Time to Think the Unthinkable?

We are now less than a week away from heading to the polling booths, and suddenly, we seem to have an actual contest on our hands. Over the past month, the Tories lead has collapsed. Their average polling lead has fallen from 16% in early April, to just 5.3% now, and YouGov has even gone as far to predict a possible hung parliament at this stage. Britain Elects, who use the polls of polls average, have the Tories increasing their majority to roughly 70, but this is still a long way off the 150+ majority we looked to be heading towards just a few weeks ago. The question many are asking, could Corbyn do it?

One of the main reasons for the turn in fortunes has been both parties’ campaign performances, which like the poll turn, looked highly unlikely a few weeks ago. It’s clear that May’s campaign has damaged her reputation among the public, and the Conservative’s campaign has been to put it frank, shocking. From the lack of costings in the published manifesto, to the dreaded ‘Dementia Tax’, and the refusal to turn up at the recent live television debates, May’s impregnable brand has taken a big hit. For the first time since she took office, more Britons are dissatisfied (50%) than satisfied with her performance as PM (43%), although she does still hold a sizable lead in popularity over Corbyn.

On the other hand, Corbyn’s popularity is on the rise. Last month roughly 15% thought he’d make a better PM than May, this has grown to roughly 35% now. Whether it’s a heck of a lot of media training, unity across the Labour Party, or a willingness to adapt, it has brought improvements. Corbyn and Labour have had a positive campaign so far, although they have been given a helping hand by May and the Tories. Corbyn has shown in the past that it’s within election campaigns he seems to shine brightest, and his performances in debates has shown huge advances.

Another positive for Labour has been their manifesto. As I stated previously here, Labour’s manifesto policies have received widespread support from the public. 58% support re-nationalising the railways, water companies, and other utilities, 61% support the increase in minimum wage, 52% support increasing the top rate of tax, 64% back abolishing zero-hour contracts, 53% want universal free school meals for primary school students, and 59% back better rent control. But the truth of the matter is, we’ve seen this all before. We’ve seen much of these election signs before.

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Finding My Way

Last November I moved to a new city, Southampton, for work, and moved into a new flat, living on my own for the first time. I love living in Southampton, and I absolutely love having my own place. No one to make messes, no one to be noisy, and no one to constantly annoy me. But it has brought about some whole new challenges for me to encounter.

Moving into a new city for University was extremely different. I was moving into a flat with people my age, and starting a new course with people my age, who also shared similar interests. This time the situation has changed. At work, I’m pretty much the youngest, and most people are 5, 10, 15 years older. So, socialising, already a tricky concept for me, has become more complex. Colleagues already have their own lives; marriages, kids etc, and a small percentage are in similar situations to me.

As I said, I enjoy living on my own, but the lack of company can sometimes become unsettling, lonely. Add to all that the other troubles I have to deal with in other areas of my life: the depression, the anxiety, and it’s quite common for it all to merge together into one whole mess.

I’ve always found it difficult to socialise, get out there, meet people, and my situation now has only amplified that. Living with depression and anxiety has only made all that tougher. When some days getting out of bed is the hardest thing to do, socialising isn’t high on the agenda. I’ve also never understood how people can make it look so damn easy. Everywhere I look, everywhere I turn, people seem to socialise and meet others with absolute ease, and I’ve never been able to do that.

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Incompetence, or Confidence?

Although Labour’s draft manifesto was leaked somewhat early, this week was ‘Manifesto Week’, where the main parties outlined their plans, pledges, and policies for government. The Conservatives launched theirs in Halifax on Thursday, under the banner ‘Forward, Together’, representing the steps the UK takes forward as we leave the European Union in 2019. However, you only have to flip over to page 2 to see the true meaning and message of their election campaign: ‘Theresa May’s Team’. This has been a campaign built on the idea of her against Corbyn, rather than the Tories against the Labour Party.

The Manifesto certainly matched the conservatism brand of politics, but in terms of what the Conservatives stand for, and their audience, it can be argued there’s definite change. So, what were the key pledges? Those with assets over 100k will now have to pay for care out of the value of their house, immigration will be reduced to the tens of thousands, companies will be charged to employ skilled workers from outside the EU, the pension triple-lock will be scrapped, Britain will leave the single market, grammar schools reintroduced, increased funding for education and health, and corporation tax lowered.

Once again, the date to end the budget deficit has been pushed back. In 2010, we were told a surplus by 2014. By 2014, it was 2017. And now, it’s the middle of the next decade. This isn’t the only policy or pledge rehashed or pushed back. The 2015 manifesto said, “Yes to the single market”, and the 2017 manifesto says the opposite. The 2015 manifesto wanted to ‘eliminate’ child poverty, and the 2017 edition wants to ‘reduce levels’. This wasn’t on a manifesto, rather a bus, but there’s no sign of the extra £350 million a week for the NHS; just like Boris, it’s message carrier.

