17 April 2015

Dear Westminster (part three)

The final two stamps are there for MAC. This isn't a reference to the makeup brand, although I wouldn't put it past the political wives to go all-out for the Femail journalists.

Miliband and Cameron. The big two. The MC cheeses. One of these men will be leading our Great Britain come May 7th, or 8th, or 9th… it could depend how quickly Dave does a Gordon, waltzing out of Downing Street, with no elected government.

These letters draw in part from the ITV debate, but also look at the campaign kick-offs and manifesto launches. With 21 days to go, it's still all to play for.

Dear Ed Miliband

Firstly, I want to apologise. I never thought these words would come out of my mouth, but I do. In the past, I have judged you. I bought into the character onslaught by the media. I've called you Wallace. I've called you many things. Milipede, Mili-banned, Milibean - I think I might even have photoshopped your face onto Mr Bean... I wanted your brother as leader. In short, I've not been a fan of Ed. In my defence, you didn't always help the situation. 

source: the independent.co.uk
Declaring war against Murdoch, only to pose with his main paper… you should talk to Elton John, walking round with a Dolce and Gabbana bag the day after calling for a boycott of the brand. As for the second photo, the phrase is "lend a hand", not "give a finger". This is how I responded… 

To your credit, you nailed the expression of disbelief last night. It wasn't the only thing you delivered either. As I stated in the first post of my Dear Westminster series, I've tried to approach this election with an open mind. Just as I always say I am a girl with diabetes not a diabetic, I do not want to define myself as a Tory Voter or Labour Voter. Things are never so set in stone. This open outlook has allowed me to be less straitjacketed by a certain view. 

You are a case in point of this. You have grown into the role. Your oratory skills are  stronger, and last night you certainly appeared more statesmanlike than I have ever seen you.  Without Dave there to be Mr PM, you stepped into the role more convincingly than I would ever have anticipated. Your final call to Cameron was a little like one of those "let's take this outside" moments; this isn't a wrestling match, as much as you may have felt alone in the centre ring, with the three woman coming from the left. I think Nick would join you there though - on another debate, he agrees with you, Ed! 

source: independent.co.uk
Nonetheless, the polls today would suggest I am not alone in recognising your merits last night. You even came out above Sturgeon who, love her or hate her, is an orator to be reckoned with. On the other hand, as the member of a main party you do have the advantage of voter support. Last night was still a repeat of the "Nicola Show". Moreover, if PDAs = power plays, the picture below would suggest it isn't looking so good...

source: bbc.co.uk
Despite your bold protests against the SNP, Sturgeon will likely be sat at any hung-parliament negotiation table. I admired just how strongly you did speak out against the SNP, but the true test will come on May 8th. You will need to join that embrace, or risk the weakness of a minority government. 

Across these three debates, you have come across as more passionate then Cameron. You have also stood robust against the - at times - quite damning personal attacks. The Paxman onslaught actually worked in your favour. While Kay Burley positively fawned over Cameron, you were pressed far harder and held your own. You didn't fluster, and what emerged was a determination far stronger than the current PM. 

On policy, you've stood your ground in recent years; you wouldn't let the press go unanswered, and stood up to the energy companies. On Syria, you didn't simply go with the majority view. For someone who still harbours a deep-seated anger towards the last Labour government, I actually feel you have redeemed your party somewhat. I do believe you genuinely have good intentions for this country. Perhaps I am too optimistic, overlooking harsh reality that "all parties are the same". Or I could view it as open-minded.  

Credit to you for doing this 3rd debate tonight. You are pretty much entering a ring where, bar Farage, you are standing alone in the right corner - Nicola and Natalie make Labour look rather austere. I wouldn't be surprised if your crib-notes change from "happy warrior" to "happy Bolshevik". 

source: filmfan.co.uk
I actually felt resentful towards the media for mocking you, when the debate notes were released. Maybe the fact that "Happy Warrior" comes from a Wordsworth poem, makes me more sympathetic to your cause… on the other hand, I think it was the simple innocence of the situation. What's wrong with positive affirmations? I have them pinned around my bedroom! Go be a happy warrior Ed. Even if it does conjure an image somewhat like the one on the right… 

I do, however, have a few bugbears that can't be overlooked:

- The Language Rhetoric: "I get it, I get it, I get it" "If I am Prime Minister" "If I am Prime Minister"… .They don't quite have the ring of Churchill's "we will fight them on the beaches", if that is what you were going for. There's emphatic repetition, and then there's a broken record. If I were you, I would invest in an iPod, although I understand that might compromise your "man of the people" image.

