General Election – Reflections of a radical lefty

Brexit – Well it now seemingly has huge support as both Labour and Tories were backed to pursue it. What happened to the 48% who voted against Brexit because many of them must have effectively voted for it this time around?

Nick Clegg – Probably for the best that he lost his seat. In many way he was one of the most intelligent and knowledgeable MP in Parliament but because of his poor judgement over tuition fees (he said he would oppose them and did the opposite) he found himself in a place from which there was no return. Indeed, he ended up being blamed for tuition fees when in fact they were brought in by Labour who, in this most recent election, pledged to abolish their own previous policy!

Diane Abbott and Teresa May – They had terrible campaigns, end of. Diane was seemingly incapable of fielding incoming fire whilst submarine commander May kept ducking under the waves to avoid the fire. Has any Prime Minister/Party Leader been so detached from an election campaign before?

Jeremy Corbyn – Well he did not implode as the hostile press said he would, in fact did reasonably well as a 1970’s socialist with a love of nationalisation. Maybe Labour kept sending in Diane Abbott because they knew she would be terrible so taking the pressure of Jeremy? If they did it was a well thought out move.

Ulster Unionists – Oh dear what will become of us now the fate of the Government is probably in their hands? Yes, they will get the blame for supporting the Tories when unpopular things are done but then again on Brexit and Welfare reform the Tories may be relying on Labour backing/abstaining based on recent history. It certainly makes me feel very uncomfortable that our country will in effect be in the hands of a political party which promotes sectarian politics! What’s the chances of it not ending up in tears?

Polarised UK? – Well yes when viewed from some angles but on the biggest issue of the day – Brexit – the Tories and Labour were actually united over pursuing what will inevitably be a disastrous economic process from which the poor will suffer the most.

Pensioners – How many pensioners actually voted Conservative despite their triple lock pensions (brought in by the Lib Dems) being under threat from the Tories? And what about the Conservative’s Dementia tax and their promised cuts to Winter Fuel Allowance? Did some pensioners vote Tory because they still want Brexit at any cost.

Young People – Many voted Labour because of their promise to abolish tuition fees but in doing so they also voted for some Labour MP’s who in effect support the restriction of freedom of movement, via Brexit, which is in no way in the interests of young people. And how on earth did Labour MP Kate Hoey survive? She has been the female bookend to Nigel Farage, representing a constituency which voted heavily (76.6%) against Brexit, yet she was re-elected with a thumping majority?

Tim Farron – He had a decent campaign with the limited exposure he got on TV and radio. He lacks the charisma of Charles Kennedy or Paddy Ashdown but he made a good fist of it.

Conclusion – Not a good election for us radical lefties but then again are they ever? Each time the deck chairs get moved around but the government of the day is always too right wing!

Tolerant – Is the Lib Dem’s favourite word selling them short?

A guest posting from Jen Robertson

Is our favourite word selling us short?

A quick google of the phrase ‘Lib Dem tolerant’ and you get a lot of hits, resulting in quotes like these:

“I will build the open, tolerant, united party that can be the opposition to this Conservative government… Together, we must fight to keep Britain open, tolerant and united.” – Tim Farron (http://www.libdems.org.uk/tim-farron-speech-16)

“Join the Liberal Democrats to help shape a more liberal, tolerant, inclusive society” (https://lgbt.libdems.org.uk/en/)

“The Liberal Democrats are the party that will stand up to the decent British values of tolerance, moderation and generosity.” – Nick Clegg (http://www.libdems.org./only_the_lib_dems_offer_stability_unity_and_decency)

Ignoring the fact someone just tried to claim moderation as a virtue, what I can’t help noticing from these quotes is we do like the word tolerant don’t we? I mean we really, really like it. Arguably even to the point where we’ve tried to redefine it. According to the Lib Dem website:

“Tolerant means diverse, compassionate and generous. We will always fight injustice and stand up for the underdog, the outsider, the individual, the minority and the vulnerable against the powerful.” (http://www.libdems.org.uk/about_our_party)

Unfortunately the Oxford English Dictionary doesn’t exactly agree with that, defining tolerant as:

“Showing willingness to allow the existence of opinions or behaviour that one does not necessarily agree with.” (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/tolerant)

Willingness to allow the existence of opinions or behaviour that we don’t necessarily agree with. Well that’s a not exactly negative but it’s certainly a less positive definition than our website is endorsing. I’m certainly open to the idea that language is sometimes a tough thing to place a definitive meaning upon; words mean different things to different people and language is constantly evolving. However I suspect to many people (not least the OED) tolerant falls under the second definition offered here.

