Quaequam Blog! needs to cheer up – tell me how!

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Regular readers will have noticed that recently I’ve been even more grumpy than usual, at least as far as the Lib Dems are concerned. Even conference hasn’t had its usual endorphin-promoting effect on me. I’m aware of it myself and while I’m not in the business of handing out mea culpas, I am aware that I’m currently arguing my way out of party politics altogether.

The fact is, for the last four years, I haven’t really had a role in the party. I’ve blogged and for much of last year was on a policy working group. That’s it. I’m aware that needs to change if I’m going to retain my interest, but time is particularly precious these days.

These, as I see it, as my various options (you can vote for them on the sidebar):

  • Get involved with my local party (Hendon): I’ve steered clear of Hendon for a couple of reasons. Firstly, having flitted from place to place for the past decade, my enthusiasm towards getting involved in yet another local party and their internal politics doesn’t exactly fill me with enthusiasm (particularly since the plan is to move again in the not-so-distant future). Secondly, from a simple technical point of view, my membership was only actually recognised this summer despite the party centrally acknowledging my new address for twelve months previously. If I don’t even get told about things like AGMs, how can I take part? Nevertheless, the latter point has now been resolved and even if it is only temporary, there are distinct advantages to limiting my local activism for the local area.
  • Get involved in another local party: the advantage of getting involved in another local party is that it won’t matter if I move again. I’ve considered switching to Lewisham but when I last tried it twelve months ago, nothing appeared to happen. Downside: can I really be bothered with all that to-ing and fro-ing?
  • Make Reflecting Britain, my idea for a social networking site for promoting and developing members with more diverse backgrounds, actually work: I’m actually still keen on this idea but after a couple of false starts have come to the conclusion that it either requires technical expertise that I lack or significantly more time than I can afford. The idea behind it was simple: an online resource for people looking at developing themselves within the party (whether they want to be an MP, a councillor or a professional organiser) combined with a tool for matching potential mentors and trainers with individuals.
  • Set up some kind of ginger group / blog: this was the idea behind my decision to buy the theliberati.net domain (as opposed to quaequamblog), only some people were way ahead of me with the Apollo Project (remember that?), Liberal Review (seemingly dead) and of course Lib Dem Voice. Hands Off Our Future was a similar attempt as well but I simply couldn’t maintain the momentum. There certainly is still an opening in the market out there: LDV is a portal not a campaign site and no-one is trying to take on the libertarian right, which now look set to reform around Liberal Vision in a populist way (Reinventing the State was a nice book but it should have been the start of something).
  • Stand for a party committee: the simplest option, but the Conference Committee doesn’t interest me and I’ve come to realise there is a fundamental conflict of interest between my job and being on the Federal Executive. That leaves the Policy Committee.
  • Give up blogging: blogging is essentially a negative activity – it is predominantly about why X is wrong. And while I’ve tried doing it in a more constructive way in the past, frankly I find I end up going in circles and repeating myself. There is a real argument that blogging reinforces my grumpiness with the party by forcing me into a position which I then have to defend. It’s far easier to change your opinion about something if you don’t express it first.
  • Quit the party: it’s a serious option and one I’ve considered in the past. One of the reasons why I think that, on average, members of political parties are good people, is that they recognise you can’t have everything your own way and that in order to make things better you have to work inside the system. But my own politics are pretty iconoclastic and that sits uncomfortably within a political party. I’m not ever going to get a full, national Land Value Tax in my lifetime – am I? – no matter how hard I try to convince the Lib Dems. But then, maybe that’s just a failure of imagination on my part.
  • Get a holiday: of course, the fact that I haven’t actually had a holiday all year is probably a major factor and a lack of time off prevents me from doing anything else. So maybe I just need a break. On the other hand, maybe that won’t solve anything fundamental.

Vote in the sidebar, and add your constructive comments below.

46 thoughts on “Quaequam Blog! needs to cheer up – tell me how!

  1. Do what I’ve just done – buy a Wii with all the trimmings. Buy a spare controller or two and get some mates in. Laughing like a twat for a few days was just what I needed.

