The Rambles of Neil Monnery

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On why I voted the way I did in the Lib Dem leadership election…

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Tim Farron has been the prohibitive favourite to be the next Lib Dem leader since May 8. Norman Lamb decided to run as well as well so it became a two-man battle. They each got roughly the same amount of ‘celebrity’ Lib Dem endorsements and many people looked at them to help make up their own minds.

I’m not one of them.

For you see, I’ve always been my own man. If someone tells me that I should do something then instinctively I try and go in the opposite direction. Considering I’m not exactly a rebel this is surprising but it is the way it is. So I decided to look at the two candidates but I decided not to vote for who I thought would be the best leader of the party but who I thought the electorate would be more impressed with and who would galvanise the grass roots of the party. This wasn’t about me but about the party as a whole.

It is no secret that I’m a Nick Clegg guy. I have been for the past several years and lets be honest here, I still am. Yet I clearly see that the party and the electorate have decided that it is time to move on so I can deal with that. Nick will always be one of my guys and even when I’m old and grey I’ll look back on Nick Clegg and see him as a thoroughly decent guy, who whilst he made mistakes, his actions helped make the country slightly more liberal and his legacy, whilst tarnished with the tuition fees and the crippling defeats will always have the silver lining of actually getting shit done. That is something no other leader of the party can say.

So on to the candidates and one one huge issue that I had to struggle with – Tim Farron’s Christianity. As some of you will know but most reading this won’t, I am the son of a now retired Methodist Superintendent minister. My views on the church are clear and they are made up of my own system of beliefs. I have no issue with anyone having any faith whatsoever, we are all fully entitled to belief in whatever we do (or don’t as the case maybe) so what issue do I have with Tim’s Christianity?

In an interview in The Guardian entitled, ‘Maybe God’s plan is for me to lose a bunch of elections and be humbled’ the very title goes to the very heart of my issue. The idea that someone out there who is all powerful has a divine plan for us all and therefore the idea that we aren’t in full control of our own lives is something that is so diametrically opposed to my own that I struggle to support him.

Later in the piece Tim says, ‘Well, God is sovereign. Dreadful things happen in this world, but that reminds us that we need a saviour. I don’t go round fixating that God has some major plan for me. Maybe his plan is for me to lose a bunch of elections and be humbled. God’s plan could be that some pretty brutal things happen to you. But the one thing I fall back on is that God’s overall plan is good.’

Tim doesn’t fixate upon any possible plan but he does believe in a plan. So whether Tim or Norman wins, he believes it is part of a higher plan and not because of the free will and thought of the Liberal Democrat membership. I really (and I mean really) struggle with this and I know many people believe in a plan and that God has our lives planned out for us but most of those people believe that God puts us in positions to make decisions for ourselves but the word sovereign doesn’t allow for that. If we are but mere pawns in a giant tapestry of human existence (and indeed that of all other species that God should he exist have no doubt created) then what is the point of life?

I asked Tim last night whether he would answer to God or to the electorate first and foremost? He replied that he answers first to his constituents. Yet what if his constituents say one thing and through the power of prayer, God tells him differently? That is the issue not with Christianity but in using the term sovereign to describe God. If God is all-powerful and all-knowing then surely anything he says through prayer would be the correct form of action? Therefore should he go with his constituents (should they be on the other side of the ledger) then he would be going against an all-powerful being. I really struggle with this.

My main issue though is if I two-bit nobody like me can read that interview and see issues then I’m sure plenty of smarter people than I can (and will) as well. You can’t have a sovereign being plotting out our lives but then say that he isn’t your first point of call. It just doesn’t add up.

Yet despite all this I will vote for Tim Farron when I open the ballot paper envelope that is sitting on my living room table.

The reason is simple, despite the likelihood that he is going to get grilled on this issue and he needs to formulate a much better answer that he seems to have at the moment, Tim is able to communicate far better than Norman Lamb and rightly or wrongly, this is a key part of being a part of being a political force in the digital era. Norman Lamb is clearly a smart man but every time I’ve seen him on TV it hasn’t been too far short of a car crash. Tim, whilst not being a TV natural, is extremely good face-to-face from all accounts and indeed has a stage presence about him. This gives him the nod in one key category.

In the other key category of being able to engage and enthuse with the activist base and the electorate then this is where Tim excels. His own electoral performance in his constituency is a clear example of this but also he seems better placed to be the front man.

A month or so ago I tweeted that Norman Lamb would be my choice over Tim Farron to be a minister but that Tim Farron would be my choice for leader, mainly because of the previous paragraph. The next leader has to be the best communicator we have and not only be able to win over the electorate, but more importantly win over the activist base and get them enthused and working again. There are plenty of liberals shying away and licking their wounds at the moment. The only way the party can recover is to get these people feeling as though we are still the radical liberal voice and that to get it, we need to work for it.

In cricket you don’t always have your best player as captain. So far this year we’ve seen a cricket World Cup and a New Zealand tour where Brendon McCullum has shown us that. He is a destructive player in the short-form and a very handy player in the long-form of the game but I see little doubt that Ross Taylor and particularly Ross Williamson are better batsmen and indeed Trent Boult may well be more important to the side but McCullum’s leadership has changed the way the cricketing world views New Zealand. The brand of cricket they have displayed is exciting and aggressive but all played with a smile on their faces, win or lose. McCullum is a captain and a leader but isn’t the best player they have. Tim Farron I believe is the same.

