Sunday, 30 March 2014

The Strood library move protests and Medway Council

One of the hot topics to hit the Medway Political scene at the moment is the proposed move of Strood Library from its current spot on Bryant Road, where it shares a building with the popular Community Hall and has parking for up to ten cars, to the main high street in a rented retail outlet that is currently home to a Community project.

There has been a lot of angry protests online, in local newspapers and indeed at the Full Council meeting on the 23rd January where placards were held and the disruption caused by the blunt and arguably rude answers received from the Conservative benches caused an outbreak of civil unrest which halted the meeting – twice – and resulted in the ejection of most of the Public Gallery. One of the causes was Councillor Chitty’s dismissal of the 5000 strong petition that was handed in objecting to the move because not all the signatories lived in Strood, in fact some were from Higham and Maidstone, overlooking the fact that residents of Higham may still use Strood library.

The Council has been working on the creation of Community Hubs within the Medway towns for quite some time. In the Council’s Cultural Strategy (2009-14) it proposes that all Library and Council services should be housed in central locations and one building making the Council that much more accessible. [1
] This has been a process that has been on going and debated at Gunwharf openly for some time. The Council plans for Strood Library have it put in a much more accessible location near really good parking and on the bus routes so that the elderly, who are the Library’s key demographic, can get there more easily and anyone who needs the Hub can just nip in whilst doing their shopping in the centre of town. All very compelling reasons to have the Library move.

So why the objections?

There are several on-going arguments about the relocation and what it would mean for Strood which the Council has argued against. Firstly that the Community project, which does a lot of good within Strood, is being evicted has been turned over because their lease has run out with the Private landlord. It is unfortunate but the Council argue it is coincidental and they should be rehoused within five to six months. Secondly, Councillor Stephen Hubbard of the Labour group points out on their website that the Tories are “milking the cash cow” of parking in the centre of Strood and that Labour don’t want the original building pulled down for high density housing as Strood is already too overcrowded. [2
] This is despite the fact that the Library has only ten spaces and whose key demographic would tend to use Public transport for free rather than drive and that no one has stated that there was a plan to redevelop the original site.

Medway Council has said that it will keep the local Community hall, the only one of its kind in Strood, for the youth groups and programs such as Judo, Ballet, talks, children’s activities and any other local Community group that wanted to use it which is a welcome move however it does beg the question about why move the Library out of that building and add another expense to the Public purse by renting a smaller shop space.

Another issue that has been raised is that of Public safety. Kim West raised warnings of at least eight crashes outside the proposed location since August last year (3 KM Medway Extra 29-1-14) and that one car almost went through the window. This has been treated as circumstantial and dismissed by Councillor Doe at Full Council who focused on the revitalising effect the move will have on the High Street and the shops.

The biggest problem has been that the Library’s move has been symptomatic of the way the Conservative Council has dealt with things recently. They haven’t listened to the public in the consultations, in fact Councillor Chitty responded at Full Council that Consultations are for informing the community of the Council’s decisions and not for helping to formulate a final decision. This was the same for the airport redevelopment and for the elderly care homes at Nelson’s Court and Robert Been Lodge. The basics of Consultation, where objections and problems can be aired and discussed before the council makes a decision are being totally disregarded and that is what has angered the protesters and the wider politico audience within Medway – the simple fact that they aren’t and won’t listen. If they did they might have taken into account the fact that two days a week the Strood Carparks are taken over by Market stalls effectively nullifying the extra parking, listened to concerns from people like Kim West, or they would have taken the petition and revaluated that this was clearly an issue the people of Strood feel strongly about rather than rubbishing it in Full Council.

Although this is an important topic for the people of Strood and has compelling arguments for both sides of the debate but the reason it has attracted so much anger and resentment is that the Council has, yet again disregarded what the public have to say and have yet again ploughed on regardless and handling the public.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

My view on an open political forum in Medway

One of the things that keeps appearing on my Twitter feed is the suggestion that Medway Council and the Political parties could form an interactive forum to discuss policies and answer questions in the Pentagon centre, Chatham.

On paper this would provide anyone in Medway the chance to meet their councillors or learn what each party's policies are so that informed decisions can be made and spark debate. Much of politics requires door knocking and handing out leaflets that, lets face it, probably don't get read by half of the residents or hoping that your story gets picked up by the local media and written about favourably so an open forum, like the leadership debates would be massively welcome.

