Carnival of Feminists

The latest Carnival of Feminists is up at The Mind of Genevieve, including my post on what should be included in 'men's' issues but isn't. from last week.

She includes a blog from Alas, a blog (yes, again, the fantasitc alas, a blog) looking into some Wrangler adverts that seem to make a woman's dead body chic. It is just unbelievable....

Put your entry on Who's Who in the Lib Dems!! (please)

Thanks to the hard work of Chris Phillips and Bob I can now announce that of Who’s Who in the Lib Dems Online is ready for you all to add your entries.

Putting your entry on Who’s Who in the Lib Dems is entirely free and the only requirement we have is that you are a member of the Liberal Democrats. If you’re not you would like to join you can do so here.

For those of you who are already Lib Dem members then please go ahead and place an entry here.

No, doubt a number of you will have already had an entry in the 2006 print version; if you did and you don’t want to start from scratch then email me here and if I haven’t done so already, as I am about to start sending them out to all those who have been registering an interest, I will send you out a copy of your old entry. Unfortunately, I cannot update your old entry for you; you have to register with your postcode, email and membership number and I won’t know those. However, this does mean that you can update it, when things change, as soon as they change. Plus I have to actually earn a living at some point.

We will be launching the subscription service at the September Conference so the sooner you add your entry on Who’s Who in the Lib Dems Online, the more often people will read about you then. And anyway, there’s plenty of opportunity for you to tell people about your blog there!

Do not worry if you are not going to conference, you can still subscribe and we will let you know when you can.

One of the reasons I wanted to put Who’s Who in the Liberal Democrats Online rather than just print it in hard copy once again is that I though a searchable Who’s Who would be an invaluable resource for all of us, whether campaigning, creating policy or looking for experts in a particular subject. The more people sign up and add entries the more valuable it becomes. Who’s Who in the Lib Dems is not just for Parliamentarians and the great and the good, they are already covered in the Lib Dems website (and even better on the new Lib Dem website that will be coming soon and I’ve had a sneak preview of). No, Who’s Who in the Lib Dems is also for the rest of us, who whilst happy to do our bit and deliver focuses, would like the rest of the party to know that we can do more than that and our experience , skills and knowledge outside the party may be of use, if only somebody would listen! Well, here at Who’s Who in the Lib Dems online, we’re listening. So please, add an entry, whether you’re a parliamentarian, a member of staff, a councillor, a party office, a blogger, an activist or a member who wants to stand up and be counted.

And if you’re sitting there, reading this you can be sure that you are just the sort of person that people will want to read about in Who’s Who in the Lib Dems online!

Who’s Who Online is published by the Liberal Democrats Parliamentary Candidates Association; a print version will be published in 2009.

VEEP Hysteria: Who will it be?

It’s all getting rather exciting over in the US with rumours aplenty that Barack Obama will be announcing his VP running mate in the next 24 hours, or 48 hours, on Saturday, Friday or shortly depending on who you are reading.

There’s also some significant rumours courtesy of an advertising blog, that it will be Kathleen Sebelius because of some leak that an ad agency is working on the Obama/Sebelius marketing etc. This is all to be taken with a major pinch of salt because, well, it’s just a rumour but it would be really great if Sebelius was his running mate. Still, the Daily Kos has seen fit to mention the rumour! As I wrote a couple of months ago, Hillary isn’t the only woman in the Democratic Party. It would be fantastic to have such a diverse ticket. What a message that would send to the world!

Kind of makes our very white, male dominated politics look dull, dull, dull.

I told you he didn't have the experience: No 374

The word being used, repeatedly, by everyone over at Boriswatch is chaos. Boris' team at City Hall is in chaos following Tim Parker's resignation. Personally, I prefer inexperience and incompetence. although I agree that special mix of inexperience and incompetence that is Boris could be pretty chaotic.

On the other hand, maybe chaos is the most zippy, easy way of framing Boris' administration. Let's hope he doesn't embody it too much, eh?

Boris Johnson is without doubt an intelligent and educated man. But he's never managed a billion pound budget before and his people management skills are non existent.

So, I was right and all you lot that said he'd be fine are wrong. I really am thinking of renaming this blog Cassandra...I really am. FFS...this is London we're talking about and we have this man in charge just because he looks fun!

