Thursday, 2 July 2015

Ten years a blog

It is hard to believe that ten years ago today I first sat at my laptop and wrote a blog post.

Back then I was in the post first time general election candidate daze, but was already thinking about how I could do more to get myself recognised and my views heard ahead of the next election at some point before 2010. Back then the blog title was Stephen's Linlithgow Journal as back then anything I thought I would stand for as a Liberal Democrat candidate had the word Linlithgow in the title. Of course when it came to be going for selection in 2010 for the Edinburgh Central seat I didn't want to see five years of thoughts lost to the general public, so I changed the URL and the title to the current title.

Little did I realise that across the blog I would have over 1 million page views back then I was just looking for a way to reach out to the 70,000 or so voters who lived in the catchment area that I thought I would be reaching out to for a number of years. Of course I also didn't realise that circumstance would cause me to move three times within 4 years from the area that I had come to consider home back then in 2005.

Of course another thing that really impacted on my blog was the sudden death of Robin Cook in the summer of 2005. My blog up until that point had a limited readership, but then I became the go to blog (not just Liberal Democrat) for the ensuing by election. To suddenly go from 10-20 readers a day to upwards of 500 on certain days of course made me change the way I went about my blogging. It moved from being largely about local issues, though they would still exist, into a more national outlook on things. Sadly of course with such a high profile death at the start of my decade of blogging there was of course the leader of my Party then Charles Kennedy's also sudden death at the other end of these first 10 years.

My blogging diversified down the years and I realised that I was almost blogging as much about sport as politics, indeed at some points of the year more so. So I set up a secondary blog that focused on the sport, Stephen's Sporting Almanac but of course as soon as I did that I lost a little of the mojo and stopped blogging as much on both blogs. This may also have come about from the fact that I was no longer blogging on the bus ride into work in the morning which had instilled a certain discipline into me finding something to write about, but was also down probably to a large part to the continuous search for work after the Yes to Fairer Votes campaign. Of course I took a step back then from political blogging in the same way as I had to work closely with people of other parties.

But somehow I have managed to struggle through and kept on blogging. So here we are today celebrating 10 years as a blogger. I've seen many people give up in that time, many start to greater or lesser success, others move to collaborative blogs, but I have maintained a one person blog for 10 years now. The output has not always been at the same level but I hope that every now and then a little gem comes from the tapping I do wherever and whenever the mood strikes me.

 I'm now in the post third time General Election candidate haze, and looking for how to work for the Lib Dem Fight Back after the poor showing on 7 May. Having stood a second time in Linlithgow and East Falkirk in 2010 and in Sedgefield this year. Sometime soon I expect you'll see me going for selection ahead of 2020.

Will I still be blogging in 10 years time? Who knows, but I'm not for giving up just now.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Tatchell speaks up for Northern Ireland

Peter Tatchell yesterday highlighted at Pride in London that the LGBT people in Northern Ireland are being denied the same rights and opportunities enjoyed elsewhere in the Union. He urged the people of the UK to stand in solidarity.

Here is him being interviewed about the issues.

President Obama on Friday also said that the US Supreme Court ruling ended the patchwork of equality for LGBT people in his great nation. Northern Ireland is now becoming that little patch that needs to be added to the quilt of Western equality.

Friday, 26 June 2015

I want to be proud of what we couldn't do in Government

Yes as Liberal Democrats we now have a record in Government nationally. We have to admit there are some things that as the junior partner of that Government we were unable to prevent, but there were other things that without us would not have been achieved.

However, that is our record in Government and enough people will have written or have yet to write about those achievements. What I want us as Liberal Democrats to focus on are the things from our 2010 manifesto that we were unable to achieve in Government because the conservatives would not want us to.

Why should I do that?

Simple the reason is it shows that we are our own party, not one that can be absorbed into either the Conservatives or Labour, or even fit nicely in alongside the Greens. Sure there are components of what we as Liberal Democrats stand for that all three of those parties listed can agree with and that goes for the SNP and Plaid Cymru as well, there are even elements that Euroscpetic UKIP can agree with Europhile Lib Dems over. But the raison d'être that makes Liberal Democrats tick is the thing that would infuriate any of the other parties.

It is the things that we couldn't get into a programme of Government with the Conservatives that make us not Conservative poodles. The manifesto we decided to put out for the last election was lacking in the conviction, as many radical ideas and a clear liberal agenda of those in the past. We were positioning for Government not position for liberalism.

That is what I want our party to be proud of our policies that other parties want to shy away from. Those policies that are based on need, science, making society fairer for all not one group or another. Only the Liberal Democrats can look past the demands of the richest that the Tories bow to, or the Unions that Labour still kow-tow to no matter how much they claim to have changed. We do however stand up for business and the workers. Realising that one needs the other and vice versa but that there should be opportunity for everyone to get on with their life unencumbered by too many constraints.

