegg, he had the party with deep pockets and infrastructure in a great deal more in-play seats. This financial and infrastructure factor cannot be overlooked.

I’ll start copying and pasting bits of the article with some comments…

All our data at the beginning of the campaign showed that we were significantly ahead of Labour in Vauxhall, and yet on polling day we finished 30 points behind. The data was not wrong. There was a genuine, large and late swing towards Labour. In the relatively short period of the election campaign, tens of thousands of people in Vauxhall, and millions across the country, switched their vote from Liberal Democrat to Labour.

This adds up to what the rumours were. Essentially at the start of the campaign when it was being fought on a Brexit ticket and everything else relegated to the back pages, the Lib Dems had every right to think they were set to make sweeping gains, even overturning such long odds such as downing Kate Hoey in Vauxhall. The problem was the party nationally never really had a strong Brexit message. The whole ‘you know what, we’ll have a second referendum on the terms of the deal’ was weak, weak, weak. Most knew it then, everyone knows it now. When the accelerator should have been pressed, the party cruised along in neutral. A huge miss.

Into this mess entered Jeremy Corbyn with a leaked manifesto and public opinion started to shift dramatically. For the first time there was a major political party offering a clear and credible way out of the dismal spiral of tax cuts followed by more cuts to services.

As Labour’s poll rating increased people started to believe there could be a Labour government. Voters began to think that their decision was about much more than who was going to be their local MP, it was about what kind of government they wanted.

At that point Brexit dropped off the agenda.

Ding, ding, ding and we have a winner. You win elections by giving people hope or scaring them. Jeremy Corbyn gave them hope and as national polls shifted to the possibility of a hung parliament or even a Labour majority, people weren’t just thinking about who will represent them in parliament but who could actually form that government. The Lib Dems kept banging on about no coalition deals ever (no matter who with) so that told people that to get rid of the Tories and Theresa May, you had to vote Labour.

I know the party are still salty about coalitions but by telling the electorate that, it didn’t calm down those who were worried about them propping up the Tories again but scared the Anti-Tory voters that they only had one way to get rid of May…and it wasn’t by lending the Lib Dems a vote.

The moment Brexit dropped off the top line of the ticket it opened up opportunities for a handful of Lib Dems, the Norman Lamb’s of the world but it also opened up the door to Labour for their extremely appealing domestic policies. People didn’t care whether they could afford them or not, they were fed up of the deficit and less money for public services.

When people are fed up they just do something they shouldn’t anyway. If you are in a foul mood and it is still a few days until payday, do you look at the Chinese takeaway menu and say, ‘No, maybe when I’ve been paid…’ or do you say, ‘fuck it, can I please have Set Menu B?’ I know that is a pretty simplistic analogy but the electorate weren’t thinking about the small print, they only wanted the headlines and the Labour headlines were very enticing.

Part of the national campaign was to flood each target constituency in direct mail, produced by Lib Dem HQ on behalf of the national campaign. On day one we told Great George Street in no uncertain terms that the last thing we needed was anti-Corbyn literature going though the doors of voters in Vauxhall. In order to win Vauxhall we needed to convince tens of thousands of Labour voters to change their vote to us in a one-time deal to kick out Kate Hoey. That would just be made harder if we were perceived to be anti-Labour.

Our advice was almost completely ignored. Voters in Vauxhall received a stream of literature, sent out by Lib Dem HQ featuring Comrade Corbyn in a silly hat. As the polls swung towards Labour that message became more and more damaging. The vilification of the Labour leader cost us volunteers and voters. When we complained we were told there was nothing we could do about it.

This seems to have been a big problem that the party needs to address. This wasn’t a one-size fits all election, not for the Lib Dems and nor will it ever be for us. The party have to look closely at every seat and listen to what the people on the ground are saying. If you are in an office in London with focus groups, are what they tell you going to be the same that people are thinking in Leeds North West or Ceredigion for example? I highly doubt it.

Even if going into the campaign HQ thought they had put in place a smart tactic, they certainly were not flexible enough to adapt to the changing face of what was going on. As we went from an easy Tory landslide to an election where the keys to number ten downing street were genuinely up for grabs, the party didn’t seem to change course. The mind boggles. This is not an indictment at all on how hard people worked but sometimes you have to realise that working hard isn’t the only key to success, if it was the party would probably have won at least 50 seats on June 8.

If you are planning on an insurgency campaign then it has to be just that. In Vauxhall that seemed to be the plan and everyone was on board. This was about removing Kate Hoey, not for being in favour of Brexit but about how adamant she was about it and how how of step she was with her electorate. If that is the plan (and the seat was given target seat status) then you have to leave those who are in charge of the campaign locally to run the operation. By flooding the area with national literature, all it did was muddy the waters. This happened in several other seats too so I’ve been told, where the candidate’s views were overridden by HQ who wouldn’t listen.

