Author Archives: Max Wilkinson

Three things we don’t need in this leadership campaign: a goody, a baddy and more policy

Embed from Getty Images

In politics it’s always tempting to think we can resolve problems by resorting to the same old solutions. That usually involves lionising a goody, demonising a baddy and a rollicking good debate about policy.

In the debate over our leadership, I’m seeing many people seeking to create a goody and a baddy, and loads of people banging on about policy.

But I don’t think we should be focusing on those in this leadership campaign. Here’s why.

Let’s start with the first problem. The traditional good v bad argument. We need to stop this nonsense. The fact that Ed served in the coalition should absolutely not rule him out from being the leader. In fact, we are fortunate to have somebody with his experience in government on the ballot paper. His achievements on the environment are matched by few in modern politics and he has an inspiring, touching personal story to tell too.

Layla is a talented politician, an effective campaigner and an excellent communicator. She may well enable us to access a demographic that has largely ignored us in the past three elections. It’s right that she’s willing to try to talk to people who just want a bit of ‘hopes and dreams’ in their politics and bought into that element of the Labour message. That’s a good thing and we should welcome it rather than deliberately misinterpreting her words.

This isn’t a battle of good v bad, it’s one liberal taking on another. Let’s not engage in the unattractive factionalism that we dislike so much in other parties. That gets us nowhere and gives succour to our opponents.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 14 Comments

The Football Lads Alliance doesn’t represent football fans, so don’t judge us by their thuggishness

I had a troubling experience yesterday. A thing I love came under attack for being racist, or at the very least, associated with racism.  I’m talking about the football community.  It’s not a new attack, but it gave me pause for thought on how we communicate with one another – particularly those on the liberal side of politics.

Before we begin, I need to state that were this an article about the racists responding to Black Lives Matter then they’d feel the full force of my keyboard. Their views are abhorrent and have no place in our society. But I’m interested in a specific part of the debate that emerged: the conflation of the racist thugs with football.

I regard myself as part of the broader progressive movement.  I support the Black Lives Matter cause, I campaign on equality and the environment.  Among the people I’ve watched football with are socialists, moderates, one nation types, liberals, greens and people who don’t care at all about politics. Nobody I go to football with has ever said anything remotely bigoted or racist in my presence.  However, I have heard a handful of racist comments made by other people in football grounds.  Every one of them was a disgrace.  I’ve reported people to stewards and spoken to perpetrators too.

So when I saw a stream of tweets damning the racist protestors in London as ‘angry football lads’  with ‘nothing better to do’ I bristled.  The fact that the idiots causing trouble call themselves the Football Lads Alliance means nothing. It’s just another cover title for the nasty far right, which is again using the game as a recruiting ground for hatred.  Let’s not be fooled by them – they don’t represent football fans and they never will.

But I’m not under any illusions: there are racist people who watch football.  Of course that’s true.  And there are historic problems with racism in football that persist today.  But when I saw the accusations lazily conflating football fan culture with racism, as if the two were synonymous in 2020, I felt a very visceral response.  I was affronted.  I was insulted.  I was angry.  Somebody even made a bizarre analogy asking whether the WI would riot!  I’m sure there haven’t been WI riots, though my experience of talking to women in the WI demographic suggests that a significant minority of people who might be eligible to join the group have some troubling opinions on race matters – just like the tiny minority of football fans who go to racist marches or commit hate crimes in football grounds.  But that doesn’t mean I’d argue that older women are racist, so nor should others argue that football fan culture is synonymous with racism.

Posted in Op-eds | 15 Comments

Levelling up between the generations in the post-pandemic world

There’s been lots of talk of levelling up between regions, but what of levelling up between the generations? After the coronavirus crisis is over, we are likely to see a worsening of the intergenerational inequality our young people already suffer. We must look at putting this right.

We all know that younger millennials and generation Z have on average been dealt a difficult hand in life. Housing costs are eye-watering and home ownership seems a distant prospect for most. Wage growth has been largely stagnant for many years (with a small uptick lately). There’s no prospect of a career …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 19 Comments

My lockdown pub crawl (of sorts) in solidarity with landlords

If you ask lots of people what social activity they’re missing most during the lockdown, you’ll hear a pretty resounding answer: “going to the pub”. I’d give exactly the same answer (the gym is second on the list, natch).

Having a few pints in one of Cheltenham’s many welcoming inns is one of my favourite things to do. Whether it’s admiring the many pineapples decorating The Swan, sitting in the garden of The Railway or watching football in the Frog and Fiddle, it wouldn’t usually be long between visits for me – until …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 1 Comment

In praise of opponents – and a plea for the future

I believe in robust debate and in holding our opponents to account. Those who have campaigned with me will know that despite my light-hearted personality, I’m not prone to giving much ground. Scrutinising our opponents is a vital part of politics and our democracy is worse off if the tough questions aren’t asked.

