I should be gardening – Brazilian Conspiracy and British Politics

I should be gardening – BUT …

I should be gardening today (started writing this on Thursday!) after yesterday’s rain and today`s early morning sunshine … but … conspiracy is afoot. Or, at least, some of the conspiracy that has been afoot for a long time in Brazil has surfaced this morning and I thought you should know about it too!

It has been “common knowledge” for a long time that President Temer is somehow tainted with the endemic corruption in Brazil but up to now he has appeared Teflon coated and has claimed, of course, that all the allegations and insinuations are untrue. Today, however, it looks as though the “shoe has dropped”.

As part of a plea bargain, in their own corruption case, by Joesley and Wesley Batista, brothers who run the country’s biggest meat-packing firm JBS, they have passed over some tape-recordings which even Temer may not be able to wriggle out from if they demonstrate what they are alleged to show.  For all the details of this news, see today`s Guardian story here goo.gl/ZMZL31. – but essentially he has been caught speaking about “keeping the bribery going”.

Apparently, the same tapes implicate a whole raft of other politicians including another Teflon coated leader of another party Aecio Neves and the former finance minister Guido Mantega. As I write this the TV news in Brazil is showing ordinary Brazilians banging pans together as they follow the unfolding news story – they do this as a form of protest, but, so far, I have only ever seen it on TV there, never witnessed it live. Perhaps it is something we could try here as our Government ministers pass by to let them know what we really think of them!

What next in Brazil?

Of course, it is still too soon to say what exactly might happen next, but popular opinion will almost certainly strengthen to have President Temer impeached or persuaded to resign. One of the problems, however, is that ALL the next few people in line to take over the presidency are also tainted with charges of corruption.

A recent article ( goo.gl/0CmG9t ) looks at some of the candidates but even though written only a month ago it has been superseded by today`s news.

My view is that they ALL need booting out of office and that suggests there needs to be an early presidential election before the end of Temer`s term in 2018. All the main political parties are led by politicians who are implicated in corruption, however. Even the former President Lula, who has been forecast to try again, is fighting to repudiate corruption charges, having allegedly been given a rather nice property without charge.

Dilma Rousseff, who was impeached last year over apparent manipulation of government economic data to massage the figures into better than real shape, has not, thus far, been implicated in taking personal favours. She is a busted flush, however, and, as a consequence of the successful impeachment she is not actually allowed to fight an election as President although she could give it a run in the lower offices.

Marina da Silva, who, as an environmental champion would receive my support, does not seem in a strong position, though she came a creditable third in 2014. A Huffington Post blog provides a number of reasons for her failure to break through in 2014 (goo.gl/dSqDuj) but the new circumstances may provide her with a lifeline – she could position herself as Brazil`s “Macron”, except that she has had two failed runs for President already.

The sun has come out again – I really MUST go and do some gardening, but will return to my blogging task later….

British Politics

Well, I was going to continue to write about Brazilian politics, but perhaps you will forgive me and allow me to change tack and write about the ITV “leader`s debate” tonight (last night as I now finish writing this blog!). For me, it was a very enjoyable two hours of television without the weak and wobbly Mrs Mayhem and the vague and controversial Mr Corbyn participating.

It demonstrated how Theresa May comes across as so arrogant and carping – by her complete absence! – and it was very refreshing. I was also keeping tabs on a couple of Facebook threads as the programme went out and there was a consensus that it would be rather nice not to have to listen to the Cons and Labs of this country at all.

Maybe that was all wishful thinking, however, judging by some of the press comments on Friday morning. Several journalists were scathing about the programme and missed the presence of the so-called “big hitters” but I put that down to them being as jaded as the politicians of the two big parties. For me it was a relief not to listen to Mrs Mayhem`s nastily delivered soundbites.

The only journalist who seems to have seen it the same way as me is Robert Peston who tweeted….

And ITV’s political editor Robert Peston agrees.



Not wrong – nuts. Just reminds everyone their leaders were too frit to turn up #itvdebate https://twitter.com/steve_hawkes/status/865301170637680640 …

9:25 PM – 18 May 2017


The debate was watched by a few million people who might have detected that Tim Farron, Caroline Lucas and Nicola Sturgeon have not given up on the idea of us keeping open the option of voting to stay in the European Union once the details of the negotiations are fully known. Plaid Cymru seem to have swallowed the guff about the “will of the people” being inviolable and unchanging, but it is clear to me that intelligent people are able to change their minds when confronted with FACTS rather than lies.

