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MAY
09
0

Where are we now?

Where are we now?
Where are we now?
 
Just a few days ago, all talk was about coalitions, the end of single party government and the need to accommodate more and diverse voices in political discourse. Many people must be feelings like idiots now, including myself, for thinking that change could happen even with such a dysfunctional voting system as First Past The Post. 
 
In any case what we have now is single party government. We have a weakened Labour Party which will take years, if not decades to recover in England and may never fully recover in Scotland. We have a Liberal Democrat Party that has been massacred for bring a junior partner in coalition. The country has spoken. It does not want coalition. It wants single party government and it is happy with division. It is a polarised country now. There will be a referendum on membership of the EU within 2 yrs and there may be a second referendum on Scottish Independence over the next 5-7 years. But has the country actually said this? What about the millions who voted Green and UKIP but see little representation? The system IS broken, but it may not be in the victors' interests to reform it. 
 
In my seat the Liberal Democrats were a close second in 2010 and are now down to fifth place, not just due to an SNP surge but also due to a unionist attempt to stem that surge. Thousands of Liberal Democrat voters including party activists and members voted for Labour to keep out the SNP. In this seat they succeeded in doing so and returning Scotland's only Labour MP, Ian Murray, to whom I convey my best wishes. 
 
There are a lot of challenges ahead for governing and non-governing parties alike, and for me the next big challenge is to find a job! I still am a dentist and it will be good to return to a practising life! Anyone out there looking for an associate? 
 
 

Tony Jacobs writes: Massive thanks to Pramod for writing this series of blogs against a backdrop of political change both in Scotland and of a backlash against the Coalition's minority partner party. All at GDPUK wish him well in finding a job and settling back down again, I will make sure he keeps us informed!

 
 
 
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MAY
05
0

Decision Time!

Decision Time!
Decision time!
 
Now we have all the manifestos. We've had all the debates. We've had more hustings than in normal years. I've had over 10 in my constituency and some candidates in other seats have had over 20. We've had independent and "independent" reports. It is now decision time. 
 
I know that I had planned to report on the various manifestos, but having seen this post manifesto drama play out over the past few days, it has become clear to me that NONE of the parties can implement their manifestos in full and that ALL manifestos are more likely Talking Points for coalition negotiations. What we are seeing are not set-in-stone manifestos, but pre-negotiation posturing. That is an observation I hold as a candidate who is not from the world of career politics. Obviously all parties have their Red Lines and things they will not compromise on, but hey, if all stay rigid on everything, there will not be a government formed unless there is a single party majority which we know will not happen! Manifestos made sense when there was single party government, but in this new world, unless parties fight elections as coalitions with a common programme, individual manifestos can be seen as starting points, no more, no less. I think any business or any individual who has ever gone into any negotiation of any kind will understand this simple reality. Whatever else any party leader says is just part of the script of electoral theatre! 
 
We can only know what levers any party can use when the final figure of votes and seats is known. Any party that sits in opposition or refuses to negotiate to form a government will have NONE of its manifesto commitments implemented. This is a message not only to Liberal Democrats, but to any voter or activist of ANY party who may be wedded to a particular manifesto commitment or any voter who pretends that some party that will not participate in government formation will magically achieve its objectives just by being there in parliament! I say this knowing fully well that we are not only electing the next government but also the next opposition, we are not only electing an individual to represent the constituency but also someone who may play a substantive role on many parliamentary committees, the work of which is as important if not more important than the work of governments and oppositions. Finally, the power of an individual voter is limited to voting for one person. It is then up to a collection of such elected persons to decide who will form the next government and the next opposition. 
 
We are entering a new phase in our democracy. Gone is the 2 party state. We are now a multi-party democracy. It may not feel that way to a reader who is in a safe seat, but where I'm standing, Edinburgh South, it has been marginal for years! This time, thanks also in part to local factors, the seat could well be a 4 way marginal with the balance tipping only if tactical voting comes into play. A state of affairs that shows how unfit our First Past The Post system is for a multi-party fight. Strangely enough, it is that very system, which was designed for a two party fight and one party rule that has brought this about! But it has brought with it the spectre of tactical voting, which means that we can never really truly assess what people want or the parties and policies they really support, and we have to go more by what they DON'T want or their lesser of the evils choice. Surely, a big failure of our democracy. In Scotland, there is the likelihood, as much as I hate the idea, of tactical voting in favour of the SNP by voters who voted YES to independence, and tactical voting in favour of the party best positioned to defeat an SNP candidate by voters who voted NO in the referendum. Can you even imagine the pain on the faces of Labour and Conservative voters facing the prospect of voting for each other's candidates? 
 
What I'm also seeing is support for coalition. I could never have imagined that there would be so many Conservative voters so keen to vote for me, a Liberal Democrat. It does help that I stand for fiscal responsibility and that I'm strong on defence, but what I see is a possibility that moderate Conservative and Liberal Democrat supporters have warmed up to each other due to the shared experience of coalition. We have travelled together a long way these past five years and though there remain fundamental and wide differences on many issues, there is recognition of the fact that the coalition has worked for the country and we have surprised ourselves and each other on our ability to work together in the national interest, setting aside differences and making the necessary difficult decisions. I'm sure that there may be Conservative candidates in other seats that have seen some reciprocity too. 
 
This spirit of co-operation and consensus is to be welcomed and I do hope that the next government, whatever its combination of voices can work in the same way. 
 
I will give you a post match analysis next weekend, but for now, I have voters to meet! 
 
 
 
Image credit - Andr√© Zehetbauer  under CC licence - not modified.
 
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5886 Hits
APR
02
0

Let the games begin!

Let the games begin!