- The Policy Rhetoric - again, repetition is good. Textbook for speech-writing. On the other hand, sometimes a song can be overplayed - this only works for a select few, Disney being one of them. One week it was tuition fees, the next it was zero hours contracts… what will you be saying come Monday? One thing is certain, it will be hard for us to miss. 

- The Hand: You have this speaking habit where your hand basically looks like you are permanently giving someone a lecture. Prodding and jabbing doesn't send the best message.

source: bbc.co.uk
That being said, if the Channel 4 Docudrama Coalition is anything to go by, this body language issue in the Labour camp isn't exclusive to you… 

Ed Balls, as portrayed by Nicholas Burns in Coalition, and Ed Balls… You can decide who is who.
source: (left and right) channel 4, (middle) bbc.co.uk
However, I understand you can't do a Balls and bring doughnuts as a peace offering. I hear your advisors have banned you from eating in public.  

source: (left) channel 4, (right) independent.co.uk

Due to human decency, I didn't feel the need to reprint the bacon sarnie photograph. I have less sympathy when it comes to 'That Balls man' (a quote by my old history teacher, not me!). Oh, that reminds me of another word of advice: Get rid of Balls. Please. 

Presentation is something Nick and Nicola have down to a tee. So imagine my delight when I saw you adopt there "open arms" approach when delivering your manifesto. Last night the hands were a bit less lecturing too - taking subtle pointers from the Queen Beyond the Wall, won't do you any harm.

source: bbc.co.uk

To conclude, I don't think you're useless. In fact, I have more respect for you each time I see you. Many people rank you well below your party, but I would actually place you slightly above. Get rid of Balls, Harman, and all the other sons of Blair… perhaps I could be swung by Labour. 

All the best for May 7th; I'm sure you will be relieved when it's all wrapped up. The election campaign, that is, not an actual wrap. Don't worry - I'm confident your PR people will keep any deli items well under wraps until the big day. 

Ps: Please do give Nick a call - if you're Wallace, the twittersphere are tearing him to pieces like a little lost Gromit puppy. 


I was intending to write to our Prime Minister too, but as he's gone AWOL I couldn't find his address. So I must join the masses asking "where is David Cameron?" Please do keep me updated. 


9 April 2015

Dear Westminster (part two)

Reflecting a week on from the seven-way debate, here are my letters to the phile and phobe of Europe - Nigel and Nick. As stated in part one of this series, all views are my own.

Dear Nigel Farage

You are a first-class racist, sexist, xenophobic imbecile.

So ends the obliging statement of a green-loving Exeter student. Now onto Sophie's response. I don't think you are an imbecile, contrary to popular opinion, and I don't really see the purpose in splurging out yet another Nigel-bash - students alone give us enough of those. I don't worship you - my satire, at your expense, is enough to prove that. 

My Photoshop skills are almost as strong as UKIP's love for Europe…

Yet your "get real"quote was true. You are prepared to go where other politicians won't, which is refreshing. I do agree with you on many stances. We have maxed out our credit cards! We are giving aid to countries that are prospering more economically, than us (India), when our health service is nearly falling apart. There are merits to leaving the EU, and at the very least we need re-nogotiation. 

On the other hand, you are a bit of a one-trick pony Nigel. When the topic eventually came onto immigration, I was momentarily confused - hadn't that issue already been covered? Not specifically; rather, it was your calling card for every Tom, Dick and Johnny - you guys sure all loved Johnny. Budget savings? Cut foreign aid! NHS funding? Cut foreign aid! The hedge-jump is only impressive so many times, Nigel.  

You brought the room's elephant for the night. Next to your cantering antics, it made for quite a full ark... perhaps we should close the door? This trunk-raising subject was, of course, HIV. That was certainly a bid to secure the front page - the hooves were out on this one. Sadly, you didn't quite anticipate the rise of the Queen of Scots. You tried though. You certainly tried. Where am I on this? Well, I don't think it did much to revamp the "racist" persona the left have so delicately bestowed upon you. Yet if you siphon through the rhetoric, there is some argument for your statement. Mother of Dragons Leanne responded that it places a "stigma on people who are ill", but I disagree with this. You were not universally condemning people with HIV. What you were saying is, ultimately, true.

The NHS demand is severely outstripping demand. People who have paid into the system for decades might not have access to the treatment they need. People in Wales don't have access to insulin pumps. Mental health services are in dire straits nationally. In YouGov poll, 50% of 2000 adults answered yes to the question "would you support or oppose people coming to live in the UK being banned from receiving treatment on the NHS, for a period of five years?" Getting out what you pay in. I do think five years is potentially too long a period; however, I also agree that receiving treatment, having paid nothing into the system, is wrong, when others have done so for decades and face barriers to medication. This is the National Health Service, not the International Health Service. The NHS Nightingale Song can only reach so far - given the dire straits it is in, Florence would certainly be stretching it. 

