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Month: March 2013

My letter to the editor Re: Cllr. Terry’s call for Cllr. Kaye to resign

I actually sent in a letter to the editor of the Echo in the week. It has yet to be published. It of course very well may not be published so here is a copy of it. The back story is that Cllr. Terry has called on Cllr Kaye to resign and force a by-election in Thorpe ward following her decision to join the Tories having been elected as an independent.

I was surprised to read that Cllr. Terry was prepared to give up his ‘safe seat’ of Westborough ward in order to challenge the recently defected Cllr. Kaye in Thorpe or should I say I wasn’t surprised at all?

You see Thorpe ward is the biggest stronghold of the independent group and Cllr. Terry knows that he has issues holding on to his seat in Westborough in 2015.

Cllr. Terry is clearly an intelligent man who doesn’t do things lightly. He remembers that his now former independent colleague Dr. Vel only held on to Westborough by 38 votes in May. He also knows that the last time the borough elections were held on the same day as the General Election (like they will be the next time he is due to stand in 2015) Westborough lost an independent councillor who slumped to third place that day in the polls.

There is a reason Cllr. Terry doesn’t want all-up elections to be held on the same day as either European or Westminster elections – he knows the independents would struggle mightily. Come to think of it did any independent councillor win in 2010? Oh yes…one – Cllr. Kaye in Thorpe. Suddenly it all becomes crystal clear…

Now on one hand I agree with Cllr. Terry that Cllr. Kaye should resign and a by-election be called following her decision to change parties. However he didn’t call for a by-election when Cllr. Morgan defected from the Lib Dems to the independent group, nor did I hear him call for a by-election in Westborough when Dr. Vel left the independent group to become a true independent. It is either a by-election for every defection or for none. It can’t be by-election only in certain circumstances.

I know he said that it is different when someone goes from a party to an independent compared to from an independent to a party but frankly I disagree. Remember in Southend the independent group are not solely independents. In fact Cllr. Terry calls himself the ‘spokesman of the independent group’ – how can independents have a spokesman? Surely they should all speak for themselves as they are independents and therefore all have differing views but as we all know in Southend – the independent group are not fully independent at all.

As for Cllr. Terry resigning to take on Thorpe in a by-election it would then of course force a by-election in Westborough. Yet more expense. Swapping Westborough for Thorpe though would ensure Cllr. Terry’s seat in the chamber for many years to come and of that I am very sure he is more than aware…

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Giving up Twitter for lent. How does social media influence our lives?

No not me (although I doubt I’d be missed) but the fabulous Louise Shaw did such a thing and she had written her thought up on her blog over here. It is a rather interesting look into the effect that social media has on our lives in this modern day and age.

As someone who uses social media to a significant extent (but not to a crazy level of having many prolonged conversations through it) I was intrigued to see how she coped and found it. She still used Facebook and Google+ but just cut out Twitter. She makes the clear point that it is easier to stop following someone on Twitter than it is to unfriend someone on Facebook. Even though a lot of us have the same people on both Facebook is still seen by many to be more inclusive of people you actually know/interact with more frequently. For example I follow a large amount of politicos on Twitter but very few of them have I become ‘friends’ with on Facebook. It is more socially acceptable to stop following someone on Twitter than it is to unfriend some on Facebook. I’m sure of that.

One thing I was surprised with was when she said she felt a bit less stressed being away from Twitter. I have never felt stress on Twitter (nor any social media really) as is someone is having a go at you or at your opinions they are just someone behind a computer screen or tapping away at their tablet or mobile phone. Not even sure if I’m ever had an argument with someone over Twitter (although I remember one person who was giving me constant personal attacks and subsequently wrote a blog post about what a bastard I was) and I decided ‘sod this’ and gave her a 4,000 odd word blog reply which surprised said person.

I in fact think the opposite. I use Twitter for several reasons but one of them is to relax. I follow something like 750 accounts and they are a mixture of politicos, sports journalists, people I know and randoms. I even purposely follow (and still follow) several accounts that I always find amusing. Several of these are politicos that are so blinkered for one side and that every other side is wrong it amuses me greatly. One person I follow seems to get drunk every evening and every evening tweets great revelations about her life and what she needs to do to make it better and yet every night she tweets the same and never does anything about it. Oh how I internally laugh. Not laughing at her sentiments but about the repetitiveness of them.

So social media relaxes me. However the main thing it does is inform me. Twitter is rightly or wrongly the best source for breaking news that we have these days. I read most of the newspaper websites daily but news breaks first on Twitter. If I walked away from Twitter that would be the biggest thing that I missed. The feeling of not knowing significant events until later. Whilst it might not be significantly later – it is still later.

The first Louise makes is about people missing her. Now that is an interesting one. I have gone weeks without making any updates to Facebook and nobody noticed (not on purpose, I just had nothing to say) and have dipped in and out of Twitter over the years. The big question a lot of us have to answer is how big a part Twitter plays in our social life. I read more than interact and in general only ever interact when I think I have something significant to say. Considering I have been around the internet and chat rooms for half my life now and in the advent of broadband and mobile phone technology I now know more people than ever before through social media and I actually have actual conversations with less people than I did when I was a teenager and at university.

