Liberal or NDP?

Canada’s 2015 General Election is in full swing. Just like in the UK, the opinion polls can’t seem to call it, but in the Great White North, there is not an unpredictable two way race but three genuine contenders all vying it out for power. As a member of the Lib Dems in the UK, I am thrilled to see a liberal party and a socially democratic party vying it out at the top of the polls. The question is; which is the best choice for Canada?

Using the ISideWith website, I have cherry-picked 28 non-Canada specific issues to compare the parties on.

Domestic

Domestic policy always dominates election discourse and as we’ll see with the trend of this post, there is little room for disagreement between the Liberals and the NDP. On issues like protecting citizens phone calls and emails from government snooping, both parties take an encouragingly liberal approach by opposing such measures. Both wish to stop sending non-violent drug offenders to prison. And both are keen to put public interest at heart by investing in vital commuter rail links and nationalising the energy sector to protect citizens from economic extortion. Justin Trudeau has been much firmer over talk of abolishing the Senate but the NDP are officially on side with that issue too. On Quebec sovereignty, I favour another referendum much like we saw in Scotland – both the Liberals and the NDP are anti-Quebec independence. The only real difference in this area is that of national daycare. Whilst, I respect and like the NDP’s pledge to offer the policy to all families of all economic situations, at a time where Mr. Harper’s Conservatives have led Canada back in to recession, I prefer the more sensible Liberal plan to offer it to poorer families who really need the support.

Winners: Liberal 

Economy

The one that everybody worries about; the economy. As I mentioned, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has left Canada in a recession for five consecutive months and lagging far behind over developed Western nations, Canada used to glide in front of in a fiscal capacity. On three of the four economic issues I selected, the Liberals and the NDP are concurrent. Both reject plans to tax the pensions of retired workers and both pledge to utilise economic stimulus to aid the economy during recession – really positive and progressive economics. Whilst, I wouldn’t be so quick to increase corporation tax in the UK, I feel differently in regards to Canada. I don’t support a drastic increase but given the nation implements a globally low rate of 15%, a modest increase to 20% could raise revenue to ease the deficit. The NDP would have edged this section thanks to their morally righteous commitment to only pursue free trade with countries that respect the human rights of its citizens, something the Liberals haven’t stipulated as a deal breaker, but Mulcair’s minimum wage plan is rife with subterfuge and would only benefit 1% of workers in Canada – for that reason, it’s a dead heat.

Winners: Tie

Healthcare

The NHS is the crown jewel of British politics and the Canadian health system is considered as good, if not better than the UK’s. Of course, health care is a vital public service and I oppose any cuts to it. Thankfully, that’s not even on the radar for either party and they agree on all four issues regarding healthcare. Both want prescriptions and preventative dental care to be included in Canada’s Universal Healthcare plan, if only such a thing was on the agenda in across the pond. It encourages me to see that marijuana legalisation is being treated as a health issue and encourages me that both parties are staunch supporters of adopting that very position. However, I’ve taken an extremley liberal position on the policy of forcing parents to vaccinate their children for preventable diseases. Both the NDP and the Liberals want that to happen but I would prefer fierce support of vaccination but I’m not sure I like the idea of forcing someone to do something with their child, no matter how positive the outcome may be.

Winners: Tie

Foreign policy

The Liberal Democrats in the UK pride themselves on being internationalist, so it would be reasonable to assume the same attitude was adopted by these two parties. Both parties take progressive and diplomatic approaches to foreign policy by pledging to raise foreign aid from the paltry Canadian rate of 0.4% and by rejecting any plans for Canada’s military to get more involved in Iraq. Whilst, I would never be one to advocate for a large defence budget, I am not too disgruntled by both’s plans to increase spending on the military which stands at under 1% of GDP, especially given the rising global threat from ISIS and Russia. The clincher in this area of policy was the C-51 bill, an act which gives counter-terrorist services a mandate to infringe civil liberties in name of security. Disappointingly the Liberals support a slightly better version of the Conservative bill – but it remains an affront to liberalism, and hypocritical of the party to support. The NDP opposed the bill in parliament and as a result are the best of the pair for foreign policy.

Winners: NDP

Social

Social policy is yet another draw. I can’t say I expected anything else from the parties either. Both the NDP and the Liberals are in support of euthanasia, an issue I take a passionately liberal stance on and both are challenging the Islamophobic rhetoric of the Conservatives by refusing to back any movement towards banning the wearing a niqab during civil ceremonies.

Winners: Tie

Electoral

The appetite for electoral reform is as big in Canada as it is in the UK. The difference is, they have parties in a position to do something about it. Despite the fact, it can often work to both’s benefit, the Liberals and NDP are in favour of establishing a proportional electoral system to better reflect Canada’s popular vote. Both are unsurprisingly in favour of allowing corporations, unions, and non-profit organisations to donate to political parties – either would have earned extra brownie points for proposing a donation cap.

Winners: Tie

Environment

On the two environment issues I chose, there is unsurprisingly little to separate the two. It’s important to prevent climate change and protect the environment, the Liberal plan to subsidise production and consumption of renewable energy sources and to increase regulations on businesses is a responsible one with sound and fair intervention. The NDP want to go a little further by incentivising business to use greener energy. Whilst, the intentions are admirable, it’s in effect, a double subsidy that wouldn’t be wise given the economic state of Canada and the fact environmental protection is part of a businesses’ duty to the people and its country and not something the electorate should have to shell out for.