  2. You are taking all this too seriously. Just have fun with your blog, and if you WANT to get more involved with the lib dems and have the time to do so, then do it! Just don’t do it because you think you should, or think you should do something that’s a little less critical. Those are stupid reasons and life is far too short.

    Blogging is fun, both to do and to read. As you pointed out, blogs are often critical…..so what? That’s a fact of life not grounds for the occasional forced sycophantic post from now on or a grovelling apology.

    It’s also so easy to get led into thinking that your posts on this blog are terribly serious business/damaging/unhelpful/whatever they’ve been branded. The fact is that anyone who thinks like that needs a holiday, hobby or indeed life to get on with so that they have something more sensible to worry about. Ignore such people, totally.

    Keep going with the blog because I enjoy reading it, but bear in mind that whatever you do someone somewhere will have a strong opinion as to why you’re a dick. Who the fuck cares? If Nick Clegg thought that he wouldn’t have declared that the Liberal Democrats were heading for government, Cameron wouldn’t have tried that ridiculous “middle parting”, and Gordon Brown would actually rise from the Fuhrerbunker once in a blue moon. Now where’s the fun in that?

    Lighten up, life is good, and for fuck suck have a chuckle at the whiners, they will always always be there 😛 😉

  3. Would it help if a million people signed a petition telling you to stop being Mr Grumpy Face?

    I voted for the new blog project. I don’t want you to give up this blog, but I have come to see how these things could run their course and become unsatisfyingly flat and unchallenging to their owners (this was how Liberal Review died, incidentally). Of course, from a campaigning point of view, every little helps and the more strong blogging figures we have repeating their messages, the more likely it is eventually to penetrate into a wider online consciousness (and that includes LVT), thence to the meedja, thence to the world.

    But that is rather a lot to ask of anyone, particularly anyone who needs a fast turnover of intellectual challenge. There’s nothing particularly clever or satisfying about being one of the drips (as it were) perpetually falling on the same stone. We’re not being paid for it and it’s not like it’s our main vocation (I assume) to be quasi-journos for one political party in the Polly Toynbee mold. So maybe, sorry though I would be, I wouldn’t rule out giving the blog up. I’ll certainly draw a line someday not too far away.

    Seriously though, proper holidays away from everything make a hell of a difference, not so much as an end in themselves, as because they give you time to reflect on which option to pursue. I should get away somewhere with hills and big skies and good food in the UK for a weekend and don’t take your blackberry.

  4. I usually enjoy your blog and sometimes agree with you. However there is no point carrying on with it because you feel you ought to – do it for as long as you enjoy the writing and or the challenge and fee you have something to say. There are a couple of options not on your list including (a) become a councillor – obviously has the disadvantage of having to get involved in a local party and depends on where you end up living but given your interest in governance etc. I can imagine you finding it stimulating; and frustrating. Also of course a four-year commitment and if stay in inner London, incredibly draining. (b) look at being a school governor, charity trustee or similar – there are plenty of outlets for people with organisational talent and intellectual curiousity and the intensity of involvement can vary. And you don’t have to do it for ever or stop blogging or cancel your membership.

  5. Get a life and try not to take yourself so seriously – would be a good start. You are creating a false crossroads. You don’t have to do anything of the things listed, although “get a holiday” sounds like an excellent move, as you have listed it. Most people don’t need to hold a public poll to come to the conclusion that they need a holiday. If you could understand why you need to do that, it might help you. Try and enjoy other interests outside of politics.

  6. Like Jon says, how about doing something non-political for a while. It’d be like leaving the party, but not so drastic and it’s always nice to try new things

    Perhaps a new hobby, or a part time course in something.

  7. I would echo what the previous commenter suggested insofar as have you considered taking a break – long or short – from politics and getting actively involved with the voluntary sector?

    You’ve no doubt got bags of skills that charities would fall over themselves to benefit from and you’d have that lovely-warm-glow-inside-feeling that you have actually done something useful; there really are some things money can’t buy!

