The LibDems must avoid knee jerk reaction and leaving the centre for the left!

I don’t like being put in a box. Especially the left or right box. If I had to sum myself up with a political party I would say something like 40% Lib Dem, 20% Conservative, 10% Greens, 30% none of the above. I swing left or right depending on the issue. I’m a Lib Dem because they hold a majority of my views with a clear 10% lead over none of the above. I’m sad Clegg has gone. I admired how he held together slightly left and slightly right factions of the party grounded in the centre ground. I am proud he acknowledged that in 2010 that he owed it to the people who voted LibDem because they wanted a LibDem Government to go into Government when he had the chance. It was a bold, brave decision and one that has benefited the people of  Britain curbing the worst excesses of the Conservatives over the past five years.

 I’m a mature (another box I don’t like to be put in) student and I forgive Clegg for tuition fees. He is not the first politician to break a promise and nor will he be the last. When you work in a team you have to make difficult concessions and I respect his decisions. On the contrary I don’t have rich parents so I’m thankful for the fair student finance system that means everyone can go to university and indeed the figures of participation from less affluent groups in university are positive. I might have 50 K debt but it’s the best loan I will ever have. I wish my mortgage or car finance was on such favourable terms.

I’m concerned for the future of the party. A leftist approach would alienate members like myself. To be honest, furthermore  this weeks election has hinted the electorate rejecting the left to an extent. Although the left won’t accept this, instead writing Facebook posts verging on trolling, accusing people who voted certain ways of hating the disabled and other equally absurd accusations because they don’t agree ideologically with them! Equally I appreciate if I was party leader I would alienate a great deal of the party to the left of me. That’s why we need another Clegg! And if we do get another bash at being part of the Government we should grasp it with both hands! I don’t vote LibDem because I want them to have a chance to govern and turn it down! The opposition benches (or bench for our 8 MPs) don’t get us to do what we achieved in the last 5 years even if it had detrimental effects!

When you’re very left or very right it’s easy to verge on sounding like a dictator when arguing your stance to someone on the opposite side of the spectrum. I think the left are quite nasty in their arguments with opponents, however feel they believe it is justifiable because of the left bias in most mainstream media and institutions. It is almost an offence to admit to being anything other then hardline left at my university. As a liberal I’m very big on freedom of speech, something the lefties don’t appreciate. David Cameron said yesterday about building a strong economy encouraging people to work. I find this reasonable enough however don’t expect everyone to agree leading to healthy debate but instead Facebook is full of Cameron and the right hate the disabled and poor and are all fascists. On Saturday The Guardian had a dig at the democracy that gave Cameron the keys to number ten accusing people of failing to vote Labour when so many were visiting food banks. Food banks I believe are a very subjective opinion. Oops, cue the trolls again, I had an opinion.

 My Facebook “friends “ had posts ranging from slagging off the Electorate for how they voted to threatening to unfriend anyone voting UKIP. I mean, come on guys, freedom of speech. I detest UKIP policies probably more then I do Labour’s. I argue the immigration and anti-Europe drivel and myths are fuelled by the media and scaremongering and completely unfounded and we should welcome free movement of people but that’s my view. My view, others have fought so hard so that we can be in a position where everyone can have a view and a vote, even if that view and that vote are different from our own. The left have to stop thinking they have some kind of monopoly of moral and social justice and actually that there view on society is simply that, a view!

On the one hand social justice is very important to me. The principals of a welfare state are vital to a progressive state that provides for its population in times of needs.In terms of international support, frankly following our empire building, colonisation and subsequent contemporary neo-colonisation, we owe it to the developing word to provide support. (That’s not to say current models of neo-liberal solutions based on the  relentless power of TNC’s and aid conditional on the West’s way of doing things are the right way of doing things, buts that’s not a debate for here!). On the other hand I’m a huge believer in personal responsibility. Perhaps the “right” swinging in here BUT I had a very modest upbringing in a crappy Labour controlled Northern deprived city. I know what hard times are. I know the deprived face barriers.I know about living in a deprived community because I lived (and indeed still live) in one. I’m not like Russell Brand who attends a protest once or twice for a photo opportunity or the Guardian reading middle class who visit a food bank once then declare they know everything about the oppressed and can speak and come up with solutions for them! Yes, there are people in a bad way in the UK. I’m not denying that and as I said above I’m very proud of our welfare principals but some people are taking the piss, they go through their lives expecting everything on a plate, taking no responsibility for anything. This is not fair! You get out, what you put in. Britain is full of hard working people and Miliband’s swing to the far left and anti-business approach has obviously pissed off those people. The Conservative majority was achieved through real people voting! 

