Friday, 12 January 2018

On Nigel Farage and a deal referendum

Two posts on consecutive days? That's not something that's happened for a long time! Although this is, essentially, a re-hash of some thoughts I posted on Twitter earlier.

There was much excitement amongst "Remain"* campaigners today when Nigel Farage announced he was beginning to come round to the idea of a second^ referendum. His thinking being that a second** "leave" win would kill off any further thoughts of re-entering the Union "for a generation". On this last point he is right - just as it took dissenters^^ from the 1975 result over a generation to reverse that decision.

(Of course, for all his talk of the finality of the 2016 vote - the day democracy stopped, folks - we know that his campaign would have continued had the result gone the other way by, well, by any margin.)

Anyway, lots of people jumped on this news - arch remainers*** Ian Dunt, AC Grayling and Nick Clegg, amongst others, made hay whilst the Lib Dem Press Team and prominent spokespeople went to town on the news.

But why? Or, at least, why the lack of trepidation?

I mean, it's not as if Farage hasn't a record of being disingenuous, is it?

Now, I know that the polls are showing a lead for remain over leave now - and that is welcome, as far as it goes. But for the majority of the population, the matter is settled, so the question is considered moot. If it were to be reopened, whether on the nature of the deal agreed or otherwise, the numbers would rapidly change - and the narrative and tone of debate would be even worse than before.

Now, this isn't intended as a council of despair - but it is intended as a dose of realism. It's also not intended as an argument against having a deal referendum. That's a policy I support, albeit I would have liked the party to have also adopted a line that categorically said election of a Lib Dem majority government^^^ prior to actually leaving would be a mandate to reverse the process. Would such a policy have made a difference at the last election? I doubt it, but I'm not about to second guess when the next election may be, the role Brexit may or may not have in that, or the outcome.

No, I support the policy on the pragmatic grounds, outlined in part in this exchange:

Put simply, I think the restoration and exercise of Parliamentary Sovereignty followed by the throwing out of Brexit would plunge this country into a much greater level of turmoil than another referendum. I'm not suggesting war, but there would be substantial civil unrest and political instability. In addition, the forces of xenophobia, Islamophobia and racism (not to mention other forms of hate and discrimination) that the Brexit vote has given licence to would then be unleashed in a way we have not seen in a century.

So, back to Farage. He has his own agenda, and we ought to be very, very careful in the way we react to his pronouncements. Rather than reacting with glee, his words should give us pause.

*One of the things I bitterly, bitterly despair about is the way Brexit colours *everything* in our political debate, and huge swathes of people identify, or are identified as, "Remainers" or "Leavers" without either side seeking to engage with the other. There is a lot of speaking in echo chambers, or slinging mud, insults, sneers and jeers at the "other side" and not a lot of anything constructive. And, before anyone else says it, I don't consider consider myself blameless in this regard, although I do try to avoid sneering: that's just not a pleasant, or Liberal, thing to do.

^Shorthand. I prefer to call it a deal referendum. Or "a first referendum on the facts." But as far as a choice between staying in or leaving the EU/EC is concerned, we've had two of those already.

**in short order.

^^Farage himself would have been only 11 at the time when 67% of those who voted opted to secure a brighter future for themselves and future generations.

***Gah, even I'm doing it now.

^^^I know, I know.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

A few words on Tim Farron.

(Note: This wasn't meant to be a post - I merely intended a few words on my Facebook page, and repeat of the LGBT+ Lib Dem line... but it sort of grew arms and legs.

Tim's been at it again - picking at the scab which never quite healed following his failure to give a good response to Cathy Newman on Channel 4 News on his day after election as leader.

Having defended Tim, despite his unpreparedness for the question then (and, as it transpired, continued unpreparedness in 2017), his repeated pronouncements since (beginning with his resignation statement) have become increasingly frustrating.

When. You're. In. A. Hole. Stop. Digging.

Especially when it has an impact on others, who are busy trying to climb out of that hole.

I still like Tim*, but every time he pulls this sort of stunt it becomes harder to do so.

I had hoped that Tim could play a role in the recuperation of the party's reputation. He seemed to have found his mojo again on social media, and could have continued to be an asset on the telly, particularly the softer media opportunities which Vince may not be so cut out for.

But now he really needs to take a break from Making. Pronouncements. Whether on the issue of gay sex, or the nature of Liberalism, a period of quiet is now well overdue.

Today's video caused much anguish on the LGBT+ Lib Dem exec: particularly as we had had his back during the General Election. There is a distinct feeling that this is not the way to pay us back. (This is putting it mildly. Some of my colleagues might not be so polite as I.)

Accompanying Tim's statement comes a fresh media circus.

Lib Dems in the headlines! Hurrah.

For all the wrong reasons. Boo.

