Thursday, 29 September 2011

Harman damages any future Lib-Lab coalitions.

 Now I've never been a fan of Harriet Harman, but I have kept my thoughts to myself until the "rodentgate." As a redhead, I found her comments about Danny Alexander exceptionally offensive and  and ill thought out and now I barely hide my contempt so apologies if this is a bit slanted however her comments today are also as ill thought out.
With the future of British politics looking a little shaky and a general consensus that Coalitions and hung parliaments might become more regular the third largest party hold the key to a safe majority and at the moment that's the Lib Dems. It would make sense that, if you were to criticise the Lib Dems and their part in the Coalition you should not attack the core values such as Individual Liberty right?
Cue Harriet Harman... In her speech today she began by attacking the Conservatives and their policies and taking the moral high ground by pointing out the Tories like people with money and saying that for them Downton Abby was a "Fly on the wall documentary." - Very constructive.
Then she moved to those who do the "Dirty work" of the Coalition - The Lib Dems. It's their fault that local communities cannot have CCTV and that the DNA databases were destroyed!
Well yes, it is. Its as if she still doesn't get it. The DNA database was wrong, the government compiling of personal information of anyone's, including the Innocent, is an invasion of personal liberty. Its my DNA, my private information, why the hell should the Government have that information if I don't want them to. When I apply for a Passport I supply information in return for a document that will allow me to travel but my DNA?
As for CCTV, it is not necessarily a crime prevention as images can be grainy or be pointing in completely the wrong direction. It also means that free citizens are having their movements monitored by authorities, other than the Police. Why should everyone's movements be monitored for the sake of a possibility of a wrong doing? Should the innocent suffer with the guilty?
Anyway, if you agree or disagree, the point is Liberals don't and fought damn hard to get rid of Labour's oppressive measures and now Harriet is lamenting their loss?
Then she moved on to attack the Lib Dem theory that we act as a brake to the Conservative led Coalition. Ok, we're not perfect, Tuition fees was something that couldn't be avoided and the new system of repayment is a lot fairer and protects students who cannot get top paying jobs from paying back on smaller wages. Lets face it, and be honest, how many students have come out of Uni and ended up earning £30,000 straight of the bat? How many have earned around £20k or less and ended up paying back loan?
She also levels the NHS - something our activists voted to delay and get the parliamentary party to listen and think again, Police cuts - which are not government led but done by local Chief Constables, VAT - which we can't have that much of an impact over. What she has forgotten is that if we weren't in Government at all then things would be different, we've got around 70% of our manifesto through to the benefit of people everywhere and some of these would not have been passed by the Conservatives alone such as lifting people out of Income tax, Voting referendum, I could go on.
I'm not saying we're perfect in government and I have got plenty of problems with the Coalition but with power and Government we will make mistakes and errors of judgement, as Labour did when it first came into power in 1924 i.e the Zinoviev letter... However it is a learning curve. Needless to say, she has damaged prospects of the parties working together in the future if New New Labour drum into their party a dislike for the Lib Dems or even spend the next four years telling the electorate how awful we are and then have to go back on themselves if they ever need a Coalition.

Yes the Lib Dems were evil but now... they're urm, they're really nice evil?
The last thing, and this made me raise an eyebrow, was that according to Harriet;
As we look to the year ahead, as more people suffer from the Tories, as fewer people trust the Lib Dems, the political map is changing and Labour's activists are mobilising.
Changing? Anyone would think Labour weren't in for 13 years and that the Coalition is a result of a yearning for change. It sounds like she is believing her own hype and it made me think of Hitler telling Feldmarschall Von Griem of the thousands of Luftwaffe jets now available and the Wehrmacht mobilising to throw the Allies out of Germany in April 1945.

Great White Shark strikes in South Africa.

A man is recovering in hospital after having being mauled by a Great White Shark off Fish Hoek beach in South Africa. Mr Cohen (42) a Canadian born British national who works as an accountant in Cape Town has lost his right leg and left foot to a ten foot Great White that had been sighted off the coast.

Two men in their 60's put themselves in danger swimming out to pull him from the water and only the arrival of a seal, the Shark's natural foodstuff distracted the shark from attacking them too.

The beach was closed due to three sharks being sighted offshore the day before and white flags were clearly displayed warning the public not to enter the water.
The area has one of the highest concentration of Great White Sharks in the world, there is also a seal colony who were aware of the sharks in the water and were as close to shore as they could.
He was warned every time he went into the water about the Sharks in the water and said;
"If a shark takes me then blame me, not the shark"

Its interesting that even with a lot of blood in the water and wounded prey the shark disengaged to chase a seal, surely this shows that they truly do not like humans.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Ed Balls should be a Gillingham FC fan.

As I read Ed Balls' interview in yesterday's I the more I thought of my beloved local team. Every season the doom mongers predict a rough season, only but a few hopefuls talk of automatic promotion and the majority of us take each game as it comes, there are NO guaranteed victories for Gillingham, its the way we play and its what the fans love I guess. Predictions are usually negative and the outcome bleak, every now and then we are surprised by a victory and jubilant when the team does well but there is always the nagging doubt of;

"It won't last."

and;

"We'll screw it up as we always do, we'll be mid table again."

Which brings me to Ed Balls.

He has been, eventually, proven sort of right. There does appear to be another, more frightening recession about to be all us and the Eurozone looks set to break. The Coalition is cutting too far and too deep, austerity alone is not a good enough measure we need a plan B... Suddenly I'm back at the end of the 09/10 season after our brief spell in League One listening to the nay sayers;

"We knew we'd never stay up. We've not got the quality."

The same critics were there after the beginning of 10/11 season who blamed the new manager, Andy Hessanthaler for early failings and squad problems.
"He hasn't got the quality and his squad are useless what is he doing?"
Without admitting that a manager who had been in post for a couple of months cannot change a squad in that time and that the mistakes were from the former Management (Mark Stinson) and clearly not his fault. Much like the economic crisis in the country. Its not the Coalition's fault that the economy was in such a state when they took over, granted it wasn't solely Labour's fault either - however Labour (indeed the Coalition) should, unlike Mr Balls, take responsibility for their role.

Of course I may be being too harsh on Ed Balls. After all he is actually an economist and I am not by a long way. His predictions are probably based on experience, knowledge and forecasts, he saw from the very beginning what the Bank of England and the Chancellor failed to, he had the foresight to put up red warning flags that no one heeded, he called for a plan B or C and begged the coalition to think again, all the while not providing suggestions as to what these plans should be. He has called the Coalition's cuts wrong and too deep but has ruled out any of his colleagues in the Shadow cabinet saying they would reverse them should they get into power. I'm a little confused by all this.

But Ed, if you want to admit your true colours and follow Stan Ternet's journey from Burnley to Preistfield you're always welcome in the Medway stand. I'm sure you'll fit right in with us, that's if you can bear to wear a blue shirt!

Monday, 26 September 2011

You Gov polls on Ed Miliband's Labour 1 year on.

54% of people think Labour have seriously lost touch with the ordinary working people.
60% think Labour haven't faced up to the damage they did to the UK economy.
17% say they'd be delighted if Labour would be returned to Government with Ed Miliband at the helm.
41% say they would be dismayed.
26% say Ed Miliband is doing a good job.
62% say Ed Miliband is not up to the job of Prime Minister.
45% say they would have been better off under David Miliband
6% say they would have been worse off under David Miliband.

