...a blog by Richard Flowers

Friday, April 12, 2019

Day 6676: Europe: The Final Countdown. Again.

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice


Happy STILL IN the European Union Day. Again. They come around so quickly, don’t they!

People keep asking me “What is going to happen about Brexit?”

To which the correct answer is “How should I know, I’m a stuffed elephant!”

But let’s give it a go.

There was exactly ONE moment when Brexit could happen, and that was 23:00 on 29 March 2019.

And it didn’t.

Entirely thanks to the ineptitude of Brexiters in and formerly-in the Cabinet demanding more unicorns and less reality in their Brexit and through the religious intransigence of Brexiters outside the Cabinet insisting that this Brexit wasn’t Brexity enough, they missed the exit.

This is undeniably good news.

Parliament, and to an extent even the Prime Monster, have looked twice into the ABYSS of “no deal” and said “no thank you very much, matey” to the death and disaster that likely would follow.

So what do we do instead.

Well, Parliament is already off on its Easter hols…

No, that’s super UNFAIR – they’ve all been working absurdly hard to try and agree on nothing, and taking time away from the bubble might clear heads and let some fresh thoughts in.

But still, this extension actually takes all the pressure OFF The Prime Monster to get her agreement signed. And equally OFF of MPs to come to any agreement for it or any other deal.

And we have seen for the last six months that if there is an option to kick the can down the road, Mrs May will punt it into the longest deepest grass she can find.

Which unfortunately gives them all time to think about doing something else instead.

The WORST that could happen would be European Parliament Elections AND a General Election AND a referendum.

So you can bet that that’s EXACTLY what’s going to happen.

With the Conservatory Party visibly self-destructing before our button eyes, it will not be long before they do something… rather rash.

Pundits saying that the Prime Monster is safe until December because of the rules of the 1922 Committee… are overlooking that the 1922 Committee can just change the rules. We’ve already had the suggestion of “Indicative Votes of No Confidence”, which would be just as lethal as the real thing if lost.

Of course, Mrs May is a past master of seeming to promise to go, only to indefinitely defer the deadline – before the 2022 election, once the agreement is passed, when the stars are right. However, the even-by-their-standards frothingly outraged reaction of her Party to having to fight the European elections suggests time is very much reaching its fullness and the appropriates of her juncture is fast approaching.

The time limit that the Prime Monster has set herself is the 30th of June, though a calamitous showing at the now-inevitable Euro elections could truncate her tenure even further.

And to be fair, not a moment too soon. She has been absolutely the worst Prime Monster since, er, the last one, who is really to blame for all this mess. But Mrs May should have gone after the unnecessary election that she lost and only the unique combination of personal mulishness and no one else wanting to be left holding the ticking timebomb let her stay. Alas for Theresa, proving that she would rather defer Brexit forever than be holding it at the moment of detonation has removed her last purpose, that of fall guy.

I actually have this notion of Theresa May that, should she be ousted either by some confected 1922 Committee mechanism internal to the Tory Party or by a Parliamentary vote of no confidence in her government… she will still be Prime Minister long enough to send a Revoke letter to the EU.

It would be a final act of petty revenge, but she’d finally be doing the right thing for all the wrong reasons.

And she would tell us, from her Downing Street podium, that – entirely correctly – she was justified in this by the House having repeatedly voted down no deal and there simply being no time to reach agreement to do anything else.

She could literally save the country to spite the ERG.

But alas, that’s really too bold, to daringly pro-active for the Theresa we’ve come to know.

Most like she’ll just slink away to her field of wheat. Or what blasted heath is left of it.

So the Conservatories will need a new lunatic to take over the asylum. And the chances are they will replace the current one with the egomaniac second only to Mr Balloon in the annals of BLAME, Boris Johnson.

Not to say they won’t move heaven and earth – more like hell and earth – to stop him getting to the final two, because if he goes before the members he will win on a manifesto of bluster blubber and betrayal.

The alternatives though are not many. Either one of the swivel-eyed band of Mogglodytes, possibly Moggy himself. If Johnson gets it, he’ll split the party in a week. If one of the ERG lot get it, they’ll split the party in under a day.

Or there are the “moderates” – the deeply unlovely betrayer of human rights, Sajid Javid or the incarnation of the Banality of Evil, Jeremy the former Hulture Secretary. Either or both hoping to play the “John Major” of this scenario – winning from out of the bland – though neither have the shining charisma or raw sexual magnetism of a John Major. And that’s saying something. They are tainted with the Remain vote, though, for all the effort they’ve put into being more right-wing-than-thou. (Which, actually, was Mr Major’s problem too – he had to out-Thatcher Thatcher, hence all the insanity from railway privatisation to Back to Bedsocks, but that was last century's Tory tragedy.)

Obviously it would be a LOT better for all of us if they decided to look for fresh blood (no, not in the Zombie Apocalypse sense) and went to a fresher face, who could actually negotiate with Europe and build a national consensus again… no, I don’t see it happening either.

They’re going to pick another loony.

And then between two and twenty of the centreerists of the Dominic Grieve flavour will cross to the TIGgers (now renamed ChUKles) and the government will fall. In fact, a SMART Tory leader would jump before pushed, calling an immediate election rather than be humiliated into one.

Which would leave us with Boris Johnson versus Jeremy Corbyn. Which Johnson would win.

That’s not to underestimate Mr Corbyn. But against a robot with a manifesto that promised a death tax on her own core vote, Mr Corbyn still only managed to drag back Labour’s performance to really very awful. He’s not going to win back the forty seats in Scotland from the SNP that he needs to be anywhere like in contention for a majority. And his equivocation on supporting a People’s Vote or a Revoke Article 50 mean he’s frittered away a lot of the goodwill of the young people who believed Magic Grandpa was playing Seven-dimensional chess to stop Brexit.

The first thing to remember is that TMPM doesn’t actually HAVE a “deal” as such at all.

What she’s got is a Withdrawal Agreement, an acknowledgement of what we need to do to settle our existing obligations – mainly pensions for UK civil servants and MEPs, and projects that we signed up to and that went ahead on the understanding we were going to contribute – so we can settle our bills on the way out the door.

The Johnsonian notion that we can walk away from the Withdrawal and let the EU “go whistle” is obviously nonsense on stilts.

