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Jun 172017
 

The election result is in, and the Tories have failed; specifically they failed to increase their majority and indeed no longer constitute a majority. Yet the alternatives have failed too.

The likelihood is that the Tories will form the next government propped up by the reactionary Unionists from Northern Ireland. We can crow over May not getting her increased majority, but she is still in number 10. Which means more years of Tory misrule.

So what went wrong?

Well we could argue that factors such as different attitudes to Brexit, doubt over the Labour leader’s leadership, etc. But there are two big factors.

Firstly the media lies by the Tory press (which seems to be pretty much most of them). Whilst the press is owned by a clique of super-rich Tory supporters, the good news is that the newsprint industry is slowly fading into irrelevance – no doubt helped by their ridiculous bias. And tasteless journalism – the sort of which led to the Sun being boycotted in Liverpool.

Secondly, and perhaps the biggest aspect is that a large segment of the working class has bought into the big Tory lie – that they support the ordinary working family and small businesses. In reality Tories support the super rich with their tax cuts, and don’t give a damn about the working class. The real working class.

Which is not what most people think of when they hear that phrase; it is not just the horned handed agricultural labourer and the worn out factory worker, but it also includes office workers, lawyers, “knowledge workers”, etc. It is everyone who works for a living, Somehow workers in the Tory heartlands are fooled into thinking that the Tories are on their side.

What the Tory alternatives need to do is to persuade these deluded workers that voting Tory helps only the super-rich, and not by painting themselves a fetching shade of blue (as New Labour did).

May 012017
 

With an election coming up it is time to try and persuade those who do not vote to get out there and vote. One of the main reasons people give for not voting is because none of the candidates are inspiring enough. Well it is all very well waiting for a candidate that inspires you, but you could well be waiting for a very long time.

Probably the second biggest reason for not voting is that with the first past the post system, there are places where voting for anyone other than the leading candidate is seen as a wasted vote. Nothing could be further from the truth! In almost every “safe” seat, if everyone who didn’t vote for the leading candidate all voted for an agreed alternative, then the seat could easily go to that alternative candidate. For example, the Arundel and South Downs constituency was won with 32 thousand votes in a constituency of nearly 100,000 – easily enough to overturn the Tory majority.

As to tactical voting: It can be summed up by selecting the candidate you would most like to lose (such as the Tory candidate), and picking the candidate most likely to defeat them.

Anyone can find out the last few election results (and a whole lot more) at http://www.electoralcalculus.co.uk/. Just look at the last few elections and vote for the second placed candidate (providing that’s not a Tory or a UKIP candidate of course!). And don’t keep punishing the Liberals for breaking their promises; they don’t break their promises any more than the others.

Of course this may mean you are not voting for the candidate you want, but under the present voting system it makes more sense to vote against the candidate you dislike the most. Yes this is crazy, but so is using a voting system first used in the medieval era!

Nov 112016
 

So Trump has been elected as the next president of the USA.

Now setting aside my disbelief for a moment (really? He actually won?), let’s look at some of the reasons why he may have won, and why the poll takers got it wrong.

First of all, the polls were not that far out – whilst they got the winner wrong, they did predict that it would be close. And it was close – Clinton got 47.7% of the popular vote whereas Trump got 47.3%. Yes, Clinton actually won the popular vote, but the US electoral system does not work quite so well when the result is so close. But not bad for a 200-year old system, but perhaps it is time for a long and careful review of the process in the light of modern communications.

In addition, there is also the embarrassment factor – if you had decided to vote for Trump, would you really admit it publicly? On a more serious note, when elections are particularly acrimonious, there is a good chance that a significant amount of the electorate will lie (or just keep quiet) about their choice when asked by pollsters.

Enough about pollsters though, how did he win? Of course everyone wants one simple answer to that question, and there isn’t one. There are many factors as to why he won, and each contributes a little.

The first thing to remember is that there are many stupid people in any population. Nothing wrong with being stupid; some of my best friends are stupid (that didn’t come out quite right!). Really! And it is a fact of life that there are many stupid people – it’s how intelligence tests work. You measure everyone’s intelligence, and those who are below average are stupid, and those who are above average are bright.

Besides, Trump won didn’t he? QED.

And stupid people are easily conned by anyone who tells them what they want to hear no matter how fantastical it might be. And Trump has been telling them what they want to hear – abortion is wrong, he can restore manufacturing jobs (presumably by overturning the laws of economics), making America great again (that one always goes down well, even if America is already great), that climate change is not man-made, etc.

Every time that he pushed one of those buttons, and pandered to every wing-nut grouping out there, he gained more supporters. He either didn’t care or didn’t know that he came across as a cretinous fool, as long as he got some votes.

