Monday, May 26, 2014

Interview with Dominic Hardwick, Liberal Democrat Candidate for Manchester City Council

Pearl of Tyburn: Coming to us from Manchester, England, we have Mr. Dominic Hardwick, one of this year’s Liberal Democrat Candidates for Manchester City Council. Good evening, Mr. Hardwick.

Dominic Hardwicke: And to you.

P.T.:  What national identities do you see yourself as having? And do you have any ethnic/religious identities to speak of?

D.H.:  Nationally, I see myself as British first. My ancestry is predominantly Anglo-Saxon, but I can trace Celtic, Viking, Irish, French and Jewish roots in my family tree. I would not say that I wasn't English, and I would describe myself as English; but I consider myself a Briton first and foremost.

Ethnically I am an English Catholic. My father was baptized as a Catholic and comes from a Catholic family. My mother was baptized into the Church of England. I was left to make my own decisions about faith and reach my own conclusions, and I came to the conclusion that there must be a god, and I found wisdom in the teachings of Christianity.

I can't believe that a mortal man (i.e. the Pope) is infallible, so I'm not Catholic; I dislike the sexism inherent in the Eastern Orthodox churches; I think that certain oriental sects are weird; American evangelical movements scare me; Jehovah's witnesses seem illogical; I find Mormonism illogical; and I dislike the rejection of ritual and mysticism by more puritanical churches. Therefore I identify as an Anglican Christian.

P.T.:  How did you first become active in politics, within the Liberal Democrat Party in particular?

D.H.:  Well, my parents always voted and were socialists, relishing in the 1997 victory of the Labour government. However, we had a great local Lib Dem councilor called John Leech, who they also voted for. Labour did its level best to earn the contempt of my parents over the years - first they abolished the feeder school system meaning that rather than going to a decent local state school, I was offered schools that were further away and more difficult to get to.

Fortunately, as I was intelligent enough, I was able to pass the entrance exams for my local private school, which is one of the best in the country. But we still resented what Labour had done, especially as our local Labour MP was unaffected by the change because he could afford to put his son through the same private school that I went to.

Then there was the Iraq war, NHS changes and tuition fees, so we got sick of Labour and started supporting John Leech, who was elected in the 2005 general election with the largest swing in the country. My mother was deeply involved in the local residents' association, and so was John, being an interested and involved local councilor and then MP, and so invited us to be his first guests around Parliament.

I started to like the Lib Dems and him, and helped him campaign in the next general election; by which time I had joined university. I joined the Lib Dems at University, and met Henry, who persuaded me of the merits of unionism. I began helping my local Lib Dem councilors by delivering a round of leaflets for them, and got involved in student politics too, campaigning successfully to be elected to the student council in two elections

I enjoyed canvassing, and so I asked my local councilors if I could help them with that. So due to my commitment, I became one of their core activists. I then did two internships with Lib Dem MPs (one of them a government minister) and started helping out in a winnable ward without which had not done much campaigning. I was then selected as a candidate last summer, and ran for the position of Lib Dem councilor this May.

P.T.:  What reasons do you have for being an active Unionist?

D.H.:  Many, but here are my top five:

1) Together England and Scotland are greater than the sum of their parts, we are more prosperous and powerful for our union, and division would make us poorer and weaker.

2) Unity is an essential underpinning of acceptance and understanding of other people. Separatism would make us naturally hostile, and would develop a narrative in Scotland that defined the Scots as being against the English, just as happened in Ireland.

3) We have years of shared history and culture, and we are both richer socially for it. People have fought and died to protect these United Kingdoms, and it would be a slight on their legacy and sacrifice to destroy what they preserved.

4) Nationalism is an evil, corrosive force that lies behind many of the wrongs of the world, we must do everything we can to fight it by integrating our nations and states.

5) A unified set of laws, customs and government systems is cheaper to administer and provides a level playing field for competition between companies. Removing this by separating would make both Britain and Scotland less attractive to businesses and investors.

P.T.:  How do you think most English people, especially in Manchester and the north, view the upcoming Scottish Independence Referendum?