Your views on immigration are blinkered. You don't acknowledge the true benefits brought to us by international cooperation. I realise I sound a bit like Hermione Granger here, but can't we take a lesson from JK that we are stronger united than we are apart? You and Nicola could both learn something from this. Nonetheless, our country is under-resourced and immigration is an issue worth discussing. It needs to be discussed.

Haters gonna hate. I'm sure you can shake them swiftly off - the haters, that is, not the immigrants, although on that front you will certainly try.  

Dear Nick Clegg 

Oh Nick. Why have you been forgotten? Five years ago, they all agreed with Nick. Now? They all agree with Nicola. Goodness knows why. I, for one, still agree with you Nick. Not on everything. Your love of the Brussels' Sprout is somewhat questionable - I always give them a miss on Christmas day. Then again, I give the great British pies a miss too, which pretty much sums up my views on politics. My head is in continual conflict, and my tweet at the end of the debate would certainly reflect this…

Nonetheless, I feel you have been done a disservice by the media. People do need to get over tuition-gate. You did what had to be done. You are the case in point for how minority parties can promise the world, because they won't be held accountable. It did therefore irk me a bit that Nicola was given a gold tiara, and along with Natalie hailed social pariah… it's very easy to call for anti-austerity when you're not the one faced with the desk memo "there's no money left"! 

You were used by the tories as a scapegoat, and Miriam's defence that you put "country over party" continually rings true. You did. I hope you win your seat. You were the only leader on that panel to raise the subject of mental health, and you have advocated for that. 

You strike the balance - the true middle ground - and I do believe the liberal presence in government has been a sound one. It has humanised grass-root Tory thinking. You were not perfect; you did go back on your word. But you have implemented many good policies, not least of all raising the tax threshold minimum from £6000 to £10000. Three years ago, I hated you. Sitting here now, I respect you. When I watched that debate last week, the opening speech that convinced me was yours. You are a great orator - you connect to your audience, you know your audience. But the media have rubbed you out of print, relegating the Lib Dems to a paragraph in a history book. I think you deserve more than that.

The Channel 4 Drama, Coalition, did offer a long overdue redemption of your character. Yes, the honourable - almost heroic - portrait was somewhat idealistic. You are still a politician! But it is in the face of such media vilification, for five years now. You were the Tory scapegoat.  

For what it's worth, on Thursday I largely agreed with you Nick, except on Europe. Fancy ringing Nigel on the 8th? 


My last letters to Westminster will be posted to Messrs Call-me-Dave and "I get it" Eddie. The big cheeses, currently saying cheese across the country for the cameras. For now, the Ns have it.  

3 April 2015

Dear Westminster (part one)

Seven dwarves, seven kingdoms, seven Harry Potter books - seven happens to be my lucky number, too. The debate thus had a certain serendipity to it. Perhaps that's the real reason poor Northern Ireland wasn't given a golden ticket. I can't really thing of a more logical one. 

I, for one, was excited for the debate last night. This was a solitary view in my household. My sister wants to scream at them all, a stance my dad shares. Mum is similarly disillusioned and Millie… well just as long as the Greens don't get in and raise the price of poultry, she's happy as Larry. Then there is me, trying to maintain the level of optimism a first-time voter should. This open-minded approach has seen me, at various points, reason with Cameron, Clegg, Miliband and Farage. Yes, I went there… Farage Miliband.

Photo credit: ITV

This will be an opportune moment to state, from the outset, that my views are my own and do not reflect the impartial stance of Exeposé - as Features Editor I will always remain neutral. Nonetheless, my personal views stand on a rebelliously un-green Exeter hill. 

I watched, I listened, I responded - though Not quite in the way I expected. There were surprises and agreements. There were also disappointments and contentions. I debated with presenting my response as satire, but then another idea came to me. 

I might not have the credentials to grant me a real audience with the sacred seven - I'm no Joey Essex - but I can write. Without further ado, here is my open letter to Westminster.

*The impending Game of Thrones references stem from a brilliant Independent article

Dear Natalie Bennett

I am writing my first letter to you as, to be completely truthful, I was worried I might forget otherwise. You spoke at Exeter, and came across as quite the 'it' girl. Then again, your forum was one where there are more trees than people, so perhaps the accolades were not surprising. 

Here, however, you became quite lost. I had high hopes you would be the leading voice for minority parties, but the female with a capital N last night wasn't Green. 

