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The Rambles of Neil Monnery Posts

On the possibility Jo Swinson loses her East Dunbartonshire seat next week…

When the General Election campaign kicked off there was some general enthusiasm for the notion that Boris Johnson could actually lose his seat in parliament to the Labour Party. Heck some even thought Jeremy Corbyn’s seat was in some jeopardy to the Lib Dems as the Remain wave swept over London. Some even thought Ian Blackford could lose his seat as the Lib Dems. None of these things are likely to pass but one other party leader that no-one is really talking about is actually in real danger of losing their seat and that is the Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson.

The more I look at the seat from a betting angle the more the SNP at 9/4 is a real play. The Nationalists will be looking to bounceback from a surprisingly disappointing 2017 performance by pointing out that Brexit is a fucking disaster and the quicker they are removed from the shackles of Westminster, the better for the country of Scotland. Considering what is going on down in the House of Commons then you can see it as a winning strategy.

Jo Swinson has of course lost this seat before to the SNP in 2015, when the independence referendum was still firmly on everyone’s minds and the Lib Dems were in a deeply unpopular coalition government. Even in this scenario, she only lost by just over 2,000 votes and came back to win by 5,339 two years ago, so why could she potentially be in trouble this time?

Well there are 7,500 odd Labour voters out there who can be squeezed. They’ll squeeze towards the SNP because Labour voters hate the Lib Dems more than ice hates fire but also because the SNP have clearly stated they would support Labour in the House of Commons should deals need to be done.

Add to that independence is back on the agenda so those whose primary goal is to get away from the rest of the UK as fast as possible will see that it is tantalisingly close. This should harden up the SNP vote.

Around 7,500 voters last time voted for the Tories and they will probably improve on that number with lots of the older generation who may well like and respect Jo Swinson departing the Lib Dems to vote for the party most likely to deliver Brexit. These numbers won’t be massive but they’ll have some impact.

The Scottish Greens have chosen to put up a candidate with the hopes of stealing 1,000 odd votes that would without them skew more Lib Dem than elsewhere.

East Dunbartonshire voted 71% to Remain in the European Union, which in England would probably mean Jo Swinson would be incredibly safe. In Scotland with another party who could very well be more likely to help keep Scotland in the EU being in play however, that is not the case here.

I don’t think anyone can say with their hand on heart that this election campaign has been a raging success for the Lib Dems. Maybe not even a success. Maybe not even good. Maybe not even adequate. Oh wait is that a clusterfuck I see on the horizon or is the 2019 Lib Dem General Election campaign I see on the horizon? To be honest it is hard to tell them apart.

With eight days to go before people go to the polls, the expectations for the Lib Dems are rapidly diminishing by the day. What better symbol for the disaster that is impending but for the woman who stated very confidently that she could be the next Prime Minister to herself lose her seat?

At the start of the campaign the Lib Dems had a tonne of momentum and good will. That soured early when Swinson stated she could be the next PM and people scoffed at the very notion. It wasn’t as big of a punch to the gut as Tim Farron’s pondering about what God would think about gay people having sex but it set the wheels in motion for what history will no doubt regard as a pretty bad campaign. I am all for being ambitious but that was a ludicrous notion and had the party set a realistic target that they could help Stop Boris winning an outright majority and therefore do whatever he liked, it would’ve played a whole lot better.

A month ago I thought Jo Swinson would hold on to her seat without too much of a fuss. Now I see it as a toss-up. Dominic Raab must be hoping that the Lib Dem leader goes down because that might well be the scalp of the night and he might be able to escape the Portillo ridicule moment.

Who would’ve thought a week or so out from Election Day that the Lib Dems would be in serious trouble to lose their leader? Well here we are and from the outside with absolutely no constituency polling data this is a very real possibility.

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On being a Lib Dem voter in a tight Labour/Conservative marginal…

For the first time in my General Election voting life, I do not know for sure who is going to be elected in the seat where I reside. In 2005 I knew the Tories were going to win the Isle of Wight, in 2010 the Clegg bounce had just tailed off so I knew that the Tories were going in win Southend West. In both 2015 and 2017, the Tories were going to win Rochford & Southend East. Now as we go to the polls in 2019, I live in yet another constituency and this one is all to play for – Bolton West.

This one is a straight Labour v Conservative marginal. Labour won in 2010 by 92 votes but lost it again in 2015 by less than 1,000 and came within 1,000 of getting it back in 2017. So it is fair to say it should be one of the more interesting contests of the whole election.

As a Lib Dem member I should be bound to vote Lib Dem but I’m also a pragmatist so I could vote for the least worse option of the two. This though is where we have a problem, I can’t at this point in with any semblance of good conscience hold my nose and vote for Labour and this is something I know plenty of Remainiacs struggle to understand.

The Tory is Chris Green, who is a rabid Brexiteer and in my opinion is a fucking asshole. I consider myself socially liberal but economically slightly conservative so in a perfect storm I could in theory vote for a moderate Tory candidate and party. This lot aren’t that and Green is a great example of the type of idiot who wants to drag the party to the margins. Heck he introduced in just his first year of office a Private Members Bill about Voter ID. What a tit.

So yeah, fair to say in this current guise Green and the Tories aren’t even on my radar.

Then we come to the Labour Party and where they are today. If Yvette Cooper was their leader I’d have a real decision to make. If Chuka Ummuna was still a member and their leader, I’d have a real decision to make. If David Miliband had won the leadership contest in 2015 and was their leader, I’d have a real decision to make. I think you get my drift.

My problem is Jeremy Corbyn is their leader and I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him (which isn’t very far as I’m rather weak). His vision for this country is to go back 40 years. On the biggest issue of the day he doesn’t have a strong opinion and his own advisers are split on what to do about Brexit. His economic plans aren’t tax and spend but spend and spend.

