miss_s_b: Vince Cable's happy face (Politics: Vince - happy face)
If you are a voting rep, please please PLEASE go into the hall for F17 at 17.00 Sunday evening and vote for the reference back. If the reference back fails then please vote against the motion, whether it is amended or not. The motion as submitted is terrifyingly illiberal, technologically illiterate, and will almost certainly be counterproductive. The amendment selected for debate by FFC takes all this badness and adds internet pop-ups to it too. I have no idea what FCC were on when they accepted this motion, nor when they selected the least popular and most senseless amendment from those submitted for debate, but I wish they'd stop taking it.

The motion is supposed to protect children from internet porn. It won't protect children from internet porn, but it WILL make it much more difficult for them to obtain information about sexual health, and also access a whole host of other information on the internet, including this blog. The ONLY way to prevent the harms which internet porn does to children is to EDUCATE both parents and children. Burying our heads in the sand and hoping the magic technology fairy will fix things is a recipe for disaster.

If you're unsure as to how right I am on any of this there are a bunch of people wandering round conference with this flyer. Talk to them.

Thanking you in advance.
miss_s_b: (Mood: Facepalm)
This makes this post somewhat more difficult than I was anticipating... ANYWAY. I am going to tell you who I would like to see win and who I think WILL win (with as many single intenders as I can fit) and we'll find out tomorrow how right or wrong I am.

CategoryWho I want to winWho I think WILL winComment
Blog of the Year (The Big Botty)Zoe O'ConnellDavid BoyleI nominated Jonathan Calder for Liberal England, mainly because I can't believe he's not won it already. David Boyle has been consistently good this year, though... The field is a good one, with no one blogger who will obviously stand out as "THAT'S the winner!" to everybody. Frankly, I'll be happy as long as neither I nor Count Packula win, because neither of us needs it. Zoe's blog deserves to be much more widely read, though, and on that basis I'd like to see her win it.
Blog Post of the YearSarah BrownCount Packula's pretty picturePeople like Infographics. They annoy me, because they're great big long unwieldy lumps of stuff that take ages to load, and I can't read them properly on my phone without zooming in and out all the time, but apparently I'm in a minority. Sarah's post, though, is hands down the most important and must-read one on the list, and fully deserves to win.
Tweeter/Facebooker of the year@stackee@LordBonkersI think this one is as wide open as the Big Botty to be honest, and it all depends on whether judges value dry Lib Demmery or humanity or both as to who wins. It could be any of the nominees, but I've plumped for Lord Bonkers because Rutland's award cabinet needs fresh metal.
Tim Garden AwardLynne Featherstonetoss up between Tim Farron & Julian HuppertI don't think Jo Swinson or Tom Brake use twitter in the way it's meant to be used. They put stuff out but they don't interact as much as the other three do. Julian and Tim are digital natives, and it shows; Lynne is a bloody good twitterer too, and given that there's not much to choose between the three I want her to win for basically sexist reasons. Girls doing politics AND tech? Hell to the yes.
Best LD Online CampaignGold GuardTeam EastleighThis is another one that's wide open and any of the nominees could win it. On that basis: anyone but me, please, judges.

The public vote has now ended for Non Lib Dem Online Campaign (English Disco Lovers FTW!) and Photo (YAY Doctor Huppert!) so all we need to do now is sit back and wait for the ceremony. I'll not be at the ceremony myself, but I'll be keeping my eye on twitter to see who wins. I hope those who DO go the ceremony have a good time, and whether I win or lose have a gin or several for me :)
miss_s_b: Vince Cable's happy face (Politics: Vince - happy face)
The first thing to say here is that several people had difficulty completing the survey: if this happens to you my advice would be to wait half an hour and then go back to it, that's what worked for me.

On to the meat of this post then: you can't get back into the survey once you've filled it in, so this is from memory, and the list of categories on Lib Dem Voice.

CategoryWho I voted ForWho I think will winComment
LD Councillor of the YearPauline NashAlex FolkesAll the nominees in this were not big national figures, but Alex is a blogger. More of us have heard of him therefore he will win.
Favourite Tory MPSarah WollastonP Bone & N DorriesFelt physically sick at some of the nominees for this. P Bone & N Dorries will win bcause annoying them is the most palatable option.
Favourite Labour MPStella CreasyGenuinely don't knowFelt physically sick at some of the nominees for this, too. Frank "Misogyny" Field FFS?
Online Campaign (non-LD)?English Disco LoversI don't think I got to vote in this. Can't get back ino the survey to find out...
Best Photo??Definitely didn't get to vote in this.
LD minister of the yearLynne Featherstonesomebody pale and maleLynne definitely deserves to win, but she won't, sadly. Of course, if she does I'll be chuffed.
LD MP of the yearJulian HuppertJulian HuppertI will be utterly stunned if Julian doesn't win.
Other ParliamentarianLiz BarkerNo ideaLiz deserves to win for her work in the Lords on equal marriage. No idea who actually WILL win.
Best Commentatorcan't rememberdon't careThis list was shocking. The only woman on there was Polly Toynbee, and they were ALL old media. Clueless Tory shill Nick Robinson being nominated was a particular shock. What sort of idiot rates him?
Best broadcasterCathy NewmanEddie MairWould have put Martha Kearney on my prefs list if she'd been there. And somehow there was another nomination for bloody Robinson.

