Friday, February 26, 2016


A #LibDemValues Vs Other Parties Rorschach Test

A quick test. Read this paragraph – which other parties is it implicitly opposing?

Government should be about freedom from poverty. Governments shouldn’t protect the interests of the already powerful and wealthy, and sneer at, snatch from and push down people working to make a life for themselves, or those who aren’t able to support themselves. Government should be about freedom from ignorance. Governments shouldn’t assume it can do everything, control everyone, as long as you take what you’re given and don’t ask awkward questions when paternalist leaders claim they always know best and ignore the evidence. Government should be about freedom from conformity. Governments shouldn’t tell you that nation is the only thing that matters about you, exclude ‘outsiders’ and shout ‘traitor’ at anyone who doesn’t want their flag cut smaller, narrower and meaner.

How I Wrote For Agenda 2020

The Liberal Democrats are in the middle of an “Agenda 2020” consultation about the party’s values. As part of this, they ran an essay competition to sum up in one thousand words what it means to be a Liberal Democrat. I entered, as did my husband Richard, and we were both shortlisted from the sixty-odd entrants for the nine finalists put to public vote. Though the vote’s now closed, you can still read all the essays here. There’s another exciting consultation session coming up at the Conference in York in a fortnight.

Anyone familiar with my level of productivity – the length of time it takes me to get anything written, and also the length of text once I’m done – will be unsurprised to learn that I left writing my entry until quite late, then didn’t like what I’d written, then wrote it again from scratch a couple of days later, and then found myself with something I was happier with, but which was also a little over one thousand seven hundred words. On the afternoon of the deadline.

My final entry was in some ways an improvement on the larger draft – less repetitive, and more powerful in combining some ideas – but as I lopped more and more out of it in increasingly desperate haste, it did lose some elements altogether, which inevitably changed its tone and weakened the message. At some point I might write a version that brings some of those bits back in, but for now I’ve simply presented you with one previously deleted paragraph above. The only other person who read my long draft thought it was the best bit. So why did I cut it?

What I Aimed For (and why that paragraph didn’t fit)

I set myself several tasks in writing the essay beyond ‘What the Liberal Democrats should be if I were their god-emperor’. Not least because we don’t, as a rule, believe god-emperors are a good thing. So I wanted a statement of belief that not just fired me up but which I thought most other Liberal Democrats would agree with at least most of, too. And I wanted something that could clearly explain and inspire people outside the Lib Dems to try Liberalism. I’m sick of people saying, ‘Oh, you Liberals, you’re too reasonable, you don’t feel strongly about anything’, or ‘Oh, you’re just about feelings, you don’t live in the real world,’ both of which I will politely refute on the doorstep (rather than swearing at the f***wits in the towering rage they deserve), so I aimed to counter both of those loads of old b****cks, for example. And some of it was a reaction to things other Lib Dems had said we stood for, where I thought, ‘Not me, matey’. But amongst all the other things I wanted to do in a thousand words – possibly why it got to nearly twice that – I told myself, as I always do when I try to express what the Lib Dems stand for, that I had to be positive. We hardly ever get any time to say what Liberal Democrat values positively are, so why on Earth waste time just saying what’s wrong with the others instead?

And that’s why the paragraph above had to go. Although it was a sort of judo-statement, illustrating Lib Dem principles by overthrowing other parties in turn, and even though it didn’t name them, it still stood out as knocking copy in an essay that should have been positively Liberal Democrat.

[By this stage, readers who read all nine of the shortlisted essays will almost certainly be able to deduce which essay was mine, and also which essay I would have given ninth preference to. It’s a shame we didn’t get to vote for them all in order of preference, as there were none of them I was entirely happy with but eight I would be fairly happy with. I did consider fisking each of them, but I thought that might have come over as a ‘vote for me’, which we were asked not to do – though I’d also have fisked mine, having written it and knowing its flaws, and even Richard’s, which I found the most inspiring.]

Which leaves the one last question about that paragraph: which parties did you assume each line was overthrowing in turn? Because I reckon two are pretty unambiguous, but the other… I deliberately wrote it so you could infer more than one ‘enemy’, because it was an attack on a particular sort of philosophy, not on just one party that enslaves people to that philosophy. Even so, one party was flashing like a neon light in my head. But when the only other person who’s read it until now told me that was the best bit, he also named the kicking I gave to a different party as particularly satisfying. So, out of interest, who was it for you?

A Note On Health

Regular readers will have noticed that my blogging has been even worse than usual – especially and embarrassingly as I’d set myself explicit targets, so you can spot each one that goes by. It’s not just a lack of blogging mojo (though that always comes up). On top of all my usual long-term health problems which are permanent and quality-of-life-sapping fixtures, I’ve had a chest infection for two months now that just will not shift. I can cope with my usual asthma, but persistently finding it difficult to breathe makes all sorts of things rather difficult. And because when my physical ill health is especially low I easily pick up bonus problems, suffice to say I’ve been picking up several bonus problems. So at the moment I don’t know if I’ll be able to get to York, nor even if I do so (as with several previous conferences) whether I’ll spend most of it keeled over in our hotel room. But in the hope of minimum functionality, I hope to see some of you there.

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Cameron’s Plan To Slash Democracy – MPs Down, Lords Up

A question to ask Mr Cameron today:
“How is your plan to cut 50 MPs but add 40 Lords a/ democratic or b/ money-saving?”
Four years ago, Liberal Democrats, Labour and Conservatives all promised to make the House of Lords elected – but Labour and Tories teamed up to stop the changes. That’s why voters still can’t hold peers to account or throw them out. Today, the news breaks that the Prime Minister wants to stuff the Lords with forty new cronies at the same time as slashing the number of MPs (for whom we get to vote) by fifty.

The House of Lords already has hundreds more members than the House of Commons – and all Lords have seats for as long as they want them, usually for life. Personally, I’d give more power to the regions and only then cut MPs’ numbers once there’s less work for them to do, but anyone who thinks democracy matters at all can see Mr Cameron’s plan is the wrong way round.

There should be no cuts to the Commons until the Lords is cut to the same size, and no more unelected peers appointed at all if the Parliamentarians we can at least theoretically vote to get rid of are being removed.

The Tories claim they want to “cut the cost of politics,” but this isn’t about reducing the numbers of politicians – just swapping out fifty MPs for nearly as many new Lords instead. The difference is, even after the Tories do their best to choose which voters are put into which constituency boundaries to try and get as many Tories elected as they possibly can, they’re still scared to death that voters can still choose not to vote Tory after all. So now they plot to just stop us pesky voters from getting in their way. That’s why Mr Cameron plans to swap MPs who voters have power over for Tory crony nodding dogs in the Lords – who no voter has ever had a say on.

One to file under ‘You couldn’t make it up’ (but now the Tories have absolute power on a third of the vote they think they can get away with anything).

Sourced from today’s The Times Red Box bulletin:
In for a peerage

“Yesterday we had news of David Cameron's plan to cut the number of MPs from 650 to 600 to help to ‘cut the cost of politics’.

“Today comes an extraordinary story in The Times [paywall] about how Downing Street is preparing to create up to 40 new peers after the EU referendum.

“Sam Coates reports that it means the PM will be able to reward supporters of the Remain campaign, while trying to prevent embarrassing defeats in the upper chamber.

“Legally all such stories must include this fact: The Lords is already the second biggest legislature in the world, after the Chinese politburo.

“And there was me thinking Cameron wanted to take back powers from an unelected, unaccountable elite who threaten the supremacy of British democracy.”

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