#Libdemfightback – some thoughts…

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I’m sure everyone’s ready for another hot take after yesterday’s elections (yes I know, I should keep it to myself) but seeing as we have just a month to go till the General Election there isn’t much time to reflect and I thought I’d just post it here. Especially important we pick ourselves up and move on quickly to get back out on the doorsteps and hit the phones again to get as many LD MPs in parliament in a months time!

Now, as you read this you might be feeling a bit miffed that the famed #Libdemfightback is no where to be seen. Where was it? Why didn’t we gain all those seats? Why did we lose seats?

Welcome to First Past The Post. Having said that, the Lib Dems have had some significant achievements and yesterday’s elections paved the groundwork for future gains in years to come. (Politics is a long game.)

The reality is that the Lib Dems had negatives from the overall picture and the perception it gives that the ‘surge’ hasn’t happened. This isn’t quite true – lots of the council seats up for grabs were in remain seats, plus no.council elections in London and a number of key remain areas. There are still plenty of positive signs for the party (especially considering the years of 2010-2015 where we saw continuous losses year after year). We have thousands more members, in fact the highest numbers ever! This means more people to support campaigns – and this will make such a difference if every member and supporter can do their bit! Also, we are getting more voters across the country with our vote share going up over the past year in by-elections and now across the local elections reaching 18%.

However, in a First Past The Post system none of this means anything unless we target our resources effectively (as people in the party such as Mark Pack have been saying). We aren’t going to suddenly become the official opposition (constitutionally at least), although more MPs will mean we have more LDs to hold this government to account which is especially important when the Labour Party have been failing to do this in the past year and it looks like the general election will give the Conservatives a massive majority.

As far as I can tell, this means targeting resources and time in two ways.

Number 1 – Be defensive. If you are in or near a currently held seat – we need you to throw everything at it. We need every single one of those 9 seats and none of them can be considered safe.

Number 2 – Manage your expectations. If you can’t help in a held seat or you want to venture out to support a candidate with a chance of taking a seat (especially some of our awesome women and ethnic minority candidates), then make sure you help someone who is in one of our top target seats. None of them are guaranteed to go our way and each will be a big fight.

Effectively, (and this is just my opinion obviously) – our top 9 target seats are our current seats – none of these majorities are big enough to be taken for granted I’m such turbulent political times (especially with turnouts getting lower and lower!)

I’m sure that if we can consolidate and rebuild with gains of between 10 and 15 MPs that would be an incredible outcome. It would give a real demonstration of how we are on the way back up. To do this we need to target our resources to make sure that happens. The worst outcome for us would be to find that we get a higher vote share but then we actually make no gains or worse lose seats!

So don’t get down hearted, but do target your support in the most effective way possible, supporting the places we need to hold or are most likely and able to win! We can win seats,we can make gains and we can bring a stronger, more diverse and inspirational group of MPs to represent us but let’s not be unrealistic about our chances!

Pretty sure local parties will know the nearest target seats, but I’ve written a speculative list of what I think they should be based on my interpretation of various factors and sources.

Top 9 – Current seats
1. Orkney & Shetland Isles (817 majority)
2. Southport (New candidate + 1322 majority)
3. Carshalton and Wallington (1510 majority)
4. Richmond Park (1872 majority)
5. Sheffield Hallam (2353 majority)
6. Leeds North West (2907 majority)
7. Ceredigion (3067 majority)
8. North Norfolk (4043 majority)
9. Westmorland and Lonsdale (8949 majority)

Then in my opinion we should be looking at the following seats (regional order listed by size of majority to be overcome)

Scotland
10. East Dunbartonshire (SNP have a 2167 majority)
11. Edinburgh West (Michelle Thompson. who stood as SNP but then Independent had a majority of 3210)

Wales
12. Cardiff Central (Lab have a 4981 majority)

England (outside London)
13. Cambridge (Lab have a 599 majority)
14. Eastbourne (Con have 733 majority)
15. Lewes (Con have 1083 majority)
16. Bath (Con have 3833 majority)
17. Yeovil (Con have 5293 majority – local election results were promising)
18. Cheadle (Con have 6453 majority)
19. Cheltenham (Con have 6516 majority)
20. Wells (Con have 7585 majority)

London
21. Twickenham (Con have 2017 majority)
22. Kingston and Surbiton (Con have 2834 majority)
23. Sutton and Cheam (Con have 3921 majority)
24. Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Lab have 4489 majority)

Wild Cards
Eastleigh (Con have 9147 majority and high UKIP vote but promising local election results)
St Albans (LD were 3rd place in 2015 but Brexit, local election results and candidate make this a good wild card)
Vauxhall (Potential.backlash against Kate Hoey in very remain area but LD were 4th in 2015 )

#NationalComingOutDay (i.e. Everyday)

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‘The Robot’. No Emotion. Boring. ‘Sensible’.