Leftist factions in the LibDems appear to be plotting some leftist revival apparently because not being left enough cost us last Thursday! This is rubbish! We epic failed at the election because the media turned against us. The junior coalition partners  were the laughing stock of satirical media and ridiculed by the left, right and populist media. It became fashionable to hate the LibDems and unintelligently band around the word “tuition fees” without any thought for what we actually stand for and what we have done in coalition. The Conservatives came out of the deal unscathed and stronger! We didn’t stand a chance. A big surge to the left really is not the answer! I joined the party as opposed to just supporting them as I had done for many years prior,  during the height of the media scaremongering because I took the time to actually see what they were about and not just believe everything I read in the newspaper! 

Europe is very important to me. That’s pretty much my only red line. With the Lib Dems the only party who don’t dither over Europe, it’s a key reason for the 40% match between what I stand for and what the LibDems stand for. I would be happy with €Euro and Schengen Removal of borders but appreciate the full works is not everyone’s cup of tea. I think it is a farce we would even consider leaving Europe though. I mean, of course I’m all freedom and democracy so why would I be against a referendum where people decide. To oppose it would make me a hypocrite. I have just chastised  those lefties slagging off those who voted Conservative above and now I’m suggesting a referendum is wrong when so many people have an opinion on Europe. In my defence I can’t help but think that people are too uneducated to make that choice. That sounds quite mean. I’m suggesting half of Britain are uneducated, but I don’t mean it as such. I mean people have visions force fed to them from populist opinion and factions of the media, of myths around immigration and Brussels making all of our decisions but people just don’t understand the many benefits of Europe because nobody ever discusses them. Where would you go to find the truth about European integration? It would be awful for Britain to leave Europe. A complete disaster. For an example of what Europe was like before integration, think about World War 2. Business leaders know it, Labour and the Greens know it. Even Cameron and the less hardline Conservatives know it. Are the people of Britain going to have to wait until their jobs start disappearing on a scale worse then the recession before they know it! We are entering worrying times! I fear for the future of the UK. The Europe issue is far more pressing then the relentless bashing of the right from the left since the election result and will have much worse effects then any of the welfare/spending cuts people were protesting about yesterday, yet ignorance to the plight of our EU membership continues!

Apparently LibDem membership has soared since last Thursday. The haters queuing up to stick the knife in Clegg will argue it is down to his resignation and the end of the coalition. Although I’m suitably informed, the surge started prior to Nick’s resignation. Tony Blair has come out yesterday accusing Labour of losing the election by being too left. The guardian has revealed this morning that Labour had huge success in university seats. What we forget is most university students are rich and middle class, rebelling against Tory mummy and daddy whilst at Uni. Did you see how many students were protesting Saturday in London against the cuts that don’t effect them (and in my view don’t exist)? As soon as they leave uni and get a job they realise the Guardian and the protests were a load of bollocks! Hard working British people do not resonate with paternalistic, middle class generated, leftist elite! The centre is good!

Lurching to the left is not the right road!

LibDems have got a lot of work to do!

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Grassroots politics? Don’t make me laugh

since the SNP stuck two fingers up at England and Wales last September (and we equally stuck two fingers back up at them come referendum day) words like “localism”, “northern powerhouse” “devolution” and “grassroots” have been banded about. In theory I like the idea of local politcs although I do worry about economies of scale. The amount of red tape and layers of management in a centralised state make me worry how inefficient the public sector would become if devolved to such tiny local levels! 

My main concern however is being somewhere right of centre on most issues positioned somewhere between a Lib Dem and Conservative (albeit with a tad of Greens thrown in the mix – don’t try and put me in a box!) living in the North this would mean for me having a strong Central Conservative Government as now (although subject to change next week -however I have a plan B to move to Netherlands for a couple of years if red Ed manages to get keys to number ten- I can’t see that tosser and the Labour cunts being In powerfor more then one term!) but being ruled in the North at local level by Labour. I can’t think of anything worse! Why would I support localism in practice if it meant being run by Labour? They are ruining my area when they don’t have much power from Westminster so imagine how bad it would be if they could do what they like! The lemmings in the North who don’t see Labour as the reason for the North being so shit because they have controlled it forever instead moan about Thatcher and mines, get over it!

