The General Election 2015 starts now…

Since the start of 2014, once the festive telly had been put to bed, politicians have been popping up on our TV and radio schedules with the promise of presents for the 2015 election.

David Cameron kicked things off by promising a continuation of the pension ‘triple lock’ through to 2020, Ed Balls started praising Nick Clegg and endorsing Lib Dem policies around the mansion tax, George Osborne hinted that the minimum wage was set for a significant hike whilst Ed Miliband promised to cap the market share of our ‘big banks’ and return power to the people (or something along those lines anyway).

The problem of course with such a long ‘run in’ period is that politicians focused on campaigning do take their eyes off the ball of governing. With a fixed term parliament everyone knows when the election is and, as such, we are likely to suffer the same consequences as our American cousins. Across the Atlantic speculation on Presidential candidates begins shortly after inauguration day.

Unlike 2010, when coalition politics was a very different beast to what the media are used to, there will be huge pressure on all parties to reveal what policies are most important should the prospect of another coalition seem likely.

Unfortunately such coverage is likely to turn off all but the most avid politico – faith in the leaders of the three main parties is at an all time low – there is a mantle to be grasped and the party that does so will be the big winner in 2015.

 

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Why military action in Syria is right, and long overdue

I currently reside 10 minutes, walking, from the UN building in New York. It is quite a sight. an imposing structure in a city full of imposing structures, a huge security cordon protecting the diplomats inside as 193 of the world’s flags fly within it’s grounds.

Recent events in Syria are what the UN was founded for, specifically “peacekeeping, peacebuilding, conflict prevention and humanitarian assistance.”

Yet the Security Council, and the required agreement to any action of the 5 permanent members, means that the UN is unable to act even in the face of 100,000 civilian deaths.

It is an impotent irrelevance that through complete inaction renders it’s mission for “conflict prevention and humanitarian assistance” tragically comic.

Syria is of course an immensely complicated country with extensive ethnic and religious divisions – any military intervention, following of course an intense diplomatic effort, should be limited to military targets that specifically blunted a regimes ability to kill it’s own citizens. An effective UN would have followed this path.

Instead we have now arrived at a position where civilians are no longer being shot or bombed to death – they are now faced with chemical inhalation, where internal organs are burnt and melt from within. These are the same slow and painful chemical deaths that were inflicted on the Jewish people during the holocaust, a horrendous chapter in the history of humanity that drove the ideals of the UN’s formation.

I am not a warmonger and I do not pretend that a military strike by the United States will not generate it’s own set of additional problems – we have though crossed the Rubicon. If the world cannot show Assad and his government that there must be consequences to the willful slaughter of it’s own people then what hope is there for the future?

 

 

Explaining Cricket to America

The PageSuite system is not a complicated tool to learn. It incorporates hundreds of features and I’m pleased to say that the new staff in New York have picked things up with considerable ease. Unfortunately I’m having less success in my attempts to explain cricket.

The first problem was attempting to associate cricket with any other sport. Normally this is a logical approach – you might explain Australian Rules as a combination of Rugby and Football for example – in explaining cricket you should definitely not start with the premise of ‘well, it’s a little like baseball.’

The greatest struggle for most Americans (and indeed any non-cricket playing nation I suspect) is the sheer length of time that a match would take (7 hours per day over 5 days) and that the ‘test’ would be one of a series (3-5 matches).

Once you have got over that the game does indeed take that length of time the explanation that the game can and a lot of times will end in a tie is additionally baffling.

Not having an overall champion or championship is also an issue. Aside from beating the opposition why is there no play off or championship match. Explaining that team ‘x’ is the best ‘because they are’ isn’t really satisfactory.

In short, cricket isn’t going to take off over here any time soon – happily the prospects for PageSuite in New York are far brighter.

A Welshman in New York

Being asked to write a blog by our marketing department is a curious thing.

Part of me believes that my decade of business knowledge, mixed with irreverent humor was the reason I was specifically approached.

Another part of me suggests that I may have been the only person in the company to actually answer in the affirmative.

Irrespective of the reason why, the content is actually far more important. Probably. Well, usually anyway.

At the moment I’m in New York, heading up a new business sales team of 3 for my employer, PageSuite. I’d lived in the US for 15 months by the time I was 21 and, since joining PageSuite six years ago, I’ve made at least 30 trips across the Atlantic. You would think I’d have got the hang of ‘The American Way’ by now but I still have numerous ‘awkward foreigner’ moments.

