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The current underlying tension of the Lib Dem Blogosphere *FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT*

In the past few weeks there have been rumblings – and not just from my stomach – as various factions within the Lib Dem blogosphere are starting to emerge. Egos need to be stroked and opinions need to be aired. People are digging their heels in (not a sexist comment) and starting to get snippy (apparently that is a word). Oh yes the Lib Dem blogosphere is not all sweetness and light at the moment. There is no sign of kumbaya around a fire place and no group hugs. So what is causing all the tension?

This I am unsure of but there does seem to be an awful lots of people thinking they are right and that is final going on (but Neil – don’t you always think that you are right – Ed) Well no I don’t. I know I’m wrong rather often. I sprout my worthless opinions willy nilly and then get tutted at. I’m not saying I’m wrong all the time but heck it has been known (all the time – Ed). My editor is such a lovely disembodied voice…

There are well over 200 Lib Dem bloggers out there just on the Lib Dem Blog aggregator. Some more vocal and opinionated than others. That is to be expected. The problem is when people start taking disagreements personally. Just today there seems to have been a bit of a set to with regards to Charlotte Henry’s article Liberal Left – the Labour party in the Lib Dems. Reading it I don’t think she is terribly impressed but hey ho – however her summing up of her piece is shall we say – a tad confrontational:

‘Liberal Left just seems like the desperate last ditch attempts of a group disillusioned activists who are probably in the wrong party. Your Labour membership cards are in the post, comrades.’

Ouch. Bit over the top surely? I know very little about these members and this group but to say that essentially they are in the wrong party is quite a step? The Liberal Democrats – like most political parties – will (and does) have wings. Those that are more left than centre and even those Orange Bookers – which is the biggest buzz word since ‘whasssssssup’ made in into the popular vernacular amongst young people following an advertising campaign in the late 90s.

And do you know what? It is ok to have different opinions within the party. It is ok to have differing opinions all over the place. Whether it be in politics, in the workplace, in the pub, we all have a wide range of different opinions on many things. Why not just engage in some debate and not just dismiss a group and belittle them to such a degree.

My favourite thing about politics is it allows us to have some free speech and engage with people on certain issues. I disagree with a vast vast swathes of Lib Dem bloggers about certain issues. People like Caron Lindsay, Jennie Rigg, Lee Chalmers etc… about whether the party is doing enough to promote women. I believe in equality for all. End. I do not believe in inequality to get to equality. That to me isn’t right but heck we can discuss it and if we still disagree then we disagree. It doesn’t mean I think less of them and I hope it doesn’t mean they think less of me. Zadok Day wrote a piece (with a headline that was always going to rattle a few cages) for Lib Dem Voice today entitled Opinion: Calm Down, Dears!. Many will disagree with him but overall most at least conversed with him and didn’t just call him names or said he wasn’t a liberal.

Blogging – just like politics – is an avenue to air opinions and discuss what is going on around us. Had I been an American no doubt I’d have been all over the debate team like a fat kid on a smartie (one of my former colleagues favourite expressions that). It is meant to tackle the mind and to allow us to see other people’s points of views. If in the end we disagree then we disagree. However to just belittle others because they don’t agree with your point of view is in my opinion just not the way to do it.

Kavya Kaushik wrote this evening We are a Lib Dem Family and it is worth a read. The Lib Dems might not be the most functional of families but like any family it should have respect for all its members whatever their opinions. It is no secret that I don’t get on – and can’t see eye to eye with certain members and their viewpoints but I respect them for having them.

I think what I’m trying to say is that hostile attacks on other factions – or individuals – within the party just doesn’t seem right. Agree/disagree with them whatever but if you don’t have anything nice then don’t say anything at all if you vehemently disagree with them so much. We are all working towards a goal of making this nation a fairer and more open society. Some of us may think the route to get there is a little different but it isn’t how you travel to your destination that is important – it is getting there – and if we all respect one another and engage with one another then the chances of getting there are greatly improved.

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  1. James read it the same way I did: it does sound like you are saying we three are all in favour of positive discrimination; that was what offended me. I don’t like people saying that I promote a position I have expressly disagreed with.

    If that’s not what you meant to say then I accept that.

  2. James James

    And of course it’s only after posting that I notice the typos… New computer – not used to the keyboard yet.

  3. James James

    FWIW, Neil, after you mentioned Jennie, you went on to say “I do not believe in inequality to get to equality”. I read that as a reference to ositive discrimination and it’s position in what you wote made it sound to me as if you were contrasting yourself against Jennie, Caron & Lee.

    • neilmonnery neilmonnery

      James. Firstly don’t worry about typos. Secondly as I explained before the context of the piece was about how you can have disagreements on issues but still be pulling in the same direction. If that is how it came out – and reading it back I can see that it could be read that way – then I apologise.

      My intention was never to say ‘these three people disagree with me on this issue’ specifically. Just three people who I have had debates with in the past on issues of gender in politics.