Quantitative (tr)easing
The issue I have, Natalie, which I elaborated on in my Exeposé piece The Green Light Sees Red, is quite simple. The Greens are a case in point for untested idealism. The beauty of being without a bench to hold your views accountable. 

In a perfect world, spending would rise, public services would be efficient and jobs would be created. Food banks wouldn't exist, because they wouldn't be needed. Isn't this what we all want? Isn't this what Labour and Lib Dems, the more socialist parties, would also want? Yes. So why don't they hold the same views as you? They cannot follow through. 

The truth is Natalie, as wonderful as trees are, they do not grow money. Maybe you've spent too much time on The Sims, as preparation. A world where cheat codes exist and walls can be removed with a swipe of a mouse.  A utopia. Your call for a "stable world", coming together and promoting a fairer society, is that. A utopian dream. It is commendable, as I acknowledged in my Exeposé article, but it remains an ideal. 

With these views, however, you should be able to garner support. As it is, your left hand was outplayed, and this has shown in the post-debate polls. No doubt you will be somewhat green with envy today.

Ps: This envy is likely not just towards Sturgeon. Leanne the-home-of-trees performed pretty well too. 

Dear Leanne Wood

Dear Leanne. My adopted daughter is from the valleys too, so you would have her vote. Sadly she lacks the opposable thumbs by which to do so. To some extent, though, you got mine too. Yes, you were the complete underdog. Yes, some people derided your presence there. However, I think the post-debate articles have overlooked you slightly, quite in the same way people of Westeros dismissed the other Mother of Dragons. I wouldn't go as far as to hail you the next Denearys, but you did present yourself as a compassionate and protective voice for Wales.  

Squint and this could be Wales

You want to break the chains on the NHS, and I agree with your argument. Wales has had a hard deal, in comparison to the Kingdom beyond (Hadrian's) wall. A couple of years ago the waiting list for Insulin Pump therapy for Welsh Children made headline news, while the Mental Health services are possibly in more dire straits than England. I know of people, through blogging, whose only choice for treatment would require relocation to England. It is not right and you, Leanne, stood your ground. 

You came into the debate with no expectation, and exceeded them. In my eyes you outshone Natalie (right down to your surname) and possibly Ed, too. You came there to speak for Wales, and you did that. I hope Plaid Cymru does get some seats, especially given the prospective rise in SNP MPs. You were not pushing for independence, but fairness. Challenging Ed - "do you accept you have failed the people in Wales?" - was the cherry on top. Thank-you. 

Ps: Quentin Letts is a fascist bully, ignore him. Sing from the Valleys as much as you want to. 

Dear Nicola Sturgeon 

Credit to you, it was a winning performance. Probably because it wasn't a performance. In terms of conviction in your views, I would say you were second only to Nigel.  If I were Scottish, I would likely vote for you. After all, that is what you were there to do. Leanne may be the mother of Dragons, but you are Queen of the North. You did what you set out to do, and with impeccable style. 

I'm not sure how true this is. If anything, the SNP could be Labour's barrier to Downing Street.

You were one of the strongest orators, you held your ground against the old-boys of Westminster, and you had a nice rapport with Leanne. You outshone Natalie, you objected to Nigel. You held the left and reduced Miliband to a bean. I agree with you on some points. Trident, for one. NHS you have the right idea. Tuition fees… well I do take issue with free fees in scotland, solely for Scottish students. What is United there? 

On balance though, Nicola, you nailed it. The polls love you; YouGov put you top with 28%… and that is what worries me. People are so enamoured by you - "I agree with Nic… ola" (poor Cleggers) - that they seem to be forgetting the SNP's primary mandate. Independence. You don't just want devolution, you want independence.  

Nigel may want to leave Europe. You want to leave English. So before the politics of the person completely enchants English voters, remember the politics of the party. SNP. Independence. On the other hand, if more SNP seats stops a Labour majority, then perhaps I too will agree with you Nicola. 

Ps: I don't know if you saw Question Time last night, but I wouldn't be inviting Michael Gove round for tea anytime soon. 


One concluding note - these letters are addressed to Party Leaders. Not three women, three Party Leaders. This debate was not about the triumph of one gender or another, as many of the national papers are making out. It was never the battle of the sexes, only the standpoints of the seven people standing on stage. 

The remaining letters will be posted tomorrow; I reasoned these ones had further to travel. Yet while I am sure the mailman can find Wales and Scotland, the location of Idealand might be more obtuse. Let us just hope he has some sensitivity, and doesn't burn too many carbon emissions trying to find it. 
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