Omnishambles

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An utterly useless clusterfuck of a move today by Despicable May. I wonder at what point she decided, “Well the world’s on the brink of a nuclear winter, our traditional allies are putting distance between us because we asked for a divorce and the UK’s devolved administrations are all at loggerheads with Westminster – let’s have a General Election to bring us all back together!”

In which sane part of the land is that even an idea – never mind a good one? It comes of course with a huge amount of baggage and politically the public are confused to what to do. Do Labour Voters who support Brexit vote Tory or UKIP for the first time in their lives? Do the Remainers return to the Lib Dem fold even though Fallon is as wet as Corbyn during a wet t-shirt contest? Does it really matter how Scotland votes?

It appears to me that there is no positive outcome to this election. Starting with the Tories –  if they gain seats as predicted, then Brexit is not just Hard but Granite – a majority would leave backbenchers without the ability to frustrate and hold its own party to account. We would be looking at a possible exit without a deal as we know these things could take up to a decade to finalize and we have 23 months. May would be bolstered and would march into Brussels thinking she had a mandate – but the figures from the EU referendum don’t change because of a General Election, it’s a different vote altogether.

She assumes that because the other parties are weak that she’ll automatically be put back in, but she has to be careful. The 52% of the country who voted to Leave the EU are not all right wing voters. All other parties (apart from the SNP) have said they respect the decision but want checks and balances the other end of the negotiations. To many this seems like a fair thing to do and her hardened stance that she and her government have the final say may come across as dictatorial and unreflective of the uncertain mood in the country.

Labour must be both loving and dreading this. On one hand Corbyn could be out on his ear and we’d get a stronger leader. His ideas are good, he’s just not the man to deliver them. A more public service friendly, compassionate and thoughtful leader he has been – but his charisma is now on watchlists as it hasn’t been seen for years. The upside could be they pull back in the working class vote lost to UKIP but the mixed messages on Brexit could be their undoing.

Where the have an opportunity is by fighting on traditional Labour platforms – the Health Service which is in crisis, education being damaged across the whole UK, tax cuts for the rich, abolition of support for the most vulnerable and disabled – these could be winners if they get their message straight. Will they? I doubt it. £10 minimum wage seems unrealistic and considering that the front bench can’t agree on very much would see a very divided party pushed front and centre. Do we need that as a government at such a difficult time as we live in?

The Lib Dems are frustrating. Tim Fallon is a worse leader than Uncle Jeremy for me. Regardless of your opinion of Nick Clegg and his coalition with the Tories I think hindsight has shown us that actually he did a good job of keeping the rabid right-wingers at bay during his time as Deputy Prime Minister. They have sensible ideas just as Labour do, but I find it difficult to buy into them as they struggle to be heard above the noise.

UKIP are racist, misogynistic, sexist, thugs that don’t deserve the inflated the platform that they continue to get from the media. It’s an embarrassment to this country they have had the airtime they have considering their only MP is no longer in the party. But they could make an impact if the North of England tip to the right as they did in the EU referendum. Labour really are the only alternative for many voters, but with such a weak leadership many might look to UKIP to ensure money is taken from the EU and given back to the UK. In my humble opinion, I do think this is the end of the road for the party – what do they stand for now? They got their wish and unless the LIb Dems become the government the other two main parties agree that leaving the EU will happen.

SNP are in a strange position as well – they can only really lose in this election. Consider where we were last May compared to where we are now – leaving the EU and on the edge of the break-up of the UK. Around a third of SNP voters wanted to leave so that may well impact on their votes and the rise of Ruth Davidson as a sensible voice north of the border could see the Tories take away some of those yellow patches on the map. I can’t see Labour or the Lib Dems doing much damage in Scotland, but if they did it would start to bring into question Surgeon’s decision to demand a second Scottish Referendum.

So where does all that leave us? Potentially even more split than we were after the 23rd June 2016 and the EU referendum. With the country divided and uncertainty ahead will we stick with the shambles that is May, Boris, Hammond and Davis or bring in a potential coalition of Uncle Jeremy, Tim-liberal-but-bland and the SNP?

A rainbow coalition? No, just storm clouds ahead.

JD

Be careful what you wish for…

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So it’s done again until 2020…or 2017 probably after the EU referendum. As a liberal-minded unionist lefty it’s not a great result for me either way today: SNP up here wanting to separate the union and the Tories down there ready to screw everyone even more in the next five years. It’s the first election I’ve voted in that has left me with little to be pleased about.