The first thing we would do after quitting with “no deal” is to go to Europe to sort out our customs, defence, security, common air-travel, fisheries etc etc agreements…

And the SECOND thing we would have to do is eat copious HUMBLE PIE as they wave the Withdrawal Agreement at us with an air of “What about paying for those dumplings you had, then?”

The real “deal” is the Future Trading Relationship, whether we are in the Single Market, in the Customs Union, in a Free Trade agreement or in the DO-DO of a no deal scenario.

“No deal” is the utter severance that is yearned for by the ardent Brextremists who laugh off the fears of “experts” and warmly welcome the notion of “trading under World Trade Organisation terms”.

This is because they do not know – or care – what that really means. Or worse, they do know and plan to make a killing by shorting the pound against the collapsing British economy. What it means is tariffs, schedules and border checks. Oh my.

Tariffs are actually the LEAST of our worries. The Government laid out its plans for a lot of zero INBOUND tariffs, which might seem good for people buying things, but they cannot fix the OUTBOUND tariffs that will make selling things to other countries HARDER, and with zero tariffs in place give us nothing to negotiate with when we try to change that. Disgraced former Defence Secretary Fantastic Dr Fox will remain a useless adornment to the government. So it’s not all bad news.

The schedules, though, are a very complicated set of lists and quotas that say how much of a thing we can import at a low tariff rate, how much has to be at a high rate, or how much we cannot import at all. Britain’s are all tied up with Europe’s, so expect a big fight over what our share of the EU schedule actually is. Which will obviously be helped HUGELY by having just TICKED OFF the rest of the EU by not agreeing the Withdrawal Agreement.

But the border checks are the MOST complicated, because under WTO rules you need to prove where the things you are taking across a border came from. And not just the whole finished product, but all the bits that made it up. And all the raw materials that the bits were made from first. And you have to stop lorries and boats and planes and check the paperworks. Which takes a LONG time. At the moment, in the Single Market, we get a lorry though the port of Dover every TEN SECONDS. Just how much of a delay do you think it will need to be before those lorries start backing up along the M20? Hello carpark-Kent. Hello food shortages and soon food riots. Hello people starting to DIE from lack of medicines.

And of course any country in the World – including the twenty-seven we’ve just magnificently flicked the V’s at; including Argentina who still want the Falklands – can start a trade dispute with you. Several already have, including the biggest economies in the World, China and our supposed best buds the Americans (make that trade deal great again, the Donald). You need teams of "experts" to provide "evidence" and agree "compromise" - all the things the Quitlings hate. Your free trade quickly gets very sticky, tying you up in knots for years.

One thing we DO know about Boris, though, is that he DOESN’T LIKE HARD WORK. Work like fiddly negotiations or difficult compromises or learning a brief when a woman’s life depends on it.

So why not try this for a Boris lark. He arrives in Downing Street victorious and announces, with another turning on a dime volte-face, that Britain clearly needs to choose its destiny again and there will be another referendum. He will rise magisterially above the fray. And with that vanishes inside Number Ten to make away with the silver and the secretaries.

And with one voice the nation cries:


And so the nightmare is over. As long as Boris remembers to send the Revoke letter.

Brexit is dead. Or undead. At least until Halloween.

Now we just have to find a way to undo all the massive harms they’ve done getting us to this absolutely dead end.

Meanwhile, here is some Dr Woo…

Monday, February 18, 2019

Day 6623: Trigger the TIGgers


Hilariously, their website gives a list of their value, and only gives you the option to agree with all of them. Which, as I understand it, was their problem with Mr Corbyn. But there you go.

Let’s have a look anyway, and see what they believe in and see if we agree to tick any boxes, shall we?

Number 1:
Ours is a great country of which people are rightly proud, where the first duty of government must be to defend its people and do whatever it takes to safeguard Britain’s national security.

This is not a good start.
Leaning heavily into the nationalist, jingoist language of the Leave campaign, and subsequent government opposition love-in, and putting authoritarian “protection” as their first duty.
It’s a bizarre choice to open their manifesto rejecting Mr Corbyn’s pandering to the presumed category of “Labour-supporting white working class leave voter”… with a direct appeal to that same category.

Number 2:
Britain works best as a diverse, mixed social market economy, in which well-regulated private enterprise can reward aspiration and drive economic progress and where government has the responsibility to ensure the sound stewardship of taxpayer’s money and a stable, fair and balanced economy.

So we’re starting to see what they are doing here, which is if you want to look at the positive fluffy foot, picking and choosing values they agree with from across the political spectrum, and if you want the cynical negative fluffy foot, trying to have something that will appeal to everyone.

In this case, a typical wet centrist Tory. Wonder who they could be trying to recruit?

Number 3:
A strong economy means we can invest in our public services. We believe the collective provision of public services and the NHS can be delivered through government action, improving health and educational life chances, protecting the public, safeguarding the vulnerable, ensuring dignity at every stage of life and placing individuals at the heart of decision-making.

Now we are flashing back to core Labour belief in big government shall provide. We really are touring all the Parties, aren’t we.

Number 4:
The people of this country have the ability to create fairer, more prosperous communities for present and future generations. We believe that this creativity is best realised in a society which fosters individual freedom and supports all families.

And so, if it wasn’t for all that had come before, and the fact that obviously it’s OUR TURN, then this might be interesting – trust in people, and expressing belief in creativity through freedom. This is written to appeal to orange book Liberals

Number 5:
The barriers of poverty, prejudice and discrimination facing individuals should be removed and advancement occur on the basis of merit, with inequalities reduced through the extension of opportunity, giving individuals the skills and means to open new doors and fulfil their ambitions.

And this is a Coalition-era Cleggity interpretation of “no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity”. Or if you prefer “allowing everyone to get on in life”.

Number 6:
Individuals are capable of taking responsibility if opportunities are offered to them, everybody can and should make a contribution to society and that contribution should be recognised. Paid work should be secure and pay should be fair.

This is, to me, a weirdly Labour view of what Liberalism is about – note that people “SHOULD” make a contribution, and the insistence on fixing paid work. This is more derivative of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his Protestant work ethic, than anything truly Liberal, in spite of the language trying to nod at freedom from poverty.