(source; Tom Bradby's blog at http://blog.itv.com/news/author/tombradby/ )

Well, those stats make interesting reading. I'm not going to indulge in anti Labour or Pro Coalition rhetoric - it is easy and is mostly hot air that achieves nothing.

Instead, however, I'm going to look at the figures critically and as fairly as I can. Things don't look as cheery as Labour's 40% Yougov rating shows. A year on, and after massively unpopular Coalition policies; Tuition fees, NHS reform, Policing Cuts added to the riots, Labour have failed to capitalise. Even at the local elections they failed to gain anywhere near the landslide victory they had been expecting. Even here in Medway their net gain was not much and in fact the Conservatives got in with a few more seats!

I'm not a Labour party member and obviously pro Coalition so my point of view might be bias but I am not inspired by Ed Miliband as a leader. His calls to join Labour have inspired many of my fellows to tear up their membership cards and go Red but I'm just not inspired. He just doesn't seem to have a charismatic draw, and accordingly the figures show that his party members agree with me. I can't see him as Prime Minister, he's just missing something. At the moment the British Public seem to elect charismatic showmen like Blair, Cameron and dare I say it Clegg rather than proven politicians who have good track records like the PMs of old like MacDonald, Baldwin or Wilson and Ed Miliband just doesn't quite cut the mustard. I feel it is unfair to bring David Miliband into the mix but then there were always going to be those comparisons and suggestions that the wrong brother will always surface when things are going tough, but then don't we all do that? Should things improve for Labour I'm sure this will turn around, after all Ed Miliband has only been in charge of the party for a year so I'd urge Labour members to give him time in the post and see how he develops.

I do also agree that Labour should acknowledge their role in the current crisis. Like the 1929 crash the causes of the economic crisis are more complicated than just one Government in one country and it is unfair to blame it all on Labour. However they didn't handle it as well as they could have, but as well as they thought and they made mistakes as any government would have. They need to come forward and admit those mistakes to the public. It takes a big person to admit when they've made a mistake and I think popular opinion would go up if they did say to the public;

Sorry We really messed up on these policies and it led to X Y Z. But this was because of global measures A B C.

This instead of the somewhat obstinate;

We didn't do anything wrong and the Coalition have messed it all up for you.

The public aren't stupid, they remember 2010 and the dubious "We're out of money" note in the treasury.
All the time they repeat the same line the more people are turned away.

It would be fair to say the Labour has lost its way with representing the ordinary working people. As I've written before Labour were founded to represent the TUC and the concerns of the unions but since the mid nineties they have become a sort of Diet Conservative party with similar values and drifted away from the streets and more towards business which helped the Lib Dems to capitalise and grow as we are/were beginning to represent the concerns of people on local issues and constituency issues. Labour seem to have become attracted by power and national Government rather than what really matters, the voters. There was talk of Labour re founding itself so that it can find its way and its beginnings rather than continue the way it is going, after all a good opposition is the opposite of the party in power, they also have to have policies and alternate views so that they can debate issues rather than oppose for oppositions sake.

I know that no poll is completely accurate and that it is just a segment of the population and Labour party members who have been asked and the problems may not be as deep set as the poll shows but they are interesting that even a percentage feel this way. I'm not saying that Ed Miliband won't develop into an able leader or that Labour or the Coalition have the right answers but I offer up a few observations as fuel for thought.

Redism - Anti Redheads.

This is something that I come back to from time to time, mainly because it is something I've had to put up with for most if not all my life. Thankfully Sophie isn't Ginger... well yet, she has a little gingerish tint to her hair but not like me at her age.

I was surprised that there actually is a term for it; "Redism." It is indeed a full blown prejudice and is on a par with elements of racism for example;

Redheads beaten up at school for no other reason than their hair colour and mocked in the Media for not having souls.

Redheads are referred to by slang names like Ging-er, rednob, carrot top, flame crotch and even the term Ginger itself. These derogatory names hurled at us by passing motorists, people and even friends.
 I want to say for the record that I am fully aware of what colour my hair is so thanks for pointing it out but please do shuffle on.

The fear of Ginger children is a common commedial device, I was worried if Sophie would be ginger! Why should I be worried?!? I'd be worried if she had three heads or might have gills instead of lungs but if she will be a redhead or not?

This whole distrust came from over a thousand years ago when the Normans invaded. To crush the predominantly Saxon culture and replace it with their s they began to mock the locals and single them out as different.
In the middle ages Redheads were often burnt as witches or tried as the bedfellows of Satan for one reason. The hair was the same coulor as fire, hell is full of fire ergo they are evil.

This means that redism that still exists is a hangover from these times? Maybe... But society likes to mock the different, malign the unusual. Less than 5% of the population of England are Redheads, this is even smaller than certain ethnic minorities!
We all shy away from racists who mock people from other origins, from the BNP, we all tut when we hear someone shouting racist abuse at someone as they drive past in their car. We teach our children that it is wrong to mock people with different beliefs and skin colour but what about laughing at redheads?
Even the Vodafone advert last year that talked about having a redparty to celebrate the differences and red culture was mocked by certain sections of the populace and it even went as far as to seperate us further from mainstream society, it made me feel that maybe we were different from everyone else but we really aren't! I don't think of myself as a hair colour, I don't identify myself with someone with the same hair colour I'm still an englishman. (with pro german tendancies)

We are not an ethnic group with one culture or religion. We don't all listen to simply red or Florence and the machine, there is no secret handshake or common solidarity, no secret Red societies (if there are I'm not in one!).

Other examples of Redism by people in the media spotlight include:

During the London Mayoral election Chris Evans donated money to Ken Livingston's campaign. Frank Dobson (Mp) announced publically that: "My mother always taught me Never trust a redhead."
What!?!

IF he had said he didn't trust someone on the basis of the skin colour the nation would have gone crazy. He woul have been maligned as a racist biggot, there would be enquiries, appologies, he may have lost his seat in the next bi-election.

What was the actual fall out?

Nothing.

Chris Evans gave another million to Ken Livingstons campaign.

That was it.

Enron (I believe) ran an advertisement with a family sat on a sofa with two dark haired parents looking dejected with their two redhead children sat between them. The Tag line was. "You can't chose your children... but you can chose your Power supplier!"

WTF?

What is wrong with having a redhead child? Its not s random mutation, they don't glow at nighttime or have tongues like frogs. Its just a hair colour like any other.

Our cause is not helped by having some bad eggs... Mick Hucknall for example but then on the otherside you have Jack tweed... so both sides have insufferable idiots.

Likewise there have been many great Redheads in history, Winston Churchill (who was ginger in his youth), Neil Kinnock, Charles Kennedy, Marshall Ney - Napoleon's trusted lieutenant, Elizabeth I, Henry VIII, Marilyn Monroe.. we've made contributions so why are we still maligned?
What can be done to stop this abuse? Not much unfortunatly. It has been raised in parliament several times and each time it has been quietly buried. It has made the news especially when a family in Newcastle were forced to move estates for the sole reason they were redheads. It will never be taught in schools nor in homes. I see no end to this torment and so I shall teach my daughter the same things I was taught as a kid. To ignore it, to have thick skin and to just think yourself better than the biggots who think that just because you are different it is perfectly ok to single you out for victimisation.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Medway City status - Undemocratic move that will cost too much

Were you one of the lucky 0.1% to receive a telephone call in April last year from Medway Council above City status?