UKIP`s Nuttall is only worth mentioning to say that he showed himself up as the ignorant bigot that he is and was strafed successfully by all the others at several points during the debate. Disgraceful.

My first feeling after the debate finished was that it could have changed the possible outcome of the election on 8th June but was deflated to see the BBC News at Ten did not refer to the debate in their headlines and merely showed Mrs May pontificating on her Manifesto Launch earlier in the day. Will it change the outcome? We can only hope so.

My great-nephew Tom, who seems to have deserted the family norms of caring Liberalism, is actually looking forward to a Tory victory on 8th June, anticipating a champagne breakfast on 9th June. I blew him a raspberry on Facebook and decided to have a nice malt whisky then and there to celebrate the absence of the Cons and Labs from the body politic for a couple of hours at least!

Tory Manifesto – my reaction

As for the Tory manifesto – depressing stuff the lot of it, but I was particularly appalled at the negativity on the lack of understanding on poverty and social care. We are the fifth richest country in the world and it is appalling that some 4,000 people have to sleep rough on the streets every night and that 4 million children are considered to be below the poverty line.

Fatima was shocked upon seeing rough sleepers and beggars in the UK capital city when we visited London once. “I know this is a common sight in Brazil – but did not expect to see it here in the UK”. Now the Tories are planning to do away with free school lunches and “save money” by offering free breakfasts instead for infants and primary school children. As one parent said on TV just after this was announced “It would be much better for the children to have breakfast at home and be able to eat well at lunch time.”

Free school lunches was one of the Liberal Democrats ideas that happened during the Coalition – and it was well received. Money was spent on creating or upgrading school kitchen facilities to enable it to happen and now the Tories are to scrap it – to spend money on re-introducing divisive Grammar Schools. Crazy.

And, as for Brexit … well all I can say is “Don`t start me off!” How the Conners can say we`d be better of having “no deal” that staying in the European Union just beggars belief. We are already becoming worse off with the declining pound and food inflation and that is before we have even left the EU.

I am not going to say any more because I think you all know where I stand. Vote Liberal Democrat to stay in Europe.

And … Fox-hunting!!!??? For goodness` sake Mrs Mayhem. If you had not already done so you have just revealed how despicable you and your Tory mates are. Killing animals for pleasure. Disgusting.

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Time and tide

Time and tide

To paraphrase someone famous – “there is a time and tide in the affairs of men and women…” – mmm could it have been Shakespeare? Anyway, I believe that time is now and the tide has just changed. My political instincts are reacting as strongly this morning as they did in 1987, which was the last time they flared so vividly (more about this below as an explanation, but let me firstly tell you what my instincts are telling me.)

Mysteriously the Labour Party manifesto was leaked yesterday (gosh, I wonder who might have leaked it – politics 101 points to Corbyn`s team) and last night Jeremy Corbyn gave an interview to Laura Kuenssberg which presented an ambiguous view which seemed to be trying to suggest to European remain voters that Labour could be relied upon to make their points for them.

This (Thursday) morning, however, Corbyn has apparently made it clear that Labour WILL deliver Brexit as per the leaked manifesto and it is this clarity that I believe that has now provided the GAME changer in this election. My firm conviction is that now is the “time and tide” for the LIBERAL Democrats. But…..


But the change of direction of the tide must now be accompanied by an equal clarity by the Liberal Democrat leadership, not just from Tim Farron, but all the leadership involved in creating the Party`s message, that if we have the power to do it, or even influence it, the Liberal Democrats will revoke Article 50 at the earliest possible opportunity.

Veteran British diplomat John Kerr — now Lord Kerr of Kinlochard — drafted the text that sets out the procedure for leaving the European Union as part of an effort to draw up an EU constitutional treaty in the early 2000s

The UK diplomat, Lord Kerr, who drafted Article 50 has indicated there is nothing to stop Article 50 being revoked and this view has been widely echoed amongst European politicians and officials, so this would be the simplest mechanism to stop the lemming like rush for the cliff edge. What, you may ask, is the political position?

My view is that, given the nature of this unique election, if a majority of pro-remain MPs is elected to Parliament, it will come within the sovereign purview of Parliament to make this simple decision without reference to a further referendum. In other words, this General Election can effectively BE that second referendum that is much talked about.

We were told quite specifically that the 2016 referendum was just an advisory referendum. As such, nobody worried about building in a super-majority clause because it would be left to the sovereignty of Parliament to make the final considered decision. Somewhere along the way this was (in)conveniently forgotten by the Leave camp and neither Labour nor remainer Tories have had the guts to champion the alternative view.