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An Inconvenient Truth

Earlier this week, the Labour leadership released (leaked) their draft 2017 GE manifesto, to a mixed reception, but masses of coverage. It’s definitely the case that Corbynites can’t complain about the media attention the document received, something they have been arguing for since he became the party’s leader over 18 months ago. The manifesto pleased Corbyn backers, and was very radical in terms of the re-nationalisation of entities, and investment in infrastructure, and health. It included pledges to re-nationalise the railways, Royal Mail, and the energy grid, build 100,000 new homes a year, abolish tuition fees, increase health funding, and raise the minimum wage to £10 a year.

It’s fair to say the manifesto is packed full of good ideas, and many of them have received widespread support from the public. Polls since have found that 58% support re-nationalising the railways, water companies and other utilities, 61% support the increase in minimum wage, 52% support increasing the top rate of tax, 64% back abolishing zero-hour contracts, 53% want universal free school meals for primary school students, and 59% back better rent control.

Many of the ideas will also please, and appease the left wing of the party. There will be many Corbyn supporters whose pulses will be racing at the idea of public ownership of the railways, reversals of tax cuts, abolishment of university tuition fees, and big spending pledges. But they’ll be many in the party who see it as letting down the swing voters we need to have any chance of forming a government.

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The Self-Righteous Stain Across the Left

En Marche! Tomorrow is the day that French voters head to the polls again in the second round of the Presidential election, and it’s extremely likely that once the votes are counted, Emmanuel Macron will comfortably win. Not only would it be a great result for centrist politics, echoing that of New Labour, Trudeau, Obama; but once again a fascist right wing leader with the surname Le Pen, would be defeated.

Realistically, this should be a formality. But why are many still holding off from the celebrations? Primarily, because we’ve seen this before. Many are comparing this election to that of Trumps, as well as the EU referendum, and whilst there are similarities, this would be a far greater upset. Remain led Leave by 2-3 points on the day, and Clinton by 4-5 (she still won by 3 on popular vote); but these dwarf the gap between Macron and Le Pen, which is 20+ points.

However, there is one underlying factor across all 3 scenarios, a factor that is currently sweeping across politics. The self-righteous attitude of the hard left.

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The Art of Distraction

Distraction itself has two meanings; one being a thing that prevents someone from concentrating on something else, and the other being an extreme agitation of the mind. There’s a certain irony between these contrasting definitions, given that they can very easily go hand in hand. Depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses are ‘an extreme agitation of the mind’, and as I’ve wrote about many times before, plagues every day of people’s lives.

These past 5-6 years suffering with depression have taught me that distractions are key. That doesn’t mean to bury your head in the sand and hide away your illness, but find those hobbies, interests, and tasks that can distract you from the pain these illnesses bring. It takes time, and a lot of experimentation to find what can distract you, but it’s so worth it.

For me, my distractions have been politics, writing, cleaning, and throwing myself into various projects. In general, being productive. Not only do these elements help to distract me, but the art of being productive also makes me feel better within myself, and keeps the ill feeling at bay. It’s no coincidence that when I have less productive, what I call ‘wasted’ days, I feel worse. It’s those days that depression is worse, and I struggle to function.

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In Defence of the Away Goals Rule

It seems each year as the European competitions reach their knockout stages, louder chime the cries of those who say we should dispose of the controversial ‘away goals rule’. The rule itself is a simple one. If the two teams in a cup tie finish level on aggregate after the two legs, the team who has scored the most away goals progress. If both teams are level on ‘away goals’, they then progress into extra time, and if needed, a penalty shootout.

The rule was introduced over 50 years ago, to replace the then current method of having neutral replays, or in some competitions, a coin toss. Clearly, since then, the game has moved on. The format of extra time and penalties have since been introduced, but the away goal rule is still prioritised, and in my mind rightly so.

Yes, I’m one of what seems to be a dwindling group of fans of the rule, a rule I believe is a great addition to the game. The rationale behind the rule nowadays is to avoid extra time and penalties deciding the ties, and to encourage the visiting teams to be more aggressive. Something you’d think that everyone wants to see.

One common argument is that the game is completely different to when the rule was introduced. Of course it is, no one is denying that. But that doesn’t mean the rule doesn’t have a place in today’s game. When the rule was introduced, getting an away victory in European competition was rare. Because of the difficulties of travel and conditions, home advantage was far greater. The percentage of away victories in European competitions has doubled since then, mainly because home advantage is less prominent, but also, I believe because of the away goals rule.

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