How long has

this been up?

Thanks to Lib Dem Voice for pointing out that a summary the Party Reform Commission Report had been printed.

Still, pretty shoddy internal communication all the same. They (whoever they are) could have put it up on the Party Reform Commission page for example, rather than burying it away on a Reports to Conference page, which if you’re not a conference delegate you might not bother looking at…in fact, it feels like they only slipped it in they because they had to.

Which is a shame, because I’ve just skimmed through this report and it looks pretty darn good – I’ll put the bits I’m most excited about later!

Classic line about a ‘leaflet delivery cult’!!

My best bits for tons more fun!

Alex Wilcox is continuing to go up in my estimation, especially as today he has had a great idea about helping us all decide on our nominations for best blog postings, without which could so easily turn into the last good posting I remember reading.

He has asked bloggers to brazen out the blushes and come up with their own favourite postings from their own blogs and thereby helping us all to nominate from a position of knowledge rather than an online version of pin the tail on the donkey.

So here you go, here are what I consider my best bits:

I'm starting with What should MPs look like? On account of the fact that I am still excessively proud of this post and particularly that is won the CFGB best blog posting award back in March. I don't know whether a posting having already won an award get disqualified but I offer you up what the judging panel liked! And it made me realise just how much I could grin in one evening!

A few weeks later, I posed the question What sort of people do we want to be our candidates? This started quite an adult debate and certainly provided some food for thought. I do like postings that are more than polemics and actually get people thinking and talking and so I was quite pleased with this one. I've never made it on volume into the Lib Dem Voice Golden Dozen but this one got picked up in the five you might like to read slot.

Calling all men who don't like violence was me trying to publicise the problem of domestic violence, a topic that comes up far less than many but will effect 1 in 4 women at some point in their lifetime and so I guess it affects us all (given that most of know more than 4 women). I was also trying to set out some solutions via the White Ribbon Campaign. A rather sad comments thread, I think. This post also took part in the Carnival of Feminists.

Then I got wound up by a pretty inane comment piece in CiF about the increasing use of the word gay by the younger people on the planet and I asked Worrying about homophobia in schools? Don't be so gay. If memory services me correctly this got picked up in Liberal Conspiracy's Casting the Net.

Next comes Why Boris Johnson is a really, really bad idea, which a followed up with a few more posts on the topic and got me on Sky.Com News for the first time. I feel doomed to do a regular 'I told you so' post for the next 4 years.

On to US politics; this is the first time I have been remotely interested in US primaries but boy, was it primary season to watch! I think the diversity of candidates and choices was fantastic and just because the presidential candidates are in place there's no need to throw the idea of a female VP out with Hillary because Hillary isn't the only woman in the Democratic Party.

This one really depresses me, but I am concerned that we are getting a bit too complacent when it comes to getting enough female parliamentary candidates elected. Plenty of well meaning activity doesn't always lead to the right outcomes and the Electoral Reform Society suggests that there's no real chance at electing more women into parliament at the next election. An intense discussion between me, the Yorkshire gob and MattGB ensued, albeit some while after I posted the original post.

As you have probably guessed, I am a female political blogger and proud of it. Blogging is something that you grow into and now that I've been doing it for around 18 months, I can see it is just something that you have to plug away at. The rewards that might make you feel slightly less like a vanity publisher are going to be sometime in the future. However, every now and then there is a cry wondering why there is so little gender balance in Lib Dem Bloggers (much better since the CFGB Blogging Awards but still only 20% of Lib Dem bloggers are female). Well, that's because we've been looking for female political bloggers in the wrong place. This post isn't so much about a cogently argued notion (are any of them?) but more about me trying to leverage the network aspect of the web. I picked this up from a number of female bloggers and passed in on, including the BBC's iPM website who thought it might make an interesting story for their Saturday afternoon radio programme. Liberal Conspiracy also picked it up on their Casting the Net series.

And lastly, a bit more internal party organisation stuff in my piece on The Bones Commission which I had been trying not to write for some time but in the end my exasperation at the whole thing overcame my ability to resist criticising my favourite Lib Dem leader's communication skills!!!

And this was the cut down version of this post!!!

