Saturday, 29 June 2013

Letter from the leader: Get in and Govern

Dear Chris,

There are still people who talk about the Liberal Democrats being in power as if it is a new and unusual phenomenon. That’s remarkable enough when you think that we have been in Government in Westminster for three years, but it’s even odder when you remember how Liberal Democrats have been in charge in Scotland, Wales and councils throughout the country long before 2010.

Today I’ve been speaking at the Liberal Democrat Local Government Conference in Manchester where I will be highlighting the great work of people like Keith House in Eastleigh, Ruth Dombey in Sutton and Gerald Vernon Jackson in Portsmouth. Those people are just some of the members of our party who have shown how Liberal Democrats have been delivering for people up and down Britain for decades.
They have demonstrated what we are showing at a national level: that the best way to take on vested interests, the best way to challenge the establishment, is to get on the inside and govern.

But we also have to acknowledge that getting into national government has changed some things for our party, and so we need to change too. Partly that means that our national message has to be more consistent than ever before – of course we should always campaign on local issues in our areas, but doing so without saying what we stand for as a party nationally simply won’t hold up to the glare of intense media scrutiny any more.

It also means even more scrutiny on the way we draw up our manifesto. Building on the approach we took in 2010 – where we singled out the four most important policies to us on the front page - we will need to be even clearer with people about the commitments which are priorities and the ambitions which we accept may be affected by resources and circumstances.

You can read more about my speech on the Liberal Democrat website but it’s also worth seeing what some Conservative MPs have said they would like to see the Government focus on in their own ‘Alternative Queen’s Speech’. Next time somebody asks you why they should prefer coalition governments ask them who would they rather have in government – the Liberal Democrats, with our focus on a stronger economy and a fairer society, or people who want to abolish the BBC, bring back hanging and introduce a ‘Margaret Thatcher Day’?

Best wishes,


Nick Clegg

Thursday, 27 June 2013

The Public sector take another bullet for the team

Hard working Museum staff left without a good pay rise again

I was most despondent when I heard the Chancellor's speech yesterday with yet another attack on the Public
sector workers.

For another year our pay is frozen at 1% increase, which effectively results in a pay cut yet again as prices rise by 4% and rail fare could rise as much as 8% next year if we're truly unlucky.

I understand that the Public sector is often seen as bloated and in need of trimming but it always comes to us plebs at the bottom rather than the Sir Humfrey and fellow Mandarin types at the top. I have worked within the Public sector in various capacities since 2004 and have managed to get myself to a grade 2 position within my current organisation on a modest salary of £19,000 p.a which currently loses £4000 on train fare a year getting to London. At the moment my wage covers half our out goings with my wife's covering about a third and tax credits helping to top up the other areas such as child care (which allow my wife to work at all). With another 1% rise I find the family tightening the belt another notch and we start to look for something else we can afford to do with out. Thankfully we are not a greedy people and our luxury budgets are almost non existent and clothing comes from bargain basement shops and charity stores, my books are mostly second hand or free Kindle editions and we do our food shopping from Aldi.
Still the fear that it will become uneconomical for either of us to be working is constantly with us. If childcare prices do rise next April - and with Medway Council's cut of 40% to the nursery budget it is most likely, and/or if the train fare rises by another £320 a year then we are spending more than we are earning.

I find it disheartening when I look at areas of the Service and see the amount of middle management and project supervisors etc compared to staff with a ration of almost 1:1 in places. The Pyramid of power is now more of a diamond with a bloated middle management, who rake in up to twice what I earn depending on seniority, and then a small upper management group. Unfortunately when it comes to cutting jobs or toupee-ing out departments to a private contractor it is always conducted by this same middle management sect who get rid of us at the bottom.

Also, and let's take Museum's as an example, when you cut budgets where does the internal axe fall? The new exhibition they were going to install? The New Media touch screens? The high tech security system? Nope its the dogsbody stood at the door taking tickets or providing a security presence. Maybe it is the staff member in the shop or the cafe? Or in the Police force will the amount of Squad cars be cut? Will the chopper be grounded more often? Will it be the PCSOs and Coppers on the beat that will go - probably. People and families will suffer.