My main problem is on a really local level as evidenced in next weeks elections.  I will vote for the LibDem paper candidate (and Labour stalwart Jon Trickett will win-it’s as sure as eggs are eggs) for the national whilst LibDems can’t be arsed to field a district councillor in my constituency so I will Opt for the Conservative paper candidate who lives 100 miles away in a nice bit of North Yorkshire (and the Labour candidate Jessica something or other will win). This is democracy in action. LibDems are happy to accept my donations but are not too bothered about me as a person because I don’t live in a key seat. I suppose that’s how the power machine works!

The absolute lowest level is the parish elections. The grassroots. The people who can make it happen in my community. There are 5 seats up for grabs. There are ten candidates. A couple align themselves with Labour so I can rule them out to mark my X against. The others are in effect independents. I notice a few of them are related or just happen to have same surname  and same address. The interesting thing is these people who live amongst me and want to represent me and I have absolutely no idea who they are and what they are going to do for my local community. No posters, flyers. No door knocking or harassing me outside Co-Op. No Facebook, Twitter. No links on Parish council webpage. Nothing in local paper. I e-mailed the parish council for information (and to tell them about the dog mess in the village) but they not terribly helpful in response. I expect these perspective parish councillors will get enough votes from friends and family to get a foot in the door in then make a few quid in expenses.

Grassroots politics? Don’t make me laugh!

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My hard sell for the Lib Dems…….

I never really took a great interest in politics at the political level. Of course I had an opinion on politics. Most things we utter from our mouths are related to politics in some way or another (cost of petrol, anti-social behaviour, train fares etc…..everyday stuff!) and most of the time we don’t even realise it. Seeing heated exchanges on the news in the House of Commons made me think the political sphere was just a huge pantomime. Labour could never agree with Conservatives on principle, the Conservatives could never agree with Labour and they all argued like primary school children in the playground. Come election time each party would promise the World to different groups and then after elections back to the pantomime. In the last couple of years I have taken more of an interest in politics and my view hasn’t really changed of the pantomime . I hate putting people in boxes. I have some views which put me on a par with a wishy washy liberal, others that align me with the right. The other day I found myself agreeing with Nigel Farage (kill me now) about the farce of releasing IRA killers out after the NI peace deal (will we do a deal with ISIS in the future?). The only party I can’t resonate with is Labour. After spending a huge chunk of my school and then work life in Labour controlled Wakefield and more recently living in an ex-mining community hearing how Thatcher destroyed the area and how the last 30 years of deprivation, unemployment and welfare dependency are the fault of her and nothing to do with the Labour Party who have held the seat for the last 30 years, just pushed me to rebel and support the Conservatives! More recently I have swayed to the Liberal Democrats ( and I’m a mature student who actually thinks the tuition fees represent reasonable value- I do like to buck the trend!) mainly because of their support of Europe. Despite what the Daily Mail say I think the EU is a good thing, you only have to think about Europe and its relations through history and up until the 1940’s to appreciate the good of modern European integration. Immigrants aren’t actually steeling our jobs and benefits (shock horror!) and Brussels is not making all our decisions. Aside from Europe I disagree with a number of LibDem policies such as “hug a junkie”. I think the Conservatives encourage people to take responsibility for their own actions and their own lives. Equally though I don’t think they could get any further up the arse of the elites who pull their strings which is not particularly good for Mr and Mrs average. Labour on the other hand are a joke. In an ideal World Milliband would have us going back to the Soviet model with nationalised industries, destroying business and we all know where that leads to. UKIP are a paradox. The media gave them the power with their anti-immigration bullshit. The media now love to ridicule UKIP yet are largely responsible for the scaremongering UKIP thrive off. The Greens seem to be favourite to steal the LibDems student support after the tuition fees betrayal (lol!) which is sad because a couple of Green seats are not going to solve climate change and as a one policy party are neither going to have much impact on anything else. I think we could do a lot worse then another Conservative-LibDem coalition. No party is going to end unemployment, cut taxes and hand out lots of money. We have to be realistic in what we ask for. We have to take some responsibility for our own lives. The media have decided the LibDems are to be demolished in the election. Ask yourself why you share this viewpoint, where has your evidence for this decision come from? The media! Have a look at some of the actual achievements in Government and future polices rather then the media soundbites. If you still decide LibDems are not for you, then fine but let it be your decision, not the media! So it’s a hard sell, but consider this. I attended the LibDems conference in Autumn at Glasgow and witnessed some top young activists passionate about doing the right thing, some were a little too liberal for my liking and it was disappointing to see balding old men held the majority of the voting rights but the party least resemble the “pantomime” and have some good ideas contrary to the populist press!