I'll do a similar list for the judged categories (who I want to win/who I think will win) when all the nominees are revealed. As for those above? Well, it's an advert for getting more people to nominate next year, that's for sure. Nick Robinson nominated for TWO awards? Frank Field? Eurgh. Anyway, if you're a member of the LDV forum you should have your email for voting. Get on and do it. I don't know when the deadline is, but it's BOUND to be before Saturday night...
miss_s_b: (Default)
So Sarah Teather announced, via an article in the Observer, that she will not be standing again for her seat in Brent. Various people expressed various emotions on receipt of this news. The Lib Dem Voice comment thread, at time of typing, is approaching 200 comments. Despite the attempts of various people to inject notes of sanity there has been a massive proliferation of straw men in that comment thread, which can basically be divided into two camps: the Sarah Is a Great Loss and the Sarah is Not Such a Great Loss camps.

I fall into the latter camp. My stated position is that because of her vote on same sex marriage, after many years of cheerfully using lots of LGBT activists to work for her, I feel that I would rather spend my limited leaflet delivery time on another MP/candidate at election time. I agree with a lot of her OTHER positions, but because there are MPs/candidates who share those positions AND voted the way I would have liked on same sex marriage I would prefer to donate my time to those people.

For this I have been accused of being a single issue politician (because I am talking about this right now means it is the only thing I have ever cared about), sexism (because Sarah is a woman and I don't want to deliver leaflets for her, despite the fact that I have also publicly condemned Gordon Birtwhistle, John Pugh, and all of the other MPs who voted against), racism (because Sarah has been an anti-racism campaigner therefore if I don't want to deliver leaflets for her I must be racist), obsessed with sex (because equal rights for LGBT people is only ever concerned with sex and not human rights or anything) and of WANTING DISABLED PEOPLE TO DIE (no, I don't get that one either). And pretty much everyone who has said these things has ALSO gone on at great length about the "vitriol" being flung at Sarah.

To make that clear: saying you'd rather deliver leaflets for someone else = flinging vitriol. Accusing someone of being sexist, racist, and a eugenicist? Fair comment. As for the single issue politician thing... If I was FORCED to be a single issue politician I would be the most vocal (and probably the only) campaigner for Colin Baker to be permanently recognised as the best Doctor Who. If only because that's SUCH a minority campaign that it needs all the help it can get.

Anyone who doubted the importance of leaflet delivery in the Lib Dem psyche? I think today has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that it's more important than pretty much anything else. It's just a shame that we're all spending valuable leaflet delivery time arguing about something that's not going to be changed by any amount of invective on any side.
miss_s_b: (Politics: Liberal)

My question is asked at 8.42, and got a pretty positive response on twitter. Clegg's answer was interesting, and not as ducky as the last time he failed to answer a question from me. He keeps saying my name, which makes me giggle.

I do like that the party does these webinars, although usually they are at a time when I can't participate live. I was quite happy that I got chance to join in today. The next one with a Lib Dem minister will be on Monday 2nd September at 7pm (when I am at work) with Mike Moore, Secretary of State for Scotland, and I'd fully recommend anyone who has an interest in the topics he plans to cover to take part. Those topics are:
- The Scottish Referendum
- Being a Lib Dem in government
- Party conference in Glasgow
... and you can register here if you're a party member, and if you meet the computer equipment criteria (sadly party top brass don't seem to have grasped that we are a party of non-conformists and some of us use, for example, Linux or other non-standard operating systems). IMHO this is one of the things that makes it worth joining the Lib Dems - our top brass are accessible to members in a way that top brass in many other parties most certainly aren't. Now if only they would do what internal party democracy tells them to... ;)
miss_s_b: (Fangirling: Vinny P)
Still not dead.

Diet going reasonably well (see sidebar) although I am having to resort to things like creme fraiche instead of cream and similar. I had strawberries and creme fraiche at work yesterday and Brendan asked me how it was; I explained that it was like having a wank because you can't go to the orgy, in that it scratches the itch but is just not the same. The pain in my abdominal region isn't gone but it is reduced, so the diet is having the desired effect.

Am coping reasonably well with doing armpits for August, although I am looking forward to the first of September and shaving again. My pit hair is very weedy and thin, but I still feel really weird with it there. It's been an interesting psychological experiment for me in how much patriarchal norms have infected even me... I was going to do a picture but I figured I'd ask if you guys want to see one first. It feels a bit weird to be putting pictures of my armpits on the Internet.

Climbed Pen-y-Ghent with Holly, my dad, Roxy and Spike today. Having done Malham earlier in the month I think we're probably going to make it a reasonably regular thing. It's good for all of us and Holly likes getting out into nature. She wants to do Ingleborough next. Doggies loved it. Spike is now asleep on my feet and Roxy is dying on the other sofa.

Oh yeah, and the nominations are now closed for the LDV awards. Any of you who have been daft enough to nominate me might like to note that I've changed my blog title after nominations have closed but before the awards because I'm evil. Anyone who can identify where the new one comes from might win a prize. those of you who follow me on twitter might have an unfair advantage in that regard...
miss_s_b: Vince Cable's happy face (Politics: Vince - happy face)
I sent off my nominations for the Lib Dem Voice Awards today. I am sad that they are no longer the Blog Of The Year awards because I used to like calling them the Botties. But other innovations are more welcome, and I am genuinely excited about getting to actually VOTE for a few of the botties this year!