The Public sector is not what it once was and there are many of us on low incomes like teachers, museum staff, immigration staff, prison workers all working long hours for not much income (in comparison to some similar jobs in the Private sector) who are being asked again to go without or to lose their jobs.

We're all in this together but the MPs can still vote themselves a payrise!

Other sources of income have to be looked at and legal loan sharks like Wonga are likely to see families like mine turn up to get a bit extra cash just to tide them over to payday.

I sort of see the point about pay awards after longevity of service - it may not seem fair to many that after a certain amount of longevity in a job you receive a pay rise as a reward but when you are front line staff dealing with the public for long hours for little pay you should get a reward for making it to ten years or twenty or even thirty. The Civil service is the front of the government and we give our time and energy for not much money, to administer all it's menial tasks and for the benefit of the public. Why shouldn't there be a reward?

The nation forgets how much of their services are run by the Public sector and they do have a false image of all Civil servants having golden triple locked pay packets and pensions which is in fact untrue and the headline grabbing - We're cutting back our expenditure on Civil servants, actually has a massive impact on many of the nations hardest working and their families who are already on lower funds.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Cllr Stamp's defection

Cllr Stamp's changed colours again
Recently taken a bit of a hiatus from politics and been concentrating on other more important things in my
life, namely my wife, kids, my history and fiction works and more importantly my beloved sleep.
However I am not shocked by the news in last week's paper that Independent group leader Councillor Andy stamp and Ward partner Pat Cooper have defected to Labour handing Gillingham North ward and Andy's "extensive" network of deliverers and supporters over to Vince Maple's resurgent Labour party taking them to 17 seats.

As the only Medway Liberal Democrat blogger and tweeter I feel moved that I should say a few words on the subject.

I was not an "Active" member of the Liberal Democrats when Andy Stamp left but I have since been made aware of a lot of the ins and outs as well as the damning media circus that was made about the then Cllrs Sutton and Ruparal who have both been cleared of any wrong doing. I also understand there are many raw wounds on both sides of the conflict that has led to a seething acrimony that continues to this day in some parts.

I have never had the opportunity to meet Cllr Stamp, I tried to speak to him at the 2011 Local election count but either because of having a lot on his mind or because he wasn't interested in the badged, gold tie wearing Libdem moving towards him, he stormed past me and blanked me. Also a few angry tweets were fired my way in response to a post I wrote about the split. The point is though, I hold no grudges and have tried to remain fairly impartial and do so to this day.

I am moved however to write that I agree with Medway Liberal Democrat Group Chair Tony Jeacock in his letter to the Medway Messenger on the subject;

Were Councillors Andy Stamp and Pat Cooper getting worried about standing as independent candidates at the next local elections?

Having left the Liberal Democrats and in their many leaflets then promoting the fact that they owed loyalty to no political party, they have now joined Labour. I can only assume that this is an attempt to improve their chances of election in 2015.

Can the public really have confidence in anyone whose principles swing with the tides?

A lot of committed Liberal Democrats were unhappy about going into Coalition with the Tories, particularly as their objectives are so different to ours.

However the need to stabilise the country won the day (and in the process managed to get many Liberal Democrat policies through parliament to improve the lot of working people); £600 a year less income tax for the low paid - and significant improvements to state pensions.

The latest move by these two simply shows that their own self-interest comes first.

The two sides of the debate are that Cllrs Stamp and Cooper, who find themselves voting against the Council (and with the Labour Group) most of the time want to form a more effective opposition and represent their constituents better and thus have joined the larger Labour group.

The more sceptical commentators, and sorry - I'm one of them - believe that the Councillors saw which way the wind was blowing and have moved to protect themselves. The Medway local election falls on the same day as the General election in 2015 and following the tough Coalition government and cuts to all manner of services there is going to be a swing towards Labour in both votes. On top of that is Vince Maple the Labour leader in Medway who is exceptionally ambitious to expand on his 17 seats (including the two Independents) and combat the Conservatives. I have no doubt that both Gillingham North and South were targets. Councillor Stamp had to be looking at the future and wondering whether his good work in the ward would be enough to guarantee his survival and has, in my opinion moved to save himself. This is after all the third party they have been a member of since 2010 (both defecting from the Libdems to the Independents after the general election.) and the record could be perceived to speak for itself.

