Wednesday, 31 December 2014

2014 was the year of the young person

The voice of young people has been massively important in 2014 and as the year draws to a close it is important to reflect on the issues that have shaped this year and the role that young people have played in them.

Scottish referendum 
The Scottish referendum was a monumental issue and not only because of the decision that Scotland had to make but also because 16 year olds were permitted to vote in the referendum. Many feared that this would reduce voter turnout and that teenagers would be disinterested in the cause. However, this was not the case as many young people appeared on the news speaking passionately about their views. Discussions even took place where thousands of teenagers gathered to quiz politicians. The voter turnout was most certainly not reduced by allowing teenagers to vote and it was in fact incredibly high at 84.59%. This referendum was a great platform for young people to showcase their intelligence and interest in the political world and prove that teenagers are not lazy and disinterested.

Ferguson
After 18 year old Mike Brown was killed by officer Darren Wilson in an unjust and racist situation thousands of people took to the streets to protest the fact that Darren Wilson did not face an indictment, many of these protesters were teenagers or young people. On social media hoards of young people were quick to recognize the racist nature of this case and the derogatory way that the media was presenting black youths. On a social networking site called tumblr many posts were made about the protests in Ferguson and raised awareness about police brutality towards black people in America. Petitions were passed around and money was raised for food drives so the protesters so that they could continue with their efforts. A young black man called Rasheen Lamont Aldridge became the youngest member of Ferguson's commission and he spoke out about the injustices of Ferguson. He is one of many examples of brilliant young people who are taking a stand against social injustices.

Student Protests
Students have been fighting for their future this year as they protested the high cost of tuition fees in the UK. Young people in the UK already face high numbers of youth unemployment and are now also facing around £50,000 worth of debt after leaving education. The youth have shown their anger at the situation by protesting on the streets of London in order to try and convince politicians to reduce the fees. In Hong Kong thousands of of young protesters also took to the streets and fought for their future against the repressive Chinese regime.

Transgender rights 
The most recent case of young people taking a stand for something they believe in is the case of Leelah Alcorn. Leelah was a 17 year old transgender girl who committed suicide after her parents refused to allow her to transition and would not recognize her chosen gender. Leelah left a suicide note detailing the reasons for her death and wished that society would treat transgender people in the right way. Young people all over social media mourned her death and raised awareness for transgender issues. A blog on tumblr was set up by a young person in Leelah's memory which is giving away clothes, binders, make up and accessories to transgender women who don't have access to or can't afford these items. The amount of action that has been taken to help the transgender community is very impressive and shows the compassion and ability of young people

Here is to 2014 being the Year of the Young Person

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Thursday, 25 December 2014

Merry Xmas



Wishing everyone a very Merry Xmas.

Displaying 20141224_234311.jpg
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Thursday, 18 December 2014

The Eulogy Given At Jeremy Thorpe's Funeral

I attended Jeremy Thorpe's funeral yesterday and was moved by the eulogy given by Steven Atack, a longstanding good friend to Mr Thorpe. Mr Atack has kindly given me permission to publish it. 


Jeremy Thorpe Eulogy – by Steven Atack

I have been asked by Jeremy’s son Rupert, Jeremy’s son to say a few words about the man I have known for forty years first as a political colleague and then as a dear and cherished friend.

My journey on the Thorpe Express, for that is what life with Jeremy was like, began when I was elected National Chairman of his rebellious Young Liberal Movement – as you can see that was some considerable time ago!

Ushered into his office by his loyal Secretary, Judy Young, Jeremy stood up, shook my hand warmly and told me to sit on the day couch he used for his naps. He swivelled round, pen and pad in hand, looked over the spectacles and said “Now Steve, when did your problems first begin??”

And so, charged with his wit and Evangelical zeal for the Liberal cause, away we sped.

For myself, and so many others, Jeremy was a champagne politician, putting the fizz back into the dull grey political era of Harold Wilson and the even greyer period of Ted Heath whom Jeremy once described as “being akin to a large plum pudding around which no one knew how to light the brandy”!  These pearls of wit were a cardinal element of Jeremy's unique style.

Indeed his leadership began with a distinctly champagne theme when the Returning Officer could not find anything to put the ballot papers in for the election for the Liberal Leadership.  A champagne bucket was quickly summoned for the purpose and Jeremy was duly elected.

Jeremy’s campaigning skills were unparalleled and I believe, remain unrivalled. Whether he was leaping with Olympian style over a street barrier or taking over the village post office in North Devon for a week, because the Postmaster hadn’t had a holiday in years, Jeremy knew how to hit the spot.

And the capacity of his memory was Herculean.  I remember once when he was campaigning he met a lady he didn’t know very well, together with her young daughter.  Out it tumbled: “She did very well in Geography, didn’t she Mrs Dawes”.  Jeremy had not only now remembered who the lady was, but had earlier been studying the A level results of children in Barnstaple in the local newspaper and remembered those as well!