Why am I saying this NOW? The simplest answer is “gut feel”. Let me explain.

I woke quite early this morning and, as I sometimes do if I awake early, I picked up my mobile phone and started browsing the Facebook feeds. There were several threads of conversation with which I started to interact and, from 7am through to 11am, I was wearing my fingers to the bone making and responding to comments. I only stopped at 11am because I had not even paused for any breakfast and thought I would fade away if I didn`t have at least some cornflakes. (For those of you familiar with UK advertising I actually had THREE Weetabix – I won`t try and explain it to those of you not familiar, it would take too long!)

I also took a couple of minutes out to Skype with Fatima in Brazil who was so worried at my excitement level she thought I might have a heart attack. I reassured her I would let her know I was still alive (actually I had better do that now before she worries too much – hang on… OK – done that, she was relieved and smiled.) Where was I…oh yes, I was being excited that we are, at this moment, this very moment, potentially at the tide`s turning point.

Tim Farron, I am now talking directly to you. Please do not miss this opportunity to state loudly and firmly and unmistakably that Liberal Democrats WILL revoke Article 50. It WILL change the nature of the General Election debate.

Now, for everyone (including Tim) this is the story about my flaring instincts. I have probably mentioned this in blogs before, so if you have heard the story please be patient.

I stood for the Liberal Party as a candidate in Broxtowe in 1983 against the Tory minister Jim Lester and we had been nowhere before then and folk were not feeling particularly political. So when I started to do my walkabouts in Beeston shopping centre people would divert their walks to avoid being “collared”. In other words, there was a sort of flow around me as people kept out of the way. As the election went along the Liberal message and the Alliance message began to get through to electors as a positive thing and my own publicity machine started working in Broxtowe.

As a result, towards the end of the election period people were now making a bee-line for me if I was in the shopping centre, actually wanting to talk to the Liberal candidate. It was great, I really started to enjoy electioneering and the messages succeeded.

Broxtowe had been won by Labour in a 1953 byelection and had subsequently turned Conservative, becoming a safe ministerial Tory seat with Liberals nowhere to be seen.  In 1983, I took second place away from Labour with just over 25% of the vote, Labour on just 21%.

Now comes the crux – pay attention. I stood again in 1987 and everything was looking good as the election started. People were coming to me when I was in the shopping centre and wanting to chat, I was even getting excited we could WIN in 1987, having been a creditable second in 1983.

Then came the fateful tipping point. Remember, if you will, that we were still in Alliance with the SDP and we therefore had TWO leaders, David Steel for the Liberal Party and David Owen for the SDP. Mrs Thatcher was in power and proving popular with her supporters but derided by her opponents.

Thinking the Alliance was doing pretty well, journalists decided to find out what would happen if the Alliance held the “balance of power”, so they asked the Party leaders “If you hold the balance of power after the election, will you go into a coalition with the Tories and support Mrs Thatcher to form a new government?”

David Steel said “NO” and was first to respond. David Owen, later in the day said “YES”.

The very next day I was in Beeston High Street and without exception voters suddenly started avoiding me. It was as if I was a block of stone in a fast-moving river. No-one stopped to talk to me – everyone sheered away from contact,  I could have had a terrible contagious disease!

The reaction was instantaneous. And clear.

I called Party headquarters to get them to change David Owen`s mind but no-one seemed to understand or do anything about it. But I knew – I was CERTAIN – from that point on that we had just lost the election. That is what I mean about flaring instinct. (We did indeed come third in the 1987 election with only 22.4% of the vote – Labour pushed us into third place, getting 24.3%)


So, Tim, anyone out there who is listening. This is it. Remember where you heard this first – revoke Article 50 – say it out loud. “REVOKE ARTICLE 50 AND WIN THE ELECTION”

I just hope more people are listening to me than listened to me in 1987, otherwise we are completely and royally stuffed. We will burst out of the European Union and probably never get back in my lifetime. Young people will suffer the worst, followed probably by old people, like I will soon become, reliant upon a National Health Service that can no longer function because the economy breaks down and all the European nurses and doctors are thrown back to their home countries.

I have been writing blogs now for five years – I started blogging as a rite of passage on my 65th birthday – and this is by far the most important blog I have written. Please take notice of the depth of feeling that each and every word of this blog is imbued with.


There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

Brutus in Julius Caesar – Shakespeare

Posted in Elections, European referendum, History | Tagged | 3 Comments

Returning to the Fold #5 – rediscovering the pleasures of canvassing!

Returning to the Fold #5 – rediscovering the pleasures of canvassing!