A while ago I wrote of defections and Benedict Arnold.I know this is not an easy decision to make and I'm sure that Andy and Pat thought long and hard on this. I wish them all the luck within the Labour fold and I hope they have made the correct decision - not for themselves but for their residents.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Homer Simpson is not the ideal father? Get a life

Today I read an exceptionally good article by British comedian David Mitchell in the Guardian concerning Simpson's and Homer in particular, are bad examples of father's and is descriminatory to hard working fathers...
a report by Netmums that has said that the

Read it, it is really good.

I should throw my hat into the ring and say that I admire Homer Simpson and in a very real way - he is a role model of mine.

Think about it.

Homer is a loving father of three kids, a child genius in Lisa, a homicidal baby Maggie and who could forget dear Ratboy....

Seriously though, Homer embodies the life of many a modern man. He balances work, family life and his personal life exceptionally well and is able to work the family budget to fit in his passing hobbies. He has started countless home businesses, been promoted, taken his family around the world and has even gone into outer Space.

Deep down, despite his outward selfishness and childish approach to things he does love his kids and Marge very much and would do absolutely anything for them, which is the most important thing for a father.

Yeah sure Homer outwardly complains about going to the children's school plays, having to sit through one of Lisa's saxophone recitals, going to church or helping Marge but yeah he does go through with it in the end. Take the movie where Homer's selfish and laziness dooms the whole of Springfield to life under a glass dome? He leads his family to a better life but when he realises he might lose them forever he goes on a voyage of self discovery and risks life and limb to save them and the whole town.

The main thing is, and let us be absolutely open here, how many of us have thought;

Oh god no, I've just got home from work I'd rather have a beer and watch tv
I know I have. There is always that choice of;

 What do I want to do? compared to What should I do?
The fact that Homer vocalises it and embodies our own selfish side is part of the humour. He does what many of us know to be wrong even though it is what we want to do. The measuring stick is Ned Flanders next door who is a better father and husband. You know he is the ideal but you all love Homer because he is human and free to do as he likes but suffer the consequences.
Society, or at least segments are always overly critical of every one elses fun. This vocal minority of worriers who sit and complain exceptionally loudly about something they perceive as wrong or discriminatory exceptionally loudly. You have to ask yourself would the Simpsons be a global phenomina almost twenty years after it first appeared on the Tracey Ullman show if it was truly discriminatory?
We all know that husbands and fathers are not like Geoff Bingham from Rules of engagement - though there is the occasional moment when I think of my wife and I as I watch it, or fathers like Homer Simpson. Not all guys are like Gary and Tony from Men Behaving badly or the crew of Red Dwarf. Comedy takes everyday events and goes down another root or exaggerates it. As Homer-like as I can be, I have never given my infants a nail gun to play with nor will I and who the hell would?

Why should we, yet again, be told what to do by a vocal minority in this case? Leave the Simpsons be and let us acknowledge that Homer, despite his faults is a fantastic father too.

Happy Father's day!

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

D grade for Gove's reforms.

I must admit that I am not an educator so I cannot comment on the full impacts of the proposed reforms but
I do have a few criticisms from my own experience in Education.

The removal of coursework from the examination process is, in my view, a fundamental error for several reasons. The most important is the loss of transferable skills that are needed by individuals in the workplace. Course work and project work is an important skill with sub skills in time management, research skills, editing and even presenting your findings via PowerPoint or written report to your peers. I understand a certain amount of reticence in keeping it as with today's Internet capability there are infinite ways to cheat and plagiarise works than when I was at school, but as I was told all those years ago;

Who are you really cheating?

A further good use is in preparation for University where your Final Year Project is the most important piece of coursework you will ever undertake and, as was the case for me, it can dictate your final grade and maybe the difference between a 2:2 and a 2:1.