If you haven't nominated yet, perhaps seeing who I have nommed might give you a few ideas. Or might make you realy angry and make you want to nominate someone else. Whatever; I'm sure Caron will be happy to recieve your missive. Procedure for nomming is here and the deadline for noms is Friday.

My noms are under the cut )

Finally, if you want a bit of cheery listening, Caron did House of Comments last week. Check it out here.
miss_s_b: (Default)
It's August, the Westminster Bubble is mostly free of Actual News, so the commentariat turns to navel-gazing. Why, they opine, WHY is poitical party membership falling off a cliff? It's particularly plaintive this year as the Tory party is rumoured to have dropped below 100,000 members - as recently as 1990 they were over a million, down from a peak of nearly 3 million. There are a lot of comment pieces about this in the mainstream media, and most of them seem to me to miss the salient point.

When one joins a poltical party, what does one get for one's money? It seems to me, not very much.

Chance to become elected

You are much more likely to become elected if you are a member of a party than if you are an independent. And yet, the number of us living in safe seats, and the number of seats available in the first place, means that most mmbers of political parties won't get the chance to become elected, and that's even if they wanted to. Lots of people would rather not be. And those who do become eleced still need the supprt structures provided by a party, so there need to be lots of members who are not (and don't want to be) elected to office.

Chance to influence party policy, and thereby the law of the land

This depends on the party. In the Lib Dems, the Greens, and the Pirates there are strong demoratic structures, and party policy is determined by members. I have been very proud to see policies that I have been involved in the formulation of become actual laws (shared parental leave, for example). In Labour and the Conservatives it sees to me that internal party democracy is weaker, although I am sure people will correct me on this if I am wrong. UKIP I have no idea.

The problem is though, that if your party DOES get into government, there's always the chance that the leadership will ignore party policy in favour of whatever the Daily Mail says. I strongly suspect this, or at least the perception of this, to be behind huge amounts of the falloff in Lib Dem membership the last couple of years.

The bottom line is that if you want to influence party policy, and thereby the government, you're much better off if you can afford to spend money directly influencing public opinion in a swing seat, because then all the parties will rush to pander to you. Beating your head against the brick wall of party machinery can sometimes achieve cracks in the wall, but mostly it achieves a sore head.

You can get information from the party about what's going on

This can be quite useful. Although the information is quite partisan, it's still going to give you more than you get from the mainstream press. The thing is you have to sign up for a lot of this even as a member of the party. I get to see this every day at work. My work colleagues are signed up to different email lists to me. We all sometimes get stuff that the others don't. People unaware of how these things work are going to miss out on a lot.

You can help select candidates for office

Well, you CAN, if you're someone who is good at getting in with the local party heirarchies. Most people who join a political party never go to a local party meetng.

You can get to meet famous politicians

See above.

It's a badge of honour

Uh, no. Normal people percieve EVERYONE who joins a political party, of whatever stripe, as weird. This is because, with less than half a milion people (I'm not counting Union affiliate members of the Labour party here, partly because many of them aren't Labour supporters, and partly because union membership is in steep decline too) being card-carrying members of any political party, we ARE weird.

It's a social club, and you can use it for networking

Again, this only really applies to people who go to the local party meetings. It's not a social club for the armchair member. For me, embedded as I am in the party, the Lib Dems are my family. But having kept in touch with various people who have left for various reasons, it's clear that those friendships, once forged, don't die just because someone is not a member of the club any more.

It's a public statement of what you believe in

So is a t-shirt, and a t-shirt is cheaper.

The list above just came from the top of my head, but it's obvious from it that although there are benefits for people who want to be activists, for the armchair member there is very little. And even for those who want to be activists, all too often you pay your subs, turn up to a local meeting, and discover that you have to spend ten years delivering leaflets "voluntarily", all the while paying your subs like a good little soldier, before anyone will listen to a word you have to say. Even those of us who have reached the rarefied position of having something of a voice regularly get told to shut up and deliver leaflets by those higher up the chain.

To me the reason membership of political parties is dwindling is blindingly obvious. For the vast majorty of members, you pay your money and you get nothing at all. The next biggest group are the group who pay their money and get roundly abused and expected to work very hard for the privelege of having paid. For a vanishingly small number, the benefits listed above become worth the money. But for most people? Why in the hell would you hand over hard-earned cash, particularly in today's economic climate, for a big pile of bugger all? You might as well go down the pub (while there's still some pubs left) and spend your money there.

If political parties want to stop the decline in membership they need to offer something that people think is worth spending money on. I don't see it happening any time soon...
miss_s_b: (Default)
(now officially Lib Dem Blog Post of the Year. Gosh)

There's always a lot of jockeying for position in any political party, but it appears to be particularly strident within the Lib Dems in the lead-up to this September's conference in Glasgow. In the blue corner, there is much talk of anti-Clegg "lefties" and "socialists" trying to scupper the 2015 manifesto by making it skew too far left for coalition to be possible with anyone other than Labour - ignoring how left-skewed our manifesto was in 2010, and yet we still managed coalition with the Tories. In the red corner the talk is of "the leadership and their lackeys" trying to scupper the 2015 manifesto too far right and the membership already deserting in droves will go into freefall and the sky is falling, the sky is falling.