Winners: Liberal

Education

I don’t side 100% with either party on the one education issue I picked. Both the Liberals and the NDP want to abolish university tuition fees. I would rather the rates were lowered and a fairer repayment system was installed but I don’t object to their shared alternative plan and I’m still very movable on this topic.

Winners: Tied

Immigration

I’m fervently against the right’s efforts to demonise immigrants and immigration. The process of immigration is a net economic benefit to a nation and a country as sparsely populated and steeped in multicultural history, society and foundation as Canada should welcome immigration with open arms. Thankfully, both the Liberal party and the NDP agree with me.

Winners: Tied 

Leaders

Having watched one of the leader debates, I was really impressed with the poise, conviction and passion of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, something I’ve consistently found when I’ve been exposed to his campaigning. He is popular, relatable and exciting. However, despite popular consensus, I cannot warm to Thomas Mulcair who seems warm, stoic, dry and patronising. Any slant against Trudeau’s age is just condescending and ageist. He looks like a better candidate for Prime Minister than Mulcair.

Winners: Liberal

Conclusion

Having weighed all of these issues up, there really isn’t much to separate the two parties. To be honest, I think a vote for either is a good choice for the Canadian people. If anything, the Liberals just about pip NDP as the best choice for Canada, but there’s not a lot about the New Democratic vision that I can disagree with or actively condemn. If these two parties manage to find themselves in first and second then the future is bright for Canadian politics. The best of the rest are the Greens with Bloc Quebecois miles ahead of Stephen Harper’s Conservative party, who are simply awful. I endorse a Liberal party victory in the Canadian election but given how unlikely an outright majority is, a coalition of some sort would be grand.

Winners: Liberal

I’m a Liberal Because…

After some gentle peer pressuring from Josh Dixon, I decided it might be a good idea to verbalise why I am a liberal and to be honest, I’ve found it tricky. I don’t want to toot my own horn too much but I usually just plonk myself down in my swivel chair and write whatever comes to mind but I struggled to attack this task.

In fact, it was only until I was in a queue to buy underwear in Debenhams today that I figured out why I think the way I do.

I have always been one of those people who has strong opinions. Since I was young, I’ve had an opinion on just about everything, usually meticulously thought through and passionately defended – it earns you both plaudits and critics.

Weirdly, I wasn’t really interested in politics until 2010, sure I had my views on certain social issues but I wasn’t really too invested in the whole political process. Unsurprisingly, I was an early victim of Cleggmania. I watched the leader debates that year and was really struck by the consistent liberalism that Nick showed. And apparently, my entire school was, the Lib Dems won a landslide in our mock election the following week.

From then on, I studied British politics at A2 level and found my sympathies consistently aligning with the Liberals, I had decided where my loyalty and morality lied. As I would later find out, I’m a third generation liberal; both my mother and grandmother have been fierce liberals their entire lives.

Liberalism really is quite wonderful. Sure, there’s internal debate within the Liberal Democrats over whether social liberals like myself or economic liberals are the best placed to deliver the end goal of maximised individual liberty but what a great debate to have! How great is it that we can challenge each other over which freedom is greater and which virtue of freedom we should progress further.

There are few things that offend me more than inequality and authoritarianism. I don’t believe the state should be able to tell us what we can and can’t do with our bodies. If we choose to do something, we should be able to, as long as it’s no detriment to anyone else, we should have full autonomy over our destiny.

Likewise, it’s easy for me as a gay man to fight for LGBT+ equality but the real integrity of a liberal comes from fighting for equality from the areas in which you are unfairly privileged. I’m middle-class, white, male and able-bodied but I am passionate about putting forward an agenda that will restore parity among humans regardless of their gender, race, class, sexuality or physical ability.

Liberalism really is great. It’s an ideology that has brought so much good to every part of the world, including this country. Without liberalism we wouldn’t have social housing, pensions, national insurance, women’s rights, LGBT+ rights including equal marriage, and of course, the crown jewel of British politics, the Welfare State.

I’m a liberal because I want the government to provide a safety net, to intervene when it’s needed not hold our hand every which way we turn. I believe that every individual should be allowed to get on in life unburdened by senseless prejudice and unaffected by an overbearing state intent on taking our civil liberties. The biggest affront to liberalism is authoritarianism clad in red, purple and blue. If you agree with this sentiment then you’re a liberal, and you should probably be a Liberal Democrat too.

The Big Smoke is a Big Joke

Five years ago, if you had suggested I move to London, I would have been horrified. I would have said it was riddled with pollution, crime, arrogance and tubes – and flat out refused to go. But recently I have seen that London has a lot to offer, so much so in fact, I think it’s time we made a couple more.

Whilst George Osbourne has been littering the air with warm but vapid words about creating a ‘Northern powerhouse’, few people have been talking about why this is actually necessary. Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats has noted that a high speed rail link isn’t enough to sate the growing national disillusion with London – and he’s right.

In an economic sense, London is a global powerhouse; distinct, renowned and envied on an international stage but domestically the story is less about success and more about conflicting interest. Despite only accounting for a tenth of the nation’s population, London is responsible for a fifth of the UK’s jobs and businesses as well as 25% of the country’s economic output. As well as this, there are four times as many business start-ups in London than any other UK city per capita, and these London-based businesses have the greatest success at expanding their brands in to other UK cities. It’s not just London’s size that makes the city so dominant, it’s even outperforming other urban areas pound for pound. From 2004-13 proportional to population only Milton Keynes had a greater job growth than London and only Aberdeen had a higher rate of new business start-ups, showing that London is excelling at a gargantuan rate irrespective of its size.

