Thursday, 23 August 2012

An Opinion in it's Own Right

Lib Dem party conference in Brighton starts in four weeks and two days (not that I'm counting or anything). I'm looking forward to it mainly because I feel like it'll be the first one where I'll be able have a really good time meeting up with people I rarely see; this didn't happen at the first two I attended because for the first one in Birmingham I knew a grand total of two Lib Dems and went to conference entirely alone and the second one in Gateshead was full of general awkwardness caused by meddling 12 year-olds.

One thing I am slightly apprehensive about is how people perceive me. I'm not arrogant enough to assume I'm going to be brought up in conversations on a regular basis by the way, I just think it might happen once or twice. 

I'm the East Midlands Regional Chair for Liberal Youth and I'm busy organising some LY action days in Corby EN. 

I'm the Chair of University of Leicester Liberal Youth which I brought back into life this year after six years of inaction. 

I'm mouthy. I tweet more than I should and people remember.

Someone somewhere is bound to mention me at least once. But them talking about me isn't the concern. The worry isn't that they'll talk about all the stuff I've done or my political opinions, I'm more than okay with that, it's that they'll assume my opinions aren't mine. 

It's not that people accuse me of taking my opinions from whoever wrote the editorial in that morning's Guardian, they assume they come from my boyfriend. 

It's happened before, 3 or 4 times maybe, I've said something vaguely 'right-wing' or libertarian, probably against plain packaging or in favour of the NHS bill, and the person I'm talking to has said something along the lines of "well given who you're dating that's not surprising". 

I'm sorry? Because I'm dating someone whose opinions I share they couldn't possibly be my own, they have to be his? 

I'm sure the people who've said this to me aren't being intentionally sexist but it certainly feels like it! The assumption that a woman can't have formed her own opinions based on what she's read or heard, the assumption that she couldn't possibly think for herself and she's just based her opinions on what a man close to her thinks really aren't assumptions anyone should be making in the 21st century. 

Someone reading this is going to have made those assumptions. Maybe not about me but about someone. 

I'm pretty sure that at some fringe event, probably for Liberal Reform, someone will recognise me and assume I'm there because I'm dating the co-chair, not because I actually agree with the group's aims and want to help see that come through as party policy. 

That is depressing as hell. 

Friday, 8 June 2012

Let down but not left behind

Originally posted across at everyone's favourite Liberal Youth blog, now under new editorship :)


Liberal Democrat education policy is good. We are giving 15 hours of free pre-school education to disadvantaged toddlers, stopping children falling behind in basic reading skills and we are committed to ending child poverty by 2020. The jewel in the crown so to speak is the Pupil Premium: money given directly to schools for each pupil on free school meals to spend as they see fit. In the next academic year my old junior school will be given over £79,000 and my senior school will get almost £150,000. All of this is fantastic news and hopefully will going some way towards tackling social mobility and stopping children falling behind.

One thing we don’t seem to be looking at is the children who need a different kind of help, the ones who don’t fall behind because they’re what my school deemed ‘gifted and talented’. The sixth form college in my town looked at the academic performance of children at junior school and picked the best ones – including me - to put on their ‘gifted and talented list’; we were enrolled in a summer school for a fortnight between junior and comprehensive school, taken on trips to Oxford and Cambridge and generally encouraged to think about applying to elite universities.

Unfortunately this level of encouragement wasn’t carried across to the schools. I was, for want of a better word, ignored at school because the focus was on getting students to leave with the magic 5 A*-C grade GCSEs. This meant that the focus was on pupils around the C-D border, because I could get top marks without much effort I wasn’t given as much attention. I can’t blame the teachers, I can only imagine the pressure they were under to get students up to C grade and they were probably relieved to have students like me who they didn’t have to worry about, but it did mean that I didn’t achieve my full potential. I left school with 4 A*s, 5 As and 3 Bs and I left college with AAA* grades but I go to a university that could in no way be described as ‘elite’ and my marks at university are good but nothing remarkable because I was never pushed. My teachers were happy to leave me to blag it because at GCSE that still got me good grades but I’m rapidly discovering that – unsurprisingly – that doesn’t work at university. A lot of this is my fault; I don’t try as hard as I should and I certainly don’t manage my time well – last minute essays are a speciality – but I do feel that the lack of drive I have now has something to do with the fact that I was never tested by previous education.

