Showing posts with label Bear Necessities. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bear Necessities. Show all posts

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

The Bear Necessities – Sara Scarlett

In March Sara Scarlett, 21, unsuccessfully challenged Elaine Bagshaw for the Chairmanship of Liberal Youth, the youth wing of the Liberal Democrats. As Tory Bear reported at the time the elections descended into a bitch-fest like only youth politics can. Since losing the election Sara has been focused on her work with the think tank
Liberal Vision
. Beating The Independent to it, TB go
t the first interview.

On what had to have been the hottest day in London for a long time, there were few things TB would liked to have done more than sit outside Gordon’s with a bottle of ice cold white and a rather attractive young lady. It became pretty clear before even the first glass was finished that Sara Scarlett is a bit of a trouble maker, though in the very best sense of the word. Every comment that broke the wishy-washy wet Liberal Democrat line was accompanied with a cheeky look that said she knew exactly what the impact of her words would be, and she didn’t care. Starting in an obvious place, TB asked Scarlett why she would agree to talk to the Tory blogger who caused her so much grief in stirring up the Liberal Youth elections; "you don't not talk to a paper because you disagree with it's editorial line" was the blunt reply. Conversation moved quickly on to the said election. Scarlett claims she isn’t pissed off that she lost, arguing that on reflection the changes that the Liberal Youth movement needed couldn’t be implemented by a chairman in a year. It was a messy election and the whole Liberal Youth machine at one point collapsed into leak and counter brief and caused quite a headache for the Liberal Democrat HQ. One of the key moments was Scarlett’s heckle while her opponent was speaking at the Liberal Democrat Spring Forum. It was this moment that she pinpoints as where she lost the election, but cemented her reputation as a self proclaimed “political bad-ass”.

After just five minutes talking, you can’t help but wonder what this feisty, and clearly ambitious young woman is doing in the dead duck party. This proud libertarian has got in to all sorts of trouble with the Lib Dems, who despite their freedom loving veneer, can have a ruthless authoritarian streak, especially amongst the more socialist and lefty wings of the umbrella movement. It is therefore of no surprise that she seemingly doesn’t have much faith in the organisation she tried to lead. When asked what would be a good gauge of success for Liberal Youth in a years time she replied “surviving” without pause while lighting another cigarette. Though there is no love lost with the kids club, Scarlett saves most of her anger for the Cowley Street party HQ. Stressing that they are all “great guys” TB was expecting some wee dig at what Scarlett had previously described as “corporate incompetence”, but he was not expecting quite such a brutal attack; “Cowley St has misassessed [sic.] the entire nature of what a third party should be, we should be saying what the other parties can’t.” And what would Sara do if she was in charge? “Fire the whole press office” she claims they deserve 10% of the press coverage but are incapable of gaining that. “Sell Cowley Street, we're located in the most expensive property in London, when the jobs, except certain departments, could be done in Elephant and Castle.”

It's not just the ineffectual party machine that Scarlett has issue with, "Nick Clegg has been a disappointment, he's never been loud enough on the issue that made me get into politics - personal freedom." She also takes issue with the patronising attitude that the leadership has taken to it's youth wing; "Tuition fees and marijuana, that's all they think we care about. The entire youth and education vote doesn't just boil down to these two issues." Telling the kids what they should care about warranted what is fast becoming the most insulting political jibe going - "it's all very New Labour." TB couldn't help but ask how many Liberal Youth hacks practice what they preach on the pot front and he can't work out if the reply of "not enough" was a joke or not.

While the apparatchiks and sand pitters clearly couldn't handle Scarlett's bluntness and brutal honesty, she has managed to find friends and allies in the "political bad-ass" camp through the newly relaunched think tank Liberal Vision. Headed up by Mark Littlewood, who is another fan of trouble-making - to the extent he was punched by a Lib Dem MP at their conference last year, this band of libertarians are making quite a splash in Lib Dem land. While Liberal Vision are making inroads in trying to influence Lib Dem policy and shift the floundering, cracked coalition to the right, the organisation has one mammoth struggle ahead of it. TB agrees with the notion that "libertarianism is the natural conclusion of classic liberalism" that Scarlett mentioned more than twice, but whether libertarians will ever feel at home in the Liberal Democrats remains to be seen. For someone so young with a lot of energy and passion to give to politics, the decision has to be made soon of whether they want to be a big fish in a small pond or actually make an impact in a party that has the prospect of forming a government anytime soon. Scarlett was quick to dismiss the Conservatives of being any better as a nest for freedom lovers "I'll join the Conservatives when David Cameron legalises heroin... seriously though Cameron won't give civil liberties back" "Cameron and Osborne are very good on TV but they aren't reformers." Evidently not the biggest fan of DC, but then again the next generation of the Party, after twelve years of enslavement by Labour is distinctly more libertarian than those running the show today.

