Gary for Lincoln Lib Dems

A blog following my political ramblings, for Lincoln and beyond


  • Lib Dem candidate for Glebe Ward. Involved in Mental Health Activism, Computing, Environmentalism and Gaming

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My Own Personal Political Crisis

Posted by Gazbook on August 1, 2010

Firstly apologies for not updating for so long; a house move, a change in medication and not to mention the pretty depressing election results have left me too pre-occupied to be able to add to this blog in a while. And to be honest, right now I need your opinion and advice.

I am in a massive political crisis. Every minute, I wonder whether the grass really does look greener on the other side. I wonder whether I should make the jump to either Labour or the Green Party (where the grass really is greener. And organic.) However, it doesn’t take long to see that the Labour Party are simply acting opportunistic, and jumping on the bandwagon of public opinion.

But when my own grandad, in jest, pretends to spit over the phone at the mention of the Lib Dems (and in the same way when we talked about the Iron Lady), it does make me wonder whether I am really making the right choice to stay as a Lib Dem. So, could anyone out there who is also a member of the party give me hope that I’m not the only one that does not wish to be part of a centre-right government? Not that I mind coalition at all: I guess I just want to be reassured that we won’t see Clegg-and-co do what New Labour did to the Labour party.

Don’t get me wrong, as I mentioned in a previous post, the social-liberal viewpoint is one very firmly ingrained in my heart. However, it is difficult to look people in the eye and say I’m a Lib Dem, willing to put my neck on the line for the party right now. Especially when those closest to me, and the lower classes, are going to be the hardest hit. While the bankers got a bail-out.

Does anyone else feel like this? What should I do? Can we network and utilise the party-democracy to put our case forward? Definitely in the favour of the Lib Dems is how democratic our party is. Although at the moment I fear those in the cabinet are taking liberties with our, errm, liberties.

Post hugely inspired by the very good “The Liberal Democrat Journey to a Lib-Con Coalition – and where next?”

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Why I’m a Liberal

Posted by Gazbook on May 17, 2010

Che Guevara (Jim Fitzpatrick's style)

Image via Wikipedia

I’m going to be honest: in the last few years I’ve been a member of more political parties than most people would in their entire lives. My still hopeful ideals have always been based on my moral compass; and I thought it’d be wise to explain where I’m coming from, and most definitely why I know the compass keeps pointing back to Social Liberalism.

I apologise for sounding cosy with a utopian beginnings to my political “career”, as I fear this is what every politician has scribbled at the beginning of their auto-biographies (more likely by a ghostwriter than anyone else). However, I swear it’s the truth.

It began around Autumn/Winter 2007, after reading leaflets on the Socialist Party. As Christmas came, certain news programmes made the daily struggle of the homeless and others around the world feel even more personal. So I got involved, and it was quite fun; regular Saturday stalls on the busy Lincoln High Street, intense debate every week. It was all incredibly fun.

I got in touch with other parties with similar aims, and in all honesty I was shocked. They all had petty differences. They all had their reasons why their brand of “socialism” was the best. And this is where I came across my first major problem with the concept (or more accurately, how these parties organised): the arrogance that the world would be better with Socialism. Then what? Of course I understand it would be decided by the people. The Communist Manifesto goes into great detail about how 90% of the worlds population is exploited to provide wealth to the top 10%. And this was in the late 1800s!!

But there is a very real “holier than thou” attitude. No one is right other than themselves. There was no room for compromise; evidenced by the huge number of left-wing parties that exist. So I joined the one united workers party: the Labour Party. However, this didn’t last very long. They treat their members as nothing more than a free advertising agency. If there is democracy within the party, it isn’t obvious.