The second big factor was that although Trump was nominated by the Republican party, he was the closest thing to an anti-establishment candidate of the two major parties (I’ll come to the other parties shortly). Of course he isn’t really not part of the establishment being a billionaire property developer, but he hasn’t previously held public office. And anti-establishment is very popular right now. Given that Clinton was very definitely old political establishment, this could very well be the most significant reason.

And of course there is the economy. Like the rest of the world, the US has just been through a huge recession where many lost their jobs or even their homes. And any ruling party suffers in the wake of a recession. Whether or not the Democrats were to blame, they were going to get blamed by the voters – or at least enough of them to make a bit of a difference.

Next there is of course the poor old sane Republican who has always voted for their party. This time around, they had a buffoon to vote for and although some couldn’t face voting for Trump, a good number couldn’t see any other options.

The reason that some people are blaming are the “other” candidates. Despite the media coverage implying that there are only two candidates, there were in fact nearly 30. If all those who voted for one of the others, had voted for Clinton instead, it might have made a difference, but it seems a touch unlikely that they would have all voted for her. Best guess? They would have divided more or less evenly just like everyone else did.

Having said that, it would be nice if the US had a transferable vote system whereby you could vote for (say) the Green Party, but have your vote go towards another if the Green party didn’t win.

I’m not going to bother mentioning those who couldn’t be bothered to vote. They didn’t vote so they don’t count.

So how about the reaction to Trump’s victory?

It’s almost as bizarre as the lead up to the election: When you’re in a room the morning the results came out, and the two embarrassed Americans both apologise for the US having voted in Trump, you know there’s something odd going on. The reaction has been extreme – not just the usual moaning about having an idiot in charge for four years, but protests, riots, and even a group in California that wants to declare independence. It is sort of understandable (after all, it’s Trump!), but the division in the US today may be almost as damaging as the idiocies that Trump will enact.

On the subject of which, Trump himself probably can’t remember all the rubbish he has promised all over the campaign trail. Of course there are those who will remind him of things he has promised, and probably a lot more besides. But how much damage will he actually do?

The worst case scenario (and there’s more than one) is that he brings about some sort of theocratic form of government (he certainly has supporters who would like to see this), and launches nuclear weapons (Trump with his hand on the launch button? Shudder!).

This is not that likely – there are too many obstacles in the way, including the constitution. And there is just the slightest hint that Trump might not be quite that bad.

His first reaction to the protests was typical paranoia – blaming them on paid activists. But his second reaction was quite sympathetic saying he was pleased that the protesters loved their country so much. Trump probably likes being popular, and there’s one obvious thing to do with a president like that – when he proposes some idiocy, protest. Don’t protest about Trump (however tempting it is); protest about his bad policies.

Of course I might be overly optimistic.

stack-of-coins-p1

Apr 052015
 

It's a bit of a slow reaction to the leader's debate, and most of the debate was fairly predictable – the Tories want to cut public spending to pay off the deficit, Labour want to spend and hope the deficit will go away of it's own accord (and according to the historical record, Labour actually have a good track record of reducing the deficit!), and the Liberals want to fit themselves in the middle. The Greens made some interesting points, and the nationalist parties also had some interesting (if nationalistic) points to make.

But Farage (representing UKIP) was unbelievably simple-minded. Just about any problem could be dealt with by getting rid of the dirty foreigner.

Farage wants to cut the deficit by stopping sending money to those dirty foreigners. Their total saving on the foreign aid budget and the EU subscription would amount to £17 billion per year; even ignoring the fact the deficit is growing at about £100 billion a year, it will take approximately 88 years to pay off. Failure number 1.

Farage has a solution to the housing crisis – stop all the dirty foreigners coming in and taking over our houses. It seems like an obvious problem, but is not the whole story (see this article for an analysis of what may be wrong with the housing market).

On the question of the NHS, Farage has a solution to increase the NHS budget – stop treating all those dirty foreigners and let them die in the streets. Concentrating on figures for the moment, stopping treating foreigners may cut NHS costs by £2billion which sounds like a great deal, but it is a drop in the ocean compared with the overall NHS budget of £116 billion. What has not been mentioned is that the NHS is not very good at recovering costs from foreign health insurance schemes which is something worth looking at.

Personally I am quite willing to see the NHS spend 1.7% of it's budget on treating foreigners, because sick people need treatment. What kind of society would we be if we let those who don't qualify for treatment die in the streets? 

Farage and UKIP seem to have only one answer to all the problems the next government will face – blame foreigners. No problem is so simple that there is just one solution to it, and even if you believe that immigration is too high then you should at least agree with me that a party whose only answer is to blame foreigners is not worth considering.

Mar 212015
 

Today's little ramble was brought about by a little off-hand remark about the last election. Aparently the Tories got 10 million votes whereas the apathetic (those who didn't vote) numbered 16 million!. So why do all those people fail to vote?

Apathy

On first appearances there is not a great deal that can be done about those who are too apathetic to vote. By their nature the apathetic are very difficult to persuade into action.