Number 7:
Our free media, the rule of law, and our open, tolerant and respectful democratic society should be cherished and renewed.

Begging the question “but how?”

These values are the bedrock and necessary foundation for a functioning democracy. The fact is we DON’T have a free media and the rule of law has been and continues to be flouted by the Leave Campaign and the May government. Tolerance and respect are not words that could describe the current political climate either.

So how do we cherish what is failing and dead?

Number 8:
We believe that our parliamentary democracy in which our elected representatives deliberate, decide and provide leadership, held accountable by their whole electorate is the best system of representing the views of the British people.

And not any more referendums!

Which is fair actually. Asserting the primacy of representative democracy really is a necessary starting point to rowing back the anything goes interpreting of the referendum outcome and Willa Thepeople populism.

But it’s not enough, given they are standing under a big slogan of “Politics is Broken. Let’s Change it”.

If the answer is “change it back to what it was before we uncorked the genii of promising millions of people their voices would be listened to” then this lot are going to make things EVEN WORSE.

Number 9:
In order to face the challenges and opportunities presented by globalisation, migration and technological advances, we believe the multilateral, international rules-based order must be strengthened and reformed. We believe in maintaining strong alliances with our closest European and international allies on trade, regulation, defence, security and counter-terrorism

Again begging the question “but how?”

Is membership of the EU are prerequisite? An option? An extra? Or ruled out?

Number 10:
As part of the global community we have a responsibility to future generations to protect our environment, safeguard the planet, plan development sustainably and to act on the urgency of climate change.

We are back to them picking up the agenda of other Parties. Just to cover their bases with any green voters they can attract

And Number 11:
Power should be devolved to the most appropriate level, trusting and involving local communities. More powers and representation should be given to local government to act in the best interests of their communities.

And so we end (on an odd number of values) with coming again to an authoritarian/Labour-eye view of what they think Liberal devolution is about.

I’d prefer to see *decisions* devolved to local government and the power given to *local people* to hold their councils accountable.

Labour has always thought they had the answers, and that anyone who questions that is a “Tory” or a “Class Traitor” or some other reason to reject having their homework marked.

So what does all this MEAN?

Well, probably NOTHING.

It’s just another flash in the pan of the febrile post-referendum, pre-Brexit fustercluck that is British politics continuing to implode under the pressure of doing something impossibly stupid in an impossibly stupid way.

The great cry of the referendum – if you can ask me to do something as moronic as to try to sum up all of the different yearnings that the vote to leave really meant – was “NOT LIKE THIS”.

(So it really should be no surprise that the only thing the House of Commons can agree on is the ridiculous Brady Amendment that says “we agree the Prime Minister’s Deal except not like this”!)

And there is just a CHANCE that BOTH Labour and Tory Parties might break up under the Brexit collapse, and that more than anything would give us the chance to change British Politics in a truly transformative way, with proportional representation and breaking up the Tory and Labour fiefdoms that mean safe seats can be given to favoured sons (and daughters, though it’s usually sons).

IF that happens, change can finally come.

THIS, though, this is not “not like THIS”. This is MORE THIS and extra custard!

This is continuity-Blairism, or more Tory-lite (all of the same policies, but you can still feel good about yourself). Tony Blair MP as anagram of I’m Tory Plan B

What it ISN’T is Liberal – there is nothing at all in their values about holding government accountable or speaking truth to power. In fact, several of them read as “power would be quite nice, thank you”.

I am happy to welcome more diversity on the political scene. But Liberal Democrats should be looking for a VERY LONG SPOON if they plan on supping with these devils.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Day 6517: DOCTOR WHO: How Many Family Dramas can you pack into one spaceship? And then eat it?


Mr Chibbers is continuing his high concept drama of “let’s prove we can do trad Doctor Who using Russell’s model.”

Russell set the standard for his revived series with present, future, past and back to the present stories. And didn’t much vary from that for four years.

So after three weeks of cracking Dr Who episodes…

the “look what effects we can do now” one,
the “moving historical” one
and the “Holy Freekin’ Giant Spiders scary” one

…the model says we should be on to the “this year’s Dalek one” one.

Oh. We’ve skipped to “The Long Game” instead.

I guess I picked the wrong week to give up not reviewing Doctor Woo...

No relation...

Actually I liked this. The design, the direction, the acting were all really good. The regulars gave us more reasons to love them. I love that the Doctor got taken down a peg for acting selfishly and took it like a woman. There was more of the Ryan/Ryan’s father backstory, nicely used, and more bonding with Graham. Yas uses a staser, drop-kicks a Pting and still somehow hasn’t had the scenes that I think she deserves.

This wasn’t outstanding.

But Doctor Who can’t always be outstanding. And already this year we’ve had the beautiful direction in “The Ghost Monument”, and the scariest scary spiders ever, in “Arachnids” and all of “Rosa”. And spellbinding writing – if not always plotting – every week. I think we can cut “average” a decent break this episode.

So, Millennium is being a bit harsh comparing “the Tsuranga Conundrum” to 2005’s under-loved “The Long Game”.

But it probably is fair to say that this is Chris Chibnall trying to show he can do Russell Davies-style “relationships” writing, in a space setting, only with a plot that actually resolves itself properly rather than pulling a deus ex machina out of its hat.

(In as much as the two perils established are the monstrous cute Pting and the remote explosion of the ship, and each turns out to be the solution to the other.)

We have:

The brother and sister who cannot tell each other they love each other because their pride is getting in the way. Complicated by the weird alien android/clone consort.

The young man having to face up to fatherhood when he thinks he’s not ready. Complicated by weird alien – and to a certain value of “hilarious” – “hilarious” biology.

The junior medic thrust into being in charge by the death of her superior, the only person who trusted her.

What we have linking them here is people doubting each other, underlined by the severe lack of trust shown by Tsuranga’s Rhesus Station who would rather kill everyone on board than risk an uncontrolled danger reaching them, and by the mentions of “dark times” in the tricky middle of the sixty-seventh century.

We also see everyone falling into worrying about their own troubles even in the face of the Pting, which is pretty much the definition of an environmental catastrophe, particularly in the confined space of the ship.

It’s a subtler metaphor for our times than last week’s Trump-lite.

As usual in Doctor Who, hard science is first to be blown out of the airlock.

