The race to be in the race for the United States presidency is heating up, with the primaries in sight. To be honest, I don’t like the American style of elections but this year’s is of particular importance nonetheless.
As a member of the Liberal Democrats in the UK, you can pretty much disregard entertaining any notion that I will support a Republican candidate in their quest to take residency in the White House.
In fact, that race seems all but one by Donald J. Trump, meaning the battle to be the Democrats candidate is more crucial than ever.
Martin O’Malley, thanks for coming, but you haven’t a prayer of running in this race. The Democratic nomination is between veterans Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
The internet is littered with tests to match your views with those of each candidate and with each test I have taken, I have found myself with Hil-Rod in second, and Sanders or even O’Malley in first place.
There is a lot to be admired about Bernie Sanders’ pledges to tackle the shocking socio-economic inequality seen throughout the United States, looking to emulate the social democratic governments of Scandinavia.
These aren’t my politics but they’re admirable nonetheless. Clinton, on the other hand is a seasoned liberal campaigner, who is seemingly getting more liberal as her career progresses.
A lot of criticism for Hillary has come from her previous stances on same-sex marriage which saw her oppose the legislation. Of course, this isn’t really relevant. As Americans would say, you have to give props to Sanders for having the foresight to champion such a law for the last three decades at least but the fact is, Clinton is now committed to progressing and protecting LGBT+ rights.
On perhaps the biggest security issue in the States at the minute, Sanders is taking a devolved stance on gun control laws and failing to launch a meaningful assault on the lax tyranny that leads to thousands of slaughtered Americans every year.
On the other hand, Hillary’s stances on gun control are far less moderate and are a much braver stance against what is a resolute opposition in Republican ranks.
It is also worth remembering that Clinton has recently served as the US’ foreign secretary, and in a world where problems are becoming more and more globalised, she can lead from experience and expertise.
Ultimately, Sanders’ social policy is admirable but Clinton’s political brand is closer to my own. And given the threat that their likely opposition, Donald Trump, presents with his brand of US nationalism and fascism, the progressives Stateside needs someone who can actually beat his bombast in a two candidate run-off.
Sure, Bernie Sanders seems like a lovely guy, with economically questionable ideals, such as his 90% tax rate call, but if you give Americans the choice between socialism and fascism, they will pick the latter every single time.
Hillary is not perfect, of course she isn’t, but she is a competent politician with sturdy political ideals, economic sensibility and a history at the forefront of American diplomacy. She can beat Donald Trump’s brand of neo-fascism, whereas Sanders cannot.
Last night, the Force and my childhood awoke. JJ Abrams’ long-awaited first installment of Star Wars‘ sequel trilogy hit the silver screen this week and, spoiler alert – it was epic.
I have been fanatical about Star Wars ever since I was four years old. Having been first introduced to the galaxy far far away in 1999 with the release of Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. From then, I began a love affair that has lasted throughout my developing years and now in to my early adulthood. Now at the ripened age of 20, I can appreciate that, though they were tantalising to me as a child, the prequels were, cinematically speaking, kind of dire.
It took all of fifteen minutes for The Force Awakens to teach the prequels a lesson, the start was brooding, intriguing, exciting and fresh. It perfectly introduced the new era of Star Wars and set up what fans would be facing for the next three installments.
The film’s greatest triumph was that it managed to marry the familiarity of the original trilogy with a new direction for the franchise in almost perfect balance. The new characters, notably Rey, Finn and BB8 are instant fan favourites – they are interesting, likable and just as worthy of a place in Star Wars folklore as the rebellion’s original gang. But, importantly, whilst the new blood provide the potential for an exciting trilogy, the old guard were still put to good use. There is still a need for Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Chewbacca. C-3PO and R2-D2 are still the ever-present faces in the saga’s long run – but Abrams’ didn’t make this all about them and it wouldn’t have worked if he did.
The plot itself was a nostalgic throwback to the bygone years of the Empire. The bad guy, who was linked to a good guy, and is ruled over by a seemingly old, evil yet sentient being. Then the baddies build a big old weapon and the goodies have to blow it up. Hey, it worked in half of the previous six films and it’s a formula that makes sense as a device to reboot the series – as long as we don’t have two more films of it.
