Author Archives: Jane Reed

Assumptions

I offer York Liberal Democrats, about every two months, 2 hour sessions on Meditating for Social Action. At these sessions, through meditation, silent reflection, group discussion, we explore a particular theme, such as intentions and effective listening, mostly using a reading. Participants have found the sessions really helpful very much enhancing their Lib Dem activity. By taking time to deeply consider such a theme and discussing it in the group, participants’ motivation to add this good practice to their political activity is very positively affected. For example the person organising our Executive Meeting found he was keener and more focused in getting all the preparation done and had a greater sense of purpose. 

Recently we considered Making Assumptions.

Making assumptions especially when we are in a novel situation is natural and can serve safety issues. For example I might be walking home in the dark along a road without many other people about and I find a drunk person is approaching me. I then might just as a precaution casually cross the road.

However assumptions, that the person then believes and takes action on, are often the root of prejudice, stereotyping and exclusion.

To avoid these negative effects when for example we meet a stranger, perhaps a new Libdem member or a constituent when campaigning, we need to be aware of the immediate assumptions that we form, we all do this, but not to form thoughts and believes around them but be prepared to find out more about the person, find out factual information, which you will be able to do if you take a genuine interest in them, even if it is only for a short time. In this way you are genuinely opening to who they actually are. I find having good eye contact greatly helps with this.

Years ago when I was in Leeds I was approached by a man dressed in an extreme punk outfit which initially for me was a bit frightening. However he was only asking the time and I found by giving good eye contact all my reservations went as in doing this I could see that he came across as rather insecure and shy. Most people find it difficult to lie when giving a gaze. I have recently discovered Politicians use eye contact a lot to exchange information presumably for this reason. However some people will probably be able to blank out and not give much information.

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Embracing Diversity

In September 2017 I wrote an article for Libdemvoice called Time to Stand and Stare. The basic message of my piece was that it is important to take time for quiet contemplation to ensure the action we do then take is well considered and hopefully therefore more effective.

This approach is well summed up by this quote from the Quaker John Wilhelm Rowntree (1868 – 1905);

In the noisy rush of modern life we need periods of quiet when the soul may feed in peace on that which shall nourish it for action

It was Wilhelm’s inspiration that was behind the founding …

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Perhaps it’s time for…

I am writing this in response to Paddy Ashdown’s Essay to the Party of Monday 11th September in which he extolls us to follow Vince Cable’s lead and start coming up with our own new, dangerous ideas and debate them at conference.

I know from talking with friends and meeting people on the campaign doorstep that many people have a very negative attitude to the Liberal Democrats. I know from being a member since 2015 that the party is well organised, with plenty of ground troops, puts its principles into practice in how it deals with members, has socially valuable ideas and is full of very able and well intentioned people perfectly capable of government. However this does not seem to be picked up by many of the electorate. If we are to gain traction with the electorate something has to change. One aspect that I think would be worth looking at is our branding. If this was changed and was seen to be genuine in that the new branding reflected other more substantial changes I think it could have a positive effect. I know rebranding is often seen as a nightmare and certainly can be expensive but if done at the right moment can be effective.

I have not given great thought to how the branding could be changed but just a few comments. I think we should stick with the yellow colour but perhaps make it a more golden yellow. I personally like our present emblem with its sense of freedom and development but I wonder if it comes across as rather weak. One possible emblem, suitable in terms of shape, could be a sunflower head but it is yellow, possibly used by BP and would be probably perceived as too soft. Perhaps we should also consider changing the name of our party. 

Posted in News | 47 Comments

Time to stand and stare

With our autumn conference on the horizon and after that, in many ways, a new beginning for our party I feel it is a good time to pause and reflect on how we pace our work. Having become an active Liberal Democrat member since the 2015 general election I am very aware that, quite understandably, our work is about doing, delivering leaflets, campaigning on the doorstep, meeting people, the general public and party members, committee work, speeches, writing, media interviews, and all the additional activities of being a councillor or MP etc. Especially during the general election campaigns the pace of this work was frenetic. You could see that our key people were becoming increasingly drained and exhausted by this 7 day a week election routine. Fortunately they all had the stamina and fortitude to withstand this but I question whether this is the most effective way to go about things. Whatever our lifestyle we all need time for rest and recuperation. Each person has to find the way to do this that suits them best. For me some of the activities that have this effect are daily meditation practice, walking in the countryside with friends and relatives and swimming. When walking in the countryside I go without my iphone so I can fully engage in conversation with my companions and enjoy the peace and quiet and beauty of the countryside.