When looking at who to lead us forwards as a party while both candidates are truly liberals, I want the one whose prime objective is to make us liberal first and as a result give us a voice in Government, not aim for a voice in Government as the prime goal diluting our liberalism to appeal to both Tories and Labour.

In recent days I've seen too many of the Normtroopers say that they want to be led back into Government without any mention of liberalism. If that is your aim join the Tories or Labour and have an easy ride into Government. The reason I got into politics was to stand up for liberal values. Looking at what the current Government is doing on welfare, refusing to accept refugees who risk their lives from resettling here, accelerating removing the wind farm subsidy, restoring the snoopers charter and forgetting the "Northern Powerhouse" when it comes to trains shows that there needs to be a liberal voice.

That liberal voice needs to appeal to the many people who basically share our liberal values. That liberal voice needs to reach out to them so that local candidates and activists can get alongside those people on the doorsteps and harness that renewed enthusiasm for our party. That voice needs to connect to the people about the things on their hearts.

I know that voice in the one that Tim Farron can give our party and make us strong again. Strong in our values, strong in our liberalism and as a result strong in our council wards, devolved Governments and Westminster.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

March for Equality

Today the sun shone on least I assume it did from the pictures I have seen and the fact that it shone in Bangor where I was.

"Why is this significant?" you may ask. Well seeing as today thousands took part in a march for equality, seeking to bring about marriage equality in the only part of the United Kingdom, and indeed now the only small part of the island of Ireland that does not recognise same-sex marriages. So the fact that it stayed dry meant that some politicians meteorology skills are little off, despite some of them claiming that last year's soggy Belfast Pride proved the opposite.

The march was organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Amnesty International and the Rainbow Project. The age ranged from school children to pensioners. They were lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and straight, Catholic and Protestant or neither. The Belfast Telegraph says that 20,000 took to the streets

One of the platform speakers Northern Irish novelist Glenn Patterson said:

"We will never forsake the blue skies of Ulster for the red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet skies of the Irish Republic.
"We are going to bring them here."
So the message is that while the Presbyterian Church in Ireland boycotts the Church of Scotland for it acceptance of gay ministers and deacons in same-sex marriages, and the unionist parties continue to ignore legal UK marriages in the name of pick 'n' mix unionism, the people will continue to march, to shout out for equality and the same recognition that their fellow British or Irish citizens have.

Just as Gays and Lesbians Support the Miners 30 years ago lead to the coal unions walking at the front of London Pride, now the Unions are standing up for LGBT+ rights. While it is a shame that commercialism means that the 30th anniversary of that coming together will be in the middle not front of London Pride I have to thank the Trade Unions here in standing with the LGBT+ community here.

I was not able to be there, sadly being a gay sportsman in a summer team sport I was otherwise engaged in playing for my team in the second division of our league in a tough match against the leaders. As it came down to a handful of shots to determine who would take the three match points on top of the two each of us got for our winning rinks I'm sure my gay card won't be rescinded.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

LGBT* in Ukip and Pride

There is a lot of hot debate going on at the moment about the decision of Pride London to reject LGBT* in UKIP application to march as a group this month in the parade. The Board of Pride London are citing "secuirty issues" as the reason for this rejection, something Peter Tatchell calls a "cop-out" which seems somewhat ironic as the same man had called for UKIP's exclusion mere days earlier.

Tatchell himself is appearing confused in his stance to LGBT* in Ukip's participation and I suspect that London Prides talk of direct action against the parade if they allowed the Ukip group to take part have led to similar confusion within LGBTory, LGBT Labour, LGBT+ Lib Dems and LGBTIQ Greens from taking an official position are they are not aware of the facts that Pride are stating are the security issues. With rumours of BME or immigrant groups threatening the action it is uncertain where the facts lie.

Therefore this is my personal opinion and not in any other capacity.

I think LGBT* within UKIP should be allowed to march in the London Pride Parade.

As for security fears when Pride first started out there were always security fears. In Eastern Europe and Africa there still are when a Pride march takes place. So in that that essence Peter Tatchell is right, it is a cop-out.

However, unlike Tatchell and others I do not think we should tar the LGBT+ representative group within any political party or organisation with the expressed view of the majority within that organisation. After all we have faith groups that are working hard within their groups who oppose same-sex marriage, actively campaign against it and all LGBT+ equality measures. These were all reason that Tatchell noted in his reasons to ban LGBT* within UKIP from marching.

I'm not sure when the predecessors of LGBTory, TORCHE (Tory Campaign for Homosexual Equality) or CGHE (Conservative Group for Homosexual Equality) first marched in London Pride but I suspect that it was probably during the time that the party policy was in favour of Section 28 and opposed to civil unions for LGBT people and other LGBT equality measures that are now in place. There were probably also concerns of how others within LGBT+ circles would react to the Conservatives marching in their midst at that time.