I haven’t even mentioned his lack of desire to address the antisemitic issue that seems rife within his party. The fact that Momentum seem to want to takeover and drag the party away from electability and towards pure socialism. The fact that the bullying within the Labour party is a real issue. The fact that the party rather than modernising under Corbyn, seems to be going backwards and finally the fact that in my opinion, they would prefer to be pure but in opposition than not be ideologically perfect but in power.

That final point to me is a big thing. We all want the world to be shaped in the guise of our own ideologies but to say it is all or nothing rather than small incremental steps to me is an absolute shower.

For this blog post I actually looked up Julie Hilling who is the Labour candidate here. She has been spamming my Facebook timeline with sponsored ads for weeks so I had seen a bit. Looking through her twitter though and the only Labour MPs she ever mentions are strong Corbyn supporters. So she is clearly on that wing of the party and I’ve gone back two months and done a search for ‘Brexit’ and ‘Referendum’ and found nothing on her timeline. So evidently she doesn’t want to take a public position about the biggest issue of the day.

Therefore I can’t vote tactically and this is a problem for Labour. I’m just one person but I’m exactly the type of voter they need to persuade in seats such as this to hold my nose and vote for them. I’m a strong Remainer and passionate liberal but also someone who thinks if Boris Johnson gets a majority then an awful lot of bad things will happen. Stopping that scenario is a must in my opinion but this current guise of the Labour Party isn’t that much better.

Come 12 December I’ll tootle off down to my local primary school and vote for the Lib Dem candidate Rebecca Forrest (I should at this point note that I know her and am friends with her) and I genuinely believe of the four candidate/party combinations that her/Lib Dem is without a doubt my first choice. Yet knowing maths all it will do is help the party to a strong third place in all likelihood.

This is why tactical voting gets so much air time these days, so many seats are just two-way barring anything strange. Many people want to help shape their area and vote for the person/party they want but know under the FPTP system, that often isn’t likely so they have to go for the least worst option out of the two that can win. That is just a sucky position to be in but here we are.

No doubt plenty of Lib Dems will be trying to squeeze Labour supporters in Con/LD seats and I’m here stating that despite theoretically being open to the possibility, I just can’t do so. I have no doubt that seems hypocritical and I get that. For me I just don’t think another Corbynista MP is all that much worse to a hard Brexiteer Johnson supporter.

We all know that another Labour leader with a more sensible approach to Europe, the Economy and vision for the future of the United Kingdom would be doing oh so much better in the polls. Yet we sit here today with Corbyn (and his supporters) putting all their chips on Red 10 rather than hoping for a small win just on Red. All that put together puts off potential tactical voters like myself and like we saw in the three constituency polls in London last week that asked LD and Labour voters to think tactically, more Lib Dem voters would struggle to support this version of Labour than vice versa and that is a problem I don’t think Labour can solve any time soon.

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On the Lib Dem chances in Chelmsford…

Back in the day (well 2017) I actually got paid to write columns about constituency betting. Due to contractual reasons I can’t do that anymore but I can of course muse some thoughts on this old here blog and I will do so as/when I feel like it over the next few weeks. I’ll start off with a bet I placed when the market opened up – Chelmsford.

To the untrained eye (or person putting together the odds) the Lib Dems wouldn’t be in play in the Essex town. Despite getting within 5,000 or so votes at the height of Cleggmania, the party fell back to Earth and finished 4th in 2015 to go along with a 3rd place finish two years ago. Both times the party polled 12% when you take basic rounding into account.

With the Tories clearing 50% in both past General Elections then it was a no doubt Conservative banker if you looked at very recent Parliamentary elections. The thing is doing such a thing is stupid and anyone who looks at 2015 or 2017 numbers as a basis of predicting 2019 results really doesn’t understand the state of politics at the moment.

Just this past local election cycle, Chelmsford City Council held all up elections and the Lib Dems went from five councillors to 31 and majority control. Not only that but where they won was in the built up area of Chelmsford itself, which coincidentally is where the House of Commons constituency boundaries are.

At the 2016 EU Referendum, Leave won 53:47 but that takes into account the council boundaries and not the parliamentary ones. There are no numbers that are published to say what votes went where but you can read between the lines looking at the council results that if the Lib Dems did extremely well in the built-up areas, then it is likely that the House of Commons constituency area voted to Remain – and possibly at a decent lick.

These are the types of areas the Lib Dems are evidently targeting in this General Election. Had the Brexit Party stood then you could easily argue that the Lib Dems should be the favourites in this seat but now a lot comes down to the Labour squeeze. Labour do not have a single councillor in Chelmsford and received near as makes no difference, one sixth of the votes that the Lib Dems did at the locals. Labour came fifth at the Euros only just beating out ChangeUK and UKIP. They are not a factor in winning this parliamentary seat.

So it comes down to whether those 15% of Labour voters who are probably ready to cast their ballot for Jeremy Corbyn’s party follow through with voting for who they deep down want or take the pragmatic approach. I’ve seen some serious data from polling services showing that if Labour supporters are convinced they are out of it then they will lend their vote to the Lib Dems.

I’ll be keeping a close eye on this seat not just because I’ve got a fiver on it at 66/1 (which was the insane opening price) but also because it is exactly the type of seat that the Lib Dems need to win if they are going to have a good night. Remain, soft Conservative and with a strong ground game. Since taking control of the council, the party seem to have been relatively popular. This isn’t the be all and end all for a national vote but it certainly doesn’t hurt.