But after a divisive election, in a time of damaging and sometimes poisonous debate, I want to do something just as important as robust campaigning. I want to offer praise and thanks to my opponents. In Cheltenham we managed to squeeze a large number of hustings into the campaign. I spent a lot of time debating with Alex Chalk (Conservative) and George Penny (Labour), and I exchanged messages of goodwill with Tabi Joy (Green), who had stood aside as part of the Unite to Remain initiative. In what can sometimes be a dehumanising process, regular meetings with opponents renewed my respect for everyone who took part.

So here goes:

To Alex, I thank you for continuing your service in Cheltenham when many expected you to do a ‘chicken run’ to a safer seat. I will always respect you for engaging with pro-European campaigners who protested at your office, though I disagreed strongly with your stance on the Brexit debate. Others would have found an excuse to run away and it is to your credit that you engaged in face-to-face conversation. I also congratulate you on campaigning on schools and the environment. We won’t always (or even often) agree on the way forward, but I want you to succeed.

To George, I admire your bravery in standing for parliament so soon after leaving university. You mastered the craft of debating at the hustings remarkably quickly and clearly have a gift for communication. You did not deserve to become the first ever Labour candidate to lose a deposit in Cheltenham. I know that when you stand in a winnable seat you will make a fine MP.

To Tabi, I owe you huge thanks for being part of the Unite To Remain initiative. Stepping aside was a huge political and personal sacrifice to make. I’m only sorry your big-hearted gesture and our campaign didn’t help deliver more MPs from our two parties. When we did share platforms before the election in events focused on the EU and the environment, you spoke with great passion and knowledge.

And onto the future:

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 10 Comments

Merry Christmas from Cheltenham (even though politics is a steaming pile of mess)

This is a Christmas message with a difference. I make no apologies for the colourful nature of the story and I assure you it is absolutely 100% true.

When I was delivering the Liberal Democrat Christmas cards the other day I noticed on the pavement the largest pile of dog’s business I had seen in some time. “What a calamity,” I thought “That’s a big problem for whoever steps in it.” I was heartened, therefore, to see a man approaching the mess with a purposeful stride.

I could see he was going to solve the problem for the good of other people in his road, probably by picking it up and finding a bin. That was until I noticed he was carrying a large bucket of hot water. He then proceeded to pour it over the offending deposit. Naturally, rather than solving anything, this merely compounded the problem by spreading it around. I was carrying out my final campaigning act of 2017 and my political brain was therefore weary, but when reflecting on the scene I had witnessed later on that day I concluded it was the most appropriate metaphor for the political year: a fundamental problem was correctly identified by a public-spirited individual, but the chosen solution was ill-judged and left everyone else with a steaming mess to clear up. It’s not all bad news, though. In the spirit of good will to all, I’ve passed the person’s address to Theresa May with a suggestion he is promoted to Brexit Secretary. With problem-solving skills like those, he’ll fit right in.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | Leave a comment

Building a movement based on our values

People join political parties because they are interested in politics.

That may seem an obvious thing to say, but those of us engaged in the grind of day-to-day campaigns must regularly remind ourselves. Because, while lots of us are passionate about our community activism, a large majority of our members are more motivated by values and bigger ideas.

If we want to galvanise them into a campaigning force – helping our community campaigns in the process – we need to remind them why they joined. That means talking about our liberal values and giving our members an opportunity to campaign for them.

Think …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 29 Comments

My message to liberal Tories: join us

During the General Election campaign I found myself in an interesting position. Standing as the candidate for the most liberal, pro-EU party, I found myself against an incumbent MP who spent a lot of time talking about his enthusiasm for Europe. He also spoke often of the need for ‘liberal pluralism’ and his enthusiasm for a change to the voting system.

Posted in News | 36 Comments
Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarMarco 14th Jul - 4:52pm
    John Marriott depends how you define lockdown - I would say it is legally requiring people to stay at home unless they have a valid...
  • User AvatarDavid Evans 14th Jul - 4:51pm
    So we have a Director of Strategy who apparently has no experience of politics. It seems we have learned nothing from the mistakes of the...
  • User AvatarJoseph Bourke 14th Jul - 4:48pm
    Peter Martin, 1. Since the end of the last recession, UK unemployment has more than halved at a time when the total economically-active labour force...
  • User AvatarMarco 14th Jul - 4:46pm
    Paul Walter uses the classic tactic of “I know that but I still think XYZ”. However such tactic does not actually neutralise the argument that...
  • User AvatarNonconformistradical 14th Jul - 4:01pm
    @Glenn If we could reply on people not behaving like this https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jul/14/video-of-drunken-brits-maskless-in-magaluf-appals-spaniards you might (only might) be able to make a better case.
  • User AvatarJohn Marriott 14th Jul - 3:54pm
    @Glenn So, give us the figures. How many countries did NOT perform any form of lockdown? Even your mates in Sweden didn’t indulge in a...