Last year I met not one person that I had first communicated with via Twitter. Actually thinking about it I do not think I have ever met with someone who I had first communicated with through Twitter (taking Lib Dem conferences out of this scenario). Back in the day I met people from chat rooms all the time and felt stronger friendships with those people. Some of them I still have a friendship with today. Those people I talked with for hours whereas now with twitter there are far more people I interact with but how many of them do I have a proper conversation with? Far fewer. Ask me a question about what most people I interact do for a living or who they live with or if they are in a relationship and the majority of the time I wouldn’t be able to answer. Ask me those same questions about people I communicated with on the internet pre-social media and I’d be able to answer those questions far more.

I’m trying to work out which I prefer. Having a small group of people I actually spoke with properly and met up with a lot or having a larger group of people of whom we both just dip in and out of each others lives when we see each other tweeting something that we find interesting. I can see the pro’s and con’s for both sides. It is an interesting one. On Twitter I think it is harder to progress an acquaintanceship to a friendship (or anything else for that matter) because you never really converse. You just interact.

Another thing she says is she found a lot more done – and I think that is a very fair point. I can be busy working and I flick up TweetDeck and scroll through and then my mind drifts. Same with Facebook and I’m not someone who gets a lot of tweets or Facebook messages and if I can lose hours a week to social media then I worry about those who are actually social media popular!

If I wasn’t on social media would I miss it? Sure I would. However I don’t feel like I’d come out in hives. It is a good way to unwind. I found Louise’s experiment very interesting and her conclusions seem to broadly agree with how I thought it’d go. Well worth a read I say and one last thing before I bring this ramble to a close…

*drum roll*

Congratulations to the said person behind this – Louise Shaw – as she is now on the approved list to become a Lib Dem PPC. I look forward to seeing her applying for either Southend West or Rochford & Southend East in the future. Although if she does apply for either of those it would mean having to deal with me so she might do better going elsewhere…but in all seriousness it is great to see another intelligent and passionate young person on the approved list.

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An open letter to all on immigration – hint – immigration is good.

Dear All,

Immigration is one of the biggest issues facing our country today. Not because it actually is but more because that is what the media is telling us. Ten years ago immigration was a footnote when questioning the public about what they wanted the government to sort out. These days it has become a bigger talking point on the doorstep than everything bar the economy. Yes even the NHS and Education are less of a talking point than immigration. So why the sea change?

Basically the economy has gone down the tubes and someone has to be to blame and it can’t all be the bankers fault, can it? We have gone from one of the most tolerant societies to one that openly talks about immigration in a bad light. The media whip up a firestorm with stories such as the benefits cheats who get to live in mansions at the tax payers expense but the stories about the hard working people who come over here, pay taxes and enrich our culturally diverse society don’t seem to get as many inches in the written media for some reason?

If I’m awake in time I often leave BBC1 on in the mornings (because Homer Under The Hammer is fantastic) and there is a show called ‘Saints & Scroungers) and practically every single scrounger is a foreign national who shouldn’t be living here. Am I to believe that these people account for more benefits being illegally received than born and bred Brits? Yeah. Right…

The argument I often hear is, ‘well I was born and bred here and they weren’t so why should my taxes pay for their benefits.’ On the face of it a fair point of view but when you dig deeper they don’t just chastise those who don’t work and claim benefits, they chastise those who have jobs as well because they are doing jobs that born and bred Brits could do. I ask them what they think about Brits moving abroad and they don’t have a problem with it. So Brits moving abroad and working is fine but others coming to the UK and doing the same isn’t. I bash my head against a brick wall sometimes.

Angry voices are swelling about immigration and you hear that people want the government of the day – whoever they are – to be tough on immigration. One of my main issues is the loudest voices want the government of the day to be tough on everything. Being tough is the way forward they say but it isn’t however a political party can never be shown to be anything other than tough otherwise they’ll be torn apart in the media. Being tough on crime is one of the main ones and yet locking everyone up and throwing away the key doesn’t actually solve all the problems. The penal system isn’t just about punishment but also about rehabilitation but you can’t say that out loud without sounding soft in the eyes of many.

This leads me to the immigration issue. The country and the economy will prosper if we are open for business. That means foreign companies investing in the UK and it also means skilled nationals from other countries coming here and working. It also means foreign nationals coming to the UK to learn and get educated.

On a society front I hear people argue that they feel more uneasy being around foreigners instead of UK nationals. Personally I have never felt this is the case. It is akin to people saying that foreigners are more criminal than people in this country and that just doesn’t wash with me. We are all human beings when it comes down to it and yes there are bad people in this country who are not helping our economy or society but you know what – the majority of those people are British. Should we tolerant these people and persecute the others just because they were born here? Does being born somewhere give you the right to be treated differently to another person when that is the only difference between the way you are acting? I think not.

The reason I am discussing this today is simple. Nick Clegg spoke today on this issue and the headline is about looking into the feasibility of visitors from certain countries having to pay a bond that they would collect on their way out of the UK once their visa was up. It is a pretty dumb policy in my opinion but they are just looking into it, just like the previous Labour government did twice and the coalition has already looked into. If civil servants think it is feasible then a pilot will be run.

Now that is the headline that was on the news and is in all the online editions of the written media. It doesn’t come across well but the speech wasn’t just about that. A very interesting part was about exit checks and the way they had been scaled down by the previous government. To me it just seems logical that you count and check people in and then check them on the way out as well. Isn’t that just good practice so you know who is where?

