Looks like there was a bug that stopped the ‘share this’ buttons at the bottom of the posts from working – basically, two plugins were clashing – but it appears to be fixed now, so you can share my posts to your heart’s content. That was all that was stopping you from doing it, right?

(Thanks to Nissemus for alerting me to it)

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Being the record of the most popular posts on this blog in the first few months of this year, set down in accordance with both time-honoured ritual and whatever way I feel like showing them. This has been the busiest three months since I started blogging again which each month getting more visitors than the last, so I’m either getting the hang of it again or there’s some big news story coming up that means people want to read more political ramblings. You decide.

Anyway, here are the most read posts over those three months.

Not quite making it to the detailed list: Coalition clickbait, hope, the Liberal Democrat who’s against democracy and celebrity candidates. After those, the top six were:

6) “Shut up and deliver leaflets” – In which I react angrily to a commenter who tells me not to campaign rather than complain (and also seems to think I’m Mark Pack). This is where I set out why politics is about more than just delivering more and more leaflets.
5) Stepping down – I’m not standing for re-election to the Council in May, and here’s where I explain why not.
4) New poll: 36% of Britons support a basic income – I spotted something interesting in a poll about Green Party policy.
3) New polling evidence: Who is basic income most popular with in the UK? – As you’ll have noticed, basic income posts tend to be popular as there’s a big network of people out there who’ll share them and spread them around. This was some more detail on the poll of Green Party policies.
2) Review: The Man In The High Castle (Amazon TV) – One of my favourite books got a TV adaptation, and it was rather good. The good news here is that the pilot episode I reviewed here has now been picked up for a series after near-universal positive reviews, with a series likely by the end of the year.

Which means the number one post for the quarter, getting almost double the views of the page at number two is:

1) What if Nick Clegg loses his seat at the election? – No, I don’t know why that headline was popular with people who shared it a lot on Twitter… Here I looked at what the consequences might be for the Liberal Democrats if they find themselves without a leader and deputy leader (because Malcolm Bruce is retiring) the day after the election. It would be…interesting. Yes, that’s the word.

Once again, thanks to everyone who’s visited over the past three months, as you’ve done it in such numbers there’s a vague possibility that the revenue I get from the ads might just cover the hosting costs for the site for the first time ever this year. The next month looks set to feature a lot of activity in the run-up to the General Election, so I hope it helps to keep you entertained.

Remember if you want to get notified of my posts, you can subscribe by email by putting your address in the box at the top right, you can like my page on Facebook, or you can follow me on Twitter and get all sorts of extra nonsense as well as notification of new posts.

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After eight years, I still haven't memorised this list from the Council Chamber

After eight years, I still haven’t memorised this list from the Council Chamber

Those of you in Colchester likely already know this, but let’s make it official: I won’t be standing for re-election to Colchester Borough Council this year, so my eight years on the Council will be coming to an end in May.

It’s been an interesting and enjoyable time, but everything has to come to an end sometime, and it seems that this is the time for me and the Council Chamber to part ways. There have been various machinations going on behind the scenes and the stress from that, plus the pressure of just being a councillor (let alone the extra roles) has just been mounting over time to the point where the negatives now far outweigh the positives. It’s still enjoyable in parts, but the idea of going through the pressure of another election campaign, when I’m not sure I’d enjoy the reward – and then have to go through the whole thing again next year – isn’t appealing to me.

I can remember being told by certain people that there was no chance of me winning the first time around, because Castle ward was about to be subsumed beneath a Green wave, and then in 2011, there was no chance I’d get re-elected because of the coalition. So, just having had eight years on the Council has beaten a lot of people’s expectations, and having most of them where we’ve been leading the council and over half of them where I’ve been a member of the Cabinet wasn’t something I was expecting when I first agreed to stand.

Trust me, getting elected as a councillor right before the global economy goes into a tailspin, the country dives into a recession and austerity becomes the ruling dogma is a surefire recipe for living in interesting times. The last few years has been dominated by talking about cuts and savings and efficiencies, while laughing bitterly at anyone imagining local government is somehow profligate. There isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel, either. The party manifestos for the next Parliament all promise some mix of tax cuts, deficit eradication, further austerity and certain services protected from cuts, all of which mean local government is going to take another hammering over the next five years.