Metropolis…London is the focal point of UK economics

It’s not just business that excel by the River Thames, incomes are a lot higher in the capital too. The average income in London is approximately 60% higher than in Stoke-on-Trent. Internationally, London is still growing faster than Austin, TX, the fastest growing city in the United States and domestically, London’s growth puts other regions to shame too. The Greater London area experienced growth at twice the rate of the South West, the second fastest growing region in the UK, and an astonishing five times more than the East Midlands in last place. The economic disparity between regions isn’t just evident from growth but also in government investment. Research councils have found that the state spends seven times more per person in London than it does in Northern Ireland. Funding in Wales and the Midlands is also considerably lower than London and the South East. There is no disbelieving that London is placed on a national pedestal by the establishment and there’s little doubt that people outside of London are sick of it. Although, it may seem like it’s all gravy in London, if they even have that down south, with economic growth, high incomes and business start-ups galore, the reality isn’t that rosy for the average resident. This heightened wealth in the Big Smoke has also led London to become the nation’s leader in falling housing affordability, meaning inequality is a tangible concern. And that is really the gruesome irony of all this. London is host to an obscenely disproportionate amount of the nation’s economic opportunities but so few can actually meet the expense of moving there to find them.

How much is spent in each region per person

No matter how vacuous his rhetoric may be, the chancellor is right to address the issue of London centrism – but it’s important to understand that this is not just an economic issue but a social one too. There is a substantial sense of resentment from those north of Watford towards the capital and it’s easy to appreciate why. London has become too big for its boots, being seven times larger than the UK’s next largest city and twenty times larger than the capitals of Wales and Scotland. In fact, it isn’t just population that makes London too large for anyone’s benefit, it also hoovers up a lot of the nation’s press attention with London-specific issues like tube strikes being covered as headline stories on national platforms – I’m sorry, Londoners but nobody else cares. In fact, 49% of news articles in national newspapers are focused on events in London and the South East and that is excluding the on-goings in Westminster, this has caused a staggering attitude of self-importance.

The heightened sense of importance is not the fault of Londoners but they too can feed in to it. Common quips that anywhere north of London is the ‘north’ is pig-headed acrimony that has ignited the flames of Scottish independence, cries for regional parliaments and apathy toward the political system in general. It’s a national tragedy that people feel the need to move to London to achieve fulfilment both personally and in the regards to their careers. As a matter of fact, one in three of all 20-30 year olds who relocate in the UK move to London. I aim to be one of those people for those very reasons – but I wish I didn’t have to be. I wish being so far removed from the capital didn’t cause me so much stress and disillusion, but for myself and many others that is the case. Anti-depressants are prescribed to more and more people the further away you get from London and urban life in general, showing the need to redistribute our attentions to hubs dotted around the country.

The shade of grey depicting where anti depressant prescriptions are more numerous

London is a massive economic advantage to the United Kingdom, it’s a fantastic city that promotes growth, business and opportunity. Yet, it is not infallible and its shoulders aren’t broad enough to carry the nation’s economy on its own. In France, Germany and Spain, all nations of a similar population to ours, there is more than one global economic city. We need a Barcelona, a Lyon, or a Munich in Britain. If we can take the essence of what makes London so successful and redirect it in to not just a Northern powerhouse but a Midlands powerhouse too. By doing this, we will ease the ridiculous housing prices in London by redirecting those desperate to move to the capital to other major hubs of opportunity and we will temper the disgusting and illiberal disaffection so many young people feel if they can’t find a life for themselves in London. It really doesn’t matter if it’s Manchester and Leicester, Birmingham and Leeds or Cardiff and Glasgow, all that matters is that we spread the capital’s economic acumen more fairly across the country by moving towards a more balanced ouput and greater parity on spending per person in all regions. London is not the be all and end all of the United Kingdom and nor should it be, let’s give the rest of the nation a chance to thrive. I hope to move to London one day, but the fact of the matter is, I shouldn’t feel I have to.

 

Labour’s Anti-Equality Agenda

Liz Kendall’s comments that Labour have been the best institution for equality in this country have pissed me off. I know I’ve spent some time negatively campaigning against Labour recently and it’s not endearing and I will cut back, but these lies that Kendall purports and many other Labour supporters too seem to work and as a result, it prevents genuine pro-equality parties from making a change.