The conversation quickly took a turn for slightly less focused as bottle number two slipped away, but before the notebook went back in the briefcase, TB took the inevitable look to the future. Though Scarlett denies that she wants "her arse on a green bench," TB found this hard to believe. Sara Scarlett has most definitely got the political bug and she isn't going to lose it anytime soon, but what else she has is a much rarer gift - the fact she is a hack who isn't scared to break the party line and say what she really feels. She may want her "arse on a green bench" but whether the Liberal Democrats will want her is a different matter. Liberal Youth looked a gift horse in the mouth in re-electing a socialist, former Labour Student over Scarlett but that election wasn't the last the Liberal Democrats will hear of her.

Friday, 8 August 2008

The Bear Necessities - Michael Rock

Tucking into a dim sum lunch Michael Rock is looking remarkably relaxed for a man trying to juggle a full time job, what should be a full time job and his marriage. TB found his famed easy-going style lived up to its reputation, but don’t let that fool you. Beneath that Michael is articulate and astute, a man with a plan…

From a man whose interests on Facebook are “lamenting the loss of liberty” you would expect him simply to do just that – lament, but Michael is one of what he calls the “new generation” on the libertarian wing of the party. Instead of being all talk over cigars and port in the Carlton Club, Michael is adamant he will stamp his lasting influence on Conservative Future. His libertarian, small government, no nonsense outlook on life is the backbone to his intended restructuring of CF. Using Europe as a vague analogy he claims CF “needs a better structure, needs to be more independent from CCHQ, and we need to be in a position where branch chairs have more autonomy.”

Although the exact details of the restructuring cannot be released to the members until they have been approved by the Party Board, we will know by conference exactly what they are. Michael describes the reforms as “radical – we are the radicals and we will always be!” The reforms however will not come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the Rock4CF manifesto – a document that is being put into action bit by bit all be it “slower than initially anticipated because of the very slow bureaucratic nature of CCHQ.”

At 29 Michael is one of the oldest active CF members, he seems to have taken to his role as the big cheese, the leader, very well. His age provides him with a certain gravitas over the younger members but unlike many of the students who make up the core of the membership Michael has a job. Despite being full-time information consultant his day is dominated by phone calls and anything up to fifty emails concerning CF and that’s just before the social events in the evenings. Friday night is Mrs Rock time though! He brushes away TB’s suggestion that it can’t all be fun and games but is clearly a hard man to faze. Despite certain blogs having emerged focusing on CF in the last few months, the nastier and darker sides of CF come in attacks that are not always meant for the public eye. Just this week Michael has had to deal with a fake document that slammed his record so far and worst of all the attacker falsely claimed it was written by Patrick Sullivan, not only a very loyal NME member but a friend. The attack backfired though,

this sophisticated fake
has failed to sway the determined Chairman - Michael is extremely thick skinned “it’s incredibly hard to insult me. I don’t take attacks personally because most of the things that are offensive are inaccurate.” He is trying to spread this attitude to his NME - “Just don’t worry about it! I guess that the younger you are less thick skinned you are.”

Though he is ambitious for his term in office, Michael is realistic. He constantly stresses his concern with the relationship and role CCHQ plays over the organisation. “We’ll be ok” for a general election if it was called post conference – “the target seats ‘issue’ wasn’t the best way to do it – we accept the fifteen target seats in the same way accept any seat – we need to win.” Michael is adamant that the relationship CF has with CCHQ has to change. Firstly CF still has no access to the data of all its members; the Chairman can not send an email to all its members in one go- “come on this is 2008!” Secondly over yet more dumplings the staffing of CF is discussed. Michael would like to see two full time staff of CF age devoting their time fully and completely to the everyday running of the organisation, something that is clearly needed -“there are members of CF that don’t know they are members of CF!”

Although he is careful not to discuss successor to a job that is not yet vacant, by far the biggest grin of the afternoon comes at the suggestion of the chances of getting David Davis to take over Justine Greenings role as CF’s MP were she to be promoted. Freedom is high up on the Rock agenda and he accepts that as it is “it’s a territory that the party can’t really go… That’s why we need get the independence. We’re the next generation; we need to plan for the next twenty years. There’s nothing worse than a Party troll!” Michael is adamant the “the next generation” is a libertarian one and the structure of CF has to reflect this. He has completely uncomplicated views on tax and government but isn’t the sort to bore you to tears with his opinions on flat tax and cutting red tap.

So what next for Michael Rock? It seems the safe seat in the shires and a couple of rug rats are not on the agenda for anytime soon. He’ll be doing the PAB – but only because the Approved Candidate list will be closing soon, “just so it’s there” he claims. “There is no way in the world I would be able to even think about a seat while I am still Chairman.” Rejecting the idea of moving to a random constituency he dreams of fighting his hometown but still genuinely thinks he is too young to be an MP. Lighting a Marlboro, forced outside by the state he so opposes, Michael looks to the future;

“You can be very influential in politics without being an MP… no kids yet - I'm not that desperate for new members!"

Watching Rock disappear back to work through the crowds of Oxford Circus TB reckons this unpretentious and perceptive man will not only go far, but leave a lasting radical impression, on what is essentially a reactionary organisation.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Submit your Questions...

"Bear Necessities" is a new series of interviews TB will be undertaking over the next few months.

Who better to launch it with than CF Chairman Michael Rock. TB will be sitting down to interview him this week. What do you want to know?

Submit your questions below or email them to TB...