What must be learned from this fiasco is two-fold. First of all, all plans must be adaptable. You must be able to change course to some degree during a campaign. If things outside of your control change then you shouldn’t stay on the same course. The world around us is very volatile and momentum can stall or change a campaign, even if you don’t have anything to do with it, another party’s rise or fall can and will affect how the electorate see you.

Secondly, more power should be given to campaign manager’s in target seats. If you have employed someone to run the campaign then let them do so at a local level. Candidates should be able to opt-in and opt-out of certain targeted mailings as they see fit. They have the people on the ground to see how the message is going across on their particular patch and why people don’t listen to these expertise and insight I’ll never know. The more data and knowledge you have, the more informed you are and you have a better chance of reaching the best decision. If you ignore that data and knowledge then you are setting yourself up to fail.

I have written on multiple occasions about the campaign. It was piss poor. I think most now know this and have taken it on the chin. I’ve heard on the grapevine that some at HQ prefer to point the finger at bad local campaigns than look inwards in the immediate aftermath. This now has surely evaporated to some degree. If it hasn’t then oh boy.

I know betting markets are just that but at the start of the campaign the spread on Lib Dem seats was around the 30 mark. Not all these local parties put together poor campaigns and fuck ups at local level. The sad truth is Tim Farron made little impact apart from having gay sex related issues and HQ’s plan was to target the soft Con vote only as they thought the majority Labour Remainers would come over without too much fuss. When all is said and done the party actually got fewer votes in 2017 than it did in 2015. That is just a damning statistic.

The Labour Remain vote stayed where it was because they fell for Corbyn’s magical charms on where he stood on the issue and whilst the party did see moderate success in LD/Con battles primarily in heavy Remain areas, the fact the party had Twickenham pretty much sown up weeks in advance and allowed Sarah Olney to lose Richmond Park by 45 votes to a man like Zac Goldsmith is a fitting epitaph to the 2017 Liberal Democrat General Election campaign.

I don’t know George Turner but he comes across as a highly intelligent and articulate individual. The party needs to nurture this type of candidate and listen to what they have to say. If they continue to stick fingers in their ears and say it wasn’t their fault, no progress will ever be made. Also where is the survey we were all promised on how the campaign went? I suspect quite a few activists have quite a fair bit to say…

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

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August 1st, 2017 at 3:53 pm

On Senator John McCain’s stone cold revenge on President Trump…

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The dramatic scenes on the Senate floor in the early hours of this morning are ones that Democrats and all those that believe in health care will play over and over again on YouTube. With a majority of just two, the Republicans could absorb the two rebels who had already made themselves known, Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. The Vice President was lurking in case of a tied vote to cast the deciding ballot. So it was all eyes on Senator John McCain whose vote had been on a knife-edge seemingly all day.

What happened next changed the course of the Trump presidency. That is not over-egging what happened last night. The fact that after yet another run at getting rid of Obamacare, the President was unable to get anything done. As the senator from Arizona strode in to vote, all eyes were on him. He outstretched his arm and then paused for what seemed like an entirely but was in reality barely two seconds before saying ‘No’ and putting his thumb down. It was over.

This wasn’t just about ObamaCare. This was also about stone cold revenge and a message to all that people have long memories. The President had been absolutely vile towards the former Republican Presidential nominee. You can not like someone and speak about it openly if you want to but actions also have consequences. Trump may have ascended to the top job in the land but McCain was still one of just 100 senators who have the power to hold him to account and subsequently scuttle his legislative agenda. With a majority of just two, you can’t afford to alienate people and this is where Trump’s lack of knowledge of politics comes to bite him in the butt.

In the business world if you don’t like someone you don’t necessarily have to deal with them. You can get your bricks from another supplier. You can get your concrete from another supplier. You can get your windows from another supplier and so on. In politics you have to deal with the same people for a finite amount of time until their term is up and they go for reelection. This means you have far less wriggle room and if you shaft someone, they will remember and wait until the time is right to put one back over on you.

Whether Senator McCain was thinking about this during proceedings this week, who knows? He was the deciding vote that kept this debate going throughout the week, dramatically flying back to vote for further discussions on the bill. Could he have simply been wanting to up the drama knowing all the while that the longer it continued, the more likely it was to succeed and Trump’s confidence would’ve grown, all the while knowing he was set to scuttle it? Makes for an interesting theory doesn’t it?

The long and short of it though is that McCain, along with his two Republican colleagues in the early hours of Friday morning voted to essentially torpedo what was arguably the top line of President Trump’s campaign.

The Senate had already voted not to repeal and replace ObamaCare but to repeal it and kick it into the weeds for two years was on the table, which would essentially allow the President to claim victory and take 15 million people out of health insurance next year with another 16 million by 2026 and up premiums by 20% according to a Congressional Budget Office report. It stunk and was all about ‘winning’ and not about doing anything that was good for people who need ObamaCare.

At the start of the week Senator McCain was vilified by the liberal media as the person who was ready to bring down ObamaCare. Before the week was out, he was the person who cast the deciding vote to keep it. As they say a week is a long time in politics and revenge is a dish served stone cold.