  4. neilmonnery neilmonnery

    I’m really not getting this. I said that we’ve disagreed on whether the party does enough to promote women. I think we have spoken about this haven’t we? And didn’t we disagree?

    You even wrote that Ed Davey got the job over more capable women – thus surely agreeing that not enough is being done to promote women if the party are promoting less qualified men over them?

    I don’t think I have caricatured either you or your views. I said we have disagreed on this subject in the past. Re-reading my sentence where you are mentioned that is in fact all I said on it.

    If you feel I have slighted you in some way then I do sincerely apologise but all I meant from the sentence – and the context was that people can hold different views on something but still be pulling in the same broad direction.

  5. My problem with Ed Davey isn’t his gender, it’s that he’s rubbish. If Lynne Featherstone was as rubbish I would have a problem if she got promoted. She isn’t rubbish; Ed is, Ed got promoted. This is NOT a meritocracy.

    My problem is not that more BME people/Women/etc don’t get promoted per se, my problem is that white cis het men with observably and measurably less talent consistently get promoted above more talented and more able people who do not fall into those demographics.

    My point is that you cariacature both me and my views, and it’d be nice if you didn’t. That’s all.

  6. neilmonnery neilmonnery

    Did I say you argued for positive discrimination in the post? I said that you argued that the party wasn’t doing enough to promote women. And your blogs for example when Ed Davey when promoted over other capable candidates backs up this point.

    You have consistently stated that the party do not do enough for women or people from different ethnic backgrounds so not sure what your point is on this one…?

  7. “People like Caron Lindsay, Jennie Rigg, Lee Chalmers etc… about whether the party is doing enough to promote women. I believe in equality for all. End. I do not believe in inequality to get to equality. That to me isn’t right but heck we can discuss it and if we still disagree then we disagree. It doesn’t mean I think less of them and I hope it doesn’t mean they think less of me.”

    As someone who has argued AGAINST positive discrimination every time the party has tried to introduce it, I thank you for making clear to me just how many unthinking assumptions just mentioning women every so often can awake in a person…

  8. Hi Neil,

    Good article and good point. I have come under criticism lately for some of the things I have said. I have been called a ‘nutjob’, told I wasn’t a liberal, ridiculed for having a social work qualification, that I was a pop psychologist, my mental health was questioned, told not to publish anything, and that people wouldn’t let me babysit their children! I have very nearly written a lot of posts on a lot of things in response but I haven’t. I am considering giving it up as I am not quite sure about the point of it right now. How much do we as a party listen to the legitimate criticism that keeps us on a principled path?

    You say that “it isn’t how you travel to your destination that is important – it is getting there” and I am not sure about that. I have come to the conclusion that it is not the destination, it is the journey that is important. I don’t believe there is a destination. Once you are there, the ‘there’ becomes a ‘here’ and so you make another ‘there’. And so in politics, there is no destination there is only a process by which we try to embody our values and principles. If we got into power (a potential destination) only to renege on our principles of civil liberties, would that have been worth it?

    It is a sad change of late in our party. I can’t help but think it is a lack of leadership, which typically results in fractious relationships in organisations.

    • neilmonnery neilmonnery

      Matthew – First things first it makes me sad that you have got such stick – and not just stick but personal stick regarding not babysitting their children. That is crazy and just not on. I can see why you are so disillusioned with everything. Sadly the party (or at least the vocal members) are really starting to dig their heels in and are ready to lash out at people who don’t agree with them. I suppose in a way we are/were pretty naive in thinking we could bumble along and not get such personal stick. I don’t get a lot as I’m not that well read but if people got so personal with me I’d certainly question the point. Whatever happens on a personal level I hope you do continue as you are an interesting read and that when all is said and done is what I want in a blogger.

      As for the journey v the end point. I see your point – in that the journey never ends. Utopia is not coming around overnight so that journeyto our view of a liberal uptopia will be a very long and winding one. Also our view of a liberal utopia might be different from others so I concede that point.

      My feelings for the reason behind this is two-fold. Firstly a lot of members would prefer to be idealists but helpless in opposition instead of realists and making small steps towards a fairer society. It is like some want everything or nothing at all. For example one local member who didn’t win a seat in May hasn’t been to a meeting since and has basically said ‘if I can’t win then what is the point?’ and has essentially left the party because he didn’t win an unwinnible seat. Second-fold some people just can’t handle coalition. It goes against the fibre of many members and they want to lash out and fnd another ‘better’ way forward.

      In a coalition I suspect we’ll never get leadership that would take the whole party with it. We aren’t a nation used to coalitions so it makes everyone uneasy – the electorate and the membership. These are the two reasons why I think the split is starting to emerge. People think a clean break from this regime and government will save the party but the question is would it and even if so would that be the right thing to do for the people of the UK?

      I hope you do stick it out and don’t let the bastards get you down.

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