Thursday, 25 July 2013

A New Royalist

Follow Sam on Twitter - @SamPhripp

There's a difference between a Royalist and a Monarchist. Monarchism is far more about the system than it is about the people, whereas royalism tends to focus far more on support of a particular person or family. I think it's important to mark the difference, because I am one and I'm not the other.

Now, just because I've said that, don't go off on one and think that I'm sat here wearing one of those horrible plastic Union Jack hats that people always wear at Jubillee street parties. I'm not. I'm not a flag waving subject. I do however support the Royal Family and I'm incredibly supportive of what the Royal Family is becoming.

Some woman and some bloke and their new kid.
In the briefest moments when they left hospital with their new son, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge laid a very clear marker about what kind of Royal Family they had become. Unlike the obvious awkwardness seen between Charles and Diana at almost any public event, William and Kate carried out one of the most polished, perfectly executed public events I've seen in a long time, and, speaking as a politician, they were perfectly on message.

How did it go for Kate? It was an incredibly special time, as any other mother would agree. BING.

Was William going to be changing any nappies? He already had. BING.

Were they going to be farming the child off to a nanny? Nope. They were off to stay with Kate's mum for a few weeks. BING BING BING.

The message that came forward in incredible volume was, we are a normal, modern family. Even down to the fact that William drove the family away from the hospital - the whole event was considered in such detail about the messages being sent. It was, in effect, a politicians dream.

More interestingly however, it also seemed like a real shift in power bases within the Royal Family. William and Kate now have more capital than ever for being in touch and modern. It was almost uncomfortable that Prince Charles exited just before them, because his manner and his comments gave the impression even more than he was yesterday's news. The birth and the way it was handled also suggests something else about the way that our Royal Family is changing. I got the impression that this was a good example of the younger generation teaching the firm a lesson in public affairs. Gone were the scandals of the nineties, caused in many instances by an uncomfortable relationship with the media, and here was the media savvy future.

Diana and her ill-judged chat with Martin Bashir.
Those who have argued that it was a lesson from the Diana, Princess of Wales rulebook are wrong I think. The couple were very careful to enforce a boundary, stating that they couldn't wait to get home and look after their son. This isn't a tell-all with Martin Bashir, it's an agreement of intentions. Whilst what the Daily Mail will call the 'common touch' is definately very Diana, there's a comfortable middle ground here. That's a middle ground that Diana sadly never achieved.

A quick look over the media spectacle of the royal birth says that these are people who are in control, and who know what they're doing.

That's why I support them. Not because I want to be a subject being ruled by people who achieved their position by birth, but because, the Royal Family are a net positive for our country, and I'm confident that this new generation are getting it right.

I was present for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in London last year, and it was clear to me that what had happened was a root and branch change within the Royal outfit. Before the procession, the hangers on were bused in and out of Buckingham Palace, not banished from existance, but stripped of the perks they would have receieved a decade before. Eugenie and Beatrice were trundling along in a lowly people carrier by the time the Queen left in the carriage. Similarly, who was there for the balcony appearance? Only the key people. This was a slimmed down Royal Family.

They're becoming a lot more European. Rather than being an overarching, all encompassing group, they're a far more efficient force. They've stopped being the Royal establishment and started being a Royal operation.

In that sense, I can't help but support them. On a poltical level, in my heart of hearts, I agree that everybody needs to be born equal. I aceept that. But, in William, Kate and baby George, I'm confident that we have a new generation of a Royal Family with social conscience, who care about the welfare of their country's people and who want to do their best. That's something that I find very difficult indeed to argue against. 

So, there it is. I'm a royalist, not a monarchist - a very important difference. 

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

The tories haven't changed one bit, and here's why.

When I was around 17, my Government and Politics class went to a student politics conference where various high profile politicians were speakers. Nick Clegg was there, and frankly brought the house down, George Galloway was there, doing what he does, Jack Straw was meant to be there, but was replaced at the last minute by the most boring junior minister on earth and William Hague was there talking for the Conservatives.

After each speech there was a question and answer session - I hadn't really been interested in asking too many questions until William Hague began his speech, outlining Tory plans for government including tax breaks for married couples (he was really preaching to the right audience with this one, LOL) and cutting immigration. He also made a big deal about David Cameron's leadership and how the Conservatives were ever more a viable option for young people when they went to the polling station. The question that I asked him was this -

'During the 90s, successive Conservative Governments gave my mother enough money to feed her children, but not enough to feed herself. I'll never waste my vote on you, but why should we believe you've changed?'

It was met with a big round of applause from the largely tory-sceptic audience, and William Hague, in his defence, gave an honest answer, apologising, and saying that he accepted that the Tories had gotten it wrong on single parent families.

Then this happened.

I'm just dumbstruck that there are Conservative MP's who STILL think that vilifying young people who fall pregnant is the way to deal with it. Any young person, who, as they suggest, believes that having a baby and living in council accommodation is the way to go, will have a pretty harsh surprise. Despite what the Daily Mail might say, living on benefits isn't easy, as I experienced as a child, as many experience now, with Child Poverty once again on the rise.

A young Mum here, her child would of
course benefit from it's mother being
There is a great difference between helping and supporting young people in this position and encouraging them to do it. There's a great possibility also, that their plans to move them in with parents would fall short. Far be it for me to generalise, but often it's a breakdown in relationships at home that can lead to young women searching for affection elsewhere. Forcing women to move back into that environment with their newborn is very unlikely to be a good idea. God forbid we should actually encourage people to stand on their own two feet and take responsibility.

