Five posts to sum up February 2014

Over the next few days, we are looking month by month at the year that’s coming to an end. What were we all thinking about in February?

6th February saw #timetotalk, an initiative by Time to Change to get everyone talking about mental health. Liberal Democrat Voice took part with a series of moving and powerful posts as people shared their own experience. Eleanor Draycott wrote about what it’s like to live with Bi-Polar Disorder and the pain inaccurate assumptions about her illness causes her:

One of the most common misconceptions about people with Bi-polar, as with any other mental health problem, is that they are a danger to other people. Nothing makes me more angry than when I’m watching a film or television programme and they announce that the serial killer, murderer etc is Bi-polar and just leave it at that – like that explains everything. It doesn’t. Of course it can happen, and it does, but assuming that a person with a mental health issue such as mine is automatically going to go on a killing spree is like assuming anyone with a gun is going to go out and shoot someone in the head, or that anyone who drinks alcohol is going to become and alcoholic. The world just doesn’t work that way. Even at my worst times I have always been more of a danger to myself than to anyone else, which isn’t ideal, but I’d rather hurt myself than harm another being, be that man, woman, child, animal or “other”.

After a series of coalition differences of opinion, Fraser Nelson tried to work out what the Liberal Democrats were up to, basically dismissing us as a bunch of lefties. Stephen Tall set him right about one or two things:

To repeat: the Lib Dems message is intended to appeal to persuadable Conservatives just as much as it’s intended to appeal to persuadable Labour supporters just as much as it’s intended to appeal to persuadable voters who are currently undecided – ie, the 15% of centrist, small-l-liberal voters who are generally pro-European and pro-renewables and, yes, who aren’t such fans of Michael Gove, fearing he’s putting ideology ahead of what’s best for schools.

In fact, they’re exactly the same audience a mainstream Conservative party which genuinely wanted to win a majority in 2015 would also be trying to target. It says a lot about the state of the modern Tories that folk like Fraser are happy to ignore those moderate voters in the progressive centre, and casually dismiss them as ‘left-wingers’.

Mary Beard wrote about the way women who dared express an opinion were vilified on social media. Caron Lindsay asked if men’s behaviour was driving women out of politics, a post which drew support from women across the political spectrum.

This post is worth a mention purely for the photo. The look on Danny Alexander’s face when watching Germaine Greer recount her experience of judging some porn festival in the 1970s.

This was the month Nick challenged Nigel. Stephen Tall said Clegg needed Farage:

The Lib Dems are mounting an unabashedly pro-European campaign for this May’s elections. It’s a strategy which combines principle – the party is united in support of the UK’s continuing membership of the European Union – with campaigning nous: the hope is that casting a positive vote for the Lib Dems (“the party of IN”) will motivate activists to get out the vote in May.

But for that to cut through, to have real traction, the party also needs a real threat, a clearly defined opponent. Ukip is that threat, that opponent. It’s why Nigel Farage’s visage is so prominent in the party’s Spring Conference agenda (see right).

But Ukip isn’t the only party discomforted by Nick Clegg’s happiness to be defined as the only true pro-European party. The last thing either the Tories or Labour want is to have to talk that much about the EU. For a start, neither party is that united on the issue, though that’s most painfully true of the Tories whereas most in Labour don’t care over-much.

“Two Liberal Democrats go on holiday together. They must be plotting to overthrow Nick Clegg” we joked. Thing is, it turned out one of them was.

So that was February. Do y9u have any memories to share?

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One Comment

  • In Feb 2014, Julian Huppet MP wrote an interesting article on George Watson following the Memorial Service.

    This resulted in the following comment from Lord Greaves – worth reading again given the circumstances of the party in the last few week before General Election 2015.

    Tony Greaves 3rd Feb ’14 – 5:40pm
    George Watson was the intellectual pillar behind the Unservile State Group which published an important book “The Unservile State” in1957 – one of the foundations of the revival of the Liberal Party under Jo Grimond, and a series of pamphlets (Unservile State Papers) on all manner of policy issues over some 30 years. (I had the privilege of publishing the last few of them in the late 1980s.)

    George was passionately anti-socialist – his own contributions to the US Papers included “Is Socialism Left” in 1967, revised and reissued in 1972, and “The Toppling of the Terms – Thoughts on the death of socialism” in 1990, In spite of this he was a fairly mainstream Liberal of the Grimond era.

    The USG was formed in Oxford in 1953, at the very nadir of the Liberal Party’s fortunes, by a group of friends including George and Richard Wainwright – Liberal MP for the Colne Valley 1966-70 and 74-87, who subsequently largely funded the USG’s activities. “The Unservile State” called itself “the first full-scale survey of British Liberalism since the Yellow Book of 1928″ (not that the Yellow Book was quite that). George also edited “Radical Alternative”, a lesser collection of essays, in 1962.

    For many years Nancy Seear chaired the Group, Richard was the permanent Treasurer, George was Editor and Philip Watkins became Secretary. The rest of the Group, 15 or 16 in total, were a collection of leading Liberal Party thinkers spanning generations from the 1930s to the 1980s. The pamphlets rather coyly stated that “Some of its present members are actively engaged in politics as Liberals, but the Group has no formal connection with any political party.” But the pamphlets were for many years published on behalf of the USG by LPD (the Liberal Publications Department) and between 1985 and 1990 by Hebden Royd Publications (LIberal Party Publications) at Hebden Bridge.

    I talked to Richard Wainwright about it not long before he died and he was typically modest, telling me that the purpose was to provide Liberals with some underlying conviction that their creed and party had some substance, some right to continue to exist – and to make a contribution to Liberal policy development which in the 1950s before Grimond was moribund. He said that they would perhaps just provide one “footnote in history” – USG number 26 written by Samuel Brittan and Barry Riley – “A People’s Stake in North Sea Oil” – which proposed that some of the proceeds of the oil should be distributed to all adult citizens by means of shares (North Sea stock).

    Liber Books have a selection of USG pamphlets if anyone is interested – email me at [email protected].

    Tony Greaves

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