Did you know the council are making a THIRD bid for city status in 2012?

The only reason I found out was when the Advertising Standards slapped a fine on Medway for prematurely using "City of Medway" badges on civil apparatus.

As for the telephone survey only 68% of the 0.1% of us asked were in agreement of creating a City of Medway. (http://democracy.medway.gov.uk/ielistdocuments.aspx?cid=122&mid=2134 )

What does it mean though? Well Basically Gillingham, Ranham, Chatham, Rochester and Strood who cease to be individual towns but rather districts of the City of Medway. There will be no change to the council (except the can call themselves City Councillors) or your wards. The place will be run as it has.

Councillor Chambers is predicting that a city will draw in big business as it has in Sunderland and Middlesborough. This money would help further rejuvinate the city and bring about real positive change.

However, when asked what benefit city status made to Brighton, a senior councillor said- None, save the debt. Indeed the debt is interesting - especially in the current economic crisis. After all Medway Council have to save £15 million by 2015, the bus station is wildly over budget by a couple of million, Woodlands school has had to be bailed out by a couple of million, the Advertising Standards agency had to be paid off, they're wasting £500,000 on having Gas works moved so that "Medway Park" can have a straight path into it, also there is the whole problem of finding money for essential repairs to Medway tunnel... How can the people of Medway afford it? Is this part of the "Better for Less scheme"?

Councillor Chambers said after the second failed attempt that it was in no ones interest, especially the Conservative Group's, to push for it again but here we are on the third attempt! Labour are backing it to as a group and only the Lib Dems and Green party are arguing against it. If you read the blog comments from members of the public on the KM website [ http://www.kentonline.co.uk/medway_messenger/news/2010/september/10/city_status.aspx ] the general gist is negative. I'm not sure many people in the towns know, or care, about the change. Medway Council have failed to consult properly with the people they represent. Although the phone poll was covered to more generous levels than Yougov or parliamentary polls it still wasn't enough considering this is supposed to face of the Medway towns and I really don't recall seeing any party saying it would push for city status in the manifestos that arrived at my doorstep during the May election so how do they have a mandate for it?

I took a lengthy read of the Medway Council sponsored brochure that is set to officially launch the Medway City Status and could find nothing that suggested what the benefit to the Medway towns is. I notice that the epicentre of the city is Central Chatham and Rochester which leads me to ask; What is in it for Rainham, Strood and importantly (For me) Gillingham?

Each of the Medway towns has its own separate identity and its own role in the history of this land. Gillingham has the Park fire, Chatham the dockyard, Rochester the siege of 2015... In time this would be eroded surely? Much in the way Brompton has been absorbed. I know it is an aesthetic thing as well but Medway city? I know the river is the only thing we have in common but really?

I'm all for the bettering of the Medway towns as an area and a community however I have to ask is this the way? Could we not spend the money more wisely else where like on our roads that desperately need resurfacing or on schools, the bus station or the tunnel which has failed its safety specs?

Friday, 23 September 2011

Mark Reckless calls for EU referendum and support the LibDem manifesto

On Wednesday I was quite shocked to see a tweet from local MP Mark Reckless of Rochester and Strood, saying; Support and implement the Liberal Democrat manifesto.

I know I said before that the Conservatives were becoming more liberal but I thought this might be taking it too far!

Basically he was calling for our pledge to take the EU to a referendum for the people to democratically say yes or no. [http://fb.me/18v0ppt7x]

This would normally be something I would agree with. It is an important thing for the nation to discuss seriously and their opinion needs to be heard.

There  are two good reasons why it can't happen now.

1.) With the collapse of the Eurozone it is not a good time for a sensible, level headed debate. The British penchant for xenophobia - especially for our European cousins is always present but now it will be mixed with a certain amount of gloating that the Euro seems to have failed and that we were right and they were wrong. If we were to bail out of the EU now it would look like we were jumping off a sinking ship and should at a later time we decide to rejoin the EU we may be signing up under worse terms than if we stayed with. Also we are part of Europe geographically and we are all in the same economic crisis so shouldn't all of us work to sort it out? At the moment the German and French economies are doing most of the propping up, shouldn't we continue to help?

2.) I'm not sure such a referendum would be conducive to the administration of the Coalition. I know that both of our parties don't agree on everything and some things we are fundamentally against each other. The bitterly fought Yes/No Av Campaign caused serious problems between our two parties and any EU referendum would cause splits with in the Conservatives who are pro Europe vs. the old right. All of this would provide an unnecessary diversion at a critical time in the administration. Also it is expensive.

The "No 2 AV" campaign were quick to use people's prejudices, including public hatred of Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrat party, to reach their aims. I'm pretty certain the debate would be fought using stereotypes and half truths that are easily believed, such as the Daily Mail's Straight Banana story. There are enough half truths and lies floating around that could easily be brought back to the surface and passed around mis-informing people and people are happy to believe misinformation. How quickly before flyers saying "This is what Hitler wanted - One Europe under Germany" start getting passed around?

One of the best articles on the EU appears in the "Orange Book." saying that the EU and parliament does need reforming and that it isn't perfect but it is a step forward, one that when it is perfected will work to the benefit of ALL the member states. Unfortunately this article was written by a former MEP, Nick Clegg which means that no one outside of the party will give it credence. Lets face it, he could write an essay on how to bring about world peace and fix the Ozone layer but how many people would read it or agree with him?

Also, though it is in the Lib Dem manifesto, it is not in the Coalition agreement. The agreement states, basically that the status-quo must be maintained and that as long as we don't cede more power to the EU then we will let it continue. We will also look at a sovereignty act to maintain British parliament as the law makers in Britain. There is nothing to say we have to have a referendum nor work towards it. So why kick the hornets nest if we don't have to?

The other thing is sometimes with democracy... I'll probably get kicked out of the party for this... people get it horribly wrong! Take for example the Nuclear power plant closures in Germany under people pressure. That means back to more polluting power solutions like Coal and Gas until a newer sort of power production is developed. Other examples include two terms for George W. Bush, the NSDAP coming to power in Germany in 1933, Sue Perkins getting voted out of the Celebrity Big Brother house against Mark from take that... I could go on. I think that the British public would be making a mistake and that could have serious ramifications later on.

But who am I to say what is right and wrong? I am but one voice in society, and not even a loud voice, everyone is entitled to their opinion and say. Should a referendum take place I would vote the way I thought and encourage people to vote the same way but ultimately whatever the result I would respect it and get on with life. The same as I did after AV. If anything a referendum would be a case of "Put up and shut up" and we could finally get an answer rather than have this continuing struggle between two opposed ideologies with the vast swathe of people in the middle who are apathetic - I just don't think that this parliament is a good time to have it, wait until 2015 when, more likely one party is in power.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Smudging Party lines :- The changing face of the Conservative and Labour Paries.

During our party conference Dr Vince Cable said that the far Tory right were the direct "descendants of those who sent children up chimneys." It is something that can raise a chuckle and when you picture Peter Bone you could possibly believe it, even the rabid quasi rant that Nadine Dorries indulged in the other week was reminiscent of an Evangelical Victorian School mistress.