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July 28th, 2017 at 10:57 am

Posted in Politics

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On Caroline Lucas and her vision of a progressive alliance…

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Many things hacked me off during the 2017 General Election campaign but I suspect none of them come close to the anger I felt towards the intense and non-stop chatter about progressive alliances. Every single day I saw people talking about how best to work together between parties such as Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens. Instead of finding real ground to take it to the Tories though, activists, local and national parties found more that divided us than uniting us.

For this blog post I want to concentrate on Caroline Lucas. She is number one is my crosshairs for people who pissed me off on this front. The Green Party went into the campaign with one MP and one realistic target seat. That was Bristol West where they opened as odds against favourites to unseat the incumbent Labour MP. As the Labour momentum got going though this became a safe Labour hold and as her own seat was safe, the Green party had no potential to gain any extra seats, All they could realistically do was become a spoiler to help the Tories.

Coming into the debates she had a choice to make, either she wanted to get as many votes as possible for her party (which is a perfectly fair position to take for a leader of a political party) or know who her main political enemies were and go after them. She chose the former and that is all fine and dandy unless she was banging on about working together. Lets look at what she said on her own website after the 2015 General Election…

“The election results have served as a stark reminder that our political system is broken. The time for electoral reform is long overdue. Only proportional representation will deliver a parliament that is truly legitimate, and that better reflects the views of the people it’s meant to represent.”

SHE ADDED: “But we must move forward today. While the campaign for electoral reform gathers momentum, THOSE OF US WANTING TO SEE A FAIRER, MORE COMPASSIONATE AND PROGRESSIVE POLITICS MUST FIND NEW WAYS OF WORKING TOGETHER, A NEW WAY TO DO POLITICS – AND PUT THAT INTO PRACTICE NOW.

“Unless we break free of tribal politics and work together to fight austerity, and promote crucial, common-sense climate policies, we’re faced with an incredibly bleak political future. For the sake of all those who’ll suffer most at the hands of the Tories, we must rethink our relations and recognise the importance of our common ground.

“That should include shared platforms and case-by-case electoral pacts, to build a strong progressive alliance to challenge the Tories over the next five years. Clearly in Wales and Scotland, where there are PR elections for the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament, this doesn’t apply, but where First Past the Post continues to distort election results, it should surely be considered.”

I have left in her own emphasis.

During this campaign she tweeted this:

During the debates she went after the Lib Dems hard on tuition fees. Arguably going after the party more than any other apart from UKIP. She knows that her party’s vote won’t come from the Tories and with the Corbyn momentum kicking in during the final three weeks of the campaign, the best way to get more Green votes was to hit the Lib Dems hard. Heck hitting the Lib Dems hard may not have converted some soft LDs to Green but may have converted them to Labour or convinced them to stay at home. Smart if she wanted to damage the Lib Dems but not smart if her number one priority was to stop another Conservative government.

She doesn’t want to end tribal politics because if she did then she wouldn’t have campaigned in the manner that she did. It was seemingly mere lip-service to the idea of progressive politics. If only say 10% of the population would consider voting for you and you are fighting with the Lib Dems and Labour for those voters, do you curl up and let those voters choose freely which way to go or do you fight tooth and nail for them? You do the latter.

This is a great example of why a progressive alliance in our parliamentary system just doesn’t work. The voters have shown us that they don’t like coalition politics and are at the stage where they want something more black and white. Good and bad if you like. Right or wrong. It won’t always be that way and as a member and firm believer that the radical centre is the best place politically, I have to believe that.

Yet today people are happy to vote for Jeremy Corbyn even if they don’t agree with his top line Brexit policies because he is the most likely to stop the Tories and as it stands the majority of the electorate identify as Tory or Anti-Tory. This means they’ll vote for the Tories or whoever is most likely to stop them. Even if that means by proxy getting more Tory MPs because they don’t look at the local situation.

The progressive alliance can only work when everyone is genuinely willing to work together. If they are all fighting over the same voters then it was always a fallacy and the way Caroline Lucas acted throughout the 2017 General Election campaign showed us all that progressive alliances are great in theory but in reality it had zero chance of succeeding and the amount of column inches and talking head minutes were dedicated to it was all one giant waste of time.

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July 26th, 2017 at 12:22 pm

Posted in Politics

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On Vince Cable’s tweet about Jeremy Corbyn’s student debt ‘promise’…

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Oh Vince. Vince, Vince, Vince. Why? Why? Why?

So as some will have noted over the past few days, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has backtracked from his promise that he would deal with student debt. The issue is he never promised anything. He just said that he hoped he’d be able to deal with it. If anyone took it as meaning that he would cancel student debt along with scraping tuition fees then that is on them, not on him.

It was super smart politically. By saying that he hoped to deal with the issue surrounding student debt, he would firm up the support of young people, not just those going to university but also those in their 20s and 30s who still have student loan repayments to pay back. The fact he didn’t throw about the word promise and is saying it is an aspiration means he has plausible deniability. He can honestly say he never promised anything and people were free to interpret his words as they saw fit.