Exams are all well and good but they are swayed in the favour of those who can take the pressure, those who may not understand their subjects but are able to regurgitate facts on cue due to good memory and those who are lucky.

Some people cannot cope with exams and are better at project work and taking their time, meticulously preparing their projects or constructing their argument, reading around a subject and truly understanding it or at least, in the case of History, gaining an interpretation of events and backing up their argument. All of these are fantastic transferable skills and those that can demonstrate them but struggle with exams will be penalised where as before they also had their Coursework grade to fall back on if their exams were not up to scratch.

There is always a certain amount of luck with exams too. Sometimes your question comes up and you can score quite well, other times you get something that you either didn't grasp or revise for or you just make a pig's ear of your answer. Take my A'levels for example.

My History A'level was 100% exams and I was predicted a B because I had aced all the practise essays and exam style timed essays and knew a lot of the subject (Russia 1900-1955 and British political history 1900-1990) fairly well. However, fused with a certain amount of arrogance I walked into a paper on British history and fudged it royally. I spent an hour of the ninety minute exam babbling on about German threats to British Imperialism without mentioning India, Ireland, Japan etc... I didn't even address the second essay properly and my grade suffered accordingly. I walked away with a D. So even though I had all of the correct skills and a good ability to do the course, one day dictated my future and it is still a great matter of shame to me to this day.

Can a fortnight of exams be the sole dictation of a child's future?

Now we come to content. I understand wanting to have students read Shakespeare and Dickens. I read Macbeth for my GCSEs and we analysed it to death, I enjoyed the play and knew it inside and out but I was lucky and had a fantastic English teacher. As for Dickens... I am not a great fan of nineteenth century literature, or at least not until my adult years where I have developed a taste for 18th Century Goethe, Schiller and assorted others. Although Dickens and Shakespeare are considered "classic" many people would question their relevance in today's society and for children. There are plenty of excellent twentieth century novels that are worth reading like The wasp factory, Lord of the flies, Animal farm, 1984 or A brave new world - all of them with shockingly relevant socio-political impacts that are relevant today. The same is true with the poetry of Byron and Shelley - What of Wilfred Owen or Siegfried Sassoon?

The same is true for the history curriculum that is proposed. It is frightening, as a historian and student of history, that the general public do not know basic facts like when the two World Wars were or how many wives Henry VIII had but how relevant is it?

I like the idea of teaching history as an overall arc from 1066-1945 as nothing happens in a vacuum and you can see all of the influential people interacting and how an event in 1295 might ripple through the centuries to 1481 or beyond and it is fascinating. However History is not about the regurgitation of facts. The battle of Waterloo is not as relevant to British history as it once was nor wars like Jenkins ear. History has moved away in recent generations from Kings, Queens, Lords and Field Marshals to the masses at the bottom, looking at how they lived and how they struggled as it is more relevant to people especially with the advent of the family history. People are more engaged by this than the reign of Queen Anne or the secession question to William IV as it is just not relevant or engaging. I love history, I buy and read a voracious amount of history on many eclectic subjects, I even still write it at an amateur level here but I have serious concerns about this knew move to focus back on History from above.

Ultimately I fear these reforms haven't been thought through and is a return to a level of schooling that Mr Gove may have had when he was at school but any student of history will tell you backwards is not always better - or at least they will at the moment until they get bored of the new curriculum and do Geography instead!

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Privitisation of services just not affordable

A few weeks ago Libdem Council group leader Geoff Juby had this to say in his Party People column for the Medway Messenger.

I went on a day trip to France to visit friends living in a tiny hamlet in the countryside. What an eye

Britain is part of Europe but we don't enjoy the same economic benefits as our partners. First, utilities - water rates where they pay in a year what I pay in a month, and their equivalent of council tax is £140 per year (including TV licence).

As many of our utilities are now provided by French-owned companies, I wonder why there is such an enormous price differential - perhaps we are paying for cheaper service for the French.

It makes one wonder if privatisation has really benefited us, as both Conservative and Labour governments have pursued privatisation with enthusiasm.

Thirteen years of Labour Government forgot the working population as it created a cosy relationship with big business and multiple money-gobbling quangos.