The Lib Dems don’t need the smartest or the most experienced guy in the room to lead them. They need the person who’ll get the best out of the resources they have and put the party in the best position to grow and recover. Being a leader isn’t about policy making but it is about being the face of the party. Being the person who people listen to and see on TV around election time. I think Tim has the edge here but his big lead comes in the form of appealing to the grass roots and the activist base.

You may well read this and wonder why I’m voting Tim when I clearly have big question marks surrounding him. Well I’ll have big question marks over whoever. I think Tim needs to find some better answers to some questions that he has faced and will continue to face regarding times where his faith will not sit neatly alongside the liberal viewpoint. I also think he also needs to improve his TV appeal. He is not bad but he’s not a natural. I know we’ve been spoilt by Nick, but if you look at any recent election in the digital era then apart from David Cameron’s performance this year (when people weren’t necessarily voting for him but more voting against the others) then the big winners in terms of vote share have all had people who were strong in front of the camera (Blair, Clegg, Sturgeon, Farage) so that is still a small issue but if he can get that activist base and the stay at home liberals out again (which I think he can) then that is why I think he’s the right man for the job at this current juncture.

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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June 29th, 2015 at 1:15 pm

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On Lib Dem excuses…

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Sometimes in life no matter how many excuses you can provide, you have to look yourself in the mirror and say that maybe it wasn’t everyone else’s fault, in fact it was quite the opposite.

You see as Lib Dems we often point at factors that didn’t help us during the past few years, some of them are very legitimate but at some point all the excuses start to pile up and they become implausible.

One excuses I would like to bring up that I believe is a significant factor in both the Lib Dems and Labour’s performance in the May 2015 General Election was the media. The media fucked up their election coverage woefully and whilst the commercial stations can duck a bit and shield themselves, the BBC is paid for by a tax that we are all forced to pay if we want to watch the idiot box in the corner of the room, they are meant therefore as part of that tax to bring a fair and balanced approach to their news and politics output. They didn’t and boy do they know that now. They let polling run the whole election campaign so this election in the media wasn’t fought on policy but instead fought on which coalition of parties people wanted to run the country.

The Lib Dems pleaded with James Harding, who is the BBC’s director of news to focus their output based on policy and not polling data but James sat back in his chair, stroked his cat and told the Lib Dems to do one as he was the most powerful man in the land and he could do whatever he wanted. As the Lib Dem representatives walked out of his office he threw his glass of wine at them, staining their clothing before laughing so hard that he did a hernia whilst looking over his shoulder at a signed photo of Lynton Crosby whose left eye had been replaced by a small spy camera to ensure that Harding stayed on course. I may have used a little bit of poetic license in that paragraph…

Still the point remains, the BBC fucked up and on reflection, they know it badly. The fact they kowtowed (which is one of my favourite words – rising fast but still not at meander levels) to David Cameron by not allowing Nick Clegg into their live TV debate, which they called ‘the challengers debate’ before saying that it wasn’t a challengers debate at all, it was just David Cameron and Nick Clegg had turned down the chance to appear, which was half-true, 50% truth isn’t bad for the BBC in this election, but the fact they allowed this and then gave Nigel Farage his own show after he put up a pissy that he wasn’t involved in the Question Time debate shows that they didn’t have a fucking clue what they were doing. It wasn’t even like they couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery, they couldn’t organise food in an all you can eat buffet.

So that excuse has more than a ring of truth to it, which hurt both the Lib Dems and Labour to some degree because of the obsession the media had over whether Alex Salmond would be propping up Ed Miliband. The people of this country shouldn’t have their news output affected by hypothetical situations, the news is there to report on what has happened and what is going to happen, not to ponder what might happen.

Yet that wasn’t the sole reason the Lib Dem vote collapsed. The party ran an ineffectual campaign and weren’t putting to the people of this country a plan for progressive liberal politics. The manifesto was a mish-mash of random ideas and a call that we would be a stabilising force with either Labour or the Tories in any potential coalition. On paper this might sound like a good position to be but in reality when the whole election was moulded by the media (with a large slice of help by the Tories – seriously they ran this campaign beautifully) about a potential coalition, then the electorate weren’t voting on policy but they were voting with emotion. Did people want Scotland running England and did people want the Lib Dems propping up the Tories were the two buzz topics that a lot of voters looked at when they went to the ballot boxes.

Now whether this is the sign of things to come I don’t know, but hopefully the media have learned their lesson about what their role is in society but also I hope the Lib Dems have remembered what is important. Yes if the media won’t report on policy then you try to get them to notice you through other means but when we brought out the idea of ‘Blukip’ then most of us knew things were a lot worse than we thought. No-one (well I say no-one, what I mean is no-one who wasn’t a UKIP voter) thought that UKIP were going to get anything more than the one MP that they got (and that was a lot closer than what people thought) so they were never going to be in a position to help prop up a Tory government. It was a Hail Mary pass but instead of all the Wide Receivers running down field into the end zone, they all stayed back in case the other team caught the ball and started running it back. It was total nonsense and bollocks and whilst it probably made no difference in the grand scheme of things, that was the moment where you knew that HQ wasn’t as confident as they had been trying to portray.