There is just one major problem... The public are just not that interested.

The best place in the Pentagon to have it would be on the second floor which is where there is the most space. Sadly, as predicted on this blog, the new dynamic bus facility outside has left a very small footfall going upstairs now, rather than the crowds who would have drifted past to get the bus before.

There is also the fact that when people are in town shopping they don't want to be bothered by charity workers, people handing out leaflets or politicians. Just go stand out on the high street and people watch - you'll see people with headphones on, pretending to play with their phones, politely declining or straight out just cruising past ignoring their very existence. Time is valuable and shopping is a lengthy enough process as it is - that's why so many people are shopping online these days - so most people just want to get on with it and get home or to something more interesting.

There is also a major problem in the fact that no one trusts politicians anymore. Where as issues remain like cost of living, jobs, education etc people whenever political parties get together they do nothing but squabble and blame each other and spout political dogma. Even when they tell the truth about things, like the Liberal Democrats getting you your income tax back on the first £10.500 you earn - the message is lost in the din of all the other hot air and noise. People have heard it all before, trusted and been let down by the other guy. Why would they want to waste time on their Saturday off listening to more wasted words?

People have their own preconceptions of what parties stand for and although they can be hilariously wrong at times there is no way to budge them from their position even when you're presenting facts to the contrary. Others will stick to party loyalty through thick and thin rather than let "them" get in office. 

Another big problem is manning the stalls. Let's be honest, the big two parties have the most members. With the best will in the world smaller parties in Medway like the Lib Dems, Greens, English Democrats and UKIP will not have the people power to be there week in week out for the full day. This leads to the disparity and ultimately the strengthening of the same old two party system that has left this country in the state it is now.

This is even further strengthened by people who, reasonably, think that if they want something done go to either the Conservatives or Labour - why waste time on the smaller groups?

Ultimately this is just my opinion nothing more but it is where I stand in the proposal - people lack the interest, time and have (rightly or wrongly) preconceptions of political parties and what they stand for.

The Libdems put out regular Focus newsletters and our councillors hold surgeries regularly to discuss problems in the ward that people are more than welcome to attend. There is also regular campaigning in the street and if you're lucky enough to live in one of our target wards you may get a knock on the door soon!

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Democracy week at MidKent College

Manning the stall
About a month ago the Medway Liberal Deomcrats were approached by MidKent College's Student Union President Matt, along with other parties who have a Parliamentary members - Us, Labour, Conservatives and the Greens, and asked if we wanted to attend the College's Democracy week.

The idea was, as part of the Bite the ballot campaign to get teenagers to get involved in politics and registered to vote. I spoke passionately at the last Exec meeting saying that we should go, so passionately in fact that I was volunteered to do it!

With a clutch of leaflets and having absorbed a good chunk of the Record of Achievement in government I marched down to the College unsure of what to expect but with trainers on in case I needed to make a quick get away from an army of angry students who felt betrayed about tuition fees.

What I found was a group of young people who were interested and open to what was said by the parties present (the Conservatives weren't there at all) and some were even up for debating!

Although my table was somewhat Spartan, as I was bank rolling it myself as I had been unable to go to HQ and plunder free gear, I was missed by a quite a few people who were drawn in by the much brighter Labour stall who had a mountain of free stuff and biscuits (If only I'd brought Haribo!!!), I did attract some attention. 

It was good to talk to people who have a genuine interest in things and debate with those who were willing to debate. Some had already made up their minds, others were keen to learn more from all of us before making an informed decision. The most important thing was it got people thinking and challenged preconceived ideas. 

Even better than that it got people registered and both Labour and I signed people up to our parties. 

The future of politics is looking grim in this country as every day people are rightly or wrongly casting any ideas of voting aside. The parties are all the same, you can't trust the Party leaders, they're all liars and in for it for themselves... Without voters there can be no change for good or ill and the number of them are dropping away..

It is only by having events such as these that gets people engaged and thinking and more importantly - Voting!

I look forward to the next time... and I will have to dig up some free stuff!

Monday, 10 March 2014

Chloe Grace Moretz for Star Wars VII

Taking a brief break from politics to talk about something much more important...

There are a lot of rumours about the upcoming Star Wars Episode VII, when it will be set? Who will be the principle characters? Who will be staring in it?

For anyone who is not familiar with the Expanded Universe there is a whole wealth of characters and stories that follow AFTER Return of the Jedi.