The current price is around 9/2 (it got as short as 15/8 at one point) but the stagnant Lib Dem polling and the pulling out by Nigel Farage has shored up the Conservative price. If the Lib Dems stay at around 15-16% in the polls then I’d say that price is about right but would still be tempting. Where the Lib Dems are attacking, they are doing ok even if a lot of floating voters in non-target seats are starting to look elsewhere.

Unite to Remain are backing the Lib Dems and the Green Party have stood down. The Tory incumbent was only elected two years ago so won’t have the depths of personal vote that others will no doubt have. If the Lib Dems can actually get some momentum and creep up to the 20% mark in national polling then this is a seat that should go yellow, marking it down as the new Lib Dem beacon in Essex following Colchester’s demise as a Lid Dem seat.

A fortnight ago I was super confident that the 66/1 bet was coming in. Now I’m decidedly less so. If there were only two parties on the ballot then the Lib Dems eke it out but Labour will make it interesting. Labour votes in Con/LD seats will decide this election and that should be the focus of a whole lot of polling data analysis over the coming three weeks but they’ll be twists and turns yet…

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On whether the UK is ready for a strong female leader like Jo Swinson to be Prime Minister and is it time to pivot strategy wise…

Three years ago Donald J. Trump became the 45th President of the United States. Each person to have been elected to that position has had a penis and a pair of bollocks dangling between their legs. He won despite being woefully under-qualified and by doing so, he beat the most qualified person ever to have run for that particular job in Hillary Clinton. One big difference between the two of them is her reproductive organs weren’t on the outside (small hat tip there to the opening episode of Stargate SG-1…).

Now clearly the United Kingdom isn’t the United States. We have had two female Prime Ministers but only one of them actually won a General Election. Margaret Thatcher won three terms from 1979 through to 1987 and was ousted before she could run a fourth term by her party. I wasn’t alive for much of this having been born in the early 80s and she has shall we say, a divided legacy to put it mildly.

Logically you would think that as our society has moved forwards since this time that being a woman wouldn’t be a factor in this type of thing. Yet I keep hearing the same thing about Jo Swinson and that is she’s too shrill or full of self-importance, lacks personality and isn’t relatable. Personally I just don’t get that and then I look at the other two leaders and remember that women are being unfairly graded on a very steep curve.

Boris Johnson is a known cheat and a liar who will say whatever he feels like in an attempt to get his own way. He quite clearly acts like a petulant child but that doesn’t seem to raise an eyebrow, ‘oh that is Boris just being Boris’ say the media and the electorate. Do people want to vote for someone they think would be fun to sit around with in a pub having a few beers with or do they want the person who might actually do the best job?

Next up is Jeremy Corbyn who I actually think is probably a decent bloke but whose views of the world are certainly not forward-looking in any stretch of the term. His lack of empathy and strength regarding tackling antisemitic behaviour within his own party is a huge pox of his own house. Yet many people who deeply distrust him are will willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Why is that? He has constantly tried to walk along the top of a very narrow fence on the biggest issue of the day, no-one really trusts him to deliver what he says regarding Brexit but yet they still want to believe him oh so desperately.

If you were hiring a person for a job in a managerial position and had three candidates whose personalities were the three leaders of the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems, most people would gravitate towards the latter. Boris Johnson’s tomfoolery and lack of substance in an interview would be off-putting. Jeremy Corbyn you’d probably like to some degree but you would struggle to be inspired or think that he take the company forward. With Jo Swinson you’d probably like her gusto, her forward-planning and vision for the short to medium term future. Yet in politics it is a different beast.

As the years have gone on (heck even in my relatively short time on this planet) substance has given way to style somewhat. Look at some of the political leaders around the world, people like tough guys but tough women, not so much. The fact both Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson are too scared to debate Jo Swinson on the same stage says everything you need to know. The fact ITV and BBC have facilitated this also says a lot.

The glass ceiling clearly hasn’t been busted through just yet and it might be fair to say that we’re not even close in some parts of our society. It pisses me right off that so many still have preconceived ideas into how a person should act based solely upon something out of their control, in this instance men and women. A powerful man is good the electorate says but a powerful woman, not so much.

Even in other areas of society, some young boys are taught that to cry is to show weakness. To have empathy isn’t manly. I just don’t get it. Anyone should be allowed to feel emotions and to act accordingly. People shouldn’t be judged for who they are but for how they act.

I’m sure the Lib Dems did plenty of focus groups and got lots of data going into this campaign. Clearly the feedback was to put Jo Swinson front and centre but at this point, that clearly isn’t moving the needle much. The policies of stopping Brexit and negating a Conservative majority in the House of Commons must surely now take centre stage.

In the 2019 Local and European elections, I didn’t see Vince Cable everywhere but everyone was talking about Bollocks to Brexit and the Lib Dem ground game had been re-energised. A General Election is different but saying a simple and relatable thing many many times will slowly sink in. Jo Swinson is highly highly unlikely to be the next PM. I admired her (and our) ambition in saying this but too many people still see politics in this country as a binary choice between Labour and the Conservatives. So maybe we just need to take small steps rather than one giant leap.

There are maybe what, seven seats where the Lib Dems could realistically take a seat from Labour on December 12, Portsmouth South, Bermondsey & Old Southwick, Hornsey & Wood Green, Kensington, Cambridge, Leeds North West and Sheffield Hallam. There are several more in play should the Lib Dems vault up to the low 20s in the polls like say Hampstead & Kilburn and Islington South & Finsbury but they seem optimistic at this juncture.

Whereas there are maybe 60-70 seats that are within reaching point for the Lib Dems against the Tories across England, particularity in leafy Remain areas that have been staunch Conservative since day dot. It is pretty clear that the Lib Dems need to get that David Cameron type Conservative into the fold and then squeeze the Labour vote in these areas by saying you’ll stop Boris Johnson running roughshod over you regarding scrutiny over Brexit.

