Sunday, 16 August 2015

I am a social conservative.

Last night, during a Facebook messenger conversation with a friend, I got called a Tory. Twice. 

I don't think that I've been called a Tory since the 20th May 2014 when a Guardian reading, small-l "liberal", semi-detached Victorian Townhouse dwelling man declined my canvass approach and told me to "stick it up your Tory arse." 

Charming. What a command of the language. 

Anyway, as someone who is categorically not a Tory, I took offence at my friends suggestion. Well, you would, wouldn't you? 

It was OK, though... because what my friend meant was "not a Tory in the political sense". I didn't know there was any other sense, but they explained further by saying I was "a social conservative". 

Reader, I am not sure this is any better. 

Had my correspondent described me as "socially conservative", then this would possibly have been accurate. Like most people, I am a creature of my upbringing which was, indeed, socially conservative. I don't drink in excess, I don't do drugs, I don't have tattoos (although I have had piercings), I like home comforts and I'm not particularly impulsive.* 

There are, though, ways in which I am not socially conservative: I have no particular desire to "get on the housing ladder", I eschew having a doctor even when on one level I know that is something a man my age should have sorted and any previous thoughts of coupling and settling down have long since gone by the wayside. 

In fact, on this last, I get incredibly annoyed at society's expectation of this being the "norm" and that there is something wrong with those who don't, either through circumstance or conscious decision. 

To suggest, because I may appear to be socially conservative in light of my own life circumstances and choices, that this means I am a social conservative is wrong. 

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. 

I am a Liberal - and want people to be free to live their lives as *they* see fit. And if that means marriage, kids and a two-up, two-down, then fine. But if it means an open relationship, or a polygamous relationship, or giving it all up and living in a camper-van, or anything else, then that's fine too. As long as they're not harming others, then 'tevs (as I'm told the young people say). 

And I want a society where people are free to be as open (or not) about all these things and more. 

I am not a social conservative. I'm a Liberal who happens, most of the time, to be socially conservative in his behaviour. 

I hope I've cleared that up. 


*some of these things are due to psychological factors - but that's not what this is about.

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Sunday, 19 July 2015

Sunday Sounds 80 - Summertime

Presented without commentary - this speaks for itself.

Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong - Summertime



Saturday, 18 July 2015

It's a Sin

The answer to this question is... not relevant.

As an evangelical Christian, his private position is almost certainly that the act is sinful, not the inclination. Christ hates the sin, but loves the sinner. I know this, as it used to be what I believed.

But whatever, he can't say that - it sounds trite and patronising.

And it's not relevant.

Tim Farron's personal views on sin are - and should remain - his own. Sin is not a concept recognised in law, nor should it play a part in political debate. Sadly, Cathy Newman chose to concentrate on this, rather than issues such as Welfare changes, Greece, Syria (on which she spent 40 seconds) or any one of a number of issues that could have yielded more information on the tone our new leader will set.

And if you're going to fixate on someone's personal views on sexuality, the question should be "If you believe that homosexuality is sinful, how will this affect your policy positions."

It's true that there have been concerns over Tim's voting record - and it's obvious that his desire to ensure some protections for those religious organisations that oppose Same-Sex Marriage did cause him to be less enthusiastic than I would have liked our (then) Party President to have been.

But a quick look at They Work For You reveals that as well voting for the second reading of the Marriage Bill, he has also separately (subsequent to having been absent at the third reading) voted to allow same-sex marriage for armed forces personal.

So his own view on whether or not gay sex is sinful has not actually stopped him voting in favour of same-sex marriage.

He has, of course, expressed concern over whether Christians and other religions were adequately protected by the Same-Sex Marriage act. This is his stated reason for absenting himself from the third reading - which he says he now regrets.

It was similar concerns that led him to vote against the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations in 2008. 

Now, we may take different views on these things - but how to balance the competing needs for protection of minorities in our society are legitimate areas of debate; and legitimate areas of concern for Liberals. We must always ensure that in correcting one wrong, we do not create another. Judgements on these things will vary, of course, but the principle is sound.

The fixation on his views on sexuality are a side-show, just as much as the sexual preferences of an unmarried public figure would be, or whether a female politician has had a family.