So here’s a list of all the times Labour has been quite blatantly anti-equality;

  • Anti-electoral reform: Labour want to keep the first past the post system where votes for themselves and the Tories count for more than votes for other parties
  • Same-sex marriage: Labour failed to introduce same-sex marriage in 13 years of majority government yet still boastfully claim to be the only party that can deliver equality. It didn’t even appear in their 2010 manifesto. The Lib Dems delivered the policy in five years of coalition government.
  • Iraq war: Labour falsely entered the country in to a war, or in retrospect a massacre, against Iraq on a false pretence.
  • Gender recognition act: Labour were sued in to passing this legislation, allowing people to change their legal gender.
  • Gays in the military: see above.
  • Equal age of consent: Labour’s shadow health secretary David Blunkett led the campaign against equalising the age of consent for homosexuals and heterosexuals in 1994.
  • Civil partnerships: Passed the unequal civil partnership bill due to requirement of the EHRC – were not solely responsible for even drafting the bill.
  • EHRC: Forced Labour in to introducing the equality policy they did between 1997-2010, almost none was off their own back.
  • Celia Kitzinger and Sue Wilkinson: Labour government refused to recognise Celia and Sue’s marriage in Canada in the UK despite lengthy campaigning.
  • Trans people in marriage: Labour voted against trans people being allowed to change their gender if it meant their marriage would in turn become a same-sex marriage.
  • The welfare state: Labour can take a big chunk of credit for enacting the welfare bill but the ‘imagination’ Liz Kendall claims Labour has, certainly wasn’t used here. It was pretty much entirely the work of William Beveridge, a Liberal.
  • Disability equality: Legislation was first introduced by the Tories in 1995
  • Flapper election: Again, enfranchising all women to the vote was introduced by the Tories and campaign in the 20th century led by the Liberals.
  • Gay marriage support: Only 64% of Labour members polled in 2010 supported same-sex marriage, less than the Lib Dems and only slightly more than the Tories.
  • Labstention: Labour MPs decided to abstain leaving Lib Dems, Caroline Lucas of the Greens and the SNP to oppose the Tory’s welfare slashing bill in vain.
  • Immigration mugs: Decided to make mugs stating they would be tougher on immigrants.
  • Harriet Harman’s Pink Bus: Patronisingly used a gimmick riddled pink bus to attract female voters to Labour
  • Separate manifestos: Still use separate manifestos for LGBT+ people and women as if their needs are completely removed from all others.

Labour, to their credit have been involved and have led charges for some equality legislation in the past and it would be duplicitous for me to claim otherwise, but pretending to be the ‘leading party’ in equality is counter productive and evil. So please, Labour, step up to the plate or shut up.

Cameron’s a Fraud, Featherstone’s a Hero!

There are plenty of reasons for students of De Montfort University, like myself, to be proud. Up until a couple of years ago, DMU was barely on the higher education map, until mass investment transformed the university in to being the most improved higher education centre in the UK two years running. However, while I am proud of how the university has improved and continues to progress, I cannot sit idly by whilst they give out unjust awards to credit-stealing politicians.

Last week, DMU vice-chancellor Dominic Shellard travelled to Downing Street alongside several undergraduates to present Prime Minister David Cameron with the most prestigious award one can receive from the university. Why? He was the chosen recipient because of ‘his work’ towards introducing same-sex marriage. Now, the cynic in me thinks this award was actually given to Mr. Cameron for publicity and the excuse of same-sex marriage was just a guise to hide the real intentions of a university intent on promoting itself on a national scale. However, for the purpose of this argument we’ll assume they feel he earned it on merit.

I am certain the VC and the university as a whole didn’t set out to offend anybody, but unfortunately they have. As a result of the ill-advised decision to award Mr. Cameron, DMU’s LGBT+ society has launched a campaign to have the award stripped and given elsewhere. In a statement released the day after David Cameron received the award, the society called for a clear rational for giving the Prime Minister the award and in turn discredited the decision.

David Cameron is not the LGBT+ equality champion that deserves recognition. Many in and out of the LGBT+ society have called for Lynne Featherstone of the Liberal Democrats to instead obtain the award for the far larger role she and her party played in making same-sex marriage a reality. In turn, we in the LGBT+ society of DMU have criticised the University for the lack of correspondence with the society over their decision to reward Mr. Cameron on our community’s behalf.  In fact, many think it’s obscene that DMU would choose to award a man who in the past voted against repealing Section 28, who has led a party that has supported economic and immigration measures that disadvantage LGBT+ youths and LGBT+ asylum seekers, and a man who has appointed Equalities ministers who voted against the very legislation for which he has just been rewarded.

If this wasn’t enough, it seems bizarre that the university would choose to honour a Conservative Prime Minister who has just slashed the maintenance grant for the poorest students, who raised tuition fees from £3,000 to £9,000 during the last parliament, and whose austerity measures have decimated vital youth services up and down the country.

The university has already agreed to discuss the concerns of the LGBT+ society. However, it is important that we as students and LGBT+ people let De Montfort University know that is not okay to award a man for work he didn’t do, and in spite of the negative impact he has had on many LGBT+ people in this country. I think I can speak for most LGBT+ people in Britain when I say that we’re thankful for every Green, Labour, Plaid, SNP, Northern Irish and Tory MP that supported the Lib Dems’ same-sex marriage bill. However, if my university wants to reward people for bringing this policy about, they shouldn’t credit the Prime Minister who happened to be the incumbent at the time of the bill’s passing, and cast one vote like every other MP. Instead they should reward the Liberal Democrat who pushed this bill through parliament armed only with sheer guile, at a time when no politician was even talking about this issue. It’s crystal clear, De Montfort University; this award belongs to Lynne Featherstone.

Puerile Patriotism and its Punitive Price

I’m going to make a shock confession here, something that will make the older generation grimace, the Tories gasp, the Kippers rage and just about anyone else go misty-eyed with astonishment; I don’t consider myself a patriot.

Of course, I love living in the UK, I think it’s a fabulous country and I’m well aware of just how fortunate I am to live here but I still have a problem with blind allegiances to states – mostly because they spread division rather than unity it presumably seeks to.