No matter what you think of them though, the  Conservative party have changed. David Cameron is not the grinning face of evil and his ministers do not look like the defendants bench at Nuremberg. Despite Ed Miliband's rhetoric of "The same old Tories" they have a new slant and their fresh MPs show great promise. The opposite seems to be true of Labour, they've also changed but they have drifted away from the Trade Union members and sympathisers towards an almost Conservative position. The once gaping void that had existed between left and right is now more of a quagmire where each can sink into with in the disputed middle ground.

What of us? I'd like to say that the Liberal and Lib Dem party have remained constant since Balfour's government was ousted by Campbell-Bannerman. Liberalism is a philosophy that does not appeal to a demographic or political spectra but is a broad brush stroke that encompasses let and right which tends to make us a centralist group. I think because we don't have a demographic that people don't know what we stand for.

After all Labour represent Urban Working class values where as the Conservatives represent rural and upper class values right?

Well if you look at the Constituencies then yes. There is no way Maidstone and the Weald will be Labour controlled and I doubt very much that inner city Manchester will become Conservative.

But the parties have changed since the fall of Mrs Thatcher. Labour under Blair did drift away from the Unions and strike action and tried to broaden their appeal to the middle - New Labour seemed to be a diet Conservatives but still drawing on the unions, there was a mix of Union presence like John Prescott vs. Mandelson and Blair himself.

The Conservatives have also changed. Thirteen years of opposition will do that, after all after every election defeat you've got to address why and party image. Old Conservative values are no longer as popular as they once were. I could sit here and criticise Conservative MPs like Priti Patel - who I think is an opportunist who vocally supports the party line, or Peter Bone, some what of a Political dinosaur or Nadine Dorries...
There are others- and I'm sure that party members in other parties could throw plenty of snide comments at LibDem MPs but that's just wasting time for futile one upmanship.

There are, however MPs who seem to buck this stereotype. Ken Clarke was labelled as a Lib Dem Minister by Nick Clegg in his address at the Conference rally, Penny Mordaunt pleaded with Theresa Villiers for her constituents to be relieved of high Train fares, Tracey Crouch reminded Theresa May of the good social networking sites did during the riots and urged against Government censorship of them. - Just to briefly share an anecdote from a Medway Libdem meeting; A colleague said of Miss Crouch after the last General Election:
"You won't see her in Chatham again until the next General election. Her support base is in Aylesford so that is where she'll concentrate."

I'm happy to say that she has proved them wrong.

Indeed this new brand of Conservatism is a lot more fuzzy and comforting. In the darkest days of the Tuition fee crisis I considered just going the whole mile and turning blue - I mean, at the time I was starting to believe we had anyway!

Some Lib Dems would argue that it is our influence over policy that has made them more attractive but do we have that much influence? After all we are but 8% of Parliament and could easily be over ruled! Also Nick has said that he and Mr Cameron have agreed on a lot of policy and both parties had a lot of common ground. There are differences in the form of the Human rights act, NHS reform, Trident etc but other ground that has become communal and communal by choice not by force. Lets be candid... If they really didn't share some of our policies do you really think we would have got as much done?

So why are they still hated? Apart from a small collection of relics and some of their links to big business etc there is one factor and I quote my good friend Caroline Bell:

Under Labour everyone has a good time, there is a lot of public spending but eventually the money runs out and the electorate turn to the Conservatives to fix the situation. The problem is the Conservatives make all the hard decisions and become unpopular so Labour get in. it's a cycle.

Before this parliament it was easy to dislike the Conservatives. I grew up at the time of Thatcher and the collapse of the Economy under Major - Blair's victory in 1997 was a huge change and New Labour was a breath of fresh air.

I guess what my course less meandering is trying to say is that the Conservatives have changed and that they and Labour are fighting over the same demographics for the majority of their support. This new Conservative party deserves a chance and shouldn't be judged on just its austerity measures but its other reforms too.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Over using the N- Word.

The more I read about protests and campaigns against the Government/establishment the more and more I see people using the N word.

Nazi is a word that is thrown about too much. That and Police state. A lot of protesters throw out these insults as the Police try to establish order or carry out a Governmental order but I'm not sure they know what it means.Nazi is an abbreviation of for the German National Socialist Workers' party which was established after the First world War and taken over and transformed by Adolf Hitler. After the fall of the Third Reich the party was made illegal in Germany and across the world. The party stood for regaining lost territory and prestige for Germany that was lost in 1918 and sought to create a greater German Reich that would stand for a Milena. Its hallmarks included a centralised state, military growth and anti-Semitism mixed with eugenics. It would be safe to say that anyone who describes themselves a Nazi are probably not in any possible way - but are more likely anti-Semites or racists.

The state also established the Gestapo for keeping a track of the civilians through a network of informants and used the "Nacht Und Nebel" decrees to arrest suspects late in the night. Many people would wake to find their neighbours gone and never to be seen again, doomed to disappear into Concentration camps or disappear into the torture chambers of the Prinz Alberct Strasse HQ. At no point would anyone call for the release of "Political prisoners" without disappearing into the night and fog themselves. As for anti war protests such as Brian Hawes peace camp? Lets just say that a married couple who left postcards in public foyers with anti-war statements were beheaded.

To describe any Law enforcement in this Country as Nazi is just naive.I'm not saying that law enforcement is perfect in this country or that those who are friends of liberty and freedom should not take their eyes off Government legislation. It is easy for even well meaning measures to become oppressive. Take for example Control orders, national ID databases... it can so rapidly spiral out of control.

So how would the Dale farm incident be dealt with under a Nazi rule? Well the Wehrmacht or the SS would have gone in on the day, not after ten years of council and legal wranglings, and they would have cleared and liquidated all who stood in their way. It wouldn't have even made the news.

The Riots? No Police lines stood watching for three days. Action that day from the Military Kommandant of London. When the Warsaw uprising started the Wehrmacht troops began to struggle but then the Government ordered a strike and the SS and the Dirlwanger units went in and cleared the streets brutally whilst artillery and aircraft systematically flattened the city. On the second day we would begin to bury our dead.

The same is true for the student protests and marches on Parlaiment square would have been met with MG42 machine gun nests, live rounds and even half-tracks. Think final battle in Captain Corelli's mandolin (chapter 14 on the DVD). There would be no kettling.

Other states like Syria or Yemen have demonstrated true Police state or Naziesq measures to deal with civil unrest and rebellion. People have died and continue to die in the name of freedom and democracy. Here, someone who doesn't agree with the Government or is protesting something are often quick to call "Nazi" or "Police state!" however in reality they don't know how lucky they are to be born in a country that does cherish freedom and democracy.

Is it perfect? No, but we are not a Nazi state nor a police state. If you find yourself up against the Police at a demonstration then thank your stars that he is not a German Stormtrooper armed with an MP40 and a superiority complex.


 Lets try not to use the N word unnecessarily.

Nick Clegg's Opening speech 17-9-11

For a full transcript please see [ http://www.blogger.com/post-create.g?blogID=1836424929140738524]

Unfortunately I wasn't at the Lib Dem conference, I also missed the BBC Parliament's televising as my television decided to lose reception randomly - One can only assume that it doesn't agree with Nick but does with my wife who said she wanted to watch the Kryptonfactor instead. I can't really talk about the delivery however I have read the transcript and will instead talk about the content.