We cry out for politicians from every walk of life, with differing backgrounds and interests - and then we decry them when they step outside of the model that suits the intellectual, small-l liberal elites. Sometimes with good reason (David Tredinnick) and sometimes not.

Tim has been elevated to be leader, not vicar; to the platform, not the pulpit. I expect him to motivate, not moralise and deliver speeches not sermons.

I expect the press and media to continue to fixate on this issue for a while  and there's a sense in which there is no good answer - a "yes" would cause furore, a "no" would seem inconsistent with his professed faith. I hope Tim gets better at answering - perhaps not by calling us all sinners. Beyond that, I look forward to a gradual return to focusing on substantive issues such as the EU, Housing and rebuiliding our party as a Liberal voice for a liberal country.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

The Leadership Contest – Why I kept quiet and who I voted for

This afternoon, the new leader of the Liberal Democrats will be announced. 

Spoiler: My vote was for Tim Farron.

Not a lot of people know that, as I have been quiet on the matter: not just here, but also on social media where I tend to do more writing these days when I occasionally get dragged into a debate on some contentious issue or other.

And, in some ways, there have been contentious elements to this election campaign. Not from the candidates, but from some of those around them. Thankfully, this has (by and large) played out in closed groups on Facebook rather than as a pitched battle in the wider media.

Of course, after an election in which we garnered just 8 % of votes and were left with just 8 MPs, there has been less media interest that there might otherwise have. Whilst the Labour Party candidates will have multiple TV hustings – our coverage has been comfined to just one slot on the Victoria Derbyshire programme, individual appearances on Question Time and Any Questions and a smattering of profiles and endorsements in The New Statesman, Economist, and the Guardian and Independent group newspapers.

The reason for my quietness was simple: as a local Membership Officer dealing with hundreds of new members, I did not wish to be seen to be taking sides. So I opted early on to play a neutral role – in members' newsletters and in our Facebook group, I sought to present both candidates equally. In personal conversations I would be more open – I wasn’t keeping it a complete secret – but would be at pains to present the relative merits and drawbacks of both candidates.

And they do both have merit – Norman Lamb is an astute, measured, principled man to whom I am probably closer politically. His role in putting mental health issues on the agenda in government, in the party and, indeed, in the election campaign should never be understated. His advocacy of assisted dying and reform of drug policy are also key issues on which we agree – and which the Liberal Democrats should be seizing whilst carving out liberal electoral ground for ourselves. In a world where there is a perception of little or no difference between parties, such policies stand out.

But, of course, policy is made by conference based either on motions submitted by members and local parties or papers proposed by the Federal Policy Committee. Whilst the leader can influence priorities and prominence, he (or, at some future point, she) cannot determine it – and, indeed, Norman was largely reflecting party positions in his pronouncements.

Tim’s strengths are in presentation and motivation. As Party President he spent years seeking to enthuse members and rally the troops in difficult circumstances. His down to earth, no-nonsense style resonates with members and the public alike. Where Norman is quiet and thoughtful, Tim is more of a rabble rouser.

And that was the key for my decision. Ultimately we need someone who can make the most of the limited opportunities that we will have in the Commons and the Media – and who will engage and encourage the membership. Tim’s livewire approach is, for me, the one that is most likely to succeed.
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Tuesday, 17 March 2015


Yesterday, The Sunday Mirror published an interview with Norman Lamb, which focused on the experiences of his son: both with mental illness and drugs. Whilst this had been published with the consent of Mr Lamb and his family, it is clear to me that he was bounced into it. 

Whilst he's never made a secret that one of the drivers of his campaigning on the subject - pushing it up the agenda of both government and Lib Dem policy - was family experience, he had never been so specific before. Indeed, when he mentioned his son's problems in a conference fringe event on Saturday night (ahead of publication of the article on Sunday) this was the first time he had mentioned done so in public.

The publication of the article inspired me to start a hashtag on Twitter, which was picked up by Lib Dem Voice and a number of others on Twitter. I'll let the Storify take it from there:

P.S. Following publication of the Storify, and promoting it on Twitter, I received notification of this Tweet, which was gratifying!