Wednesday, 28 September 2011

I've been published!!

I know it's been a while since I posted anything, and this is going to seem completely self indulgent on my part but please hear me out.

I have had my first short story published by Amazon, and it is now available for download to your Kindle, IPhone, IPad, PC, Mac, Blackberry, and other android things that I don't quite understand. It's the first thing I have ever had published, so I would be really appreciative of all those people who paid the small some of 86p and read my story. Getting feedback is also important to me, so if anyone wrote a review on Amazon I would really appreciate it.

Here is the link to the short story:

It would make a young student trying to make it as a writer very happy.

Thank you all.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Radicalism: A Love Story

"And instead of saying, 'Well, excuse me, you right-wing, reactionary xenophobic, homophobic, anti-education, anti-choice, pro-gun, Leave-it-to-Beaver-trip-back-to-the-fifties!' we cowered in the corner and said, 'Please. Don't. Hurt. Me.' No more." - Bruno Gianelli, The West Wing

“By God, I’ll show them the face of a radical.” - Clifford Odets

Yeah, that's what tanking feels like. It was a horrendous night at the polls for the Liberal Democrats, including me personally. Having said that though I was a paper candidate in the West Heywood ward of Rochdale, and I wish I could find all 219 people who voted for me so then I could shake them all by the hand.

The main reason I was a paper candidate was because I was working on another campaign in Rochdale, to try and get William Hobhouse elected as the councillor for Bamford. He lost by an agonising 70 votes that left the entire campaign team crushed, so much so that William is rethinking his career in grass root politics. I have come to know William very well over the last couple of years, and I know what he will be thinking in the aftermath of the election results - what did I do wrong?

That's the thing - he did nothing wrong. It was one of the most efficient local election campaigns I have ever seen. Polling day was a massive operation that spanned the ward, with over ten people helping to get out the Lib Dem vote. His leaflets were superb, full of substance and plenty of reasons to vote for him. It was a campaign that would have Jed Bartlet watching in awe. So then why did he lose. It's simple - the coalition.

The AV campaign brought out the Conservative voters on a massive scale, and all those who were wavering saw the AV ballot, linked it to William, so voted for the party that didn't support it. Labour, who traditionally do very poorly in Bamford, got a voting boost, no doubt from the angry protest vote that would have traditionally gone to the Lib Dems which is rather ironic. I have absolutely no doubt that if we were separate from the coalition then William would have won convincingly, probably exceeding 50% of the vote.

So now it's post mortem time - what do we do now? There is one thing I know for sure - the coalition has to change. The Deputy Prime Minister said in an interview with The Independent not so long before polling day that regardless of the result on AV, the coalition would enter what he called "phase 2", where the two parties would be a lot more expressive about their opinions. God I hope so.

I am sick to death of the argument that we are the minority in the government, and therefore don't always get our own way. Since when did being in a minority mean sitting in the corner and shutting the hell up? What really bothers me isn't the fact that we are in a government where we no doubt lose most of our battles in front and behind closed doors, but that at times it feels like we aren't even trying to fight. That's why it's been so refreshing and invigorating to see Chris Huhne enter his "I'm taking no more sh**" mode and show the Tories what we are really made of. When I heard about the incident in the Cabinet meeting, I think it may be the proudest moment I have ever been a Lib Dem since the first televised leader's debate. Frankly, the people out there who are saying Huhne should shut up and are ashamed of him should honestly be ashamed of themselves. So far Chris Huhne seems to be the only one who got the memo on phase 2.

Let's say for the moment that the worst thing imaginable is going to happen - the Lib Dems become extinct. I have no doubt that it won't happen, but say for a minute it did. How do you want go out? Personally, I believe that if what we are experiencing is the first drop in a very long fall, then I think that our fall is really the only thing that matters. If we are going to spend the next four years running into walls, then we should do it at full speed, leaving lib dem bird shaped hole in it. Let's start by fight against the Tories on the NHS reform, and begin the long battle to get an elected house of Lords. Just because we're in government doesn't mean we can't remain the radical minority we used to be.