I was also really pleased to see a female given the prominent Jedi role in this trilogy. Rey, played by Daisy Ridley is enthralling, exciting and a positive step for a franchise which has a healthy section of female fans, as well as male ones. Whilst John Boyega’s character, Finn did shine in the new film, Rey is the real stand-out debutant.
Kylo Ren, as a villain, was inconsistent. The fanaticism he holds for Darth Vader, his grandfather is a good motivation for his First Order links, and whilst his parentage to Leia and Han was all too obvious, it’s a neat plot dynamic to keep revisting – and again, it serves to promote the nostalgic links of the film’s famous predecessors. However, it was confusing how a Dark Jedi so powerful in the force, as we saw in the film’s opening, was so easily overpowered by Rey, a newly discovered force-sensitive being with no training whatsoever. Let’s remember, Ren is the direct descendant of Anakin Skywalker, the most powerful jedi of all time – but was bested by a scavenger.
Of course, this gets even muddier when we consider the implication that Rey could be a descendant of Anakin herself. Why else would Luke’s (and previously Anakin’s) old lightsaber call to her? If that is the case, then it makes sense how she was able to defeat him in combat. Although, I hope it’s not the case, given the fact that rehashing every old theme from the old films will delegitimise the saga.
Now, let’s address that big Elephant in the room. Han Solo is dead. Yes, it’s terrible and we are all devastated. As a plot point, I don’t really have an issue with Solo being killed off. It cemented the villain status of Kylo Ren, who, for Han’s death to make any sense, must survive the explosion of the Starkiller Base and torment the new Resistance for the remainder of the trilogy. Harrison Ford was a big fan of being bumped off, and given there’s a spin-off for his character planned, we should have seen it coming. I disagree that his death didn’t fit with the character. In fact, his death showed us the desperate father he’d become behind his bravado, and it was a welcome new dimension to the one of the franchise’s greatest characters. The only thing wrong with his death was the timing. We didn’t get to see enough of Han and Leia, we saw none of Han and Luke and Chewbacca will just look absurd for the rest of the trilogy.
These are very small criticisms for a film that blew the prequels out of the water. The Force Awakens is a cinematic triumph with the perfect balance of new age and nostalgia – the second greatest film of the franchise, behind the legendary Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Of course, my opinion may change the more I watch the film but for now, I am seriously, seriously impressed. The Force Awakens is the epitome of the cinematic space epic, a film that relaunched the greatest film saga of all-time and covered it in glory, and a film that showed George Lucas exactly how to make a follow-up trilogy. May he never touch his franchise ever again.
What TFA got right
The perfect balance between old Star Wars and new.
Very little Luke Skywalker.
Exciting new characters and worlds.
Impressive and more realistic battle sequences.
A more polished cinematic experience.
Han’s emotional death scene.
The prevailing formulas and themes (as long as this is the last we see of them).
What TFA got wrong
The inconsistency of Kylo Ren.
The lack of explanation of who Snoke is.
The pointlessness of Captain Phasma.
Giving John Boyega an American accent for no apparent reason whatsoever…
The idea of trying, and likely failing miserably, to predict a General Election in five years time appeals to me – so I’m doing it.
I’ve tried to be objective and somewhat scientific by looking at previous trends in UK elections but here is my prediction for 2020.
Buoyed by their shock majority win in 2015, the Tories enjoy five years in charge on their own. The Tories won’t be particularly affected by the EU referendum result. The party will continue to fudge economic figures and their austerity will still be preferred to weak opposition from Labour. The election of widely popular Boris Johnson will be a big boost prior to 2020.
Perhaps the hardest to predict. Jeremy Corbyn’s reign won’t stretch until the next election, eventually moderates and the electorate will kick him out of office. Hillary Benn seems like the front-runner to take the helm, so let’s assume he’s successful. Labour will avoid another SDP style split and perhaps won’t be as battered as many expect.
After, the EU referendum defeat, Nigel Farage’s party will slow down in the polls – their purpose will be spent. Of course, they won’t vanish in to a puff of smoke, the SNP had been buoyed by referendum defeat. The reactionary politics on issues like immigration and terrorism which give their party life will still be prominent in 5 years time.
There is no bigger opportunity for a centrist party in the UK than now. Of course, as fate would have it, Britain’s liberals are at their lowest recent ebb. Tim Farron is a great campaigner and at his best can lead the fightback. However, if he fails, they face terminal irrelevance. No party’s place is more precarious than the Lib Dems’.
