Sunday, March 13, 2011

When is it ok to scream and swear at a 14 year old? #ldconf

Apparently, according to protesters in Sheffield, when they are heading into Liberal Democrat conference.

Alex White, the star of last week's Scottish Conference, is attending her first federal Conference. She's 14 years old. She's had to endure what she called "vile abuse" as she's gone back and forth from the Sheffield City Hall. She said people were screaming and swearing at her. 

It's fine to make your point, protesters, but there are limits. I've heard from other friends there that people are being spat at and called names. 

Most of these people attending Conference aren't government ministers. They're nurses, teachers, mothers, fathers, students, charity workers, just ordinary folk. And the good thing about our party is that ordinary folk get to have a say in our policy. They didn't need a protest outside this morning to know that it was the right thing to oppose the scarier elements of the Coalition's NHS reforms. Even with no protesters, they would still have voted to restore the mobility element to DLA.

Most Liberal Democrats, up to and including our Cabinet Ministers, will have some sympathy with what people were protesting about. And they have a perfect right to make their views known.

It's much more effective, though, to actually talk to people in a non threatening way. It's just wrong, though, to spit and shout and intimidate.

My husband told me about something that happened 27 years ago during the miners' strike. He saw a mother point out a police officer to her very small child, and tell them that he was a "baddie". I don't always think that the Police behave sensibly in these situations, but to dismiss them all as "baddies"? It isn't helpful.

One of the reasons I really can't abide much of the labour movement is that they are so intolerant, intransigent and intimidating to those who don't share every element of their beliefs. Part of why I'm a liberal is because of the treatment meted out to those who chose to go back to work during the miners' strike. I think it's up to people to make their own minds up about these things and their decisions should be respected. We're starting to see the same sort of nastiness being reborn today.  

Another story my husband told me a long time ago was a story of this very old man who died in the early 80s in a small mining village. And nobody went to his funeral. Because he'd worked through a strike. The General Strike. Of 1926. Ok, so you don't agree with that, but does it deserve 6 decades of isolation? Really?

In Sheffield today, the abuse meted out to young Alex has, to her credit, not put her up nor down. In fact, she's been working her oratorical magic again, as Chris Mills tweeted.  And winning Jennie Rigg's approval, who said her speech was "awesome, passionate and persuasive" is a special thing indeed.

I understand that people are angry, but there are limits of acceptable behaviour. I was angry about the Iraq war, but I never spat at or abused anybody. Sure, if I'd had the chance to meet Tony Blair, he'd have had the sharp end of my tongue, but I wouldn't have harmed him. I think people destroy their case when they resort to nasty and abusive behaviour. 


17 comments:

David Clayton said...

The Lib Dems are involved in propping up an extreme right wing government and are in for a lot worse. Of course it is wrong for protesters to behave like this but when you start tearing up social institutions that have been around for fifty years this is what you can expect. As a party you fail to understand that dismantling the welfare state and NHS will be very damaging. The fact you are doing it for ideological, economic liberal reasons makes it worse. You have no mandate for this nonsense and should have put it to the electorate last year. You are now the other nasty party and are creating a lot of nasty social turmoil. It is a great shame that a once great party has become this.

saul said...

I suppose it's all relative - anything that isn't of a communist far left bent would be `propping up an extreme right wing government`.

However, it's not really up to people like David Clayton to judge who propped up authoritarian city-loving labour governments for years.

It's the ultimate game ain't it Dave? You can't win elections just being far left so you have to divert attention to someone else to create a new enemy to get some of your agenda through.

Perhaps you can explain what you mean by `tearing up social institutions`, `dismantling the welfare state`.

It really gets back to the same circular argument - if you want a full social democratic society then you have to ask ordinary people to pay for it. Problem is the party that could propose these tax rises are very coy about the matter. Probably because they're so cowardly they don't have the guts to spell them out.

Yonmei said...

People starved in the General Strike of 1926. Miners families sold everything they had to get just enough food to stay alive.

Someone who decided that everyone else in his village could go to hell, he was going to work, he didn't care about anyone else? This wasn't "didn't agree", this was him deciding to live well while his neighbours watched their children starve.

Similiarly, LibDem MPs have decided they want a fat salary and government posts and to hell with the people of the UK suffering under the right-wing government LibDems are propping up.

Police during the miners strike killed people on picket lines.

