Wednesday, May 06, 2015

The Dungeon Dimension and voting Liberally 

My parents lives gave me a lot to think about. Profoundly glad that I have had nothing like this to contend with personally, but fears for my son's future as the voices of the 'Dungeon Dimension' become louder in Britain today.
My mother was Lithuanian. She experienced life under both Stalin and Hitler. Active in the anti-Nazi resistance, then a refugee fleeing the Soviet advance. In the last years of WW2 she was a slave labourer on a German farm. When my dad met her she still had the marks of whippings visible on her back.

My father was Welsh, trained as a commando, served as a frontline engineer. He was one of the liberators of Belsen. His job was to count the dead and bury them. The figures on the mounds at Belsen first appeared on my Dads clip-board. He has a claim to be the man who buried Anne Frank.

They had to deal with terrible events, as best they could. To make a positive difference however small and futile it may seem
Things I learnt from their experiences. If you do not take an interest in what is happening around you, someone else will - and you may not like what they decide. So need to get engaged with political processes knowing that what happens will be imperfect.

Secondly, both self-styled right and left wing political movements (and indeed all stations in between) are capable of massive injustice and excuses for inflicting pain. This comes from treating people as objects to be manipulated. So for me the important thing is to recognise that each human is individual, important for being themselves not as representatives of some dehumanised abstraction.
In his discworld books Terry Pratchett evokes the concept of the Dungeon Dimension. When the voices whisper, a ruinous confusion threatens the world. In my pessimistic moments I fear that these whispers are becoming clearer in the politics of 2015, and may persuade enough people to deny each others humanity to face my son with the kind of world my parents had to endure.

The little I can do for him and his generation now includes voting for the political combination I feel most fundamentally upholds liberty.  We are not perfect in the LibDems, but for me we have the best combination of imperfections going. And I think we are at home with freedom.

The Dungeon Dimension cannot be thwarted except by each of us taking on our own responsibilities however small and by supporting others who show they share the same commitment to individuals , wherever they may be standing on various other issues.

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Just a quick note on Ryan's monthly appeal for funds on LibDem Blogs.

Ryan has set that blog collector so that if he does not get sufficient monthly contributions access to the blog is barred. A page comes up saying that unless sufficient monies come in to a very tight deadline the whole site will be wiped.

It is possible that not many users of the LD Blogs site have seen this as on the last two occasions I have wanted access to site material so quickly I personally paid off the outstanding arrears. So the warning message was not up for long and you, gentle LD Blogs user, may not be aware of how tight things were.

But like Ryan I am not in a position to do this month by month.

Can I gently suggest that other site users take a turn this (and subsequent) months?

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Monday, January 06, 2014

How well grounded is our Jobs and Europe theme? 

Well it is good that the party is gearing up for a pro-Europe stand in the Euro elections.

Disappointing however that Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander have been specifically mentioned in the Full Fact 'New Years resolution' pages for basing policy arguments on unsubstantiated claims.

Perhaps the longest-running 'zombie claim' we've seen is the notion that three million British jobs rely directly upon the UK's involvement in the EU. There is no research to support this, as we pointed out over two years ago when we first came across the claim, which itself dates back a decade. At best, there are three million jobs which are connected to trade with European countries, which may or may not continue to exist if Britain were to leave the EU (although even this relies upon research described as "past [its] sell-by date" by the organisation which conducted the study).
We haven't exactly been shy in pointing out this error. We've written to Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander after both Lib Dem front-benchers repeated the claim following our rebuttal. We highlighted its inaccuracy on the BBC's Today programme in August. So it was particularly disappointing to see the Deputy Prime Minister again use the figure inaccurately when he stood in for David Cameron at Prime Minister's Questions earlier this month.
I do hope our campaign materials will be grounded on something less easy to attack.

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

The marriage tax break embarrasment 

OK we LibDems have got something we want - more funding to support families with children in their earlier years.  The price to pay for us is our MPs having to support the Tory dream of a 'Marriage Tax Break'.

Time to prepare for the justifiable derision about to be unloaded on that proposal.

Back in the 2010 Election J.K.Rowling delivered a withering analysis of the small tax break idea which will no doubt be repeated gleefully shortly.

How can we help our MPs deal with the nose-holding they will have to do under Coalition duties?