SNP

The historic win has to be recognised and as long as we have the first past the post system. But there are a few things to remember here, the SNP are the opposition party in Scotland to Labour and finally they won – it’s been a long time coming. Also it’s not a vote for another independence referendum, although that will come, but it does shake up the system which is maybe not a bad thing. However Nicola Sturgeon has to be careful what she asks for – recently she’s moved from wanting “full fiscal autonomy” to “fiscal responsibility”. While it might seem like semantics the two are very different.

“Autonomy” means we are left to run our own money – raise it and spend it with no Barnett formula, whereas “Responsibility” gives Sturgeon a safety net. Why would she need it? Well with current oil prices and no grant from Westminster we’d be anything from eight to ten billion pounds short in our budget. Where the SNP have to be careful is if they ask for it, it’s in the interests of the Tories to give it to them just to see it fail and get rid of the SNP possibly for a generation. While some may like to see the SNP in real trouble, it would mean the poorest in Scotland would suffer most.

Labour

Where do you start? Well I’d start at the point where Ed Miliband got elected as leader of the party. No one outside the unions wanted him – the public was expecting his brother to get the job and he would have had a much better chance than Ed yesterday. The reason? The lurch to the left. A return to the tribalism that kept the party out of power for eighteen years through the eighties and nineties.

Labour under Blair – regardless what you think of him – were a party that a majority could get behind. While it had an eye on working for everyone, it could also work with business and the banks. As much as we hate the banks we have to accept that we live in a capitalist model and until we – as a country – change that centre left is the best position for the Labour party. Weak leadership, no presence on the world stage, ideas with no substance and a man who let’s be honest we’re pretty glad will be gone. There’s no space for “pity politics” when they are in charge of our money and lives.

What next? Well for me Andy Burnham has always come across really well. Honest as Ed was but with more substance – and he’s not part of the political elite so he’d do well with the “working family” Labour claims to stand for.

Lib Dems

I have a soft spot for the Lib Dems, despite allowing tuition fees and the bedroom tax, they will be remembered for making the last five years almost bearable. If you don’t believe me write yourself a note saying “Remember the Lib Dems?”, stick it on your fridge and in about a year’s time you will be wishing someone was in the cabinet holding the Tories back from more cuts to the poorest in society, tax cuts for the richest and biggest businesses, and a lack of moral backbone of any kind.

Nick Clegg was not a monster but happened to fall foul of the “Black Widow” coalition – they were devoured by their mates after they screwed them. Should he have teamed up with the Tories? Well I don’t see how they could refuse in all honesty – a chance to implement their ideas and policies was too good a chance to miss. And they did deliver on raising the tax threshold by £5000 meaning most part-time workers or those on minimum wage didn’t pay any tax. I hope they bounce back stronger for the experience.

UKIP

Can fuck off

Tories 

It’s going to hurt. No two ways about it. For the next five years the belt-tightening will leave most of us with a permanent ingrained mark round our middles. Twelve billion pounds of cuts and a national debt that increased by half a trillion means no one will escape. And if track records are anything to go by we know that the worst off will face the biggest struggle. Foodbanks increased by a factor of more than ten in the last five years and around 900,000 people used them last year. Further cuts to benefits regardless of need, the removal of the Disability living allowance and reduced Child Benefit won’t bother the 1% super rich – but will impact on you and I.

Then there’s the biggest danger – Europe. This is the key to where we will be by 2020. Here are the two options:

1. Cameron negotiates a new deal and wins a referendum, decides to retire as Prime Minister and Boris steps up to the plate without the electorate getting a say.

or

2. Cameron negotiates a deal, but loses the referendum. This then will spark a second referendum in Scotland for Independence as we are Europhiles north of the border. With the prospect of fish, farming and oil being impacted it’s easy to see the Yes side winning.

And my fear is the latter is more likely.

Over the next five years I honestly think we could see a massive constitutional nightmare all because Cameron lurched right to call UKIP’s bluff. Redwood, Mitchell and other Eurosceptic Tories have already been on TV making warning noises.

While I will always respect the democratic process – and the shoddy first past the post system that left the Greens, UKIP, Plaid Cymru and the Lib Dems ridiculously under represented according to share of vote – I do think that with polar opposites either side of the border, we could be looking at Cameron being the last PM of the UK, and being the man who broke it.