You could use anti-matter for a power source, because matter + anti-matter makes a lot of boom.

But you certainly wouldn’t make it on board. Not even in a miniature CERN. In fact especially not in a miniature CERN.

Because whatever you are using to power your atom smasher must be putting at least as much power in as you’d get out from the anti-matter it creates – that’s just what E=mc2 means! – so why not just plug that directly into the drive and cut out the middle positron?

(Or, Mr Writer, you say that the anti-matter is being created from a portable rift into an anti-matter universe – and incredibly dangerous way of doing it, but one that gets you your anti-matter “for free” to fuel the matter/anti-matter reaction for the drive.)

Of course, it’s very trad Doctor Who, going right back to the years of Ian and Barbara for us to take a moment to say “so, Ian, we’re in the future, so what is this week’s science spot?”. Not to mention all those black holes, and the pop-science-inspired stories of the Seventies, from artificial intelligence to body language, and that’s just Leela’s first two adventures.

Meanwhile, the Pting appears to be able to fly through space, overtake a ship travelling (we presume from the maps) faster than the speed of light, penetrate the shields and hull, without any visible means of propulsion.

Yes, it looks a bit “Slitheen” – do not go there.

(It also appears to be bigger on the inside, from the way it swallows objects its own body size. Which suggests some seriously fan-baiting possibilities for its origins.)

But we better hope that it’s seriously blissed out from the bomb it swallowed, because booting it out an airlock (and not very far outside the Rhesus station) is not going to stop it if it can do all that.

What we do see is another example of season 37’s “villain walks away” syndrome – getting so obvious even the RadioTimes has commented on it.

Much speculation abounds that we are going to see someone from this list return as “big bad” for the season (or all of them in an Alliance of B-List Monsters to rival Moffat’s “Big Bang”!). Maybe we will.

But I’d like to suggest an alternative reading.

The Doctor’s faced adventures this year that are, more than even is usual, stamped with great big metaphors: if we skip “The Woman Who Fell to Earth”, we get “Selfishness”, “Racism”, “Corruption”, and this week “Doubt” or you might prefer “the System”.

Most often in Doctor Who, the Doctor will deal with a baddie (monsters or villain) who will get their comeuppance.

But dealing with the “big issue” problems, that can be the trite answer.

By leaving our villains this year to walk away, we could be saying that look the big problem remains whether we have some false closure with this little bad guy or not. So, let’s not pretend we’ve solved something as difficult as “racism” by making sure that Rosa Parks is remembered for where she was sitting when she rode the bus.

Overall, a moderate Doctor Who episode is actually nice. It’s nice to see a TARDIS crew who are happy being there, doing what they’re doing. And a Doctor who’s enjoying being the Doctor. “That chapter in the book of celebrants. More of a volume, really.”

It’s like a return to the days of Tom Baker, when the Doctor bestrode the universe, dealing with diabolical masterminds for breakfast and just having fun with best-friend Sarah, Leela and the tin dog, or Romana. It’s like the joy is back.

Next time: we’ve seen segregation in America. Let’s try partition in India. And with more of Yas’s family, will she finally get to shine?

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Day 6516: Making the Case (Richard the Third)


We’ve been looking at Daddy Richard’s campaign to be the Lib Dem candidate in Cheadle, with his speech and literature.

But this is the MODERN age of Internets and newfanglery.

There are new ways to talk directly to the members and voters.

So, because of the low spending limit, we cut our campaign to the cloth allowed, and instead of producing a second colour leaflet, turned it into an email manifesto.

Let’s be honest, it’s a bit too long to be an email. It makes a rather better blog post… which gives me a really good idea!

Read on…

Dear Dave,

In seven words:

"Freedom, Fairness, Future. Our Shared Liberal Values."

More and more people are agreeing with me that we need a campaign built on principles not just potholes.

I've been talking with members of Cheadle Liberal Democrats about our Liberal Values, members who joined us because we took a stand, from Iraq to I.D. cards, from climate change to Brexit - and when we take a stand our values stand out.

Let me give you seven words about Cheadle that show how our values connect to people.

Freedom from illness. Fair treatment for everyone, free at the point of need, including mental health treatment. And fair taxes to pay for a Future for the NHS and social care.

This is Stepping Hill. My husband Alex was born here. I've talked with nursing staff, they are some of the most caring and dedicated people I've ever met.

But the NHS is in constant crisis and reports show Stepping Hill is failing because of short-staffing.

Stockport Together is going to be one of the first trials of bringing health and social care together. But the Care Quality Commission say that the project has been left in confusion since Labour took over. And the Labour Council have cut over £700,000 from mental health care in Stockport.

This is why it’s so important that Liberal Democrats take back control of the council.

The Freedom of living in your own home, building a Future for your family. The Fairness of affordable homes to rent or buy.

I grew up round here, moved to London for work, and came back to make a home with my husband. Four years ago this week we got married at Stockport Town Hall. That’s a very personal way that the Liberal Democrats made my life better, by changing the law so I could marry the man I love in the town we love.

Everyone should have that chance to enjoy the quality of life in the North.

But Stockport is under pressure to build new homes, pressure from the long-delayed Greater Manchester Spatial Plan and from Tory-run Cheshire East’s plans at Handforth Dean, which I've campaigned on in Bramhall. We have to talk about the Green Belt too; it so important to protect access to green spaces.

We need new solutions, new towns and green corridors. We need to build sustainable communities. And we need to build the schools, shops and services to support them.

A better Future grounded in the opportunity learning gives. A Fair deal for schools to teach and pupils to learn. Freedom to learn for life not just for tests.

I went to school here. I know Stockport has some of the best schools in the country but they’re not getting a fair share from the government’s funding formula.

Head teachers having to send out appeals for cash, teaching assistant places lost, parents having to pay for equipment. We need to fight for a fairer share.

Building a real Northern Power House for the Future where people are Free from poverty and work supports the lives they choose to live.Fair taxes that will pay for the services to support a growing creative economy.

Cheadle’s links to Stockport, Manchester and the airport give us a vibrant modern economy. But since the crash of 2008, Britain’s economy has been broken. People have been hit with inflation while wages have stagnated, and Brexit is only going to make it worse.