    All political organisations have their limitations and sometimes it can be hard to see what actually gets achieved despite vast amounts of time + effort being expended. In the voluntary sector, in my experience, there generally isn’t time for anything that doesn’t have a point.

    I wouldn’t just limit it to the trustee/governor type role though. Often the hands on/at the coalface approach is the most rewarding, even if you can only manage an hour or two a week, though not perhaps what best fits a PPC CV.

  8. Thanks for the advice. To those who suggest I should “get a life and try not to take yourself so seriously” I would humbly suggest that if I was taking myself particularly seriously I perhaps wouldn’t be running an online poll on this topic. Just a hint.

  9. Adding to what Sue added to my first comment, have you considered a gap year doing some voluntary work abroad?

    Doesn’t even have to be a whole year either. There are plenty of places and schemes who’d be glad to have someone with your skills, experenicene and values for any period of time in helping those in need the most.

  10. James: don’t give it all up, and don’t leave the party. Sounds like you need a holiday, time out, and you’ll find that it gives you perspective.
    You could always, as suggested above, become… a councillor. I’ve been doing this since 1994, and although promised my long suffering family, I would only do it for one term, I’ve sort of got hooked, and every time I feel jaded, grumpy and fed up, after one of my advice surgeries, I realise that I can make a difference, and how fortunate I am. Sounds cliched, but its true. I know it won’t suit everyone. I think the Reflecting Britain option is well worth pursuing.

  11. James I went through something similar about 8-9 years ago and with the same party. I was sorry to read this as I ahve read some things you have written (in the update on community politics for example) and enjoyed some of your stuff round the internet.

    Staying involved made me miserable as the party was not going to develop in the way I had hoped and I couldnt see any real role for myself other than as a leafleter etc.

    Stopping really does you good although the withdrawel symptoms can be a bit grim:)

    I had three years out of day to day politics then enjoyed returning to active duty as it were.

    You may find if you get out of London that life improves a great deal or at least you see another world. Just a thought.

  12. 1) Give FPC a go. It would benefit from you even if you may not benefit from it.

    2) Your considerable talents would be very much welcome here in Reading, or indeed in a number of places with demographic deficit, a high proportion of residents in need of some generational justice, etc.

    3) From speaking to you at Bournemouth, you *definitely* need a holiday of the reading/sedentary kind.

    4) Otherwise, Reflecting Britain or the Liberati hub could be good (though as a luddite, I don’t know…)

  13. I would be saddened to see you leave the Lib Dem Blogosphere, I think you’re always an interesting voice etc. Perhaps, since you do this for a day job too, you’re finding it more of a drag than most of us, which would point towards the general tide of comments that getting some other way to spend your time would help, but then as far as I know you do indeed have such things (at least, the 2000AD reviews seem to suggest that your life is not entirely politically motivated). So… I voted holiday. Sometimes you just need a break.

  14. Have you considered switching parties to one which is committed to LVT (amongst other progressive policies)? I think you know which party I mean.

    (particularly now Derek Wall has been given the heave-ho)

  15. ‘Being lectured by someone who trolls weblogs to get over myself. Hmmm…’

    It was genuinely meant. You are far too self-absorbed.

  16. While I’m here, I disagree that blogging has to be a negative activity. Unless something gets me really riled, I mainly enjoy using F&M as a desktop publishing platform, where I explain things I didn’t previously understand for the benefit of others.

    This explains why I don’t blog that much (the rest is because my life remains mildly mad). It is hard to carry on producing that sort of content daily. However, if the content I produce generates positive feedback, I feel a real sense of satisfaction.

  17. Hmmmm.

    1 – Write less here and more for the MSM.
    2 – Take up dancing.
    3 – Join a not particularly partisan group blog that is looking for a Lib Dem writer to write about something different enough to maintain your interest.

    Matt

  18. FDR – you are of course correct that it is possible to be relentlessly positive in you blog posts – I’ve even been known to write one or two positive posts myself – but you are also right to suggest that it tends to lead to a lower output.