It reads very well and has several themes that he keeps coming back to.

One of the key ones is family. We as a party are family and as a family we don't always agree and some are very vocal in their disagreement, which is a good thing. This is a good thing, it allows us;

To get NHS reform right, to keep fair taxes as our priority, to keep the government green.

Debate is indeed the central aspect of the party and he reminds us that even though we are all different in our outlook and our approaches to the problems.

Whether you consider yourself more of a social democrat or a classical liberal, whether your hero is Gladstone or Keynes, Paddy Ashdown or Shirley Williams, we are all to one degree or another, all of the above. We share the same inheritance. We are cut from the same cloth. We are Liberal Democrats.

It is a good line, not only makes us all feel unified but also addresses some of the splits that have begun to appear since the formation of the Coalition and the growth of support for the Social Liberal forum, the Orange bookers and the classical pragmatic Liberals... We have to remember that even though we don't agree on everything we can work together and debate and bring in change that a majority can agree on.

He also paid tribute to those who lost their posts in the local, Scottish and Welsh elections and more importantly to Andy Reeves. I didn't know Andy well, I'd exchanged less than a handful of tweets with him but I know he was a big part of the party, a loved colleague and friend to many and it is my loss that I will not get to know him but I think it was the right time and message for Nick to mention him in his speech and to talk well of him and say;

He was there in the good times and bad, one of us, one of the family.

Nick also laid out important changes that are coming in the party including greater diversity to combat our "Too male and too pale" image by setting up the Leadership program, and also important things that WE as a party have achieved.

NHS; the Sheffield conference vote was carried forward and affected government policy.
Ruport Murdoch; LibDems have moved forward and led on combating vested interests in the media,
Human rights; we've taken a stand on issues.

He assured the membership that although we didn't see it, the Parliamentary party did fight for Liberal ideals within the Coalition and that ministers fort tooth and nail in their departments for what we believe in. Although a lot of it was hidden from the media for different reasons but he is taking up the advice that he has received from his tours around the country and making our changes and voice heard by the public.

On our Coalition partners he says;

We may not agree with everything our coalition partners say- they certainly don't agree with everything I say - but that's the point. We have not become the same and we never will. We are putting our differences aside and putting the country first.

I agree with his comments about why the Coalition was formed. There was no other reasonable choice of action and it is up to both parties to make it work for the country. It will also give the country a fairer view of our party showing that we can make difficult decisions and govern and that we aren't just a wasted vote or an opposition party that opposes for the sake of opposing. Despite the Short term unpopularity we did the right thing and are a serious party.

He assures us that the Coalition has the strength needed to fix the big problems; and that there are more people in that government who are looking out for you. Those people are there. They're in government and on your side. They're called Liberal Democrats.

It was very rousing, I wish I had seen it rather than read it. Every time I feel down about the future of the party or question what we are doing Nick always seems to give one of these speeches which lifts me out of the doldrums and makes me smile, swell up inside and proclaim strongly that :- I still agree with Nick.

We are doing the right thing and we clearly have a lot more to do but as Winston Churchill once said:

"Lets go Forward together."

Sunday, 18 September 2011

The Lib Dem popularity one year on- a review of a review

I've just read Sebastian Payne's review ( ) in the Telegraph that reviews the Party's polling and found it quite interesting.

It is true that Lib Dem popularity has collapsed somewhat since the heady days of last May. This can be laid at the door unpopular policies such as Tuition or the NHS. It is also to say it is fair that Nick Clegg has indeed been a "lightening rod" - somewhat unfairly at times, for the Coalition and any policy decisions not liked by the public.

Indeed the results Mr Payne references in the Sun poll are quite shocking:
30% (down 10% on last year) think Clegg is doing a good job
63% (up 7% on last year) don't know what the Libdems stand for.
59% (up by 20% on last year) think Nick is doing badly.


Writing with reference to the YouGov graph (above) Mr Payne asks the question:

Has the Liberal Democrat party weathered the trial of the past year any better? ... the answer is again no.

Hold up there Custer. Yes, the chart does show the Lib Dems sliding down in popularity since October 2010, which should be of no surprise to anyone in the Party, but then it evens out. Yes there are slight fluctuations in the party's popularity of a percentage or so but it has levelled out. Surely that is weathering and damage control, the fall was halted.

Of course, opposition parties always do well in the polls during Parliament as they don't have to make difficult decisions and can promise everyone whatever they want without having to deliver it. Labour have always benefited from taking Liberal (and LibDem) support over the last century as both parties attract voters from the same areas of society and any party that talks about taxing people more and cutting public services will lose support of the public, indeed so have the Conservatives.

Basically, the situation on paper looks grim, but we've stopped the inevitable downward slide in support and evened out. The optimist in me says that we have now got a solid foundation on which to build and re brand the party or publicise more and really grow from our successes and experience in Government.

Drug deal three minutes from my house?!

It was taking place in the cut indicated by the arrow.
Last night on my way home I encountered a drug deal in progress. I'm 90% certain this is what was going on. As I walked up the back path between Valley Road up to Sturdee Avenue, I heard voices in one of the cuts and I glanced  over my shoulder to see three youths stood talking loudly enough that I could hear them over my IPod. They seemed to be acting a little suspiciously and one was trying to conceal something hurriedly and I double took.

"You better not be looking! If you are I'll knock you the F**k out!"
The taller one with the clear bag he was trying to conceal said.

That is what confirmed it for me that something dodgy was going on. After all you wouldn't behave like that if you weren't up to anything wrong.

Strangely I didn't feel threatened. As a Red-head I've attracted abuse throughout my life and have had my fair share of attacks including two robberies and I have no fear of defending myself if I am attacked but the first thing that sprang to mind was - This is 3 minutes from my house. A fact that was hammered home again when a 6 year old girl walked past me towards the same spot and I immediately thought of my daughter.
Sophie is growing up around this!

Should I call the Police? What was the point, they'd be long gone before the Police could respond and three kids are hardly worth the prosecuting.

Of course it wasn't always like this. When my Grandfather was a Police Officer he patrolled the streets, and was a respected member of the community now the police are something to be shunned or abused and are kept so busy that they cannot be everywhere at once. Even back in the day you never addressed someone in that manner and there wasn't the fear of intervening and getting stabbed. We've all heard the horror stories of well meaning citizens who have tried to avert crime and found themselves injured or killed by youths.

I understand with previous cuts that sacrifices had to be made. I grew up in Marden on the Weald which had had a Police house with a couple of Police officers which had long since closed and we were a good twenty minutes from Maidstone by car. Often a Patrol car would skirt through the village once a day maybe and to a degree it felt as if we were lawless, but the community was a lot closer and you knew who the trouble makers were, it was almost a 1950's style community that self policed.

It is a great fear that the Government cuts will take Police officers off the street and helping keep the community safe, even cuts to PCSOs is a problem. This is why it is important that the Chief Constable and the KPA pay special attention and cut where they have excess and cut carefully, these crimes aren't happening in inner city London but in the quieter suburbs of Gillingham around our Children and it must be stopped.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Medway Liberal Democrats - Have they given up the ghost?

Councillor Geoff Juby
An accusation that was levelled at the local party this week for failing to attend an emergency council meeting about more problems with the new Bus station development. No one from the Liberal Democrat group attended. This does look bad, especially over a subject that has caught the Conservative led council with its pants down with an overspend on its pet project and continued poor planning.