We should be looking to the future, thinking about the creative economy and the green economy. How we will enable people to switch to clean electric cars, where that electricity will come from, and how Stockport to take a lead in achieving a Zero Carbon Britain.

Liberals have had a great story on the economy, from free trade to the People’s Budget. Now we have to develop a new Liberal economic story, based on shared ownership and co-operation, that will give people hope for a better future.

Freedom to be who you want to be. Fairness in equal treatment in work, in law, in life. A Future where no one is enslaved by conformity.

This is Stockport's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (or just LGBT) Pride, with my friend Holly who helped me organise the Lib Dem presence there. As a member of LGBT+ Lib Dems exec, I’ve been so proud of the work the Lib Dems here have done, from attending Stockport Pride to passing a motion in council of support for Bi-Visibility Day.

Liberal Democrats are great at community politics, and that's why Cheadle has such a wide range of communities: from Zumba classes to the scouts and cadets. From local businesses to neighbourhood watch. Mosque and synagogue, temple and church. Our work can help them all.

But Britain has never felt more divided, with populist politicians blaming migration for the outcome of their own years of neglect.

I remember the way gay people were targeted in the 1980’s, with Section 28 and James Anderton, then Manchester's Chief Constable, treating gay people shamefully. Now the Jewish community, Muslims and trans people are all under attack. That’s why I’ll speak up, to stop it happening again.

We need to work with our community to come together and heal the divisions, so that people once again feel proud of the rights and freedoms that come with being British.

The Freedom to enjoy our shared spaces and shared activities. A Fair sharing of jobs between council and country and continent. A Future that everyone can enjoy in their own way.

Liberal Democrats have made a difference here. It's worth mentioning that we do get the potholes fixed. Just ask anyone the difference between Stockport's roads and Manchester's.

We need to be in the Council to make people's lives better in the streets where they live. Whether it's a stolen bin or a question about a home care plan or the smell from Adswood tip. (And I've helped people with all those things.)

We need to be in Parliament too, to tackle the national issues, like the economy, like crime, like Brexit too.

And we need to be in Europe if we're going to deal with the global challenges of climate change and globalisation.

Defending the Freedoms that we won through being in Europe. Demanding Fairness for both 52% and 48%. Looking to the Future of the country beyond Brexit.

We still believe that the freedom to trade and travel, to live, learn and love make membership of the EU something we should embrace.

Democracy depends on people speaking out, it’s why we have an Opposition whose job is supposed to be to do that. That's why Labour are letting the country down. That's why Lib Dems need to stand up for our values.
Cheadle voted to remain in the EU so we have a democratic duty to represent those voices.

Cheadle has seven letters and seven wards. Over the last three years, I have canvassed and delivered in all seven wards in Cheadle constituency, including Heald Green, where I've delivered rounds, knocked doors and spent time with members of the Cheadle Muslim Association.

I have campaigned with Graham and Iain and Keith in Cheadle and Gatley. With Claire in Cheadle Hulme North. With Grace in Stepping Hill. I have canvassed with Helen and Suzanne and Mark and delivered up and down Turves Road in Cheadle Hulme South. On top of that I am Chair of the Bramhall Branch and alongside Jeremy have driven the campaigning in Bramhall North and Bramhall South.

And I've helped out in Manchester Gorton, and I stood in Macclesfield - and that is how I was able to bring people back to Cheadle to help here.

I believe we cannot just fall back on defending the wards we hold. Only working in silos. We need a 7-ward strategy. Or given the possible boundary changes a 10-ward strategy - and we should be campaigning all the way from Bramhall to Heaton Moor.

We are Liberal Democrats. We believe in reaching outward. That makes us stronger.

I believe, if we talk about our values, we can win here again.

If you believe too, please give me your 1st Preference to be your next Lib Dem MP.

Thank you


Remember: your chance to hear from the candidates and have your say on who will be Cheadle’s next Lib Dem MP will be

October 29, 7:00 pm

Ford’s Lane Evangelical Church,
11a Ford’s Lane,

I hope to see you there.

As I say, that’s too long REALLY. And would have been better as a series, or as pages on our website or Facebook page.

If you live in London – or even just know any of our potential candidates there – you’ll have seen the EXTENSIVE use of the SOCIAL MEDIA that is being made, so it might be a surprise to you to learn that for Cheadle we were told we couldn’t use it. Or rather we couldn’t use it for anything that identified us as a candidate in the selection, but could for “ordinary political activity”.

And for direct communication, we were allowed a whole TWO emails to the members, which we had to send to the RO first to send them out via the local party’s Nation Builder. We were not to email anyone ourselves unless they emailed us first.

Anyone who has read any Mark Pack will know that this is going to lose you sight of important ways to interact with your correspondents – who opens the email, who clicks on any links and who you can feed back to with more info if they want.

So I think that our selection rules – or the interpretation of them – are going to need some updating here, because we have seen how our rival Parties, particularly in Labour, have made a huge use of Internet campaigning, with HootTube videos and Faceache pages. If our selections are preventing potential candidates showing they are good at these things, we are going to end up being left behind by the votes as Internet dinosaurs.

If you DO find yourself in a selection, DO make sure of your RO’s interpretation of the rules, and press them to make definitive statements at the beginning. Because there is nothing more DERAILING than having to deal with rulings two or three weeks into a campaign demanding you take down parts of your campaign in order to level the playing field with people who haven’t produced material for the modern age.

Labour and Tories are not give us that kind of break. We need to “demand better” from our selection campaigns.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Day 6515: Making the Case (part deux)


I believe that it is VITAL that the Liberal Democrats make the case for a LIBERAL BRITAIN.

(You would think that was obvious, but apparently not.)

Particularly in these days when Sir Vince wants to make us a movement, I think we need a REASON to MOVE people, and if we don’t talk about our VALUES, they will move somewhere else.

That is what Daddy Richard stands for.

Yesterday, I shared daddy’s hustings speech from the END of the Cheadle selection. Today, let’s go back and look at some of the written material we put out from the START.

We wanted to hit the ground running with a hand-addressed “cream envelope” letter, delivered to all members on day one of the campaign.

A letter to the members

Here’s what it said:

9th October 2018

Dear Dave,

Cheadle needs a Liberal voice. Britain needs a Liberal voice, now more than ever.