Our NHS is wonderful for many things, but the dental service seems to be cheaper in Europe and much more patient focused - I know of cases where friends travel to Europe for dental treatment rather than pay NHS charges.
In France, electricity is cheap, with lots of wind farms serving small villages (the village is allowed to keep some of the profits). Planning is much easier, but i think this probably because local government MEANS local - a mayor for any settlement of more than 20 people, and has decision making powers.

Here, we seem to going for ever bigger councils and decision-making has to pass through so many layers of officialdom. Also, nobody seems to be accountable for misinformation, as purchaser of blue badges are finding out when they apply for renewals within the two months specified, only to find out it takes weeks longer and they are left stranded.

Indeed, privatisation is forcing average working families into a forced servitude. With ever increasing bills for utilities and even commuting to and from work and with the average wage rising by one or two percent people are getting priced out and have to wonder whether or not to put the heating on or draw a bath.

With the 40% cut to Council nurseries in Medway the fees ware likely to rise by a similar amount which will price many working families out of child care. It will become uneconomic for one partner to work part time as they're wages may not cover the bill of one child and especially not two. This will leave many working families in the Medway towns reduced to one wage and having to make some very real choices as to what they can and cannot afford including utility bills.

What will our Government or Local council do to help us or will we remain as indentured customers to big business.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Tracey Crouch on the Badger Cull

Here is Tracey's comment on the Badger cull taken from here and the Parliamentary rolls. Previous blogpost on this subject here.

When I spoke in a previous debate on this issue, I was one of few Conservative Members who stood
up, spoke, and then voted against the culling of badgers. I was surrounded by colleagues who profoundly disagreed with me, some of whom have barely spoken to me since. It was one of the most daunting experiences in my short time here. Today feels like groundhog day, although this time it has come with added pressure for me to change my mind or abstain on the matter. I have been accused—rather patronisingly—of not understanding the science and, worse, of condemning farmers in individual constituencies to further incidences of disease. I have been told that I do not understand the horrific impact of bovine TB in cattle, or indeed in badgers, and that culling badgers is actually a way to be kind to them, rather than being cruel, and thus my fears about animal welfare should be allayed.

Let me be clear: I have enormous sympathy for farmers affected by bovine TB, not simply because of the clear financial cost to farms, but because of the way the disease impacts on farmers’ lives and livelihoods, and often, as colleagues have stated, their mental health. I have listened to colleagues recounting stories from their own constituencies, and it is dreadful—truly horrible. However, I do understand the science, and the indiscriminate culling of badgers will not, in my mind, stop bovine TB from occurring in the future.
The eradication of bovine TB in badgers will not lead to the eradication of the disease in cattle, especially in a country with extremely high cattle movement. Cattle-to cattle transmission would continue, as already demonstrated in low-incidence areas such as Kent where evidence shows that that type of transmission accounts for 80% or more of cases. No other country in the world has yet eradicated bovine TB in cattle, and they certainly have not reduced it with culling alone. The Secretary of State was right earlier to refer to a package of measures, but he did not answer the question from my hon. Friend Mrs Main about the balance of success between those methods.

We must be realistic about what the badger cull, and these pilots in particular, will achieve. Our leading scientists note that a cull will reduce incidence of the disease by 16% at best, but even that figure is based on a long-term, large-scale cull. Therefore, the extensive, indiscriminate culling of badgers, three quarters of which will not have TB, will leave 84% of the problem. More worryingly, although bovine TB is relatively confined at the moment to certain areas of the country, a cull could lead to the problem spreading rather than being contained. To the colleague who told me yesterday that his farmers want a cull because they neighbour areas with the disease, let me say that I am against such a cull in order to protect those farmers, not condemn them. Badgers do not adhere to county borders and disperse under the threat of extinction. The cull will not make any significant impact in the pilot areas, but it could in those areas close by. It is welcome to hear from the Secretary of State that DEFRA is using other preventive measures to control the spread of the disease in those areas, but will that be enough?