The Liberal Democrats are doing a fantastic job of encouraging those from disadvantaged backgrounds and showing young people that there are more options open to them than just university by creating more apprenticeships than ever before but we’re still missing a trick. There are some young people whose talent is being allowed to waste because they don’t find the education system enough of a challenge. Helping disadvantaged and underachieving pupils make the most of their education is a noble aim but it should not come at the expense of those who are more able. Labour allowed this situation to develop; the Liberal Democrats cannot allow it to continue.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

A Marriage of Convenience

Yesterday two quite normal things happened. Barack Obama gave a television interview and the Queen made a speech. Except they weren't that normal; Obama gave a hastily arranged interview to ABC News where he finally - after years of frankly just pissing about - endorsed same sex marriage and Her Majesty read her speech whilst sitting on a golden throne wearing an ermine and velvet cape and a massive crown (it might be normal for her but let's be honest it's not normal for most people!).

Obama has long claimed to oppose same sex marriage, favouring instead civil unions, but since 2010 he has often claimed his position was 'evolving'. I'm afraid 'evolving' was never good enough for me, it's one of the main reasons I've always disliked him. Its no secret that I'm a massive fan of Hillary Clinton but she herself opposes SSM and favours civil unions but unlike Obama she has always said this. 

In 1996 Illinois state Senate candidate Barack Obama was very much in favour of SSM and in response to a question from a newspaper stated "I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages." 

How times change. 

So to everyone who exploded with joy upon hearing the now President say "At a certain point, I've just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married" just remember a few things
  • He already supported this
  • He 'changed his mind' between running for the state Senate and the national Senate
  • It's taken him four years of 'evolving' to get to this point
  • It's an election year. This position clearly sets him apart from Mitt Romney
One of those getting far too fawning over the President finally arriving at the end of his evolutionary journey was Stonewall Chief Executive Ben Summerskill, who tweeted his joy whilst also expressing his disappointment that SSM wasn't included in the Queen's Speech. 

Except it was never going to be. 

The government consultation is still running so obviously a bill couldn't have been included when the results of the consultation are not yet known. You'd think the Chief Executive of Europe's largest gay rights charity would know that.

The omission that wasn't an omission has led to many criticising David Cameron for 'backing down' on his commitment to SSM but I'd argue that Cameron deserves more praise for backing SSM than Obama. Obama comes from the party that outlawed segregation, allowed homosexuals to serve openly in the army and wants to extend affordable healthcare to all. Cameron comes from the party who championed Section 28. The fact that DC is able and willing to stand up for the right to marry, regardless of sexuality should be applauded. Obama should be ashamed.

Sorry to disagree with you tweeps but yesterday you were applauding the wrong man.

Monday, 30 April 2012

The Value of Nothing

I have intermittent appointments with a counsellor at my University's healthcare centre. I'm not going to go into why or what my counsellor and I talk about because frankly that's none of your business. And also because that's not the point of this post. 

Today I realised something. Nothing dramatic, nothing profound, just something. 

Silence is fantastic. 

And rare.

Ask anyone who knows me and they'll tell you that I talk too much; I don't stop for lectures or movies, I talk to myself if there's no-one around and I have even been known to talk in my sleep. My best friend at school was the silent one, it has been said on more than one occasion that could be because she couldn't get a word in edgeways, but I always had an opinion or a thought about whatever was being discussed. But at these appointments I just don't. Before today there have always been moments of silence, periods where I didn't know what to say or didn't want to say anything and the shrink wouldn't push it because he wanted to see what I had to say for myself, not just what I thought he wanted to hear in response to my questions (I guess that's the idea anyway). Today though I spoke for maybe ten minutes out of the hour. 

I normally hate silence and find it distracting, I need the TV on or the radio or people talking just to enable me to work. I told the shrink this, he asked what I used this silence to distract me from or was it different kind of silence and I realised that I enjoy sitting in silence for parts of an hour a week. 

The idea that silence is missing in the modern world isn't new, this isn't a dramatic revelation but it did make me think that maybe I need to spend more time listening and less time talking. 

Starting now.