The reality is almost certainly a bit of both, and I find myself in the yellow corner, increasingly lonely and bemused. I'd quite like our manifesto to be Liberal, and bugger left or right.

I fear that the background to this is that both sides are positioning from what they fear might happen, rather than what is likely to actually happen. The media and the Westminster bubble have settled on the idea that the Lib Dems will be wiped out, or certainly lose lots of MPs, in 2015. I think both sides in this particular debate have drunk that Kool Aid. Thus we get Clegg's 87% Straw Man that the membership doesn't want power and they are naive idealists and they are hampering him from taking the party forward; because if we lose lots of seats in 2015 Clegg can then turn round and say I TOLD YOU! It's your fault, you unrealistic idealists! Meanwhile the other faction are saying that if we lose lots of seats in 2015 it'll be Clegg's fault for selling out the party's principles, for buying in to Osbornomics, and for not listening to the membership.

Both factions are becoming increasingly entrenched, I have good friends on both sides, and it bothers me that both sides are acting out of fear, rather than rational thought.

The media narrative that we are doomed is flawed. Pretty much all of the commentariat base their assumptions on who will win and lose seats on uniform national swing. As Lib Dems we should surely know that this is utter bollocks. A swift glance at any list in any newspaper of seats that the Lib Dems are predicted to lose should surely show that. Yes, we might lose a few. But we're not going to lose Adrian Sanders, for example, or Greg Mullholland, or many others who appear without fail on such lists. To say we are is to ignore the realities on the ground in those individual seats.

Well, I say we're not. The reality is, of course, the more entrenched and fearful both sides become, the more self-fulfilling the prophecy becomes. If the party is too busy warring within itself to campaign properly...

Nobody knows for sure what will happen in 2015. But I'll put my prediction on the table right now: it'll be a mirror image of 2010. In 2010 everybody wanted Labour out but nobody wanted the Tories in. The electorate detested both main parties, and Clegg had painted himself as a breath of fresh air. There were huge numbers of protest votes and spoilt ballots. A lot of the protest votes were for the Lib Dems, but because they were spread pretty evenly across the nation, they didn't translate into actual seats. Nobody got an overall majority. In 2015 everybody will want Cameron out, but nobody will want Millibland in. The electorate now detest THREE main parties, and Niggle Farridge has managed to paint himself as a breath of fresh air. There will be even lower turnout, even higher numbers of protest votes, and nobody will get an overall majority. UKIP will get a big slice of the protest votes, but it will be spread evenly across the nation and won't translate into actual seats. Labour will be the biggest party, but not by much. Coalition will only be mathematically possible with Labour though, just as in 2010 it was only mathematically possible with the Tories. But the Labour party don't WANT a coalition like the Tories did, so the negotiations will fall down, or produce a coalition deal that won't pass the triple lock, and Labour will form a minority government - thus if the red corner ARE positioning for coalition with Labour, they're on a hiding to nothing because Labour don't and won't want it.

At the end of the day, though, we can't know whether I'm right or wrong on that till it happens, and therefore we can't control for it. The electorate is a fickle beast, and trying to pander to what we think they might want, whether starting from the red corner OR the blue corner, is futile and self-defeating. Instead, perhaps what we should adopt for policies is what we think is right, what we think will work to achieve the desired outcomes of a stronger economy in a fairer society (TM Lib Dem HQ) and try to persuade the public that what we are going for is right and will work?

I know, I know, I'm doing my King Canute impression again, aren't I?
miss_s_b: (Default)
So according to the Torygraph, Cleggy is looking for laydeez to ennoble, to correct some of our woeful gender balance issues in parliament. I don't necessarily support this option, given that I'd quite like to see the HoL reformed, and it'd be even better if we could get more ladies elected to the commons, but given our standing in the polls at the moment, I suspect that option isn't going to be a viable one.

That said, I can think of several who deserve to be ennobled.

Helen Duffett is the first to spring to mind. Helen is someone who most non-libdems won't have heard of, but EVERYONE within the party knows due to her hard work, dilligence, and sensitive manner, even when dealing with total arseholes. Caron Lindsay would be another good choice. Zoe O'Connell. Sarah Brown*. Susan Gasczack. Holly Matthies (if she CAN be, being an immigrant and all). Linda Jack would certainly put the wind up a bunch of people...

These ladies are not people I agree with on all matters, but they are good liberals, hard working, and have soldiered away for the party for long years often without the recognition they deserve.

Of course, if Cleggy is feeling mischievous and wants to annoy the Tebbits of this world, I myself would not object to being ennobled. But I think Satan will be skating to work before I get THAT phone call.

* this Sarah Brown, although there are a couple of other Sarah Browns in the party.
miss_s_b: (Mood: Facepalm)
Andrew Hickey on twitter has predicted the following:
[I] expect Clegg will announce 'moderate' 'centrist' (i.e. horribly illiberal) 'compromise':
"There are those who think we need to ban the internet entirely. Others want to force you to watch porn. But Liberal Democrats in the positive centre just want to tattoo the foreheads of porn-watchers with 'I am a perv': a sensible compromise that, we feel, properly reflects the mainstream, centrist, liberal consensus"
Let's see how right he is, shall we?