Many people have realised that by voting elsewhere and not going Lib Dem, they have helped to create the majority Conservative government that we now have and a not insignificant portion of them are now disappointed. They wanted to give the Lib Dems a slap for going into coalition with the Tories and they didn’t like that, but by doing this they gave the Tories more power, yeah that makes sense but again it goes to show that people were voting emotionally. The problem is that we as a party didn’t address these potential pitfalls and we weren’t offering much apart from, ‘we’ll make the next government a bit less unpalatable’ and that isn’t something that will motivate people to vote.

We all know that our performance within the coalition was mixed, some things we did well, some things we did badly but one thing we did woefully was communication. The communication between the party and the electorate was just abject. If you are the junior partner in a coalition then many people will automatically think you are the whipping boys and have gone against your principles but unless you challenge this notion head on and very loudly then you are creating resentment and the longer than lasts, the harder it is to get over. We have to understand that our communication was our responsibility and that is something whoever the new leader is will have to tackle head on.

You see most people want the party of the centre-ground not to be a moderating force but instead be a party of the radical centre. That is where the Lib Dems should live and breathe. Being a Lib Dem isn’t about curbing other parties but instead broadening the ideas of the radical centre-ground and campaigning on them.

Yes some things have conspired against us at times but we haven’t helped ourselves and it is time to stop blaming others for our downfall. We went down for a plethora of reasons and more of these were self-inflicted wounds than those dealt from elsewhere. Some of these wounds weren’t fair but when has life ever been fair people? It is time to snap out of our prolonged funk (which it does seem is happening) and start remembering the reason why we got popular (certainly at local level).

Blaming other people and the world around us is so uncouth and when you keep doing it people will just switch of and switching people off in politics is something you never want to do.

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 25th, 2015 at 10:30 am

Posted in Politics

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On all eyes on Richmond Park for a mid-late 2016 by-election…

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Ah Richmond Park. The seat that everyone has their eyes on for a potential by-election in the near future. There are two reasons for this, firstly Zac Goldsmith’s long-standing viewpoint on what he’d do if the government decided that Heathrow should have a third runway and latterly his potential bid to become Mayor of London.

Well the second of the two possibilities is now out of the bag as Zac announced that he intends to run for Mayor of London, as long as his constituents give him the a ok.

He has written to all the constituents of Richmond Park asking, ‘Do you give your consent to Zac Goldsmith to stand for election to be Mayor of London?’ If the majority come back with a yes verdict then he’ll very quickly become the Tory frontrunner (sorry Sol Campbell) and would also become the favourite to win despite Labour’s strength in the capital. If they say that they would prefer that he didn’t then he would listen to the voice of the people who elected him and put his personal political ambition on the back-burner.

Zac isn’t what you’d call the typical Tory when you take out his background and money. As a strong environmentalist, he attracts support from Liberals and Greens and would without a doubt get a significant amount of second preference votes. He’d be very much in the mix to win it and extend the Tories run of running London since Boris deposed Red Ken in 2008.

The big question is whether of course he’d resign his seat in parliament should he win. The general consensus is that he would. Boris Johnson is currently an MP and the Mayor of London but that is a short-term job share. To do it over four years would surely be a very unsatisfying situation for both the residents of Richmond Park and London as a whole. Personally I don’t see it but the former winner of the ‘Best New Lib Dem blog’ who is actually on the ground in Richmond Park, Richard Morris, says that the rumour is that he intends to do both, which would harm his election bid I’m sure as I’m not sure floating voters would vote for a part-time mayor.

If he did quit and set into motion a by-election then lets be honest here – from a pure selfish point of view – it is exactly the seat that the Lib Dems would love to see a by-election in. A recent Lib Dem seat, a seat where the local party hasn’t fallen apart, a seat where the Lib Dems are still the clear alternative to the Tories, a seat in an region of London where the Lib Dems have recently been strong and therefore have a plethora of activists on the doorstep, a seat where the Lib Dems, now in opposition and not part of a coalition government can really attack.

Remember back in the 80s and 90s, the Lib Dems (and predecessors) were the kings of by-election successes in the south and only one party in recent political history has ever held a by-election seat when part of a government (that was the Lib Dems in Eastleigh but boy that was close) so holding a seat when you have a by-election when you are a party of government is notoriously difficult.

If Zac Goldsmith is the next Mayor of London and indeed does resign his seat then come the late summer or autumn of next year then we’ll see an opportunity for the Lib Dems to pick themselves up off of the floor and show that the party isn’t dead. I know its a year plus away but what better fillip to the party than a by-election in a seat where the Lib Dems have recent electoral success? If things go down this way and the Lib Dems could actually win then that would turn the corner of the party and of the perceptions of the party.

Many if’s make Neil hope (or something like that…)

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June 9th, 2015 at 10:29 am

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On Charles Kennedy’s passing…

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I woke up to the news like others with a sense of shock. I woke up after a really strange dream that involved me killing Osama Bin Laden in the House of Commons with a former school colleague and being involved in a man hunt, that led to me being recognised by AFC Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe and him trying to apprehend me, yeah what on earth was my subconscious doing this morning? But still, I woke up, rolled over a flicked through social media and saw the news.