Sunday, 29 April 2012


Just submitted my nomination for East Midlands Regional Chair for the Liberal Youth elections. There are several things I'd want to do in the job and it's these things that motivated me to run.

1. My local party isn't fantastic, Leicester has had a lot of problems with internal factions over the last decade and has gone from successful to having only one councillor (even he is a defector from the Conservatives), so I went looking for my regional chair for some advice when setting up a branch at University only to discover that The East Midlands hasn't had a chair for almost six months, the last one defected to the Green Party. I really hope to be able to stand up as someone people can come to if they have issues or need help and support with something

2. I myself wasn't a member of Liberal Youth before I turned 18, simply because I didn't know you could be. I was out campaigning for my local Lib Dem PPC for months before officially becoming a member because at no point did anyone tell me Liberal Youth existed. I think it's vital that we reach out to our younger members and especially make sure that local parties encourage young people to join and participate.

3. A related point is that we need to make sure we represent all young people, not just students. We're not Labour Students, we're Liberal Youth, and we need to make sure our focus isn't just on those in further and higher education. We need to reach out and include graduates, young workers, interns and the youth unemployed.

The manifesto doesn't allow me to go into the detail I'd like and there are almost certainly other issues that I am passionate about but if you have any questions feel free to tweet me @RebelRevell or comment on here and feel free to like my Facebook page which will be updated periodically :)

Interviewing Tim Farron

Spring Conference seems like such a long time ago now all those weeks ago I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to interview Party President Tim Farron. Here is my report of the interview which was originally posted at the Libertine, there you can also find the other three bloggers' interviews :)


When I saw that Liberal Youth wanted bloggers to interview Tim Farron I was more than a little bit up for it, I got an ‘opportunity’ to interview David Miliband through my university magazine and he turned up quite late so in the end I didn’t get to ask a question at all. I love following Tim on Twitter and it’s fantastic that he takes the time to respond to people on an individual basis so I was definitely interested. ‘Blogger’ isn’t maybe the word for me though, my blog is a site a shout at once a month when some issue has gotten me angry then I forget about it for another three weeks. Luckily I was asked if I’d do it anyway so I couldn’t really say no!

Four folks all asking questions when you only have half an hour – Tim’s a busy guy at the best of times, never mind at Spring Conference with the country’s media watching – doesn’t give you a lot of time to ask your questions but I got to asked two; one that had political significance and related to an article Tim had written in previous day in the Guardian and one that was more about Tim as a person.

Tim’s article said that the Liberal Democrats need to stop apologising so following on from that I asked on where Lib Dems should be looking forward or back, I can safety say that Tim’s answer was the fully expected ‘bit of both’. "This is an opportunity to do things, and to change things in a very positive sense…I look at our flag ship policy [raising the income tax threshold] that I’m pretty sure going to get delivered and quicker…My great fear in all of this is that even that news gets swamped."

I think Tim taps into the feeling that a lot of people in the party have is that whilst we are in government doing brilliant things for people it gets overshadowed by some of the not so popular things that the government does or things that are beyond government control, Liberal Democrats seem to get the blame but not the credit.

We have to be mindful that Labour have a narrative to try and pitch us as being weak and keeling over in front of the Tories which isn’t true. And this is something I’ve encountered on several occasions, people are quick to criticise us for being the Tories’ whipping boys but when you explain to them our policies in government, both what we’ve done so far and our plans for the future, they are quite often receptive to them.

My second question to Tim asked what his proudest achievement as Party President had been so far. I expected him to name a policy he supported but was quite surprised that his first choices were the new HQ and the appointment of a new Chief Executive. These are, in his own words, “geeky” choices but they are clearly things he is proud of and he went on to say the bit of the job he enjoys most is “just getting out there, and knocking on doors and lifting spirits”. He told a story of going out campaigning with councillors and MSPs who lost their jobs in 2011 but who are still hard at work campaigning for the Liberal Democrats and it was obvious how proud he is of the grassroots campaigners who made the party what it is and who, by and large, are very supportive of him.