My prediction is that while Andrew's tattoo suggestion is probably a bit unlikely, Clegg is clueless enough about the internet to think that there might be a workable compromise, when in reality the proposed filters will not do what they say they will, will block lots of things they say they won't (examples of things currently blocked by existing porn blocks: The open rights group; the guardian; anything LGBT+, including support sites for teenagers; text based fan fiction; and this blog), and will cause huge headaches for all concerned for years to come.

There is no easy off switch for harmful content. The only way to deal with harmful content is education: teach people what is and isn't harmful and how to cope with it; teach parents how to teach their children. But of course we can't trust people to do that, can we?
miss_s_b: (Music: EPIC TIGHT PANTS!!!)
So apparently, Mick Jagger and Cleggy are mates. Like, they ate in the same restaurant and EVERYTHING. This led the lovely Petite Liberal to opine on twitter that it'd be ace if uncle Mick were a Lib Dem cos then he could come to GLEE CLUB! And you all know what that's going to lead to: a hashtag! Thus #jaggeratgleeclub was born.

Now "I can't get no... proportional representation" doesn't quite scan, but there are a couple of others that I think work
Summer's here
and the time has come
for leafletting all the streets
all we need is RISOs
sweet RISOs
there'll be RISOs everywhere...
and of course
I see a red door and I want to paint it yellow...
and I REALLY want to work on Sympathy for the Paddy
I watched with glee
While your Blairs and Browns
Fought for ten decades
For the mess they made
I shouted out,
"Who killed the Snooping Bill?"
When after all
It was you and me...
You lot have any suggestions?
miss_s_b: (Politics: Democracy)
I am utterly sick of people attempting to read in the entrails of the local election results what might happen in the general election in 2015. Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of why such efforts are fruitless bullshit:
  1. People vote differently in local and general elections. Recognising that the local council has very little power any more, people take council elections far less seriously. This means that turnout is derisory and the result is thus distorted by the people who DO turnout being either seriously committed to one party or another, or wanting to "send a message" by spoiling their ballot or voting for a party they know cannot win.

  2. Local elections were not held in every parliamentary constituency. This means that any extrapolation to a national result is "projection" - i.e. guesswork

  3. Time will pass between now and a general election. Political change tends to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary, but sometimes there IS a revolutionary change, and none of us knows what will happen in the next two years. The old adage that a week is a long time in politics still holds true in many cases.

  4. Data which applies to our electoral system is incomplete, verging on non-existent. The only polling data we have which is reliable at constituency level is from previous general elections. No polling company holds/collects data at constituency level, and most of them hold/collect data at a national level. This is USELESS for predicting the results of a general election under the first past the post electoral system, where every single constituency has its own idiosyncracies. We will never get a British Nate Silver or change the woeful quality of political analysis in the media unless this changes.

  5. The pundits in the media are crap. Relying on the proclamations of media pundits is an exercise in futility when none of them even acknowledge that they are guessing from incomplete data.
I'm sure there are other reasons that could be added to this list, but you get the idea. Basically, if anyone tells you that they can predict what will happen in May 2015 after this week's local election results, your bullshit detector should be pinging off the top of the scale.
miss_s_b: (Politics: FU)
Caron has exhorted us to praise the Divine Ms Duffett at least once a day. I know we all have busy lives, so I thought I'd make it a bit easier by providing a standardised form of words:
Our Helen, which art in Great George Street,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done in parliament,
As it is on Lib Dem Voice.
Give us this day our daily Focus leaflets.
And forgive us our failure to deliver them because it was snowing,
As we try to forgive them that vote the wrong bloody way in parliament and make us bang our heads against our desks.
And lead us not into the Greens,
But deliver us from Tories.
For thine is the party,
The power, and the glory,
For ever and ever.
Or at least until you get tired of it, in which case hopefully we'll be able to find someone half as awesome as you to pick up the baton.

Sorry it's a bit Christian-centric, but even as an atheist it's the tradition I was brought up in...

* OK, SOME orders. From people I like. Sometimes.
miss_s_b: Abby Scuto says Awesome (Feminist Heroes: Abby Scuto Awesome)
I see that circumstance has given you an opportunity to restructure. While I am sure you will feel the loss of Count Packula keenly, it would be a shame if you did not treat his departure as an opportunity for reform, particularly of what happens below the line. I'm sure you are aware of the dissatisfaction many of us feel with the way comments are run on LDV. But I'm not here just to whinge! I'm here to propose solutions.

1, The number one most important thing I would suggest is to follow the advice given in this article on the Online journalism review. If the author of an article isn't prepared to engage in the comments, there is no point offering comments on that article. I don't propose to retype Robert's article here, but I suggest you all read and digest it.

2, Please, please, PLEASE enable comment subscription. If you don't enable comment subscription the only people who are going to return to the comment threads are the combative arseholes who obsessively hit refresh to see if whoever they want to attack has replied so they can attack them. This does not foster a positive commenting experience.

3, You should read Anil Dash's article about how to foster a positive comment space, digest it and implement it. I think Anil's comment that if you allow arseholes to foster you're an arsehole yourself is possibly a bit harsh, but the advice he offers on how to stop arseholes fostering is sensible and easy to implement, and most importantly it works.