I have no issue with being ‘zero-tolerant on abuse’ as long as it doesn’t impinge on those who are wanting to do things legally and would benefit the economy and our society. I know Nick wants to sound tough on immigration and wants to be at the forefront of the debate but the issue now isn’t about actual immigration – it is about how to differentiate between all the main political parties on this issue. They all want to sound tougher and more outraged than the next party whereas in reality the best practical solution would be to sort out the management of the system and ensuring that we know who is here, for what purpose and for how long. If we know that then that is the majority of the battle won. The way I see it our biggest problem isn’t the amount of people who are here but that we don’t know who is here.

Whilst immigration is an issue – as I said earlier it is seen as such a large issue because those with the loudest voices have dictated it to be so. UKIP, the Tories and Labour all want to be seen as the hardest and toughest on immigration and that will play well with many. However there is plenty of room for a sane and reasonable approach to immigration and that is where I hope Nick and the Lib Dems go. If a political party could say (and more important achieve) a situation where they could effectively manage immigration to the point where the country was open to anyone with the skillset that was deemed needed and that students on education visas were free to come and study but with the important caveat that when their visas ended they had to either leave or apply again for either an extended or a different visa then that would be music to my – and a lot of other people’s ears.

Politicians need to remember that the loudest voices are not always the majority of voices. If you can put yourself in a position where the more reasoned voter could believe you could deliver something that made sense then you have a chance with these people. Not everyone votes on the strength of what the media tells them. In fact the truth is most vote based on their own opinions. Not everyone is extreme in their views on immigration so I’d like to see a political party talk to these people – and I for one would like that political party to be the Liberal Democrats.

Immigration is not bad. Uncontrolled immigration might be but the whole issue of immigration is a good thing for all countries around the globe. Finding a way to ensure our doors are flung wide open to the right people is far more important than ensuring the wrong people are finding a way in but we need a balance. If we can find a way to manage immigration – both the good and the bad – then we’ll be going someway to building a better society and economy. The biggest story in Nick’s speech wasn’t the bond issue but the fact we are building up our network of exit checks that the party has been calling for since 2004. Once we have a handle of who is where and who hasn’t left when they should have then we can start effectively managing the whole immigration system. It was a Labour mistake but it is one the Lib Dems are helping to fix.

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The etiquette of Facebook (and to a lesser extend twitter)

A couple of days ago I saw some guy complaining on a friend of mine’s latest Facebook status. He was moaning that she updated too much and that he ‘got the message’ that she was at university and happy with her man. It riled me up. I even went as far as to actually say my piece on the status:

If you don’t want to read someone’s statuses then there is an easy way to stop it. I do get annoyed when people complain about ‘how much someone else updates their Facebook/Twitter etc…’ or complains about what they say. No-one is forcing anyone else to read anyone else’s social media updates. And with that I’ll disappear back into the ether.

Yeah. The thing is our presence on social media isn’t there (in my opinion) to keep all our friends and anyone else who might be reading entertained. It is just another outlet for us to express our thoughts and emotions. I remember once someone wrote about me that she found my journal postings boring and therefore decided that she didn’t want to know me any more unless I became more interesting. That really pissed me off as it was my journal – my diary of my life and who was she to tell me what subjects I should write about to keep her entertained?

I don’t think it’ll come as any surprise that we haven’t spoken since.

If someone came on to your blog and said that they found it boring it would be a bit of a kick in the teeth but it was also be disrespectful. No-one forces anyone to be friends with anyone else on social media and if you don’t like what people you are friends with or who you follow on twitter then defriend them or stop following them. It’s simple. Heck on Facebook you can even mute their updates so they don’t show up in your feed. It is really quite simple to avoid other people on the internet. In fact it is one of the easiest things to do in the world – avoid someone on the internet.

So I implore you – if you get annoyed at the length or the number or the style of someone’s Facebook posts then instead of calling them out on it – just quietly mute them if you still want to be friends with them or you are nosy enough that you want to still be able to find out what they are up to with one click. If someone tweets too much then stop following them.

People (in general) don’t perform on social media at the behest of others. My twitter feed is used more than Facebook as I use it to throw out my thoughts as and when they pop into my head. It is more of a debate setting than Facebook. I use Facebook in general to keep friends more up to date about what is going on in my life. There is nothing that I’d say on twitter than I wouldn’t say on Facebook but the same can’t be said the other way round. That is just my own personal preference but we all use social media in different ways. One thing though is our social media is not there for the sake of others. It just isn’t. It is all of our little homes on the interweb and if people don’t like it then maybe they shouldn’t come into our homes…

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Does ‘the one’ really exist?

A few weeks ago I was wistfully looking out of the choo-choo train and I asked myself the very question that is in the title. I wasn’t thinking about whether true love exists or whether it is possible to meet that person but it was more of a thought about how likely it was that you would meet them.

It was a thought about basic maths.

There are what just over seven billion people in the world so that is a hell of a lot of people. Now obviously not all those people want a person of the opposite sex but just for the sake of this blog lets say that they do. So everyone is looking for ‘the one’ out of 3.5billion people. The odds of winning the Euromillions jackpot are 116million/1 and not many people win that and yet many many more people believe they have found their kindred spirit and the one that they were meant to be with. If we only take say the people within 10 years of us older and younger that would still be around 900million/1.

For the point of this blog I am assuming ‘the one’ is the perfect soul-mate and that there is only one for each of us.

If you are around my age and loved Sabrina: The Teenage Witch then you’ll remember the final ever episode where Sabrina found out that the man she was due to marry wasn’t the perfect match for her. He was a very close fit but Harvey was the one she was meant for. All very sweet but also asks the question about both the likelihood of her ideal match – in the world of the human race – went to school with her and also why couldn’t she be happy with someone who was nearly her ideal match?