One of the great things about Tim as a Party President is that he is so approachable and willing to take time out of his undoubtedly busy schedule to talk to four Liberal Youth bloggers around a cramped table under the stairs at the back of a conference centre. We can only hope he remains as approachable and eager to reach out to all wings of the party in the future.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Democracy Rebooted

It's quite rare that I write more than a blog post a month recently, never mind two on consecutive days but there we go. I had the rather joyful experience of receiving an email from the President of the Politics Society telling his members that "It has come to my attention that although none of the committee positions were contested, we are still able to hold an election though the 'Re-open Nominations' (RON) system." Though I am more than a little bit concerned that the President of the Politics Society was not aware of the possibility of running against RON, I am glad that an election is being run. However it seems to be that the President and current committee had no intention of letting the candidates display or justify their manifestos to us and just expected that we would vote for them regardless. Luckily the guy running for Academic Officer seems to be keen on getting stuff organised, hustings and the like, with an admirable commitment to democracy not usually found in a member of Labour Students.
Another issue I have is that the election isn't going to be conducted anonymously, we have to email our votes to the Politics Society. The anonymity of an election booth wasn't something I'd given much thought to before now, some votes that are conducted by secret ballot at Union Parliament don't really require the secrecy in my opinion, but I'm really put off by the idea that someone will see my votes and it will be blatantly obvious that it's me. I'd consider voting RON for some of the categories but I don't really want to do that knowing that someone will see it and probably imagine I am being unduly petty in doing so.

Whilst today may have improved my view of societies I can't say it has been a fantastic day for democracy either!

Monday, 12 March 2012

Democracy Fail

I'm writing this blog in anger. It's something I say I'm going to do a lot and I often write drafts of posts when I'm first mad but run out of stream quite quickly and come back to them a few days later to rewrite them more calmly. However about an hour ago I happened to check Facebook in my lecture and saw that the current President of the University of Leicester Politics Society had posted a message saying that the nominations were now closed for positions on next years committee. Reading past the lists of nominees I found this comment:

"Since none of the positions have been contested, I am delighted to announce that the above nominees are the Politics Society Committee 2012/13!"

Now I'm not sure I, were I the President, would feel comfortable in announcing my 'delight' at having to tell people that a society with just shy of 250 members, couldn't find more than seven people willing to run for the committee. Especially if that committee were a politics one that claimed to be "a group for all who are studying politics at UoL and for those who are generally interested in politics." People might want to point out that you can't make people run (indeed as I type, the current treasurer has commented on my Facebook status saying "If people don't bother to get involved that's what happens" which has further fuelled my anger) but you can do a better job of explaining to people what the committee does and why it is so important, you can certainly extend the nominations period. I'm sure someone will eventually point out to be that I didn't run and if I'm so bothered about it then why didn't I but I'm currently in the process of setting up a Liberal Youth society and I don't think it would be appropriate for me to sit on that committee whilst also sitting on the non-partisan Politics Society one, but maybe that's just me. 

What annoys me most is that the members of the Politics Society, who supposedly have an interest in Politics and therefore I assume the majority of them would agree that democracy and free and fair elections are important, are being denied a right to vote. Whilst people would question the point of voting when no positions are contested and no doubt turn out would be low, there should still be an opportunity to reopen nominations. At least then the committee would have a modicum of legitimacy, small as it would be. I mean FIFA elected Sepp Blatter when he had no opposition and pretty much the entire footballing world accepts that he is corrupt!

Having spent the weekend at the Lib Dem Conference in Gateshead I understand some peoples confusion at the concept of letting the grass roots membership have a vote. In today's Telegraph Graeme Archer suggests that Liberal Democrats cannot be trusted to govern because of our insistence on it, I mean how dare we give out grass roots a vote?! Why aren't we like the other two parties who take the views of the elites within the party and enforce it on the rest with an iron will? He also suggests the voting reps are 'unelected activists' when they aren't, they're chosen by their local parties and that they act on 'whims'. They do no such thing. I may disagree with the way the NHS vote went yesterday but I know that members have been debating the future of this bill for over a year and no-one will have arrived at the decision not to back it lightly. (Although any suggestion that they did act on a whim, however jokingly tweeted, will be followed by a barrage of abuse, just ask @aaemmerson).