I never met Charles although I brushed past him on several occasions so I don’t have a personal story about him to share. Yet what I saw from a distance is seemingly what many others who were a lot closer to him saw and knew. The one thing that stands out is how many people described him as ‘human’ a trait that isn’t one that most people would use to describe a politician but Charles was that. He wasn’t perfect but none of us are, yet he treated everyone as equal no matter their political persuasion.

A friend of mine on Facebook, who has become extremely politically aware in the current climate and if a fierce SNP supporter shared her sadness at his passing and how she had voted for the Lib Dems in the past because of him. Most of her SNP friends commented with various praise that whilst he wasn’t one of them, he always came across as a decent person who worked hard for his constituents and was a principled man. Yes there were two or three people that seemed happy that a person who wasn’t aligned with them politically has passed on but the large percentage of comments were very glowing of the man and that in itself I think says everything, when so many who was vastly radicalised still think he was a good man then that shows the type of man that he was and what esteem he was held in.

He took the Lib Dems to their highest finish in terms of MPs and no-one could ever say that he played the game of politics, he knew what he thought and he knew what he believed in and that was that. He made a stand against the Iraq war despite the establishment seemingly convinced that it was the right thing to do and was willing to go against popularist movements if they didn’t align with his principles.

It should also be noted that he gave 32 years of his life to public service having been first elected at just 23 years of age and having retained his seat in the House of Commons until May this year. That is quite something and whilst many of us often feel as though MPs should have real world experience, this man didn’t hide inside the Westminster bubble and that is key.

You’ll read far better blogs and articles about Charles Kennedy today I’m sure but a good man, a good human, passed away today and the human race is just a little bit poorer today. I’ll leave the final word to the outgoing leader Nick Clegg who had this to say about Charles Kennedy this morning, ‘Charles Kennedy on form, on a good day when he was feeling strong and happy, had more political talent in his little finger than the rest of us put together.’

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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June 2nd, 2015 at 1:15 pm

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On Alistair Carmichael’s behaviour and that of the SNP mob…

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Two pieces involving the SNP in successive days? I must need my head seeing to…

So yes. Alistair Carmichael. What a bleedin’ eejit. Authorising the leak of the memo was a very political thing to do wasn’t it? The thing is, all politicians brief against other politicians and they nearly always do it on the condition of anonymity. This isn’t new and will continue to happen as long as politics is a thing. Denying he knew of it though when in fact he knew perfectly well what was going on, that was foolish and had he been my MP and I’d voted for him before finding out that he’d lied about something, then I suspect I’d be a bit peeved.

Carmichael’s political career is pretty much over in terms of what happens the next time he is up for election. Even Lib Dem supporters who believe that he has been a good constituency MP won’t automatically go to the ballot box and put their x next to his name any more. If you can’t guarantee your core vote turning out then you are in all sorts of trouble. People don’t like exposed liars, whether the lie itself as big or not isn’t an issue, being exposed as one will always hang around the neck of a politician.

Should he step down though and force a by-election is the next question? Legally it does seem as though he’s on pretty solid ground. Any dishonest statements that he made was not about anyone who was up for election at all, let alone up for election against him in his seat. Nicola Sturgeon has become the fresh face of Scottish politics because quite simply, the Scottish people needed a fresh face because Alex Salmond didn’t inspire any more and the Scottish people liked what she had to say because she spoke of populist policies. It is interesting to see just how different Scotland was compared to the rest of the UK in terms of this, the Scots voted for populist policies whereas the rest of the union voted for more economic prudence.

So legally Carmichael looks pretty secure but morally is another issue altogether. Does he have legitimacy for winning his seat? I think he probably does because whatever he knew or didn’t know, it didn’t effect his election as people weren’t thinking about that memo when they went to vote in Orkney & Shetland Islands. Yet he lied but as Sir Malcolm Bruce accurately put it, ‘my point is if you’re suggesting every MP who has never quite told the truth or indeed told a brazen lie, including ministers, including Cabinet ministers, including prime ministers, we’d clear out the House of Commons very fast, I would suggest‘.

I think that probably most politicians lie, or at least don’t tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth every time they open their mouths. That just isn’t the way politics works but also that just isn’t the way humanity works. We all tell white lies or don’t fully admit to things when we’ve done wrong. Should politicians be held to a higher standard than the rest of us? Is that fair? Aren’t politicians human like the rest of us?

Still though despite my disappointment in Alistair Carmichael’s actions, the very vocal mob that are trying to force him out aren’t much better and they are led by none other then their numero uno, Nicola Sturgeon herself. As Toby Young points out in The Spectator on her predecessor Alex Salmond, ‘On almost every critical point raised during the debate about Scotland’s future, Salmond was deliberately misleading. I’m not just thinking of his claim that he’d received legal advice reassuring him that an independent Scotland wouldn’t need to reapply for membership of the European Union. When the Information Commissioner ordered the Scottish government to respond to an FOI request to disclose the advice it had received, Salmond’s ministers spent £19,452.92 of public money appealing the decision, only to admit later that the ‘advice’ was a figment of Salmond’s imagination. So the First Minister misled the Scottish people on this point and spent taxpayers’ money to try to conceal the fact‘.