Just some of the ways I’ve been described over the years.

Guarded. Insecure. Self-censoring.

Perhaps those are more accurate.

I nearly didn’t write this today. I’m half-terrified someone will read this who doesn’t know yet. I’m gay… I can type it but I find it so difficult to even say those two words even now. I have the most supportive family you could wish for, accepting it without a second thought. (Although when you dress up in heels and a dress when playing fancy dress with your siblings at every opportunity when you’re younger maybe that’s a giveaway!).

It’s not easy coming out… it took me at least six years to come out to myself. I got bullied at school – nothing major, but at an all-boys (except VI form) grammar school it was known as ’banter’ – mostly just names but the taunts of ‘you’re gay’ and ‘that’s gay’ hit home and made me feel like being gay was a bad thing. Something I should try and avoid. I tried other ways to get my peers’ approval – it nearly got me into really serious trouble. Thankfully a teacher helped me channel my efforts into school work and I became the person who said yes to everything and did theatre, music and anything that kept me busy. Anything to be able to seem successful and popular and that would enable me to brush away questions about girlfriends with ‘I’m too busy’ or ‘I’m concentrating on my studies’… one time I went to a party and got to the point where I was pretending I liked a girl who was there because I was too afraid people would react by accusing me of being gay if I said I didn’t like her. I had no one to talk to and no way to deal with it.

When I got into University there was a more accepting atmosphere, I heard people defending LGBT rights and I met people who were openly gay and accepted by those around them. I spent the whole of my first term struggling with when I would come out, and trying to think up the best way to tell my parents. I nearly failed first year and decided to switch course. I realised I wasn’t being me, I was being someone other people said I should be.

That summer I made a decision to tell my parents, it was two days before my 19th birthday and I was walking back from work and decided that I wanted to tell my parents before my birthday (I don’t know why that was important haha). I’d had enough of keeping it to myself and stoked up the courage to let my parents know – so I went and told them I wanted to tell them. I told my mum first and just couldn’t say the words… words I still find hard to say today. Turns out they already knew. What a relief. Except I didn’t want to tell anyone else yet.

That September I went back to University having changed course to Politics and immersed myself in RAG (literally one of the only things that kept me in University) and being a Halls President. I also took part in a musical written by another student – it was one of the strangest experiences of my life. The musical was about a gay relationship, and there were a number of LGBT people on the cast and crew and it was one of the most inclusive environments I’ve been in but there I was performing the part of a character who was straight and myself still in the closet. If anything it made me more on my guard and more careful about what I said in case I gave anything away.

It was only after it had finished that I took the decision to come out, someone asked me via facebook message mid conversation around Easter when we were chatting about the equal marriage campaign and I just decided to be honest. That started a chain of events. First it led me to get my parents to tell my siblings (who were great and have always been fab and supportive!) and then I started the process of telling my friends that summer. I met up with so many friends over the next few weeks and time after time I couldn’t manage to tell them face to face. Most people I told received a message later the same evening or the following day. I’d probably spent at least an hour constructing the message before I’d suddenly just press Enter and then sit there waiting with that post-adrenalin rush waiting for them to see it and then answer.

One night at the end of the academic year I made the whole process simpler by unintentionally getting very drunk and telling everyone… it certainly made life easier! I also had weeks of not leaving my house, crying, dealing with anxiety and depression, hiding away scared of how people would react and worried about how I’d live life out of the closet.

It was made worse by dealing with unwanted advances that were very manipulative. Something that has happened a few times and is not something that’s easy to deal with at a time when you’re only just dealing with your own identity and getting used to a new reality. Thankfully that’s in the past now.

That summer I went to Spain for a summer job and met an amazing group of people who were incredible, but that was when I first realised that coming out isn’t something you do once – it’s a constant process – new job, new flatmates, new friends… Time after time I find myself coming out to people and don’t think the process will ever end.

Coming out isn’t the half of it either… have you tried dating when you have no idea what someone’s sexuality is. When one wrong move, or even a look has got people beaten up or worse? Have you tried asking someone out when you can’t even tell if someone’s gay, let alone interested in you?

Imagine that the first time you went to a club where it was more likely people were gay than straight was on your 23rd birthday? What about the fact that whenever someone liked you or you went on dates with someone you pushed them away because you were too scared and insecure?

Or the times when you don’t know anyone else to talk to who can actually understand where you’re coming from?