I agree that Councillor Juby should have been present, however it is conceivable that due to outside life getting in the way that none of our three councillors (out of 55 possible seats) could make it.

Councillor Juby is also reputed to have said that there was no point in us being there as we are such a small group that our say doesn't really matter. Again true.

Personally I think it is worth us saying it anyway but I am not in a position to, nor will I criticise Councillor Juby, especially when I don't know the true facts. Councillor Juby is a solid veteran campaigner and Councillor who is admired by colleagues of all parties. If Geoff said No then I'm positive it was for a good reason.

The Bus station is mainly a Chatham based issue. Yes the Medway Council has overspent and this is for a number of reasons, which I shall adress in the coming days elsewhere, but it is a major blow for Chatham and its infrastructure not Gillingham, our last redoubt, and although it affects the people of Gillingham it does so to a much smaller extent than other things that are keeping our councillors busy. We aren't a city yet and it is not our bus station.

It is true that the local elections hit us hard, nationally and here in Medway. Our vote collapsed  and we lost some good councillors, including Stephen Kearney, a veteran of some 11 years. I ran too, not seriously but as a token gesture and paperless, and I watched us fall apart that night. I was unable to attend the debrief that weekend but I know what was said. We addressed it again at our meeting in August and a new direction was decided on. We cannot get caught up in the gloss and shine of being councillors and get back to doing what we as a party do best. Solving local issues for local people. The vast majority of people in Gillingham south aren't interested in the new bus station.
They want pavements straightened, pot holes filled in, graffiti removed, improvements to the parks and council services and that's what we are going to do. After all isn't that what the meat and veg of politics is about?
Yes planning for the borough is important and these issues need to be addressed but let the big boys of Labour and Conservative play around with that, we're not big enough to really have much of a clout either way. We are going to work for the more pressing needs of the people in our wards.

We are in a transitional phase, we're trying to find our feet and reassert ourselves but we are not beaten. To say that the Liberal Democrats have given up the ghost is in similar to Hitler decreeing the British were defeated after Dunkirk - What next an "Appeal to reason" from Labour to our members and voters? Our time will come and we will reassert ourselves but not by headline grabbing and shouting and waving but through hard work, representation and doing what the people want.

Tough Liberalism - but not too tough.

One of the criticisms of the Liberal Democrats in the Coalition was that we were too ready to agree to Conservative policies even the ones we are supposed to be completely opposed to like Tuition, or the harsher Austerity measures. At the Spring Liberal Conference Nick Clegg stood before the party faithful and promised that we as a party in coalition would assert ourselves and show that we were not the lapdogs who nodded along to every line that David Cameron and the Conservative leadership fed us just so we could get a sniff of power.

Since then, and the failure of the AV referendum the party have stood firm over Human rights, House of commons reform, the 50p top tax rate and most importantly we argued the NHS reform until it was acceptable. The party has found its voice and is standing firm have taken criticism on board. However David Lawes has stated that too much opposition is a bad thing. He argues that if the party forms an opposition within the Coalition it could lead to disaster, not only electorally but for the nation.

"While it is essential that our identity is not lost, it would be a disaster if the Lib Dems were simply to evolve into an internal opposition, we will best serve our country as constructive front-seat drivers, not as grumpy passengers who are merely looking forward to the end of a bumpy ride."

The Coalition, like any marriage calls upon the strengths of each partner to reach a compromise and are stronger together than apart. Mr Lawes  says that;

In its second year the relationship between the parties has matured. We don't pretend that we agree on every dot and comma. there have been differences including the NHS. In spite of these differences we are proving that we can deliver. Indeed, this coalition works better than many previous single- party governments.

True enough. We all remember what the last days of New Labour were like with infighting and squabbling between various power groups, and indeed the last days of the Major administration. If a government were to fracture like that it ultimately means that MPs and ministers are concentrating their time on carving out power or serving anothers power base and not their constituency. This is bad enough when there is no major disaster going on but seeing as the nation, indeed Europe, is facing a massive economic problem and needs a steady hand to direct it. Don't get me wrong I think the work of the Backbench committee and MPs like Julian Huppert and Greg Mulholland and indeed the voices of Dr Evan Harris, Tim Farron MP and the Social Liberal Forum are wonderful, the very conscience of the party and one that reminds the leadership of what the party members want and believe but they shouldn't be lead to a position where they have to rebel or rebel needlessly.

David Lawes has kept his statement neutral so as not to offend the Conservative party and did not push the 50p Tax rate as anything other than "temporary." that's an issue for the leadership to debate. He did however state that we as a party are committing to George Osborne's Plan A for the economy. (or A+ as it is becoming.) Now Labour will say that we have tied ourselves to the mast but we are providing alternatives and are taking steps to protect the less well off, at Nick's insistence and yes, at the moment there is no plan B, but then it isn't up to us to have a plan B, it is the opposition's. Until Ed Balls and Ed Miliband actually write an alternative on their blank sheet of paper and debate it sensibly in parliament rather than constantly criticising and saying they would do things differently without going into detail we have to forge on ahead. In 2015 it will be shown that Coalition had a plan and for ill or good they carried out.

So we should keep our calm and not become to anti everything just for the sake of keeping a separate identity but we should maintain a them and us approach. Two partners married by circumstance working together, with both of our parties traditions and beliefs, for the "good" of the nation and not become one of those couples that begins to share an identity. A difficult balancing act but one that Nick embraced in his speech at the Conference rally today.

"We have not become the same and we never will."

Total Politics 2011 awards.


I just wanted to write and thank everyone who voted for me and even nominated me in the first place.

I am sincerely very grateful and was not expecting to receive any form of accolades.

As it is I came 52nd in the top 100 Liberal Democrat Bloggers in the UK and... the Gingerliberal blog spot was awarded 34th best Liberal Democrat Blog!!!

I continue to be awed and shocked as well as exceedingly grateful. Thanks a lot.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Boundary reform - For Good or bad.

Survivor; Tracey Crouch MP
After months of hard work the Boundary commission has released its findings to the public for a three week consultation period before going before Parliament. However the preliminary results have brought mixed reactions.

In Medway there is good news for the hard working MP for Chatham and Aylesford Tracey Crouch (con). The Commission is not axing her constituency thus leaving her jobless in 2015 - infact they are adding to it for the next election. There were rumours back in August that the constituency she represents would be broken up and absorbed by surrounding constituencies including moving Chatham town into Rochester. The commission was also talking about cutting Rainham away and adding it to Lenham near Maidstone which would have cut a chunk out of the Medway community and bond it with an area that is not homogeneous with each other.

Currently the new Rochester (previously Rochester and Strood) is gaining Rochester East, Chatham Central (including the railway station) and keep the Hoo peninsula (which was rumoured to be going to Gravesend and Gravesham.)

Chatham and Aylesford is set to gain the East Malling and West Malling & Leybourne as well as Hempstead & Wigmore (from Gillingham and Rainham) and Rochester South and Horsted (from Rochester and Strood.) The latter makes sense as Horsted is just up from the Medway Valley and on the main road to Chatham.

Gillingham and Rainham, Rehman Chisthi's (and my own) constituency has absorbed Luton and Wayfield from Chatham and Aylesford. This is currently a Labour ward and so will slim his majority. It is a bit of an oddity for a part of Chatham to be taken up but no great culture shock of two communities.