Alex Salmond misled the Scottish people in the independence referendum on multiple occasions. We all know that now and many of us knew it then. It isn’t exactly a shock but it just goes to show that the SNP are just as bad as the rest so to take the moral high ground against Alistair Carmichael seems churlish at best.

With the success of the SNP in May and the rise of the party, many of its activists have become radicalised and therefore see issues through a prism of hate instead of through clear spectacles. The sense you get is that if you aren’t for the SNP then you are against Scotland and are unpatriotic. I hilariously saw an SNP tweeter get retweeted into my timeline telling people to let him know if they were planning on watching the English FA Cup Final so that he could unfollow them for being unpatriotic and fraternising with the enemy. Today The National newspaper in Scotland tweeted out the following:

The National Newspaper House of Commons

The National Newspaper on Twitter 01/06/2015

In the lair of the enemy. This is the way things are now, many people see non-Scottish people as the enemy and that is sad to see. People get concerned over the radicalisation of terrorists but anyone can get radicalised for a cause and the independence referendum has led to a great swathe of people becoming radicalised in terms of nationalism. This isn’t good or isn’t bad per se, it is what it is, but what it leads to is people not thinking and acting with cool heads, they act on instinct and raw emotion and if you disagree with them then you are deemed wrong, very wrong, no matter what it is.

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June 1st, 2015 at 12:47 pm

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On the SNP and the ‘quality’ of their new MPs…

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Ok tin hat on, fake beard in place, different clothing ready to be worn. I’m going in…

First things first. The SNP have won 56 of the 59 Scottish seats and they’ve won them fairly and squarely under the system that we currently have in place, so this blog won’t say they aren’t a legitimate force in the House of Commons. I’ll be looking at how they may act and what pitfalls that they may have to face.

On the first day of parliament I had TweetDeck open and a well-known Lib Dem blogger said that they wished that Lib Dem MPs acted like the SNP ones, I typed in a reply of, ‘what, like douchebags?’ but decided it wasn’t worth the fight. The thing is many of the SNP candidates that became MPs in May had no experience whatsoever and were essentially warm bodies to put on a ballot paper. Then suddenly the surge in support for the party following the referendum meant that many of these people would win and therein lies a big problem.

For the established parties, they generally have a set of candidates who have some experience or some involvement in politics to get to the stage where they can win a Westminster seat. Parties may put up paper candidates around the country but they do this in seats they know they won’t win and little campaigning is done. This happens at both Westminster and local council level. The problem happens when a national surge means that parties who didn’t expect to win come through and then candidates are suddenly thrust into the role of councillor or MP.

When this happens it often leads to people who aren’t either ready for or prepared for the role being elected. I don’t blog about local issues here much any more but I think considering the events of UKIP and their elected representatives from the 2014 local elections then it is clear many (if not all bar James Moyies) of their victorious candidates were not ready to take on the responsibility of winning. It has seen big fall out, one resignation and plenty of newspaper inches being devoted to just what a clutterfuck they had been (and yet the guy who resigned was actually replaced by another UKIP councillor – madness).

I saw it happen in Guildford too, two paper Tory candidates came through to second and third in a ward (where three are victorious) and neither of them wanted to win but wanted to help the Tories put up a full slate. They won because of a national surge and now will be representing the people of that ward for four years despite having no desire to do so whatsoever. I have a feeling many of the SNP victors will have this sense to, maybe not now but in the near future.

Being an MP is not a job, it is a labour of love. I know many folk say that their salary is huge but when you compare it to an average job in the city then it is actually nothing special and the workload that an MP undertakes is vast. Yes they do get significant holiday time away from the House of Commons but that doesn’t mean that work stops. Constituents still have issues and therefore if you are thrust into a job and position that you weren’t really planning for, that will turn your life upside down then you are bound to take a second look at it once the reality sets in.

Many of the new intake of SNP MPs have come in believing that they’ll be able to make a difference but as many backbench MP will tell you, you come in full of enthusiasm but soon that gets knocked off and reality sets in. It is a bit like journalism, you may dream of breaking big stories, changing the world and making it a better place but instead you find yourself rewriting a press release about how the bee population is down 9% and that it is the fault of farmers, or something equally tedious.

Now this isn’t to say being an MP (or councillor for that matter) doesn’t have its rewarding moments, the trick is to quickly recalibrate your mind set to small victories being rewarding and that the big fights will be long, hard slogs. If the SNP MPs come in, get their head down, work hard for the people they represent and understand quickly that they are not in a position to change the world then they’ll do ok. If they think they’ll be able to change Tory policy and force another referendum then they’ll get dispirited rather quickly I suspect.

Lastly on this, the bullshit about where they sit, clapping and the like, grow the fuck up. You are not a bunch of frat kids on a piss up in the big city. You are the third biggest party and you get the rights and privileges that go along with that. However you are the third party, not the second, Labour are the elected opposition and you have to deal with that. I know the old two parties act like petulant school children way too often but you don’t have to act like petulant school children who have eaten too much haribo on the coach.