Most people looking at it without any political bias would say it was at best misleading but it most certainly was never a lie. I was talking to a Corbynista the other day about it and I called Corbyn super smart for how he worded what he said and not making it is clear that it wasn’t a policy but a goal. The Corbynista wouldn’t take that as praise but just went on about how it was everyone else’s fault if they thought it was a promise and that everyone bar Corbyn and his supporters are basically dumb. This is the world we now live it. Frustrating as fuck.

Anyway on to the new leader of the Lib Dems response. Vince tweeted on Sunday the following:

I just hung my head. Labour have never backtracked because they were just way smarter than the Lib Dems in 2010. How any Lib Dem can say they didn’t know what they were doing when campaigning on tuition fees in 2010 is beyond me. Yes I know of the nuance was how it wasn’t a Lib Dem majority government and that is a really important distinction but not many people will see that important difference. They saw the pledge, they saw the fact 28 Lib Dems voted for increasing fees and that is quite simply that.

Aspiration. Goal. Hope. Promise. One of those four words has a completely different connotation to the other three. A promise if broken hurts whereas an aspiration, a goal or a hope that doesn’t materialise disappoints but you don’t feel anywhere near as used or mislead or lied to as you do when someone breaks a promise.

As much as I hate it, sometimes politics isn’t about honesty but about smoke and mirrors. In elections when you are trying to court a particular vote but can’t get a costed policy out there, the best thing to do is hint but stop short of saying that is what you’ll do. That means if you fall short, the hurt the voter experiences will be minor. This is why the Lib Dems should’ve scrapped the tuition fees pledge before the 2010 General Election. Nick Clegg wanted to do so as we all know. Senior activists disagreed and conference voted to keep it in 2009. I often wonder how things would’ve turned out had that vote gone differently.

Going back to Corbyn though, that is the difference. He cleverly made/allowed people to think if he won that he’d cancel student debt when it was never a Labour policy, just essentially an idea that he had if he won and money was no object. The Lib Dems put it in black and white that they would not vote to raise tuition fees. That is politics folks and to claim Labour have backtracked and to call on Jeremy Corbyn to apologise is lazy and just won’t wash with the electorate.

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July 24th, 2017 at 2:58 pm

On why assisted dying/suicide is a human rights and liberal issue the Lib Dems should take up…

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This is back in the news as Noel Conway is challenging the 1961 Suicide Act that by stopping his right to die in a dignified manner breeches his human rights. It is an extremely emotive issue for many. MPs debated it just two years ago and the eight Lib Dem Members of Parliament split three ways with three voting for the bill, three against and two sat on the fence.

Back then it was Alistair Carmichael, John Pugh and Norman Lamb who supported the bill. The latter even commenting during the debate that he had changed his mind in recent years. The paragraph that sticks out is below:

I have changed my mind on this issue. I used to oppose change, but I am now very clear in my mind that reform is necessary. We are all shaped by the conversations we have and by our own personal experiences, sometimes within our own families. Talking to people who are terminally ill has forced me to think about the principles at stake and led me to change my mind. I came to this view through one man in particular, Douglas Harding, who, for six years, has lived with terminal cancer, and is now very close to the end. When I hear him argue the case to me about his right to decide when to end his life as he faces the closing stages of a terminal illness, I find it impossible to reject that right. When I ask myself what I would want in those circumstances whether I would want that right, I am very clear in my mind that I would. I do not know whether I would exercise it, but I would absolutely want it for myself. How can I then deny it to others?

It is one of those rare occasions when I am on the opposite side of the aisle to Nick Clegg who voted against the bill. At Conference in 2014 he found that he was in the minority within the party during a Q&A session. A show of hands showed that the majority of Lib Dem members in that room believed that a change in the law was necessary. “I am personally quite sceptical about the ability to capture what is a very, very delicate decision about when you endorse, under the law, the taking of someone’s life” said the then Deputy Minister at the time.

For me though I don’t see it as a tough decision and I think Norman Lamb hit the nail on the head. It is all about rights and if someone is in a position where they want to end their own life but need help, they should have that opportunity. This isn’t about state sanctioned murder but about not criminalising doctors or loved ones for bringing an end to pain.

I have it on record with my mum and my partner that should I ever be in a position where I have zero quality of life, I do not want to live. This is of course a very narrow interpretation that only takes into account two scenarios where I wouldn’t be able to clearly communicate my wishes, firstly locked in syndrome, which would be hell on Earth in my opinion and the other is where I lose so many of my faculties that I do not know who I am or who anyone is around me. For me that isn’t life but existing and again for me, that isn’t life.

This is of course just one persons opinion – mine – but shouldn’t I be able to control whether or not I live or die in such a scenario? If I want the freedom to end my life if I didn’t think it was worth living then how could I ever have the position where I don’t think another person has that same right?

