» jennie rigg ¦ What You Can Get Away With

I mentioned the other day about Jennie Rigg’s plan to gather questions together for candidates in the Liberal Democrats’ internal elections. Unlike when I come up with a grand plan and then neglect to follow through, Jennie’s a woman of action, and not only has she collected together a list of eleven questions for candidates for both Federal Policy Committee and Federal Executive Committee, she’s managed to send it out to most of the candidates.

So, if you’re a candidate and you haven’t received any questions yet, now you can go and find them, and if you’re a party member wanting to know more about what people want to do if they’re elected, you can go and find out. The answers are being collated here as they come in, and they make for very interesting reading so far, giving you a much greater insight into what they stand for than a side of A5 in the manifesto booklet ever could. Indeed, it occurs to me that this sort of public forum, with the opportunity to question and debate the points made is something the party should be encouraging for a healthier internal democracy. I’ve noticed previously that Labour Party members are often debating their NEC and Policy Forum (I think that’s the right name) elections, and it seems odd that ours up to now have almost been conducted in secrecy.

There’s a few other thoughts I’ve had about internal party democracy from reading those responses, but I’ll save them for another post. Until then, get over to Jennie’s blog and read what they’ve got to say!

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My, is it really two years since the last set of internal elections in the Liberal Democrats? Obviously yes, because the Lib Dem Twitterverse and blogosphere is at something-that-might-be-a-fever-or-might-be-the-result-of-sitting-too-close-to-the-radiator-pitch about it, but this time we may get more discussion of them because the rules have finally been relaxed to allow it.

Given that the deadline has passed, it’s probably too late to point candidates towards my suggestions for what to say and not say in their manifestos from last time, but I would say that they’re important things to remember when campaigning in these elections. They are important, and the committees will have some important decisions to make about the future direction of the party as we approach the next election.

With that in mind, I’d like to point people towards Jennie’s plan to gather together questions for FPC and FCC candidates – if you’re not standing, it’s your chance to get a question to a lot of candidates, and if you are standing then when she’s gathered together her list of questions, answering them is a way to get your views seen by a lot of people. Hopefully, it’ll mean we can get a proper debate going, and give me a chance to really think over who gets my 63rd preference for Policy Committee this time.

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I left a comment last week on Jennie Rigg’s post about potential leaders of the Liberal Democrats that I wanted to expand on.

Jennie was looking at the potential candidates for next leader of the Liberal Democrats, and one thing that comes up from her survey is that the party isn’t exactly overwhelmed with leadership contenders. What I wonder is if this is a result of what the party expects from Parliamentary candidates and MPs, effectively limiting the pool of leadership candidates by preventing potential candidates from even jumping the first hurdle – being an MP – long before any of the others come in to play.

I’m not going to name names (because that would probably start a whole other discussion) but at many party events, conferences etc, I’ve been struck by the talent and abilities of people in the party who aren’t MPs, and clearly aren’t planning to become one. It’s my opinion that many of these people would not just make great MPs, they’d be assets in senior leadership positions. However, because they’re not going to be in Parliament, those talents rarely get seen beyond a small area. Why is it, though, that these people don’t choose to go for Parliament?

As I said on Jennie’s post, one major problem is that to become a Parliamentary candidate for the party – particularly in a winnable seat – you are expected to put in a large amount of time and effort across a number of areas. As has been pointed out by the Campaign for Gender Balance and others, this is huge disincentive to stand for many people. Unless you get lucky and win selection in one of the party’s very small (and probably reducing) number of safe seats, then you effectively have to give up whatever career you already have to devote yourself to trying to get elected. While there are some exceptions who have given up almost everything and gone for it, I think others prefer taking an easier path. That’s not to say that their decision is wrong, but in the overall scheme of things, it could go towards explaining why Jennie’s survey comes up with so few candidates.

(And this post isn’t special pleading – I’ve got no desire to become an MP, as hooting like an idiot in the House of Commons isn’t my idea of a rewarding career)


Another gathering of things people have said better than me:

I Hate It When Politicians Talk About “Hard-Working Families” – Jennie Rigg points out the flaws in a bit of politician-speak.
Democracy 2015 – The Independent’s new campaign – I was thinking of pointing out some of the flaws with this campaign, but A Dragon’s Best Friend has beating me to it.
Gathering of the damned – DoktorB on party conferences and leaders’ speeches.
Do we have to be so macho? – In the wake of David Cameron’s ‘butch’ comments, Emma Burnell questions the style of modern politics.
Comedians using their fans for co-ordinated, safety-in-numbers bullying – There’s a ‘y’ in the day, so Rick Gervais is behaving like a privileged arsehole.