I had a quick opportunity to read the report by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee published today, and I congratulate the Committee Chair, my hon. Friend Miss McIntosh, on it. Severe criticism of departmental delays and publication of misleading information aside, it is clear that all sides wish to see a vast improvement in developing and providing a vaccine solution to the problem. As Kent Wildlife Trust put it to me, instead of culling badgers, the Government should further improve cattle movement controls and testing, and support farmers to implement simple biosecurity measures. They should prioritise the development of a cattle vaccine, and divert the estimated £6 million cost of licensing, monitoring and policing the pilot culls into a major programme of Government-funded badger vaccination. Only then will we get on top of this disease in an effective way.

I conclude by congratulating colleagues on this side of the House who will show their opposition to the cull by abstaining on the motion today. Within the Westminster village we know and understand why many feel uncomfortable going into the Opposition Lobby on an Opposition motion that is, in effect, non-binding. It is a nuance often misunderstood outside Parliament, but I thank those colleagues for their support all the same. I, however, will not be abstaining, and although it will probably make little difference in the great scheme of things, I want my voting record to show that I am against this barbaric, indiscriminate and ill-thought-through cull. I would prefer a science-led, welfare-oriented response to the control and reduction of bovine TB that protects both cattle and badgers from this nasty disease.

Unfortunately the government disagreed with the well argued position Tracey put forward.

The basic math is that Badger to cow infections account for 18% of cases. For that 10,000 badgers are ear marked for death by shooting doing irreparable damage to the badger population and local ecosystems in rural areas rather than invest in the longer term solutions.

As has become the way with this Government at times let us go for the quick and easy/cheap option rather than the right one and one that will pay off more in the long run.

Further to that there is the accusation that the Cull will not be carried out very humanely as trapping Badgers and shooting them in cages is expensive so instead we could be looking at trained marksmen taking pot shots at moving animals causing wounds or traumatic death as the animal crawls off and dies. More can be read in this Guardian article on the humanity of the Cull.

 What the hell? Is this the dark ages?

This sort of scorched earth policy and brutality is not the sort of thing we should be resorting to in the 21st Century - we should be looking at the better options.

I was appalled when I saw that there was a three line whip on the matter, one usually reserved for flagship policies and areas of extreme division such as Europe, and I was even more horrified to see Libdems voting for this policy.

I will say, however, good for Tracey sticking by her guns on this important rural issue. She was converted to the cause and has become a vocal proponent of the badger population and deserves the credit for standing up against the Government on this issue.

Letter from the Leader: "It won't be easy"

Dear Chris,

"It won’t be easy: there will be bumps and scrapes along the way.”

That’s what I said three years ago, in the joint press conference David Cameron and I gave on the first day of this coalition government. And as you’ll have noticed, some weeks are more bumpy and scrapy than others!

Some times we have fierce disagreements that leave people on both sides deeply frustrated. But given that this coalition is formed of two political parties with many widely differing beliefs and policies, that’s not exactly remarkable.

What I believe is remarkable is the resilience of this government, and the amount – bumps and scrapes notwithstanding – that we have achieved so far. We’ve shown that when it comes down to the real business of government, like creating jobs, balancing the budget and helping with the cost of living, we can act like grown ups and get things done.

From enabling people to earn a full £10,000 before they start paying income tax to helping create over a million new jobs, from investing billions in our schools to expanding apprenticeships on an unprecedented scale, this government has a record to be proud of.

Next week, Parliament is back in session, ready to start in earnest on this year's legislative agenda. Some critics have written it off already, accusing the government of paralysis. It's simply not true.

Yes: we have a few tense votes coming up on Europe and Equal Marriage. These are important and, for some, divisive issues. But though they may dominate the news for weeks, they will take up just a few hours or days of Parliamentary time. MPs and Peers will spend the vast majority of their year implementing big social and economic changes on which the coalition remains firmly united - changes that will make Britain stronger and fairer.

A high speed rail network. Fairer pensions. A cap on the costs of care for disabled and elderly people. Improved consumer rights and better protection for energy customers. 

This is the major business of this government because our focus remains what it has been from day one: the economic and social repair job we know Britain needs, and which we set out in our coalition agreement. I won’t let the coalition be pulled off that course.