At what point does this start becoming a men’s issue?

I only ask, because I'm wondering how many men woke up to the Today programme to hear that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) had been reducing rape victims compensation if they had been consuming alcohol before the event and felt so strongly that this was an outrage that they had to do something about it? If a blogger they might choose to blog about it, or perhaps, a man might start up a conversation about it with other men or women, say, after Georgia and the Olympic Games had been dealt with? I'm only aware of one male blogger to do this so far this afternoon, but if I have missed others then please let me know.

Because we all know that the only person responsible for a rape is the rapist, right? And because of the legal definition of rape, whilst both men and women can be victims of rape, only men can be the perpetrators of rape. So to my mind, this places the responsibility for rape and doing something about its frequency firmly with men. So, why the silence? Why the assumption that women either don't need or don't want the vast majority of the male population who abhor rape to have any public opinion about it at all. Silence is not the same thing as condemnation.

Well, that's me angry enough, even when using my habitual 'people are fundamentally good' approach to the problem. But actually, I'm much crosser than that because I don't even think that we've settled, as a society, that the only person that is responsible for a rape is the rapist. Clearly not, as can be evidenced by the actions of CICA up until recently. Oh yes, Bridget Prentice can say it is not her "view that a victim of rape is not in any way culpable due to alcohol consumption. It is never an individual's fault if he/she gets raped; regardless of how much he/she has drunk". But you don't have to go much further to find that CICA following a misogynist policy of sending out letters suggesting that the victims "excessive consumption of alcohol was a contributing factor in the incident,".

That, I would venture, is prima facie evidence that the change in culture required, although starting at the top, like it should, hasn't got very far down and through state and quasi-governmental institutions, let alone into being a norm of society. And, as we know from that infamous Amnesty international Poll from a few years ago that identified that 30% of people believe a woman wholly or partly to blame for her rape if she had been drinking.

I admit that cultural change in organisations, where most of my experience lies, is not the same as cultural change in a whole organisation but there are I am sure not too much that is different in the way of approach. Firstly, and thank goodness this is in place, we have to define what is and isn't culturally acceptable in the law. That is a very good start. But you not only have to define your acceptable culture or behavioural norm but you have to a) las a leader embody it and b) communicate it to the whole organisation or community.

Now, one hopes that those in government do embody this, at least in their own personal behaviour but if they don't then they must go (and in fact be prosecuted). But at the moment the government is failing to embody it in it's organisation as can be seen by CICA.

Secondly it has to communicate to the community that it wants to influence what is acceptable and not acceptable and I see no evidence of that. Cultural change starts at the top but it is peer pressure that finishes the job off; just look at the way drink driving was socially acceptable 30 years go despite being illegal but today the drink drive is a pariah in most communities.

There are many organisations, including Amnesty International, The Fawcett Society and Reclaim the Night which campaign on a women's right to be free from rape and violence. The picture, by the way, is of me and my Mum on the Reclaim the Streets march last November. It was our first ever protest march!

But, empowered though I feel about those marches and organisations their protests will never be enough to effect a change in the culture of a whole society. Yes, us liberal progressive types will pick up on it eventually (perhaps, but with 50,000 rapes a year, the chances are that some of them are undertaken by men who consider themselves liberal progressives) but the majority without any overwhelming peer pressure will continue to see rape as a problem for women that frankly, most of them bring upon themselves. Easily avoidable if only women changed their behaviour.

One amazing organisation that recognises that it is peer pressure that can make the difference to cultural change is the White Ribbon Campaign an organisation upon whom I've blogged before. It is a male run campaign that seeks to go into universities and sports club and use peer pressure to educate men about the unacceptability of being violent towards women, whether sexual or not.

But we cannot leave it just to the White Ribbon Campaign.

If the government was serious about reducing the number of rapes, of increasing the conviction rate of rapists and increasing the number of women coming forward to report rapes it would do something concrete about it. Cultural change doesn't just take place by osmosis; it doesn't just start from the grass roots. It is not rocket science either, the Government can do something about it.