The SNP train will come to a gradual break by 2020. Nicola Sturgeon will be unable to keep civic nationalism sexy in Scottish politics in 5 more years as their poor record in Holyrood shines through, along with a string of corruption scandals. They will still be the largest party north of Hadrian’s Wall – comfortably in fact.
The toughest to predict, their steady upward trend will probably be interrupted by Labour’s lurch to the left and whatever scale of revival the Lib Dems undertake. It’s hard to make a case for political obscurity for the Greens, they still have a purpose.
Scottish nationalism won’t quite be replicated in Wales. I think Leanne Wood’s prediction that Plaid’s time is yet to come may take a little longer to come true, but they could win votes from unsatisfied Labour supporters.
How I envy Canada. Their General Election campaign came to a thrilling conclusion this week after the three main parties; the Conservatives, the Liberals and the New Democratic Party (NDP), each took turns polling as clear front runners. However, it was Justin Trudeau’s revitalised Liberal Party that claimed a majority government, coming from third place four years ago. I could quite easily wax lyrical about Canadian politics for 600 or so words but instead, I think I could make better use of my time by reflecting on the more sober thought of how the Liberals can inspire their sister party in the UK.
For pretty much the entirety of Canada’s parliamentary history, the Liberals and the Tories have jostled for power. In 2011, the Liberals fell to being the nation’s third party for the first time in its history, slipping behind the NDP. Since then, the Liberal Party have been rejuvenated by breaking the shackles of establishment politics and becoming a political movement first, and a politics playing party second. As a result they now preside over a majority government that seemed unthinkable a few months ago.
New Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau
Remember the 2010 General Election campaign here? For about a week, it seemed the Liberal Democrats may shock the nation and actually win an election. Cleggmania was building on the momentum of successful leaders Paddy Ashdown and the late Charles Kennedy, and the party were genuine contenders, even topping the opinion polls. The Lib Dems were riding the wave of being outside the ‘Westminster bubble’; they were fresh, invigorated and exciting.
The Grits, as the Liberals are known in Canada, managed to recapture that essence over the last four years and made meaningful, passionate, principled policies at the heart of their crusade. The Liberals championed fringe issues like marijuana legalisation, open politics, voting reform, campaign spending reform, Trans rights among other things.
Whilst it is absolutely key that here in the UK, the Liberal Democrats continue to be a strong voice on big issues like our membership of the European Union, the positives of immigration, the housing crisis and the Snooper’s Charter, our party must also extend its message to the issues people care about but other politicians won’t dare touch.
Liberal Democrats need to shout louder about changing laws on drug use and possession, about being meaningful guardians of our environment without the crazy economics, and about championing social justice for those most oppressed in our society. Whilst I know that their message is vitally important, it’s a disgrace that in 2015 there is even such a need for Sandi Toksvig’s new Women’s Equality Party.
The Liberal Democrats are vehemently unapologetic, and probably rightly so, for entering in to Coalition government in 2010. In government the party was able to enact some of its best policies and retract some of the Tories’ worst – but it has come at a price. The party is now tainted with the plague of establishment and has seemingly somewhat lost its way.
If there is to be any hope of a Lib Dem ‘fightback’, the party must rediscover the gritty radical roots that made them so popular pre-Coalition. Despite the fact that the Liberal Democrats and the Liberal Party of Canada are not the same, they are very similar, they are sisters and there can be great parallels drawn between the two. If the Liberal Democrats are to win again, they must be like their Canadian sisters; loud, bold and more importantly, brave. In fact, as simplistic and vapid as it sounded, the Canadian Liberals’ campaign slogan is the most concise blueprint you could offer to the Liberal Democrats right now; Real Change.
The most watched television programme of the year was the final of a baking competition. Almost a quarter of the nation tuned in to see Nadiya Hussain win the Great British Bake Off, a competition comparable to those held at village fetes the nation over. But Hussain’s victory is much more important to British society.
For many of us it seems bizarre that a programme about baking is so revered at all and probably that extra bit bizarre that it has the power to help change social attitudes in this country. I wish Nadiya’s victory was as understated as the victories of her predecessors – but it isn’t, because she’s Muslim.