I'm fairly protective of the Expanded Universe as it was what I grew up on in the 90s and it is where I completely fell in love with the Star Wars Universe. The prequels did some damage to the stories that followed but nothing that hasn't been skirted over or hurriedly put right, like the appearance of a Droideka which had never been mentioned in the Original trilogy or in the ten years of Universe stories afterwards but I digress.

The sequels, if set in the canonical character's life times look set to mess with it further unless they do one of the later series set around the Solo Children.

Ok, so minor *Spoiler alert* but Han and Leia married after the events of Courtship of Princess Leia (seriously read it...) and had three children, the twins Jacen and Jaina and their younger brother Anakin. All three become Jedi Knight's with Jaina becoming a master as well as being a kick ass X-wing pilot and all round action heroine.

Now, if rumours are to be believed this role might have been taken up by Chloe Grace Moretz who you may have seen playing Hit-Girl in the Kick ass movies or the title role of the remake of Carrie. There are pressure groups around the internet trying to get Disney to get Chloe into the franchise ands  I must say that I agree with the notion. She is a strong, talented young actress who is already trained in martial arts. In the Kick ass movies she had to perform a lot of her own stunt and fight work including the infamous fight with Mother Russia at the end of the second movie which took two weeks to film as well as the fight in Rasul's [here] apartment in the first movie. If anything she would be a massive credit to the series.

Star Wars films are always massively shrouded in mystery and secrecy with actors having to sign clauses not to leak plot or characters or face severe penalties. If Chloe has signed up to the movie or at least had an audition she is not saying a word. [here]

I'd like to add my voice to the choir though. I can think of nobody who could do Jaina Solo more justice than Chloe so Mr Abrams and Disney this is definitely something to think about - other than not ruining my beloved franchise!!!

I've attached a few videos of her fight scenes from the Kick Ass 2 - be warned graphic violence and bad language...

Following the training you can see she moves like a professional and doesn't let it phase her at all and is able to stay in character for the dialogue scenes without any fuss. She would do well as a Jedi/action heroine who is able to take down bad guys any way possible and still be a believable character actor.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

My annotated text of Nick Clegg's Spring Conference speech

As always I mercilessly rip Nick's speech from Libdemvoice and post it here - sorry guys - and every time I plan to annotate or tell you what I've taken from it and promptly fail to do so.

Not this time!

They're more notes - a stream of consciousness and reaction to what was said.

Here's Nick's speech from Stephen Tall's Article with my notes in white scattered throughout... enjoy

Since I became the Deputy Prime Minister I have had the privilege of spending a bit of time representing Britain’s interests in other parts of the world.

I have visited Latin America and Asia to boost exports. I have been to Africa, where we are building better education systems as well as helping fight corruption, poverty and disease. I have travelled to different parts of Europe and the United States to promote British trade.

And while each trip varies from the last, there is a thread which runs through them all: you get to see Britain through other people’s eyes.

Everywhere I have been – every nation around the planet – has its own story about Britain.

On a trade mission to South Korea I paid my respects at a war memorial at the bottom of a hill where, during the Korean War, British soldiers – heavily outnumbered – fought for three solid days to hold back North Korean and Chinese forces.

It is a battle that every single South Korean schoolchild learns about. Had we given up or been defeated, it could have cost their grandparents the war.

For Mexico, Britain is the first European country to have officially recognised their independence following their liberation from colonial rule. That means something to them.

In Colombia Britain is the nation that built their first railways.

Lynne Featherstone and I were in Ethiopia, for whom Britain is now the first member of the G8 to have met the decades-old promise by rich countries to spend 0.7% of our national wealth on aid for the developing world. Something we have long argued for and this Coalition has delivered.

So wherever you go one thing is clear: people don’t listen to our country out of some nostalgic deference to an old power. They listen because of who we are. Because of the things we’ve done. Because of the leadership we continue to show. And that makes me incredibly proud.

(The UK has moved on from it's old Imperial state, one that some members of the Right think we still hold and is now a key player in the world helping other nations rather than dictating. The world's nations need to work together to overcome problems and poverty together not raise the drawbridges and dream of a past that has gone.)

I love Britain.

I love it for all its contradictions.

I love that we are as modest as we are proud.