I know it is only a TV programme but still.

To me it seems as though ‘the one’ could in fact be ‘many ones’ as we don’t get to meet everyone in the world in our lifetime. We’ll only ever meet the tiniest fraction of people who could in theory be our supposed life partner. In this modern day era we are exposed to more people through things like the internet and social media but still in all honesty an insignificant number. So how are we meant to find the one we are meant to be with when the odds are stacked so heavily against us ever doing so?

So either ‘the one’ doesn’t exist and instead we all find people that we enjoy spending time with and enrich our lives or as a race many of us defy the odds every single day and find the person that we are ‘meant’ to be with. I know which I think is the more likely.

There are a few people who meet someone and know straightaway and they are ‘the one’ or at the very least that they are head over heels in love. However even in these situations it is often just one half of the couple who know it there and then with the other realising later. My brother-in-law knew that my sister was the one for him the moment he sat eyes on her – seriously – and at that time it seemed highly unlikely but heck they’ll be celebrating 23 years of marriage in the autumn. I was talking to a friend of mine today who celebrated 16 years of wedded bliss to his partner yesterday and when he first met her (and fell in love with her) she was married to someone else. He cursed his luck that he didn’t meet her earlier but things change and he got his chance a couple of years later after the marriage ended.

Now some could say that these are examples of ‘love conquering all’ but I just think things happen and for every feel good story like the two above I am positive there are hundreds where two people who would have been very happy together missed getting together because of them wasn’t available at the right time etc.

One question I often ask myself in bed or on the loo or on the choo-choo or wherever I’m doing some thinking is ‘I wonder if the person I end up with (assuming of course I do end up in love and with someone) is someone I’ve already met or not?’ Will someone from my past return into my life? Will someone I’m friends or acquaintances with blossom into something more? Or will someone walk into my life at some future point? Will I know straightaway? Will it be a slow burner? There are so many questions and so few answers.

People talk about a ‘spark’ and I think the evidence is there that a ‘spark’ is real but most certainly isn’t something that means a long and fruitful relationship. A spark is different for every single person. I have had that ‘spark’ with just one person in 29 years. In the end we didn’t even have a date as she had other guys interested in her and she decided to go down that road with someone else. I have had *thinks* dates with I think seven women in the six years since. Not once have I felt that spark with any of them (although a couple I certainly was interested in seeing them again).

My point is a spark isn’t something that happens at the start of every successful relationship. I know people who think sparks need to fly from the very first moment otherwise there is no point. I don’t subscribe to that view. Not every relationship is like the movies no matter how much we would all like it to be.

Feelings ebb and flow and can develop over time and finding the right person for us all will mean many different things. If/when I find the right person I’ll no doubt gush over her and it’ll be a fantastic feeling. What it probably won’t be is me finding the perfect person for me. That is statistically an extreme long shot. What is far more likely is that I’ll have found someone whose life I enrich and who enriches my life to go with being in love. You don’t need to be with your ideal person to be in love with them. It is all about finding your perfect imperfection and when all find that then we are on to something.

As for the antiquated notion that there is someone for everyone are ideal partners well that’s hogwash. The odds on that are just too extreme. If we can find someone who in our own minds are perfect imperfection then we are all on to something good – no – on to something great.

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Dropping out of university isn’t a bad thing – and people should never think that

My twitter Timeline seemed to all be talking about a video on YouTube today so being the inquisitive soul that I am I hunted it out and watched it. It was a video about someone’s decision to drop out of university and that it shouldn’t define her as a person. You can watch the video below.

Now it isn’t a huge stride to say that this is of course all true. University isn’t for everyone and education doesn’t define intelligence. All it does is define how educated someone is. I have a degree. I have never once looked at it nor even taken it out of it’s brown envelope but I know what qualification that I have. It should have opened the door on my chosen career path but a funny thing happened on my way to a glittering career in that field – I lost my love and appetite for said field. Like a very significant percentage of university students I knew what I wanted when I started but by the time I ended I had no idea.

2005 was a long time ago and my career has chosen a new path and even now I don’t really know where I want it to go. For those of my era they’ll remember the song called ‘Sunscreen’ that was a #1 hit in 1997 which was ‘sung’ as a guide to the future. One line always stood out to me, ‘the most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t.’ At the time it came out I had my career path sorted in my head. Of course that changed.

So I sit here now staring down at my 30s not exactly knowing what I want to do with my life although I have slowly gravitated towards a goal which I am actively pursuing. I have options work wise and I have options in other avenues to strike out and do something different. However to strike out and do something different then you have to actually know what you want to do – and that is something I think most of us struggle with.

‘What would make me happy?’ is a question I often ask myself and there is no clear-cut answer. For those who know the answer without hesitating then I envy you. I’m pretty sure that what would make me happy would be something that requires a lot of work and an awful lot of luck. I don’t think I have hidden the fact that if I could do anything at this juncture in my life then I would be living in a lighthouse writing a novel. Sadly there are financial considerations that stop at least one part of that but the latter is something I can (and am) working on. Maybe in time I might become a half-decent writer and actually be able to achieve that but who knows what is around the corner?

The thing is though going back to the main point I’m trying to make is that education for education sake is relatively pointless. Having a degree does open up avenues but so does just being good at what you want to do. For example all my practical work at university was marked at 2:1 or higher. My theory was most certainly not. I was clearly more than adequate doing the practical side of my course but the theory and knowing about Foucault (yes I mentioned Foucault again…oh how that name slayed me down many moons ago) and other people dragged my mark back.