If we were in any doubt that Islamophobia and xenophobia weren’t still high on the list of Britain’s social ills, we were shown that wasn’t true this last week. The Conservative MP and Home Secretary Theresa May made a disgusting attack on mass immigration an affront to ‘cohesive society’ this week and was upstaged just a few days later when the aforementioned Hussain, a British woman of Bangladeshi heritage, scooped TV’s biggest prize.
After Nadiya’s win, The Daily Mail tenuously and disgustingly made every pathetic effort to stringently link her heritage and ethnicity to terrorism, indirectly attributing her to the 2005 bombings in London by referring to the fact her wedding took place in the same year as relevant…seriously.
Yes, all Nadiya did was step out of her comfort zone and bake, and bake well for that matter. But, without trying she has endeared herself to millions and counteracted the damaging messages from the right of the political spectrum that British Muslims are less British than the rest of ‘us’, and that generations of immigration damage the fabrics of society. We need more messages of equality, inclusivity and tolerance in this country – and a baking competition is doing far more than our government to promote that. Nadiya Hussain is the deserved winner of the Great British Bake Off, but her greatest victory isn’t her dazzling lemon drizzle wedding cake but her unintentional yet vital uprooting of stereotypes and bigotry.
David Cameron must think politics is rather easy. First, he wins a majority in the Commons, subsequently his coalition partners are obliterated, then his right-wing copycats are left virtually unrepresented and now, his main challengers have flown off to the unappealing left. He even managed to brush off any lasting damage made by the swine kind, unlike Ed Milliband before him. The Conservatives seem to think they’re in for a peaceful stroll to another majority in 2020 – provided, of course, that their latest set of falsehoods goes unchallenged.
When politicians are afforded such good fortune, it breeds arrogance, and with it, complacency. The Prime Minister addressed his adoring audience at Conservative Party conference on Wednesday. The party’s leader made an unexpected play for social justice, ending poverty and the case for progressive conservatism –whatever that is. He pledged to make this next government about the ‘proud tradition of conservative social reform’, showing that David Cameron is nowhere near as adept at political history as he is subterfuge. My point is, Mr. Cameron – we’ve heard this lovely chatter all before and seen nothing from you.
The Prime Minister alluded to the introduction of new policy for protecting LGBT+ people from discrimination, citing the coalition’s deliverance of same-sex marriage as a record of deliverance to that end. It’s wonderful to see the leader of a Conservative Party talk about LGBT+ rights, and even more wonderful to hear his comments met with enthusiastic applause from the Tory delegates in attendance. But if history is anything to go by, the Tories seem to be more interested in monopolising the electoral support of social groups than championing their cause.
It is clear that Mr. Cameron has become terminally self-righteous. He really wants women, BAME and LGBT+ people in this country to believe that his ‘compassionate conservatism’ has substance – it doesn’t.
Why do ethnic minorities and women still report disproportionate amounts of racism and misogyny among the party’s ranks? Why does the Conservative Home Minister think that immigration is an unavoidable affront to social cohesion? Why are the compassionate Tories so anti-immigrant? Why are they so reluctant to accept the same amount of Syrian refugees in five years that the Germans are taking in in a day?
How can David Cameron stand on stage and one minute spout cosy yet vapid egalitarian rhetoric then the next minute maul the poorest by cutting tax credits, lacerate LGBT+ citizens by slicing funding for mental health services which they disproportionately need more than everyone else, ignorantly vetoing progressive plans for age-appropriate sex education for straight and LGBT+ students and generally brutalising these must vulnerable groups with unnecessarily brutal austerity measures?
I’m sure I speak for everyone in the Liberal Democrats when I say that I welcome any Conservative Party support for tackling inequality – the more, the merrier. But, we have seen this all before and I stand by summation that the right of politics only ever want to be seen to help promote equality, they never actually care enough to do it. So now, Mr. Cameron it is time for you to walk the walk, now we’re not there for you to pin all your ills on. If you really do care for equality, put your social liberalism where your mouth is.
I was so heartened, like many, to see Labour’s new leader Jeremy Corbyn call for a ‘kinder politics’. However, given your not so kind and frankly laughably hypocritical comments about the Liberal Democrats today, am I to assume this is the first Labour u-turn under yet another feckless leader?