If I know it then people a lot smarter than me most certainly do and by constantly saying you can be Prime Minister, you aren’t reiterating that message. Stopping Brexit and Stopping Boris are two peas from the same pod. You need one to do the other. For me it is time to lower our sights and aim for influence rather than outright victory.

This ramble started out as a piece about how unfair it is that Jo Swinson is seen through a different pair of critical eyes compared to Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson but I’m ending it looking at how best to remedy the current state of play. Boris Johnson is on course to get a majority and drag the country out of the EU and do whatever his right-wing paymasters tell him. Jeremy Corbyn cannot stop him, simple electoral maths should make that evident to most. So it is time to game-plan not being the Kingmaker but being the mediating force stopping the government going too far away from the centre ground. If the Lib Dems can get that pragmatic argument across then maybe, just maybe it will resonate with enough voters who are distraught and appalled at the offerings of the two main parties.

Should this strategy work then it won’t lead to Downing Street (and we weren’t heading there anyway) but it could lead to Boris Johnson not being able to govern this country based on his own personal whims. The more extreme the government the more inequality is felt. The country is already divided and the only way to hold it together is to find some sort of middle-ground. The coalition burned us bad but that was nine years ago. The only people that care deeply any more are eerily similar to those who believe Jeremy Corbyn is perfect. Another coalition or even putting Boris or Jeremy back in Number 10 Downing Street isn’t on the cards but ensuring the government isn’t too right or left wing is and that is the card the Lib Dems need to play.

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On ITV and BBC allowing themselves to be bullied by Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson…

I’m pissed. Not in an alcoholic way for I am still tee-total but in a more angry sense. As I’ve gotten older I believe I’ve become wiser to the world around me. I’ve become more critical of decisions and rather than take them at face-value, tried to look behind the headline to see what the real situation is.

That happened once more again today when I was thinking about the Lib Dems and SNP’s bid at the High Court to get into tomorrow nights ITV debate. The media company have invited the leaders of the Labour Party and the Conservative Party to tell the public why they should be the next Prime Minister. ITV have done this for one of two reasons, one is that they believe that only these two men can get that job or two, that was the only circumstance in which these two men would appear. They knew from 2010 that giving the Lib Dems a platform was potentially an issue.

I surmised to myself that I bet ITV would postpone the debate if Swinson forced to be included because they knew that one or both of the leaders wouldn’t want to share a platform with her. This thought was confirmed in the last line of The Guardian’s write-up of the proceedings:

‘ITV told the court that if the legal challenges succeeded they would postpone Tuesday evening’s election debate.’

So there we have it. ITV made it clear it was Boris v Jeremy or no debate at all. Surely that just sucks and all it does it help keep the two big boys at the top of the tree. This isn’t the America’s Cup where only one boat can challenge the defending champion for victory, this is politics where people should be able to choose who they vote for and public broadcasters shouldn’t get to shape the debate.

Do I think everyone should get a seat at the table? No because as we’ve seen before that actually is no good for anyone. What needs to happen is there be actual procedures in place to decide who gets to stand up on the public airwaves and give us their pitch. Whether that is an average of polls over the past few months or amount of councillors or what, I’ll leave that to other people but for a national party who are fielding enough candidates to win and who are polling in the mid to high teens to be kept out shows the company up for what they are – scared of the bully boys who want to get their own way.

I even think that if Nigel Farage hadn’t of bottled it and stood down his candidates in 317 seats then he should’ve been invited. The Brexit Party won the European elections just six months ago and have been polling in the teens until very recently. So this isn’t just a Lib Dem thing, it is a democracy thing. If ITV and the BBC can only get a debate of Conservatives v Labour then they’ll take it because that is better than nothing in their eyes but in terms of fairness, its a crock of shit.

This is why Sky News should get some appreciation. They didn’t negotiate with Labour and the Tories, they just said we want a three-way debate and here is the date. It forces them to choose whether or not to turn up. Whereas the BBC and ITV just took what they could get. Seeing our public broadcasters acting so scared of the two major parties is depressing to see.

I can understand why Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson are scared of being on a stage with Jo Swinson. They know it’ll legitimise the Lib Dems in the eyes of millions of voters who at the moment are less than enthused by the leaders of the two main parties. Allowing them to pick and choose the time, place and how they debate though gives them all the power and shouldn’t the media be holding them to account rather than be a puppet on their string?

ITV and the BBC have shown the electorate that their number one priority isn’t to give everyone a fair crack of the whip. They just want the inventory. They are playing a huge role in shaping the future of this country and I have no doubt some people there will love that feeling. Others no doubt will be feeling remorseful that they are part of stifling free debate.

Tomorrow night millions will tune into ‘Johnson v Corbyn: The ITV Debate’ and get the feeling that they are the only two players in town. It is a massive leg up for both men against others and is that fair? Some will say that no-one else can form a government so who needs to hear from them but if you keep the other parties quiet then they’ll never make it. Justin Trudeau came from third to win just a few years ago, Emmanuel Macron formed a new party and won just a couple of years back. Change can happen in politics, certainly in volatile times but as long as the media are scared of the incumbents big boys, change ain’t gonna come.

Grump, grump, grump…

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On whether the Canturbury situation is Jo Swinson’s ‘Gay Sex’ issue…

Two and a half years ago or so Theresa May called a General Election in an attempt to get a stonking majority, crush Jeremy Corbyn and get her vision of Brexit done and dusted. It would be her legacy and boy she was on course for that big victory. She knew that plenty of former Lib Dem seats could drift back to the party but Labour were so downtrodden that picking up huge swathes of red seats seemed easy enough.