In a party down to but six Members of Parliament Jeremy’s optimism was contagious.  One of his first slogans, a pun on the phrase “Where there’s life there’s hope”, he turned into “Where there’s life there’s Thorpe”. And life indeed there was – in spades.

Throughout his political carrier Jeremy worked tirelessly to combat poverty and inequality at home and overseas.  His opposition to discrimination in all it's forms - racial, religious or of sexual minorities, was relentless and he was never fearful of tackling controversial issues head on.

But beyond his passionate commitment to Liberal politics, Jeremy had a happy and deeply loving family life – first in his idyllic marriage with Rupert’s dear mother Caroline, cut short so tragically by her death in a road accident.

Jeremy always remembered Caroline, dedicating a monument to her in his beloved North Devon which he often visited and also a lasting and living memorial in the shape of the Caroline Thorpe Children's Ward in the North Devon Hospital.

And then his second wonderful marriage which was to last over forty years with his wife Marion.  

Jeremy and Marion shared a profound loyalty to one another which endured in the face of all adversity and “in sickness and in health”, as Jeremy valiantly faced down the torment of Parkinson’s Disease for over thirty years.

With Marion, Jeremy also shared his great love of music, continuing that passion from his marriage with Caroline. 

Both were highly gifted musicians; Marion being a world-renowned concert pianist and he a talented violinist.  They counted Benjamin Britten, Yehudi Menuhin and Peter Pears as dear friends.  Indeed Yehudi Menuhin played the violin here in this church at Caroline’s funeral over forty years ago, when a piece especially composed by Ben Britten was also aired.

I think though even Jeremy drew the line when handed a guitar to play by the late Jimmi Hendrix – a close run thing though!

Jeremy was a devoted father to Rupert, whom he adored.  He took particular pride in Rupert’s talent as an internationally respected photographer, in his grandson, Quinn and Rupert’s wife Michelle.. 

He was also a central part of Marion’s family life with her children, David, James and Jeremy and their own children.

Jeremy Thorpe’s life had a richness beyond the difficult days we all know he had to face, and it was with his family that it’s richness was at its zenith, some of the happiest of times being spent with them at his beloved cottage in North Devon.

That family life was profoundly important to him and remained so until his final days, cared for by Rupert, his family and close friends - and a wonderful team of compassionate carers, Naz, Eleanor and Sajil, who are with us today.

In my later visits to an ailing Jeremy he developed a form of communication using hand signals, as his voice was barely audible; the voice, which had held audiences across the Realm in rapture and enthrallment, now almost silent.

I read political pieces to him and one of the last was this, a definition of the Liberalism he held to all his days and I shared in my youth. It is taken from the Annual Report of the Dewsbury Liberal Association in 1923 as they awaited the election of that year.   The words could have been from Jeremy himself…..

“We cannot afford to be idle.

An election may come at any time. Liberalism is not dead. It has a message for today. It believes in Democracy. It believes in a Government of aristocracy, not of birth, of wealth, or of landed or other possessions, but an Aristocracy of intelligence, of energy, of character.

Liberalism is not a compromise between two extremes of opinion. It is a solution of its own for the ills of humanity.  It is not a half way house between Conservatism and Socialism. 

It is not a house at all.  It is a broad road of travel along which may walk honest pilgrims through the confusion of life, not without glimpses, at the end, of the walls and towers of the Celestial City”

I asked him if this was what it was all about and as Jeremy’s eyes moistened, up went the two thumbs, so reminiscent of one of his favourite campaigning postures.

Well my dear Jeremy, it is my hope and my prayer that now, at the end of your journey down your Liberal road, you can see, from a splendid view, those walls and towers of the Celestial City.


May you Rest in Peace old friend and Rise in Glory. Amen.
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Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Do you agree with Danny Alexander?

Extract taken below from an interview by Robert Peston, BBC Economics Editor, with Danny Alexander on the eve of the Autumn Statement announcement. I have chosen this particular bit because I truly don't know how the Lib Dems will win votes on the back of a low wage recovery come the election. It confuses me that a low wage recovery still equals growth? Somehow I think that people on zero hour contracts and who are scraping a living will take little heart from the comparisons that politicians make at macro level about growth comparisons. When you cannot afford to heat your home or pay your bills and you are still working long hours you cannot rely on false statements about the economy growing when what you experience is far from prosperity.  

DA: Well, what we have seen in our economy this year is strong economic growth but we haven't seen tax receipts - particularly income tax receipts - grow as strongly as was forecast. We are seeing a lot more people entering the labour market, a lot of young people entering the labour market, who inevitably start on lower wages… That means income tax receipts are weaker.
RP: But isn't it an indictment of your economic policy that this is such a low-wage recovery?
DA: Hold on a second, our policy has led Britain, which was one of countries hardest hit by the financial crisis, to have the strongest recovery in the European Union, the best recovery in the G7, the best job creation in Europe, more jobs created in the United Kingdom than in the whole of the rest of the European Union combined. So yes, of course we need to see wages improve over the years to come, it is very very important to make sure the benefits of this recovery are shared. But I'd much rather be in the position of the United Kingdom than in the position of the many other European countries right now.
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