We’ve had some dark times since 2015. We lost the EU referendum. Extremists on left and right are setting the agenda. Immigrants and other minorities are living in fear. But we were barely heard in the 2017 General Election.

Yet I still have hope. I was knocking on doors in Cheadle Hulme, near where I live, when I spoke with a local nurse, worried about the short-staffing at Stepping Hill because of Tory cuts, and she said: “This has always been a Liberal town”. She’s right. And that gives me hope.

I want to give you hope too.

So let’s talk about my vision.

I absolutely believe that Cheadle can be a beacon of Liberalism, shining a light that shows how our policies do work for people, and that there is a better future.

We need someone who will speak up for Cheadle, to say we need a fair share for schools; an economy for opportunity and jobs; and cleaner air and less congestion. I grew up here, I live here, I’ve got the local story to do that.

We need someone who will speak up for Liberalism as well, to say that schools set people free from ignorance; that jobs and a welfare state together set people free from poverty; and to make a positive case for freedom of movement and Europe because we all benefit from diversity, not conformity.

Because above all we need to give people reasons to want to vote Liberal Democrat again. We need to speak with a Liberal voice so people hear how we are the Party for freedom, for fairness, for the future.

With your help, we can restore Britain’s Liberal voice. So please give me your 1st preference to be Cheadle’s next Lib Dem MP.

Thank you


PS: add your voice to mine. Together we will win.

Friends and family helped address the envelopes, and we were able to produce the letters in the period between close of applications and start of campaigning.

That delivery target proved optimistic, though. 250 deliveries is an hour’s work when they are all in one road. When they are scattered over 7 wards… not so much. As with so many Lib Dem things, more deliverers would have been key.

We didn’t manage day one, but we DID get them done by the end of the first weekend.

We then went on to door-knocking, combined with delivering a colour leaflet.

Our Voice leaflet

The original plan for the three week campaign had been, obviously, three pieces of literature:

Day 1: the hand-addressed letter
Week 2: a full-colour leaflet
Week 3: a 4-page tabloid

But that was based on an estimated budget of £500.

When the spending limit of just £250 was announced (which I still think is too small for a target seat where candidates are supposed to show their talent in a wide range of campaigning), it meant cutting the campaign and the tabloid had to go.

Just for you - the Unseen Tabloid

We shuffled the more local tone from the tabloid into the colour leaflet, which had been more values/philosophical based. And that was probably an improvement, anyway.

The last piece of literature, we saved for the night of the hustings, a striking 10” square – based on the Lib Dem diamond.

A square splash!

By this point the campaign had, unfortunately, probably already been decided. But it was worth going out on a high!

One tip – if you’re ever thinking of doing this yourself – start taking round a book of “permission slips” so that you can get everyone in every photo to give their permission for use. A returning officer saying they would want to see a signed approval from everyone in all your photos can be quite a shock starting the campaign.

Tomorrow, we can talk about the modern internets and email communications!

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Day 6514: Making the Case (part one)


Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

One day the tale of the Cheadle selection will be told. But not today.

The short version is: when Mark Hunter lost the seat in 2015, we stepped up to try to win it back. We fought a positive, honest, values-driven Liberal campaign… but they chose someone else.

No regrets. That’s democracy. We had a fun ride along the way.

Thanks to Dave, Holly, Andrew and Daddy Alex

But we DO want to keep on taking a stand for Liberal Values and giving Britain a Liberal Voice.

Because Britain NEEDS to hear Liberal Voice.

Perhaps it’s best is I let Daddy Ricard explain, with his hustings speech:

Good evening.

I’m really pleased to see so many people here.

Because tonight is important, for our future, our community, even our country.

We need a Liberal Voice and we need that voice to be heard.

Throughout this campaign, I’ve been talking about our Liberal values.

About how Britain needs to hear those values again,

About how we need to connect to people through those values we share.
Our values should never be an add-on, an extra, an afterthought. They should be driving what we do.

Values that speak to our supporters, like:

Equality and social justice. Environmentalism.

Free trade, free movement of people and multiculturalism.

A Britain that’s open and welcoming instead of nationalist.

In short: Freedom. Fairness. The Future.

But we need to go further. To reach out to people who don’t support us yet, but who share values, like:

compassion, workers’ rights and animal welfare

aspiration, rewarding work, and social mobility

pro-business, pro-environment, pro-diversity

Freedom. Fairness. The Future. can reach those people too.

Above all, we need to offer hope for a better future.

So, let’s talk about Cheadle.

Cheadle voted to remain. People here are outward looking, forward looking, persuaded that it’s better to be a part of a common goal that helps everyone.

We share those values.

Stockport had a Lib Dem Council for more than a decade. And it shows. This town feels cared for, optimistic, friendly.

We share those values.

Cheadle has a liberal legacy we should be proud to inherit and uphold. From Michael Winstanley, back in the day, to Patsy, who we miss so much, to Mark, who was an exemplary local MP.

Cheadle’s values are our values.

We should be winning here.

But we’re not.

As our party’s new slogan says, people should Demand Better. And that starts with demanding better of ourselves.

Many of you have campaigned here all your lives. And you’re brilliant.

But we’re not winning here.

So we need to do something more, something different. We need to demand better.

I have a good local story to tell. I grew up here. Went to school here. Went to London for work. Came back to get married here. My husband was born in Stepping Hill. We’ve made a home here.

But that is just the start of the story.

Anyone can tell a local story. We know that Labour do it. Even Mary Robinson, the invisible MP, does it.

If we are going to win, we need to do more. And different. And better.

That is why I talk about our values.

The Tories and Labour have the advantage. Their messages are easy. Vote Labour for fear of Tory austerity, or vote Tory for fear of Jeremy Corbyn.

We need to change the story, make it: "who represents your values?".

We must always campaign on the bedrock of our local story.

But we must build on that with our values in order to win.

My local story is the start of a conversation about our great schools in Cheadle not getting a fair deal. But it’s our values that say why schools are important for opportunity and social mobility.

My local story is the start of a conversation about housing and traffic on the A6 and A34. But it’s our values that say it’s about defending the environment for the future and building sustainable communities.

And it’s our values that have driven me to add national experience to my story too.