Then a funny thing happened. Theresa May had a dire campaign, which would surely mean the Lib Dems would pick up steam in those Tory/LD battlegrounds but an even funnier thing had happened before the then Prime Minister shot her own campaign in the foot, the Lib Dem leader Tim Farron just wasn’t sure where he stood on gay sex and that was the end of that.

For you see, a lot of the Lib Dem vote is extremely soft because – and I’ll tell you a little bit of a secret here – not a lot of people actually want to vote for the Lib Dems. They will find any excuse to not do so. I’ve had people email me when I ran a local party website telling me they were going to support us but found a small part of our manifesto that they disagreed with so they wouldn’t. They would instead vote for Labour who had the same thing in their manifesto but that was ok.

Even today I got a message from a supporter telling us that we had lost their vote. Did it have anything to do with policy or something a local candidate had done? Lord no. It had to do with what was going on in Canterbury (although he said it was Cambridge so I’m not sure exactly how clued up they are…) and because we still intend to stand a candidate, we have lost their support. I’m seeing it all over twitter as well. Anything to not vote Lib Dem and instead vote for Labour’s version of Brexit.

This is a problem for Jo Swinson and the Lib Dems. A big problem. The media narrative is already pushing this towards a two-party race. This is what the media like as it makes life a whole lot easier and for many people, they too like this because it sets up a straight contest. The fact the Labour Party and the Conservative Party both want a version of Brexit means very little to a lot of people. Remainer types see Labour as the party of Remain despite their policy being completely different to that. They’ll change people think. Will they heck.

Political campaigns are all about momentum and in the early running of the 2019 General Election one, the Lib Dems are at best – and I mean at best – treading water. The Con to LD vote among Remainers seems pretty solid and significant. It is why many Conservative seats in these areas are very much in play for the Lib Dems. Their problem is Labour Remainers are just itching for a reason to flock back home. They don’t care if their party is racist, antisemitic, actually led by a Brexiteer, what they want is to still vote for them. The Labour vote is more engrained than any other among supporters.

This is why Canterbury causes such a problem for the Lib Dems. Labour stole the seat on the Jeremy Corbyn bounce in 2017 with a candidate who could easily sit on the Lib Dem benches in a parallel universe. Plenty of Lib Dems could go out and vote for her as their MP but she is still standing on a Labour platform of negotiating a version of Brexit, which she says would be a bad thing. She wants to win to change the party from the inside but didn’t we see that play out last time and look, plenty of moderate, Remainer type Labour MPs have either left the party or decided not to stand again seeing the direction the party is going in. Clearly Labour are moving even further left – just like the Tories are moving further right – as the moderates in each party decide they’ve lost the war.

Would Rosie Duffield be an excellent MP and voice for Remain in the House of Commons? Sure. Would she get there by standing behind a manifesto promising a Labour version of Brexit? Yes she would. Now in Labour’s scenario there would be another referendum where presumably she would support Remain so go against her parties negotiated position. Surely that makes little sense? Yet folks, that is where we are.

So do the Lib Dems parachute in a candidate who at this late stage have next to no chance of winning? Probably not, yet by sitting back they aren’t giving Remainers a viable party to vote for who could on a good day win the seat. It is hard Brexit vs. negotiated Brexit and for many that would in itself be a bad thing but because it is a Labour Remainer who is the MP, standing against that would be a disgrace.

The Lib Dems cannot win this situation. All they can do is manage it. Would I at this late stage parachute someone in who’ll enter a local party who don’t want to stand someone and who is highly unlikely to win? Probably not but by standing down, you aren’t giving the residents of Canterbury a Remain manifesto to vote for. You also are giving something to Labour but getting nothing in return. A pretty crap position in itself.

This leads me to think that should the Lib Dems not stand in Canterbury, it wouldn’t do much good as soft Labour supporters will just find another reason to stick it to the Lib Dems and vote for the party they want Labour to be. If they stand they’ll get pilloried by many for actually wanting to win seats in the House of Commons.

Damned if they do and damned if they don’t, the Lib Dems know that they are held to a higher standard than the other two major English parties and should they fall short of those lofty expectations, they’ll get punished, even if they reach a mark higher than the Tories or Labour.

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On Chuka Umunna’s future now he’s a Liberal Democrat MP…

It didn’t come as any surprise when I saw the tweet last night that the former Labour and ChangeUK had announced that he was joining the Lib Dems. The writing had been on the wall for some time and they’ll likely be more dominoes to fall in the coming days. The main reason Chuka wasn’t a surprise was I think he has real ambition in politics and having seen his Labour Party being taken over by the radical left, he needed somewhere that would give him a platform for him to sing from his own hymn sheet.

The story in the Mail on Sunday about him wanting to stand for the Lib Dems in his constituency of Streatham at the weekend had no quotes but obviously came from someone with at least a rough idea into the mind of the 40 year-old. At the point of reading it, I dismissed it due to the lack of on the record quotes but clearly it had some basis of truth but hey, here we are.

Personally I’m relatively laid back about MPs joining the party as long as they are broadly liberal. Chuka has said some extremely nasty things about the Lib Dems in the not so distant past and it is widely believed that he was the instigator of the infamous ChangeUK leaked memo about how to crush Vince Cable’s party. That certainly isn’t a good look and having scepticism along with cynicism about the reasons he’s joined are perfectly valid.

One thing can’t be dismissed however and that he is an excellent orator, good campaigner and the type of person who wouldn’t have looked at the Lib Dems years ago but now realises they are the obvious choice to capture and grow the all important centre ground. The Tories are splitting left almost as fast the Labour are splitting left. The Lib Dems need to grow if they are ever going to recover from post 2010 and to do that you need to attract new voices to the ranks. Holding somebodies past against them forever isn’t fair and if Umunna is fully on board with Lib Dem domestic policies then he’d likely be a fine asset to the party.