The issue of coercion is a real one and I can fully see that is a potential problem to making this law. If assisted dying/suicide was decriminalised then scrupulous people could get vulnerable people to agree to end their life for a variety of reasons from freeing them of a burden to financial gain. This is where the whole issue hits the rocks as many will argue that if it could be used by people against the wishes of the person then it should be avoided at all costs. This is why safety checks should be put in place and that is plausible albeit difficult.

As liberals we should fight for individual choice in life and in this instance death. I find it hard to constitute that people couldn’t comprehend of a scenario where they see themselves diagnosed with a terminal illness, which is only only to get worse, more painful for them and more painful for their loved ones watching them in pain and slipping away and not want to end the pain for all. For you see dying slowly and painfully whilst watching your loved ones go through this with you must be nearly as bad (or even more so) than going through it yourself.

I’ve always believed in individual freedom and I think assisted dying/suicide comes under that umbrella. I would love the Liberal Democrats to look into this once more. In 2004 at Spring Conference the party promised to, ‘introduce legislation that would legalise assisted dying for patients with a terminal or severe, incurable and progressive physical illness‘ but nothing happened. In 2012 a motion brought by Chris Davies MEP at Party Conference was passed which reaffirmed our support for a change in the law on assisted dying. Still nothing has happened.

This is an issue of human rights and liberalism. One I think the party should seriously take up and not just pay lip service to…

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July 18th, 2017 at 2:27 pm

Posted in Politics

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On whether Tim Farron’s ‘decided to quit before the GE’ confession adds up…

with one comment

I’m not a cynical person by nature. Wait no, that is a lie. I’m extremely cynical and when bleary eyed this morning I sat there on the sofa and saw the news that Tim Farron had decided to quit before the General Election, I was caught up in mixed emotions. First of all I was tired (that had nothing to do with the news, I was just tired) then I was kinda pissed off and then I started wondering whether it was actually true.

I’ll tell you why I have some issues with the truth of this confession. First of all, the timing. If he had decided to quit a month or so before polling day then surely he then walks away swiftly after the result is known. He doesn’t wait until the Grenfell Tower Fire and squeezes out the news in a very hastefully arranged press announcement. That doesn’t add up at all. Either he’s a pretty awful man and wanted to wait for a tragedy to happen so he could sneak out his news or he had no plans to quit that day. Fair to say that I don’t think he’s a pretty awful man so I’ll go for option B on that one.

The timing of his resignation hasn’t had enough scrutiny within the party. It was fucking repulsive. Repugnant if you will. How dare at a time of such an incident do the party allow their leader to publicly resign and take some of the focus away from the real news that day. We all get angry when governments try and sneak out bad news on days when it might be buried and we did that. The party should be ashamed.

So what other things could have changed Tim Farron’s mind after the General Election result? Could the fact Nick Clegg lost his seat have played a part? The former leader and Deputy Prime Minister went out in the great Corbynista wave where all Lib Dems in Labour facing seats got swept aside as voters flocked to the Labour party. Was he the reason Tim decided to leave or possibly stay on?

Time heals all wounds to some degree and while it is fair to say many people will never forgive the former MP for Sheffield Hallam, it is also not untrue to say his toxicity had been slowly receding. He had found a second wind as the European spokesman for the party in this post EU Referendum world in which we live and those who are firmly opposed to Brexit seemingly had a very positive opinion of him. Did Farron see the writing on the wall that the membership (and maybe the electorate) actually preferred Clegg to him and therefore wanted to go and when Clegg went down, Farron saw he had a clearer path to staying on?

Who knows (well at least one person does but that person is not me) but it is certainly something worth thinking about. If Tim Farron had decided to quit weeks in advance of the General Election then the obvious point to resign would be the morning after. Instead he came out and praised the fact we had increased our representation in parliament by 50% compared to the 2015 debacle. So something must have changed and the obvious thing to point at and question is the fact Nick Clegg wasn’t an MP any more.

If we take him at his word though that he decided to walk away in the early days of the campaign then that doesn’t paint him in a good light either. Had he left a fortnight into the campaign, it would have allowed the party a month to put someone else in the spotlight and interim leader. Logically that would have been Nick Clegg but it obviously may not have been. It could have been Norman Lamb.

If a change had happened though it should be done like a band-aid. You pull it off quickly, deal with the stinging and then get on with it. I have written about Tim’s performances in the media during the campaign and they were mixed. Couple of stinkers but also a couple of good ones. He was certainly far better than the Prime Minister (although I admit, that is a pretty low bar) but maybe the damage had already been done.

The party had all the momentum early but it ground to a halt when talking about the gay sex issue and it was something we all knew was going to be something the party (and Tim) had to nip in the bud. The fact they (and he) did not just knee-capped the campaign and when the decision to move away from hope and towards scare tactics happened, it was game set and match for the party to ever hit the 30-40 MP mark that some (maybe many) thought was possible on April 18 when the General Election was called. Was Farron damaged goods or was the party? That is a great question.