LGBT+ Lib Dems were asked for contributors on LBC - including on Nick Ferrari's show tomorrow a.m.. No one was available for interview, but we did issue a line - composed by yours truly and intended to be diplomatic and brief, but also pointed:

"Tim speaks for himself and has no brief for the Liberal Democrats on these matters. LGBT+ Lib Dems represent members of all faiths and none, and campaigns for equal rights for all, irrespective of their personal morality."

The not so subtle message?: We're campaigning for your rights, Tim, please don't undermine us when we do so.

*this is because I couldn't give two hoots as to whether he thinks gay sex is sinful.

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Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Recommendations Sought: Women Authors

I still need to do a proper New Year post but in the meantime, I have a favour to ask: recommendations for women authors.

One of my (as yet to be finalised) aims for this year is not just to keep up my reading, but to increase the number of books by female writes I read.

To put this in perspective, and because I'm sad enough to have kept track, last year I completed 44 books. Of these, 28 were by men, 15 by women and 1 was an anthology; in percentage terms this breaks down as 64%, 34% and 2%. When it comes to different authors, I read books by 19 male authors and just 6 different female authors - a 73% to 23% split. (The difference is down to the fact that I'm reading (listening to) a number of book series, including the Miss Marple and Ripley books.)

So, this year, a supplementary aim to that of reading 40 books is to achieve gender balance overall, and to improve that secondary split as well.

There are a number of good candidates already on my list - but I've always operated on the basis that a book list can never be too long...

P.S. If you want to see more of my book reading habits, you'll find my goodreads page here.

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Sunday, 17 December 2017

Sunday Sounds 82 - One Way Or Another

Now that Sunday Sounds is back, one way or another I'm going to try and post every week:

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

My 2017 in 775 words

As the year wends its way towards its denouement, I find myself in a position of feeling really hopeful and confident for the future, moreso than I can remember for a long time. This might have felt odd, considering that for much of the year I was in a bit of funk; professionally and politically, if not personally. But as we reach the end of 2017, things really do seem to be looking up – and I feel much more able to grab the opportunities that present themselves.

Indeed, I feel like I’m generally – and literally – walking taller these days. (I’ve lost a bit of weight, and I’ve sought to improve my posture.) As various things have fallen into place, this has become easier – although it brings with it a paranoia that my trousers are not long enough for my stretched-out frame.

Professionally, I am in the situation of moving jobs. Again. My current role, which (by coincidence) I started a year ago today, didn’t pan out in the way I’d hoped, and I reached the conclusion that I was better to move on than try and make a silk purse out of what had become a sow’s ear. I wondered, as I have before, whether I just needed out of Financial Services, and I explored some other options However, in the end I got an offer from another company with which I was happy. Having spent last Friday with my new colleagues at their Christmas do, I am confident that this new company will be a much better fit for me.

That said, a good thing to have come out of my current tenure has been the sitting – and passing – of two more CII exams. One of these helps towards the “gap fill” required to upgrade my existing Diploma in Financial Planning to the newer Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning standard. Both contribute towards the learning path to the Advanced Diploma – and I now only need three modules to complete that. So that’s what I’ll be doing during the OU holidays over the next few years! (Gaining a distinction in my first OU module was another highlight of the year.)

The alternative jobs I alluded to above were both with local Lib Dem parties – in Organiser roles. These would have entailed a complete change in lifestyle, and possibly location. (Un)fortunately I failed to get either of these – on reflection I think that’s for the best.

Which brings me on the political aspect of life. It’s been a busy year – with two election campaigns in which I was relatively heavily involved. Neither of these were successful – and the national picture arising out of the General Election was depressing as well. The ongoing backdrop of Brexit has been wearing – and I fear that it will be for a long time to come.

But adversity is grist to the Lib Dem’s mill, and I never quite gave up. As we approach the new year, I really do feel like my campaigning mojo is on its way back: the party may have a mountain to climb but I am ready to help. And ready to help lead too… Finally, two and half years after downloading the application pack, I recently completed the process to become an approved candidate for the party. This means I can now apply to selections for parliamentary candidates. There are many aspects of the role that I will need to work on and develop but I recognise what those are and will be addressing accordingly. In the meantime, I will continue with activity in my local ward, constituency and city. I also want to give more time and energy to the LGBT+ Lib Dems, and have taken on the Secretary’s role for 2018.

Going through the experiences of this year has really helped me personally: I feel like I have grown more self-aware, and that the votes of confidence (being offered a job on the spot in the interview, and passing the approvals process) have really perked me up. I’m also lucky to have an understanding housemate with whom to talk things through, and seek second opinions on when doubts set in.

More broadly, my personal life is the best it’s been in years – debt accumulated over my late 20s and 30s has all but been eliminated, bringing about a much better quality of life with regular trips to concerts, comedy gigs, and sporting events, and Glastonbury. A large network of friends, both within the party and outside, is also appreciated, even if I don’t always say so.

There is much else I could say but I’m going to stop at a round 775 words.

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