I went to university because I wanted to be a journalist (preferably broadcast) and I went to get a degree and learn the practical skills to help get me there. It didn’t work out due to several issues that I don’t feel need to be aired at this point but I think it is fair to say they helped evaporate my love and desire. I rebuilt myself knowing that a goal I was working towards wasn’t going to pan out as I’d hoped and expected.

The thing is life is a journey and you never quite reach the destination mainly because it is hard to know where the destination actually is. We all have to marry the issues of being financially secure and being happy. For some it is easier than others but being educated certainly isn’t a precursor to being happy and/or successful. I don’t think it is inaccurate that if I had my time again I would not have gone to that university. Would I have gone to another university and done the same course? Yes, probably but that isn’t the point. I made a mistake going to that university and it didn’t do for me what I wanted (either set me up for my chosen career nor make me grow as a person to understand myself). I did the latter when at my lowest ebb after uni volunteering in a charity shop. I can – hand on heart – say that I gained more in that year than I did in three years at university.

So if you are reading this and are thinking whether university is for you or not then only you can decide but if you aren’t happy – and you can’t see yourself being happy there then plenty of other avenues can – and will open up for you. I remember how big and important a decision it feels but as I said earlier life is a journey and plenty of things will change over the course of your life and choosing university or not will not either define you as a person nor define your feelings of happiness with your life.

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#notosecretcourts is a very Lib Dem thing…we care but the sad truth is does anyone else?

Ah Secret Courts or to be more formal The Justice and Security Bill. It is legislation that no-one will talk about on the doorstep. No-one. People will talk about many national issues but whether in certain circumstances evidence can be heard in secret is not one of them. Equal marriage is something most people said was a waste of time and even that is 100x more likely to be a topic that fires up the average voter. They care about many things but secret courts is not one.

Yet the fact is for liberals it is vastly important and the terms ‘National Security’ and ‘Terrorism’ are in essence buzz words to defend anything. If a political party wanted to say that they wanted to close all borders and used ‘anti-terror’ as their reasoning it would work to a far larger degree than saying ‘we don’t like those damn foreigners’. George Bush won an election in 2004 not just because John Kerry was an awful candidate but because he scared the electorate. People believed that if tough legislation wasn’t in place then terrorists would blow them up and eat their offspring – so anyone who wasn’t a hard right-liner was opening the door for this to happen. So I’ve always been rather dubious when any politician ever tries to stats that anti-terror legislation is a good enough reason to ignore civil liberties.

I heard Ken Clarke say in the House of Commons during the debate on this bill, ‘I believe that British judges are the best in the world’ as that was an important issue. He is implying that because they are the best that they’ll only ever allow evidence is private if if was indeed in the interests of national security. The issue is if the secret services had their way every piece of evidence they give would be in private. They don’t want to ever put one of their men or women on the stand. The term ‘National Security’ doesn’t automatically actually equate to genuine ‘National Security’ issues.

Now I think it is well known that I like Nick Clegg. I like Nick Clegg a lot. I think he is a very intelligent man and believe that he has genuine liberalism running through his veins. Personally I would go as far to say that if Nick Clegg had no advisers he’d probably be doing a far better job than he is. The problem is that the civil service and advisers often don’t think about what the party Nick Clegg represents stands for but more about what is best and right for them.

The coalition agreement is a framework for the 2010-2015 government and not a comprehensive guide to what the government will do. Equal marriage as we all know was not specifically in the coalition agreement and when that got brought to the table it pissed off a lot of Tories and Lib Dems rejoiced. Well in a way this is payback and this is not a Lib Dem agenda at all (although I’m unsure why it would be a Tory one either) basically it opens the door further to corruption and it potentially puts people – defendants – in a position where they have no public right to reply and the general public will not have access to the full facts of a case. Surely a pretty scary scenario for all of us?

I want to go back a week and look at Zadok Day quitting the party as he felt at times all we care about is votes and not about showing off our liberalism. If you speak to the younger generation – those who aren’t carrying the scars of either the world wars or the cold war then you’ll find people who are more open minded regarding civil liberties. That isn’t an all encompassing thing – there are plenty of people who lived through those instances who are big on civil liberties and plenty who did not who don’t give a stuff – but I think it is fair to say when you have never lived in a world where you genuinely feared bombers or nuclear war then you have a slightly different outlook.

Now these people care about liberal issues – and if civil liberties isn’t a liberal issue then I’m the perfect new cast member for TOWIE (for those who don’t know I don’t drink, don’t go out to clubs and my main passion in life is not ‘having a good time’). This is what I think most liberals would see as a red-line issue. What is the point on being in government if you can’t stop illiberal laws making it on to the statute book? It is a pretty good question to ask.

This bill is clearly better than the first draft but that doesn’t mean it should go through and we should pat ourselves on the back about it. Heck when I write my first novel I’m sure it’ll get crucified but a few cosmetic changes may not be enough to make it worthwhile to actually publish. If it’s shit then it will only ever sit on my hard-drive taunting me over my lack of story-telling abilities. Basically what I’m saying is this bill never had to go through. The Lib Dems could have all voted it down and then if a few members of the opposition voted with the Conservative Party and it still became law then we could hold up our heads and say we are the party of civil liberties no matter what. For activists, members and those with a general liberal viewpoint this would have been respected.