If you have been following the posts you will know I have become immersed in the Gorton by-election having re-joined the Lib-Dem Party a little while ago. So, of course, it was with a bit of a jolt that the calling of the General Election changed the timetable somewhat. The by-election was (I suppose sensibly) cancelled and the vacancy in Gorton will be filled merely as part of the General Election now to take place on 8th June.

A key part of my rationale for being involved again was, and still is, to help my friend Jane Brophy in the Mayoral elections in Greater Manchester, so the Gorton date change has made little difference to my commitment. Thus, having committed myself to participating fully for the last week of the campaign, I decided I should still do that, not least because there is a by-election at City level too, for a Council seat within the Gorton Constituency. Working here, therefore, will still contribute to the Mayoral Election, for stronger Lib-Dem presence on the Manchester City council and could prove to be a strong marker for a successful campaign in Gorton in the General Election.

Given the canvassing I have been involved with over the last few days I have a weird feeling the national opinion polls are seriously underestimating the position of the Liberal Democrats, especially a recent poll which suggests the party has actually slid backwards again. But that may simply be that a national opinion poll is not picking up people whose views have been affected yet by real Lib-Dem activity. It will be interesting to see if the local election results are sufficiently favourable to impact upon those people that do not live in our “political bubble”.

So, what has the canvassing been like? you may ask…

All I can say is that I have been really enjoying canvassing in the Rusholme area of the Gorton constituency. So far, over about four weeks of activity here, I have found just one person who has been prepared to say he is a Conservative – and he would not contemplate even a discussion of tactical voting. There have also been a few households who would not declare their affiliation where my assumption has been that they were probably conservative.

Of course, as part of a solidly Labour seat there have been quite a few people declaring they were solid Labour, but I have found just as many definite Lib-Dems so about fifty-fifty on that score. The best part of my canvassing here, however, have been the instances where a self-declared Labour voter has actually changed their mind on the doorstep as the conversation has progressed. I guess this is what is meant by the expression “soft Labour” vote!

One particularly rewarding conversation on Sunday went this way. “This is really a Labour household” was how I was greeted at the gate – he was working on his vehicle in the driveway. I took my clue from the word “really” in the sentence. I suppose I heard just an element of doubt there and we had a good-humoured conversation around current politics. He seemed to be warming to the idea of the Liberal Democrats having held back the worst of Tory plans during the coalition years. He had also voted “remain” in the European referendum last year so was sympathetic to the idea that all may not yet be lost if we could provide an opposition with some backbone.

In the end it proved to be my story about the handshake and Gladstone that sealed the deal. His two year old daughter was playing in the front garden and seemed interested in the silver haired visitor with a bright rosette. So I shook his hand and he called his daughter over, so I shook her hand too and then launched into the story (for details see my previous blog! https://keithmelton10.wordpress.com/2012/08/02/handshake-claim-to-fame/comment-page-1/#comment-240 ) So there is a little girl in Manchester who, in perhaps sixty eight year`s time will be able to say “when I was a little girl….” and Gladstone`s handshake will only be three away from someone living nearly two hundred years after his decease.

So the conversation ended in smiles and my new friend became a definite Lib-Dem voter on the canvass return and he and his little girl were happy to have their photo taken with the poster they took to declare their allegiance.

In fact, I must have now told my “Gladstone handshake” tale about ten times on the doorsteps of Rusholme and it has cemented several conversions or consideration of “thinking about change” as well as selling the poster seen here and – on Saturday – the signing up of a new member. Really, however, the main reason for such reconsideration by former labour voters has been the willingness to participate in a conversation about politics. And it is this willingness to talk that characterises a more positive feel for the Libaral Democrats than I have experienced in a long time I have to go back to 1983 to find a period where I was experiencing such positive thinking on the streets.

It has also been a pleasure to meet new friends from other parts of the country who have been coming up to Gorton over the last few weeks to help. It has reminded me about the camaraderie I have been missing not being active in the Party – so a bit “shout out” to my fellow canvassers, hope you have been enjoying it as I have!

All this has contributed to my increasing enjoyment of the canvassing process in the last few weeks. Indeed, as I write these last few lines of this blog-post, I am able to reflect that my return to the fold of Liberal politics has been rewarding and, above all, FUN. Long may it continue. I just hope my optimism survives the vote on Thursday and the General Election when it happens next month.

Posted in Elections, Gorton Byelection, Greater Manchester Mayor, History, Politics | 1 Comment

Personal Experience – say NO to coalition with Mrs May

Personal Experience – say NO to coalition with Mrs May

As a prodigal son, returning to the Liberal Democratic Party after 20 years, may I be permitted a brief piece of advice from personal experience.