A patriot is someone who is fiercely proud of their country, whilst it’s not as strong a sentiment here as it is in the US, where patriotic propaganda is an all pervading inevitability, there is still a hearty following in the UK. And really, why is that? There are those who would rather identify as English, Scottish or Welsh rather than British, those that are vehement that their ‘nation’ is better than the others and vicariously, their citizens too. In reality though, a nation is just a line on a map, these borders don’t actually exist in a physical capacity. They are man-made, forged, phony, fictional, and trivial. A person does not suddenly mutate as you cross the border from Chester in to Wrexham. Nations mean nothing – or at least, they’re not worth being haughty, patronising or antagonistic over.

There is then a demand of patriotism to assume that everyone collected under one umbrella of national identity shares an innate commonality; a shared history and a shared future – but we don’t. Just because our experiences of life may be closer to those in the same nation doesn’t mean we’re all the same or even remotely alike. In the UK alone, there are hundreds of different socio-economic demographics, am I to really assume that I share more commonality with Sharon, the fascist homophobe from Sunderland than I do Christophe, the French gay liberal just because both of our mothers happened to give birth in the same imagined outline? Am I to adopt the historic on-goings of the nation I was born in as my own? If I were to visit Buckingham Palace, would I become the King? No, I don’t think so.

I know thus far this article looks like a very asinine gripe with much of the population’s ideals but bear with me, I do have a point. Now, the thing is with patriotism is it’s open to misuse, on one hand it can provide a sound basis for a durable, embracing sense of identity and at the other it can be a highly combustible fuel that sparks a raging fire of jingoism. To me, it makes more sense to actually be proud of your locality, be proud of the area you experience, one you can directly see your contribution to and one you can directly influence rather than a political territory you will experience very little of in your life. I experience my home town but I know nothing of Huddersfield for example, I can’t adopt a faux pride of a place I know nothing about – what if that community’s values are at odds with mine? I can’t shirk them that responsibility just because of the common land mass we share, to make it easier for the nation’s politicians to target us in one fell swoop.

In fact, that’s all patriotism really is, it’s a feel good political tool that gives the nation a camouflaged whiff of bias toward the incumbent government, that’s why there is always so much gusto about ‘British attitudes’, ‘British culture’ etc. Again, this still seems like a very flimsy article until we come to discuss what patriotism can lead to – and that is a misplaced entitlement, a belief that this country belongs to a certain type of person or should be governed or experienced a certain kind of way. This attitude doesn’t stoke unity but division for those not willing, or not able to commit to ‘British values’.

In fact, it’s arguable that my issue is not with patriotism itself but with nationalism. Whilst I don’t think patriotism should be considered a mandatory virtue, that would induce incandescent rage in Little Englanders should anyone deviate from it, nor do I think patriotism should be used as a bargaining piece for electoral success, it’s ugly sister nationalism is what breeds the real hostility. Nationalism in this country has arrived once more in many different forms. Politically, civic nationalists the SNP and regular nationalists UKIP are on the rise as they seek to preserve the autonomy of their imagined lands. Whilst the English Defence League and Britain First adopt a brutally negative approach that disenfranchises anyone who doesn’t physically replicate what is expected of a person born in ‘their’ illusory land, and as a result we leave a sub-section of Britain, young Muslims, very susceptible to powerful propaganda that too offers them a place in the Jihadi ideals of the ‘nation’ of Islamism. That’s what nationalism has caused in this country, evil, fascist, authoritarian brutality on two fronts, on opposing sides, intent on using violent means to purge the other from the land, that’s the cost of being boastful about the mythical expectations and entitlements of one’s ‘nation’.

Simply put, that is the real issue of patriotism, it teaches difference, division and a tribal mentality all based on the simple accident of birth. Sure, go ahead and cheer on England at the next World Cup, go berserk when Team GB scoop gold, silver and bronze in Rio next year but don’t use patriotism as a disguise for something fouler. Perhaps it’s time we focused less on what human inventions divide us and realise that removed from our very own conceptualities that we all belong to one nation of commonality – humanity.

5 TV Characters I Would Have as Dinner Guests

I’m having a dinner party and there are six seats at the table, including one for myself. Who do I choose to join me?

Leslie Knope

Who could not want such an infectious positive energy at their dinner party? Leslie is fun, vivacious and entertaining, okay she can get a little annoying but she’s probably really hilarious when she’s drunk so if I encourage her to drink loads it will be great. Also, she’s political so just imagine the glorious conversation we could have

Cameron Tucker

Now, if you know me, you know I live for Modern Family and funnily enough Cameron is not my favourite character, he’s not even in the top five but as a dinner guest, he’s probably the best choice. Again, he can be quite over the top but these are TV characters they’re supposed to be, and he’s good for a story or three.

Selina Meyer

I need even more political women in my life and Selina Meyer is just the sassiest woman to ever grace the fictional version of the West Wing. Seriously she’s funny, catty and downright vulgar, I would absolutely have her sat next to me in case our other dinner guests get too irritating and we can delight in each other’s bitchiness. She can bring Gary too and he can wait on the tables I guess. Also, imagine a drunken Knope vs. Meyer debate – a dream come true.