If for example you asked me what I thought of a something or someone and I responded by saying “I can tolerate them”, would you think that I felt compassionate and generous towards them? Or that I didn’t really like them that much but was able to be polite to keep the peace?

Tolerance, if you really can’t bring yourself to like and accept someone or something that nonetheless isn’t doing any actual harm, is not a bad thing in its way. It is certainly a welcome step from intolerance. However I am not terribly persuaded that people want to be tolerated. People want to be accepted, they want to be represented, they don’t want your polite (and slightly condescending?) tolerance that ‘allows the existence’ of their different views or ways of living.

Indeed I am not convinced tolerance is actually liberal. It feels like it falls far short of the oft quoted (and oft misattributed):

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” which I have always felt sat at the very heart of liberal philosophy. We don’t tolerate differences and disagreement, we outright encourage it.

All this is building to the fact that I’m just not sure tolerance is the value we should be championing any longer. I was raised at a time when tolerance was considered a wonderful virtue, I remember it being quite a buzzword back then, but a quick overview of the time I was born in might go some way towards explaining that. I was born in a time period when homosexuality was still classed by the WHO as a mental illness, a time when a black woman had never sat in the House of Commons, when a Muslim (man or woman) had never sat in the Commons. Looking back, I was born in a different world. It was also a world before the Human Rights Act of 1998 that sought to incorporate into UK law the rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights, so in some ways maybe it’s a world we’re set to return to – from what I remember of it I can’t recommend that. I also can’t be comfortable with our liking for ‘tolerance’.

The thing is I don’t think as party we are tolerant, I think we’re better things than that. I think we’re progressive and welcoming and now I’m suggesting we need to take the next step and ditch what rings as outdated language.

What can we exchange ‘tolerance’ for? Acceptance, inclusion, real strides in diversity and representation.

I have a friend who works for the International Slavery Museum and a large part of her job involves teaching people about the legacies of transatlantic slavery, most obviously racism, and working with modern communities living with this legacy. I talked to her about tolerance as a word, running past her how I felt about it and she agreed with me. In her experience ‘tolerance’ was not what people still having to fight for their equal human rights today wanted. They want acceptance and they want to be heard. They want a voice. They want representation.

What’s worse than a party that I know means so well preaching an outdated word like tolerance? Doing it with a parliamentary party that, seemingly through chance, is undeniably lacking in diversity. That we have a female MP now in Sarah Olney is fantastic, but it’s not enough. We need to be championing diversity and representation, not tolerance. In at least some element I’m suggesting we exchange words for action.

I do believe the party is committed to diversity and to acceptance and to the definition of tolerance that I referenced above that’s on the website. I am however concerned that that definition is not what people hear when we keep talking about tolerance and a little bit of me winces when I hear it. There are better ways to talk about these issues. Tolerance may seem like a helpful linguistic shortcut, a quick way of stating our values, but I think that in seeking brevity we risk losing some of our meaning. Personally I don’t think much that we’ve said since in attempts to define ourselves has ever topped the opening sentence from our constitution preamble (very familiar I’m sure to anyone who’s been with the party more than a couple of years as a cut down version of it used to feature on our party membership cards.)

“The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.”

(http://www.libdems.org.uk/constitution)

You know what I couldn’t find anywhere in the whole constitution preamble? Any variant of the word tolerant.

Cacoathes: an urge to do something inadvisable.

Jen Robertson dug out this interesting but rarely used word because on the odd occasion I am known for saying some inadvisable things but it did make me think of recent seeming uses of it all be it without it actually being said.