The could start with a well funded educative campaign, with billboards, newspaper ,posters in pubs and clubs and television adverts backed up with classroom material and workshops in universities. We put this effort and funding campaigns on getting people to change their behaviour around drink driving, take their sat nav with them when parking their car and even the consumption of salt! Why is it so ridiculous to put it into campaign that would place the responsibility for doing something about rape not with women but with the men? When are we as a society going to make rape a men's issue?

This week's must read links

I have another four must read links on topics that I haven’t written on but have got me exercised enough to leave a comment or tow!!

First, is James Graham’s posting on internal Lib Dem organisation: Nick Clegg: COG now that I have your attention; so, OK I did right on this but only after James and a whole load of other people started. As someone who implements transformational change for a living, I can’t bear watching it go horribly wrong…

Then, for a little bit of light relief I commend you to, if you haven’t been there already, the A-Z of right wing on-line commenting, which is very, very funny. I have to admit I very rarely go to the Daily Mail and the Have Your Say message boards because by the time I’ve read down about 5 of the comments I have a retort in mind that is longer than the original posting, plus unhealthy stress levels. However, there are plenty of right wing trolls trying to wind up us progressive liberals on CiF!! (Nope, still can’t bring myself to use the label lefty, on myself).

Sticking with Liberal Conspiracy, Penny Red went uber-radical on the subject of parental rights or control in Where have all the real Dads gone to?. Perhaps she will disagree with my categorisation but whilst I agree her in that that I find it hard to find much sympathy for all these emasculated men when they have all the power and most of the money on the planet, I’m not sure that I agree with her feminist utopia, in this case. I do support her right to have a radical view though!

My indulgence link for this week is the Carnival of Feminists, which I think is vital reading for everyone, who thinks that now that women are officially equal, there’s no need for feminism! And it is the latest Carnival of Feminists that led me on to this article about the Queen Bee Syndrome; do you believe that women are not exactly sisterly when it comes to the career ladder and men are more supportive to their female subordinates? Or not?

Political Parties paying bloggers to comment

Or at least that’s what is happening in the US. On Sky.Com News this evening we highlighted this article from the US as one of the top stories on the web.

Apparently, Republican bloggers and blog commenters are being offered points and maybe even prizes to place comments defending Senator John McCain and his policies. They are even sending out proforma comments for activists to use and websites to target.

You can see what I mean on the 'Spread the Word' page John McCain's website.


Frankly, I can’t see it taking off. The whole point of web 2.0 is that it is independent and spontaneous. Maybe Senator McCain should get on the web and then he’d really understand what a naff initiative this is!

You can only imagine the furore if Lib Dem bloggers and commenters were instructed what to say on the web by Cowley St! Ha!

The Bones Commission

Yes. The Bones Commission

I can almost hear a collective snort.  Already, on the Lib Dem blogosphere at least, the words ‘Bones Commission’ and ‘derision’ are starting to sound like committed companions.

Why is that so?  When so many of us really have no idea of what’s in it and the few places where we have been given an idea of what it contains are more interested in selling copy and stirring the radical in us all then actually being accurate. 

Those of us who know people on the various committees, FE and FPC, may well have heard a bit more, but even then it is only hearsay as nobody has actually been given anything on a piece of paper. 

Personally, I’m relaxed about the content of the Bones Commission; but then I don’t sit on any body that it’s looking to change, unless it has something very urgent to say about the London Policy Committee, which I doubt.  And even so, I’m with Paul Walter on this, what did we expect? That the Commission would come to the conclusion that more people needed to be involved in making each decision?  No, I’m relaxed, I get my opportunity to vote in the leader and to vote in the members of the constitutional committees and frankly that’s about as democratic as I need it. I don’t need to make every decision but I do need to be clear on what is happening.

The problem for me is not in the content of the Bones Commission but in its implementation. Because in truth (and I would say this, wouldn’t I?) the tricky bit of change is not developing the strategy; it is not saying we are at A and we need to be at B, although all that needs to be done.  It is about implementing the change, it is about actually changing the way the organisation does things in order to bring about B, getting people to do one thing when they’ve spent the last 10 years doing another.  And dull, dull, dull though it may be, the lion’s share of that activity and the trick to getting your transformational change, or ‘reforms’ as they are framed in the Bones Commission in without too much pain or reputational risk, is communication.