So when you see my drunk tweets and my drunk statuses and they seem all emotional (the ones I normally delete the next morning) – that’s the real me. I still self-censor, I’m still guarded. I wasn’t always the ‘sensible one’. I’m working on it and trying to let my guard down more and be more vulnerable and more of the real me.

You don’t know who is struggling with this and it’s not your job to find out either. Everyone has their own timetable for coming out and it’s a process that starts with them. I just hope it gets easier and one day won’t be necessary.

I still struggle dealing with the reality day to day, and I’m still living behind those barriers that make me often seem emotionless and boring. Hopefully, with time they’ll no longer be needed. But for now, that’s my story.

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I really enjoyed this spoken word/performance piece on Labels and how we always choose to define ourselves in ways that set us apart… it is a very powerful piece and I thought it was worth sharing…

 

2016… Bring it on!

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The end of a year and the start of the next isn’t really that big a deal in terms of automatic changes whether large or small; we are still the same people and it is very much a case of new year, same me.

Realistically, we shouldn’t need the end of the year to be a catalyst for change and I suspect it is rarely the sole cause of any successful changes in lifestyle, behaviour etc that occur as a result of a New Years resolution. However, it does provide a convenient moment to do some reflection. It’s useful as a point at which we can reference ourselves one year previously and then look forward to the year ahead. In looking back, my piece last year (2015) was titled ‘Reflection’ as I set myself the goal of ‘being myself more’. Looking back I think I’ve achieved this and managed it well. Spending more time with people in person has resulted in a dramatic reduction in facebook statuses since I’ve graduated (something I’m sure many have appreciated), I’m also less active on Twitter and blog very infrequently but I’ve been able to treasure and maintain some strong friendships by focusing time and effort on those. Without trying to beat my own drum/blow my own trumpet (or whichever innuendo ridden cliche you prefer) I have successfully (so far) navigated the transition from student to employed adult. 

So, what of 2016? I feel a few small aspirations will assist me in the coming year to continue with the theme of ‘being me more’ but on a slightly more tangible level… A bit like a bucket list for 2016…

1. To read more and indulge in both fiction and non-fiction to continue learning

2. To see more shows and visit more theatres

3. To exercise more and keep my body & mind healthy

4. To drink more water (does squash count? 😛 )

5. To go to sleep earlier more often (clearly, this is an aspiration…)

6. To go on a date

7. To visit at least four countries and at least one of them outside of Europe

8. To do something political… (Beyond commentary etc)

9. Learn/develop a new skill

10. Find a voluntary role/trusteeship to take on

I’m still not ready to tackle my crisp addiction so for now that’s off the list… 

Some TED Talks that made me think…

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So, I’ve started a new job and last week was my second week of training, and once or twice we’ve been shown a TED Talk to illustrate a point. I was reminded how brilliant some of these talks are. So, obviously I had to have a bit of a TED talks marathon on Saturday afternoon and soak in some of the ideas being spread… here are some of the ones that really grasped my imagination or made me think about something in a different way or even made me laugh…! Continue reading

I’ve decided… I’m backing Norman

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It’s taken me ages to decide and if I’m honest it probably isn’t the decision I thought I would make. Norman has managed to win me over and has convinced me to cast my vote for him to be leader of the Liberal Democrats.

The truth is, I would happily see either as leader but I was determined to make a decision and choose someone to vote for and there are a number of reasons why Norman managed to convince me after my period of deadlock last week which inspired me to write this blog: Why I’m still struggling to decide on the leadership question…  Continue reading

Why I’m still struggling to decide on the leadership question…

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So, there are two leadership elections (that I’m aware of) happening at the moment. To be brutally honest I’m having trouble feeling any interest or excitement with either the Labour or Liberal Democrat leadership elections. Also, I think the idea that the party leader has to be an MP is outdated and artificially limits the pool and in the current case means we can only elect a white straight male as our party leader.

Furthermore, for some context of my brain processes before… I had been counting on Jo Swinson or Lynne Featherstone being in the running for the leadership after Nick Clegg… however, if anything this set me up for confusion from the start when they both endorsed different candidates.

After the election I had considered that Tim Farron was a shoe-in and Norman Lamb didn’t stand a chance. Since then I have questioned that and almost came out in support of Norman Lamb before being swayed back and forth between the two more and more.

Today, reading an excellent piece by Daisy Benson on her blog I realised that my indecision is more down to the fact that I feel like a number of questions and thoughts I have aren’t being answered or considered fully by the campaigns and to an extent I don’t really know what I’m voting for. Five years is a long time and the political environment can change… who is best suited now, may not be best suited then? Continue reading