As many of you know, I'm useless with figures but in his excellent article ( http://musingsfrommedway.blogspot.com/2011/09/boundary-changes.html) Councillor Tristan Osborne states that based on previous figures a snap election would see Tracey Crouch increasing her majority by 10 - 12,000. Rehman Chisthi of Gillingham would see his cut to 7500- 9000 and Mark Reckless of Rochester would see his majority fall to 8- 10,000.

All three are marginal seats any way and saw a massive swing to blue in the last election and I'm sure they will be targets for Labour at the next election and all three MPs will have to work hard to maintain their posts anyway. However I'm sure this will be well received news for Miss Crouch who has made a real impact since being elected in May and continues to impress. It would have been a real shame for her to lose her seat on a technicality, I hope that she continues to serve Chatham and Aylesford (and the new wards post 2015) in the same way.

The Medway Libdems played a small role in this by putting forward revisions to the county party and commission as to cutting away communities and revising figures, including moving Horsted and Rochester South in an attempt to keep Rainham attached to Medway. Its probably not much, or may not have even helped at all but every little helps.

Nationally however the future looks grim for the party in any change. According to the Guardian the Conservatives look set to lose 6 seats, Labour 14, Lib Dems 10 and the Greens 1. We as a party cannot afford to lose 10 seats. One of our big loses might be Dr Vince Cable. His Twickenham seat will be dissected to create a Richmond and Twickenham seat that spans the Thames and puts him in direct conflict with Zac Goldsmith Mp for Richmond park and North Kingston.

In order to get the right size of constituency, no account has been taken not just of borough boundaries, but any sense of identity that will cause a lot of concern.

A similar case has broken out in the West Country where a new Bideford and Bude constituency now has Bude (in Devon) in a mostly Cornwall Constituency! The fiercely independent Cornish men don't want to be associated with the Devonians and claim that they are two different communities and have different needs and wants and one MP could not represent them both.

Other Big Guns who face losing seats include George Osborne, Ken Clarke, Ed Balls, Chris Huhne and even our popular president Tim Farron!

The big dilemma facing us Libdems is that fewer MPs and equalling out the number of constituents to an average number is indeed a good thing. It brings more fairness so is a good plus.
The bad news is that the lines have been drawn along ward lines, which can be misleading. For example in Gillinham my ward boundary goes right down the centre of the road I live on. I'm in Gillingham south but if I go to Tesco or the Chinese takeaway I'm in Watling. This boundary could be used to cut a Constituency boundary and my neighbour could be represented by someone else. It is reminiscent of the Allied powers carving up the Middle East post World War I, arbitrary lines on maps that separate communities and cause possible complications. Something that could affect democracy and Individual rights.

I would strongly advise people to look at their Boundary review, yeah it sounds boring but its your country and you get a say in how it is run. This is the most important review of how your MPs represent you in a long time so make the most of it. Take ten minutes to look at the map and think if it will affect you, then either contact the Commission ( http://consultation.boundarycommissionforengland.independent.gov.uk/contact-us/) or your MP. As of today (14th September) you have 83 days to lodge your comments before they go away and reach a compromise.

Southwark Council - More poor planning?


It appeared in yesterday's "Evening Standard" that the Council, as part of its regeneration is building two residential tower blocks near to the world famous Club, "The Ministry of Sound", sited in Elephant and castle which is celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year.

The Club's owners are concerned that the proximity of these new residential areas will affect their opening times and ability to conduct its ability to carry out business. Their lawyers have already contacted the Labour run council to inform them that should such development go ahead then they will be responsible for paying up lost earnings and damages caused by complaints about noise which Clive Zietman a partner at Stewarts law LLP could be as high as;

"Financial loss... and any resulting loss to its global brand... this liability would amount to many tens of millions of pounds."

Chief executive of Ministry of Sound said; "we find ourselves fighting a battle against a development that is wrong for this area, not addressing the needs of residents. This has been mishandled from the outset. Officers are letting down elected members with bad advice that threatens the future of our business."
We've had the same in Medway, officers have misled the cabinet by replacing one of the School organisation principles with something else and telling Cabinet that the new aim was one of the original principles. This led to a whole crisis over the closure of St. John's school and is still causing problems for the Conservative administration in Medway now. (For more infonrmation please see Mark Reckless' blog from November 2009  )
The Southwark planning committee met yesterday to consider whether the 22 storey building, which have 38 flats on Newington Causeway and again in a month to discuss the 41 storey block with 255 flats opposite the club should be go ahead. Hopefully the Cabinet and indeed the planning officers will be able to see sense on this issue.

I agree that regeneration is a good move and new housing is also good, it opens up the market for more people to get on the housing ladder or provide Council homes for people who need assistance. However I think that surely the Council should be planning sensibly, after all this isn't a club that has just moved into the area, it has been there for twenty years! Surely someone must have noticed and realised that there could be planning issues.

Fiona Colley the cabinet member for regeneration acknowledged how important the club was to the local business community and as an employer but said;

"We hope a balance can be struck which allows them to continue alongside the equally important regeneration programme for Newington Causeway."

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

"Liberal Democrats aren't especially Liberal- or democratic." - A response.

Is Asquith's party dead?
As always I'm a little behind the news and only read Graeme Archer's article this morning. I must admit I'm firstly stunned by the line of reasoning.

It is indeed true that the star of Liberalism was in decent since the collapse of the last Liberal-Conservative  coalition at the end of World War I but I think that by the fact that the party is still around is proof that Liberalism is needed in British politics and indeed a physical embodiment.

Mr Archer makes the comment that if he was a LibDem in the Coalition he would be;

be bending over backwards to demonstrate that not only is a Liberal instinct a useful one to bring to the art of government, but also makes sense to have that instinct embodied by my organisation.

What else have we been doing?

Every time the press have called Coalition or LibDem split it has usually been an internal debate about Liberalism and its application to the current policy discussion. A big recent example is the Dorries amendment where the nations of Liberalism and freedom of the individual to determine how they live over state enforced rules. Mr Archer sites the "Water(ed) down" health bill which he argues is a great step towards Liberalising health providers in the UK. Yes it did, and the ideas were very Liberal BUT there were still concerns about detail and whether the electorate would lose out in the long run. This isn't a case of Lib Dems being illiberal but being sensibly Liberal and protecting the electorate from the state!

The same is true for his comments on Nick Clegg's speech on Free schools last week, attacking NIck for straying away from the Liberal approach of the Government policy and stressing it wasn't about profit and that roles of the LEA and Councils in controlling access to schools. That is the Democratic part Mr Archer, the part where the people still get a say and the Council then sets the rules.  Also profit is bad in large scale when it comes to education. It is where some places have lost their way and focused more on making money than education. Is education not a noble enough aim in itself? The same is true for the NHS - the people would lose out to business as they have to rail franchises.

It is true that we are representing the "producers" and that is stereotypically Labour's job but - and here is the history lesson, We started it with many social reforms and Labour grew with in us as an extremist TUC party gradually replacing the Liberal party as the champion of the poor. Now though there is little to tell the Labour party and the Conservative party apart. This morning Ed Miliband was heckled for telling the TUC he would not back strikes - a move unheard of a century ago! The Libdems offer a third way.