Just when you think that the Conservatives might be turning a corner and realising that the dogma of the 90's doesn't work, they come back with a gem like this.

It might sound good in soundbites or on the pages of the Daily Express, but if the Conservatives actually want to win the votes of a wider range of people, they might start by refraining from vilifying them, rejecting them as a part of wider society and forcing them below the breadline once again.

This stuff makes me sick.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

A statement about my membership of the Liberal Democrats

Every now and again, it happens. You'll hear about it, because it's the thing that gets the headlines. First you'll hear the rumours, that they're about to go, then maybe something on Twitter, and then, shortly after, a blog post about the turmoil, and the difficulty and the stress - and the decision.

Leaving the Liberal Democrats has become such an event, I'm surprised that Elton John isn't throwing an after party and we aren't all getting giftbags.

I write about it with humour, but I need to be honest, I don't find the whole shtick funny. It makes me angry, and the reason that I'm writing about it here, is because I feel the need in some sense to cut through the BS.

So, here are my three top tips if you're planning on leaving the party.

Firstly, something needs to be said about making a departing statement. Congressmen make statements when they're resigning due to sexual misdemeanours. Tony Blair made a statement telling folks he didn't want to be Prime Minister any more. If I decided to leave the LibDems, unless I'd developed a particularly inflated view of my own importance, I probably wouldn't feel the need to make a statement. There's something that turns my stomach slightly, about these 'oh, it was such a hard decision' postings, because, if it was that difficult a decision, you wouldn't publicise it to such an extent that it becomes a direct slap in the face. There's something very strange indeed about making a personal decision based on personal beliefs and then plastering it across the internet.

Secondly, don't expect my sympathy if you join Labour. So many of our departed friends have left the Liberal Democrats to join the Labour Party, because, well, the LibDems have lost their heart, the party isn't democratic, there have been too many broken promises. Don't make me laugh.
A person who leaves the Liberal Democrats for moral reasons doesn't join the same party that took us into an illegal war, that is still being fought and the cost still being counted.
A person who leaves the Liberal Democrats because our members aren't listened to will have a great time at the next Labour Party conference, as long as they're happy to sit, smiling in the back of shot and then tell journalists what a great Prime Minister Ed Miliband will make. A person who leaves the Liberal Democrats because we've broken too many manifesto pledges will enjoy explaining to people in Labour controlled areas why their Library is closing despite promises to protect services, and why the Library in the neighbouring LibDem authority will remain open. Join Labour, if that's what you want to do, but it's best not to start off by lying to yourself.

The third thing, is that if you're leaving, don't pretend to care about the people you're leaving behind. I've read enough 'with a heavy hearts' and 'whilst it isn't easy's to last me a lifetime. If you actually, in your heart of hearts, cared about the future of the Liberal Democrats and the liberal cause, creating a public furore about your departure is a pretty odd way to show it. In so many cases, these people are trying to have their cake and eat it. It's a case of 'I'm leaving you, and doing a hatchet job, but I'm nice and I care really'. No. People who care about the Liberal Democrats are Liberal Democrats. People who care about this party, are the ones who read the posts about people leaving, then go out and deliver leaflets in the snow to help progress the cause. People who care about the Liberal Democrats stick with us, through gritted teeth, perhaps, because there will be a post-coalition party that needs good, moral, people to shape it and support it.

So, here's my statement regarding my membership of the Liberal Democrats. I'm staying. Now let's see how many column inches that one gets.

Follow Sam on Twitter - @SamPhripp

Thursday, 4 July 2013

A great day for the vested interests.

There has to be some dark irony in the fact that on the day that Americans celebrate their independence, news was released that cross-party talks to reform our system of party funding had broken down. When I call it a system, I use the term carefully, and in the same way you'd use it to describe the relationship between drug barons and drug dealers or prostitutes and pimps. I flinch after writing that, but in all reality, the cattle market of party funding is little different. 

Conservative ministers agreed to meet the nice people from Wonga, for a £1250 fee, and strangely, the government seems to be doing precious little about pay-day loan sharks. 

Members of the Labour Party voted for David Miliband to be their next leader, but, concerned about his feelings toward them, the unions backed Ed Miliband instead. With Ed happily instated as leader, the money tree went into bloom once again.

Before the 2010 General Election, my MP, David Heath, made a very passionate speech about our Conservative candidate, her campaign and donations received from Lord Ashcroft. He said, absolutely correctly, that we as Liberal Democrats had to decide whether we were happy for Lord Ashcroft to buy the votes needed for a Conservative victory. I hoped that by the time the next General Election rolled around, we might be in a position to spare ourselves the same question again. 

Today's news says that we won't. We won't start from an even footing, because the Conservatives will, quite literally be bank-rolled, Labour will be running on union cash and we will more than likely be running on whatever money we can fundraise through another LibDem raffle. 

It feels wrong - but I believe it's absolutely right. I'm proud to be a member of a party that doesn't have paymasters guiding it's hand. I'm proud to be a member of a party that won't sell it's soul to the highest bidder. I'm proud that we remain the only serious British political party to operate it's funding in a transparent and independent fashion, free from the craven fear that our wealthy backers might pull the plug if we don't stay on message. 

I'm sad that Nick's attempt to clear things up wasn't successful. However, it says more about the desperately sad, greedy nature of our politics than it does about the efforts of our leader. What today means, is that Wonga will keep on drip-feeding the Conservatives, Unite will keep (allegedly) manipulating Labour selections and the whole sorry parade will limp on.