    I have to say, I don’t have a particular problem with writing ‘negative’ blog posts per se, but I have to enjoy it. I’m not at the moment.

    Matt W: no chance of me getting more involved in a non-partisan blog (other than the ones I already contribute to). I already work long hours in a non-partisan environment – any more and I WILL end up slashing my wrists.

    Keep the suggestions coming folks – this is turning into an interesting thread!

  19. > I am aware that I’m currently arguing my way out of party politics altogether.

    As a fully paid-up member of the Very Grumpy Party, I offer the following thought . I have a fair bit of difficulty staying in a political party myself – there’s always some issue getting up my nose.

    This morning I had to bite back the urge to stick that nice Mr Clegg’s fundraising material back in the post to him with a scrawled message in green ink pointing out that if it is all about “hard-working families” then he should be asking them for money, not me.

    But the problem is that so many of us now treat politics as a form of shopping. If we can’t sign up to a customised menu of issues and responses that fits us exactly then we say “Shan’t!” and take our toys home – a major cause of low voter turnout, I think.

    That’s not to suggest that this is what you are doing. But we live in a time where the British public is in very grave danger of letting the Conservatives back into government, and America is about to elect John McCain and Sarah Palin.

    My attitude is that this is not a time when I can pick and choose.

    Membership of a liberal political party is not a luxury but a necessity. So I have to keep my grumpiness in check and, as they say over the Atlantic, suck it up. There are bigger things at stake than my nose being put out of joint.

    Also, write more about comics. And Alan Moore. Few people in Britain today talk as much sense as him.

  20. If you need a cause why not England? the letters are building up as you can see from my link, why not try to make the lib/dems mean what they say? we are liberals and democratic there fore we will ask the English how they wish to be governed. If not, just fuck off and die.

  21. Tally – I clearly should have included ‘fuck off and die’ on my list of options as the chances of me transforming into a chauvanistic, nationalist lacking in any sense of proportion is precisely nil.

    LJH – you are absolutely right about party membership. We always wring our hands about what political parties should do to reverse the decline in membership but rarely recognise that it goes hand-in-hand with consumerism. While I did list quitting the party as an option, I can’t see myself doing it and I’m fascinated by how people have linked to this post as if it is the only option I was considering.

  22. >Matt W: no chance of me getting more involved in a non-partisan blog (other than the ones I already contribute to). I already work long hours in a non-partisan environment – any more and I WILL end up slashing my wrists.

    Fair enough ! Worth a try, though.

  23. James re: Green Party: actually, I don’t dismiss this out of hand, but it is too soon to tell whether Caroline Lucas has finally made the transition into a serious political party. Suggest it again in five years.

  24. Well if you would like to be a chief (contribute to policy, stand for a party ctte) you should be willing to be an iindian (paying membership & delivering focusses). This doesn’t mean you have to take part in pointless constituency meetings so the amount of time is minimal.

  25. James, think you should stand for FPC, re energise Reflecting Britain, carry on blogging. Most important, as you might expect me to say, is re energising/launching Reflecting Britain. Perhaps you could pull together a consortium to help you and I would be up for that. I fully understand your frustration, I am feeling quite despairing at the moment, but I am not one to leave a fight, even if I think I might be losing!!!! So, hang on in there, I may not agree with you on a (few) things……..but your contribution to the party is phenomenal and would be very missed if you opted out.

    L
    🙂

  26. James, I still need to talk to you about writing something for the Liberal Alternative book. I recognize your symptoms and have been there not so long ago myself. I think it passes on its own given time and just not doing stuff because you think you are expected to, though I suspect my blood pressure starts from a higher level each time I get to one of these crunch points.

  27. I’ve got no advice because I think you already know the correct answer for yourself – I mean, how would any of us know?

    Me, I just take a perverse pleasure in having my own reasons and not needing to justify or explain myself to anyone: do, be, doobey-doobey do.

  28. * Get involved with my local party (Hendon)
    You’re local party may well have problems knowing who you are if you rely on central membership services. if you’ve not wanted to track people down to get involved it’s hardly a suprise.