This week marks the beginning of the election period. Parliament has been dissolved, there are no longer any sitting MPs and the most unpredictable and arguably the most interesting election begins! I have had a busy month leading up to this.

There were two Liberal Democrat conferences ( one Federal and one Scottish ). I had the pleasure of meeting with Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat health spokesperson at the federal conference and I informed him of the various concerns of the profession, especially those to do with the GDC.

 

Obviously, it was too late for anything specific from our discussions to get into a manifesto for the election, but I remain hopeful that Liberal Democrat MPs in the next parliament will be more amenable to our concerns especially to do with proposals for a new NHS contract for dentistry in England.

In addition, I also met with Jim Hume the Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson and informed him of the issues faced here in Scotland. Unsurprisingly, the GDC figured prominently in that chat too! One thing is for sure and that is " The era of single party government has come to an end ". Whatever the combination of parties in the next government and whatever their arrangement ( coalition or confidence and supply ) it surely will not be a government with the agenda of just one party.

 

 

 

There will have to be discussions about policies and no single person or single group of persons can have undue influence on any policy decision. I also spoke at the Scottish Conference where I gave the EMLD (Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats) address.

In this speech, I stressed the importance of diversity. We see it in the dental workforce and industry where there are more women and minorities than ever before, why is parliament lagging behind so badly? And diversity isn't just about ethnic minorities, it is also about the representation of women, sexual minorities, the disabled, in fact anyone who isn't a pale male!

Parliament does need people from non political backgrounds in it and we all lose when there is insufficient diversity. The most successful businesses are those that can represent the diversity of their target populations in their work forces and on their boards. Parliament should be ahead on that count! Not far behind as it is now!

 

I had a hustings on the 26th of March which I attended on behalf of the Edinburgh North Lib Dem candidate. The hustings was conducted by the left leaning Common Weal. It was a very interesting first experience and I will report on the various hustings' that I attend over the coming weeks. This week, my nomination papers will be filed and I will be working on producing a second campaign leaflet as well as an election address. Interesting times ahead! I now hope to be able to contribute to this blog weekly and then maybe daily in the last few days leading to polling day and afterwards until the formation of a new government with an analysis of what I see on the ground.

Next week, my plan is to discuss the various manifestos.

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6455 Hits
JAN
11
0

So why did I join the Liberal Democrats?

So why did I join the Liberal Democrats?
In the heady days leading up to the general election in 2010, when the political tone seemed to be very hostile towards immigration and immigrants,  the only sane voice seemed to be that of Nick Clegg's. Now for someone like me who at that time still was on a temporary work permit, that made a big difference. The UK can seem very hostile to immigrants in their early years here. Especially recently, and I lived for years in fear of that hostility. Nick's calm welcoming voice was a relief from all that I was hearing at that time.
 
I was so impressed by that first debate that I decided to donate some money to this good party, I went online and made the payment. I also ticked a box which then made me a member of the party. 
 
Now that made me research the party and then it was a no brainer. 
 
Liberalism, it really is a no brainer. It sounds right, it looks right and it is right ( well , centre or left of centre we would be more likely to say generally ) 
 
I found myself agreeing with all of the various liberal strands. Personal, Political, Economic and Social
 

Personal Liberalism:

 
Respecting personal freedoms, and protecting individuals from state and majority oppression, from the surveillance state ,from conformism. This is so important now in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo and other killings in France. The importance of freedom of expression, of the freedom to live as we may choose and without the expectation of conforming to any ' norms' defined by any single person or any group of persons, whatever their number.
 

Political Liberalism: 

 
Power is best exercised by or closest to the people affected by it. The idea of localism, the idea that brought about devolution, the idea of local and regional structures taking on more responsibility and not being dependant on Westminster and Whitehall. At the same time,the idea of internationalism and international co-operation. A recognition that we are all citizens of the planet and that there are too many artificial barriers that we tend to erect. 
 

Economic Liberalism:

 
The idea of the free market, of the freedom to make our choices of work and enterprise. The idea that monopolies, either state or private are bad. The idea that the market can and will find the solutions to our economic problems ( though needing a nudge at times to guard against excesses ). The idea that people should be free in the spirit of enterprise to make their mistakes, but that we should not let anyone sink beyond a minimum level and ensuring that the minimum is always getting better than the day before, the week before, the month before, the year before and so on. The state cannot be better than the individual in deciding what works best for them. The state should help where it can and then get out of the way! Only intervening where necessary to ensure fairness when there is obvious exploitation of the vulnerable.

 

Social Liberalism: 

 
The idea that more equal societies are also more happy societies. Now absolute equality is impossible to achieve and I would argue that there is no such thing! But we can do our best to ensure equality of opportunity as far as possible, to break down barriers where they exist or where they are artificially erected by vested interests. And while we can never ensure equality of outcome even where we remove inequalities of opportunity, we must strive to keep on getting better. This concept of always, continuous improvement, something that is the cornerstone of our dental CPD also applies to life in general and to society as a whole. 
 
 
When I considered all the above, I knew that I had joined the right party. I was a candidate for council in a Middlesbrough in 2011.  When I moved to Scotland, I was made the Scottish EMLD ( Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrat) representative and then I won an internal selection to be selected as the PPC ( for Edinburgh South ) and here I am now, to fly the flag of liberalism in this week when liberal values have been so threatened, and knowing that in early January almost 4 million people marched all over France and in the UK too expressing solidarity with their fellow citizens. Here I find myself, selected as a PPC a mere four and a half years after joining the party, a mere nine and a half years after having moved to the UK. I am definitely happy and proud of the distance that I've covered, but Oh! There's so much more to do and I've barely got started! 
 
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