With Lib Dem Immigrants, I’ve changed party policy for the better, for fairness.

During the coalition, I brought together a group that changed Nick Clegg’s mind on the Snooper’s Charter, for freedom.

And through LGBT+ Liberal Democrats we got the biggest win of our time in government, for me anyway, the right to marry my husband four years ago this week at Stockport Town Hall and make our future together.

And when we lost most of our MPs we lost all our diversity.

Not just all our women, but all our gay and bi MPs too.

Last year we won back four women MPs. We have an ethnic minority MP for the first time in a decade. We have an MP with a disability.

Our Parliamentary Party should represent the face of Britain, and deserves to have LGBT representation again too.

It’s our values that mean I have made a difference.

For freedom and fairness and the future.

And I’m still learning.

One thing I’ve learned talking to so many of you, is that there is always much more to learn. There is so much wisdom among our members.

So please demand better of me.

But never doubt I will try to deliver.

I never thought of becoming an MP.

I spent twenty years working at an ordinary job.

But like a lot of you, I got more involved because I could see that something had to be done and no-one else was doing it.

When we lost in here in 2015, I stepped up to try to win us back seats on the Council, working in Cheadle Hulme, standing in Bramhall.

When Macclesfield Lib Dems needed a candidate last year just weeks before the General Election, I stepped up. And I found I was good at it – as well as bringing their team to campaign here where they could make more of a difference.

So when I look at the state of our country and the voices on the political stage right now, I know that I have to step up again.

Listen to the division, the anger and the hurt blighting our politics, and you will hear a country that needs Liberal values.

That is why I want to be your MP.

Because Britain needs people like me to be MPs.

To be a local champion – giving us a national voice – with a positive Liberal message.

To win back this seat, we need to get organised.

We need to raise a lot of money.

Above all we need to talk to people, more people than we’ve talked to in years.

And it is talking about our values that will enthuse people, recruit new members, and give people a positive reason to vote Liberal Democrat.

In 2017, we lost here because Labour took that message of hope, even though it was fantasy.

We cannot let that happen again.

We have to tell people that if they want a better future, it’s got to be the Liberal Democrats.

I know it’s going to be hard work – I’m not afraid of hard work.

I will give Cheadle a positive Liberal reason to want to vote Liberal Democrat.

I will deliver every street, canvass every ward, speak with every voter that I can.

And I will give a voice to our Liberal values on a local and a national stage because Britain needs to hear a Liberal Voice.

And you’re all going to need to play your part. We will all need to speak up. Because winning means making our voices heard together.

And we have to start right now.

Because Brexit is happening right now.

No one is speaking for the majority in Cheadle who voted Remain.

The two Brexit parties Tory and Labour have abandoned them.

Tories are telling business to … "go away"; Jeremy Corbyn is backing the biggest job killer of all time.

But our values can speak to them and speak for them.

We must speak up as the only party whose values are pro-business, pro-jobs and pro-rights at work.

We must be positive for Remain: we say “Exit from Brexit” because we are for a better Britain in a better Europe.

All my adult life, I’ve been campaigning, talking with people for liberal causes.
If you’ll have me, Cheadle will be all of my life.

Friends, Liberal Democrats… let me be your voice.

A local champion giving us a national voice – and with something to say.

Speak up for Cheadle.

Speak up for Britain.

Speak for Liberal Values, the Values that made you join the Liberal Democrats.

Speak up for winning this seat back. And together we will win.

Please, tonight, give me your first preference.

Thank you.

In Part Two (found HERE) we’ll share some of the literature we sent out.

And in Part Three (link HERE) we'll show you our email manifesto.

We’re going to take a break from the frontlines for a little while – good news! Daddy can do my diary more! – but we will take stock and be back.

And in the meantime, if there’s a constituency out there who want to fight a positive campaign for Liberal values, and you’re looking for a top-notch candidate… well, get in touch.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Day 6489: DOCTOR WHO: The Woman Who Rose to the Challenge


The name is Bond… Jane Bond!

Don’t knock it. This week Doctor Who went where no man has gone before. And about time. And she did it in “Casino Royale” style with a little more of the WooWho theme added each time she stepped closer to remembering just Who she fully was.

Fearless confrontation with aliens… build a new sonic… heroic action sequence… turn their own weapons against them… never cruel, never cowardly, always there to help… and you’re really going to wear that?

The Doctor’s back baby, she’s back.

And so are we. Here’s Daddy’s new Who review.

“All of this is new to you, and new can be scary.”

The first impression was that this was very new. The cinematography was more sweeping. The pacing was more measured. The focus more on the ensemble cast – like the opening of “Rose" but paced like Broadchurch not a pop video. The music was less frenetic. The colour palette was more naturalistic, at least for the daytime work.

Let’s hope that “naturalistic” means “grim up north and dark” for one episode only, and that alien planets will be different. The posters for this season have been so vibrant and colourful, and Doctor Who should look different to anything else on TV (again!).

There are clearly two ways to handle the transition from Doctor to Doctor: the companions to hold your hand approach as you experience their shock, bewilderment and acceptance with them – “Power of the Daleks”, naturally, but also “Robot” or “Deep Breath”; and the all-change method, where the whole team are new and you experience the Doctor brand new for the first time all over again: “The Eleventh Hour”, “Rose” or “Spearhead from Space” or even arguably “An Unearthly Child”.

But in a lot of ways this was also a step back to something hugely “trad” – not exactly 20th Century Who, but what that might have evolved into along the lines of other British drama.

We’ve had ten seasons of New Who with emphasis on the “New”, both Russell Davies era of fast-cutting, high octane, high contrast based on American series like “Buffy”, and the Steven Moffat’s puzzle-box genre, in darkness and actinic blues. Right now, something old-school is the radical departure.

And I’m reminded of Sir Humphrey’s advice in “Yes, Prime Minister” – if you’re going to do something really radical, Prime Minister, announce it from the most traditional wood-panelled library with leather chair and mahogany desk. Everything you can do to comfort people and tell them it’ll all be fine.

Because holy crap the Doctor is a woman and half the Internet have lost their minds.

“I’m looking for a doctor”

Which of course is absurd, because the Doctor is still the Doctor and Jodie Whittaker is brilliant.