A world where class didn’t exist and everyone had access to the same wealth and land is, in all honesty, an image we should never leave from our heads. It should be the ultimate goal of humanity. However, the first lesson I learned was that a revolution couldn’t morally work. The second you take land, property and status from someone else by force, who’s to say you won’t become the dictators yourselves? Arguably, countries that have attempted to embrace socialism (although I don’t believe pure socialism has ever existed in the world) have been so democratic that certain forces such as Stalin and Mao, still obsessed with the trappings of power, were able to come to power and effectively turn their countries into even worse states akin to feudalism.

It wasn’t long after this that I had a bit of a breakdown. People who know my mental health work will also know this breakdown fueled my desire to help others even more. There are serious inadequacies with mental health services in England that quite clearly need more people speaking out about them. Interestingly, Americans call our healthcare system “socialised”, though more accurately I’d say it’s actually more like a dictatorship. But anyway.

My political leanings then shifted, initially to the Green Party. I never joined but I got involved in some discussions after being hugely interested in the Green, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth movements, and extremely inspired by the climate change protest march at the end of 2009, the Green Party arguably have some of the best policies this side of the political spectrum. Also, the Transition Town movement was in a way a form of local, voluntary socialism. Or rather, Social Liberalism.

It was initially the policies on political reform, then readings on Social Liberalism that brought me finally to the Liberal Democrats. It is the writings of John Stuart Mill‘s “On Liberty” that probably best encapsulates the basic thoughts on liberalism

“…the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.”

I would argue social liberalism stems from this principle of harm. Rather than being what the Americans call “freedom” (which appears to include freedom not to help the worst off, and for those making a profit and working hard not having to carry the burden of the rest of society), Social Liberalism is based on the idea that the good and freedom of the community goes along with the freedom of the individual. Whereas Socialism arrogantly imposes its ideology on the masses in the name of equality, and capitalism arrogantly exploits the masses in the name of freedom, Social Liberalism provides a balanced education, health, justice, and social care system that provides the skills and ideas each person needs to live in this world, picks them up if they fall ill or through the gaps of society, then lets them make their own mind up.

Wealth is one of the biggest killers in the world. There’s nothing majorly wrong with money as an incentive system for work and purchasing their goods. But wages clearly do not reflect the work people put into their jobs. For example, why should nurses be paid less than doctors, when they’re doing more of the work and cleaning more of the shit up? If nurses jumped ship, our hospitals would be in a very desperate state indeed.

However, my sentiments are that the public deciding each other as equals cannot be dictated. We should do all we can to make it illegal for any company to hire any work in the world for under the British minimum wage. But my thoughts echo a man named Osho, who was a well known Buddhist who moved to America. That socialism and anarchism are the perfect forms of government; however humanity is not ready for it. It needs to come from the inside, as a choice based on ones moral compass. That’s why I’d rather call it voluntary socialism, as it would be a socialism where everyone offered to pool their resources to better the human race. It’ll take an eternity, but we can’t force it.

And when it does happen, those who disagree can fuck off to some other planet.

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A New House of Lords?

Posted by Gazbook on April 26, 2010

House of Lords chamber, looking toward throne

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday I made some attempts to talk about the parliamentary reform the Liberal Democrats would like to make, and how this reform might look like. Today I’d like to suggest how a new House of Lords might look like, fully elected by the public.

The first part is this house would do exactly what it says on the tin; the public would vote for the party they want in the house, rather than a candidate. When all the votes are counted, seats would then be allocated based on the percentage of votes; for is Labour fielded 30% of the votes, they would gain 30% of the seats; if the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition gained 4% of the votes they would get 4% of the seats, and so on. At this point I would probably rename the house to something more accurate, like the House of Senators… although if for historical reasons the public wanted to keep it as the House of Lords, then that is fine with me. As long as it has no affect on democracy in this country then I am not too fussed.

As an extension, what I find interesting with an elected upper house like this is that there would not necessarily be a need for political parties in the lower house anymore. Political parties could be banned from the lower house, or allowed providing they do not overstep the power of their constituents to have a say on laws, or agree or disagree with them.