But what about localism, I hear you ask? Don’t you have all sorts of new powers to do things your way? Pause to hear a legion of councillors laughing sadly at that. Localism sounds good, especially when put through the party political spin machine, but in practice it just means we get to locally decide how much we agree with Eric Pickles on something – total or absolute. For instance, the old centrally imposed housing targets have been removed, which sounds good, but the evidence base on which councils have to decide their housing targets haven’t, so it’s a case of no longer being told from the centre that the answer is 10, but instead being give two fives and told to go away and add them up locally, and you’ll be entirely responsible for the result. After a while being caught between voters’ expectations of what the Council can do, what it can actually do, and Whitehall’s continued belief that we should just be local delivery arms for the Government can get pretty tiring.

I’m reminded of what Tony Benn said when he left the House of Commons, that now he’d have more time for politics. One of the problems of being involved in the day-to-day politics of being a councillor is that you get swamped by the process and forget the wider issues. There’s a tendency to let everything become a process story, and I think that goes some way to explaining why a lot of politicians are suckered by the cult of managerialism – you can feel that the important thing is the sheer action making of decisions, rather than what decisions actually are. One thing about doing my Masters degree has been that it’s given me the space, time and context to think about politics on a much wider scale: I like talking about big ideas and ideologies, and not being involved so much in the day-to-day of being a councillor will give me the opportunity to do that.

What this means, of course, is the coming election campaign will be the first one in about a decade that I’ve not had heavy involvement in, which gives me more time to work on my dissertation – and I’ll likely bore you with more details of that after May 7th – but also to blog about the election, and hopefully find something interesting to say. There’s still a lot to discuss politically, even if the campaign itself is likely to be little more than game playing and process stories.

I’ve still got a month left on the Council, so it’s probably a bit early for epitaphs, but it’s been fun and I’d still recommend it to people who want to have some impact on their community, even if the Council’s not quite the grand seat of power it used to be. To those who remain, and those who come after me, I can only echo the words of someone much older and wiser than me:

One day, I may come back. Yes, I may come back. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine.

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Sitemeter removed

If you’ve visited here over the last couple of days you might have had a problem when visiting some outbound links and seeing them redirected through another site (vindicosuite). I noticed it today, and a bit of googling suggests the problem is being caused by the Sitemeter tracking button, so I’ve removed that and it should hopefully mean the problem won’t occur. From what I can see it was just a bit of redirection of links through another site and nothing involving viruses or malware, but if you do have any problems please let me know. Apologies for any trouble caused to anyone by it, and please let me know if this or anything similar recurs.

An apology

123rf-apology-button-free-300x180There occasionally comes to every long term blogger a time when you realise that you’e made a huge and colossal mistake. Not a simple error that’s easily edited away or corrected before anyone can notice, but a massive mistake of judgement that would cause anyone who sees it to instantly think less of you as a person. When you realise that you’ve made such a mistake, the only honourable course of action is to hold your hands up, admit that you were fundamentally wrong and throw yourself on the mercy of your readership, hoping you will get a second chance.

That’s where I am today. In two recent posts (here and especially here – I apologise for the title, obviously) I have made horrendous errors that I must apologise for. These were errors in my fundamental assumptions about how the world works, and as such I need to rethink my position on a lot of things before posting on this subject.

Yes, it is true. I assumed England possessed at least a basic level of competence at playing cricket and so would be able to qualify for the quarter-finals of the World Cup. I was fundamentally wrong to believe this and assert it here on this website, and I apologise to those of you who had to read such obvious nonsense with no basis in reality. I can only say that I hope to do better in future and not to make such ridiculous errors and assumptions again.

Now, here’s why England will definitely win the Rugby World Cup…

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I only returned to proper regular blogging in July of this year, when I started my series of Conrad Russell and liberalism posts, but it’s been a good year of blogging overall. I’ve got some attention since I’ve come back – I’m apparently the 7th most influential ‘other’ blog in the UK, though still not a political one according to Teads – and also picked up a nomination for Liberal Democrat Blog of the Year (which went to the much more deserving Jonathan Calder).

Thanks to everyone who visited, read, commented, linked or otherwise interacted with the blog during 2014, and hopefully 2015 will see a whole year of regular posting, not just six months of it. Let’s see what the most popular posts of 2014 were, shall we?