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The Airport Expansion debate continues….

In an interview on BBC Surrey with Kelly Marie-Blundell ( Lib Dem prospective candidate for Guildford) discussed opposition to Heathrow and Gatwick expansion. It did have a degree of nimbyism about it in regards to appeasing the people of Surrey who obviously and understandably suffer as individuals from noise pollution and surface congestion from having Gatwick in their geographic proximity. I queried on Twitter about it afterwards where she talked of favouring any additional airport capacity to be in the North or Midlands thus removing some of the London and South East superiority that acts as a barrier to anyone north of Watford. I broadly agree on Heathrow and am in favour of increased airport
capacity in the North and/or Midlands however I do (as does research) see huge economic benefits in hub airports and believe Gatwick has put forward a good proposal for its expansion that offers real benefits.

I’m sad to see in the Lib Dems pre-manifesto that they are opposing expansion at Heathrow/Gatwick and Stansted and also pledging that any new runways will be offset by removing other runways. In the same part of the pre-manifesto document there are plans to improve railway infrastructure, roll out faster broadband and even commitment to reduce road congestion from new infrastructure. It is disappointing then that the aviation industry gets nothing despite the many benefits it offers. Airport infrastructure plays such an important part in generating trade even in these days of superior ICT used by business. It is vital that the SouthEast (for the UK economy as a whole) does increase its airport capacity so as not to lose out to other centres around the World. I have read the Davies reports for the Airport Commission and studied the plans submitted by Heathrow and Gatwick. I don’t see any benefit in crazy ideas like Boris Airport in the Thames but sensible expansion of what we have to increase capacity should be part of the UK’s future infrastructure improvement plans. Bear in mind that we haven’t really expanded our runway capacity in recent decades. I’m not in any way suggesting we go back to predict and provide but rather acknowledge that after years of no expansion now is the right time. (Note with the exception of the new runway at Manchester (in the North I should add) most airport expansion has been terminals not runways such as Heathrow T5). There were many suggested options in the 2003 white paper the Future of Air Transport by the DfT but 11 years later very little progress has been made. This isn’t going to go away.

In terms of the environment we all understand and are concerned with the impact air travel has on the planet. However I believe the future has to be improving the environmental credentials of air travel of which we are seeing improvements and advances in research all the time. All that considered I would be broadly supportive of the curbing of some domestic flights and promoting alternatives such as rail. I’m no frequent flyer and have travelled more miles by rail in Europe then by air so are definitely not on the side of the Airport per se. Although not competing on travel time I feel the Channel Tunnel is a piece of infrastructure that does not reap all the benefits it could, with better integration and marketing there is no reason why a greater number of European destinations could not be within easy reach by
train taking pressure of short haul flights. A view not shared by the likes of the Greenpeace gaffer who prefers to fly Brussels to Amsterdam despite an hourly train service operating with journey times comparable to air when taking into account check in and security time at the airport. However judging by a piece in yesterday’s Guardian the future of Europe’s international sleepers is hanging in the balance with planned cuts which will just push more people to flights and make airport capacity an even more pressing issue when the alternatives don’t exist. I’m more impressed with my fellow Lib Dem members whom when asked how they were getting to next months Glasgow conference the vast majority are taking the train. Although quite worryingly one member was flying from Birmingham to Glasgow despite Brum being well placed for direct trains to Scotland’s second city.

Despite being a champion of the train I do see the benefits of air travel and hub airports act as a one stop shop offering real benefits over lots of regional airports, not to mention as mini-cities create so much local employment. Heathrow is bursting at the seems, Gatwick is only working at marginally under capacity. Stansted and Luton are good at what they do with low cost budget carriers, holidaymakers and short haul destinations but the fact is that there is a need for increased airport capacity. We can’t just close our doors and say no more flights. Welcoming business to the UK is key to growing the economy not to mention the costs to the economy of the meltdowns that regularly occur at our airports from the slightest incident because we are so close to capacity. If we don’t don’t improve our airport capacity then other countries that do will reap what could be our benefits.

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I’m a student who supports the Lib Dems!