Other issues that Mr Archer brings forward include the delay by the Libdems in the election of Police Commissioners. "Undemocratic" he says. Would it not be more of a crime to bring in legislation that was faulty? Better to look before you jump. Also the electorate are not sure they want Commissioners and we have to listen to their concerns? After all isn't that what good Government does?

Our support for the Human rights act "defies parody". Yes there are problems with the act and it urgently needs reform but the act itself protects the individual's freedom against the state - the central tenant of Liberalism and something the Conservatives and Labour seem keen to get out of their way so they can re enforce state power. Surely this is a good example of Liberalism.

As for the party being undemocratic. Mr Archer sites Dr Evan Harris and Baroness Shirley Williams obstruction and continuing resistance to the NHS bill. True on the surface it looks bad that a de-selected MP and an unelected peer refuse to pass a democratically passed bill by elected representatives. However as stated in my recent 'blog post [ http://gingerliberal.blogspot.com/2011/09/shadow-of-dr-evan-harris.html  ] Dr Harris is merely the mouth piece for a much wider group of Libdem activists who are concerned with the fear that the parliamentary party are co-signing a bill that could spell serious trouble for the NHS. Although neither are elected they are representing the concerns of the party. Also neither the Labour nor Conservative party can claim innocence when it comes to unelected peers taking an over active role in policy.

Other examples of us being involved in better democracy is the AV reform, the boundary commission, House of Lords reform, fixing the term of parliament... All of these measures are designed to make Britain more democratic.

Yes, there is a need for the Liberal Democrats in British politics and although not perfect, we do provide Liberal thinking and are democratic. If Mr Archer's comment that we don't make a "worthwhile party to be in coalition partner for the Conservatives." is serious then might I suggest that we do pack up and call it a day and let them form a minority government on their own. He claims that our claim to have influenced policy is not true and that the Conservatives would have implemented such change without our influence. Well lets see how that minority government does that.

The original article can be found here http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/liberaldemocrats/8753191/The-Liberal-Democrats-arent-especially-liberal-or-even-democratic.html

Monday, 12 September 2011

The Conclusions on the failed AV campaign. It's Nick's fault (again!)

After four months James Gurling, the chair of the Party campaigns and communications commitee has come to conclusions about the failed AV referendum. Some of it can be guessed at, and were guessed at by those of us sat at counts across the country listening to the bad results roll in. Of course there are some things to think about but there is the part where Nick got it wrong too.

According to the report one of the major fault lies was the Deputy Prime Minister's  insistence that the referendum be held at the same time as the local elections. His thought being that there would be a higher turnout of voters for the referendum.

The downside was that the Libdem activists were busy working to preserve council seats or take new ones - a task made doubly hard by the parliamentary party's role in the Coalition and the tuition fee crisis. We in Medway, as I'm sure others across the country, were a tad pessimistic even a split on the AV question. Councillor Kearney was not a fan and wanted to concentrate on his work in helping people where as Councillor Juby was more inclined to talk about AV.

Another problem was that the AV referendum was inextricably linked to the Liberal Democrat party and other Pro AV factions in other parties were torn between loyalty for their party and electoral reform - especially within the Conservative party who as a rule were in the "No" camp and had to defend their governmental policies. Had the referendum taken place another time then the Yes campaign could have made more of a cross party support.

Nick Clegg himself became a target for the No Campaign and the opposition to Libdem candidates. Labour easily targeted Nick as a sell out who betrayed his pledge on tuition and to help middle Britain - co-signing the new austerity measures. Ed Miliband wouldn't share a platform with him to launch the "yes to AV" campaign as his image was so tainted. This was the same tactic used by the No campaign, who could forget the "President Clegg" leaflet or the line; "Only the Liberal Democrats will benefit from this system" knowing that public reaction would be to turn away.

The review also looks at the local election losses and says;

Many dedicated community activists lost their seats through no fault of their own, and in the face of exemplary records and personal service. The challenge now is to ensure that the activist base which supported them is not lost.

Also worth of mention is that the party's achievements in power aren't being trumpeted in the media - something Nick has moved to address and tough Liberalism is taking hold.

Another report for the Electoral reform Society has also been commissioned. They are responding to the comments from members in surveys and on forums. More time will be spent saying why FPTP is a broken system and campaigning so if another opportunity should present itself then a more active campaign will be carried out.

However the chances of a similar referendum coming up is very remote.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Greg Mulholland and the Dorries amendment.

In the aftermath of the Dorries Amendment last week there were many stunned Lib Dems who looked down the Hansrad list and saw Liberal Democrat's who had voted for it.

One such name was Greg Mulholland, MP for Leeds North West. How could a Liberal Democrat vote for such Illiberal policy? Surely it would be naturally abhorrent to any Liberal? These "Liberals" are the enemy of all we stand for right?

I'm not so certain. Firstly, I don't agree with Dorries, I believe that a woman should be allowed to decide what she wants to do with her body and should be free to decide either way without being forced into termination OR keeping a pregnancy. My main problem with this whole episode was the way she delivered the whole speech and the way she attacked those who were offering up constructive counter arguments and didn't even listen to co-sponsor Frank Field and plowed on regardless.

Right now that's out the way lets address the Illiberal Liberals. I was under the impression that Liberalism allowed for us to accept that others have a different view to our own and that we should be open to debate? Should we not accept that Greg Mulholland has a different vantage point over abortion, disagree if we do, but ultimately respect that?

But his point of view threatens the freedom of choice by the mother and her freedom of action.

What of the freedom of action and of life of the unborn child? (I'm playing Devil's advocate, my belief's on abortion are a little misty as it is something I've not really had to think about in my life since school until now.)

It could be argued that you cannot make a balanced decision until you have received arguments from BOTH sides of the pro life debate.

Another point is that the Dorries Amendment was not a whipped vote. Nor was it a party political vote. It was a vote based on the MP's conscience and beliefs. Are we going to pillory a man who has beliefs contrary to our own just because they are contrary? If anything we should be admiring a man with beliefs who is standing to be counted by them and not worrying about the consequences. I admire soldiers of the Wehrmacht who struggled to defend Berlin, not because they were Nazi's but because they stood by their beliefs and fought.

Greg Mulholland is an asset to the party and especially in parliament. I watched his impassioned speech before the Tuition fee vote intently as he argued for fellow Lib Dems not to be sucked into the Coalition's plan and to stand by their pledge as he did. He wrote in the Mirror on the same lines.

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/opinion/2010/12/09/greg-mulholland-mp-on-why-he-s-voting-against-the-government-115875-22771018/

He also convened the Lib Dem Back bench Group back in February this year to help put across the new back bench as it were to party leadership and for them to stand united stating;

"We look forward to working constructively with Ministers and the Liberal Democrat leadership to make the government programme as positive as possible in these difficult times, as well as bringing a distinctively Liberal Democrat perspective to some debates"

Clearly marking that sometimes it seemed as if a LibDem voice was being lost. If you follow him, as I do, on Twitter you'll notice that his tweets are all about his constituency and the work he does for it. His entry on Libdems.org shows his local involvement and states that he is first and foremost a local MP, not a party MP. His hard work for the people of Leeds should be commended as should his voting record. He stood firm against Tuition fees, he also voted against the NHS reform. Should we be so quick to wash our hands of him over a difference of opinion?

I don't think so. I foresee a great future in the party for him.