I stood, and came second to, Conservative minister Jim Lester in 1983 in Broxtowe in Nottinghamshire. When I was doing walkabouts in the shopping centre at the beginning of the campaign people were walking around me to avoid “getting caught”. By the end of the campaign people were deliberately coming to see me because our message nationally was going down very well.

In 1987, I stood again in Broxtowe and at the beginning of the campaign people were walking towards me to chat when I did the walkabouts. Then David Steel and David Owen were asked whether they would support Mrs Thatcher in the event of a hung parliament. David Steel said “No” – hooray for David Steel. But David Owen said “yes”, the Alliance WOULD support Mrs T.

The very next day – THE VERY NEXT DAY – people walked away from me in the shopping centre. It was as if I had developed a communicable disease. We came third to Labour in the 1987 GE in Broxtowe. That one unfortunate word from David Owen made all the difference. I called Party HQ but they took no notice of what I said unfortunately.

So, Tim Farron, please avoid saying “Yes” to a coalition with Mrs May, or for that matter, with Mr Corbyn. They are both toxic in their own ways to potential Liberal Democrat voters in this General Election.

By all means make a case for realignment after a successful election by Liberal Democrats, but we have to get the seats in great numbers and speak from strength, since a promise to support either Party leader before the election will decimate our possible vote. This experience is burned into my soul from 1987. History has a way of repeating itself – ignore it at OUR peril.


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Returning to the Liberal fold – #4 Reflections

Reflections on the week – Gorton and the Greater Manchester Metro Mayorals

I have just returned home in Nottinghamshire after spending several days over in Greater Manchester (thanks again Keith and Mary for the accommodation!) It is Saturday evening as I start to write this.

I have been out canvassing in Gorton three times this week and the first things to say is that it has not been particularly nice canvassing weather for two of those three days. Yesterday was grey, drizzly and, later on, very wet – in fact we were rained off by 4pm, the canvass pages were just starting to wrinkle and if we had stayed out much longer the ink would have been running! Today started grey and then the sun kept coming out and going back in, BUT the northerly wind was biting, making it difficult to manipulate changing the canvass pages. And a couple of times I felt my brain had frozen too!

Today was our best day from the point of view of the responses we were getting and I felt buoyed up by the results. We did still find a few solid Labour voters but the thing that particularly struck me today was the willingness of people to listen to what we were saying. Maybe it was because it was Saturday and folk were more relaxed or maybe, just maybe, the Lib-Dem message is now getting through to the electors.

Indeed I had two occasions where the voters said they “normally don`t vote” but they carried on listening anyway. The first was a young lady who claimed to “know nothing” about politics (but she did admit to having voted remain last year) And the second was a guy who said he didn`t vote as politicians were “…all the same. They ask for your vote and then p**s off down to London and take no further notice of you”.

I felt able to claim quite genuinely that we were getting favourable results on the doorstep and if they would come out to vote as previous non-voters, that, in and of itself, could make Gorton a REAL “game-changer” in British politics. I said the same thing to several voters over all three days who had voted Labour before but were probably ready to change their votes.


One of my key reflections over these days is about how we approach people and how we think of people when we are out canvassing. This follows from the sort of conversations I have just been referring to. We are encouraged to put former Labour voters down as small “l” – soft Labour – if they show signs of being persuadable. I understand, of course, why the team wants us to “label” voters like this, so that they can target information flows to particular categories of voters and so on, but I did feel less than comfortable in labelling voters at all.

It really doesn`t befit us as Liberals to apply catch-all labels to any class of voter. It was clear from each of my conversations with these particular people that each person was different and had a different story to tell. They may well also wish to hear a more empathetic message from politicians generally than politicians have been prepared to propagate to their prospective voters. This is no “one size fits all” process in which we are involved

Anyway, I did my duty and used the labels where appropriate because I can recognise the tactical advantage of targeting this way. But, may I urge everyone going to Gorton to do door-stepping, that they should not “think” of the voters as labels, even if we need to translate what feedback we get, into these tactical boxes. I believe the key strength we have as Liberals is to be able to say to voters that we do actually see them as the individuals they are, each one unique and not just election fodder! This is no original thought on my part, it is something we have talked about since I first joined the Liberal Party back  in 1964, but I have been particularly struck by its relevance today in the context of the Gorton by-election. If this is going to genuinely BE the game-changer we claim it may be, then we have a real duty actually to CHANGE the game, not just in the Party-political framework of the country but in the way we, as politicians, interact with the voters we seek to represent.