The EU Remain campaigning Labour Party doing a complete U-turn and voting for Brexit? Inadvisable

The classic of Nick Clegg saying he would oppose Tuition Fees and then dropping that opposition. Inadvisable

Labour saying they were going to defend the Sefton Green Belt and then voting to build on it. Inadvisable

The Tories saying in their 2015 manifesto that they wanted to remain in the Single Market and then voting to leave the Single market. Inadvisable

The UK voting to leave the EU in the advisory referendum. Inadvisable

I could go on but I am sure you get my drift…..

Liberals – Why it’s good to hear that some folks really don’t like them

I’ve been a Liberal all my adult life (having read the 3 major party manifestos from the 1979 General Election I realised I was indeed a Liberal) and throughout that time I have often heard people say things like Liberals are nice people, you care about people and other such comments.

Of course I have also heard just the opposite when former Lib Dem Leader Nick Clegg, foolishly in my view, dropped opposition to Labour’s Student Tuition Fees. In some ways it was not actually about Tuition Fees, it was about trust and not carrying out what folks thought the Lib Dems had said they stood for. By gum some lessons were learned there and rightly so!

Now with the incredibly stupid idea of us leaving the EU and most probably tipping the UK economy over the edge in the process Liberals have been leading the fight against Brexit – along with the SNP in Scotland of course. This has polarised opinions and many on the right in particular really do hate us Liberals for our pro-EU stance.

But whilst the country is going to the dogs liberalism is on the rise – I am told that membership of the Lib Dem Party is soaring to its highest levels in a very long time. And you know I don’t think it is at all a bad thing for Liberals to be unpopular with people who support Brexit and who hold illiberal views on many other things. Some of them may even have voted Liberal in the past not really knowing how pro-EU we Liberals are but they won’t be making that mistake again I am sure!

10 reasons to dislike Liberals:-

If you hate the EU
If you are a racist
If you like our appalling unrepresentative voting system
If you are intolerant towards people from other countries
If you support UKIP
If you care little for environmental issues
If you are a Little Englander
If you think that Donald Trump is a good thing
If you change facts to fit with your own views
If you can’t see how beneficial it is to have people from other countries working and studying in the UK

I could go on but I guess you get my drift.

The cause of Liberalism has clearly been reignited by the EU Referendum, especially with Labour being so all over the place on this most crucial of issues.

No, I’m happy that some folks really don’t like Liberals because that means we are doing the right things and not trying to be all things to all people. And that’s a lesson that Labour has seemingly not yet learned. When over 60% of Labour voters supported staying in the EU they switch away from their admittedly half hearted Remain support and choose to back Brexit and the views of their minority right wing supporters! And this from a party whose membership is now predominately left wing. You really could not make up the tangle Labour have got themselves into could you. Of course that’s why Labour members who are also liberal and pro-EU by instinct are leaving that party and joining the Lib Dems.

If the Lib Dems have always had an obvious problem it has been trying to nail down what the party stands for in the minds of the electorate. Well that nailing down has clearly been done now!

Sir Humphrey’s advice to a ‘brave’ David Cameron on the EU Referendum

Back in the days whilst David Cameron had the chance not to lurch the UK into a huge Brexit crisis this exchange may have taken place following months of advice about him resisting being too ‘brave’:-

Sir Humphrey – Can I present you with a box Prime Minster, it’s one we put before Ministers prior to them taking momentous decisions. Bring in the OSBOT box please Bernard.

Cameron – What’s this all about then Humphrey?

Sir Humphrey – Well Prime Minister it’s the job of Cabinet Office to spell out to a Minister or Prime Minister all the potential pit-falls of a potentially ‘brave’ decision which we feel could have dire consequences. This OSBOT box contains details of the dire consequences of your pursuing an EU Referendum.

Cameron – But I know the consequences and I know I will win anyway.

Sir Humphrey – Yes Prime Minister knowing the consequences is what one of your predecessors, a Mr Blair, said when we put such a box in front of him prior to the Iraq war being authorised. It’s also what Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg uttered before his U turn on tuition fees.

Cameron – But what’s that got to do with me, they were wrong and I am right?