It would also provide a separation of powers, with the House of Lords acting as the executive and the House of Commons acting as the legislature. Although just because the executive would be based in the Lords, it would not mean that the Lords should be given anymore power. It should be left as it is, with most of the power lying in the Commons. It would then be the duty of political parties, not only to appeal to the United Kingdom as a whole, but to appeal to the representatives of the constituencies of the United Kingdom who will make laws on a daily basis.

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Lib Dem members to decide coalition?

Posted by Gazbook on April 25, 2010

House of Lords

Image via Wikipedia

I should probably avoid speculation as to what happens after the election and focus my energies on getting as much support for the party. However, I would hope that, rather than make a decision on their own, the leaders of the Liberal Democrat party will hold a referendum to it’s members as to which party to side with and form a coalition government.

Building up from that, I would also like to see the party encourage/enforce debate between Labour, The Conservatives, The Lib Dems and the smaller parties. The priority should of course be electoral reform. However, I would like to see an element based on hand-picking the best people for the job in terms of ministerial appointments, and explicitly encouraging a politics based on consensus rather than competition.

How would we achieve this? I think the first part would be putting in place the single transferable vote and/or proportional representation, as well as making the House of Lords entirely elected. The second part would be to change the focus of this coalition term to cleaning up politics. Make explicit requirements for MPs to publish expenses, and to be accountable to constituents first if a certain number vote (either online or through petitions) against the putting in place of certain laws in Parliament. MPs should be accountable to constituents before their party whips.

In my opinion, the final part would be a complete overhaul of the House of Lords into a House entirely elected by the public through proportional representation; I will detail in my next blog post tomorrow how such a system might work.

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Presenter of 2nd Debate Had No Right to Influence Discussion

Posted by Gazbook on April 23, 2010

Ofcom

Image via Wikipedia

Forgive me for my banality, but my hatred of certain massive news corporations being able to influence the vote in favour of the Tories somewhat irritates me.

Even more so, on the second debate Adam Boulton made a comment that, quite frankly, really irked me. The reason for that was I feel it influenced the debate… all he brought up was the fact Nick Clegg was on the front of the front cover of The Telegraph, for reasons questioning his finances.  My problem was it was the job of the leaders to debate and question things. Adam’s role was quite clearly that of a moderator. In all honesty I feel it was part of the smear campaign against the Lib Dems that The Times, The Sun (both papers owned by the same company that owns Sky News) and The Telegraph has propagated.

I hugely encourage others to go ahead and make a complaint to Ofcom using this link. I am certain this breaks the rules of conduct Sky had to agree to in order to be able to make the broadcast. As a side note, being a part-time film editor I am fairly confident many subtle features such as camera angles, framing and the like aimed to undermine Nick Clegg. Obviously that is nothing I am firm about, but in all honesty wouldn’t surprise me given News Corporation‘s track record.

Feel free to use my letter to Ofcom as a template.

Already questioning the impartiality of Sky in political matters, I wish to make a formal complaint with regards to Adam Boulton’s comments to Nick Clegg on being “on the front cover of The Telegraph”.
Forgive me if I am wrong, but the rules for the debates made clear that the role of the presenter would be that of a moderator, rather than to interject additional comments more in the style of TV reporting. I feel his comments were nothing more than to influence the debate, when this was quite clearly the job of the LEADERS to DEBATE.
I would be interested to see how, legally, Sky stands on this issue; as being the role of a moderator Adam had NO RIGHT to influence the discussion (other than to select who was to speak and for how long).
I eagerly await your response.
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Metal Gear Solid 5: Peace Walker… a Liberal Review

Posted by Gazbook on April 22, 2010

Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker

Image by Dekuwa via Flickr

I’m going to suggest something that might seem strange, backwards or childish on an intelligent political blog: I’m going to review a video game.

Don’t worry, it isn’t going to be very soon, so I will still be able to devote myself to the Liberal cause 100% in preperation for the coming elections. However, there is this feeling that video games are for children, and to fulfil some childish urge to be impulsive and murder as many people as is possible.