Rowling said:

"Maybe you know people who would legally bind themselves to another human being, for life, for an extra £150 a year? Perhaps you were contemplating leaving a loveless or abusive marriage, but underwent a change of heart on hearing about a possible £150 tax break? Anything is possible; but somehow, I doubt it. Even Mr Cameron seems to admit that he is offering nothing more than a token gesture when he tells us "it's not the money, it's the message. 
Nobody who has ever experienced the reality of poverty could say "it's not the money, it's the message". When your flat has been broken into, and you cannot afford a locksmith, it is the money. When you are two pence short of a tin of baked beans, and your child is hungry, it is the money. When you find yourself contemplating shoplifting to get nappies, it is the money. If Mr Cameron's only practical advice to women living in poverty, the sole carers of their children, is "get married, and we'll give you £150", he reveals himself to be completely ignorant of their true situation. 
Half a billion pounds, to send a message - would it not be more cost-effective, more personal to send all the lower-income married people flowers?"


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Friday, November 09, 2012

On the importance of proper GOTV training 

Seems that a certain Governor Romney had one or two problems on Tuesday.  Not least in his get-out-the-vote operation.
Read this story and never complain again about all those e-mails urging key activist to get thorough CONNECT training.

Mitt Romney's 'Project ORCA' Was A Total Disaster, And It May Have Cost Him The Election

John Ekdahl, Business Insider webpages 8 November.

ORCA seems to be the equivalent of CONNECT. The Republicans tried to implement an entirely new system without trial runs and with most of the actual volunteer operators only getting crucial information the day before polling.

Ekdahl says:

From the very start there were warning signs. After signing up, you were invited to take part in nightly conference calls. The calls were more of the slick marketing speech type than helpful training sessions. There was a lot of "rah-rahs" and lofty talk about how this would change the ballgame.
Working primarily as a web developer, I had some serious questions. Things like "Has this been stress tested?", "Is there redundancy in place?" and "What steps have been taken to combat a coordinated DDOS attack or the like?", among others. These types of questions were brushed aside (truth be told, they never took one of my questions). They assured us that the system had been relentlessly tested and would be a tremendous success.

Turned out they were good questions.

Result, so the story claims, 30,000 Romney campaign volunteers across the USA stranded with nothing to do all day.

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Power to the Limping Buff Orpingtons? 

What is going on in the deaf community? And what can deaf Liberal Democrats do to help more people participate in politics? And if Mark Pack needs more examples of the power of social media today look at the sudden emergence of the Limping Chicken website.

This is how the new website explains its odd name

Earlier this month, BBC3 broadcast a documentary about five deaf teenagers. In one scene, a university note-taker told a deaf student that she couldn’t take notes for the whole lecture because “my chicken is ill.”

The note-taker’s only fault was being too honest (read this blog in her defence) but nevertheless, those words sparked an online craze in the deaf world, with social networking sites being overrun by jokes, spoof images and tribute videos about her chicken within just a few hours of the programme going out.

Those words hit a nerve because they reminded deaf people everywhere of both how random and frustrating deaf life can be. ‘Chickengate’ not only revealed the common ground deafies share, but also just how connected we are online. So this site was named in the chicken’s honour. Let’s hope its trip to the vet was successful.

We can ponder on the speed of that response and how other events in the future might change the ground game on an issue.

As for the Limping Chicken itself I do recommend you have a look at it. Already there are stories up which may surprise hearing people. For deaf Liberal Democrats like myself, could some of us make useful contributions, not necessarily political. And for all of us, are there points raised on which we could and should take action?

LibDem council groups for example may find the comments on the uselessness of some interpreter services to local authorities of vital current interest. And if they don’t know about the services offered by DeafWorks, here is an opportunity to find out.

Specifically for our own party, how do we make it easier for deaf people to participate? Interpreters at major conferences are great. But so much vital business is done informally, backstage, in small meetings or even in pubs.

If we were an autocratic party with conference goers basically sheep to be bleated at, this might matter less. But our party at its best is not like that. For my part I have given up on going to regional or national conferences as I can get so little done of any value in all the multiples of noise.

I don’t have a back-pocket solution to this. It would be interesting to discuss the problem however. The stories in the Limping Chicken provide a new expression of the narrative of deaf life in Britain. I suggest this can help all of us to define what we need to tackle.

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On the uselessness of some interpreter services I should have made this link attacking some council one-stop shopping arrangements more prominent.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Thatcher funeral games 

Why are we discussing the possibility of a State Funeral for Mrs Thatcher? Such things are not part of our historic treatment of the Heads of Government in the UK. And according to the political editor of the Daily Telegraph the innovation in this case risks insulting and belittling many patriotic citizens.

Peter Osborne wrote in his blog

Clem Attlee was deputy prime minister during the Second World War, and went on to lead the Labour government which founded the National Health Service and created the modern welfare state. He was mourned at a quiet funeral at Temple Church near Westminster. Harold Macmillan was put to rest at a small service near his Sussex home.