Instead members are looking at themselves and thinking ‘can we really call ourselves the party of civil liberties when we do something so illiberal and worst of all – unneeded?’ I can’t answer that but I can say that Nick – in my opinion – played this one badly. Very badly. Members in general aren’t easy about coalition. Many have left because of it but many others have stayed because it is better to have some influence than none at all. However when it comes to issues that are so core to the party – and have no doubt that any civil liberties issue is core then to basically say we made a bad bill better isn’t good enough.

The members spoke. Well I should start that again. The member shouted, hooted and hollered that they didn’t want any part of this. Now I know we the grass roots don’t have the full story about why these powers are deemed necessary but if there are real reasons behind it then don’t just hide behind the ‘National Security’ or ‘Anti-Terror’ bullshit. Gives us real reasons. Give us facts. Give us figures. Oh wait you can’t in the interests of national security…

Look I know the party is having to grow up and face the real issues instead of living in our Utopian idealistic minds but if we are going to do something that is – on the face of it – so illiberal then you have to tell us why. The fact is you haven’t and now we all feel let down.

Imagine this scenario. The Lib Dems win Eastleigh on the Thursday, vote down Secret Courts on the Monday and have Spring Conference on the Friday-Sunday. Imagine the good feeling that would be pouring through our veins now. The grass roots would be energised and full of passion that the party can still win, can still look ourselves in the mirror and say that we are doing exactly what we say on the tin and we can stop bad bills in the House of Commons.

We all like winning. However do we really want to win at all costs, certainly if the cost is one of our core values? (I won’t say souls because I think that would be too far). I’d prefer to lose with pride and honour than win but not live up to our billing.

Whilst it might not make waves on the doorstep – The Justice and Security Bill has made waves amongst liberals – and not in a good way. The Lib Dems do stand for something and one of those things is the protection of civil liberties. Just because leadership have failed us on this occasion it doesn’t stop the notion. If I had a diretc line to the powers that be I’d tell them one thing – do whatever you feel you need to do – but if you do something that goes directly against the will of the party and the notion of liberalism you better give us a full and comprehensive reason why you did so – and in this situation you failed to do that.

This could have been a huge game changer for the party these past ten days. Instead it has been a deflating experience. Start listening to members and not civil servants and advisers. That is something for all Lib Dem MPs to take to heart. You may have been elected to serve but if you don’t listen to your heart and the people who work for – and support you – then you’ll end up lonely and not an MP.

As much as I’m crushing Nick here (and rightly so) 49 other MPs did not vote against the bill (although a handful were away from the HoC for legitimate reasons). So it isn’t just Nick but he is the head honcho. Nick – we are all friends in the party (actually that is a lie but lets pretend…for now) – Nick – we are all friends and you can tell us stuff. Tell us why you backed this illiberal bill and if you convince us that it was the right thing to do we’ll understand. The problem is there was no good reason and it wasn’t needed was it? You can’t defend it without using buzzwords. Get back to your roots and don’t let those non liberals scare you into thinking this is a good idea. You have a great brain and it might be an idea to use it and not ignore it at times…

Disappointed. Still a Lib Dem.

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Why women can’t win even when wronged after being called a ‘Bitch’ or other derogatory terms

As regular readers of this blog will know there are only a few blogs that I actually have on my feed that I read pretty much every single thing that gets uploaded on to it. One of those is the Confederacy Of Spinsters website. It is blogging of the highest calibre and today it was Mae who blogged something that caught my eye and made me think. Blogging that makes me think is the type of blogging that I like.

Mae wrote A Letter To The Client Who Called Me A “Bitch” and made some rather pertinent points. The short story is she was called a bitch by a client and then informed her bosses of it. She was the one wronged but things didn’t exactly play out like that. In our world the term ‘banter’ seems to be far more prevalent than it should be. Whether it be in the office or in dating. People ‘love a bit of banter’ and if people are too ‘square’ to accept such banter then a large percentage of society look down upon them.

The thing is ‘banter’ is often just personal abuse disguised as banter. Calling someone a bitch is just being abusive. Now we can debate whether it is sexist abuse or not – but one thing is for sure – it is abuse and is certainly not appropriate in a work environment. Now in this instance Mae went to her boss and reported the incident but instead of her boss being understanding first of all he wondered if she had mis-heard and when the person in question admitted it then they felt the need to rush to her defence. Now I can’t get inside Mae’s mind but I’m assuming she didn’t need ‘saving’ and just wanted the incident reported – which was the right thing to do – and for the person who called her an abusive term to understand why it isn’t on.

However the sentence that hit the old nail on the head was thus:

By calling me a “bitch” you put me in a losing position. No matter what I did, I was the victim.

Bingo. If she had ignored it then she would’ve been allowing someone to be abusive in the workplace which is not on. By reporting it the perception was sown that she was a weak female that needed saving. She couldn’t win either way despite acting in the appropriate way. These are the types of situations where I think we as a society still have a bit of work to do – to say the least. The first instinct of her boss wasn’t to say ‘he what?’ and then proceed to apologise on behalf of the company and then speak to the offender. His first instinct was to try and defuse the situation by making the person wronged think whether she may have been incorrect in her recollection.

One of the comments though summed things up perfectly from a British PoV:

As a Brit, I’d probably just do nothing. Possibly have some passive aggressive thoughts in my head. But that’s as far I’d go, I think! Such a lamer.