The SNP have to make a decision, do they want to play at being politicians or do they want to be good representatives for those that they represent? So far it looks like they prefer the former option, I will be interested to see how they react as the weeks and months go by and the Tories push through their agenda and the SNP MPs can’t do a damned thing about it, how will they react then? Will they throw their toys out of the pram or will they do what they were elected to do? It will be fascinating to watch as I have no doubt that a significant percentage of them are woefully unprepared for what lies ahead, will they sink or swim? Will they even try swimming?

Very few Labour, Conservative or Lib Dem MP’s who have been elected in recent times have been as woefully unprepared as the current crop of SNP MPs are. It will be one to watch to see whether people should vote for party over person If they impress and succeed then it may well open up the Commons to more backgrounds as the argument that you need to be embedded in politics to be a success will be diluted. I fear for them but if they do well then suddenly the Commons could be a much more open place and that would be fantastic.

No pressure folks…

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May 31st, 2015 at 2:12 pm

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On why I don’t automatically support the English at sport…

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England won a thrilling first test at Lords on Monday and usually I’d be dead chuffed but I slumped as I saw New Zealand just about not make it over the line. For you see in this Test series I’m rooting for the Black Caps and not the English and it is isn’t an abnormality and I’ll tell you why.

When Andrew Strauss banged on about ‘brand of cricket’ upon his hire, he hit the nail on the head for me. In all sports I root for various things but the way a person or team plays a sport is a big part of it and that includes personality. In this instance there can be little doubt that New Zealand play a brand of cricket that people the whole world over can get behind. Brendon McCullum can grabbed New Zealand cricket and dragged it forward with an all-out attacking approach and it is great to see. A team that stand as a unit and all buy into what their captain is doing. At the World Cup there was one team you wanted to watch and that was New Zealand because you knew what you were getting – a thrill a minute. He is the only man who when he comes into bat, you stop whatever you are doing to watch and his team follow his example.

Speaking yesterday the New Zealand captain opined about England, ‘What is their style that they want to be known for as a team, heading forward? Was their last performance how they want to play the game, or was it more of a case of maybe stumbling on it?‘ and he’s spot on. So much talk about a revival of English cricket based on this one win but there was a reason for it – when you get drawn into a slug match with New Zealand then the only way you can ever win is it to toe-to-toe with them. Dour plodding cricket that can win you matches but doesn’t win you friends. Lets be honest here as well, England won the first Test but they did so by always bowling in the favourable conditions and in cricket and at Lords – that is a big slice of luck to fall into.

All teams win teams in different ways, Chelsea were one of the most beautiful sides to watch for half a season and then they became pragmatic and less exciting. Still they kept winning. You play to your strengths and to the players that you have available at the time. If England’s best players aren’t attacking gung-ho players then they can’t play like that and win repeatedly. That just isn’t going to happen. The second Test gets under way in just under an hour and a half )weather permitting) at the time of writing and I’ll be fascinated to see if England revert back to type or whether McCullum’s swashbuckling approach will drag them out of their shell. The Ashes are only what, six/seven weeks away and England need to know what their identity is going into a series against the best team in the world.

My stance doesn’t just stop at cricket, for example I was all over the shop watching Goran Ivanisevic beating Tim Henman at Wimbledon in 2001. Goran’s approach and personality was fun to root for and Tim – as nice as he may be – just isn’t someone you can root for based on anything but his nationality. In Formula 1 I always rooted for Senna, then Barrichello and now I quietly root for Alonso and the Ferrari’s and now Vettel has left Red Bull I feel as though I can root for him a bit. I liked Mark Webber when he was the underdog in that team as well. Nothing against Lewis or Jenson but I’ve just never found them that likeable (although I think Jenson was more to do with the fact ITV slobbered all over him when they had the rights – he is clearly a pretty likeable chap now we actually hear about him and not just how amazing he is via James Allen).

In golf I don’t automatically support our players (unless it is the Ryder Cup of course) but if Lefty or the Big Easy are in the mix on Sunday in a major then it is very likely that I’ll be rooting for them. Lefty because of the way he plays and the Big Easy because he is a great player who didn’t get the credit he deserved in his pomp. It is also wel known that I root for old players who were past greats to have on big run at a big title again. Look at when both Ian Woosnam and Tom Watson led The Open going into Sunday, I was pulling for them both to win.

In general though this comes back to a wider issue. Just because I was born here doesn’t mean I feel I should idly support fellow teams and players from these islands. I may be British but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a mind of my own. Many believe that we as a nation need to be more British than we currently are and get back to British values instead of becoming a multicultural society. To those people I shake my head in despair. We are one nation but more importantly we are but one race in a universe full of different ones. We should stand side-by-side and learn from and grow with each other. we are more the same than we are different, so why are some people so intent on forcing divisions and cultural differences when in fact we as a race have far more important issues to deal with than the sense of nationality? That my friends is a question to which I do not have the answer.

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May 29th, 2015 at 8:39 am

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On The Rambles of Neil Monnery alternative Queen’s Speech…

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Ah yes I’m sure you’ve watched or at least read about what the government are planning on doing via their official mouth voice – the Queen. Yet what if I was in charge? I’m sure that is something everyone has thought about in the past few days but don’t you worry folks, no more lying in bed tossing and turning about what life would be like under me, I’ll inform you all.