My God, we can show them the face of a radical.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Why England Lost the World Cup

“A lifetime of training for just ten seconds” – Jesse Owens

“Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I don’t like that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that” – Bill Shankly

We should have known when no one laughed at Prince William’s joke about his upcoming wedding that it was going to be a long day. Despite this, people up and down the country including a group of freezing cold fans in London watched anxiously for the announcement of the host nation for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup. It was a long drawn out process that almost seemed a deliberate attempt to see how many Englishmen’s hearts could be sent into arrhythmia at once. First there was a delay in voting, which made me crassly assume that someone’s check had bounced. Then even though voting was completed there was another half hour delay for which there seemed to be no reason, other than to make it seem like a longer process than ticking a box. By then however, the rumours had already started to circulate.

England had lost. Not just lost, but got completely pounded. Only two voters thought England was the best choice for host, and we have to assume that one of those votes came from our own delegate. Instead it was Russia who was awarded the World Cup, who as I understand is the first Eastern European nation to do so. The second it became clear the England bid was a complete failure, we knew what would be coming next – months of excuses and accusations.

Personally I think David Beckham summed the whole thing up in one perfectly simple sentence – “we didn’t get enough votes.” If only his fellow England 2018 delegates thought of it the same way. Bid Chief Executive Andy Anson insists that it is all the media’s fault, namely the BBC, because it is the reason the voters have given him. No offense to Mr Anson, but this is probably nonsense. Let’s not forget that these are the same voters who he claimed lied to him and said they would be voting for England, so why exactly should we listen now? Given that Sep Blatter entered the room of voters and reminded them of the media attention, it does seem like a pretty easily accessible excuse. Either way Anson cannot launch any kind of vendetta against the BBC, who in scheme of things did the right thing in exposing a corrupt system.

There is of course the old saying that when you point your finger at someone there’s three pointing back at you. What about how we approached the bid? Fifa seem to enjoy the buzz of going into a country that is in some way worse off than the rest of the world, for example in terms of human rights or a third world nation in terms of South Africa. They like taking football to a nation where the World Cup can create an image as an almighty peace bringing force. Russia’s campaign was based around how being host nation would benefit them, while our presentation was based around how it would benefit the rest of the world. Maybe this simply wasn’t what the voters were looking for in a host nation. Same goes for 2022, where the United States lost their bid to Qatar. It is no coincidence that they will be the first ever Middle Eastern nation to host the tournament.

We shouldn’t forget either what happened in the derby match between Aston Villa and Birmingham the previous night. The last thing the bid needed was a top news story about fans invading the pitch and causing violence. Then again, maybe I am reading too much into it. Maybe old Becks is right, we just didn’t get enough votes.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Vince shouldn’t abstain... he should vote NO!

“We will: Scrap unfair tuition fees for all students taking their first degree, including those studying part-time, saving them over £10,000 each” – Liberal Democrat Manifesto 2010

“You can’t always get what you want...” – Mick Jagger

I suppose it is a testament to how much can be done over such a short space of time. Five days, and the country and its political landscape was changed, for good or worse. Since then the Liberal Democrats have come under fire for pretty much every move the government has made. David Cameron could sneeze and Nick Clegg would get accused of being covered with disease. Nothing though quite compares to the hurricane of abuse from the media and the public over the proposed rise in tuition fees. Instead of hurricane, shit storm would probably be a more apt phrase. The only thing is though, this time we deserve it.

I know people are going to say to me that I should look at the Browne report more carefully and I have done so, and there is no doubt that in many ways it is progressive. Part timers will find life a little easier and people from poorer backgrounds could find they don’t have to pay anything at all once they graduate. The only problem is, for most people the fees are set to rise and that’s not our policy. Our policy is to abolish tuition fees. When we knocked on people’s doors during canvassing at election time, we didn’t say “we have a progressive plan for tuition fees”, we said “You know those tuition fees, consider them gone”.