So, we’re a “useless bunch of lying sell-outs”? I presume this has largely stemmed from the last five years and our part in the coalition government. Did we lie about tuition fees? No, we didn’t – we didn’t and couldn’t deliver our policy because there was no money left by the last Labour government to fund it. I also think it would be wise to abstain (pun intended) on whipping us with the tuition fees stick considering it was your party who introduced them in the first place, and your party who has broken even more promises on tuition fees than us, and what’s worse is you were in majority government for eleven years and could have done what you liked.
Sell-outs is a funny insult to levy at a party that has been consistently liberal for the entirety of its existence; delivering same-sex marriage, the welfare state and the pupil premium among other things. Labour on the other hand have flitted through endless streams of populist trends in an attempt to find any lingering whiff of power you can. Are you socialists? Are you centrists? Are you small c conservatives? Who knows? I suspect you don’t either.
I get tired of the piousness from the Labour Party, who have consistently attacked other (and I use that term extremely loosely) progressives, whilst doing very little to that end themselves. You have successfully attained the loyal support of many vulnerable social groups but beyond having their support do you have any actual interest in them? Labour didn’t have same-sex marriage in their manifesto in 2010 and you didn’t implement it in the thirteen years of power you had prior to that. In fact, almost every single piece of pro-equality legislation the Labour Party has ever passed has been implemented because you were sued in to doing so or because a Liberal drew up the proposals for you.
The Gender Recognition Act? Allowing gays in the military? Forced on to the Labour government by the European Human Rights Convention, like so many other pro-equality pieces of the time. What about equalising age of consent for heterosexual and homosexual couples? The charge against that very movement in 1994 was led by David Blunkett, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary. And what about the Welfare State, set up as outlined in the Beveridge report? It did not come from the fresh-thinking or strong principles of the Labour Party but from William Beveridge, a member of the old Liberal Party.
And what about the illegal Iraq war? A conflict fought on false pretences which has almost irreparably stoked tensions in the Middle East, caused countless needless deaths of civilians and the Armed Forces and contributed to four million people leaving Syria and seeking refuge around the world. And by the way, who was it in Calais talking about this humanitarian crisis and calling for us to take more refugees in? It wasn’t the four squabbling Labour leadership candidates; it was Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats.
In fact, just this week, Labour vetoed a monumentally progressive debate on scrapping Trident at party conference because you were afraid your apparently sturdy principles, which nobody can identify, would upset your Trade Union overlords.
Maybe you’re upset that ‘we got in to bed with the Tories’. Are we the real Tory enablers? No. Labour are the party who launched campaigns slamming the Liberal Democrats for their role in government, ignoring all the positive manifesto pledges we successfully made in to law and the sterling job we did at tampering the truly heinous Conservative government we’re left with now. If it wasn’t for Labour conflating this nonsensical version of events, we wouldn’t have lost so many Tory-Lib Dem marginals and maybe we’d be ‘in bed’ with you instead.
It’s not like you’re exactly showing yourself to be stern opposition to the newly unrestrained Tories. Let us not forget the mass abstention from the Labour Party on votes that threatened the very existence of our National Health Service, the one you so reverently yet incorrectly boast to have created. So what is Labour’s idea of promoting social equality? Separate manifestos for LGBT+ people? Tough-talking xenophobic mugs? Patronising pink buses?
To be honest, Mr. Watson, this quote would be funny if it weren’t so sad and weren’t so damaging. Whilst your party sat in a hall waiting the result of its recent leadership election, patting itself on the back for its gender diversity as man after man addressed the packed venue of Labour members, the Liberal Democrats were reflecting on a job well done in government. We were reflecting on how we made the country a better place for people on low income, school children, gay and lesbian couples among others – and just how devastated we were we lost so many excellent female MPs too.
The Liberal Democrats are not perfect, we made mistakes, plenty of them. But are we ‘useless’? Are we ‘lying sell-outs’? No, we’re not. The Labour Party has reaped the rewards of its inaccurate reputation and as a result has become the greatest hindrance to social and economic equality in this country.
So instead of slinging mud from the halls of an auditorium in Brighton where your party so arrogantly and so wrongly revels in its own ego, we’re out fighting this awful Conservative government and making a meaningful, and better yet, genuine stand against inequality and injustice. Maybe one of these days, you would like to join us.
The Liberal Democrats are down but they’re not out, excluding our leader and party president, these ten Liberals can be at the forefront of the Lib Dem fightback!