Such modesty does not suit our self-aggrandising modern politicians.

For my part I note that the idea of a State Funeral arose during the Premiership of Gordon Brown which was when the back-stage discussions started. I wonder if Brown had ulterior motives in this – making troubles for David Cameron for example.

Peter Osborne explains why the whole idea might backfire

On (December 20th) David Farham, a former miner, had a letter published in his local newspaper, The Shields Gazette. He wrote:

“I am proud to say I was on strike for 12 months in the 1984-5 strike, when Thatcher used the full might of [the] state to defeat us. I would stand on a picket line now if it would prevent her having a state funeral. She had a near-pathological hatred of trade unions, and referred to us as the 'enemy within’, but what did we do that was so treacherous? We struck to prevent pit closures and protect jobs – with disastrous consequences. Look at the ghost towns of former pit villages which she left devastated."

Osborne says he takes the view that Thatcher was right to do what she did even with the consequences so dire. But

Mr Farham – who accurately states in his letter that there are “hundreds of thousands like me” – has every right to believe what he does. He is a British citizen just as much as the most ardent of Thatcher fans, with the proviso that, as a miner, he probably worked harder and risked more for his country than they did.

Yet the British Establishment is now planning to insult Mr Farham, and the many honest and patriotic people who agree with him, by making Lady Thatcher the first prime minister to be given a state funeral since Churchill. This cannot be right.

The whole of Osborne’s piece and the blog comments re well worth reading in full.

This raises a question in my mind.

If the national extravaganza goes ahead the consequences look likely to be embittering rather than unifying. However if Cameron blocks this he is likely to worsen the animosity towards him held by the Tory True Believers who already despise his leadership. So which bullet will he bite?

Is it up to the LibDems to defuse this Labour inspired booby trap? And perhaps inspire a return to more modest profiles for our National Leaders? The job certainly needs doing or the UK will shuffle into a completely unnecessary bout of class war shouting which will damage our current efforts to stabilise the economy. Too may people will invest in heat and invective rather than reflection and constructive arguments over possible choices now before us..

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His name is Oborne, not Osborne.
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Friday, December 16, 2011

Boundless cheek 

As we tackle the process of objecting (or not) to the Boundary commission proposals, it's worth looking at what happens in states where the political classes can maddle unconstrained...

This is the proposal for a Congressional District in Pennsylvania. The new 7th district.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ilsa Greig 

Back in 1970, seven people met to re-found North Buckinghamshire Liberals. The association had collapsed at the General Election of that year. One of this gallant band was Ilsa Greig, who has just died a few days short of her 89th birthday.

Liberalism in the UK owes a huge debt to a handful of people who refused to be pushed aside and fought for liberal principles against all odds. Ilsa was an inspirer and motivator for many people over the decades – many will remember her networking at national conferences, bringing people together and encouraging their Liberal careers.

As a young woman in Austria she survived the horrors of the Nazi Anschluss. All her life she has stood up to bullies and told everyone the truth as she saw it. A wonderful and sometime unsettling colleague, who always made it clear there is no contradiction between loyalty to a cause and fortright honesty in debate.

Milton Keynes Liberal Democrats are now a vibrant and effective political force, competing for control of the City Council. Many key campaigners were nurtured and encouraged by Ilsa over the years.

Thank you for your life, Ilsa.

Her funeral will be on Tuesday 22 November 10 am in Crownhill Crematorium, Milton Keynes.


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Monday, November 14, 2011

Student Finance Day to get the facts better known 

The Independent Taskforce on Student Finance is today (14 Nov 2011) holding a ‘Students Finance Day’ .

The taskforce says:

"This is a national day dedicated to explaining the 2012 changes to student finance in England. The main aim of the campaign is simple - to ensure people understand how the new student finance package works before they make a decision as to whether they can afford to go to university. The day is being organised by us alongside the National Association of Student Money Advisers (NASMA) and the Higher Education Liaison Officers Association (HELOA)."

This is building on the work of Martin Lewis and others to provide accurate guides for students and their families. In particular to knock on the idea that from 2012 students need to pay three times more during their study period than students registered in 2011 and before.

There is a website for the taskforce with links to several very useful resources.

One resource is a video prepared by Bournemouth University which is particularly effective.

Let us hope that 2012 cohort students get the message and can make their educational decisions based on facts.

A thought. From October 2012 there will be people at Universities on the old system and on the new, able to make direct comparisons between their respective financial situations. I wonder if this will influence opinions on which of these cohorts is the better off?


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