Saturday, 4 October 2014

Olly Grender: What she actually said, and why it's still out-of-touch nonsense

In October 2014 the unelected Liberal Democrat peer Olly Grender was lambasted in a Daily Mirror article entitled "Liberal Democrat peer: We struggle to get by on £300 per day tax-free allowance" in which several of her out-of-touch comments about politics were quoted.

In my view the headline is a bit misleading because as far as I can tell, she never actually said "
We struggle to get by". What is incontestable however is that several of her other comments showed how completely out-of-touch with reality she is, and others certainly suggest that she was speaking from personal experience when she complained about the inadequacy of House of Lords allowances system.
The Liberal Democrat website Lib Dem Voice was quick to post a riposte to the Daily Mirror article, which helpfully quoted some of the most out-of-touch nonsense she had been spouting in a risible attempt to construct some kind of defence.

The most hopelessly out-of-touch part in my opinion was the claim that ordinary people are under-represented in politics because the salaries and expenses are too low! Here's what she said:
"If you want loads of people to get involved in politics, somehow you have to find ways of ensuring that people on very low incomes feel engaged and involved ... Lack of funding prevents diversity among not just MPs but peers ... What you don’t get is a hairdresser, what you don’t get is a bus driver. And why don’t you get those people? Because it’s unaffordable for most people to do this kind of thing unless you are relying on a partner."
Now perhaps Olly Grender has spent so much time in the Westminster bubble that she's got no idea about what the average hairdresser or bus driver earns? But I'm pretty sure that most of them would jump at a chance to make a £300 per day tax-free allowance for life, just for signing into a building and sitting there for a few hours. I imagine that the more unscrupulous bus drivers and hairdressers would be doubly keen to board this gravy train once they realised that they could have other outside jobs too, and that there would be absolutely no restrictions on them cashing in even more by voting on matters in which they have major financial conflicts of interest (consider the dozens of unelected peers with investments in the private health sector who voted in favour of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act).

The premise that ordinary working people are driven out of politics by the low wages is absolutely ridiculous stuff. It should be clear to everyone that that ordinary working people are actually kept out of politics because the vast majority of political positions are snapped up by political careerists and party insiders such as ... Olly Grender.

In September 2014 Holly Baxter wrote a very informative article in the Guardian exposing the way in which political careerists are parachuted into "safe seats". This article tells us infinitely more about why ordinary people are locked out of the political game than any of Olly Grinder's out-of-touch musings. Here's an extract from the article:

"Having spent the past couple of years in the company of a great many wannabe MPs of my own age, many of whom have already professed that they are 'definitely standing in 2020', I’ve been shocked by the almost complete lack of any motivation to shake up the system ... These are 24-year-olds who openly talk about the safe seat they are hoping for in the future, the one in a constituency they have probably never given a second thought to in their lives, let alone visited. They laugh and joke over expensive pints of real ale in London about how the Labour party is an excellent choice for a political careerist, how they could stand a pig for election in the north and it would get voted in. These ever-smiling, nakedly ambitious graduates straight out of PPE at Oxbridge are the faces of future Labour, lecturing me weekly on why local people in the north usually don’t know what they really want and need a representative who knows how to work within the Westminster elite to decide for them."
These kinds of nakedly ambitious political careerists and party insiders have no intention of ever rocking the boat by actually even having a principle to stand up for. They're in politics as a career choice, meaning that taking a moral stance on any issue becomes a career risk.

In my view, parachuting political careerists into the unelected House of Lords is even worse than handing out safe parliamentary seats. One of the main complaints is that this bloated anti-democratic institution is already stuffed to the rafters with political yes men, party donors, past-it politicians and the like, it simply doesn't need any more. Another reason that it is such an offensive practice is that once they're in the House of Lords, the public have no means of ever removing them from political office. Nobody elected them, and nobody can get rid of them. They're there for life, no matter how poorly they perform.

The House of Lords is an anachronism and an affront to the concept of open democracy. And given that the Liberal Democrats have endlessly harped on about democratising it, no Lib-Dem with a grain of integrity would ever have accepted an appointment to this anti-democratic institution.

So how did Olly Grender end up in the House of Lords? Is she one of the minority of hairdressers and bus drivers to have shoved their way through the masses and masses of career politicians to become a political representative?

Of course she isn't.

There are three key reasons Olly Grender has found herself a member of the grotesquely anti-democratic House of Lords.

1. David Cameron has been stuffing the House of Lords with new unelected life peers at a faster rate than any Prime Minister in history. The majority of these newly created peerages have been handed out to insiders from the Tory party and the Liberal Democrat party. 
2. Grender is a mate of Nick Clegg's, who has been hanging around the Liberal Democrat party for ages (since the 1980s when she was a speech writer for Paddy Ashdown). Thus she was considered an ideal bum to fit a Lib-Dem seat. 
3. She's a hypocrite who opposes the anti-democratic nature of the House of Lords, but accepted her appointment there nonetheless.
One of the most ridiculous assertions Olly Grender made was her claim that she believes that the House of Lords "desperately needs to be elected". How on earth could she accept appointment to an unelected chamber in 2013 and then in 2014 claim that it should be democratically elected, without the cognitive dissonance hurting her brain? If she thought it should be democratically elected, then she should never have accepted the appointment as a matter of principle.

In conclusion I believe Olly Grender brought the tide of criticism on herself with her badly out-of-touch and cognitive dissonance inducing comments. The idea that ordinary people are priced out of politics by the supposedly low wages is completely ridiculous, and it looks suspiciously like special pleading for a pay rise when considered in conjunction with some of her other comments (it seems her bank wouldn't give her a mortgage against her Lords allowances, and that she's forced to rely on her husband for financial support ...).

The real reason that ordinary people are locked out of the political game is the way in which political careerists and party insiders like Olly Grender are parachuted into political positions by the Westminster establishment. Olly Grender comes across as someone too daft to even realise that it's favours for party insiders like her that are locking ordinary people out of the political game, not the fact that a £300 per day tax-free allowance isn't considered enough of an incentive by people who probably earn less than that for a full week of work after they've paid tax on their earnings.

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