One of the biggest questions now is what does he do for the next General Election? Having leapt out of the fire to join the abject failure that was ChangeUK, setting up shop within a political party who could theoretically win his constituency and has other prime London seats available, his political career suddenly isn’t in the free fall that it looked to be not so long ago.

Sticking in Streatham is the clear and most obvious choice. The way in which Helen Thompson, the woman who’d already been selected as the PPC for the seat welcomed him publicly I thought was key. Having MPs join the party is often going to knock local campaigners noses out of joint. Having fought against someone for years and then seeing them waltz in can be infuriating and immensely frustrating.

However there are other options, which are far less palatable on the outside.

In The Guardian today the following was typed:

One Lib Dem source suggested he could stand in Richmond Park, the seat held by the Tories’ Zac Goldsmith but which was won by Cable’s former chief of staff Sarah Olney at a byelection in 2016.

Cable’s Twickenham seat could also become vacant, if the 76-year-old decided to step down at a future general election.

Now I hope to hell heaven that is complete and utter horse shit. Sarah Olney is the right person to be in line to take on Zac Goldsmith the next time voters go to the polls in Richmond Park. Any decision to parachute Umunna in would be extremely counterproductive. The fact Sarah lost her seat by 45 votes in 2017 whilst Vince next door won by going on for 10,000 is a stain on the party. I won’t call it sexist (although I know many others do) but the way that Vince got so much support when he was well on his way to victory whilst Sarah succumbed to a devastating defeat six months or so after having won the by-election is something the party need to ensure never happens again.

Twickenham is also a top seat where if Vince decides to step down, a plan of succession should be put in place and if Chuka wants to apply for it then so be it. What shouldn’t happen if for him to be slid in having had the wheels well and truly greased.

My personal point of view is if any MP from another party (or The Independent Group) want to defect to the Lib Dems and they broadly share liberal values then I’ll happily welcome them with open arms but on one proviso, that they aren’t promised a top seat and instead vow to grow the party where they currently stand (at least in the next election). Should say they stand and lose but apply for another seat next time then that is fair enough but they shouldn’t be given preferential treatment.

The Lib Dems are a pretty broad church and the overwhelming issue that is Brexit is clearly widening the congregation at the moment. Just going after the ‘core liberal’ vote won’t win just like Labour can’t win by harvesting a ‘core Labour’ vote and the same with the Tories. Winning in politics is about appealing to people who wouldn’t usually support you.

Attracting Chuka Umunna may well be a matter of convenience to both parties (for him a chance to keep his political career going and for the party, a chance to add another well known voice and potentially grow the party in a seat that has never returned a Liberal Democrat MP) but if both sides are happy then why not?

So overall I’d like to welcome him to the party. Do I have some concerns? Sure I do but the biggest thing to me is that any talk of him running to Richmond Park gets shut down ASAP. As he says himself, he’s a Streatham kid and he could actually win that seat as a Lib Dem, running for pastures new would not be a good look.

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On Femi Oluwole and his Labour voting intentions despite their love for Brexit…

When you are the self-styled voice of Remain, one of the things you have to do is be consistent in that voting that way is pretty darn important. You don’t see Nigel Farage rail against the European Union and suddenly decide to vote for a party who thinks the EU isn’t all that terrible. When you have a position where you don’t want to compromise, compromising or indeed flat out u-turning is a strange move indeed.

This brings us on to Femi Oluwole, who over the past few days shown that he’s against Labour’s position on Brexit but has given his backing to their Peterborough candidate and decided to vote for them at the EU Elections on Thursday 23rd May.

Now Labour voters who want to Remain will struggle to go to the voting booths in a week or so and enthusiastically vote for the party. Many will do so out of loyalty and sheer habit. However if you are such an extremest and put remaining in the European Union above all other things then surely you couldn’t vote for Labour at this time in good conscience?

Femi took to twitter yesterday and confirmed he’s tactically voting Labour:

https://twitter.com/Femi_Sorry/status/1128244548386394112

He uses the 2014 election results as the backing for his reason. The whole idea that politics haven’t moved on in leaps and bounds since then is absolutely absurd. Holding your nose and voting for the least worst option is something many voters have done in the past but when the party you decide to vote for essentially has a policy of exactly the opposite of what you want then what are you doing?

Labour have had a successful position on Brexit because they’ve been able to have two believable faces. For many they look to Jeremy Corbyn and his desire to move away from the European Union in at least some capacity to show that he is respecting the wishes of the majority of people who voted in the EU Referendum in 2016. For others, they look to people like Tom Watson and Sir Kier Starmer who are advocating a People’s Vote. Two positions that fail to sync up but allows people to believe what they want to believe.

The problem with this position is as people become more polarised, they want more assurances of where political parties stand on the issue. The whole notion of compromise has been flung out of the window as Leavers want to leave no matter what and Remainers the exact opposite. Labour have to pick their lane and run it in now as after two years, people are starting to see through the cracks and distancing themselves from the party’s two positions.

The Brexit Party want out out out. The Lib Dems are saying Bollocks to Brexit. The Tories are mostly saying out but understand that just walking away would be financial suicide. The Green party want a People’s Vote, ChangeUK are a joke and Labour are still trying to dip their toes on both sides of the fence.