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I was reading various blogs and other things last night on the subject of police accreditation for Liberal Democrat Conference, and I was struck by the fact that several people I saw on the other side of the debate to me were using the ‘why get upset about it, there are more important things to worry about’ argument. I was reminded of that today, when Jennie Rigg wrote this after receiving a similar response from someone else:

Yesterday, someone I care about a lot told me that while this decision was deplorable, the other stuff I was posting about yesterday, the economic stuff, was more important, and I should “get a sense of perspective”. The fact that the adoption of this process means that people I care about will literally be risking their lives if they want to come to conference apparently needs to be put in perspective with the fact that Vince Cable said a thing…

Of course, the use of ‘there are more important things’ isn’t just limited to Lib Dem bloggers arguing about Conference. We’ve seen it being deployed recently by the Tory backbenches as though it’s a compelling argument against House of Lords reform, equal marriage or whatever else they’re in outrage about at the moment.

I’m quite sure I’ve probably used the same argument myself at some point, but I do find it a very weak argument, so I hope my uses of it have been light-hearted rather than as a sole objection. In and of itself, though, it’s a very weak argument. The main problem with it is that it’s presupposing that there’s some grand mutually-agreed list of Stuff In Order Of Importance that will prove that the person deploying the argument is right, and the person supposedly wasting their time on the things that aren’t as important will agree that they’ve been focusing their attention on the wrong subject.

Human beings really don’t work like that, and what’s high on one person’s list may rank pretty low on someone else’s. There’s also the question of the effect an individual can have. Yes, the economy’s a mess and we need to do more to create jobs, but how much effect on the economy are me, Jennie or anyone else going to have writing about it on the internet? On the other hand, as party members and activists, we can have a direct influence on the accreditation at Conference issue, so isn’t it better to quickly nod and say ‘well done Vince’ then divert your attention to something where you as an individual really can make a difference?

It also forgets that human beings are capable of paying attention to more than one issue, and that when you get a large group of them together – say, into a Government – they’re capable of doing more than one thing at the same time. It’s why the Tory backbenchers arguing against Lords reform or equal marriage just seemed rather silly to me in their belief that this would occupy all the Government’s time. I can’t quite see why anyone in the Treasury, BIS or Transport (to pick three departments that have an effect on the economy) would find themselves distracted from their job because of an entirely different part of the Government putting forward proposals that don’t affect them.

In the same manner, when one joins a political party, part of the reason for that is to spread the effort involved amongst a number of people. The fact that some of us want to use our position in the Liberal Democrats to stand up for some actual liberalism doesn’t stop anyone else from getting on with doing whatever they want to do in the party, and it’s only their urge to sneer ‘don’t you have something better to do with your time?’ that helps to reveal those who’d like to use their time to get rid of those pesky liberals who keep messing up their plans.

And I’m sure you had better things to do with your time than read this post – didn’t you know that there are people starving elsewhere in the world? That climate change could render huge swathes of land uninhabitable? That the sun will expand and destroy the entire planet in a few billion years? What are you doing about any of those, eh? – but thanks for doing it, anyway.


@petehague’s piece on This Week’s Pod Delusion – Jennie Rigg on the concept of Schrodinger’s Rapist (which was a term I hadn’t heard of before her post) and what’s rational behaviour for women.
My encounter with the News of the World – When you hear someone talking about how the non-phone-hacking staff of the News of the World were saints and angels who loved bunny rabbits and kittens, read this and remind yourself of their regular modus operandi.
Capes, wedding dresses and Steven Moffat – Sophia McDougall on why (to paraphrase violently) a wedding dress and the Batsuit are the same thing.
Our democracy is over – Steven Baxter asks why no one thinks of the poor oppressed plutocrats. “The very future of free discourse in this country is under threat. We have no democracy any more. This ragtag-and-bobtail army of leftist thought police are going to stop us from being able to ring up dead kids or bereaved families and listen to their messages – and what then? Criminals and crooked politicians are going to get away with it, that’s what.”
A Punishment Beating – Flying Rodent on the oh-so-tedious Johann Hari vs Nick Cohen deathmatch feud important struggle for liberal values vital intellectual contretemps playground spat. “Let me put it this way. During the week when the Guardian – a paper that Nick and his pals have spent years dumping oceans of shit over – rocked the foundations of the world’s most powerful media empire, shut down a criminal enterprise and brought a genuine scandal of public interest to the front doors of Number 10 and the Metropolitan Police… …A small but determined bunch of angry berks were engaged in the honourable task of helping one of the nation’s most ridiculous hacks wreak his pissy vengeance upon a nationally-discredited twerp for the crime of penning a mildly critical and dishonest book review, years ago.”

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Bored? Then it’s time for some linkage:

Colonel Albert Bachmann – Telegraph obituary of a Swiss spy, whose life resembled something from a black comedy about the Cold War.
The Lib Dem Leadership Don’t Get It – But I Do – Jennie explains the elephant in the room that the party leadership aren’t acknowledging.
TPA – Pretence of Authority – Tim Fenton notes that the Taxpayers Alliance’s policies only seem to be for a very small number of taxpayers.
Some Advice to New Councillors – Useful advice from Richard Kemp.
Thirty Books from Interrupted Worlds – Lawrence Miles provides some humorous reinterpretations of classic books from alternate timelines.

Burning of the heretics may now recommence.

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