D.H.:  I'd say that very few people understand what drives it, and without understanding, most people wouldn't really have a firm opinion on it. Lots of people understand it only with reference to British and English politics, so seeing it as an issue of right vs. left, or monarchism vs. republicanism.

P.T.:  Do you think UK general opinion will affect Scottish opinion, in lieu of how Canadian opinion effected Quebec during their last independence referendum?

D.H.:  I don't know. I see how it could be effective, but I also see how it could - if manifested in certain forms – be a hindrance. For example, in one of the US presidential elections where George Bush Jr. was the republican candidate, the Guardian (a left-wing UK newspaper) organized a letter-writing operation asking people to send letters to voters in a swing state asking them to vote Gore/Kerry. It had the opposite effect as the voters railed against external interference.

P.T.:  Granted. But that was about electing a candidate, not a referendum regarding the unity of the country.

D.H.:  Indeed, which is why I say I'm not sure.

P.T.:  What do you think about Better Together?

D.H.:  It's a much needed campaign expressing the views of the softly-spoken majority. As a campaign, it seems either weak or powerful but disjointed. Either the campaign group is weak and unitary and not getting its voice across while louder, independent voices stand up for the union, or the campaign is strong and multi-pronged, relying on outside voices to provide its strength.

P.T.:  Which one do you think is more likely? And what would you suggest they should do to present a stronger front?

D.H.: I'm too cynical to be able to tell. I think it might be the latter, but I dread that it may be the former. To present a stronger front, Alistair Darling may need to put himself about more. If he were an MSP that could be helpful....maybe.

P.T.:  What do you think of his personality as it comes across in comparison to Alex Salmond's?

D.H.:  I honestly haven't heard that much of him live. I'm kinda fixated on his eyebrows...

P.T.:  Okay. I guess darling doesn't have an eye-brush comb in his make-up kit?

D.H.:  Yeah, that and the fact that they are black while his hair is white.

P.T.:  The “No” Camp hasn’t really produced any singularly young and dynamic character as of late, have they?

D.H.:  No, but that might be a good thing. Younger politicians are often seen as factory-farmed soulless automata.

P.T.:  And what are guys like Alasdair Darling and Alex Salmond seen as?

D.H.:  More trustworthy because they are older and have held high office without courting scandal. Salmond less so because he's a fatuous nincompoop.

P.T.:  What do you think about Scottish Nats who say, "We are just like Ireland! We the oppressed Celtic peoples of the earth, who were conquered by the Sassenachs....yadda yadda yadda....."

D.H.:  It's pointless, destructive, self-pitying whining by people who seem to be suffering from inferiority complexes trying to cast themselves as victims to give justification to their nasty, petty, small-minded and ultimately xenophobic/racist world view. I really do have very little time for nationalists.

P.T.:  What are your thoughts on “Yes” supporters insisting that Scotland would be “better off weak”? Some of them actually say out loud: "We'd be better off weak; we wouldn't have to fight wars, etc."

D.H.:  Codswallop. Scotland would be irrelevant if weak. They would lack protection as they wouldn't be able to be a part of NATO without contributing to the defense of NATO.
Furthermore, I would argue that we have a duty to people beyond the borders of our country, and deliberately weakening ourselves to get out of our duty to remove genocidal tyrants and protecting the weak against the strong is repugnant cowardice and vile selfishness.

Also, only a fool would say that we had forever banished the scourge of major wars. Every time a major war has broken out, it has been after a period of peace in which people had convinced themselves that war would not return.

P.T.:  What do you think of Scotland and the pound?

D.H.:  If Scotland becomes independent, it can't remain in a currency union with the UK. The UK would have no reason to allow its monetary policy to be in part dictated by a country 1/10 its size.

It could continue to use the pound in the same way that Zimbabwe uses the dollar, but that wouldn't work for long term fiscal stability. It couldn't move to the Euro because the EU would not have an independent Scotland as a member. An independent Scotland would need its own currency.

P.T.:  As a Liberal Democrat, how would you answer the "anti-Tory-ism" that seems to be rampant in Scotland and used as an excuse to seek independence?