Now I have some bias clearly because I’m a member of the Lib Dems but if you go through my archives on this very blog, you’ll see I’m not just some partisan cheerleader for the party. Yet on this issue, the party has a very clear message and has to be one of the best choices for those who feel passionately about Remaining within the EU. Now the Greens and ChangeUK also have stronger Remain leaving tendencies (with the SNP and Plaid Cymru in Scotland and Wales respectively) on that list too. Should you want to vote for any of those parties as a strong advocate of either revoking Article 50 or giving the people a confirmatory vote then that is understandable. If you vote Labour and want either of those things then that doesn’t pass the bullshit test. If you vote Labour on the 23rd and think either of the two things in the previous sentence then you are basically saying that political positions aren’t important, you’ll just vote for the colour rosette you want.

When you see him tweeting about Tony Blair and Nick Clegg in a rather unfavourable light, it does seem to raise the question about where he’s at politically. Is he a person who passionately believes in the European Union (as do Blair and Clegg by the way) or are his leanings more towards Labour (or the Greens) with domestic policy and having them in power actually trumping Brexit as his primary goal?

Lastly as has been widely reported, Ole was on the verge of being a Remain Independent candidate in Peterborough for the forthcoming by-election. He pulled out at the very last minute and has cited his reasons in a column for The Independent here.

None of those reasons are far-fetched and if he doesn’t want to run then he shouldn’t receive any stick but one paragraph just stuck with me:

‘The Labour candidate, Lisa Forbes, would be a far better MP than me – if her party wasn’t still supporting Brexit. She has lived in Peterborough for over 30 years, she’s working class and her policies for fixing the housing crisis are far better than mine (partly because they actually exist). But none of her Labour policies will see the light of day if any version of Brexit happens.’

None of her Labour policies will see the light of day if any version of Brexit happens and yet he’s backing her and her party despite the fact they quite clearly want at least some version of Brexit to happen. The mind boggles.

This is a great example of where Labour are right now. Somehow they are able to attract (or keep – I don’t know Femi’s past voting history) ardent Remain voters despite the fact they want Brexit. If you have a strong belief that Brexit will ruin the country then supporting anyone who advocates it seems be just shooting yourself in the foot on purpose.

What do they say, Turkey’s wouldn’t vote for Christmas but apparently ardent Remainers will vote for Brexit.

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On having one mildly successful tweet…

If you are reading this then I suspect there is a decent chance that you know me or at the very least follow me on twitter. In that case you’ll know I’m pretty much a nobody. An insignificant speck that resides on this great vast planet we call the Earth. I have around 1,500 people who follow me on twitter. That isn’t a large number by any means. So in terms of having a social media platform, I have one just like oh so many others, it is just infinitesimal.

This takes me to this past weekend. On Friday night just before I went up the stairs to Bedfordshire, I saw the story in The Sun that Diane Abbott had been photographed drinking from a can of Mojito on public transport. I was seething so much that I couldn’t sleep that night. Oh no, wait a minute, what I actually thought was I can’t believe this is the top story in a newspaper.

The next morning before I arose from my pit that I call bed, I composed a tweet about said story and my thoughts about how it said more about the state of journalism in this country than it did about what the Shadow Home Secretary actually did.

Said tweet is embedded below:

After I hit send, I went about my Saturday morning. Getting up, having a shower, cleaning my teeth, you know the bog standard normal Saturday morning stuff. I left my mobile phone on the floor by my bed blissfully unaware that it was starting to go off repeatedly with notifications.

It got to about half past eight when I finally picked up my phone but still I didn’t notice anything. Strolling downstairs I opened the patio door, took a camping chair into the garden and opened up my laptop to read the overnight news and sort out my fantasy baseball team.

As I opened said laptop, the last page I’d been looking at before closing it down the night before was apparently my TweetDeck. My notification block was streaming with updates. It was quite bewildering. In that hour to an hour and a half between writing the tweet and first seeing my TweetDeck, it had 81 likes. Crazy I thought.

Then as the morning progressed that stream became a torrent. By now I’d noticed and my phone was buzzing constantly next to me. 500 likes, 100 likes, 250 retweets and still going. Every so often someone that I recognised hit the RT button and the notifications would speed up even more. People were replying to my tweet at a far greater rate than I could even consider reading them, let alone reply to their replies.

Most people either wanted to tell me off for buying said newspaper (which I didn’t, the tweet expressively said I had read it online), lambast me for regarding it as journalism or just agreeing with me. A handful did contact me to tell me that laws are laws and she deserves to face further action from the authorities.

The thing that stood out though wasn’t the vast array of opinions but just how much time having a semi successful tweet could take out of you. It makes you appreciate what famous or at least semi famous people have to content with regarding social media. I chose not to interact because I had other things to do on Saturday and didn’t want to be tied to my tiny screen all day. Even by the early evening when the other half and myself went out for dinner, my phone was still beeping away at a rapid rate of knots.

Now I know I could’ve switched off all notifications from that tweet (well I know now…) but it was an interesting insight into how all-encompassing social media can be. Both on Saturday and Sunday nights the notifications were still coming in at a pace so I turned my phone on to silent so I wouldn’t get interrupted.

It is now Tuesday afternoon and my phone has stopped doing its thing. My tweet has been liked and retweeted out. My subsequent pithy comments are once more generally being ignored and rarely interacted with. Normality has returned but for one small moment in time, I wrote something that would appear on over half a million people’s timelines around the world. It wasn’t even that successful in the grand scheme of things but it once more it shows just how powerful this medium is.

If a nobody like me can have his bleary eyed Saturday morning thoughts shown in front of over half a million sets of eyes then imagine just how influential other people are. If that doesn’t scare you then I don’t know what will. The fact we are all exposed to the random thoughts and whims of oh so many people leads me to think this is why we are where we are today. With one third of young Americans apparently not convinced the Earth is round, with a President who lied his way to power, with the Leave campaign having lied their way to victory on the side of a bus. Truth and honesty doesn’t seem to have a place in the world of instant spin and murky truth.