Unfortunately my university (and I suspect many others around the country) have a problem with elections and democracy. Whilst our recent executive elections had a turnout of over 3,700 (the highest ever) we have a student body of roughly 21,000 students. That's a turnout of roughly 17%, local council elections manage more than that. I am on our Student Union's Union Parliament which elected members to represent the University's four Colleges proportionally. As a member of the largest College (Social Sciences) I am in theory one of thirty students representing that section of the student body but I'm not, I am one of 15. This is because there is an overwhelming apathy amongst students towards these elections, I imagine because very few people actual know what Union Parliament does. It's the job of the SU executive to increase awareness and turnout but given that our newly elected Campaigns and Involvements Sabb (the position under which this directly falls) responded to my anger when vented on Twitter by saying "haven't people had enough of elections anyway" (though he later confirmed to me that this was meant as a joke) I don't hold out much hope for the future of democracy at the University of Leicester.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Ladies First...?

I wasn't originally going to write a post about the Chris Huhne resignation for a few reasons, one being that it triggers in me an excess of anger towards an ex-wife who is clearly only interesting on inflicting pain on a man who left her (however justified that pain may be), another being yet more anger at certain newspapers' reporting of the incident which always seems to make reference to Huhne's new partners' sexuality as if it were a contributing factor to their infidelity. As it happens Carina Trimingham has decided to sue the publisher responsible and I fully congratulate her in doing so (the spelling mistake in that article's headline isn't The Independent's greatest moment!). The third reason is that the press and social media chatter, both before and after Kier Starmer's announcement that charges were to be brought, seemed to focus on what would happen if he was guilty whilst ignoring the fact that Huhne is innocent until proven guilty. I didn't think that the gender of his replacement would be the thing that made me change my mind about writing a post.

Well it isn't so much the fact that Ed Davey is male but the fact that this seems to anger some people. I must admit I have very little knowledge of Ed's work but as far as I can tell he has done a great job in his previous role and I can only hope he does the same in his new one but the criticisms of Nick Clegg for his "failure" to promote a woman to the Cabinet, such as those from Stonewall Chief Executive Ben Summerskill, are ridiculous. Worryingly some of the most vocal criticisms come from party supporters, liberalism is equal opportunity for all regardless of arbitrary distinction therefore jobs should be awarded on merit. If a deficit develops it is due to a lack of education and opportunity for that group or discrimination against it and these things need to be tackled at the root, not glossed over when it's too late. That is not to say that Jo Swinson and Lynne Featherstone, the women most mooted for the job, are not fantastic MPs and fantastic ministers because of course they are, Lynne is pretty much single-handedly pushing for gay marriage as I can't imagine Theresa May is a fan (but the less said about her opinions on Page 3 the better), but I don't believe they should be promoted just because they're women.

I have never believed in positive discrimination: it's an oxymoron for a start, putting the word 'positive' in front of a negative concept does not automatically make it a good thing, and also because in the 60 years of affirmative action in America there has been no fundamental change in ethnic minority representation at the highest levels (the reasons Barack Obama doesn't count are too numerous to list here). Anyway, surely all discrimination is positive? If one group is being discriminated against, surely that means there is discrimination in favour of another? I'm a white woman who grew up in a middle class family but whose parents are now divorced: I don't want to live in a country which values my gender above my ability but counts my skin colour against me. Are my childhood holidays in Africa counted against me because they clearly indicate a financially-stable family even though I get bursaries from my university because my dad left and took with him a large chunk of the family income? I'm a politics student who doesn't want to become an MP but if I did, I would want to fight to be selected by the party and elected by the people on the basis of my ability and my beliefs not existence of two X chromosomes and a comprehensive school education. The use of all-women shortlists by Labour implies that women are unable to be selected on merit and have to be given a helping hand and this implication spreads to all women, even those who weren't selected in this way.

There is no denying that there is a problem of representation for women, BME people, non-heterosexual people etc in places such as the House of Commons but artificially boosting their representation does not help tackle the fundamental social circumstances which create this deficit. Incidentally I'm not entirely sure that the House of Commons needs to be a direct microcosm of society, without sounding flippant I don't feel that my MP being male makes him unable to represent me (his position as a Labour Whip on the other hand does). Interestingly, men are under-represented in teaching at lower levels, by lower I mean nursery and junior schools, but no-one is advocating giving male applicants these jobs over women simply because they're men, the effort focuses on making young men more aware that teaching is an option available to them and encouraging them to train and apply. Why doesn't this same thinking apply to under-represented groups in politics or business? Why is positive discrimination called for?

