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.

Advertisements
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.

LIBERAL DEMOCRATS TO WIN IN 2017

Posted in Elections, History, Politics | Tagged | Leave a comment

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.

Individuals

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!!

 

Posted in Elections, Greater Manchester Mayor, History, Kindness, Politics | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

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.

https://keithmelton10.wordpress.com/2012/08/02/handshake-claim-to-fame/

Posted in Article 50, Elections, Environment & Sustainable Development, History | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Back into the Liberal Democrat fold

Back into the fold

Rejoining the Liberal Democrats

Mid-March 2017 and I have rejoined the Liberal Democrat Party from which I `retired` in 1998 in order to devote my efforts towards establishing the Institute for Sustainable Development in Business at Nottingham Trent University.

Life has moved on from there and then. I retired from the Institute in 2006 and lost my first wife Tricia in 2008 and spent some time travelling, railing against the world at my loss. Restarted writing an historical novel I had been researching and writing for years. Then I met Fatima and married her in Brazil in 2011, honeymooning in New Zealand, where the Rugby World Cup happened to be taking place (honestly Fatima enjoyed it too – once I had explained the rules!)

I published my novel, Captain Cobbler, in 2013, launching it in Louth, Lincolnshire, on 1st October that year, 477 years to the day since the Lincolnshire Rebellion started in that town, which made Captain Cobbler famous (infamous? – “infamy, infamy, they`ve all got it in for me!”) and then, in 2015, I moved back to live in England, most of the time, flip-flopping between here and Brazil.

So, then a couple of days ago I spent the princely sum of £12 to rejoin the Party I left nearly 20 years ago. It occurs to me that there might be some interest in the perspective I have, having been absent for so long and then coming back into the fold, So I am proposing to write an occasional Blog about how I see things now. I would be pleased if you could join me on this journey, wherever it may take us!

 

So, why now, why here?

The answer is both simple and complex. I have been watching politics from the side-lines for nearly 20 years and, frankly, I have not been impressed with the state of politics, here, or in Brazil, or in the USA (not that I was much impressed with it before that, but that is another story). There is a certain sense of frustration that builds up when you know in your heart that things could be so much better – and I guess this is why so many people are eventually turned off politics altogether, since frustration can often lead to cynicism.

The immediate proximate cause of my decision was learning that an old friend from my days as Chair of the Liberal Ecology Group and its successor organisation, the Green Liberal Democrats – Jane Brophy, who had been on the committee of those organisations – had been chosen to stand for the office of Mayor of Greater Manchester. And I thought `Wouldn`t it be nice to have someone one knows and respects achieve political office at a significant level?` But for that to come about she would need all the help she could get, and not a little luck along the way.

The raft of successful Local by-elections in recent months helped, too, seeing that swings towards the Lib-Dems have been occurring in all sorts and manner of areas, suggesting a reawakening of fortunes in a volatile political climate. The Party membership has taken a rapid turn upwards too, so this suggests that people have not given the Party up as a hopeless basket case and this has refreshed my sense of optimism that there really are like-minded people still `out there`.

Manchester, too, is part of my past life. I went to University there many years ago – twice, once as an undergraduate and then to research for my Master`s degree. So I lived in Hall for a year, then shared a flat in Whalley Range, which I gather is in the Gorton parliamentary area, so the Gorton by-election played a small part in my decision making process, although I had already mentally committed to helping Jane before Gorton was on my radar.

Finally, my niece now lives in the Greater Manchester area, as does my best friend Ken and I also spent three years living in Chadderton in the Oldham constituency, so I could spread myself round relatives and friends without imposing too much as I went out canvassing.

Then, early last week I learnt on Facebook, that Tim Farron, was going to be up in Manchester to formally open the new HQ for the Gorton by-election, which would also serve as the HQ for the Mayoral contest. Too good an opportunity to miss to immerse myself into the busy centre of politics by jumping in feet first, so I arranged to stay with Ken and get up early on Friday morning to get to Levenshulme before 9am for the photo op at 9.30.

As you will see from the photographs here I made it in good time and duly had my pic taken handing my membership fee over to Tim Farron himself upon my return to the Party.

I was welcomed warmly by all as a returnee and had the benefit and pleasure of seeing Jane again and meeting Jackie Pearcey, the Gorton candidate, as well as making new friends amongst the cold huddle of local workers waiting in the drizzle for the Party Leader to arrive.

 

For the information of anyone thinking of going to help with the byelection, I have to say they brew an excellent pot of coffee there and have a good selection of biscuits too in a fine HQ, nicely placed near Levenshulme station if arriving by train and/or where you can park if arriving by car. So, get along there to help if you can.

As well as being there for the photo op I also did a bit of admin stuff and then called back again on Sunday to do another hour on the way home to Notts, ending up doing three hours instead! For me there are two key personal benefits of rejoining – the first is the camaraderie and fellowship of being amongst like-minded people and the second is a general feeling of being involved which counters the frustration and cynicism I noted above. On Friday I felt uplifted just by being there.

I said earlier it was simple yet complex. All the above represents the simple side. As for the complex that has to do with policy issues. On the plus side is the identity I feel with the positive European stance the Party has taken during and since the referendum – and involves the need to be part of the solution to the UK going to Hell in a handcart as seems to be the case for now. On the negative side is the rather illogical decision the Party made in York of sitting mostly on the fence about nuclear weapons, but still leaning onto the Trident side of the fence.