Shit.

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On Layla Moran, domestic abuse and the sexist lack of Lib Dem outrage…

Equality is an easy word to comprehend but sometimes not an easy word to live-by. Treating people equally should be something that is second nature but the truth is that we fail to do this in every day life. Many of us think we succeed in this but the reality is we only succeed in this to varying degrees.

On Saturday night Layla Moran tweeted out a story about how she’d once been charged with domestic abuse for slapping her then partner. The charges were subsequently dropped. You can read the full version of events in this embedded tweet.

Hi everyone. I have a story I want to share…. pic.twitter.com/iy9uKOCKau— Layla Moran (@LaylaMoran) March 23, 2019

Everyone can have their own opinions on what happened based on reading the above. I have mine and if I’m being 100% honest, I don’t think it is right or fair of me to air my own personal views on what I do think is a private matter. However I will blog about the response and the tone of the statement, which I think is fair game.

Firstly this statement went out at 6:52PM on a Saturday night after the People’s Vote March in London. If you are cynically going to bury what is clearly at best, embarrassing news then this is exactly when to do it. In the middle of the night is too brazen but people aren’t on social media as much on Saturday evening’s. Add to that the media are all over the Punch & Judy show that is the cabinet playing with our futures that the dealings of a Lib Dem MP is not uppermost in their minds.

Also she makes it very clear that this statement is in response to rumours that have been bandied about. So this is all about getting in front of a story. Clearly someone or some publisher had it and it was coming out. The MP for Oxford West & Abingdon did the right thing to address it head on, no question about that. However all the responses calling her brave are to be frank, disgusting. It isn’t brave to come out and admit to being a domestic abuser if the story is going to come out anyway.

It isn’t brave just to come out to the public and admit to your faults. If she’d said this years ago or if this Mea culpa had come out organically then it would garner more sympathy. For it to come about just because the story was coming out anyway is anything but brave or courageous, it is just trying to control the narrative.

Reading some of the tweets from prominent Lib Dems in response to her tweet embedded above just blows my mind. It is like she is being treated with kid gloves and I’m trying to work out why that is. Could it be because she was the most articulate and impressive woman currently in the position of MP within the party? Could it be because by coming out and addressing her faults, it shows she is human? Could it be because many people don’t truly understand domestic abuse or could it be because many believe domestic abuse is different when handed out by a woman instead of by a man?

I’ll address that last question first, if say this was Ed Davey (another potential leadership candidate) who tweeted out exactly the same story, would the responses have been the same? Hell no. There would be very loud calls coming from within the party membership to strip him of the whip and be kicked out of the party. We all know this and isn’t that just fucking hypocritical? Why should we treat two people differently just because they have contrasting sexual reproductive organs? Isn’t that the very definition of sexism?

Domestic abuse happens in this world and it is abhorrent to its core. Whether it is a man to a woman, a woman to a man, a man to a man, a woman to a woman, our perception of what is bad about hitting another person should not change.

Getting out in front of the story does show media savvy and the art of crisis management but brave, oh come on, give me fucking strength. We are all human and all flawed, every single one of us. Facing up to those flaws is part of humanity but doing so only when being strong-armed doesn’t show me much.

I’ve read the statement several times this morning and there is one little word missing, ‘sorry.’

It may seem like a trivial thing but Layla has to understand that she has let people down. The vast majority of survivors of domestic abuse don’t just move on with their lives. Richard may well of done and it may have been an isolated incident but for others it leaves deep psychological scaring that never goes away.

The statement itself comes across as a non apology apology and also comes across as victim-blaming. Saying the relationship was under stress and you felt threatened is not an excuse to ever hit somebody.

My disappointment with Layla is pretty severe but my anger is not. Being flawed isn’t anything new and recognising those said flaws isn’t a bad thing. However not once did she address her sorrow for hitting another person nor once did she say what she learnt from this incident and how she deals with losses of temper these days.

This should not completely derail her career. This one incident doesn’t mean that she’s not the most articulate and impressive woman currently earning their pay cheque as an MP for the Liberal Democrats. However whilst she’s placated many within the party, who are shamefully happy to sweep it under the carpet as it doesn’t fit with their narrative, the wider public rightly or wrongly expect Lib Dems to be squeaky clean. People are desperate not to vote LD and will find any reason not to do so. We saw in 2017 that Tim Farron’s position on gay sex in relation to it being a sin in the eyes of God cost the party plenty of votes from people who could’ve voted our way.

To get people to overcome the past nine years of Lib Dem dislike is tough and whilst it is patently unfair, the general public hold Lib Dems to a higher standard than those of Labour or the Tories. Sadly that is just the way it is and no amount of moaning about unreasonable that is, that is the reality. A potential leader who has admitted she slapped a partner in the heat of the moment will not play well out there.

So yes disappointment with her is flooding through my veins and I can to some degree understand this should be a private matter. People don’t deserve to know about every little detail in their elected officials personals lives. Yet just because criminal charges were dropped doesn’t alter the fact the incident happened.

As a party who purports to be on the side of domestic abuse victims, letting this slide doesn’t seem to send out the right message. Congratulating her and telling her how brave she is though takes it to another level for me. I saw the statement for the first time 14 hours ago and I’m still shaking my head at some of the replies.

If I were on the outside looking in, I’d say that the Lib Dems are against domestic abuse dished out by men but women who partake in it should be applauded for being honest and brave about it. Just re-read that sentence and if it doesn’t blow your mind then I wonder whether your mind is open at all.

Lib Dems shouldn’t stand for double standards but in this instance, it seems like we do.

There are no winners from this revelation, only more reasons to not vote Lib Dem. What a tough start to the week…

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