Clearly, I am not the only person to notice this: James Graham, almost understates it, in his Comment is free article when he says:

“The key problem within the party at the moment appears to be a lack of effective internal communication”.

My gut feeling is that the edifice of the party’s internal communication has not suddenly turned into a pile of rubble, but that the communication of the Bones Commission is being handled with such ineptness that is places a pall of suspicion over everything else.

So, where are they going wrong?

Well, broadly, as I mentioned in a comment on Stephen Tall’s piece on Lib Dem Voice they are treating transformational change of an organisation as if it were a policy implementation.  To be fair I do detect, in the manner of one of the characters in CSI:Miami, some evidence of someone having a think about stakeholders.  Clearly, there has been some plan around communication of the Reform Commission Findings to the Federal Executive and other constitutional bodies.  We know this not because there have been any formal communication telling us what is happening when but because those on the Federal Executive read their agendas and passed it on to others by word of mouth or via The Liberator.

So, it seems they have ignored the needs rest of the party and Nick’s filler message on Lib Dem Voice served only to incense people more, on account of the fact that it seemed to have been put together from a magnetic poetry fridge set.  This is bad planning; in fact, this is no planning.  I cannot understand this as of course, Chris Bones, has worked for some pretty big companies, all of which will have implemented large scale organisational change. But they are already losing control of the story and they don’t seem to be doing anything to get it back.

So, why do they have to communicate with even those who have no say?  Why is the content of the Bones Commission fundamentally different from a policy paper, even a controversial one like Trident or the Taxation document?

Well, the key is the stake that we all have in what the party does because ultimately we are the ones that will do it.  Party policy is important to us and is something that we, Lib Dems, pride ourselves on.  However, policy is what we plan to get the civil service to do in the future.  It is not what we expect ourselves to do now.  Asking people to change the way they do things is prey to much more adverse emotion than asking them to agree to the fact that someone else will have to change. Most people are happy with change happening to other people (especially when it’s in the future) but very few of us like having to change ourselves.  Especially, as an aside, in my experience those who are responsible for delivering change.

It takes a lot of thoughtful communication to get people to feel OK about change and not just when you’ve got something to say; you have to communicate when you don’t have anything to say, especially if you want to avoid rumours of impending doom taking place.

I can see, and I’m sure most of us can concur, that those we have elected to the federal committees should be able to absorb and respond to the changes ahead of the general public and membership.  After all, the Policy Committee gets to see Policy Papers before the working group makes them public.  It is highly likely that the results of the Party Reform Commission are not ready to be shared with everybody.  That’s fine, but what Nick and the team should have done is to set out a timetable for when more information is coming out.  They ought to be communicating regularly on the progress of the commission through all the party organisations even if they can’t tell us the content.  They should have conviction enough to set out a timetable, even if in the end they have to replan the timetable.

People are worried about their party, because they are worried that they way they make their contribution will have to be curtailed or changed.  This is an emotional response and a valid one.  People are uncertain about their future and because we are all human beings first (well, almost all of us) we are worrying possibly quite unnecessarily about the future.

I agree with James Graham, Tom is wrong when he asserts we should all just stop moaning; after all the vast majority of us give our time completely free, many of us give money and the Liberal Democrat Party is just as much mine as it is Nick’s. My time is precious and I want it to be used as effectively as possible and The Bones Commission may change that (at the moment, I’m hoping it will be for the better); why shouldn’t I care?

So, Nick, Chris and the rest of those responsible for delivering the Bones Commission’s findings, put your party out of it’s misery, not necessarily by giving in to Martin Land’s request (although I empathise with his angst completely) but by setting out a timetable for when and what sort of communication there will be.  Please trust us to be able to understand the process.

It won’t stop all the rumours and you won’t keep everybody happy.  It will, however, comfort many of us, make us feel valued and stop us getting suspicious of your silence. News

I will be on Sky.Com News this evening at 7.30pm, looking at the top stories on the net of the day. It will also available online.

And I promise neither to look like Shirley Temple nor say ‘Hello’ like Margaret Thatcher. Like I did last time.

Oystergate and the Sydenham Society reigns supreme

A few months ago I wrote about the meanness and short sightedness of Southern Rail in shutting the gate that allowed passengers to go straight onto Platform 1 of Sydenham station from Spring Hill Gardens and instead making them go all the way around and up and down a walk bridge over the platform.