Despite being defeated in the leadership election, Norman Lamb is still a politician of real quality. His extraordinary work towards improving treatment of mental health in coalition government means Norman will find being the party’s Health spokesperson a breeze. Norman is a rare breed of politician; he’s widely liked outside of party lines – he even received a glowing report from The Daily Mail! Health issues are always at the forefront of British politics and Norman has the qualities to make people listen to our plans for the NHS.
The Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats is one of the party’s best parliamentarians. Kirsty’s leadership will be crucial in leading the Lib Dem revival in Wales. Kirsty is a dedicated and passionate liberal with an irresistible charm, her record in the Welsh Assembly, particularly on education and providing children and young people with greater opportunity needs to be exploited. Her track record and natural poise mean she is one to watch in the party and should consider standing for deputy leadership.
He probably thinks I’m taking the piss by including him but that’s only partially true. As the most senior member of Liberal Youth and experience at the very top of the party, Josh has the tools to lead the Lib Dem Fightback online and with the young’uns. Josh is a respected member of the Social Liberal Forum and can help the party regain positive traction with younger audiences. Josh’s tweets and life in general may be a bit tragic but his politics are great and I’m sure given the opportunity, people will respond to that.
Most people’s tip to be the party’s next deputy leader. Jo Swinson’s defeat in the 2015 General Election was undeserved and is considered a travesty within the party. Swinson flourished as Junior Equalities Minister in the Coalition government and is renowned for putting tackling gender discrimination at the forefront of her politics. Jo Swinson is a passionate advocate for equalites regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality or ability, the Lib Dems can thrive in these areas of policy because the Tories will not prioritise them over the next five years.
Maajid is ever the controversial and divisive figure, but I think his expertise is vital. In an increasingly uncertain world, Nawaz is the perfect man to lead the Lib Dems on policy concerning Islamism and the emergence of the so-called Islamic State. It is crucial we as Liberals redress the culture of disenfranchising Muslims in Britain and Nawaz can help the party on it’s way to attaining a broad, range of views on the matter.
Tessa is another leading former MP who has allegedly long had her eyes set on deputy leadership. Munt has proven herself to be a capable and resilient politician, already expressing her desire to stand again in the constituency she lost just four months ago. Tessa’s speeches at Lib Dem Autumn Conference were confident, punchy and inspiring and her steely determination and unwavering gumption are exactly the assets the party needs to recuperate.
Lynne Featherstone is one of the party’s most internally popular politicians. As a minister in the Home Office, Featherstone paved the way for same-sex marriage to be legalised in the coalition government and also set about ending the heinous practice of FGM. As one of the new ‘kamikaze peers’, Featherstone will once again be at the forefront of the party, tackling Energy & Climate Change – an issue that is often overlooked. Lynne Featherstone has a natural aura that makes her likable and personable and let’s face it, her outstanding legacy speaks for itself.
As the party’s sole MEP, poor Catherine Bearder has her work cut out for her ahead of next year’s EU membership referendum. But make no mistake, Catherine Bearder has her seat on merit and has the tools to lead the party’s unashamedly pro-European stance. Of course, Bearder will need the help from the wider Lib Dem membership but Catherine’s position of influence could help her and our party be on the right side of history by championing EU membership next Autumn.
I really like Caroline Pidgeon but Zack Polanski would have been my tip for the top of the Lib Dems’ GLA list. As he showed during the party’s rally at this year’s Autumn conference, Zack can really make liberalism exciting. His pure exhilaration and passion for liberal politics and the people he desires to serve means he is arguably the best example of how the Lib Dems can rebuild from the grassroots up. There are a finite number of people, if any, more likeable in the party than Zack and if that translates he can be at the forefront of the party’s grassroots and capital revival.
And finally, there is me. As the best blogger in the Liberal Democrat world and generally the best liberal ever, I am undoubtedly the party’s best asset. I mean I’m 200/1 to be the next leader for goodness sake, I’ve as good as got it – in fact, I’ll eat my hat if it doesn’t happen. Seriously though, members of Liberal Youth and avid social media users like me can also make a massive difference to the party’s fortunes but I’m just going to list my name… for the attention.
My first Liberal Democrat conference this week was a thoroughly enriching experience. As a dedicated member of a party at its lowermost ebb in recent memory, having the opportunity to collude with like-minded individuals was invaluably refreshing and will do wonders in aiding our ‘fightback’.