One final example of this from today`s canvassing. One youngish guy had voted several times for Gerald Kaufman as his “personal” representative in Parliament, citing the fact that his family had known the MP for over 40 years and Kaufman had helped both his mother and himself in different ways over the years. Strictly speaking, then, I had to “label” this voter as “soft Labour”. But, truly, he was an individual able to see that the political world was in turmoil at the moment and he was ready to find a new home. Let`s give him one – a political home where he feels comfortable.

BBC Hustings for Greater Manchester Metro Mayor

As I have indicated in earlier blogs, one of the key reasons I have re-joined the Party is to help my friend Jane Brophy in the Greater Manchester Metro Mayor contest to be fought on the same day as the Gorton by-election. So, another reason for me being in Manchester this week was to take part in the BBC hustings programme as an audience member which was recorded on Thursday night and which will be broadcast, I believe, on BBC 1 regional programmes this coming Tuesday evening at 10.45pm after the evening news.

I will not give the game away about the content of the programme, since I would much rather you watch it for yourselves (and, importantly, get your Greater Manchester friends and neighbours to watch it too – invite them round for a TV watching coffee party, especially if you have non-political friends!!) However, I will say that Jane Brophy acquitted herself very well and the programme will do her no harm at all and probably will boost her ratings!

The hustings started quietly for a good few minutes but things livened up as we went along and Andy Burnham came in for a lot of stick from pretty well all of the other candidates so Jane had little need to “put the boot” in and was able to present herself as the only credible competitor to Labour`s hegemony in the area.

The photograph is with Jane Brophy and her team after the TV hustings. Candidates aide Anna Fryer is behind the camera. If you are the gambling sort I would try and place your bets on Jane BEFORE the programme goes out on Tuesday as I believe you will get better odds than afterwards!

Keith P and I had to go into BetFred`s, just down the road from the Gorton HQ on Stockport Road, because Keith had backed the winner in last week`s Grand National (lucky fellow!), so we enquired about betting on our own candidates. We got 6 to 1 for Jackie Pearcey to win Gorton and 16 to 1 for Jane Brophy to win the mayorals and I think those odds will get much tighter as we get closer to 4th May.

They will certainly get much shorter odds if you get yourselves over to Gorton to help Jackie and/or get more active in the Greater Manchester mayoral race. We are on the cusp of change in British politics and these elections are critical to help create and develop that change in the right way. Spend some time in Gorton if you can over the next few weeks before and on polling day!

Joys of Spring

Just to round off this blog a quick comment about the pleasures of springtime other than canvassing!


Cherry blossom in full bloom at home; newly planted flowers to complement a “woodland” section of the garden; and a lonely cowslip arrived as a fresh seedling in one of the fields I am converting into woodland not far from home.



All very satisfying and contributing to the life-life balance I was talking about in my blog last week. These pictures just make me feel content with being in England in the spring!




Posted in Elections, Gorton Byelection, Greater Manchester Mayor, Wildlife | Tagged | Leave a comment

Back into the Liberal fold #3

Back into the Liberal fold #3

Manchester Gorton – Making a Difference!

Getting one`s `work-life balance` in order is difficult at the best of times but can seem a strange concept when you have been retired for quite a while!

How often have you heard a newly retired person say, “I don`t know how I managed to fit work in, I am so busy these days!”  Usually this is a result of pent up demands on the “life” element of the work-life balance suddenly being released by the freedom of not having to seek paid employment.

For those of us who had, or have, a paid job which didn`t or doesn`t really seem like work most of the time (amongst whom I am pleased to report I often felt myself to be) it was always more a question of ensuring the `life-life balance` was kept in order.  Thus, the process of retiring seemed more an issue of changing the priorities of various tasks.

The reason this topic is at the surface of my inner thoughts for this blog-post is that I have been reflecting on how my re-involvement in political activity is different from my previous political incarnation from which I retired about twenty years ago. My ambition to “change the world” propelled me to become an approved candidate in my early twenties and for much, though not all, of the (political) time since then, this meant I had responsibilities towards various constituency organisations for which I was the prospective candidate, whether that be parliamentary divisions or the larger European seats in which I was involved.

Most of you reading this will know, of course, that a PPC`s responsibilities extend well beyond just turning up to meetings and spouting about political topics as and when you feel like it. In a small party, often with organisational limitations, such responsibilities have included things like booking the rooms for the meetings, setting the chairs out, cleaning up afterwards (and even locking up) as well as attending committee meetings etc.