I’m fully aware we are in a coalition and that we have to compromise, but that doesn’t mean we should abandon party policy just so we don’t upset our partners. If we turned the tables hypothetically for a moment – if the proposal was to abolish tuition fees and we were in this coalition, would the Tories be considering voting yes or abstaining? I think not, I think they would vote no – because that is not what their party believes in. Take AV as another example. The Tories are set to launch their NO campaign while we have our YES campaign. The Tories aren’t joining us on AV, so why should we join them on tuition fees? I really hope it’s not because we are easily convinced.

I’ll say again that there are a few upsides to these proposals, but the bottom line is that this is not what we stand for or is even close to our policy. If this was a Labour government I have no doubt they would be doing the exact same thing, which is why whenever they complain about us selling out I get closer to anger induced arrhythmia. Listening to them complain about the VAT rise makes me want to hit them in head with Alistair Darling. If this was an outright Conservative government I think things would be a hell of a lot worse – it wouldn’t have surprised me if the cap on tuition fees would have been removed altogether.

No doubt some of these proposals are good, but I agree with our MP for Withington John Leech, our Party President Tim Farron and many other MPs that the Lib Dems should stand by their campaign promise and vote NO. Vote YES and the riots will get worse, ABSTAIN and it will look like we’re running away, but vote NO and watch those student voters come back. I promise you.

“...But if you try sometimes you might find, you get what you need.”

The Hell of it All

“I don’t ask what’s the point, questions like that will kill ya.” – Denny Crane, Boston Legal

“I love life because what more is there” – Anthony Hopkins

“Upset the established order [...] everything will become chaos. You know the thing about chaos? It’s fair" – The Joker, The Dark Knight

Why are we here? A question that depending on your state of mind can cause quite a lot of damage. Even more pragmatic still – what’s the point? These questions cross many people’s minds, usually just before they enter a mid-life crisis. The problem is I’m only nineteen and I have now asked myself both of these within a matter of minutes last week.

This could mean one of three things. One: I’m somehow inferior to the rest of the human race (highly likely) and my body is only engineered to last until I’m forty. Two: It was one of those life changing moments when you start to appreciate what you have and look forward to the future. Or three: I need a check-up from the neck up. I’m pretty sure it’s number two, but three definitely comes into it.

I started asking myself these questions when I was helping print a magazine I write for called Living Memories. It is a local history magazine that sells quite well considering the size of the town I live in. I enjoy doing it don’t get me wrong, but on this occasion I had to help put all the pages, one to thirty, in order by hand until all nine hundred copies were done. It took two very long days in a tiny damp room that was even colder than being outside. At 4 o’clock that afternoon, when it was going dark outside and I’m covered in paper cuts and there is still no end in sight, those two questions I mentioned at the beginning popped into my head.

It was then I decided that things would be different. I’m well known for having an opinion that isn’t always widely shared, but I though seeing as I want to become a writer I would find a way to get my opinion out there. I am a student after all, so this will probably be my only chance to be young, opinionated and foolish. Hence how this blog has come about, along with many other promises I have made to myself. For a start I would like to get out a little more, changing my life from being in the same situation ten years from now to being unaware where I’m going to be ten minutes from now. I know that’s a slight exaggeration but you understand what I mean. I intend to make my final two years at university worth it, seeing as I will have it easier than newer students financially and because tax payer’s money is tied up in my grants and fees. Don’t get me to point out where because I really don’t know – they give me money and I don’t ask questions. I’d like my chosen career as a writer to be well on its way by next year. This blog is apparently good writing exercise so it’s all good.

So anyway, this was the moment I started to appreciate life just a little more. Nothing much to it but there you go. Now, hopefully instead of dying of old age or some debilitating disease, I will get taken out in a hail gunfire, or maybe stabbed by an angry girlfriend, or maybe I’ll jump out of a plane and my shoot won’t open. Well if someone is willing to blow me away with bullets, stab me or sabotage my parachute, then I must be doing something right.