I’d like to write a review that challenges that.

To me, video games are an art form on par with fiction, music, and of course paintings. Whilst there is no denying that, sometimes, it is fun to stick on Grand Theft Auto and rev round at hundreds of miles per hour, video games also reflect the political and social ideas of the time, as well as reflecting the values of the person/people that made the game.

I would like to start with Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker as it is the natural antidote of the Modern Warfare’s and Grand Theft Auto’s of our time. Although it is a game about war, it is by far the most anti-war piece of work you could possibly view, questioning the philosophical basis of soldiers being tools of the state and the like. The game also focuses on a period of time when Private Military Companies started to proliferate around the world, and all the moral implications that go along with that. On the one hand, they are independent of any state so there are fewer dangers of soldiers being used as “tools of the government” or for political purposes. However, on the other hand, it brings about the issues of a war economy, and warring for profit.

I feel it is the perfect chance to defend an art form, that so many groups ridicule. There are a lot of voices out there saying how disgusting some games (appropriately labelled 18+) are, yet failing to acknowledge equivalents exist in writing, films and other artwork. And while video games give the player choice, even a game like Modern Warfare 2 can show the horrors of your actions.

So, hopefully a week after June 17 2010 (the release date of the latest Metal Gear Solid Game), you will see a brand spanking, intelligent, review on these pages. And yes, I know the game isn’t titled Metal Gear Solid 5, but this was the original title for it. And as far as I’m concerned, it is the true sibling to Metal Gear Solid 4 😉

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Round 2, Tomorrow Night

Posted by Gazbook on April 21, 2010

and in the interests of impartiality...

Image by tankesopp via Flickr

I have to say, I was absolutely amazed with how the debate went last week. Although in my heart of hearts I knew Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats had a message that was fresh and different to the two parties who have held a monopoly on our government for over 60 years, in all honesty I never expected him to be taken as seriously as the public had done.

Now both the Conservatives and Labour are changing their battle plans, from appearing friendly to the yellow party to becoming more hostile and questioning. I think just for our party to actually be in a position where “Labservative” are analysing every detail is a huge achievement in itself, and shouldn’t be seen with caution as it shows for the first time in a very long time we are actually being taken seriously by the establishment.

However, if Gordon and David are too hostile I believe it will show the cracks in going red and blue even more. Not only will it show that they can’t keep to one firm manifesto and campaign, but I believe the public will actually rally in support of the bullying of Nick. This is bearing in mind the viewing figures will be much lower for the next debate anyway, seeing as Sky News is not a terrestrial channel.

As I type this message, the official “We got Rage Against the Machine to #1, we can get the Lib Dems into office!” page has gone from 0 members to 127,000 in 7 days. The Tories, with a Conservative fan page, are the next closest political Facebook Group with just over 50,000 members. I think this speaks volumes for how well the Liberal Democrats have done already.

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Suicide as Big a Killer as Cancer

Posted by Gazbook on April 16, 2010

The way out or Suicidal ideation

Image via Wikipedia

Having already known that suicide has been the biggest killer in men under 35 in the last 3 years, it came to my attention today that suicide is the biggest killer in young people in the world; second to road traffic accidents. Also in Lincolnshire, suicide is the biggest killer after cancer.

All these topics were discussed prior to and during an NHS meeting on self-harm today. Although there is a misunderstanding that people who self-harm are attempting suicide, as many use  self-injury as a coping mechanism and a lifeline. This can be for a variety of factors, such as a release of endorphins (one of the body’s pain relief chemicals).

At the same time, those who self harm are at an increased risk of committing suicide; ranging from one suicide for every 200 cases of harm in people up to 35, to the alarming figure of one suicide for every person over 75 who attends A&E because of self-harm.

It is amazing then, despite these statistics, that mental health and suicide is still seen as such a taboo in the UK.