(Mind you, for a series that defines itself by change, we are talking about a fanbase that has difficulty recognising “the Welsh series”, who thought “The Deadly Assassin” was the death of the magic, that colour was maybe a step too far, or that it was all downhill once those two schoolteachers appeared…)

Of course, it’s early days, and we’ve got the excuse of post-regenerative discombobulation to handwave any cuts and trims as writers and actor find the performance. But what we saw on the first night was, let’s quote the trail, glorious.

We acknowledge the gender swap with “Why are you calling me madam?” but it makes no difference to the Doctor taking charge like she owns the place, same as the Doctor has always done.

A defining scene was aboard the train, as Yas tries to assert her authority as a police officer (or cadet PCSO), and the Doctor effortlessly takes charge, not by bullying or physical threat but by posing the pertinent questions and showing she’s the one with the answers.

Jodie’s performance gave me a bit of Tom in, say, the “that nap did me the world of good”, and some lovely squidgy-faced expressions as emotive as Sylv, but most reminded me of Matt, with the physical discoordinations and the eccentric distractedness. And the complete confidence in the dress-sense. Which is also very Colin.

But played, and I think quite rightly, with an absolute confidence in her own authority, not arrogance, but certainty.

And kindness.

The seventh Doctor went to the funeral in “Remembrance of the Daleks” but only the thirteenth would stay.

And thankfully after the “am I a good man” gloom that beset the twelfth Doctor, Jodie felt like a Doctor unburdened. Able to offer a helping hand and stand up for fair play because she’s – literally – got the spoons now to do so.

“There’s echoes of who I was, and a sort of call towards who I am.”

Possibly unsurprising given that this is Chibnall, he’s chosen to sample some of his favourite Who moments, made a montage from some of the series’ quintessential touchstones: the Doctor’s speech about family from “Tomb of the Cybermen”; the forging of the new sonic – from spoons and a bit of alien spacepod – harking back to the third Doctor’s gadget building, if way more epic; the crane reminiscent of Sarah Jane climbing the Thal rocket in “Genesis of the Daleks”, or the Doctor and friends teleporting between adventures as in “The Ark in Space” or again from the end of “Genesis…” with added floating in space effect; the Doctor looking for “a doctor” as Peter Davison was in “Castrovalva”; possibly a nod to David Tennant in “The Christmas Invasion” as the Doctor recovers on the sofa exhaling artron energy; even the first glimpse of the new female companion is in police uniform like Amy (thank god this time she’s not really a stripper!). “Will he ever call me grandad” was a line given to Graham, but was planting a flag for the series’ roots right back to “An Unearthly Child”.
But Chibnall wasn’t afraid to subvert the expectations either: two aliens arrive – one tentacle-y one in armour – the Doctor guesses two alien races at war… immediately I’m thinking Sontarrans vs Rutans… but no, he’s not afraid for the Doctor to guess wrong, and the aliens – on the same side after all – turn out to be the Jem’Hadar… no, sorry the Stenza.

Well, there’s a whole new meaning to “toothy grin”, that Terrance Dicks can’t have thought of. Possibly Chibnall has been studying too many serial killers for writing “Broadchurch” (yes, I know they didn’t actually do serial killer) with their gruesome souvenir-collecting habits.

The tentacle-y thing, meanwhile, was wonderfully Cthuloid. We wondered if it had assembled itself a form from train cabling, incidentally, and might it have build different, more industrial bodies later at the crane site.

And as an aside, I thought it was good that Ryan was able to own his mistake in “granting access” too.

The Woman Who Fell

So, let’s look at the supporting cast, who I thought were great.

Of the non-Time Lord regulars, it’s interesting that Ryan (Tosin Cole) is clearly the audience identification figure, starting from his vlog as we do. That also makes him the voice of the author for part of the story. And it’s his action that incites the incident.

I’m slightly less sold on Bradley Walsh’s Graham yet. He’s no Wilf. But I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt if only for the gleeful expression as he detonates an explosion in the season’s trailer.

But of the three, I’m favouring Yas as the stand-out, Mandip Gill bringing a bright intelligence and curiosity to the role. Though something that makes Yas a Moffat-style companion (something else other than she’s wearing a police uniform – she’s earned that uniform!): she knew Ryan in childhood and suddenly finds him again because of the weird stuff he shows her and she doesn’t believe!

Not joining us on voyage, Karl Brian Wright, crane operator and “valuable person” was sweet in his own way, and I liked that he said thank you and left (yes, like Derek from “Survival”), though the plot demanded that – like, Alex tells me, the book of “Survival” – the monsters come after him in the end. Nice that the Doctor gave him a ticking off for booting the beaten villain off a crane (though not the full Harriet Jones destroy his life!).

But my favourite was Grace, for all that – curse you the spoilers of pre-publicity – knowing she wasn’t a series regular was as good as hanging a “doomed” sign around her neck. She was funny and brave and curious and had as much character as the other three put together. Basically, she’d have been a great companion in the Evelyn Smythe tradition. Several times, I thought she was about to buy the farm, so making it to the last act was almost an achievement, but then it was “No Graham, let me go sticking the probulator into the electric death-ball up the crane”, and fate was sealed.

Grace’s fall give the episode title poignant double meaning – in retrospect highlighted by Ryan from the beginning telling us that the woman we think this is about isn’t the woman who this is about.

Chibnall here strikes a balance between Russell, having people challenge the Doctor afterwards on consequences, and Moffat saying if you wish hard enough there are no consequences at all, (so if you die you just can’t have been special enough); he’s learnt from writing a long and harrowing detective show (and maybe from reading some PD James) that when people die it has a massive effect on other people, rarely beneficial, sometimes catastrophic, because every person is the centre of their own story with their own web of connections and consequences.

And if Grace is the point of the first episode, is this an author’s nod to the US remake of his Broadchurch called Gracepoint?

Next Time

The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy tells us that the probability of being rescued from the vacuum of space is 2 to the power of 276,709 to 1 against, which as we all know was a telephone number in Islington in the late ’Seventies. So will someone with an Infinite Improbability Drive be along in a half a minute to rescue our heroes?

And looking longer term, are we going for a “quest for the TARDIS” season story-arc (what, the show-runner might have fibbed about all separate stories?!)

And the big question: Will we get a title sequence?