4, Don't be afraid to wield the banhammer. If a person came into your house and behaved the way (to take two random examples) jedibeeftrix or Simon Titley do, you would not put up with it. Lib Dem Voice is all our house. Don't be swayed by the free speech argument; you're not affecting someone's freedom of speech by banning them from LDV. They are quite free to go and set up their own blog and scream abuse at you from there. Freedom of speech necessarily involves the freedom to ignore and/or respond however you wish.

ETA 4a, If you wield the banhammer, do it publicly, with reasons. This way everyone knows what the rules are and how they will be applied. Vituperative trolls will see that they won't be tolerated and eventually stop bothering to comment at all. This will make life immeasurably easier on your moderators.

5, It's not about whether or not someone uses their real name or a pseud - Simon, bless him, is ample proof of that - it's about how they behave towards other people. If someone is constantly aggressive and arsehole-ish that's going to put other people off. Active moderation will need to be strong in the beginning, but people will eventually get used to it and you'll find you need very little moderation once it's bedded in. I can't remember the last time I had to delete a comment on here, but that's because I have always, consistently, had positive comment policies and been clear about them. The best thing is, because all my regulars are comfortable with what my policies and comfort zones are, on the rare occasion an arsehole does turn up, my regulars generally deal with him or her before I even notice they are here.

I expect this post to cause some controversy. I also expect it to not make a blind bit of difference. But I feel better having put it out there.


miss_s_b: (Who: Davros facepalm)
So, the Torygraph have printed an article which is going to piss off a lot of people in the Lib Dems. There are a couple of theories as to the source: one is that the parliamentary Lib Dems haven't thought through how controversial the idea is and have leaked it themselves because they are proud of it, and/or are running it up the flagpole to see who salutes. The other theory is that the tories know it will cause the Lib Dems to fight like cats in a sack and have leaked it and are right now popping corn. Dear reader, which of these theories do you think is more likely?

Poll #12653 Cock-up or Conspiracy?
Open to: All, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 17

The more likely option is that:

View Answers

The Lib Dems are stupid
2 (11.8%)

The Tories are venal and cunning
0 (0.0%)

Could be either, honestly, the only winner here is the Torygraph
12 (70.6%)

3 (17.6%)

miss_s_b: Vince Cable's happy face (Politics: Vince - happy face)
The full membership of the committee tasked with building the next Lib Dem manifesto is:

• David Laws MP, Chair
• Sharon Bowles MEP, Vice-Chair
• Duncan Brack, Vice-Chair (FPC Vice-Chair)
• Nick Clegg MP (Leader, FPC Member)
• Tim Farron MP (President, FPC Member)
• Duncan Hames MP (FPC Chair)
• Cllr Dr Julie Smith (FPC Vice-Chair)
• Dr Julian Huppert MP (FPC Vice-Chair)
• Jenny Willott MP (FPC Member)
• Baroness Sal Brinton (FPC Member)
• Jo Swinson MP
• Lord John Shipley

At first glance this lacks diversity in a couple of concerning areas. First, it's almost entirely made up of parliamentarians. Second, it's all white, very testosterone-laden, and skews somewhat to the right of the party. Third, there's a few too many of the religious types on there for my liking.

I shall be watching developments with interest. And, once more, pinning a lot of hope on Julian Huppert to bring sanity and to prevent the jerky knee tendency of some of those names...
miss_s_b: (Default)
Bullshit, say I! Look at this email I just got:
Similar to John Stuart Mill:

Stephen Tall
Stephen Tall @stephentall
Co-Editor @LibDemVoice, Research Associate @CentreForum, Development...
Followed by Darren Bridgman and 70 others.

Phil Reilly
Phil Reilly @phil_reilly
Deputy Head of Media for @libdems. Editor-in-chief @AdLibMag. Former...
Followed by Dinti Batstone and 48 others.

CentreForum @CentreForum
CentreForum is an independent, liberal think tank. Find us at...
Followed by Tom Brake MP and 27 others.

John Kampfner
John Kampfner @johnkampfner
Author, broadcaster, commentator; adviser on free expression and culture...
Followed by Ali Goldsworthy and 21 others.

Sarah Yong
Sarah Yong @srhyong
Lib Dem Somerset lass!
Followed by Tom Brake MP and 19 others.
Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but none of those are awesome Victorian MPs/philosophers, two of them are people I follow anyway, and one of them isn't even a person.

ETA: and as I've just been reminded by Nissemus, I suspect none of them have been particularly ill after drinking half a pint of shandy.
miss_s_b: Vince Cable's happy face (Politics: Vince - happy face)
My free copy of Ad Lib arrived today. It was mostly unsurprising, but there were a couple of unexpected things about it. The first surprise was the size; having had it consistently described as a magazine I was expecting something... well... magazine sized. Perhaps this is due to me having worked in a couple of newsagents', I dunno. Anyway, it's not magazine sized. It's not even American comic sized. It's just slightly bigger than my daughter's Kindle Touch. I guess this could be sold as a positive, making the thing more portable.

The second surprise was the number of loose adverts it came packaged with. Now, this is the free first copy, and I understand that needs funding somehow, but I'd be pretty annoyed if I was a subscriber and had paid to be sent four separate advertising leaflets as well as the pamphlet magazine.