So here is my Queen’s Speech, it may not be as serious as the real thing in parts…

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons, my government will legislate against Dion Dublin being part of the Homes Under The Hammer presenting team. It will be passed into law that Martin Roberts and Lucy Alexander are the only presenters of this stable for the unemployed, students, those who are ill and those who work from home. Speaking about daytime TV we shall also reunite the Working Lunch team from the 1990s to get that show back on the air.

Papi Le Batard will be given his own TV show and not just appear on his son’s, he’ll get a talk show. We will also make it clear to ESPN that Brent Musburger should be restored to his previous position of #1 play-by-play announcer for College Football games on the ESPN/abc family of channels.

(Here is a reason why Papi is amazing – here is a video of him and his son talking about his escape from Cuba)

When it comes to sport, we shall make the Scottish Football League a summer league, allowing it to flourish in a time when there is naff all else on the telly. Tickets for top sporting occasions will also be capped so that clubs and associations cannot excessively profit from the public public. Test cricket will be added to the Crown Jewels list on the proviso of a simulcast with Sky so we can still hear Michael Atherton and Michael Holding. Sky Box Office will cease to exist and all Sky boxing will be added to the standard Sky Sports package.

Looking at Europe and we’ll have closer ties with our European neighbours. We are a multicultural society and we should embrace that. The Isle of Wight will be kicked out of the union and will either become a Tax haven of the rich and famous or a prison colony, the country will have a referendum on this. Wightlink and Red Funnel either way will stop charging insane amounts for such a short journey.

Measures will be introduced to ban Speedo’s from swimming pools and beaches up and down the country because who really wants to see that? The school day will be lengthened to allow children to engage will more activities outside of the curriculum but homework will be abolished.

When it comes to social media, legislation will be put in place that will force companies to ensure that they provide opt-out buttons for all baby pictures and comments about someone and their significant other and how in love they are. Looking at the House of Commons, the dress code will be relaxed so that if Caroline Lucas wants to wear a ‘No more Page 3′ t-shirt then she will be allowed. Suits and so last century.

Two final pieces of legislation, during the southern hemisphere summer, George Calombaris, Gary Mehigan and Matt Preston will be invited over to the United Kingdom to present Masterchef – and do it the way the Aussies do it and finally Dion Dublin will be stopped from elbowing in on Martin & Lucy on Homers Under The Hammer. I know I have already said this but my government has it as a big priority.

So there we go. I might actually write a real alternative QS but also I may not. We’ll see how I feel…

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May 27th, 2015 at 12:02 pm

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On why 16 & 17 year-olds voting in the EU referendum is a no brainer…

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Like duh. This really isn’t too complicated in terms of issues is it? Are people who are old enough tet married or register a civil partnership with consent, drive a moped or invalid carriage, consent to sexual activity with others aged 16 and over, drink wine/beer with a meal if accompanied by someone over 18, get a National Insurance number, join a trade union work full-time if you have left school, get paid the national minimum wage for 16/17 year-olds, join the Armed Forces with parental consent, change name by deed poll, leave home with or without parental consent, choose a GP, consent to medical treatment, buy premium bonds, pilot a glider, buy a lottery ticket, register as a blood donor (but you won’t be called to give blood until you’re 17 and apply for a passport without parental consent then surely you can have a say on the future of the country?

The only real argument against it is that some 16 and 17 year-olds won’t understand the full ramifications of what they are voting for, but do you know what, a lot of adults won’t fully understand the situation either and I include myself in that statement. Very few will understand the full issue but instead they’ll get an overview and make their decision based on the information that they know. That is pretty much how all referendums and elections work.

As a 16 year-old do I think I could have done some Googling (not that Google was the search engine of choice when I was 16, we had Yahoo, Altavista, Lycos and many others, even maybe Ask Jeeves…) but the point remains, I’m sure I could have done some research and made an informed decision to some degree. If people can join the armed forces at such an age then I have zero doubt, let me repeat that, zero doubt, that people of that age should have the right not only to vote in this referendum but also to vote in general. Voting not only helps shape the country but if you old enough to pay taxes to the government then you should have your say on who that government is.

Of course the probability is that younger people voting would help my preferred answer in this referendum as younger people are more broad minded and are thinking about the future and not the past. The younger you are then in general you care more about the economy and less about immigration and that is the reverse of the older generation. Many of them (in my opinion) aren’t thinking about the future and what is best for their kids and grandkids but instead care about the ‘good old days’ and hark back to how things were better back then instead of noticing that the world has moved on – and continues to do so.

I am very much into multiculturalism and believe that this planet should be free for us all to live and work where we please. Many people who were born in the UK have moved elsewhere for work, for love, just for the sake of it and many people do the reverse. The more integrated we get as a society we get then the more tolerant we become. I firmly believe that the older generation are less tolerant for reasons unbeknown to me but I’d hypothesise it is because they got brought up in a different era, the war, the Cold War and the like.