The Party`s stance on nuclear weapons and nuclear power were two key reasons for me deciding to retire from active participation in the Party twenty years ago. It is therefore with some reluctance, then, that I have come back into the fold knowing that things have not really changed. As former Chair of the Lib Dem Peace group and of the Green Lib Dems I can assure you the my views have not changed on those issues in the last 20 years, so I will be having a go at trying to persuade the Party to change IT`S mind. Just how long I can bang my head on that wall I am not yet sure.

As a speaker for the European Movement back in 1975, however I feel that is my political priority in supporting the Party at this moment and I will live in hope that we can make progress on the other issues in due course. I propose to address those subjects in a future blog post – so if you want to keep track of my thoughts, do sign up to follow my Blog.

Greetings to all my old friends in the Party and `hi` to all the new ones I hope to make as we go along the same road …. Perhaps see you in Bournemouth.

Posted in Elections, European referendum, Politics | 1 Comment

Xmas shopping – a quiet time in Brazil

Xmas shopping

I guess it will surprise no one that we went shopping yesterday for the food and stuff we need for Christmas. Only a couple of days to go, so we needed to stock up, and we expected the supermarket to be busier than a usual Thursday, but there was plenty of room in the carpark, the cash-outs had no queues and you  could push a trolley around without bumping into anybody.

Fatima and I are lucky to have sources of income in both Brazil and England, so it was my credit card that we used to pay for the groceries yesterday. Even so we were much more frugal than last time my credit card paid for Xmas, two years ago. We chose to spend only half as much as we had done then.

Why?

The answer is that Rio State is bankrupt.

Fatima is, as I am sure most of you know, a teacher and, therefore, is paid from the public purse. And the public purse in Rio State is just about empty. Fraudulently empty, corruptly empty, incompetently empty if you want the truth. So, we are the lucky ones because I am able to use a small English tax rebate recently received to pay for our Christmas joy.

All former public sector employees of Rio State, however, are suffering from the State`s corruption and ineptitude. The governor has told everyone that there is no money in the pot, so there was a decision just recently that pensioners` pay for November 2016 would be spread over a number of payments. (Fatima is still working for one school and her pay for November was delayed for that job into mid December as was the case for other public sector employees.) But for those who used to be teachers and nurses and firemen etc the situation is much worse – and Fatima is retired from one of her teaching jobs.

The pensions should, of course, have been paid for November IN November, but pensioners were promised their first small payment, towards the November pay-packet, for the 23rd of December, with a second small payment due on 29th December, each payment amounting to about one eighth of the month`s retirement pay. The rest would come in January 2017. By the way, to be clear, this applied to payments for retired schoolteachers and retired policemen and retired firemen and retired nurses too, all people living on very modest incomes anyway!

There has been no information about their December pay-packets yet, by the way. And, as happens in France and some other countries, public sector workers, and their retired equivalents, are due to a “thirteenth month`s” pay each year as well, which is also normally paid out at Christmas-time. So instead of receiving effectively twelve week`s-worth of pay between the end of November and the end of December, Fatima and all her retired colleagues were promised only about ONE week`s pay for November and December combined.

Now, as of Wednesday, the Governor sent out a text to all retired public sector employees, saying that for some extraordinary technical reason they would be unable to pay the aforesaid payments on 23rd and 29th December as promised.

NOTHING. That is how much all retired teachers and firemen and nurses etc have available to them for Christmas 2016. NOTHING, zilch, sweet FA, zip, nada.

Some, like us, are lucky enough to have more than one source of income, at least one of which is NOT dependent upon Rio State. Some are lucky enough to have put by some savings, for the future, with which they can make current ends meet. Some are getting by with family help and some are, effectively destitute and getting into debt in order to get by.

The problem, as I have indicated before, is that indebtedness in Brazil attracts usurious rates of interest, with a minimum interest rate from High Street banks of five per cent PER MONTH – and we have no idea how long this crisis will last. It is also quite possible that the Governor might decide Rio State`s position is so hopeless that they will choose NOT to pay the thirteenth month`s salary at all even for those still working! No one yet knows.

Just to rub salt in the wounds we are also, just now, hearing details of the life-style of Sergio Cabral, the politician most recently indicted for corruption (and ex-governor of Rio State, by the way). He had salted away millions in Swiss banks and eventually he and his wife and family have been exposed and they are currently in court. Word is they would think nothing of spending R$57,000 (about £10,000) on just one frock for Mrs Cabral and, of course, she had many more than just the one frock!

And, over several years between 2009 and 2011 the Cabrals paid out at least £1,000 per room per night for five nights, over the Christmas period, for some of their friends to stop in a hotel nearby their huge mansion in Mangaratiba. The “friends” included none other than the family of Mr Pezao, another member of their same political party, who happens to be the current Governor of Rio State. Small world isn`t it.

Anyway, for what it is worth, we shall not starve this Christmas. But, whereas we bought a whole trolley load of fare, Fatima noticed a former colleague of hers, now retired, in the same supermarket, who simply bought one small chicken, presumably for his Christmas lunch, and no trimmings!

Here`s wishing you all a Dickens of a Christmas from hot and humid Brazil.

In view of the resent posts about my novel let me send you a link to the story contained in the novel of Christmas 1535…

Christmas 1535

And, just to give you some Christmas cheer. Let me send you some medieval Christmas music I circulated in 2013….

Posted in Brazil General, Henry Vlll, History, Uncategorized | Tagged | 2 Comments