Author Archives: Alex Paul Shantz

Iowa field notes: 29 candidates, 2100 plus events, but who will win the first contest to be the next President of the United States?

The Liberty and Justice Celebration, Des Moines, Iowa, USA, November 1st, 2019.
This and all photos below are by Alex Paul Shantz


It’s the first Friday in November, and inside an arena in downtown Des Moines, the capital of Iowa, guests in smart clothes eat dinner around an elevated stage. Suddenly, the lights dim, artificial smoke envelopes a walkway, and the pop song ‘High Hopes’ blares out. Around one end of the arena, across three levels of tiered seating, thousands of people jump to their feet, dancing and waving three feet high letters that say “Boot Edge Edge”. Striding along a walkway towards the stage is… Pete Buttigieg, the 37 year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana?

At this point, I realise I’m at one of the most unique political events I’ve ever attended. Part fundraising gala and part political rally, but with production values that more closely resemble a pro wrestling event. It is in fact the Liberty and Justice Celebration, the final and most important multi-candidate ‘cattle call’ in the year-long campaign preceding the Iowa Democratic caucuses.

Posted in Europe / International | Tagged , , and | 2 Comments

For Winchester 1997, read Virginia 2017

The mantra “EVERY VOTE COUNTS” is an article of faith for political activists everywhere. Liberal Democrats know this more than most, having won one election and lost one in the last twenty years by a margin of two votes (Winchester 1997 and North East Fife 2017).

Now, from the state of Virginia, comes another reminder that every conversation with an undecided voter can swing an election, in a very unusual outcome. On election night last November, Republican David Yancey ‘won’ a crucial state house seat by ten votes, just preventing Democrats from overturning a 32-seat Republican majority. However, his challenger, Shelly Simonds, filed for a recount.

Held in December, the recount appeared to have Simonds winning the seat by a single vote, 11,608 to 11,607. Great news for Virginia Democrats, who thought they would now split control 50-50 of Virginia’s 100-seat lower House of Delegates.

However, their initial euphoria was short-lived. Two days later, a three-judge panel threw out Simond’s one vote win, ruling a disputed ballot should count for Yancey, the Republican, and tying the race. (Veterans of disputed ballot arguments at recounts might want to look away now – here’s a copy of the disputed ballot in question, which shows a mark against both the Democrat and Republican candidates, but then also crosses out the Democrat candidate’s name).

Posted in LDVUSA and Op-eds | Tagged , and | 4 Comments

A morning at the White House

A frisson of expectation sweeps the crowd as the tannoy crackles to life and the announcer declares “Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States.” The honour guard comes to attention, the band strikes up Hail to the Chief and the most powerful leader in the world emerges. And when moments later, a black SUV sweeps round the drive and stops in front of the White House to deposit Justin Trudeau, the new Canadian Prime Minister… well, perhaps only a visit from the Queen herself would top Washington DC’s current level of excitement.

This was the scene on the South Lawn of the White House as President Barack Obama welcomed his Canadian counterpart to the capital of the United States yesterday. Clutching my ticket, I had joined the great and good of Washington in a line that stretched halfway round the block, excited to be part of the occasion. Three ID and security checks later and I was in.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 6 Comments

Opinion: Predictions for a new Parliament

 

As the dust settles from Thursday, one key question is what will David Cameron do with his unexpected Conservative majority? Here are a couple of predictions for the upcoming Parliament.

Where the £30bn of proposed cuts will fall is largely unknown until the autumn. Health spending is protected though – which means bigger cuts elsewhere, such as £12bn to welfare. The only bright spot could be the linking of the personal allowance to the national minimum wage – raising it to around £13,000 pa.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 20 Comments

Opinion: A commitment to Trident diverts resources from the real threats to the UK

The ratcheting up of tensions in the last Cold War conflict in recent days has got David Cameron reminiscing about Britain’s own Cold War relic. Writing in the Daily Telegraph this Wednesday, the Prime Minister argues North Korea’s threats of nuclear war demonstrate that “it would be foolish to leave Britain defenceless against a continuing, and growing, nuclear threat.”

When I first heard this it struck me how out-of-date this view seems. As the world has watched the North Korea issue increasingly apocalyptic threats and the U.S. Government respond almost daily by deploying more military hardware

Posted in News | Tagged | 58 Comments

Opinion: Jury duty: in need of some government assistance?

When the trial of Chris Huhne’s ex-wife Vicky Pryce collapsed on Wednesday, the judge felt moved to declare that the jury had, in his opinion, demonstrated “a fundamental deficit in understanding” in the task that was required of them, an occurrence which “in 30 years of criminal trials (he) had never come across”. He was, of course, referring to a list of 10 questions submitted to him by the jury, a list which is now quickly gaining notoriety across the blogosphere and which has prompted one commentator to even label the jury as the worst “in the history of …

Posted in News | 26 Comments

Press regulation – something a liberal party can support?

My reaction to the report of the Leveson Inquiry today was mixed to say the least. On the one hand, any intrusion of Parliament into our free press seems fundamentally illiberal to me – the heavy weight of bureaucracy coming smashing down to dampen our fiercely independent media, which has shown itself more than capable of exposing the very worst excesses in recent times. After all, it was Nick Davies at the Guardian whose reporting exposed the phone-hacking scandal that led to the Leveson Inquiry in the first place. And it was the Daily Telegraph that reported on the …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 19 Comments

Opinion: Lib Dems need to wake up to drastic implications of legal aid cuts

Lib Dem Voice last week featured a brief post on the Coalition’s plans for legal aid reform. But this is an important change that’s been passed with barely a murmur from any Lib Dem MPs, when in fact it strikes at a principle at the heart of the party – civil liberties.

The bill in which this change is contained, the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, is currently making its way through the House of Commons. For something that will have fairly drastic effects on many people’s access to justice there has been relatively little talk …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 11 Comments

Opinion: our growing military impotency is restricting our foreign policy

Recent events in the Middle East have demonstrated how the Strategic Defence Review (SDR) is cutting the British military back to the barest of bare bones. In doing so, we risk losing our position as a leading world player, as befits a nation with a veto on the UN Security Council. Instead we are becoming a two-bit regional player, all diplomatic swagger but militarily impotent.

Amidst the criticism of the Government’s evacuation of British citizens from Egypt and Libya, one success story was the deployment of HMS Cumberland, a Royal Navy frigate, to Benghazi in February. Whilst other countries were having …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 28 Comments
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