I love the way we can cherish our traditions yet innovate relentlessly, churning out one ingenious invention after the next. The telephone, the steam engine, the jet engine, the world wide web; the same nation that came up with stainless steel is now developing graphene – the strongest material the world has ever seen. Oscar winning visual effects; cutting-edge design; theatre, fashion, music, film – you name it, we do it, and we’re up there with the best.

I love that a country capable of extraordinary pomp and ceremony can still retain a spiky irreverence towards its establishment. A country where we line the streets waving our Union Jacks wildly to welcome the arrival of Prince George, and the next moment we’re chuckling at Private Eye’s front page: ‘Woman Has Baby’.

I love that we insist on queuing when we go abroad, even when the locals don’t.

I love that the BBC and NHS are known and respected across the planet.

I love that our cities are home to every race, religion, colour and language in existence.

I love Miriam telling me that the feeling of freedom you get in Britain simply doesn’t exist anywhere else.

I love that the shipping forecast is listened to by insomniacs of all ages, right across the country, miles from the sea.

I love how excited we get at the glimpse of any sun, insisting on staying out in our t-shirts and flip-flops – even when it’s obviously still cold.

I love living in a country synonymous with human rights and the rule of law.

I love that it was British lawyers who drafted the European Convention on Human Rights and a British Prime Minister who helped launch the Single Market. And I enjoy reminding my Coalition partners that it was a Prime Minister from their party at that.

I love that we do respond – the cliché is true – to every problem no matter how big or small with the same thing: a cup of tea.

I love that, wherever you go in the world, you’ll find football fans obsessed with the Premier League.

I love that we are a family of four different countries, each with their own characters, traditions and good-natured rivalries. And that’s why I want to see – we all want to see – Scotland stay in our family of nations later this year.

I look at what’s happening in places like Russia, where the government is effectively criminalising homosexuality, and I love that Britain is a place where you can be gay and proud – and now you can get married too.

Above all I love that, while we may be an island, we have always looked beyond our shores. Throughout our history, when we have seen trouble in the world we haven’t just looked the other way; we haven’t just crossed to the other side of the street; Britain doesn’t peer out at the rest of the world and shrug its shoulders. We are always at our best when we play our part.

(Britain has got a lot to be proud of, both in its history, outlook and the way we deal with things. There is a lot going for us and things on the world stage that we can get involved in and actually make a difference too for the better but that means we should be internationalist in our focus and not inverted and constantly looking inward)

This summer marks the centenary of the First World War. One hundred years ago hundreds of thousands of British troops headed into a conflict from which many of them would never return. When it ended my grandfather, not long out of school, climbed onto the roof of Westminster Abbey and watched the survivors come home – bloody, bruised and broken by the things they had seen. He told me that, in spite of everything, he was desperately upset that he hadn’t been called up to the front: because he passionately believed that to be a British soldier, defending our values of liberty and peace, was the most noble thing you could be.

Years later he married a woman who had herself come here to avoid conflict and revolution: my grandmother. She escaped Russia during the revolution, crossing Europe with her family and eventually settling in London. For her Britain offered a place of stability and safety. At a moment of great upheaval, this country welcomed her in and let her call it home.

There are few nations as open-minded and warm-hearted as ours. Smart, funny, compassionate Britain. Always changing, always evolving Britain. Humble enough to understand that we must work with others. Confident enough to lead.

For me it is these qualities that make this nation great – these great liberal qualities. Not some sepia-tinted memory of Empire. Not some stuffy parochialism dressed up as patriotism. (Yep- this idea of Empire that still haunts political circles, the idea that we can still do things on our own. We don't have an Empire we can rely on economically anymore. We have to trade with other states)

In the 21st Century, in a highly competitive, fluid and fast-moving world we hold our own because of our ability to embrace the future rather than cling to the past. It is our ability to look forward and outward and our capacity for reinvention – in other words our liberalism – that ensures this small island remains a giant on the world stage.

The question – one of the biggest questions of our time – is how we protect the liberal values of this nation.

Six years ago we suffered an unprecedented cardiac arrest in our banks.

This wasn’t just a recession. It was a shattering collapse of the basic assumptions by which successive governments had run our economy since the Big Bang.

This wasn’t just a downturn. We were a nation plunged into uncertainty as the thumping heart of our economy ground to a halt.

And you have to remember: even before this happened a quiet crisis of confidence was already creeping over developed economies like ours. Global power, money and influence have been shifting from West to East and from North to South for years. The previously fashionable view that the world would automatically slide towards greater freedom and democracy now feels presumptuous and naïve. Within our lifetimes America will no longer be the world’s biggest economy. It will be China: an authoritarian state.