This government is the first peacetime coalition in Britain in 80 years. But the wait will not be so long again: I believe coalitions will become more and more frequent as people’s dissatisfaction with the old two-party politics deepens. Political parties of left and right are going to have to get used to not getting their own way all the time, putting aside their differences and working together in the national interest.

The bumps and scrapes will continue. But the achievements will, too, as this government works steadily on, building  a stronger economy and a fairer society.
Best wishes,


Nick Clegg

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Lad's mags are not a great evil of society.

I should point out before I begin that, yes I have bought Lad's mags in the past, especially in my teenage years but I also am no sexist - far from it. I am inspired by strong women, one of my heroes as a youth was a strong female lead (albeit fictional) and I've always had a strong leading woman in my life - I even married one! For me equality and society free of degradation is essential.

Lads mags have always been a contentious issue since their inception in the 1990s. They portray a lifestyle of booze, sport, boobs and cars. For many they're no more than Soft pornography filled with scantily clad celebrity women and semi naked models and unwholesome imagery and articles that degrade women.

However this is really not the case. In fact the Ladsmag is a window into a culture that is very prevalent in the UK and that both gendres are involved in equally and, without sounding classist, is something that a lot of critics do not experience.

As Journalist Rowan Pelling said;

We live in a world where people masturbate with bottles on Big Brother. Page 3 in comparison, is a cradle of innocence, and the models - virtually Vicars daughters. [1]

In deed should you have the misfortune to watch Geordie shore, TOWIE, The Valleys or the Channel 4 Documentary on Kavos it exposes this party culture of the UK's 17-24 which revolves around beer, laddish behaviour and sex. On reveller was quoted as saying that he was in Kavos for booze, pulling a few birds maybe shag a few and the female party goers are in for the same thing. The rise of the so called Ladette has been around for quite some time. In comparison, if you were to read a ladsmag you will see that they are no where near as bad as this culture. Magazines like Nuts and Zoo, rather than encouraging this lifestyle are in fact documenting it and giving a voice to it and why shouldn't there be a voice in a society based on freedom of speech?

Today, purely for research purposes, nothing to do with Kaley Cuoco being on the cover, I bought FHM and on a cursory glance through there are articles on men's fashion, health care, games and Movie reviews, articles on survival, sex and summer festivals and a full spread interview with Ms Cuoco dressed sexily but not naked or provocatively in any way.  In fact when I was a student I read a great article in a copy of Esquire on segregation in the deep south of the USA in public schools - yes I bought it because Caprice was on the cover but the articles were very thought provoking. Lure young men in with the promise of semi naked women but educate them at the same time. Surely that is a good thing?

The biggest criticism is that these magazines are degrading to women - yet the women I've spoken too disagree and are not bothered by them. The defence is two fold, one is that it provides a positive body image for young women as well as for young women too and that is all voluntary.

When asked about how she felt about whether or not Ladsmags were degrading to women, Lucy Collett (2011 Page 3 idol winner) responded (via Twitter DM):

Well, I have 1,000s of female followers who look up to me for my body. So it's not just a lads mag, women read them too.

I myself have always read lads mags as I find fashion and what celebratory is f**king who a load of sh*t. I'd rather look at a half naked pretty woman and read some comical banter and stupid pictures any day.

I don't see nothing wrong with it. Everybody had a body, some ladies and men like to show there's off.

Look at Fashion models on runways! They parade down half naked! Why not ban that? With the skin and bone bodies making girls turn anorexic.

I have a healthy body image for a lot of women, hence why I show it off and I help women be happy with themselves. On my Istagram I have 100s of women commenting that I am their role model. I make them happy.

Indeed the Ladsmag community features curvy, natural girls rather than the pneumatic surgically enhanced models from the 90s and early 00s or the waifer thin fashion models whose body image is not an example of everyday women's shape and perpetuates a dangerous myth that all women should be the same shape and only eat sparsely.

I am very grateful to Miss Collett for allowing me to reproduce her Instagram images and have done so (above) to demonstrate the above point.