The content, on the other hand, was mostly unsurprising. There were some adverts, but all Lib Dem related. The articles were mostly the sort of thing you'd find on LDV, aside from Desert Island Tessa Munt (which I suspect the beeb and/or the estate of Roy Plomley might have something to say about, copyright-wise) and, for some reason, a recipe page. When I joked about there being a recipe page discussing the mag on twitter, ribbing the editor about the stereotypical women's interest lifestyle magazine sector and its vapid and patronising content, I had no idea about there actually being a recipe page...

There was no substantive comment in Ad Lib that was news to me, but some of the feature content was vaguely interesting. Predictably, of the articles with names on, the Serious Politics was nearly all by men (apart from the webinar report, by the awesome Helen Duffett) and the Women's Issues articles (including the blasted recipe) were all by women. The gender balance overall wasn't bad, but the fact that women are trusted to talk about page 3 and the conditions in women's prisons, while the men get sent to interview the party heavyweights and talk about how to succeed in elections is a bit disappointing.

The typesetting and formatting is of the "endearingly amateurish" type we are all used to seeing in Focus leaflets, but ramped up a bit for glossy paper and full colour. The title is... Well, my views on the title are pretty well known. I don't think it's big or clever for our members' magazine to basically tell everyone we make it up as we go along, but apparently I am reading too much into it. Just like I suspect I'll be told I'm reading too much into the gender stuff...

Anyway, I suspect this is the sort of thing that would be very useful for an armchair member, or for members who aren't plugged in to the constant other sources of Lib Dem news and analysis. I further suspect that if it were added to membership subs as an option this would be a useful thing, and most people wouldn't complain. I'm definitely not saying it has no value to anybody. But it's not a thing that's aimed at me (or if it was it missed) and I won't be spending scarce money on it.

If you're less of a grumpy old bag than me, and want to spend money on it, you can go here. It's fifty quid for normal people, or thirty-five if you, like me, are daft enough to still be a party member.
miss_s_b: Vince Cable's happy face (Politics: Vince - happy face)
We had a discussion in the office Saturday morning. It was a wide-ranging and occasionally sweary discussion. It touched on Leveson, CCDP, access to justice, housing and many other areas. And at the end of it, we reached a conclusion. The conclusion was this:

The problem with Lib Dems in government* is that they don't listen to or trust the people who know what they are talking about.

For example, I am not a big economics geek, but I know enough about it to know it's important and to know who IS a big geek and which of them to trust ([personal profile] matgb is one, Richard Flowers another. Another example, on IT systems, I know a bit, but not as much as someone like Zoe O'Connell. On science, there's the magnificent Huppmeister. On digital rights, there's Dave Page. I could go on, but you get the idea.

When one is in power, the trick is NOT to try to become and expert on everything, because that isn't humanly possible. The trick is to surround yourself with people you can trust who are experts in the various fields you need to make decisions on.

Now theoretically, this should be easy in the Lib Dems. We have lots of experts, and lots of internal party committees that they can join or be elected to which would theoretically smooth their communication with the party leadership and the parliamentarians. Even better, our leader recognised before we went into coalition that going native when surrounded by civil servants might be an issue, and warned us to keep an eye on him (and the other parliamentarians) for it. And we have lots of councillors and council leaders who have experience of officers trying to control them and methods of avoiding it.

So if we have the people who can solve the problem, and a leadership which is alive to the problem, why is the problem still happening?

I think it boils down to trust. Somehow the leadership and MPs have lost trust in the people who know what they are doing within the party and started to listen to the siren call of those who have been embedded in the Westminster Bubble for decades. This is something that members of our party who are/have been in local government leadership positions predicted; those Westminster Bubble types have years of experience of persuading MPs that they need to listen to them and nobody else.

Communication between the leadership and the experts within the party has got more distant and one way, despite the best efforts of the experts, because the parliamentarians have started to believe that the civil service knows better. Emails from the leadership have become steadily more patronising and mansplainy as we get further from 2010. And this isn't going to change because I (or anyone else) has a moan about it.

To be honest, although I can see the problem, I don't have the first clue what to do about it. Any of yoou lot have any bright ideas?

* not all of them, and not all of the time, but enough of them enough of the time to make it systemic
miss_s_b: (Politics: Liberal)
If I get an email from a top table person in the Lib Dems it normally falls into one of two categories. Either
  1. It's in reply to something I have sent, or it's to an email list I have consciously signed up for, in which case I will read it; or
  2. It's from some party bigwig
If it falls into category two, it is subject to the Three Strikes And You're Out rule. This means that each sender has just three chances to persuade me their emails are worth reading. If, for any reason, an email from a sender pisses me off, they get a strike. After three strikes emails from that sender are deleted without ever being read. As you can probably guess, Cleggy used up his three strikes YEARS ago...

Anyway, for the edification of Lib Dem bigwigs everywhere, here is a (non-exhaustive) list of things that piss me off, so that you can avoid doing them and maybe get your emails read.
  • Patronising tone. This is my number one complaint. Even the erstwhile Farron can occasionally fall into this one, but some MPs seem incapable of NOT doing it.