D.H.:  Be anti-Tory, that's fine - I don't particularly like them myself. However, trying to use the fact that somebody disagrees with the government of the day as a reason for them to vote for independence is just dishonest of the SNP. Salmond is trying so hard to cast the referendum as a Scotland vs. the Tories thing, and it is repulsive that he is trying to cheapen such an important question.

It's also an issue of trying to make people throw the take their ball and go home if something doesn't go their way. Finally, until 1997 the Tories were a major force in Scottish politics, and many senior Tory politicians are Scots themselves (historically this is true as well). David Cameron is of Scottish ancestry, Lord Strathclyde is pretty evidently a Scot. So too are Michael Gove and Sir Malcolm Rifkind; and so too were Harold MacMilland and Alec Douglas-Hulme.

The anti-Tory argument is also a logical fallacy. If Scotland goes independent, there will be governments with which the majority of Scots disagree, and which they think to be cruel, unjust or incompetent. Being part of the UK or independent will make no difference to that.

P.T.:  I think the same logic applies in the area of governmental budget cuts. If anything, they will have to deal with more of them, not less, if they go independent, since there will be less money on hand in general.

D.H.:  Exactly.

P.T.:  What do you think about this referendum trying to connect with the 700th anniversary of Bannockburn, and how would you answer the charge of “corruption” regarding the Act of Union in 1707?

D.H.:  Well it's a nice coincidence for the Nats that it's the anniversary of some mediaeval battle between England and Scotland where people fought over which line of distant aristocrats would rule them.

But I think that it's a more significant coincidence that it's the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the bloodiest conflict in human history. The outbreak of the war to end all wars, where Britons from across the isles fought and died together not for England, or Scotland, or Ireland - but for Britain.

P.T.:  Also, 2015 marks the 200th anniversary of Waterloo, which is another landmark for British unity.

Speaking of Ireland’s involvement in British military history, as a Liberal Democrat, what do you think of the situation in Northern Ireland?

D.H.:  It's sad that the region is divided politically by religion. I'd like to see the major parties contesting elections there and competing the sectarian parties out of existence.

P.T.:  What do you think of the concept of Ireland being divided in general, especially as it applies to your disapproval of The British Isles being divided?

D.H.:  It's the sad consequence of horrendous mismanagement by a series of vain kings and protectionist governments. Ireland would be better off in the union and should still be better off in the union, but a combination of ignorant racism by other Britons, Protestant kings refusing to grant rights to Catholic Irishmen, and protectionist governments letting the Irish starve during the potato famine rather than repeal the corn laws led to the inevitable ill-feeling and revolt. Those wounds will take a long time to heal, but I hope that they heal and that we reconcile.

P.T.:  What is your opinion on the monarchy, and how do you think it affects unity and the Union?

D.H.:  I am a monarchist. I believe that constitutional monarchy is the best form of government available to a country. I think that monarchy makes many people more likely to vote to keep the union, hence why Salmond is saying that Scotland would keep the queen if independent. However, you still get the odd person who will owe fealty to the Jacobite claimant, "the king over the water".

P.T.:  While I may not agree entirely that constitutional monarchies are “the best form of government available”, I am also a constitutional monarchist in as much as it works well for Britain. Would you ever like to see the queen speak out in favor of the union?

D.H.:  I would like her to speak out in favour of the union, but in her usual understated way.

P.T.:  She did so at her Silver Jubilee, yes?

D.H.:  She may have repeated this at her Diamond Jubilee. I remember that recently she said that she remembers the importance of the fact that she became queen of a united kingdom or something.

P.T.:  If so, more power to her!

What do you think about federalism and “greater powers” for the individual nations in the UK?

D.H.:  I think that federalism is good, but I'd break up nations in a federal system at all costs. So I'd like to see maybe a parliament for southern Scotland and a parliament for the Highlands and Islands with no overall Scottish Parliament. That gives people autonomy locally but may help control separatism. As for “greater powers”, I think they would be fine so long as those powers don't lead to inequality between regions or different laws between regions.

P.T.:  How do you think this referendum is affecting people emotionally, on all spectrums of the debate?