Lads mags can be seen to be demonstrating to young men that - yeah, curvy women are more attractive than the fashion world's idea of beauty as well as saying to young women that men do fancy women like Lucy, Sophie Howard and Kelly Brook and they should be themselves and have the same healthy body image.

In an interview with the Independent back in 2006 the first Page 3 idol winner, Keeley Hazell said;

I'm happy doing it for now, but who knows? In years to come maybe I'll look back at all this and regret it. Perhaps I'll think it was degrading to women. I know some people think it is, but then not everything in life has to be academic, you know? An artist is someone who paints and is creative, but they are not necessarily using their brains too much. And it's the same in modelling... I know there is a stigma to topless modelling, but I'm not sure I understand it. Kate Moss is always photographed without her top on, but she doesn't get any grief. Why me? [2]

Indeed it is also a voluntary business. At no point are the models forced into these poses so where is the harm? As Lucy pointed out, some people are proud of their bodies and want to show them off to the public. Indeed both models that are quoted have won a competition to go into modelling. The weekly magazines Nuts and Zoo run weekly slots for non girlfriends to send in pictures and then appear within the magazine, Lucy Pinder, a long running model, was approached on a beach by a photographer and started her career. Indeed Lucy Pinder is an interesting case as she refused to show her nipples in any of her modelling for the first four years of her career. If this was truly a forced occupation then she would not have continued to make the covers week in week out and probably have been dropped for someone more willing by the editors. The fact is that she wasn't and her career was not negatively impacted by her decision. Surely this shows that the magazine editors are not the insensitive sexist and brutal force that is often suggested and were in fact willing to negotiate and allow Miss Pinder her modesty. None of this is forced upon women, it is just as it seems a modelling opportunity that they can feel free to walk away from.

We as a nation are bombarded by sex and sexual imagery be it in the form of magazines like FHM or Maxim,  the more blatant end of the market on the top shelf, your Escorts and Mayfairs but also in mainstream advertising and billboards. I'm not just talking about obvious things like Lynx deodorants (the Lynx effect still doesn't work and I've been wearing Africa for nigh on fifteen years!) but in other less obvious things too. A Moonpig advert with the shirtless guy with ripped abs laying on a sofa whilst Dawn French's voice over descends into that of a drooling school girl, the Galaxy advert with the two girls blatantly objectifying the Male strippers who are about to come on stage, women scantily clad indulging in sexual encounters to sell perfume or aftershave, draped over cars - it is absolutely everywhere! If you want to go after Ladsmags for sexual imagery fine, but let us also attack advertising too - lets go all Mary Whitehouse and Puritan and let the Mumsnet people decide what is right and wrong or just let things slide and stick to our own likes and dislikes.

Interestingly, last week, it was announced in the Guardian that Supermarkets could be sued for sexual harassment for stocking Ladsmags;

For too long supermarkets have got off the hook, stocking Lad's mags in the face of widespread opposition, but this time we have the law on our side, every shop that sells lad's mags - publications which are deeply harmful to women - are opening themselves up to legal action. says Kat Banyard of Feminista. [3]


I understand that they are not to everyone's taste and yes - there is a scale with magazines at Front at one end and GQ and Esquire at the other. I do agree, and teenage Chris is kicking me right now, that maybe there should be an age limit on the purchasing of the magazines set at 15, the same rating as if it were a movie for nudity however that is it.

As for the staff, I'm afraid it is your job to restock the magazines whether you appreciate the content or not. I dislike the Daily Mail, intensely, I think that it is a vile rag filled with hate and opinions from the 1950s. I also dislike the Sun as I think it uses its popularity to mislead people to going where Murdoch's lackeys want you to but those are my opinions - for my working wage I would still restock them and move them around the warehouse as it is my job. If you have fundamental problems with it then speak to your supervisor and they can find you another part of the store to work in but someone else will move them around.

Ladsmags are not this evil thrust upon civilised society, nor does it reduce all women into sex objects made to strip for our pleasure, far from it. They are a window to the Lad/ladette culture of the UK, they are entirely voluntary, they encourage a positive body image in female readers and models and are part of the Sex sells attitude that is modern Britain. Like them or Loathe them, they are here to stay and so they should.