That is the way we roll. The old stiff upper-lip and all that. People need to understand that calling someone else an abusive term isn’t on – whether it is a man or a woman. The difference between the two is how management reacts if it was referred up. If a man was wronged then they would be told to grow a pair and for a woman they are questioned about it and then if proved wronged would be made to feel like they needed saving.

I think basically we need to learn that abuse is not on in the workplace full stop and if it happens then treat those who are wronged the same way. Don’t make a woman out to feel like a damsel in distress and don’t make a guy who complained about abuse out to be a loser who can’t take a bit of banter. Abuse is abuse people and the best way to stop it is by management understanding that a work environment is never a place for abuse and if it is reported to them then they should just deal with it and educate the abuser into why it is not on and move on. Seems simple no?

Mae couldn’t win and was made to feel like a weak female for reporting inappropriate behaviour. This use her own terminology that is some serious bullshit folks. Serious bullshit…

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Football blogger sued for column which is critical of prospective owners. At what point is it an overreaction?

Today the administrators have exchanged contracts with the Portsmouth Supporters Trust over the sale of Portsmouth Football Club to the Supporters Trust as long as the High Court sanctions the sale of Fratton Park to PST for the price of three million. The court case is still pending.

A few days ago I penned the following but sat on it. As it seems clear now that the PST will take control of PFC then it is a good time to publish. This blog is about a situation where a potential owner wants to sue a blogger who posted an article about him detailing his history and business connections.

Well what is this? Two Portsmouth related articles within a month of each other? I am getting déjà vu from the days where I actually got paid for my views on the football club. Those were the days…young and idealistic and now I’m just heading towards middle age and bitter about the fact I’m unattractive and spent my Saturday night catching up on The Apprentice. Oh well.

So anyway is has all been kicking off on the Portsmouth Football Club front in the past few days and a column by a fellow former Carisbrooke High School student Mike Hall has caused legal proceedings to be opened against him. His column featured some details about the trio who are part of a consortium hoping to takeover Portsmouth Football Club. A consortium who – lets be blunt here – face a rather uphill battle to take over Portsmouth Football Club. They have an offer on the table but it is not one that (in all likelihood) will be accepted due to the fact the Football League have said so. So in essence they are fighting the good fight but for nothing. Well if it keeps them happy…

Unsurprisingly I am not going to regurgitate any of the column for legal reasons – nor make any allegations against anyone because I haven’t done any deep research myself – I’ll just deal with facts that are out there and how I think most people would react to the situation. These are the facts:

Mr. Hall is being sued.
Mishcon de Reya have been retained to fight the case for a client.
They instructed a PR company to issue a statement confirming they have started legal proceedings against Mr. Hall.
The consortium did send correspondence to the leader of Portsmouth City Council in an attempt to get them to not agree to the bridging loan (or get them to offer the same to their consortium).
The Football League have stated that the PST are the sole preferred bidders for the club (as per their correspondence with Portsmouth City Council).

Ok back to the blog…

The column was pulled from the website after initial legal proceedings were set out but after the author decided not to issue an apology, nor pay any damages, nor pay legal costs for the other side and the fact he has decided not to ensure that he wouldn’t repeat anything from the column ever again they have decided to sue him personally. If you want to read the full Press Release – yes they have instructed a company to issue a Press Release (with basic grammatical errors) that they are suing him – then you can do so here.

Now as someone who aced his Journalism Law exam (in just 30 minutes I might add – it was a three hour exam and I walked out after half an hour) I have always been very clear on my thought processes regarding critical statements. I err very much on a safety first principle. So I was interested in what exactly was defamatory regarding the column. Having read the column I do not see anything that would stand up in court as to lower someone’s reputation in the minds of right thinking people. Nor do I see anything that couldn’t be defended as fair comment and I’m informed that nothing written was factually inaccurate (although I personally do not know whether they are or not – the stuff written was stuff you’d expect to find relatively easily at Companies House and their Swiss counterpart.

There was only one line that could put the author into legal bother (in my mind) and that line isn’t about the person who is suing – nor anyone in his family – so I don’t see it. In fact if I’m being 100% honest the whole article screams of someone being very careful not to be defamatory and going out of his way to cover himself legally.

The person who is instigating these legal proceedings certainly hasn’t been tight with regards to the solicitors he has hired to represent him (although he really should look at the PR firm they have assigned to issuing that Press Release – seriously basic grammar errors folks) but one thing is interesting – the firm he has hired – Mishcon de Reya are not specialists at going to court for defamation. They class themselves as specialists in five areas – analysing risk, protection of assets, managing wealth, resolving disputes and building businesses. So they do not want to go to court on this issue – they want to resolve it before court proceedings. If the plaintiff (do we use that term in the UK or is that just a Judge Judy thing?) wants this resolved before court – either that or he’s really bad at picking lawyers – my money is firmly on the former.

Now this brings up another question, why would he want this resolved before court? Now to me – a layman bum – it screams out that they want to discredit Mr Hall and scare and silence him. If Mr Hall settles out of court then they can discredit all of his work and maybe (in their eyes) just maybe still get to takeover Portsmouth Football Club. Let us be honest here – Pompey is actually ripe for a consortium of businessmen with a few bob as there is certainly money to be made out of the old girl. I can see why businessmen would be interested in buying the club. I can also see why businessmen would explore every legal avenue they could to get the best possible outcome for them.

I know Mr. Hall has said he intends to fight this all the way and wants his day in court. He doesn’t intend on settling out of court and essentially wants the people involved to prove they have been defamed by his words. Legally I think they will struggle mightily to do this but again I don’t think they ever want this to get to court. This is a tactic to get Mr. Hall to think about whether he wants to take on someone who has the money to throw at the case in the courts if needs be.