I would be ashamed if the security measures were a smokescreen from the Board of London Pride to give in the bullying tactics of some within the LGBT community to petition against the inclusion of LGBT* within UKIP from participating, and that includes high profile opponents to their participation like Tatchell. I would also be ashamed if any LGBT group threatens the safety of Pride because other LGBT people and supportive friends are participating because they disagree with the certain aspects of the politics of the group then shame on them.

I would love there to be an LGBT unionist presence at a Belfast Pride soon. Currently all three of the unionist parties in Northern Ireland with MLAs DUP, UUP and TUV have fair from exemplary LGBT voting records but there are unionist party members and supporters who are LGBT are lobbying those MLAs to change just as LGBT* within UKIP are doing to those politicians and candidates in their own party who are far from LGBT supportive and even overtly anti-LGBT. The LGBT and Pride community should be supporting such groups seeking change not excluding them from our parade.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Who's debating this merger except the Independent?

Today the Independent have a comment piece about the reignited debate of a Labour/Lib Dem merger. But where is this debate/

Firstly as a party member for 27 years I am not aware there ever was a debate of a merger, there was talk of a centre left coalition with Labour ahead of 1997, but coalition is not merger, it is two parties with somewhat similar outlooks working together after contesting seats on their own accord to be an effective majority (like what ended up happening from 2010-15).

Secondly as a someone active in quite a lot of internal forums both with activists and candidates (something I have been in the last three elections) I have heard no buzz about a merger with Labour, even from my fellow social liberals. Instead the talk is all about returning to our own identity now that we are out of coalition, standing up for Liberal values not trying to position ourselves as being able to work with Labour or Conservatves simply for the sake of coalition but to stand up of Liberals first and foremost.

With 25% of the party membership coming to us after the general election we are growing fast, and those new and enthusiastic members are welcome and have come to us because of what we are, they haven't joined Labour. This is just like those of us who are social liberal who remained in the party since entering coalition did not run off and join them either (though I admit that some did).

We owe it to the 17,000 new Liberal Democrats as well as the 44,000 who remained with us to stand up for our liberal values as laid our in the preamble to our constitution. These are liberal values and how we express them in practice is down to conference. We are Liberal Democrats, not Labour, not Conservatives be prepares to hear us roar again.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Death of a War Poet: Walter Lyon 8 May 1915

I apologise that during the General Election I missed three centenaries of war poets. These will now appear on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday Friday of this week.

Walter Scott Stuart Lyon was one of five sons of Walter and Isabella Lyon of Tantallon Lodge, North Berwick. He was born on 1 October 1886. He went to Haileybury, before going up to Balliol College, Oxford to study classics.

He volunteered for the 9th Battallion Royal Scots before the war being appointed as a second Lieutenant on 14 December 1909, while at the same time undergoing his law training in Edinburgh. He graduated in law in 1912 and was admitted as a Scottish Advocated later in the same year on Lieutenant on 17th December in the same year.

At the outbreak of war he was appointed staff-captain to the Lothian Brigade but rejoined his battalion in early 1915. In February 1915 Lieutenant Lyon found himself in the terraces near Glencose Wood, Ypres. After this first experience in the line he wrote two poems Easter at Ypres and Lines Written in a Fire Trench. A couple of weeks after this during the fiercest fighting of the second battle of Ypres he wrote two more On a Grave in a Trench and I Tracked a Dead Man Down a Trench.

On 23rd April 1915 he was mentioned in dispatches by Major John Ewing:

"C Company had come to a halt behind a hedge which was so thickly girt with barbed wire that men could not break through without great labour. Noticing this, Lieutenant Lyon very cooly stood up and, taking out his wire-cutters, began to make gaps. Machine-guns played with him, but withouy any sign of haste he proceeded with his task, never stopping until he had the rendered the hedge penetrable."

In May he was located in dugouts in Potijze Woods near the Menin Road about 200 yards from the firing line. On the 8th May the shelling was so fierce that trees were uprooted and tops sliced by shrapnel. Many men died in the onslaught and like Lyon many had not known grave.

A book of his poems Easter at Ypres 1915 and other poems was published in 1916 a mixture of poems he had written before the war plus the four mentioned here and others from the war period.

Of his brothers two of the others were killed in the war and a third died while a student at Haileybury.

I tracked a dead man down a trench

I tracked a dead man down a trench,
I knew not he was dead.&nbsp
They told me he had gone that way,
And there his foot-marks led.
The trench was long and close and curved,
It seemed without an end;
And as I threaded each new bay

I thought to see my friend.
At last I saw his back. He crouched
As still as still could be,
And when I called his name aloud
He did not answer me.

The floor-way of the trench was wet
Where he was crouching dead;
The water of the pool was brown,
And round him it was red.

I stole up softly where he stayed
With head hung down all slack,
And on his shoulders laid my hands
And drew him gently back.

And then, as I had guessed, I saw
His head, and how the crown -
I saw then why he crouched so still,
And why his head hung down.

Walter Scott Stuart Lyon 1 October 1886 North Berwick, East Lothian, Scotland  - 8 May 1915 Potijze Woods, Near Ypres, Belgium