Taken together, in societies across the Western world, these experiences have created an entirely understandable but dangerous urge to turn inwards. An urge to reject the new or unfamiliar and to shun the outside world.

If anyone doesn’t believe it, just glance across the Channel at our European neighbours, where a number of extremist parties are on the rise.

In Greece’s last parliamentary election the Golden Dawn Party secured 18 MPs. They ran on an anti-immigration platform. Their slogan? ‘So we can rid the land of this filth’.

Hungary’s Jobbik Party now has 43 MPs, one of whom has called for a register of Jews who he claims ‘pose a national security risk’.

In Bulgaria, Ataka makes up 10% of the National Assembly. One of their MPs has reviled Syrian refugees as ‘terrible, despicable primates’.

In the Netherlands Geert Wilder’s PVV party is polling at around 18%. They have called for the Koran to be banned, comparing it to Mein Kampf.

Front National. Around 21%. Their leader, Marine Le Pen, has compared Muslims praying in the streets to the Nazi occupation of France.

(Nationalism/racist parties have existed through Europe over the last century. It was not a coincidence that the Nazi Occupation forces in Europe were able to round up "Undesirables" of all ilk's as their was a stream of those who believed in the same anti-Semitism. In areas of occupied Russia and Baltic states the locals came out and killed the Jews before the first German Soldier arrived. There were even elements of the British establishment who supported Hitler's ideals as well.

These trains of thought have never gone away and with their perceived "Muslim threat" their perceived evil/untermenschen are Muslims or Eastern European immigrants.)

These are not far flung places. This is our backyard. The forces of chauvinism, protectionism and xenophobia have been emboldened. And there is no doubt about it: the fight is now on for the future direction of our continent.

We are lucky. Thankfully we do not have the same extremism here in the UK. But that’s not to say the fight isn’t on for the future of our country too.

An ungenerous, backwards looking politics has emerged in Britain. The politics of blame has found an acceptable face: it wears a big smile and looks like someone you could have a pint with down the pub. So I’m drawing a line in the sand. I am going to defend the tolerant and modern Britain we love, and I am going to start by showing people what’s at stake at the upcoming European elections: do you want Britain in Europe, or out?

That’s the real question in May. One party wants out. Another is flirting with exit. The other lot don’t have the courage of their convictions on this – they’re saying nothing at all.

The Liberal Democrats are now Britain’s only party of IN. The only party out there explaining the clear benefits of Britain’s place in Europe. The only party giving people the facts.

IN because Europe is our biggest export market and vital to British jobs. Because pulling up the drawbridge is the surest way to wreck our economic recovery.

IN because in the fight against climate change, and in a world where some of the biggest players are also the biggest polluters, Europe’s nations can only make a difference if we work together.

IN because cooperation between our police forces is essential for catching the criminals who cross our borders. Crime crosses borders, so must we.

IN because Britain stands tallest in the world when we stand tall in Brussels, Paris and Berlin.

This isn’t about some starry eyed affection for the EU – of course it needs reform. But you can’t change it with one foot out the door. You change it by taking your place at the table – which is where you protect Britain’s national interest and promote our values too.

How else would we, right now, be making our presence felt against Vladimir Putin’s Cold War aggression in the Ukraine?

Otherwise we'd be just shaking our fingers at them going "We won't tolerate that for much longer..."

The EU is a global economic superpower. By standing shoulder to shoulder with our European partners we have the clout to defend not just our own interests, but the interests of our continent as a whole.

So, for all these reasons, I’m IN.

Forget the lazy assumption that, in the court of public opinion, the eurosceptics will automatically win. There is nothing automatic about election results. A few months ago, when I asked people to take to Twitter to tell me why they’re IN, they did so in their thousands. It was our most successful online campaign ever.

There are plenty of people out there who don’t want anger. They don’t want bile. They want jobs. They want our country to have influence. They want opportunities. Ultimately they want hope.

This is true, in my opinion many Euro sceptics are suffering from the same thing we did with the Yes2Av campaign. We were loud, we were vocal and congratulated ourselves that we were right but we were also in the minority and couldn't see it over our loud voices.

And that, Liberal Democrats, is what it all comes down to. Hope. It’s the oldest dividing line in politics – hope versus fear – and it’s back.