When he only just held on to his seat despite the usual boost that party leaders get, that says a lot. Norman Lamb managed to hold on in North Norfolk despite facing real Brexit related challenges. Tom Brake held off the Tories yet again in Carshalton & Wallington. Stephen Lloyd was able to wrestle back Eastbourne despite it being a leave area. Tim Farron is (and I still say is) a very popular constituency MP but he nearly lost. This has to be down in some degree to his performance as leader of the party.

Maybe had he quit in early May then the party would have been able to wrestle back some of that momentum. I don’t think any party leader should not want to carry on with the job certainly relatively early on in the campaign. Look at Paul Nuttall for example. I do think Tim gave everything but if your heart isn’t deep down in it then people can see that.

I have serious doubts as to whether Tim decided to quit two weeks into the campaign. The timeline just doesn’t fit with how he acted post June 8. If he’s speaking the truth and he knew he was going post General Election and still quit in the Grenfell Tower aftermath then that is not a good look and not a good legacy to leave. People talk about things leaving a bad taste in the mouth, if that is how it went down then bloody hell, that looks terrible.

Lastly he said that his job was to save the party and that it still exists and is moving forward. Well it does still exist but whether it is moving forward is still very much up in the air. The country is clearly veering towards two-party politics once again (more so than two years ago) due to the fact so many LD/Con battles have seen the party move into third behind Labour. Depressingly I don’t see any real recovery unless Brexit is an utter disaster.

Until Jeremy Corbyn gets his chance then the country will want to see what he can do. The next General Election (whenever it will be) will surely see more of a Labour surge and due to the lack of tactical voting prowess of many voters, that will lead to even fewer Lib Dem MPs.

The future’s bright, The future’s orange says a popular advertising slogan. For the Lib Dems though this does not feel accurate at the moment.

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

Written by neilmonnery

July 14th, 2017 at 9:11 am

Posted in Politics

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On the festering civil war that has the potential to blow apart the Lib Dems…

with 3 comments

Gee Neil. That seems like a bit of a sensationalist headline, do you work for The Sun? Well that is an interesting question disembodied voice that lives only when I want to write in the third person. Many moons ago I did go for a job at that very newspaper but it was not to be. They would tell me no and I would go on to work elsewhere.

So yes. The festering civil war. We all know what it is. It is those who oppose Sir Vince Cable against those who don’t/are at least willing to give him a chance. The MP for Twickenham is never going to appeal to the youth of today. He just isn’t. It has nothing to do with his age, both Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn could apply for a free bus pass due to their age but are adored by their followers. The reason they are beloved and that Sir Vince is not by these people is the message they are ready to peddle.

The independent senator for Vermont and the current leader of the Labour party essentially don’t believe in the financial system. They think money does grow on trees and that everything can be paid for by the super rich. This appeals to a great many people because why wouldn’t it? Who actually has the time or inclination to actually listen to and understand figures? If someone says it is all bollocks and actually you can have all this free stuff and extra money into public services just because you say so, then who wouldn’t see their hearts light up with glee?

Vince is not going to spread that type of hope, He’s a business oriented guy. He looks at the numbers and works out the best way to use the money available. He won’t promise the Earth and therefore he will never appeal to a great deal of younger people who want everything instead of incremental steps forward.

The problem the party has is who out of the 12 MPs both a) wants the job and b) can appeal to the youth. Well only Vince wants it so the second part of the equation is moot.

This is where the civil war will start to unfold. The undertones are there already. Activists are looking for hope and a forward looking leader. Someone they can look at and believe in to drag the party back towards relevance both at local and national level. Despite what some say, the result in the General Election last month was not good. Not good at all. Some of this is because of the Corbyn surge that would’ve caught many by surprise but a lot of it is laid at the feet of the piss poor national campaign. The party had a diluted message and a leader who nobody warmed to. This can’t happen again.

With Vince the party will have a leader who a certain section of the electorate will warm to. Despite what many people say, Vince still speaks to a certain section of society. The City in particular. Those potential voters will like his business acumen and experience. The question is, what other sections of the electorate can he speak to? This is where the issues arise.

With many activists not being keen on ‘Strong and Cable’ where do they go? What do they do? I’ve even seen some members on social media wanting a leadership election just so they can R.O.N. him and force Jo Swinson to run the party as Deputy Leader. This is so not cool. Jo has decided for whatever reason that she doesn’t want the job, so is it fair to essentially force her to do something that she doesn’t want to do? How is that in any way liberal? The truth is everyone knows it isn’t but some people are desperate. They don’t want Vince and will do anything they can to stop him.

The former member of the cabinet though is going to be the next leader of the party. No-one else wants the job and you only have 12 people who can even apply for it. So we as activists have three choices. One we leave. Two we support and get on with the job of local and national activism or three we stay, throw shade and moan in public and act just like the Labour party have done for the past two years. Yes folks, if we pick the third of those three options (which I think many will) we are set to be 2015-17 Labour.