My generation have never worried about the bomb or being invaded and I’m sure if we did then we may think differently. Still the fact is we haven’t and many of us have foreign friends and we aren’t scared about the differences. I lived with a guy of Indian descent at uni and he was great, I’m only ever truly fallen for one person and she was (well still is) Polish, I worked with several Poles and they were great people, even crazy crazy Dangerous D. I’ve worked with Spaniards, people of Malay origin, Portuguese folk, Aussies and I could go on. Who cares if they were born in a different country, should that and that alone determine where they should spend their life?

The world is our oyster and we should all be free to go where we please. Still though just because I think that and I think 16 & 17 year-olds will in the main agree that isn’t why I think they should get the vote. Heck had they gotten the vote earlier this month then things may have been even worse for the Lib Dems but they deserved the vote then and still do today. The young Scots voted in their referendum and got actively engaged in politics because of it and even if I think they made the wrong decision, that isn’t my decision to make, it is there’s and they have the right to make it.

Lastly I keep seeing UKIP members saying about this being a free and fair referendum. It will be so just shut up. David Cameron isn’t going to be stuffing ballot boxes with votes to stay in so just shut up. The country will vote and we’ll deal with the outcome when the countries voice has been heard. I just hope that the voices of 16 and 17 year-olds are included in the countries voice.

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May 25th, 2015 at 8:05 pm

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On the Lib Dem leadership race…

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We have two horses in the starting stalls in the race to rebuild the Liberal Democrat party and they have two very different jockeys saddling up on them. First to clamber on to his horse was Norman Lamb, an MP I didn’t really know. He’s seen as the more ‘Cleggite’ candidate and has the support of Dappy from N-Dubz. Then Tim Farron jumped aboard a horse and was quickly dubbed the favourite. Farron is seen as more receptive to the grass roots but he has questions to answer about his faith in relation his LGBT issues.

He has already come out and said that he regrets abstaining on the final reading of the Same Sex Marriage bill and that the reason was because of minor amendments in the bill and not because he was actually against the principle. In 2012 he wrote about how he believed that God could heal, which also got the membership up in arms as believing in faith and not science doesn’t sit too well with many. I defended him on that to some degree believing that people should be free to believe what they want to believe and Tim clarified his position a couple of days later after everyone attacked him.

Tim is the prohibitive favourite and rightly so. His campaign has been years in the making and he has clearly positioned himself on the centre-left of the party which is where many of the party want the Lib Dems to shift over into. The party whilst not split in two is clearly in two factions, one that believes in being socially left leaning but economically right leaning and those who are left with regards to both. This has led to some people just not dealing with the coalition well at all because any deal with a right-wing party just not sitting well with them no matter the reality of the situation. So the two potential leaders will need to be able to temper both factions if they are going to completely unite the party.

Not knowing Norman too well I was glad that when I turned on the idiot box yesterday morning and he was on the Sunday Politics and boy was I disappointed. He interviewed very poorly and the main thing I got from him was that Tim has questions to answer with regards to his stance on SSM and then he went on about one example of being a good constituency MP, which I don’t think stands him apart from any other Lib Dem MPs. To be a leader I think you have to be able to be comfortable in front of the camera as well as impressive and he just didn’t tick either of those two boxes. I’ll obviously give him another chance but I was turned off rather quickly.

Knowing that most people I know were already backing Tim, I suppose it is just my typical wanting to be different self that meant I hadn’t made up my mind as yet. I think pretty clearly that Tim is the right leader for the current state of play. The party needs to be rebuilt from the bottom up and get the activist base enthused again and that means in general speaking to the liberal base. He will get them engaged and as much as I hate the fact that its true, you need a good speaker and this is something Labour have been hurt by with Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband, neither are impressive nor comfortable on TV and whilst David Cameron isn’t great, he’s passable and of course even those that detest Nick Clegg would admit he’s comfortable and impressive in front of the TV cameras and I think Tim has a clear edge over Norman at this point.

I don’t think it would shock anyone to hear that my ideal leader is Nick Clegg but I think that he had to resign because the country had made it clear what they thought. The party has taken a five-year kicking and whilst I do genuinely think with every passing bill, the country will start missing the Liberal Democrat influence in government, Nick has been very unfairly tarred by his tuition fees stance and leading the party into a coalition. He had to step down not because he wasn’t the best leader we had but because he wasn’t what the party needed nor the country wanted.

Norman has a lot to prove in my opinion if he is to show that he is the right man for the job. Tim is a more than able communicator, will speak to the base more effectively than Norman and seems like the person who is best positioned to not just re-engage the activist base but also engage with the new members and attract back liberal members and voters who deserted the party over the past five years.

This leadership election is about who is best placed to get the activist base up, the councillor base up and in turn get more Lib Dem MPs in five years time and all the while get more people to vote Lib Dem not because they are the least-worst option in a seat but because they believe in the Lib Dems and their values. We found out this year that too much of the Lib Dem vote was borrowed from other parties because they wanted the Lib Dems to beat someone else. This isn’t a good long-term business model. The more people that vote Lib Dem because they want Lib Dem the better and I think Tim is probably the best man for the gig.

I’m not ruling out voting and backing Norman but he is a long-way behind in my mind and the finishing post is fast approaching.

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May 18th, 2015 at 9:43 am

Posted in Politics

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