    * Get involved in another local party
    Do you know where you plan to move to? If it’s Lewisham, by all means get involved there, but it’s toing and froing that you wouldn’t find me doing. Alternatively, you work in Islington, and while all local parties have their faults this is one of the best – why not try them?

    * Make Reflecting Britain actually work
    I’m not sure if this wouldn’t get lost amongst the LY, EMLD, LDMF, WLD, GBTF, DELGA mosaic. If you could get these AOs to agree to work together and for that project to be Reflecting Britain it might work, as you say the thing it needs is other people’s time and skills.

    * Set up some kind of ginger group / blog
    The Beveridge Group were rattling on about setting themselves up again at conference. While they’re not quite right as they are, they’re the nearest thing to an antidote to the Littlewood Vision, your involvement would help them to be good in all respects of the word.

    * Stand for a party committee
    If the Policy Committee is what’s left, what’s wrong with the Policy Committee? I would think that you’d be able to make a massive contribution to their work

    * Give up blogging
    Hmm, maybe you’d blog better (or feel better about it), if you blogged less. No reason to give it all up though.

    * Quit the party
    What would you do if you quit the party? I’d bet that you’d get equally frustated in piecemeal political campaigns. If you joined the Greens, frankly I’d say that your admitting that your not serious about getting quite-good policies into law, just very-good policies into manifestoes.

    * Get a holiday
    Do it. Even if you can’t afford to go away, take two weeks off work, don’t answer your email, read no news, see no politicians (aside from friends who are also on holiday and won’t bring it up), catch up with the comics, boardgames, etc. that you’ve gotten behind on. Do it now. If you’re this jaded, you’ll at least benefit from a good rest when deciding on the rest of the above.

    * The other ideas you missed
    Get a hobby that is uninvolved with politics or the political people you currently mix with.
    Take a course at the City Lit or the Working Men’s College in something creative, you’ve got the voice for singing and the wit for stand-up comedy
    Have you ever considered turning your writing energies to fiction?

  29. The holiday idea sounds very good to me – says he eyeing up his holiday tickets for next week, hurrah.

    It’d be a massive shame to lose you to party activity. If you’re wanting something that’s most likely to bring some tangible successes, I’d suggest you go for the ginger group route. Most party groupings go about trying to influence the party in a very weak manner. With your knowledge of how the party actually works, plus the audience this blog gives you, I think you could achieve a lot if you picked the targets carefully. (Let’s hope I don’t live to regret writing that!)

    On the other hand, if you want a bit of rumbustious online fun, you could always go for making the pro-European case which is frequently absent from online politics. Though don’t expect all the comments you get to be well though-out 🙂

  30. Whatever you do choose, do it for the right reasons. Whatever reason you had for coming into politics in the first place should inform the choice you make.

    You don’t want to look back in ten years and think, “bad choice”. What single difference or positive change do you most want to achieve in society and what is the best way to do it?

  31. Definitely a holiday.

    Lunch with people you respect or like or who care about/like/respect you – to talk about life, the universe, everything and your above question is always a good idea.

    Go and help the Obama campaign [as your holiday]?

    Like some others above, I’d distinguish between ‘getting involved in a local party’ and finding a ward/constituency you want to work in and getting stuck in – although (rewarding as it is) I’m not quite sure it’s what you’re after. Talking to real people on the doorstep is a real antidote to the blogosphere and the bubble.

    FPC sounds like a very good idea. A good forum to ginger up things – and you do incredibly good things for the party when you’re on central committees (says he, remembering your Iraq motion to FE).

    Ask more conversation-starting questions like this one in your blog? 🙂

  32. PS: I also like the idea of an online community, social network or discussion place. The LDV bulletin board is good – but it’s party members only and a bit straight-laced. Something a bit more inclusive with a bit more of an angle would be good. Could be RB – could be something else.