Perhaps the luckier, larger, constituency organisations might spread those responsibilities around, but most candidates would then fulfil “people-managing” roles of encouraging volunteers to get involved as much as possible, but this would also probably entail helping to set the chairs out and clean up afterwards too (did I already mention that?)!! Never mind the many interminable meetings talking about, and organising, fund raising efforts such as jumble sales and sponsored walks etc.

Of course, there was the enjoyable side too, of sociability of all the events, whether they be barn dances, sponsored walks and, in my case locally, the very successful Valentine`s Evening parties we held at our house. Once, I recall, we even had a string quartet playing classical music in the lounge here! The music was provided by students from the violin making course based in Newark – they were very good too.

I also very much enjoyed the canvassing roles I had, interacting with the voters and it has been that aspect I have been enjoying in Gorton constituency. This has reinvigorated my political soul and made me feel as though I have recaptured my ability to “change the world” again, instead of sitting moaning (blogging?) on the sidelines! The key benefit, now, from my point of view is that I do not have to worry myself about organising or recording the canvass cards and returns.

I have also enjoyed sitting in the Gorton HQ writing blue envelopes and chatting to passing Lib-Dems similarly engaged or who were collecting leaflets to go and stuff through the letter-boxes of Whalley Range, or wherever. But I have not had to worry about making sure the leaflets were ready to stuff in the blue envelopes, or make sure the next leaflet to deliver was at the printers, or empty the recycling bin when it started overflowing. Nor have I been responsible for locking up, although on two occasions I was the first non-key-holder to walk through the Gorton HQ door

On the social side, I also enjoyed Jane Brophy`s curry evening in Oldham constituency, which was delightfully sociable, meeting up with old friends Keith and Mary Pendlebury (thanks for the overnight accommodation there Keith and Mary – great to see you again) but I did not have to plan the evening nor, indeed, clear up afterwards!

So, really, I have been enjoying all the benefits of being involved, but without the responsibilities associated therewith. IT`S FUN!

And, since I am not planning to take on a PPC role again (`at least for the moment`, he adds cautiously!) nor any burdensome official roles, I really am able to enjoy the fun bits without the drearier aspects of worry and organisation. So, a big shout out of thanks to Elspeth McCobb and Chris Lovell and David Hennigan and Anna Fryer and, of course, to Jane Brophy and Jackie Pearcey for letting me enjoy myself, over there in Greater Manchester and Gorton.

I just hope I am actually managing to help as well as have fun!

So, coming back to my starting point of getting my life-life balance in order, I have to say it feels good to be back in the Liberal fold again.

And, talking of life-life balances it was lovely to meet up again with Keith and Mary`s daughter Rachel, now the mother of a teenager herself but who was only about three years old when I was in Oldham originally. My late wife Tricia and I lived in Chadderton when I returned to Manchester to do my post-graduate research and we got involved with Oldham Liberals.

At that point, we were still referring to Tricia as Pat, I recall, so when we went to Keith and Mary`s for meetings, or coffee, or to collect leaflets to deliver, little Rachel would often answer the door as we arrived and shout into the back room “It`s Keith `n Pat”. It was also delightful that, if there was JUST me, or JUST Tricia, at the door, three-year-old Rachel would still shout through to the kitchen “It`s Keith `n Pat”. I have never been sure whether it was our closeness as a couple which engendered this greeting announcement or whether it was more simply to do with the world view of our three-year-old door opener.  Whichever, it was always lovely, so a big thank you to Rachel, too.

Finally, with reference to three-year-olds, it was a great pleasure to spend some time with my three-year-old great niece, Eleanor, whilst I have been over in Manchester canvassing etc. I stayed for several days with her mum and dad, my niece Debbie and her husband Andrew, in Sharston and one sunny spring day we went out to Lyme Park for a visit.

So, the picture here is of me and Eleanor sitting on a low tree branch in Lyme Park, ensuring my life-life balance is in the best of order. Thanks, Debbie and family, for looking after me.

And, thank you, Ellie – you give great cuddles!

And finally, finally, calling all Lib-Dems out there. If you REALLY want to make a Difference, get yourselves over to Gorton and help. We believe it will be a Game-Changer!!


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Back into the Liberal fold – #2

Back into the Liberal fold – #2

Before I start the Blog intended, may I first of all say a big “Thank You” to all those lovely Lib Dems who have expressed a real Welcome Back message to me following my first Blog about returning to the fold. It has been very heartening and heart-warming. Thank you! If you would like to follow my “returning to the fold” experiences feel free to add yourself to my Blog-followers. And if it pleases you to do so, then do pass it on to others you think may be interested. 