Although (as far as I’m aware) NHS services don’t come under the remit of the county council, social services do. And while everything seems happy-go-lucky with the new NHS Walk-In centre on Monks Road, they do not accept visits for mental health problems. A person was even turned down treatment for presenting at the Walk-In centre with serious cuts to their arms that needed medical attention; even though the centre can actually treat physical symptoms of self-injury.

One of my most important aims, both outside government in a campaigning/activist role and inside government as a council candidate, will be to reverse this trend of reductions in day services. It has taken years for a day service review to finally be carried out.

I will also make sure that buildings being under-used that are owned by the council (such as the “NHS Work Skills” building on Mint Lane) are opened up for community use. There is so little to support the average person, especially those feeling suicidal. And even groups that have nothing to do with mental health problems, like games groups and art groups, have massive therapeutic benefits- for the entire community.

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Being a Cyclist Feels a Burden

Posted by Gazbook on April 16, 2010

London Cycle Hire Scheme

Image by suburbanslice via Flickr

After travelling to Berlin more than a month ago, I was amazed at how advanced their transport and cycle network was in comparison with our own. Roads were virtually empty (well by London standards anyway!!). Buses and Trains had sensible approaches to ticketing (forget Oyster cards and turnstiles; you’re free to get off and on when you want, but if you don’t have a ticket you’re fined a hefty amount). And the support for cyclists was amazing. Cyclists were catered for in near enough every part of the city, and every shop had bike parking outside so you didn’t have to walk halfway through town to get from your bike to the shop.

It was this that inspired me to start cycling to and from places in Lincoln again. Plus I needed to lose some weight!!

However, I was flabbergasted at the attitude of many motorists when attempting to take to the roads. I had cars pulling in front of me or speeding past me, and been close to many accidents in the last few weeks. You also feel like a burden to other road users, with scowls from on-coming cars in a narrow lane or motorists hitting the accelerator too hard as they overtake you.

If elected, one of my priorities will be to sort transport out properly. We should have properly designed cycle paths, not bits of red paint randomly placed on the road to achieve cycle path targets. And we should encourage walking, cycling, and public transport. Especially for short journeys.

However, those that do need to drive should not be disadvantaged either. Major changes such as minimising disruption to road users at the rail crossing on the high street need to be made. The barriers come down for what seems like hours before a train actually passes, whilst just outside of Lincoln there are crossings near schools on a “stop, look and listen” basis. And the trains are going much faster through these areas then as they come through Lincoln Central Station!!

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Bickering Between Children Whilst Careful of Clegg’s Eggshells

Posted by Gazbook on April 15, 2010

Nick Clegg makes the Liberal Democrats' Leader...

Image via Wikipedia

What I saw on ITV1 tonight was not really a debate. Gordon Brown and David Cameron were so worried with getting on Nick Clegg‘s bad side that they couldn’t say a single bad word about him. And the two leaders, of parties that have had a monopoly on Parliament for over 50 years, were left to bicker between themselves.

In a sense I feel sad that Clegg was almost denied the opportunity for proper debate as it seems he was given “special treatment”. Yet at the same time I find it very reassuring that the only truly democratic party in Parliament had this platform to say “actually, you don’t have to believe them lot”.

What amazed me most, however, was the 40+% approval rating of Nick compared to David and Gordon; He ended up with more people thinking he was the best then either of his opponents put together. It has given me even more confidence that, actually, it is worth fighting for change because a lot of people would like change. Plus with a majority of people watching the programme being made up of those who will vote, it could lead to some very interesting results come election day.

Still, there is a long while yet. For those interested in the Liberal Democrats winning in a few weeks time, I’d sign up to become a volunteer for the party. You don’t have to do anything you’re uncomfortable with, and there’s an opportunity to make a difference locally.

That is why I’m Lib Dem, and why I am standing for them as a councillor. If I was in power, and if the party got in power, they would want to give it away. To you.

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