We all know the story. I don’t need to write about it. Plenty of people actually liked winning elections and Jeremy Corbyn and his followers preferred a movement. They spent two years fighting among themselves and that ended with Labour badly losing a General Election but everyone falling into line because he outperformed expectations. It would be fair to say they only performed as well as they did because Theresa May was so abysmal it is unreal. It made Corbyn look so much better. David Cameron would have wiped the floor with the Labour leader.

Still for those two years it was pretty vitriolic within the Labour ranks. The two factions going at each other and losing ground in council by-elections as well a terrible loss in Copeland at Westminster level showed what a party at war does result wise. Now Corbyn is emboldened that civil war could still somehow spill over as he wants to purge all the non-believers and that could make local parties even more acrimonious. Do we really want that for the Lib Dems?

No. No we don’t. Yet so many are so lost and so disillusioned that they think Cable is so bad that they want to nip his leadership in the bud. The problem though keeps going back to the premise of no-one else wanting the job. How can you stop something when no-one else is willing to step up?

I foresee some pretty bad times ahead for the party. That hope of a bounceback from the disaster that was 2015 due to the EU Referendum has all but been extinguished. A generation of voters have been swayed by the unbridled hope that Jeremy Corbyn and his party are offering. It feels as though until we see Corbyn crash and burn, too many people will want to see him and his ideas get a shot before going back towards the centre ground.

One thing that people often throw at the Lib Dems is that we spend too much time naval gazing. They may have a point and I really do fear that for the next few months all we’ll do is fight about how to remove/stop Vince as he’s not the right person for the job instead of going out there, speaking to the electorate, finding out what their issues are locally and working on them to try and build up our council base at the local elections next May.

Fighting among ourselves is not a good use of time or energy. Even if you don’t think Vince Cable is the right person for the job, does that mean it is best to stop working to promote liberal values? It is tough out there. Really tough. Certainly for those with parliamentary ambitions but things change. Time to keep working within the community and hopefully by the time the next General Election comes along, our national campaign aids and assists candidates instead of hurting their chances of getting elected.

Vince Cable won’t make or break the party. A large percentage of activists losing morale though will. For those who are concerned (and I count myself within that group) I think the best way to move on is to become selfish. Work on local plans and campaigns and get back to the basics of what the Lib Dems do well. Work hard for their local communities and whatever happens in Westminster happens in Westminster.

If we make the leader the centre of our political world then we can push back our hope for gaining ground for another few years…

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

Written by neilmonnery

July 4th, 2017 at 11:28 am

Posted in Politics

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On why we should be rejoicing the fact Vince Cable actually wants the job…

with 2 comments

‘Nobody wants Vince Cable’ so says a vast twitter echo chamber. Oh to be sure that you and your friends speak for everyone. I wish I had that type of certainty in life. Yet still Vince Cable is all but assured of being the next leader of the Liberal Democrats. No doubt some will decide that is it for them and they will leave the party. That happens whenever a new leader takes over in any party. The thing is even you are aren’t exactly sucking at the teat of the former Business Secretary, you have to at least admire the fact he wants to be the leader.

We all expected Jo Swinson to be on her way to assuming the mantle of the top Lib Dem in the country. The returning MP for Dunbartonshire East was the red hot favourite and in all likelihood was set to cruise to victory if there was going to be a contest. She ticked far more boxes than anyone else who would potentially have put themselves forward. Sadly though for many, one small issue emerged. One teeny-tiny problem. She didn’t want the job. At that point everything changed in the contest.

Of the remaining candidates, one said he was ready to lead. The other two decided that they were not. What would have happened if Sir Vince had decided he didn’t want it? Would we be in a position where literally no-one out of the parliamentary party wanted the gig? Where would we be then?

Unlike a great deal of others, I’m not ready to tear up my membership card just yet if Vince is the next leader. I’m not exactly going to be full of the joys of spring either but sometimes you aren’t going to be totally in tune with the leader of your party. I am sure many Blairite Labour folk are struggling on under Jeremy Corbyn because they still see their party as the best hope for the country despite their disagreements with the person leading them. I am in a similar boat.

For me, my politics starts at Nick Clegg. Regular readers will know all about this as I’ve waxed lyrical about the man on numerous occasions. Many disagree and see Clegg as a villain for even entertaining the notion going into a coalition government with the sworn enemy. When Nick resigned after the catastrophe that was the 2015 General Election, my heart and my hope for the future broke a little bit. It has yet to recover due to what the country (and the party has seen in the two years since).

Yet when Tim Farron became leader I wasn’t ready to walk because sometimes in life you are not going to always agree with other people, yet you can still work for the perceived greater good. How many people disagree with their bosses but still are able to work for them? I once worked for a pretty strong-minded UKIPper and even though we disagreed on politics, we could still work together and bring success to our part of the business.

Vince may not be your cup of tea (he certainly isn’t mine) but he isn’t the devil either. I think it is fair to at least pose the question as to whether the party would have done better in the General Election earlier this month if Sir Vince was leader. Of course he wasn’t an MP and therefore couldn’t be but Vince wasn’t as harmed by the tuition fees issue as a lot of the twitterati want to make us believe.