We talk a lot about reducing the deficit, fiscal consolidation, bringing down public sector debt, increasing GDP, creating private sector jobs. But in the end what we’re really talking about is giving the British people the confidence to once again look to their futures with hope.

That’s how you lead a nation through difficult times. That’s how you hold a country together when its citizens are feeling the pressure. And that’s what the last four years in government have been about.

There is still a long way to go and many people are still feeling the squeeze. But after a period of grave uncertainty, the British people can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I hope that makes each and every one of you feel proud: there would be no recovery without the Liberal Democrats.

No recovery if we hadn’t decided to enter into coalition in order to provide the country with strong government.

No recovery if we hadn’t held our nerve and stuck to the plan.

No recovery if we had allowed the Coalition’s economic strategy to be solely about cuts. Sorting out the nation’s finances is essential but equally as important is investing in the foundations of lasting growth.

The unprecedented Treasury support that will transform Britain’s roads and rail.

The world’s first Green Investment Bank.

The billions of pounds spent on businesses across the country.

The million more young people who are now qualifying as apprentices.

Don’t let anyone airbrush out our role. (Because the will and the Tories are trying to!) Thanks to the heroic efforts and sacrifices of millions of people we have been able to pull this country back from the brink. Under extraordinary pressure we have achieved extraordinary things. And no matter what our critics say, when the history books are written they will say that, most extraordinary of all, the country was put back on the right track by a party which had never been in government before but which had the guts and the courage to do what it took.

And now a different challenge awaits.

We’ve been in emergency mode for the last four years, but that is slowly changing. If this parliament has been about a rescue, the next will be about reconstruction and renewal.

If we are truly ambitious for our country, Britain’s future cannot be like its past.

Successive governments relying on an overheated financial sector; presiding over a wildly imbalanced economy where the gap between rich and poor grew; where the North fell further and further behind the South.

Successive administrations jumping from one set of public service reforms to the next and Whitehall just seemed to carry on regardless as more and more power was sucked up to the centre.

I don’t want us ever to go back there. It cannot be right that the country goes through all of this pain only to end up where we started when it all went wrong.

Things have needed to be changed in this country for quite some time and there are still on going issues of North/South divide and a need, in my opinion, to build things rather than rely on the city. An economy based on the construction and export of goods is stronger than speculative banking. We were a nation of Ship builders, famous vessels like Titanic, Lusitania, Queen Elizabeth and war ships like Hood, Belfast and Dreadnought - we could be again.

In this coalition we have begun to turn the page, but the real test will come in the next parliament – when government will have to show whether or not we have really, genuinely, learnt from the mistakes of the past.

And I simply do not believe that our opponents have. I simply do not believe that they are up to this task.

Left to their own devices what are they offering the British people?

Profligacy. Economic incompetence. A bloated and cumbersome state. Politicians who think that all they need to do to prove themselves is posture against business. A leadership desperate but unable to break free from the grip of its Union paymasters. A party that cannot be relied upon to keep the economy safe; that wants us to put them back behind the wheel even though they still won’t admit how badly they got it wrong.

Or how about widening inequality. A remorseless shrinking of our public services. A party that claims we’re all in it together and yet refuses to ask the wealthy to pay even a penny more in tax towards the on-going fiscal effort. A party which will instead single out one group – the working age poor – for especially tough sacrifices. £12bn worth of especially tough sacrifices, from people who are trying to work their way out of poverty and who we should be helping stand on their own two feet.

A weak economy. An unfair society. If it all sounds depressingly familiar it’s because most of us have lived through it all before. Two parties encumbered by the same old prejudices; straitjacketed by the same old ideologies. And whichever way you look at it, left or right, if either of them get into government on their own, they will drag Britain in the same direction: backwards.

The flip flop of Red/Blue since the 1940s has left the UK constantly going over the same territory politically and economically again and again. We have to move on.

No. That’s not my Britain. That’s not the Britain I love. And I am not going to sit back while either of them sweep in and leave this nation diminished and divided because they still don’t understand what makes our country great.

Liberal Democrats think of that when you’re out campaigning in the crucial coming weeks – in your wards, in your communities, in your regions for our hardworking councillors and our excellent team of MEPs.

When I tell you that we need to get back into government again – protecting Britain from one party rule – this is why:

Because we are the guardians of a modern, open and tolerant Britain.