JD

Apologies for the silence

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Lots going on in the house and head at the moment and I didn’t realise it had been so long since the last blog – but as my mum taught me if you can’t say anything nice…

Not completely true but going on another rant about the election tomorrow won’t be good reading for anyone. I just hope hat we get a 70%+ turnout so even if we don’t get a majority government it will represent the people of he UK.

I get annoyed with the posturing and lies that fly around and there have been so few moments of reality from our politicians that you do feel removed from the process. If I’m honest I think that Nick Clegg has again come across best out of the main party leaders. While many will never forgive him for the tuition fees and supporting the bedroom tax, I still think as a party they have a lot to offer. Remember if it weren’t for them you personal tax allowance would be nearly half what it is now.

Then there’s the anticipation of the new little Duncan. We’re into countdown mode as due date is only a couple of weeks away. Can’t wait to meet the baby but would really like to have sorted out some work so I can properly look after the family. Every day at the moment is a depressing trawl through the job websites and the odd application, and the regular thanks but no thanks to boot.

Jenna still wants a boy and Jake wants a girl so one of them will be disappointed – either way I’m happy as long as they are healthy and happy. Going to be strange to share the house with another body having been a four for so long. Will it change the dynamic and will the kids take to their new sibling? Can only hope so.

Mental health has been okay of late and feeling okay – neither up nor down really. Just the job situation that brings me down a bit, but that’s just a natural mood swing that anyone would have. My only concern is that the longer the wait goes on for a job the more chance I have of slipping into a proper bout of depression.

Overall I’m in limbo with everything – it’s a waiting game for all aspects of life just now. I’m just glad I’ve got the band to keep me going at the moment. Going and belting out a few tunes is always a great way to release the stress and worries and the diary is healthy for the summer. There is a lot to be said about music as a release or therapy and I certainly benefit from it in my life.

So fingers crossed I will be back to blogging properly soon with good news on all fronts – would be great to feel settled once again.

JD

Making Mental Health a Priority

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Mental Health issues are going to find themselves centre stage more and more as the Lib Dems push it into the Election Agenda. Today the idea that we can reduce the amount of suicides caused by mental illnesses to almost zero appears on paper to be fantastical and highly unrealistic – but there is evidence to support the idea.

First the premise of making this area of Health a priority is both a long overdue move by a political party and a shrewd move by a political tactician. Long overdue in the sense that we all know people who struggle or live with illnesses like depression, bi-polar, schizophrenia or anxiety along with many others and it feels that so little is done and it’s not “fashionable” to highlight it. But it’s also a clever move because it deals with a large volume of people it could be a big trump card for the Lib Dems.

But I don’t care if it’s a gimmick because regardless of the motivation action will be taken and the template they are looking at does show good success rates. In Detroit, Michigan the Henry Ford Medical Group have put many things in place to reduce the amount of suicides linked to mental illness and there have been reductions of over 75% – which is phenomenal.

How? Well here are some of the ways that they have done and are now being used around the world and even here in the UK:

  • create a Safe from Suicide Team, a 24/7 group of experts which rapidly and thoroughly assesses patients who are having suicidal thoughts
  • improve the care of people who present with self-harm injuries at accident and emergency units, offering them therapies on the spot and following up with them when they go home
  • improve data collection on patients to get a better understanding of how and where patients are most at risk of suicide and then targeting resources at them

This is all a great move – but there is another issue here that is being missed and that is the pinpointing of those who suffer from Mental Health issues in the first place. Not everyone is aware of their illness, there are huge gaps in the public’s knowledge and understanding of these maladies so they wouldn’t be able to recognize it and there are still GPs who won’t refer patients who do put themselves forward. We need more education for everyone to try to cut out this ignorance that can eventually lead to suicide.

I lived for years with Bi-polar disorder, but didn’t know or understand what was happening – even more I didn’t even recognize there was a problem until my depression got really bad that I was on the verge of tears all too often. I didn’t know what was happening to me and neither did those around me – left untreated it’s hard to say what would have happened in the long-term. Now with treatment and medication I have a balance that allows me the usual fluctuations but within a safer parameter. Anything outside of that I know I can call my specialist and get seen quickly to stop any build up of problems.

I don’t believe that you will ever completely eradicate suicide among those who have these illnesses – just look last year at Robin Williams who was monitored, on medication and his family were all aware of his conditions. It didn’t stop him and there are many others it wouldn’t stop. But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to do something to help the majority.

I doff my cap to Nick Clegg for making this issue a central one for the upcoming elections and I hope that the over five thousand people who take their lives annually will be a statistic that drops sooner rather than later.

JD