Connor Walsh

Okay, this guy’s character is far less exciting as the others, he’s a sociopath, a little evil but importantly he is absolutely stunning. Connor can sit opposite me and play footsie with me while I enjoy the meal, then he can spend all of five seconds trying to seduce me and we can go to a different room for dessert. He may be a smaller personality but he’s super hot and hugely endearing. sjdasjfsjfqjpqoptpwq

Gabrielle Solis

I actually might fancy this woman more than Jack Falahee (aka Connor Walsh). She’s seriously stunning. Gabrielle Solis is a loveable bitch, she has so many selfish tendencies but always seems to redeem herself with kindness. She’s funny, intelligent and glamorous, I just need a spicy, petite Latina diva in my life and she fits the bill perfectly. Also, Eva Longoria called me sweet once so you know…

Honourable mentions

  • Edie Britt
  • Every single other Modern Family character
  • Robin Scherbatsky
  • Roger from American Dad
  • Raven Baxter
  • Zack Morris
  • Jane Kerkovich-Williams & Brad Williams

Whitingism : My Political Ideology

I’ve stolen this from Nathaniel Higgins’ Reddit (just a disclaimer)

Party: Liberal Democrat, the leading party on equality, fairness and economic credibility

Political Compass: Centre-left Liberal

Views on issues:

  • The EU: pro-EU but with reform, Euroscepticism didn’t arrive out of thin air.
  • The Economy: Austerity measures are nasty but necessary to reduce the deficit we currently own. Of course, there needs to be some sort of restraint and vital services need to be kept. However, in times of economic hardship, I would prefer to advocate for higher taxation on the rich and as few cuts to public services as possible.
  • Socialism, Communism, Capitalism: I’m a social liberal, like it or not we live in a capitalist world and that can get ugly. Liberals tend to favour free market removed of all intervention but I think we have to shrug this idealistic approach and realise that real ‘free markets’ require some responsible intervention from the state, although, only when necessary.
  • LGBT+: LGBT+ politics are something I’m extremely passionate about. As a gay man, I am fully behind any pro-LGBT+ equality measures whether they pertain to gay men or other areas of the community.
  • Immigration: I am a committed opponent to the xenophobic trend that has swept Europe in the last few years. Immigration is good, for society and for the economy. Better yet, liberalism relies on freedom, including the freedom to move wherever you want to. I am not a big fan of heavily policed borders, they’re very much conceptual and people should be free to settle on which bit of land they choose.
  • Minimum wage: I endorse the introduction of a living wage rather than a minimum wage, there is enough wealth in this nation to sate the living costs of every single person in it. Also, whilst we’re sort of on the topic, I am not anti-zero hours contracts, restrictions may be necessary but no outright ban is needed.
  • Religion: I’m a skeptical agnostic, I’m not fond of religion but I will argue tooth and nail for everybody’s right to be religious and hold their own spirituality and personal faith.
  • Drug Prohibition: In fifty years, people will look back in amazement that people are imprisoned now for taking drugs. It is high time we viewed drug addiction as a health issue and not a criminal one. Those with drug addictions should be sent to rehabilitation not prison. I would also like to see the mass decriminalisation of drugs with the view to legalisation of most drugs. The state should never have autonomy over someone else’s body.
  • Local democracy: In favour of devolution to the lowest most effective level. Communities need the power to change what affects them.
  • Online censorship: Nothing should be censored.
  • Television censorship: Censorship is wrong, just include warnings if it could offend.
  • Net Neutrality: Absolutely crucial to persist with that.
  • Free Speech: Freedom of speech is obviously a liberal concept and I support it but I find it’s one of the areas when liberalism gets a bit sticky. Where do we decide what freedom is more important; the freedom to exert opinions freely or the freedom to not be attacked and provoked? I believe in freedom of speech up to the point of stoking or inciting violence or other hostile acts. It is important that we use free speech as a counteraction to bigotry when we can. Whilst we’re here, I will say that all opinions are open to criticism and disrespect.
  • Islamisation of the UK: Right-wing propaganda that is stoking Islamist extremism and British nationalist extremism. Must be effectively and publicly discredited as the myth it is.
  • Lords Reform: A tricky one, hereditary peers must be scrapped immediately and viewed as an archaic assault on democracy. I’m yet to be convinced a second elected chamber is really necessary but I am open to the idea of a proportionally represented and appointed Lords with fixed terms or an independent chamber with experts in key fields.
  • The Monarchy: Democratically no such monarchy should exist and I think I am becoming increasingly anti-monarchy as the days pass. However, as long as the royals have no legislative power, serve only as ambassadors and continue to make a net contribution to the monarchy, I see no reason to abdicate them.
  • Scottish independence: It’s something I oppose but also something I wouldn’t deny Scotland if they had voted for it. It really isn’t for me to decide.
  • Animal rights/welfare: Animal rights are underplayed, we have no divine right over other lifeforms and they should be treated kindly and humanely at all times.
  • Voting age: Wholly in favour of the voting age being reduced to 16 for all elections. As parliament sits for five years, it is absurd we tell a 17 year old they can’t vote when 80% of that parliament’s actions will affect how they can lead their life.
  • Prison/Crime: It is absolutely crucial that prison is made about rehabilitation and not about ideological punishment. That being said, it’s important from a psychological respect to know that some people are medically unable to be rehabilitated and they must be specifically managed by mental health experts. The death penalty is flawed in every aspect and has no place in any justice system. We have too many people in prison and could do with less confinement and more community service.
  • Tuition fees: Another tough one, education should be free but the tuition fees system in the UK has led to some of the best universities in the world, I support the repayment plan introduced by the Coalition government but would like to see a decrease in tuition fees to no more than £6,000 and lower where possible. I could yet be convinced that scrapping tuition fees altogether is the way to go, I’ve not yet decided.
  • Euthanasia: Is a long-time coming in this country. Of course the law needs to be enacted with thorough boundaries but a person should be able to have their life ended if they choose to do so, providing they’re of sound mind.
  • Trident: Renew but reduce. I hope we live in a world where multilateral disarmament of nuclear weapons is achieved very very soon and while the current weaponry system is a bit over zealous, it would be a threat to our security to disarm at this time.
  • Military spending vs. Foreign Aid spending: Again, in an ideal world I would drastically reduce military spending and redirect it elsewhere. However, given the rising threats of IS and Putin’s Russia, it’s a good idea to maintain the same spending on military. Again, I’d like to increase Foreign Aid spending as high as 1% but 0.7% is more than enough now, however we should spend it more efficiently on nations who need it most and provide their citizens with proper human rights.
  • Corporation tax: Introduce a progressive tax rate where larger companies pay a slightly higher rate than smaller companies. Eliminate deductions and loopholes.
  • Inheritance tax: Ideally, I would seek to scrap the inheritance tax, or at least heighten the threshold at which it is taxed. However, again this is the wrong time, the government needs money and those with the broadest shoulders should brunt the most of the shortfall.
  • NHS: Against any cuts to the health service and any mass movement of privatisation. I think we should be careful not to be complacent over rhetoric of it being the world’s best health service, as I believe there are others that are better.
  • Sex work: Decriminalise.
  • The BBC: I’m against the current system and would prefer funding for the BBC was grouped in with general taxation. However, I’m still not sold on the idea of a state-funded broadcaster, in just a year studying them at university, I remain entirely unconvinced by its effectiveness.
  • Electoral reform: Additional Members System as implemented in Holyrood and the Welsh Assembly would not force a person to vote tactically against their own preferred party and would allow them at least one vote that counts without them losing a locally responsible MP. I also think it’s essential a £10,000 per person donation cap is enforced so the Tories don’t spread their message at the expense of their obscenely wealthy supporters