  33. James-

    As someone who has contributed a lot to the general level of debate in the party, I would be very disappointed if you decided to drop your level of involvement. However, I do think that there is a real need for a counterweight to the Liberal Vision crowd. As someone who doesn’t automatically identify with ‘wings’ of the party and very much considers myself still learning and reading, having a forceful voice from all kinds of different parts of the party only makes us all stronger (as long as the tone is mutually respectful and we vow to learn from each other).

    Therefore, why not use this blog for the more ‘negative’ stuff, and then use your efforts to reenergise the Beveridge Group in order to make a more positive impact too?

    If you want to take a holiday first, then enjoy!

    best wishes,
    Simon

  34. Wow – this thread keeps getting longer and longer. Thought I would respond to James Blanchard’s response above:

    * Get involved with my local party (Hendon)
    You’re local party may well have problems knowing who you are if you rely on central membership services. if you’ve not wanted to track people down to get involved it’s hardly a suprise.

    To be fair on membership services they processed my change of address swiftly. Why it took so long for Hendon (and London Region for that matter) to recognise the move is unclear to me but as you say if I’d been that bothered I would have chased.

    * Make Reflecting Britain actually work
    I’m not sure if this wouldn’t get lost amongst the LY, EMLD, LDMF, WLD, GBTF, DELGA mosaic. If you could get these AOs to agree to work together and for that project to be Reflecting Britain it might work, as you say the thing it needs is other people’s time and skills.

    I don’t think the project would get lost in the “mosaic” (none of them exactly have a high internet profile) and the project requires individuals to sign up not organisations (who would be a bonus nonetheless).

    * Set up some kind of ginger group / blog
    The Beveridge Group were rattling on about setting themselves up again at conference. While they’re not quite right as they are, they’re the nearest thing to an antidote to the Littlewood Vision, your involvement would help them to be good in all respects of the word.

    I’m not convinced by the Beveridge Group brand – too backwards looking and defensive. Its very name was a reaction to a now defunct rightwing group (the Peel Group – remember them?). If there is a future for social liberalism, it is time it stopped defining itself as being stuck in the 1940s. If the Beveridges were interested in changing their name, their approach and started saying something interesting about the environment and taxing wealth, then I might be attracted to them. But at the moment, being involved with them would probably just make me even more grumpy!

    * Quit the party
    What would you do if you quit the party? I’d bet that you’d get equally frustated in piecemeal political campaigns. If you joined the Greens, frankly I’d say that your admitting that your not serious about getting quite-good policies into law, just very-good policies into manifestoes.

    I didn’t say I was considering joining the Greens – I said I might consider it if they managed to transform themselves into a serious political force over the next five years. Big difference.

    * The other ideas you missed
    Get a hobby that is uninvolved with politics or the political people you currently mix with.
    Take a course at the City Lit or the Working Men’s College in something creative, you’ve got the voice for singing and the wit for stand-up comedy
    Have you ever considered turning your writing energies to fiction?

    Well, I do have a hobby that gives me a dose on non-politics once a week (boardgames). It might be nice to do something I’m actually any good at though. A course is something I should consider. Thanks.

  35. James you don’t seem the type to tolerate bullshit enough to ever be right for the Green Party. But if you do ever consider it, please give me the chance to talk you out of it.

  36. Wow, Joe Otten. The Joe Otten? The “former Green Party supporter and local election candidate” famed for his “the Greens’ hostility to business and trade, although well-intended, would condemn millions to poverty” line?? Its funny how you have nothing to say on the current financial crisis and the policies that have got us here, or do you consider that only progressive policies have the potential to condemn millions to poverty? The evidence is somewhat against you there matey.

  37. >Its funny how you have nothing to say on the current financial crisis and the policies that have got us here, or do you consider that only progressive policies have the potential to condemn millions to poverty?

    What policies do you say have got us where we are?

    What do you consider to be “progressive” policies? Green ones? Ye Gods.

    Matt

  38. Punkscience, so you saw the version of the quote including “although well-intentioned”? I do worry I am too charitable sometimes.

    But you want my views on the financial crisis? I am flattered. Watch my blog and I will put it up shortly.

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