A 14-year-old who's into party politics is not a fragile flower. It may not have been pleasant for her to walk through a crowd of jeering people (though I can think of quite a few teenagers who would have got a kick out of it), but it may also be her first political lesson: her parents are not the whole political world. Her parents may think that the LibDems were right to go Tory and prop up a right-wing government, and she herself has probably no idea of the impact of the cuts and other Tory policies, but this is - maybe - a wakeup call for her: maybe in two or three years she won't be going to Lib Dem conferences, she'll be out there demo'ing with her peers.

JohnM said...

Yonmei, the thing is that most of these protesters will be Labour supporters or voters which makes them the most dumb-arse hypocrites alive.

Labour's deficit, Labour's crazy overspend, Labour's mad expensive wars, Labour's proposed cuts (in the main), Labour's Tuition Fees, Labour's Browne Report.

We've prevented a centre-right Tory Majority and already put into place some of the most egalitarian policies seen for generations.

For any Labour supporter to chastise the Lib Dems for cuts is totally disingenuous. The people of Sheffield are better protected from cuts with a Lib Dem run council that 'say' Manchester with its guilty Labour administration.

tajasel said...

This is also my first conference. I'm in a wheelchair to maintain my energy, and yesterday as I went into city hall, I had people yell "Judas" and "you're a disgrace to disabled people" at me. I'm 23, so it isn't as bad as attacking a child, but nonetheless... they also yelled at me and others "why aren' you listening to us?" - seemingly not realising that screaming insults is not the way to get results. I quite happily sat and listened to those who spoke to me reasonably.

David Clayton said...

@Saul My agenda is open. I want state funded public services. The Lib Dem agenda is to reduce the state and cut public spending. Ok but why did you not stand on this platform last year. Neither of the governing parties has a mandate for this madness. And by tearing up social institutions i mean the semi privatisation of the NHS and by dismantling the welfare state i mean the gradual removal of the role of the state in many areas including education.
There are currently 1 in 5 16 to 24 year olds out of work and you are about to create a great deal more unemployment. If your plan to cut state spending creates jobs your are in the right. If it does not we are all in the shit as mass unemployed is socially destructive.

Alexandra White said...

@Yonmei I am that 14 year old. My parents are not Lib Dem, I find it insulting that you can't accept that 14 year olds have there own political views. I do know the effect of these cuts but I also know why we have to make them. I find your comments very ignorant and you obviously have no idea of my conviction. I am not going to demo just because my peers do it, in fact the abuse that was shouted at me made me more determined not to join them. I am proud to be a Lib Dem and I intend to be going to Lib Dem conferences for a long long time.

Caron said...

And that, @yonmei, is you well & truly told.

Go Alex:-)

Stephen Wigmore said...

Yes, far too many labourites and other lefties are bitterly ideological and motivated by overwhelming moral self-righteousness, rather than any clear evaluation of the actual reality of the world. They claim to be the 'progressives' screaming abuse at small children. Says it all really.

They have the certain self-superiority and self-righteousness of the worst kind of religious fanatic.

I'm sorry you and various other people had the experience some of the worse of this recently. Obviously the vast majority of labourites are not like this. But far too many are.

David Clayton said...

@Alexandra White - Well said, mind you it is a pity you are so wrong ;-)

The more cuts and unemployment the coalition creates the more anger you will see. You can argue that the opposition are all 'trots' or morally arrogant, or whatever but it does not change the fact the LibDems have no mandate for the way they are acting and the way they are acting is highly destructive.
Remember all this before the election? This is why people voted Lib Dem and very sad it all looks now.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQGbgJYsiFg

Jennie said...

And, of course, there was the disabled Lib Dem who got tipped out of wheelchair and abused by these "progressive" elements. I suspect that was just deserts for being a Lib Dem too.

I find it ironic that mostly what they were protesting for was party policy. Why is it us they are having a go at, and not the Tories? A pure Tory government would not have done half of the good things this government has, and while this government has done a lot of things I disagree with too, it's still the least horrendous government in my living memory.

Jonathan J said...

I am thrilled someone like Alexandra replied here. If I could have been so articulate at that age, I like to think I would have said something similar.