One area I think most British people struggle is tipping, especially in a large city. Aside from the occasional ‘keep the change’ sentiment to a taxi driver or the obligatory 10% after a nice meal out, most British people do not tip. In New York you can tip someone 15% and be insult them.

Different situations though require different tipping etiquette. I told my American colleagues that I had tipped 18% on some $10 cab rides and I was told ‘too much’ – equally I tipped 15% on a meal out and was told not to go back to that restaurant in case they recognized me!

You should tip $1 for each drink you buy, unless you buy a cocktail, then go for $2. If you get something on a discount (50% off a meal on a Sunday for example) then you should not tip based on the total but rather on what the meal would cost without the discount (even though my reason for being there in the first place was because of the discount!)

I went to a Broadway Show on Saturday and bought a pack of sweets for $4. I had a $5 note. I left no tip and very sheepishly put the $1 change back in my wallet – the awkward foreigner in me had to deal with two competing thoughts for the next 5 minutes of ‘that would have been a 25% tip, on a horrendously expensive pack of sweets’ vs. ‘seriously, that girl is probably earning $7.50 an hour, working all the hours available, and you couldn’t spare one single dollar?’

It’s a difficult balancing act but, as my own tip to fellow travelers, I would recommend being on the positive side of 15% and, when you do arrive, bring change.

Are the Lib Dems still a National Party?

In my student days I had the pleasure of experiencing a number of spectacular Lib Dem parliamentary by-election wins.

From Dumfermline to Brent East, the party I supported managed to come from 3rd or sometimes even 4th place to upset the odds on a massive scale.

No more.

One of the main selling points for the Lib Dems in those by-elections, as well as the somewhat suspect bar charts, was that we were unlike the ‘big two’ parties. We scooped up almost all of the protest votes – often doubling or trebling what might be seen as our ‘natural’ level of support.

By entering government in 2010 that protest label disappeared overnight.

The 8-12% of national polling that Lib Dems are now recording is a core vote. For the 40% or so of people who have no close affiliation to any party their default protest position is not us.

Indeed, as shown in North Tyneside, a vote for the Liberal Democrats was not even an afterthought as the party recorded an appalling seventh place.

In my student days we’d have been in the running for that seat.

The Liberal Democrats are no longer a national party in the sense that where we have no history of campaigning we are exposed in the starkest possible terms.

Ironically for a party that fights for proportional voting it’s entirely possible that 10% of the national vote may indeed result in 10% of MPs as 57 by-elections are fought in seats where we have an MP.

Sex and Politics

The Rennard discussion has entered fever pitch. Quite rightly the Lib Dems are being pilloried for ignoring the concerns of women within the party and not reacting in the correct way when serious allegations were raised.

The gloating however of the other parties is misguided. All political parties have a ‘woman problem.’ Even Margaret Thatcher, our only female Prime Minister, complained bitterly at the crusty old men who controlled local party selections.

The Labour Party, even with all women shortlists and 100 female MPs in 1997, failed to promote enough women to cabinet positions. Labour’s selection process still has much influence from local unions – a traditionally male dominated branch.

Politics is too white, too male, too old and not representative – across the board.

The Lib Dems have failed women but our woes are not exclusive – women are appallingly treated across the political spectrum – is it little wonder that this ‘game’ appears so unattractive to 50% of our population?

When has No ever meant maybe?

Much of modern politics is dominated by the centre ground. Whilst there are always ideological differences on various issues the vast majority of the electorate will generally be happy to settle on compromise.

Occasionally however an issue presents itself where ‘the other side’ seems so far detached from rational thought that there is no chance of finding a compromise or middle ground – indeed ‘the other side’ appears to represent the thoughts of madmen or extremists.

Such is the recent furore over what constitutes rape. In no way can I fathom an alternative to the stance that consensual sexual relations requires the agreement of two (or more) partners. The idea that a yes to consent at the start of an evening means you’ve given consent for hours thereafter is madness.

It matters not whether this is within a structured relationship or a one night stand – sexual relations where one partner is unwilling is rape. This applies equally to all sexes and all sexual orientations – there is no middle ground, no compromise, no reasonable alternative view.

Regardless of who you are or what you may have done, irrespective of alcohol consumption or either partners attire, if you have sex with someone who has failed to give consent then you are guilty of rape and should face the legal consequences accordingly.