Issues I’m passionate about: LGBT+ rights, social justice, feminism, democracy, drug law

Why you think what you do: I’ve always had an extremely strong sense of what is right and what is wrong.

Future of UK politics: An uninspiring blend of right-wing populism, nationalism and authoritarianism unless we can inspire people to listen to our preferable liberal vision.

How have my views changed: I’ve been a Liberal for as long as I remember, I’m a very committed chap.

Favourite Politician: Paddy Ashdown, a maestro of liberalism with the ability to inspire, connect and breath hope and vigour in the most desolate of situations. A truly remarkable man that I admire very very much. A special shout out has to be given to Lynne Featherstone too, who is what a politician should be, a committed individual intent on making as big a change as possible with the smallest opportunity.

Least Favourite Politician: Nigel Farage – a bitter, criminally evil man with Nazi sympathies and an intent passion on ripping apart anyone that doesn’t suit his antiquated white heterosexual British fantasy.

Favourite commentator: n/a

Political tests

  • Political Compass:
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Age: 20

Gender: Male

Where you live: Leicester

Occupation: Student, Activist, Blogger, insufferable know-it-all

Stand Aside, Let the Refugees In!

It’s a disgrace! Thousands and thousands of migrants are trying to get in to our country illegally, and Mr. Cameron and the British government are doing absolutely nothing about it. Thousands of them, climbing aboard Lorries and whatnot, just so they can come and make our county their refuge – the situation’s absolutely appalling. If you’re reading this, bobbing your head a long thinking that these migrants have no right to swarm in to our nation and there should be a stern, brutal response to halt them, then shake your head some more – you’re the disgraces I’m talking about.

It’s far too easy for Britons to sit on a plinth of privilege and cast a casual eye of disdain at those trying to force entry in to the country. It’s easy for us to assume they are all benefit tourists, if such a thing even exists, and disregard what are clearly very desperate people willing to do very dangerous things to change their lives, as nothing more but unwelcome economic lepers.

Focal point… Migrants have attempted to enter the UK via the channel tunnel

But, the thing is, the migrants in Calais are not a gigantic welfare absorbing conspiracy intent on snatching jobs, damaging infrastructure and compelling Nigel Farage to feel awkward on his train commutes. These people, like I have said, are completely bereft of hope. Let’s apply some logic here, do you really think people would try and cling to the underside of HGVs for twenty-six miles just so they can claim a modicum of welfare from the British taxpayer? No, of course not.

The fact this foul pandemic of anti-immigrationism has now led to a point where many are completely stripping any human attachment to these migrants is distressing and harks back to an era we cannot return to. Even glancing through social media, I have seen the disgusting responses from users when reports of migrants trying to come to Britain are tweeted. Nearly all suggest “flooding the tunnel”, “shooting them” among other things. In fact, when one migrant died last week, there were even brazen boasts of having “one less to worry about.”

These are desperate people, how have we again reached a height of xenophobia, where people are happy to laud over those trying to escape unimaginable barbarism and squalor purely on the basis of the accident of their own birth in a place where no such scenario is worth contemplating? We are the privileged and we need to remember that. People talk a lot about ‘British values’, a virtually vacuous term aimed to install a bit of pride in the nation’s people. One value often assimilated with this fixed ‘Britishness’ is compassion, but we are so deficient of it for these poor people based on the work of Rupert Murdoch, The Daily Mail and UKIP’s purple mist of hate.