The Liberal Democrat leadership programme is well intended, of our 57 MPs only four are openly gay, only 7 are women and probably most shamingly none are BME, but it is fundamentally pointless. We should be tackling the problem at the root, pushing for change to an education system which nudges boys into 'hard sciences' but girls towards English and away from engineering, in order to ensure change which not only creates a more equal society for the next generation but for all the generations that follow, not aiming to provide change which is purely cosmetic.

Change is needed but condemning and repressing straight, white men is not the way to do it. 

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Queen Takes Knight, but No Cheque

In the last seven days Labour have claimed two significant victories over the government with head of RBS Stephen Hester agreeing to waiver his almost £1million bonus and former head of RBS Fred Goodwin having his knighthood removed.

The hypocrisy of the Labour Party criticising the awarding of a bonus under a contract that they signed and celebrating the breaking of that contract did not escape the notice of many, the party of the people is well and truly dead, and the same goes for Fred Goodwin, it was Labour who recommended him the honour and Labour who led the populist-driven campaign to get it revoked. This isn’t so much a success for Labour as it is a failure of the government to stand up to popular pressure and by its convictions.

Whilst most people wouldn’t disagree with the idea that bonuses should be linked to performance rather than just a blanket entitlement, Stephen Hester’s contract stated he was allowed a bonus of £1.5million regardless. The bank’s directors decided this was inappropriate and chose to cut it by 40%, which is commendable, but no more because “they feel he has strengthened the bank, and they argue that Mr Hester is paid less than his peers". Mr Hester’s contract allowed him to receive that money; he shouldn’t have to give it up because the tide of public opinion – and the bandwagon-joining Labour Party – has decided he should be the poster boy for excessive executive pay. The government should have stood up to populism and argued that this bonus was his entitlement under his current contract but that they opposed the permissive bonus culture and used this case to push forward reforms to executive pay and public sector bonuses. Their handling, or mishandling, of the situation will be to Labour’s benefit.

The case with Fred Goodwin is remarkably similar. Few would choose to defend his actions in 2007 and early 2008 which contributed to the financial crisis but he was given a knighthood in 2004 for contributions to the financial services which, at that point, he presumably deserved. Honours have been retained by people who have committed much worse - and indeed more explicitly criminal - acts than Fred the Shred; Baron (Jeffrey) Archer of Weston-super-Mare springs immediately to mind. And however disliked Goodwin may be he hardly reaches up to the ranks of Robert Mugabe or Benito Mussolini, both of whom were stripped of their honours!

Whilst the rewards Goodwin and Hester received may be against the wishes of many, and indeed to possible direction of future government policy, by letting Labour appear to gain the upper hand the government has lost a vital opportunity to justify the need for reform and handed a points victory to Labour, whether they deserve it or not.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Total Recall?

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords finally stepped down today, triggering a special election to decide who will serve out the rest of her term. Since she was shot along with nineteen others, six of whom were killed, on January 8th 2011 she has only made one public appearance at a memorial service marking a year since the attack. Now I'm in no way saying I'm not sympathetic to this woman, I can only imagine the hell her and her family have been through over the last year, but I do truly believe she should have resigned a long time ago. As an elected official, her job is to represent her constituents and unfortunately she has been unable to do that, this basically means her constituents have been without adequate representation for over a year. While I'm sure no-one wanted to push her from her job and there was no law mandating she should step down I do think it would have been best for her constituents, and probably for her, if she had stepped down sooner. Given that her reasoning for the resignation was that she has more work to do on her recovery I don't see any justification for leaving it a year before doing so.


I understand the annoyance of having an absent elected official for over a year. Whilst Mrs Giffords had every reason for being unable to perform her duties over the last year, my ex-MP had no such excuse. During the 2009 expenses scandal it was discovered that Elliott Morley MP (Labour - Scunthorpe) had continued to claim his mortgage payments back from the taxpayer even though the mortgage had already been paid off, eventually he was found guilty of false accounting and being sentenced to 16 months in prison but not before claiming over £30,000 of taxpayers money. Instead of doing the decent thing and stepping down immediately he hung on for 12 months, stepping down at the 2010 election and thus retaining his full parliamentary pension, but kept away from the constituency as much as possible. For over a year our entire constituency had no effective representation because our MP was afraid, rightly so, of the reaction if he appeared in public. 