This case will obviously run and run but I have one serious issue with this whole situation. Surely if there were factual inaccuracies in the column then why didn’t they come out and issue a statement saying basically that these individual comments are factually inaccurate – with the evidence they were inaccurate – and then ask Mr Hall to apologise instead of going heavy handed and go through legal proceedings as the first measure?

If someone wrote something factually inaccurate about me and I cared enough to launch legal proceedings I would first put out a statement saying that certain things were inaccurate and explain/prove why and then ask for an apology. My first point of call wouldn’t be to retain lawyers and give the author 24 hours to apologise, pay me money for damages and legal costs and to take an understanding never to publish those – or similar comments again and if I didn’t get all that within 24 hours issue a Press Release saying that I was suing the other person.

I think in conclusion the whole situation reeks and in my opinion it now seems personal. Businessmen are not getting their own way and are blaming Mr. Hall for this and not the fact that they came to the party too late. It should be noted that these individuals tried to contact the leader of Portsmouth City Council to warn them off offering a bridging loan to the Portsmouth Supporters Trust – the letter can be read here. The letter incorrectly states that their consortium are the preferred bidder in the eyes of the administrator and the Football League. In fact the Football League contacted PCC during the debate to confirm that the PST are the sole preferred bidder according to the Portsmouth News. (update: On 08/03/11 PKF exchanged contracts with PST over the sale of the club to them) Also as they have said they do not believe PCC are in a position to offer such a bridging loan (and PCC subsequently have) then surely they will open up a legal challenge if they believe that the council have overstepped their boundary?

It’ll all come out in the wash but all we know for now is that they intend on suing Mr. Hall. If you want to help his cause then a fighting fund has been setup to help with his legal costs and if there is any money leftover at the end then all the money will go in donations to the Portsmouth Supporters Trust. You can donate via PayPal: You can also add your name(s) to an e-petition here asking for the legal threat to be rescinded.

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#42 set to call it a day.

The number 42 is the meaning of life if you asked anyone in the UK what that number meant to them. In the United States of America the number 42 is synonymous with just two men and one of them is about to call a day to his ring-laden career.

I am getting to that age where some of my heroes that I have followed for my whole life watching a sport have called it a day. Heck very few of them are still around. You get new heroes and new loyalties but they’ll always be a select few who you’ll love and admire. That list for me is never slender and includes Alan Ball – a Pompey hero, Ayrton Senna – a Formula driver who no fear and immense skill, Jorge Posada – a New York Yankees catcher who showed that heart and hard work can overcome a lack of natural talent, Kurt Warner – a man who showed that even when things look bleak showed that you can still achieve your dreams and Joe Paterno. Yes whatever has happened hasn’t changed my opinion on him.

So we get to today and another one of the guys that I openly rooted for has called a News Conference for Saturday morning (10 EST) to announce that he is calling it a day. He’ll play out the season but that will be it. It is not a surprise in any way, shape or form – he is 43 years of age and he would have retired last year had it not been for a freak injury but it will signal the end of an era.

Sport is so often about opinion and emotion. Is Messi better or Ronaldo? Is Pele the greatest ever or was Maradona? Was Senna better than Schumacher? I could go on but there are so many questions and so much debate. One question though results in the same answer from an overwhelming majority of people who follows the sport of baseball – ‘Who is the greatest closer of all time?’ and the name that’ll come from their lips will be that of Mariano Rivera.

The kid who learned how to pitch using a milk carton as a glove in a sleepy fishing village in Panama came from very humble backgrounds to become the greatest at his position a sport had ever seen. When you earn the nickname ‘Hammer of God’ you must be doing something right and Mo certainly did something right. It wasn’t his greatness though that made me root so hard for him. He played the game with a smile on his face and the amount of times I ever saw him openly emotional count be counted on one hand. He knew that you can’t win them all and that at times you be suffer painful defeat but he took it all in his stride.

There was a strange sense of serenity watching him jog out to enter a game. ‘Mo will save us’ was the thought that every Yankee fan felt whilst the opposition fans – and players – used to think ‘oh (expletive)’. He pitched with just one main pitch – the cut fastball. Every opposition player knew what was coming and yet they still couldn’t hit it. It was one of the strangest things in sport – if you know what is coming next then you can adjust to it but with Mo you couldn’t. Life after Mariano will be interesting for any Yankees fan who has been privileged to watch him play.

However there is another part of history that needs to be said. When Mariano leaves the field of play for the last time at some point in 2013 the #42 will walk off the field for the last time outside of Jackie Robinson Day. In 1997 MLB retired the #42 to pay homage to Jackie Robinson who broke the colour barrier in 1947, which might just be the most significant moment in north American sport. Due to the Grandfather clause anyone who wore the #42 could continue to wear it until they retired. It is fitting that the last person to ever wear it will be a man who wasn’t just great but also a wonderful person and ambassador for the sport.

I will ensure I enjoy every moment of 2013 where Mariano is on my TV screen. It genuinely was a privilege to watch greatness and I’ll miss it like anything when he’s gone. I’m sure others will get a place in my heart in time but it has been many years since someone new got into my inner-love sports wise but I’m sure others will. For now though I’ll smile when I see #42 and enjoy what he has given me – smiles on my face and the sense that you can be great and yet be humble and all class – and that sums up the kid from a small fishing village in Panama rather well.

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