Because we are the only party who will not ask the British people to choose between a stronger economy and a fairer society. They don’t have to. They can have both if we make our shared mission enabling every single person to get on in life.

Because we are the only party with the imagination and ambition needed to ensure Britain draws a line under some of our worst times with our best qualities intact.

In government again the Liberal Democrats will continue rewiring our economy so that our banks are the servant and not the master. So that, instead of fake booms and reckless consumption, we invest in growth that is balanced and sustainable, which stretches across every corner of Britain and which conserves our natural resources too.

That is how we embrace a better future rather than repeat the mistakes of the past.

We’ll finish the job of balancing the books, but continuing to spread the burden fairly, as we have been in this government – giving Britain a stronger economy and a fairer society too.

The future, not the past.

We’ll continue correcting the imbalance in our tax system, so that it doesn’t just protect the wealthy but properly rewards work.

And, yes, that means that in the coming Budget Danny Alexander and I are pushing to take the Liberal Democrat income tax cut even further than we had originally planned in this parliament.

We are about to hit the target that was on the front page of our manifesto: raising the personal allowance so that no one pays a penny of income tax on the first £10,000 they earn, saving over 20 million people £700. Now we want to go beyond that, taking the total tax cut to £800.

And if we’re in government again we’ll go further still: no one paying a penny in tax on the first £12,500 they earn.

Wow! That is a significant boon - how many working poor will be lifted out of tax altogether?!

Fairer taxes. The future, not the past.

We’ll create an education system that, from toddler to graduate, allows our all of our children to rise as far as their talents and efforts will take them, irrespective of the circumstances of their birth.

The future, not the past.

We’ll transfer ever more power to our cities and communities so that they can drive their own destinies and we break Whitehall’s grip for good.

The future, not the past.

We will ensure that this country rises to the challenge that will define the 21st Century: playing our part in the fight against climate change, for the sake of our children and the planet we leave behind.

The future, not the past.

And we will live up to our greatest traditions by keeping Britain engaged, outward facing, a heavyweight in Europe and a leader in the world.

If this sounds like the Britain you want, the Liberal Democrats are the party for you.

Between now and the election my aim – our aim – is to build a coalition bringing together all of the liberal-minded, liberal-hearted men and women who love the Britain we love – and who want a party prepared to fight for it. That’s the coalition I care about. A coalition of all the people who want to keep this nation open, tolerant, compassionate and strong.

So to the people out there who may not have voted for us before: it doesn’t matter, that’s the past. What matters now is the kind of country you want to live in. The kind of nation you want us to be.

Open not closed.

In not out.

Great Britain not little England.

Forward not back.

Hope not fear.

The future not the past.

If you have faith in this country, if you believe in Britain’s values, if you still want this incredible island of ours to keep punching above our weight and shaping the world so that it is a better place, put the Liberal Democrats back in government again – let us protect the Britain you love.

I thought that Nick has hit the nail on the head. It is a good speech and one that reminds me why I agreed with Nick in the first place, why I am proud of him as our party leader and that I am in the right party for me.

If I wasn't in the party I would still be voting Libdem as my family has done quite well out of the Libdems in government with 15 free hours of nursery for the kids, the income tax break has almost lifted my wife out of taxation and halved mine giving us more money at the end of the month.

It would be easy for the nation to turn inwards and revert back rather than face it's problems however hard they may be. Change has to happen for us to survive as a nation and to help those in need. Let's do it, whether you vote Libdem or agree with Nick or not, we need to pressure our political leaders to actually make this come about.

Barraco Barner, tweets, Ukraine, Sarah Palin and Nukes

President Barner's got a lot to think about
As always I am running a little behind the rest of the world and I didn't see the already infamous Gemma Worrell tweet until today. If you haven't seen it here is the wording:

Why is our president Barraco Barner getting involved with Russia, scary

This tweet has gone world wide and has been used by some commentators as a metaphor for "Dumb Britain."

Let's be honest it does look like the comment of a bimbo especially when you factor in that she is a twenty something beautician. Stereotypes, media portrayal of working class Britain and the failings of our education system come out screaming.

It is, ultimately a storm in a tea cup that plays to some of the nastiest elements of the human psyche. Firstly the girl made a typo... If someone recorded all the stupid things I've said or written over the years (including the zinger "Bus drivers make up their own routes") then I'd be open to world wide ridicule at least twice a week. Let it go.

Does it say anything about our nation's education? No.