  • Crediting me with something I haven't been involved with. I may not even care about your pet policy area. Don't say "we" when I haven't been involved.

  • Taking credit for someone else's hard work Don't say that you personally have pushed something through parliament all by yourself, when other people have been campaigning hard on it for years and you've just been appointed figurehead.

  • Trying to get me to support Tory policies which are against the letter and/or spirit of Lib Dem policy I know that you're a minister in a coalition government. I get the concept of collective cabinet responsibility. This does not mean I am going to toot my horn for whatever hare-brained Tory scheme you've sold your soul for.

  • Unsolicited begging for cash. I haven't got any. You've almost certainly got more than me, especially if you're an MP. Raid your own damn pockets.

  • Addressing me as "dear Friend", or spelling my name wrong. If you can't even be bothered to set up a mass mailing that scrapes names from the addresses, I can't be bothered reading your email.
I just got an email from one Lib Dem MP (name redacted to protect the guilty) who managed to hit three of those in just one email. That's a special talent right there, but I'm not sure it's one the party should be nurturing.
miss_s_b: (Music: Progtastic Rock Wankman)
I went down to the office
In my constituency
There was a great big pile of leaflets a-waiting there for me

The organiser told me
To go and get them out
And then come back for some posters and put them all about
Oh I got too much stuff to do
I got the Lib Dem activist blues

I spoke to the cand’date
He’s nothing like me
He’s white and grey and suited and he told me to be free
But I got too much stuff to do
I got the Lib Dem activist blues

I went round the doorsteps
I knocked on the door
The voter screamed into my face to not come back no more
Oh I got too much stuff to do
I got the Lib Dem activist blues

The voters they despise me
They call me hypocrite
They say that I’m a traitor to the values that make me tick
Oh I got too much stuff to do
I got the Lib Dem activist blues

So please, I beg you voter
Tho it goes against the grain
To please be gentle to me and be mindful of my pain
Cos I got too much stuff to do
I got the Lib Dem activist blues
I got the low-down dirty poor Lib Dem activist blues...
miss_s_b: (Default)
The full results of the elections are here. Of the people who got elected, the following got reasonably high preferences* from me:
Federal Executive committee:

Daisy Cooper
Ramesh Dewan
Caron Lindsay (my first pref)
Martin Tod
On my A-list and not elected was Joe Otten. Nobody from my "Oh God No Please Not This Person" list got elected to FE.
Federal Policy Committee:

Dinti Batstone
Prateek Buch
Lucy Care
Evan Harris
Phil Willis
On my A-list and not elected were Richard Flowers (my first pref), Carl Minns, Ewan Hoyle, Jenny Woods, Mark Thompson and David Grace. Only two of the list above were on my A-list. Five people from my "Oh God No Please Not This Person" list got elected to FPC.
Federal Conference Committee:

Gareth Epps
Susan Gaszczak
Evan Harris
Justine McGuinness
Not one person from my A-list for FCC got elected (my first pref was Zoe O'Connell, and my other two As were George Potter and David Grace). Five people from my "Oh God No Please Not This Person" list got elected to FCC.
International Relations Committee has two people elected I voted positively for, but not my first pref, and only one from my "Oh God No Please Not This Person" list; and ELDR Delegation saw my top four prefs elected (Ruth Coleman-Taylor, Jonathan Fryer, Allis Moss and the honourable lady Mark Valladares) and nobody from the "Oh God No Please Not This Person" list.
All in all, it's reasonably depressing, particularly FPC and FCC. Far too many "Oh God No Please Not This Person" type folks on both of those. The only one I feel happy about the result for is ELDR, and while all five committees are important and do important work, I'd say ELDR is fourth in terms of importance to the future of the party.

Still, I got to vote, and I got to contribute positively to the election, in terms of my Q&As that about half the candidates bothered to answer. YAY for engagement, and lets have more of it next time.

* when I say "reasonably high preferences" I mean they were in my a (these people would be great), b (these people would be pretty good) or c (these people would be acceptable) groups
miss_s_b: (feminist heroes: Liz 10)
Has taken me a good four hours this evening. I very carefully ordered every candidate in all the elections, using my own personal criteria.

I'm not going to give you the full running order, but for the big three, my top choices were
- FE: Caron Lindsay
- FPC: Richard Flowers
- FCC: Zoe O'Connell

My method, if anyone cares, was to group candidates into lettered groups, and then rank them within the group. Candidates who didn't answer my/Andy's questions were ranked n for neutral, and then within n by what I know about them. Candidates whose answers I really liked got put in group a; those I quite liked in b or c; those I thought were ok in d to f. Candidates whose answers I didn't like got put in group x, and candidates whose answers I thought were truly awful in group z. Then it was a simple matter of hitting "sort alphabetically"...

It was genuinely worth answering the questions that I and Andy put - one person I had never heard of before this election ended up getting my second preference for FPC - and I was not the only person using candidates answers to rank them, from the thanks I have received in blog comments, by twitter, and by email.
miss_s_b: (Britishness: cricket)
Mark's answers are under the cut )

You can find links to all the other candidates' answers here

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Hello! I'm Jennie (known to many as SB, due to my handle, or The Yorksher Gob because of my old blog's name). This blog is my public face; click here for a list of all the other places you can find me on t'interwebs.

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