It was lovely gardening weather last weekend (and lovely campaigning weather for politics too!) so, as I was raking the grass cuttings the other afternoon, I was also ruminating about what I should put into my next blog. I thought perhaps I could muse on the value of scarifying the grass in the spring, or ponder the double fan of con trails in the blue sky overhead and wonder where everyone might have been going – some to Europe and some to the USA.

And, strangely enough, that got me thinking about politics!

I cannot tell you how delighted I was that Trump was trumped on his attempt to wreak havoc on the Obamacare legislation – and speaking with several people since it seems I am not alone in mentally punching the air at his shortcomings. But, of course, it may only be a temporary setback for this dangerous man and there is a lot more damage he can do yet before he is ousted, which we can only hope will happen, sooner rather than later.

Indeed, this week has seen him sign documents turning back the clock on environmental issues and Climate Change which he appears to think is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. I noted the picture of him signing had him surrounded by middle aged white males yet again. It is not yet clear to me whether this represents him pandering to his perceived “constituency” of American rednecks, or whether it is simply a non-politician`s naivete about how things “look”. Actually, I rather suspect it is the former, driven on by his man with the cattle prod, Steve Bannon – but perhaps I am being too cynical, what do you think?

This week has also seen an “historic” (for the wrong reasons as far as I am concerned!) moment, this side of the Atlantic, as the Prime Minister signed the long heralded Article 50 letter to leave the European Union. Mr Tusk, in response, has already effectively slapped her wrist for seeking parallel discussions on Trade and Britain`s obligations towards the continuing EU27. The negotiating timetable and progress is now effectively in EU27`s hands and the REAL fight now starts. Already Boris and others have been back-pedalling on the dastardly link between negotiating on a trade deal and on the issue of security.

For me, the threat to NOT share security information if we did not get a good deal (which seemed implicit in Mrs Mayhem`s letter) was both petty and dangerous. Not just dangerous to the Europeans but, indeed, to ourselves.

OK, that`s enough commentary on world news. What about my experience of “coming back into the Liberal fold” I hear you ask. At least I shall pretend that I heard you ask!

Troubles with my car have meant I have been unable to get up to Gorton since I was there for Tim Farron`s visit, but I shall be going this coming weekend and will report back on that in due course. I have taken the opportunity caused by my temporary lack of mobility, to reintroduce myself to my local Lib Dems here in Nottinghamshire.

I was quickly invited to a meeting discussing the forthcoming County elections where we now appear to have a good chance of increasing our representation in a number of seats in the County. I volunteered to help with canvassing and since the weekend weather had been forecast to be warm and sunny, I suggested we might present ourselves in a “shopping centre walkabout”. It was agreed that we might locate ourselves in one of the areas that had not had so much Lib Dem activity in recent times – so that is what we did.

In fact it was quieter than we had anticipated, given the sunny morning on Saturday, but there was a steady, if slow, stream of people popping into the local Coop store and we had a significant presence in relation to the numbers of shoppers which was probably noted by passing traffic, too.

The picture here shows me on the left, with my new rosette chatting to the candidate for the area, Stuart Thompstone, as we waited for electors to pass by. We were there for about an hour and a half and during that time I guess I spoke personally to around thirty shoppers.

Of course we had our fair share of “well, I am rather busy, so cannot chat now” and “No, you`re alright thanks mate” – (why do people say that when they mean “I am not interested at all”? that has always puzzled me.)

However, I am very pleased to report that out of these 30 folk, I managed to persuade four of them to have a poster when they became available, and one of those four agreed also to deliver leaflets for us. That seemed to me to be a very favourable hit-rate amongst such a modest number of passers-by and suggests a pretty positive state of sympathy for Liberal Democrats which has yet to find its way into opinion poll ratings.

I found this very encouraging, so I am now looking forward to my canvassing in Gorton and Greater Manchester this weekend.

Just harking back to the local meeting which set up our shopping centre venture, I thought I should take the opportunity to introduce myself to the members there who knew nothing about me, so I gave a potted history of the seats I had fought as a candidate and my involvement in the Green Liberal Democrats and its forerunner organisation, the Liberal Ecology Group LEG (I recalled the delight I felt at being able to label myself as Chair Leg in newsletters and so on)

I also told my tale of my “claim to fame” involving William Ewart Gladstone and a handshake.  And my new local friends were all pleased to shake my hand after the story unfolded. I will not retell it here but I will refer you to a previous blog where I told the tale previously. Enjoy! Here`s the link below.


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