Annoying for those of us unencumbered but if you are in a wheelchair, pushing a pushchair or carrying luggage Southern Rails action seriously curtails your ability to use the station.

It seems that the Sydenham Society has won again (it successfully campaigned against the reduction of London Bridge Trains when the East London Line comes in in 2010) and we now have plans for a new oystercard gate and in the mean time the gate will be open at rush hour; see the details here.

Lots of people (normally from outside London) say there is little community in London, as the Sydenham Society proves yet again, this just isn't the case. So, if you live in Sydenham, or use it's station and shops, then you could do worse than to join the society and help them campaign for a better Sydenham on the behalf of all of use who live around and about.

My four must reads of the past week, plus an indulgence link (see numbers 6, 32 and 44)

Last week was a good week on the Blogosphere for me and I probably spent far too much time on it, both writing and reading!

Here are four great reads from the last week that I commend to you plus one supplementary link from Alas, a great article which supports Penny Red’s posting. These are all topics that I did not write on myself, so I’m very glad that all these people did! And so well!!!

Andrew Rawnsley wrote an excellent comment piece in the Observer yesterday on David Miliband, which if you didn’t get round to reading then I commend to you. I particularly liked his closing paragraph:

“Bob Marshall-Andrews was wrong to describe the Foreign Secretary's behaviour as 'duplicitous'. David Miliband is being the opposite of underhand. He has erected a neon sign flashing to his party and the country that Gordon Brown needs to be removed and he is ready to replace him. The Foreign Secretary did not knife the Prime Minister in the back. He stabbed him in the front”.

The Labour Party is not my party but you have to hand it to Miliband, what he’s doing is audacious and breathtaking and it’s really rather fun to be watching it from the sidelines.

Lynne Featherstone’s posting on Liberal Conspiracy on Dad’s who don’t live with their children becoming disenfranchised from their education because schools can’t cope with the concept of father’s having a stake in their child’s education even if they don’t live with their mother. I came from a single parent family and my Dad become persona non grata one he left the family home and that was thirty years ago! Many things around dealing with family breakdown have changed completely since then but why are schools taking so long to catch up?

Although I don’t buy into Jennie Riggs’s reasons not to have positive discrimination AT ALL, it was a good post which created a lot of discussion. I couldn’t vote in her poll ‘cos my Open ID has gone do lally but do have a look, even if only to remind yourself that if we don’t start coming up with the goods so to speak we will have to revisit the whole horny subject of positive discrimination.

And, it’s to Jennie that I have to say thanks for pointing me in the direction of Penny Red and her frustration at her physical appearance being public property; which is a must read must read.

And it reminded me of the excellent wondrous Ampersand’s Male Privilege Checklist. I have been meaning to share this posting on my blog, oh, ever since I first read it over a year ago. It all resonates with me but particularly Numbers 6, 32 and 44: I happen to be a very smiley person but I don’t like to be told to do it by strangers…something that happens to be still to this day! Blimey!

Sky.Com News next Friday

Just a quick note to tell you that I'm going to be on News again next Friday 8th August talking to Martin Stanford about the top web stories of the day!

It's possible I may mention it again, sometime in the next week

BBC picks up on the NYT Blogher fiasco

The BBC's iPM programme has picked up on the furore taking place on the net about NYT putting an article about the Blogher conference in the fashion and style part of the paper. Everyone from the Huffington Post to the BBC is now on the case! Hooray!

Wha'ts more, the NYT have been dealing with the complaints in a particularly gauche manner.

And why am I telling you about this again? Because it 'twas me that wrote into the iPM programme to tell them about the indignation springing up all over the blogosphere!

BBC's iPM programme on Saturday evenings is a spin off from the PM programme and picks up on stories from its listeners and bloggers writing in to alert them. Jennifer Tracey the reporter who picked up the story has blogged about it, and if you think it's one that should b followed up then please go and add your comments and thoughts about how women's blogging is treated by the mainstream media.

Women blog more than men but it seems are still relegated to the ghetto of the fashion pages when it comes to talking about it; why is that?

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