It’s not a joke. Im a student who supports the Lib Dems and taking it further I think they have done me a favour too. I kid you not. I’m fed up of hearing about how the Lib Dems have let students down by reversing/ u-turning/ conning/ ruining students lives regarding their manifesto promise on tuition fees. Being in Government gives you access to change things. It is what all political groups aspire to. Nobody is naïve enough to think the Lib Dems will be in control of the country anytime soon but being part of the coalition has given us the chance to play a part in delivering some key parts of the manifesto (not least in education with pupil premium etc…). The alternative to no coalition was to have little real influence, to be on the sidelines of politics. I still believe we made the right choice to go into the coalition with the Conservatives. Like with any pact you have to make concessions for each other. If the Lib Dems and Conservatives had completely the same views then there wouldn’t be the need for both parties. So what do you do when you need to work together? You make compromises and that is what has happened. It really is simple obvious stuff. We have all worked in a group before with people we might not get on with or with differing views and had to make concessions. The tuition fees was one such concession (not a u-turn or sell out) but it is obvious that the country would be a different place to Mr and Mrs Average if the Conservatives alone had power! The Lib Dems are about as popular as Russia at the moment in opinion polls which is a shame because they are the only party who stand for the average guy/girl. The only party who champion at the individual level the rights of everyone to get on in life regardless of sex/age/where you were born/upbringing/peerages held by parents. The Conservatives polarise society and who knows what red Ed and his Labour half-wits stand for these days?

In terms of tuition fees and University education in general they are so many myths out there it is no wonder the Daily Mail readers love spouting their ill-informed rubbish! I don’t think university education should be free. Why should it be? Is it not right you pay for a world class education that chances are will open up exclusive career paths in later life? Is 9K a year excessive? Probably. Especially for some of the glorified colleges offering degrees that are only worth slightly more then the paper they are printed on. For a degree at a top university with proven results and that old chestnut “employability” it is probably a pretty sound investment. The big myth however is that people can’t go to University because of the costs and only the rich can go and you leave with debt up to your eyeballs. This is all bulls**t! (Apologies for the course wording but this ignorance really gets my goat!). Firstly you don’t pay a penny up front so cost is no barrier to going to University. Secondly all UK citizens who do not hold a degree already are entitled to a student loan (and depending on income part of it as a non repayable grant) which covers the cost of tuition fees and provides you with cash to pay for accommodation and equipment (I have never bought a text book in my life, that’s what libraries are for!). McDonalds and other outlets of varying healthiness have a plethora of part time jobs to top you up (and provide unlimited Big Mac’s) and that is really all you need to go to uni. Changes in the last couple of years have made it even easier (finance wise) especially for those from deprived communities or mature students like me. In the past your families were expected to stump up some of the costs upfront. This is no longer the case. The final myth is leaving uni “saddled with debt”. At an average of £50K this is probably the second biggest debt you will have in your life after your mortgage (unless like me you live in an ex -mining community and then your student loan will be your highest debt). On paper this looks bad but in reality this is no Wonga loan. This is the best loan you will ever have. You have to be earning significant cash to even start paying it back once all your studies are complete so if that student job in McDonalds becomes a career you will never pay back a penny. Most students die before paying it all off. It really is the best loan you will ever have and a small price to pay for a decent education! Money is definitely not a barrier to going to uni and the whole Lib Dem tuition fees debarkle really is a bit of a storm in a plastic tea cup!

My University is very middle class which is a shame (and slightly paradoxical as it espouses a left wing view swaying in teaching towards a Marxist classless society whilst at the same time having few ethnic minorities or students from deprived communities on its books) and highlights that there are great inequalities to address. I’m a great believer in you get out what you put in and nobody should be handed opportunities on a plate but equally it should be a level playing field where everyone has the same chance. You shouldn’t get a university place just because you are from a deprived community but equally you shouldn’t have barriers preventing you from getting 3 x A’s at A-level because you are from a deprived community. You get out what you put in. Once again it is only the Lib-Dems who champion the individual to “get out” of life on a level playing field regardless of where you are born etc etc with policies to promote inclusion and equality. The great myths surrounding tuition fees and university funding won’t rid this inequality but will go a long way to reassure people that from a financial point of view there are no barriers to higher education. With lots of incorrect media attention surrounding the financial element of higher education and surveys indicating it as an important issue to students and their families just to have a high profile targeted campaign to right some of the wrongs out there is a major step in the right direction.

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