One of my biggest gripes with the coalition detractors is that their arguments are always in favour of Labour. Often vehemently. Labour didn't listen when I "demo"ed against the Iraq War. And there were a darn sight more of us than 2,000. Labour even instigated tuition fees. Then they put CCTV everywhere, wasted millions on ID cards and generally acted very right-of-centre in many economic matters, let alone being surprisingly authoritarian. In fact, up until the last general election campaign most people were criticising them for not being left-wing enough. The worst arguments are those that try to suppose that this is a question of "class warfare". I thought Labour got rid of class differences after so many years in power. Oh, nope, there were always "the baddies" waiting in the wings to wrest their power away and give it to the undeserving businessmen that...Also funded and lobbied New Labour. This is politics, and to say that reneging on a pledge, or "going Tory" (if that means forming a coalition as a junior member) are high treason, seems a dogmatic and almost religious approach, wherein the world divides into two camps; Labour voters and "the damned". Such phrases are common in Guardian CiF posts shrieking the LibDems are "doomed".

I'm obviously a Lib-Dem, and I welcome criticism, but to pretend that Labour wouldn't have done something similar had they won the election? That's naive in my opinion. Nothing they did throughout the last 13 years has persuaded me that they would magically transform our pirate economy into a Swedish-style social democracy.

Peter Chivall said...

Tim Farron got it right some months ago. Labour spent 13 years acting like a bunch of authoritarian Tories, with Tony Bliar as the true Son of Thatcher. Now Labour have spent the last 10 months acting like a bunch of Trots.
If any of your anti-LibDem bloggers had been in the City Hall they would have heard speeches and voted on Motions that were well to the left of anything that would have been allowed at a Labour 'Conference' (sorry, rally).
I'm convinced that many Labour tribalists have a basic autoritarian mindset: they think with the herd and follow the herd leader. By contrast, Liberal Democrats think for themselves: they may not like a lot of what the Government is doing, but they will go along with it up to a point as the price of reigninig in the right-wing extremists that Labour would have been happy to see sorting out the deficit for them.
Labourites will shed crocodile tears for the poor they neglected for 13 years while they let the bankers ruin the economy, and hope that the public will swallow their lies and let them get back to the jags and the crocket lawns and cosying up to the City that was all they cared about last time they were in power.
I suggest some of your bloggers read what was actually passed at the Sheffield conference and compare that to the premiums paid by New Labour to bring in private corporations to take over parts of the health service. they should also compare what Andrew Stunnell is actually doing about Scial Housing when all New Labour could think of was to hive it all off to semi-private Housing Association and then build virtually nothing themselves.
I'll give most Labourites the credit for not being the hard-left Trots who never get any votes but get their kicks from swearing and shouting at anyone they see as 'class traitors'. At Sheffield they were allowed close enough for us to see and hear them. I was able to chat to some of the (not Trot!) NHS demonstrators.
At Fortress Labour in Manchester, all demos would be kept at least 1/4 mile away from the gentle flowers of paid for Labour yes-men (sorry, 'delegates'.)

Yonmei said...

Alexandra: I do know the effect of these cuts but I also know why we have to make them.

So you understand that the cuts will cause misery and pain to millions, devastate the UK economy, but "have to be made" because the tiny minority of people who will profit from them own majority shares in the Tory party?

Or you've been told, and (reasonably enough at 14, you believe what you're told) that the cuts are for the good of the economy - and you have no personal comprehension what it's like to survive on a fragile financial shoestring?

I really doubt that at 14 you have studied enough economics to really understand what a devastating mistake these cuts to he economy are. I really doubt that your parents are both on the dole all the time you were growing up, and you watched them struggle to keep food on the table and yourself in decent clothing.

I am not going to demo just because my peers do it

I didn't mean to suggest that! I meant to point out that when you have a more adult understanding of the sheer wrongness of what the Tories are doing to the UK with Lib Dem support (and regardless of what you think now, you may well change your political views after you leave home and discover a wider world) you may cease to think that throwing people out of work and cutting public services in order to benefit a wealthy few, is a tolerable political path.

You may demo, in the future, because you have come to an adult moral conclusion that causing mass misery for private profit is just wrong.

It is entirely appropriate to personal development that a teenager should be indifferent to misery outside their personal comprehension. But there's a word for people who remain that indifferent in adulthood: Conservative.

I apologise for the delay in replying to your comment: I didn't realise that you had responded to mine till just now.

Jennie: And, of course, there was the disabled Lib Dem who got tipped out of wheelchair and abused by these "progressive" elements. I suspect that was just deserts for being a Lib Dem too.