D.H.:  On emotions, it will buoy some people immeasurably for Scotland to be independent - their dreams will be true and their self-esteem and pride in their nation will make them giddy with euphoria. They will (before the referendum) be filled with excitement and anticipation, believing that their time has come.

On the other side, people will be filled with patriotic fervour and a desire to defend their queen and country against separation. They will be grim and determined or giddy with excitement at a chance to defend Britain. Then there will be those who think that the time is not right for a referendum - those who would want to see independence but who think that the timing will make it impossible.

And there will be those who will see the timing as too good, or the mood too hostile for the union, and they will be pessimistic about the future. Some might despair that they can't do enough (or anything) to aid their cause.

P.T.:  What about people with trans-border connections like families, jobs, etc.?

D.H.:  I think that they will all live in fear of the consequences of independence, because it would create a tangible barrier between nations.

P.T.:  Should Yes win, what do you think will happen to the British identity throughout British Isles? Should No win, do you think more people will begin to see themselves as having dual identities?

D.H.:  Should Yes win, the British identity will decline even further - English people will be inclined to stop seeing themselves as British as they won't have a common nationality with the Scots anymore. The Welsh national identity will likely become stronger, and the only people who will still feel British will be ideological unionists.

Should No win, then I'm not sure what changes will happen to identities. I think that, perhaps we will see a strengthening of British identity in Scotland as people will start to reflect how their nation voted.

P.T.:  In general, do you think a general lack of patriotism towards Britain has a lot to do with the way the referendum was able to be launched with any hope of success at all? What do you think the best way is to restore a healthy sense of patriotism to the land?

D.H.:  Yes, I'd say so. In Britain, patriotism is often viewed as vulgar by most people, especially the intellectual elite. As a result, it is unfashionable to be pro-Britain, and in our post-colonial state, it is easy to feel shame about our national identity. It is easier and more fashionable to have a sense of national pride when you can paint your nation as being a bullied victim. People root for underdogs. Also, self-deprecation is part of the British identity.

To restore a healthy sense of patriotism, the country needs to do things of which it can be unashamedly proud - such as hosting successful international events - e.g. the Olympics or Association Football World Cup. Or successful foreign interventions such as Libya or Kosovo.

P.T.:  And somehow, I can't help but add, to become secure within themselves and their past. At the end of the day, who do you predict will win this referendum?

D.H.:  The Unionists, because we have right on our side. I believe most people have voted SNP because it is a popular party that has governed moderately well, not because they want independence. All of the arguments fall on the side of the unionists, and I believe most people in Scotland want to remain in the union.

P.T.:  What do you think of the rise in the polls for the Nats? Does this at all concern you?

D.H.:  No. Individual polls change nothing and indicate little on their own - I know this from bitter experience as a Lib Dem. Significant trends are worth notifying, but not individual polls. People will often say all sorts of things to opinion polls about how they'll vote, and then go and vote completely differently. I only see polls as being broadly indicative if taken as a broad group over a broad period of time.

P.T.:  To wrap things up, what do you foresee for your future, personally and politically?

D.H.:  Future: I hope to one day find a long-term partner and raise a family with her.
I would like success in my business career so that I can have more money than I could ever use on myself and my family - I would like to be a philanthropist, so that I can give away my money to help other people.

I want to be a local councilor so that I can fix my town and my city. I want to achieve real political change for the country in terms of introducing voting reform and other reforms to transport. As the referendum heats up, I will most likely be watching on nervously, unable to help. I would like to perhaps campaign up north a bit, and I probably will in the week or two before the referendum. (The Lib Dem conference is in Glasgow on the week of the referendum).

P.T.:  How about your interests and hobbies?

D.H.:  I'm into computer gaming, history, role-playing games (e.g. Dungeons and Dragons), war-gaming. I'm also into competitive debating, watch Rugby, and have for many years been a martial artist. I spent years doing Judo and Karate.

P.T.:  Well, I wish you all the best, personally and politically. Thank you for doing this interview with me, Mr. Hardwick.

D.H.: You’re welcome. Goodnight!

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