People make spelling mistakes all the time or blooper. OK so Obama isn't our president but the sentiment is just as important. It is showing a young woman taking an interest in current events rather than which celeb is shagging who or in hair and make up - let' give her points for trying and phonetically  spelling the name.

Is it about class? About standards? Stereotypes? - Really? This is what you're going to focus on?

Let's not worry about the obvious and celebrate that current events are being spoken about by stereotypical groups that wouldn't normally bother with them.

Instead of worrying about this girl, who has no influence, and has said something that sounds stupid and let's look at what Sarah Palin has said in a speech to fellow Republicans;

Mr President, the only thing that stops a bad guy with a nuke is a good guy with a nuke

This is a really scary and stupid thing to say. I thought the old attitudes of the Cold War were well and truly gone. It wreaks of the Cuban missile's crisis and sincerely worries me that there are political figures out there that think that pointing ICBMs in the direction of Moscow and leaving the red button  out still there in this world. I mean G. W was a bit of a dunce but not even he considered nuking Baghdad!

The really, really, REALLY scary thing about this whole Palin debacle is that I can picture Putin shrugging his shoulders at her comment and ordering his missiles turned the other way. Palin is an idiot but Putin is a calculating and cold. He would push the button when Khrushchev wouldn't.

Yes, it was amusing to laugh at someone's twitter mistake but let's also not take our eye of the ball and look seriously at some of the idiotic things that are being said by those who have influence and worst still have bigger fools agreeing with them.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Medway Messenger's review of Citizen Journalists

I was very disappointed to read David Jones' review of Citizen Journalists in yesterday's Medway Messenger.

He begins by asking a straight forward question; Are citizen journalists little better than the tiresome individuals who write rambling, often near incomprehensible, letters, to the editors of local newspapers? Discuss.

He then goes on to question the validity of the term and whether or not it is good for greater transparency or for democracy in Medway. Having been to a Full Council meeting in the past I can say that there are is a small selection of people in the Public gallery, usually those who have a question or an interest in a specific subject. If you then factor out the political activists (such as me) you end up with a core of four maybe five who are genuinely interested in the running of Medway council. Their tweets and blogs are always interesting reads and pick up on subjects that are glazed over (due to necessity and shortness of space etc) by the paper. Also for people like me, who cannot attend the meetings due to family commitments and yes - the new series of How I met your Mother on E4, the digital stream of information means I can see what is happening as it happens rather than just relying on a half page article in the paper. Clearly this is aiding transparency.

I agree that I have problems with the term Citizen Journalist. It is not something I would have chosen and I don't think any of the others who have been chosen to represent this manufactured term have either. Most of us are either interested in the subject or are Party members of one party or another. At no point do we consider ourselves journalists, I think commentators would be a better term for us as Journalist makes me feel like someone should be paying me for this!

It is indeed true that we have not undergone any formal Journalist training or have a vast wealth of experience. It is also true that I, like most people have my own bias and loyalties and yep, it shines through in my work sometimes. HOWEVER this is true of the Messenger as well. Dare I remind them of the City status story that condemned the Liberal Democrats in Medway of betraying the City bid by writing to Nick Clegg and asking him to not consider Medway despite the fact we had not agreed to it and were representing our constituents who had said they didn't want it? Whom did we betray? I would also argue that, seeing as the Messenger has the lions share of the printed media in the Medway towns, it is good to get someone else's point of view as like David I've read reports from meetings and wondered: Were they at the same meeting as I was?

When I did my much underusued History degree we were trained to absorb information be it written, oral or pictorial. Once notes had been taken draw out the key information and weave as unbiased a piece of narrative/argument as possible using facts, notes and quotes to back up your argument. I was, interestingly, told that a History degree was a great start for a career in Journalism so does that mean I'm half trained?

Only the Von Ranke school of history sought to get rid of bias and personal spin by only writing out the facts and this makes for boring journalism and history!

Citizen Journalists (God I hate saying that) are important in a way as they do add to transparency and the more voices that speak about things, the more information gets out and the more people may become interested in the subject and hold our elected body to account more. So I think it is unfair to knock it as an idea, just not the name - someone think of another name... please...

Also, and this is a personal request not related to the above; don't ask me to look at stories, or ask me what I think our MP/Councillors are thinking/doing or not doing. I'm not a professional Journalist, I write when I can on what I find interesting - cheers.