This turned out to be as much a myth as the Daily Mail claims that anti-semitic insults were hurled at Aaron Porter the last time he tried to join a student demo.

People have been tipped out of wheelchairs on demos, but by the police...

Stephen Wigmore said...

Yonmei do try not to be such a patronising ass.

14 year olds are perfectly able to understand what it's like to survive on little money. And no, it is not a case of having "studying enough economics to know what a terrible idea these cuts are", since world class economists are thoroughly divided on the issue. You may have noticed the IMF the other day. Have they not "studied enough economics"? I have a degree in economics and I know precisely why the cuts are not the end of the world, nor the main cause for our poor growth at the moment.

If you're stuck with such a childish view of the world that you really think the spending cuts are about "throwing people out of work and cutting public services in order to benefit a wealthy few" " who happen to own a majority share in the Tory party", and nothing to deal with dealing with our vast deficit in a manner similar to that taken by almost every other country in the developed world, then you live in such a childish, black and white caricature of the real world that you really shouldn't be giving anyone else advice about growing up.

Alexandra said...

@Yonmei

I'm a little late off the mark but really I've have been up to my eyes in tests and what not.

I have studied no economics, I am not old enough to do business studies at school. However I can see and learn from experience. It happens to be my father agrees with where you're coming from as does my mother. I have NEVER been told what to think, its highly patronising that you think young people need to be told what to think. I know the hardships these cuts will cause, I don't come from a rich household, I can see the price of petrol, I can see shops close down. It doesn't take an adult to see those things. Just I can look back throught the ups and downs of the economy and I can see things will get better. Things may get worse but the end result shall be a return to steady growth, that would not have happened if the spending plans had not been enforced. I do know what it is like to live on a finacial shoe string, please to not catergorise me by my own personal choice to join the lib dems. There is so much you have no idea about.

Secondly it would of been a heck of a lot worse had the Tories gone it alone, there would be no cap on tuition AT ALL, there would be no tax reprieve for those earning under £10 000 and there would be still children held in detention centres accross the country. I don't know about you but I think that alone is worth any abuse handed out to me.

As formy adult morals, I hope beyond all hope that I keep the ones I have now! My morals have been set in stone since before I joined this party! My father may not agree with my politics but he has never ever questioned my morals, in fact I have never been challenged on them before. Considering my teachers , friends and even protesters have commented on my strength of morals and principles, I dont see why you, coincidently you have never met me, should bring them in to question.

The biggest thing I find to be at fault with your comment is that you implied I am "a teenager should be indifferent to misery outside their personal comprehension." When I saw this, I was tempted to lose my temper! In all my years on this earth everyone I have met has described me as the exact opposite. In my book this is an insult of the highest degree and shows that you lack the maturity to have an argument without makin a personal attack. It is a pitiful situation. No matter the issue, no matter the politics, debate should always be about policy and how best to look after britain and should NEVER descend into personal comments. This is exactly what I wish was different and until people like you learn how immature this is, politics will not progress.

I apologise for the late reply and hope that you may change you view of teenagers from ignorant and stupid to young adults who arePERFECTLY capable of forming views and opinions on their own.

Alex's Mum said...

@Yonmel

I am the 14-year-old's mum and, being pefectly honest, I have less of an understanding of politics and the economy than Alex does.

However, I am an expert on Alex's morals, upbringing and intelligence.

You may wish to believe that every teenager on the planet can't form opinions without constant cattle-prodding from parents, but you are wrong.

Alex chose the Lib-Dems camp before neither her father or I understood what her politics are. We both knew she had an avid interest and developed understanding of politics, but it is she who has chosen her direction and set herself on this particular path.

If you are going to attempt to undermine a person you could do worse than making an attempt to understand that person before you make such a prat of yourself.

In short, your attack on Alex's morals and intelligence has completely deflated your comment in its entirety.

As for her lack of understanding of financial difficulty, all I can say is that she has seen how her father and I have had to balance our budget just to get her decent school uniform that costs that little bit extra than the local authority allowed for people on benefits. You have no understanding of Alex, her life and our lives and yet you seem to assume that she was born with some kind of silver spoon in her mouth. Wrong again. We have struggled on benefits and we have worked for minimum wage for most of her life.

I think you should be ashamed of yourself. Alex is perfectly able to make up her own mind, using her own intelligence, forming her own opinions. She has been encouraged to do so since she was very small and she has made us all very proud of her.

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