10) There’s been at least one former Prime Minister in Parliament since 1756, but could that end next year? – This came from a random thought that struck me after Gordon Brown announced his retirement, and the research for it didn’t take as long as I thought it would. Even if it doesn’t happen this year, I suspect the changing nature of the House of Lords and the tendency of former PMs to not hang around the Commons mean it won’t be long before it does.
9) The tribalism of the One True Party is why people are turned off by politics – One thing I’ve been thinking a lot over the last few months is how party politics in the UK is very close to being utterly broken. This is just one symptom of it: the passionate intensity some believe in their cause with.
8) A few thoughts on UKIP vote shares and their chances in 2015 – Written before the Carswell defection, so outdated in some respects, but I do think there’s an interesting avenue of study in the effects of differential turnouts.
7) Something Must Be Done About Boris – I’ve noticed that public attitudes towards Boris appear to have been shifting over the past few months, as though people are beginning to see through the ‘LOL Boris’ act to the naked ambition and repulsive views that hide underneath. This post looks at how he casually suggested getting rid of the presumption of innocence, part of that tarnishing he’s brought upon himself.
6) Presidential questions response: Daisy Cooper – The 2014 Liberal Democrat presidential election generated a lot of attention over the last few months, and even though Daisy didn’t win, she did get more people reading her responses to my questions than any of the other candidates. I was impressed by Daisy’s ability to come up with detailed responses to my questions in such a short time.
5) My presidential manifesto – The post that generated the questions to the candidates, and misinterpreted by at least one person on Twitter who insisted that I shouldn’t stand for the position. I think the problems I highlighed here are still a problem with the party, and are something that needs to be addressed before wider voting for all party posts comes in – I’m not alone in wanting to see people say what they actually mean rather than hide behind boilerplate ‘hard working campaigner’ descriptions and vaguely coded rhetoric.
4) Have I Got News For You makes history – but far too late #HIGNFY – I’ve been maintaining my spreadsheet on the gender breakdown of HIGNFY guests for a while, so it was an obviously an interesting moment when the show had its first episode with a majority of women on screen, and the first all-female guest line-up since 1997. Unfortunately, this was the high point of the current series, and a chance to set a whole set of firsts was missed.
3) Worth reading extra: on #DRIP – The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act was rushed through Parliament because Something Had To Be Done, and sadly Liberal Democrats acquiesced in that process. This post was an attempt to gather together a bunch of information on DRIP, and why we didn’t need it, in an ultimately doomed effort to slow down that rush.
2) How did workism conquer the world? – An idea and a post that had been gestating for a while, so I’m glad it got a lot of attention and appeared to strike a chord with many people. I do need to do some more thinking and writing about workism as a concept, and how we can fight against it, but I do think this is an interesting introduction to the concept.

And so, my most popular post of 2014 was:

1) Liberal Democrats for Basic Income, anyone? – Linked to the idea of workism (and only just beating it to the number one spot by a handful of views), this did reveal I’m not alone in thinking that the idea of a basic income could be what liberalism needs to reinvent itself for the twenty-first century. Now we just have to move on and try and make it happen.

One again, thanks to the small football stadium-filling number of you that visited the blog over the past twelve months and I’m glad you found what I write to be of some interest. Hopefully, I’ll continue to keep that interest during 2015.

The Quarter Quell: October-December 2014

According to Google Analytics, these were the five posts offered in tribute that got the most readers for the last three months of 2014:

5) Lib Dem Voice got the presidential race badly wrong, and it raises questions about their surveys – And yet they still continue to headline their surveys with ‘Lib Dem members think’
4) There’s been at least one former Prime Minister in Parliament since 1756, but could that end next year? – If David Cameron stays as PM, and none of Brown, Major or Blair join the Lords, a 259 year-old tradition will end.
3) The tribalism of the One True Party is why people are turned off by politics – Prompted by a Labour member, but applies to members of all parties.
2) Have I Got News For You makes history – but far too late #HIGNFY – The first ever episode of Have I Got News For You with more women than men on screen aired.

Which means the most popular post of the last three months was…

1) Liberal Democrats for Basic Income, anyone? – ‘Yes’ was the answer, apparently.

Thanks to everyone who visited, and there’ll be a post looking back at the most popular posts of the year going up soon. There might even be some original content in the next few days too, if you’re really lucky.

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