Leader… Lib Dem leader Tim Farron has called for the UK to adopt the migrant quota

This crisis need not be a crisis if we actually practiced what we arrogantly attest to be our nature, and let the migrants fleeing genuine tyranny in. Why has David Cameron and his Conservative government deferred any sort of decision on this gargantuan issue so his party can launch fronts of genocide against badgers, foxes and bees instead? What are a few extra pounds spent on helping those in genuine need? What’s cutting out one caramel latte a week, what difference is that compared to the difference a safe haven would make for those fleeing the wickedest of regimes? These are not just statistics for The Daily Express to manipulate for electoral gain – we are talking about real human lives, and real human suffering. We need to sign up to the EU migrant quota and take in our fair share of refugees, we cannot stand idly by while this humanitarian emergency occurs.

Of course, there are practical concerns whenever migrants come in to an already densely populated nation but let’s not misplace our aggravation here. Admittedly, 60,000 migrants will put a tiny strain on the nation, but we need to look at the bigger picture and realise that saving the lives of those brave enough to attempt an escape is worth slightly loosening the purse strings. If you don’t understand that this is not about a swarm of opportunistic vultures sponging off the electorate, and you cannot fathom why people are appalled at the sight of thousands disregarding the tragic deaths of those in the channel tunnel as a victory for the convenience of this privileged nation, then you at least need to understand that that’s because you are lucky, if you were on the other side of that tunnel, you would have a different view entirely.

Find Your Backbone, Labour

Labour are up a creek without a paddle, following yet another General Election defeat. As the party faces internal turmoil, they host a fascinating leadership debate that will see the party go one of two ways. Yes, two, not four.

There are so many reasons why Labour have become increasingly unpalatable to much of the electorate, and in fact, did they not possess the secure Northern, working class, and young anti-Tory vote, they would probably be in much worse shape than they already are. But, ironically, this is still one of the biggest problems, are Labour actually the anti-Tories?

Slam…UKIP have snatched working class support from Labour

Labour have been steadily lurching right on economic issues, offering only a milder form of Tory austerity and have too become increasingly authoritarian on social issues. That’s the real issue with this Labour party, and it’s one that’s been brewing for years – they’re not principled, they just follow the scent of popular opinion wherever it lands, like a drooling dog chasing a line of sausages. It’s conceivable, had Labour not benefited from a hard to budge position as one of the nation’s two largest parties and archaic typecasting resulting in misplaced allegiance to their party, they may have been done for a long while ago.

And, I think people are starting to see this; the Liberal Democrats argue their case from a point of liberalism, the Tories, whilst total bastards they may be, consistently argue a conservative ideology but what of Labour? The Labour movement of the late 19th and early 20th century is in far less demand now, to the point of it being nearly irrelevant. Labour are purportedly social democrats or democratic socialists but they have done very little to convey any such ideology in recent years, perhaps best illustrated by their refusal to oppose savage cuts to the welfare state that they so boastfully claim they invented.

Mugs… Labour are now rightly considered authoritarian

Is it any wonder people are disillusioned with Labour? Nobody knows which way they’re going to go next. In fact, a lot of the talk in the build up to this election hasn’t been about what good they can do for the country if they win another election, it has instead been about this ideologically impassioned need to hold the power. But, if Labour can’t even form their own sound ideology and principle base what can they expect to do in government? If they refuse to oppose brutal Tory cuts and want to borrow old Lib Dem catchphrases then why not just support either one of those current parties? Labour has become a corrupt machine obsessed with winning – not with doing.

It almost feels as if populism is Labour’s only plan, that’s what three quarters of the leadership candidates are offering anyway, much in line with the rhetoric Milliband used in the run up to this year’s general election. Let’s be clear here, anti-immigration mugs are in no way the mandate of a socially democratic party. Nor was the promise to slash tuition fees to £6,000 anything other than a deceptive economic policy concocted to take another stab at the former coalition of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, and win superficial support from warm words.

Labour will go to the ballot boxes soon, and they will have two choices, a repetition of the career-driven, lacklustre, centrist, populist, wet lettuce politics that strives only for power and not righteous change for the good of the electorate, or a man in line with the principles of what Labour was founded to represent. Now, I’m not a ‘leftie’ nor would I ever vote for Jeremy Corbyn in a general election, but that doesn’t mean his party shouldn’t. He is the only candidate able to give Labour an actual foundation of beliefs, otherwise this cycle of false politics will go on and on and on.

Principled… Whilst divisive, Corbyn would provide Labour with a base network of ideology

I won’t lie, I would be happy to see the Labour party crumble, I would. This isn’t to do with the voters or the members, the party is full of good people, but the people who are in charge have denied Britain any genuine social democratic option for decades now. The way I see it as an outsider is Labour have three choices; a) they dismantle and form a new party and hope they get it right this time, b) they dismantle and flock to the Lib Dems and the Greens as parties of ideological conviction and consistency or c) they find a backbone and promote their initial ideas and win from that position, they try, like all the other parties do, to promote what they believe and make the people believe it too.

What they cannot do, is carry on down this bleak road where they tell the people what they think they want to hear, try desperately above all else to win power, and then sit on their hands because they have absolutely no idea what they believe in.