Sir Humphrey – Yes they both thought they were right too Prime Minister. Mr Blair got it all very badly wrong though and Mr Clegg, well we all know what happened to him.

Cameron – So what purpose does the OSBOT box serve?

Sir Humphrey – It’s bit like Pandora’s Box Prime Minister – once opened it can’t be shut again and it’s your choice whether to open it or not. Blair and Clegg opened it, indeed you laughed yourself silly when Clegg did if you recall. Now its your turn Prime Minister.

Cameron – Do I have to open it?

Sir Humphrey – Yes Prime Minister if your are determined to hold an EU Referendum.

Cameron – Well open it I will because right is on my side, I say.

Sir Humphrey – Just remember Prime Minister all that you read in the box is likely to happen and you can’t shut the box once you have read of the consequences.

Cameron – Give me the key!

Cameron opens the box and this is what he reads:-

Most if not all of the following will now happen – The Country will vote to leave the EU. Financial meltdown will follow. There is no plan to deal with an EU exit. You will be blamed for opening ‘Pandora’s Box’. A Mr. B Johnson will dance on your political grave. Racists will emerge in large numbers. Xenophobes (a person unduly fearful of what is foreign and especially of people of foreign origin) will multiply. All the political barm-pots will have been brought together in one campaign group to campaign for Brexit – they will not be parted.

In short Prime Minister you have just read why you should not hold an EU Referendum but as you have opened the box there is no going back. Thank you for reading the most momentous political suicide note in living memory.

Cameron – But this is ridiculous Humphrey, none of this will happen mark my words.

Sir Humphrey – Yes Prime Minister I have marked your very ‘brave’ words and I have also taken the liberty of drafting a resignation speech which obviously, in your view, will not now be required?

Cameron – Look Humphrey I am confident nothing will really go wrong but if by some ridiculously small chance it does will the Country know that I was warned not to hold the EU Referendum? By the way what does OSBOT mean?

Sir Humphrey – No Prime Minister the Civil Service does not kick a Prime Minister when they are down, we find there is no need for us to join in a political lynching. And OSBOT – Only Stupid Buggers Open This.

Tuition Fees – Labour brought them in – Tories & Lib Dems promised to scrap them!

This is one of those political subjects that truly gets my goat as there has been so much hypocrisy and so many lies told about tuition fees.

When the Labour government introduced them the opposition rightly, in my view, labelled it a tax on learning and they pledged to scrap them. And that was the Tories too, not just Nick Clegg’s Party. See the recent revelations concerning George Osborne’s views on scrapping tuition fees when he was in opposition via the link below:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-trending-36323823

Now it looks like they are likely to increase year on year so another row is breaking out with Labour saying there should not be any increase. You can bet that Corbyn is treading carefully as he won’t want students and their families reminded that tuition fees were originally Labour’s idea to tax learning. And let’s be honest if Labour had not invented this tax it would surely now be pressing for its abolition.

And here’s an odd thing. If you ask folks who was responsible for tuition fees they will probably respond by saying Nick Clegg or the Lib Dems. This is because that infamous and utterly disastrous (for the Lib Dems) retreat from saying they would scrap them is what sticks in the public’s mind. So the Lib Dems are seen by many as being responsible for the fees as well as for breaking their pledge to scrap them when they were actually only responsible for the second sin.

But the reason this troubling subject sticks in my mind is because it illustrates the dishonesty that is at the heart of our party political system and which fuels voters distrust of politics and political parties. Or look at it another way what pledges are being made now which will be reneged on further down the track.

You would have thought that with the advent of 24 hour news and social media that the chances of pledges being forgotten about when the political wind changes would be slim but I bet despite that dodgy pledges are still being made especially by those in opposition.

It is probably fair to say that we don’t really expect our politicians to be honest although in public we usually say we want them to be. And we are pretty good at looking shocked and horrified when an MP does something wrong over his/her expenses claims even though most of us will soon forget about it.

And there’s the rub ‘we will soon forget about it’, because that is what those making dodging pledges are relying on together with the media being too lazy to remind folks of course.