Indeed multiple polls commissioned in 2012 suggested that Cable would have put the Lib Dems 3% higher in the polls and would have helped several key MPs hold their seats (most notably I suspect – his!). This all happened after the tuition fees vote and as for Royal Mail – if that is in the top 25 things voters are looking for when they go and cast their ballot I would be stunned.

His stance on free movement is clearly not in sync with the vast majority of the party. That is an issue and his political manoeuvring sticks in the throat but here we are, a fortnight or so after Tim Farron was knifed in the back/was persuaded to fall on to his sword (it is up to you which interpretation you believe) and only one person wants to do the job. When you are in this position outside of parliament you would reopen nominations. When your constitution says one of only 12 people can do the job and the other 11 say they don’t want it then what choice do we have? Do you attempt to force someone to do a job they don’t want or do you just back the person that does?

I’d go for the latter. Trying to coerce someone into running who doesn’t want it is selfish in the extreme. As liberals surely we all agree in individuality and being allowed to make our own choices in life? That includes if Jo Swinson or Ed Davey decide they don’t want to run to be leader of the party for whatever reason they like.

I have seen a few members say they would run because their needs to be a contest. I am pretty sure that if the constitution dictated that you didn’t have to be an MP to be the leader, a certain former Deputy Prime Minister would get a whole lot of love from many in the party. That might piss off even more of the membership but if we are being realistic, a straight Cable v Clegg battle would result in only one winner and it isn’t the sitting MP for Twickenham.

So for those who don’t want Cable, it could be worse, much worse. If no-one else emerges and he takes over then as members we will face a choice. Sit on our butts and sulk that the person we want leading the party isn’t or we can carry on at local level working for our communities and bringing forth motions to conference for the membership to vote on. Remember the members have far more power in the Lib Dems than in any other party, so if you have issues with the leader, you can control them policy wise pretty well. We should use that power wisely.

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

Written by neilmonnery

June 29th, 2017 at 3:09 pm

Posted in Politics

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On Vince Cable’s chances at being Lib Dem leader…

with one comment

So the first candidate to throw their hat into the ring is Vince Cable. The MP for Twickenham has government experience and is the most known of the potential candidates. He could easily have been leader three years ago when an attempted coup on then leader Nick Clegg was executed. The only problem was it was as well executed as my business of Texas hot chilli in a heatwave. Who knew people didn’t want to eat said food in this heat?

Now though with the runaway favourite and unification candidate having ruled herself out, it is all up for grabs. Cable is the first to openly state that he is going to run but Norman Lamb is all but assured of having a go as well. Ed Davey is the dark horse.

This though is about Cable’s chances and if you go just by the social media bubble then he has no chance. His belief that free movement of people within Europe is unfair on people from outside of the EU does not sit well within a significant group of the membership. I’ve been told by several people that he has no chance of winning because of this policy. No chance though seems a bit too extreme to me.

My thought process is outside of the social media echo chamber, many members actually like and respect Sir Vince. In 2010 his face was plastered across the Lib Dem battle bus along with Clegg because the party were worried that no-one knew who the former leader was. After the first leaders debate though everything changed but Cable was still widely respected by people from across all political spectrum’s.

Cable’s biggest issue is not his age. As we’ve seen in recent years, Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn have courted and won over a huge percentage of younger voters. His biggest issue is that freedom of movement issue and how it aligns itself to the membership.

The Lib Dems have attempted to portray themselves as the unabashed Pro-EU party but Cable seems to be pro-EU but with some caveats, mainly conceding the fact that freedom of movement isn’t popular and should be an important negotiating standpoint. This will not sit well with many but for how many will it be a red line issue?

Within the party many of the newer membership have their primary objective not towards liberalism but towards remaining a member of the EU or at worst getting a legitimately good exit deal involving continued tariff free access to the single market. Vince has repeatedly stated that the single market is vitally important but how he can get that without free movement I have no idea. It seems a bit pie in the sky but we shall see.

Another large swathe of the membership are older members who have been around since day dot of the party. These people will have a large affinity with a man who has been around for an age. Norman Lamb and Ed Davey have both been involved with the party pretty much since its formation as well in one form or another but it is Cable who many still look at as the most experienced current member of the parliamentary party.

If this contest was just the under 40s then Cable’s chances would be relatively remote. Luckily for him though it isn’t and he has every opportunity to pile up the votes from those outside of this age group. His business secretary background should also put him in good stead with a large proportion of the city community that seem to have drifted towards the Lib Dems in the past year or so.

Personally I am not enthused by any of the potential candidates at this point and nor was I in 2015. I want a leader who inspires and seems to be a breath of fresh air. I want a leader who I listen to and instantly know is far smarter and articulate than I can ever aspire to be. At this point I don’t see that candidate being or entering into the field and at that point all bets are off and very few will know how the membership will vote.

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

Written by neilmonnery

June 20th, 2017 at 2:57 pm

Posted in Politics

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