This is why I strongly support the Liberal Democrat policy of giving constituents the ability to recall their MPs. I wouldn't have advocated this route with Giffords, it would have been better if someone had persuaded her to step down off her own back, but with my MP I really wish our constituency could have forced a new election and I'm certain it would have fallen into the Lib Dem definition of who this would apply to.

"We would introduce a recall system so that constituents could force a by-election for any MP found guilty of serious wrongdoing."

The recall idea was debated in parliament this week with issues over the wording of the bill and possible unintended consequences being raised, Zac Goldsmith MP even argued that "the worst MP in the world" could escape the recall process. Its no great surprise that this bill is contentious and that debates are being had over the wording but it is an idea I truly believe in because I can't stand the idea that my MP was able to sit at home for a whole year, fighting off criminal charges, and leave us effectively unrepresented.

I mean recall elections in the United States led to Arnold Schwarzenegger becoming Governor of California. What could possibly go wrong?

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

The One Left Behind: My Thoughts On Defection

A few days ago Luke Bozier defected from Labour to the Conservative Party. He got a lot of stick about it on Twitter that he almost certainly didn't deserve, he has his own reasons for defecting and I'm sure it wasn't an easy decision, but this blog post isn't really about him. It is however what prompted it. 

I had first hand experience of defection a lot sooner than most political folk; I started campaigning for Neil, my local Lib Dem PPC and the only Lib Dem on our local council, in October 2009 but within a month of the 2010 election he was the newest Conservative Party councilor. We did okay in the general election, increasing our share of the vote from 2005 but still coming in third which wasn't a surprise given we were competing in a northern steel town with Labour incumbents since 1979 and a large number of villages on the constituency fringes meaning the Conservatives are the only viable challengers. That, added to the rather small number of local activists, meant we were never going to win but I was pleased with what we managed to achieve.

5 weeks after the election I received an email saying Neil had decided to leave the Liberal Democrat party. No mention of defection. I thought perhaps he couldn't approve of the Coalition government and assumed he would continue as an independent councillor. Not only did that prove to be wrong, he didn't even bother to tell us himself that he was defecting across to the Tories, I read it two days later in the newspaper. My original feeling was anger, that he didn't tell me himself, that we ran a whole campaign against the Tories then suddenly he's one of them, but as time went on I got less angry and just don't understand. 

I know a lot of politicians go from being members of one political party at university to representing an entirely different one in the House of Commons, anyone who reads this blog knows I'm a massive fan of Chris Bryant who was a member of the Conservative Party at university, and I understand that the political views you hold as a teenager are almost certainly not the political views you have as an adult but I cannot understand someone who suddenly defects later in life and seeks to justify it as something other than a move for their career. 

One thing I hated was the treatment Neil got after he defected, I didn't agree with what he did but he didn't deserve the abuse he got. I went to the first council meeting after the move and got chatting to the LibDem PPC for the neighbouring constituency (who also lost) outside when he asked me if I was joining the protest. I didn't know there was a protest going on so decided to sit on the opposite side of the chamber to avoid being involved in what turned out to be a lot of shouting and the unfurling of a 'Judas' banner. Somehow the PPC who couldn't be bothered to turn up to his own election night vote count, choosing instead to go on a pre-booked holiday without telling anyone and leaving us to deal with press questions, thought he was in a position to claim the moral high ground.

I've blogged before on the divisions within the Liberal Democrats and I can see from the people I follow on Twitter that they aren't 100% happy with the direction of the party in coalition; they either worry about the possible loss of our social democratic commitments or they aren't happy with the strength of our commitment to economic liberalism. These debates are had regularly, almost daily in fact, but always with both sides making valid points and refraining (at least in public) from petty name calling. All in all both sides agree to disagree but stay in the party, working from within to rebuild the party in an image they want through keeping up dialogue and the formation of groups such as the Social Liberal Forum.

Leaving a party because it no longer resembles the one you joined, as was Luke Bozier's excuse, is lazy: stick around and fight for what you believe in because no-one else is going to do it for you.

You picked that party for a reason so stick with it. It might not be quick and it sure as hell won't be easy but I for one will respect you a hell of a lot more for it.