In truth, Lib Dem conference is a strange land filled with gospel choirs, jovially witty songs and jokes about the breaking Prosciutto Affair. A place where I’m Paddy Ashdown’s idol, Nick Clegg is a humble giant and Alistair Carmichael stays up to discuss skinny jeans in to the early hours of the morning. However, despite the breezy spirit and happy-go-lucky merriment, the lasting legacy of autumn conference in Bournemouth is a serious one, a clear direction for our party to go to next.
Alistair Carmichael told me that he had noticed me in the auditorium after the Trident policy vote and expressed that he was struck by how ‘pissed off’ I looked – which was fair, because I was. A loaded debate which favoured the parliamentary party’s and established Lib Dems’ stance saw the party defer on making a real policy on Trident either way, this limp-wristed policy is all too indicative of our contemporary public perception – and we need to counteract that.
Economic sensibility is not somewhere we lost votes, in fact, I’d be willing to wager that our economic credentials are considered among the finest in the country, at least that’s what The Institute of Fiscal Studies thinks. Yet, we have lost our identity as a radically progressive party, or at least, it has been diluted and overshadowed by others. Small ‘l’ liberals in this country care about economic sensibility, of course they do, but they care about civil liberties, they care about internationalism, they care about recreational drugs, euthanasia, equalities and social justice and we need to rediscover that unapologetic vibrant liberalism that makes our ideology so popular the world over. It’s as Tim Farron noted in his first keynote speech; we need liberals to become Liberal Democrats.
My views were shared by a friend I made, a long-term party member who was attending his first conference, named Fareed. He and I spent many hours agreeing with our fundamental vision for our party and it was one we relayed to an enthusiastic albeit exhausted Norman Lamb late on Tuesday night. Although, we agreed on our collective vision, Fareed was able to articulate it far more successfully than I, a further testament to how enriching a strong membership can be. The Liberal Democrats need to make noise, we spent five years in a gruelling coalition government and barely anybody knows what we did whilst in power. We didn’t shout loud enough about delivering same-sex marriage, raising the personal allowance and ending child immigration detention centres. When parties and movements make noise, the people follow. UKIP have chirped on and on about the corrupt establishment politics of Brussels and Westminster and have seen a remarkable rise in the popular vote and too a win in last year’s European elections. Similarly, the SNP were able to bang the drum of Scottish independence last year and made such a racket that they won nearly every single Scottish seat in Westminster. People are intrigued by blare, titillated by dynamism and enthused by effervescence; I’m calling on my party to be one of unadulterated, uninhibited loud liberalism that will inspire Britons from St. Ives to Shetland.
My friend Fareed then went on to provide me with a stunning metaphor for our party. He is an avid fan of Classics, and particularly stories from the Iliad. During a lively chat at the bar this week, he told me the story of Cassandra, a woman punished by the gods with the curse of being able to foresee the future but never being able to convince people that she was being truthful about her predictions. It was during this casual sharing of interests that his eyes widened and he uttered the all too prophetic and tragically accurate phrase; “we’re the Cassandra party”. We were right about the welfare state, we were right about Iraq and we were right about the coalition. I, like Tim Farron, am absolutely fed up with being right and losing elections.
It was perhaps fitting that it was actually Charles Kennedy who left me feeling the most inspired to rectify that. During the remarkably observed and excruciatingly emotional tribute to our late, great former leader, a quote eerily echoed around the auditorium, a last contribution by Charles to his party, and a blueprint for our ‘fightback’; “This is what we should be passionate about. If it makes us unpopular in certain quarters, let’s be unpopular for what we care about, what we believe in, and what defines us and what we think is best for our country.”
It really is rather that simple, the sagacity of Charles Kennedy can lead us to the top yet again. We as a party have made mistakes, of course we have, but liberalism is a brand that provides hope for every single person the world over. We need to change, we need to move away from the comfort of vapid centrism and embrace the radical alternative that holds together our every tradition. The time is now to make a racket, take the fight to the government and make liberalism the brash politics that charms voters. Now, four months after our near obliteration, we are convalescing at an encouraging speed. Loud liberalism will save our party and our country. More than ever, the Liberal Democrats need Britain and Britain needs the Liberal Democrats – please don’t let us be right without power again.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.