This refreshment is so well expressed in the famous poem by the Welsh poet W.H,Davies (1871-1940)

What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs

And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,

Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,

Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,

And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can

Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

Posted in Op-eds | 21 Comments

Shooting ourselves in the foot

During this year’s General Election campaign one of my friends, who doesn’t always vote Liberal Democrat, was enthusiastically considering voting for us. Then our cannabis policy was announced in the press. For her this cast a shadow over her voting intentions and she had grave doubts that she would now vote Liberal Democrat. She had run an urban centre in the UK for homeless men for 7 years. Around 50-80 men visited this centre each day. A common pattern, with a proportion of the men, was to arrive at the centre because of family breakup and unemployment but in a general state that they could be helped to turn their lives round. Then they would adopt the habit of taking cannabis regularly and over time become permanently mentally ill and no longer be in a state to access help. This is so tragic and so sad.

I’m personally in favour of legalising and regulating cannabis use. The aspects of doing this that particularly interest me are, those who choose to use cannabis for recreational and/or medical purposes are no longer criminalised and users can ensure being supplied with cannabis without impurities which is better for their health. With regard to the present position of criminalisation there is maximum sentence of 5 years in prison for use of cannabis and a maximum of 14 years in prison for trafficking. However in recent years the cautions for initial possession and people charged have fallen. From 2010 to 2015 by 48% and 33% respectively. This has resulted in the number of people imprisoned for this offence being relatively low compared to the general prison population for example in 2015, there were 1,363 imprisoned for offences to do with cannabis – about 1 to 1.5 % of the total prison population. These people are probably mostly cannabis traffickers. These figures all indicate that cannabis users are no longer a priority for the police no doubt influenced by recent cuts.  There are of course other benefits of legalising and regulating cannabis. It is thought that annually about I billion pounds could be raised in tax revenue in addition to the savings on criminal justice costs and regulation should create extensive employment through production, distribution and selling.

Posted in Op-eds | 47 Comments

The nature of predictions

This General Election campaign has given me pause for thought about the nature of prediction. When we make a political prediction we use information that is available to us such as polls, statistical calculations based on data such as turnout and past performance and what we hear on the doorstep when campaigning. But we also use our past experience of such matters and our hopes. Computing all of this we come up with a prediction of likely outcome. Our predictions are important to us personally as they reflect the quality of our judgement, an aspect of our being that we hold dear, as it relates to our sense of competence and thus strongly relates to our sense of self. Because of this we can become over attached to our predictions which can lead to negative effects.

If our prediction is positive such attachment can lead us to be overconfident and unresponsive to the reality of what is going on around us, as possibly happened to Theresa May at the start of her campaign.

If the prediction is negative such attachment can lead us to becoming despondent in our campaigning, playing down our message when talking to people, not bothering to campaign so vigorously for example not delivering that extra round of leaflets and demotivating our fellow campaigners. Such negative responses can contribute to our negative prediction becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. To avoid such negativity we need to develop equanimity in relation to our prediction always having the humility to say, at the back of our minds, “but I might be wrong”. With this balanced approach, in spite of whatever prediction we make, we will continue to campaign in a positive constructive way. During campaigning obviously the results of polls are useful in deciding the sensible direction of the campaign but we should always take them with a pinch of salt and not allow them to make us negative in our approach.

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Reflections

Spring Conference

York, March 2017

heartfelt
the tragedy of
Brexit

ray of hope
EU Associate Citizenship
a lifeline

deep sadness
unaccompanied refugee children
unsupported

Posted in Poetry | Tagged | 1 Comment

Speedy leaflet delivery

 

The last two Sundays I have been helping with our campaign in Stoke-on-Trent by delivering leaflets. The first visit I set off on a blustery, drizzly day with an armful of slippery leaflets. Within five minutes the leaflets had cascaded to the ground buffeted by the strong  gusts of wind. I suppose this is one way of distributing leaflets!

Helped by my leafleting companion we managed to retrieve most of the leaflets which now formed a rather soggy jumbled pile. I went on to deliver them but this having happened didn’t help the process especially with awkward letterboxes. Being a person who believes in learning from our mistakes, and who in general takes a problem solving approach to life, my next visit I equipped myself with a suitable delivery bag and an extra long spatula.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 4 Comments

2015 Autumn Conference – Some first impressions

 

Warmth

shared values

support

 

Posted in Op-eds and Poetry | Tagged | 1 Comment
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