But we can make voting easier

Postal voting already exists, but still takes a bit of effort to arrange and get sorted. It is rather too late to arrange it for the election this time around, but it is time we had some form of secure online voting. Previous attempts at electronic voting have not been entirely successful, so any online voting mechanism should be slowly are carefully worked out. It is not the sort of thing you hive off to the lowest bidder and let them solve all of the problems.

But probably the one thing I'm keenest on is to review the archaic and ridiculous habit of insisting on voting taking place on a Thursday. There is no reason for it other than convenience for the politicians (it gives them a long weekend to sort out the new government). It is nothing more than a historical custom. Setting the election for a day at the weekend would allow those who are only partialy apathetic more of a chance to get their vote in.

Many of us work, and voting on a Thursday involves disruption to a routine which may not have much available flexibility. In the morning, you're too busy getting the kids to school and yourself to work to take time out to vote (I vote in the mornings and it's amazing how quiet the polling booths are), and after a bad day at work it is all too easy to slump down on the sofa and "forget" about voting. 

Safe Seats

With our current electoral system, the result of an election is determined by the result in a handful of marginal seats; in the majority of seats the result is almost a foregone conclusion (with the occasional surprise often assisted by the presence of a particularly odious politician). 

If you happen to live within a safe seat, there is relatively little pressure to vote – your individual vote is unlikely to make a difference one way or another.

Given the result of the referendum for the last attempt at electoral reform, it is unlikely that any serious attempt at change will be made in the forseeable future. But our current electoral system definitely discourages voter turnout.

It would be nice if we could change the system in some way to make a direct connection between our vote and the person who was elected – so most of us could say that we were one of the 100,000 that voted for Fred and that's why she's an MP.

The Repugnant Political Establishment

There is an old joke about just how repugnance lawyers are :-

A grade school teacher was asking students what their parents did for a living. Timmy stood up and said, "My mom is a doctor!" Sarah stood up and said, "My father is a professor!" Little Johnny stood up and said, "My dad is a piano player in a whorehouse!"

The teacher couldn't believe what she's had just heard, so she made a point of calling Little Johnny's father that evening to discuss the situation. Little Johnny's father explained, "Actually, I'm a law attorney, but how am I supposed to explain that to a seven year old kid!"

And this goes doubly so for politicians (many of whom are or were either solicitors or barristers). Let's be honest: The best of them slither around the place, and you need to keep a tight grip on your wallet whenever a politician is around. How many stories about corrupt politicians have we had in the last 10 years?

It seems to many of us that although the political establishment gives lip service to the will, wishes and needs of the people, it in fact serves only it's own interests and those of it's specially favoured friends (who always seem to be rich and get richer). Whether or not you believe this, there is a significant proportion of the population who do believe it.

Amongst those who do believe, there are also plenty of those who believe that it is best to ignore the political establishment and try and achieve something outside it. Working outside the political establishment is a laudible aim, and something to be encouraged.

But it is not an exclusive choice – you can still work outside the political establishment, and still vote.

Cannot decide which of the rancid reptiles you like best? Just vote for the one you dislike the least; any vote cast for any candidate that opposes UKIP is worthwhile. 

My Vote Won't Make A Difference

Statistically that is entirely correct as a single vote does not make a difference.

But collectively we do make a difference; a small difference as the political establishment has stacked the deck, but a difference none the less.

Feb 102015
 

A while back, I commented on the Tories cheering the cuts bringing in a new era of austerity. I said at the time we should remember their cheers, and now we should do the remembering.

Whether or not the austerity cuts were necessary, the cheering by the Tories showed their true colours – they would rather cut benefits to the poor and working classes to reduce taxes for their rich friends.

Remember the cheering when you listen to their wheedling speaches to get your votes.

Remember the cheering when they claim to be on the side of ordinary workers.

Remember the cheering when you go into vote. And vote for anybody else (except UKIP).

May 092010
 

There are those who say that the election result is a clear defeat for Labour and Gordon Brown should immediately go. Actually that would be unethical and irresponsible. Gordon Brown is obliged to remain the Prime Minister until such time as a new Prime Minister emerges from the confusion of the current discussions on whether a coalition is possible.

Formally, the Prime Minister stays in power until the first parliament after an election takes place at which opportunity parliament can express its’ new views by voting down the old government’s Queens Speech. At which point the old Prime Minister is effectively forced to resign. In modern years, it is common when there is a clear result for the old Prime Minister to ask the Queen to appoint the new Prime Minister.

The whole point of the process is to avoid leaving the UK without a government for anything more than an hour. As such, Gordon Brown cannot resign in favour of the next Prime Minister because nobody has emerged who will take his place. If he were to resign, the current Labour deputy prime minister would take over.

Mar 062010
 

I have just seen a news item on TV about what the pundits think the effect of social media (Twitter, Facebook and the like) will have on the upcoming UK election. The general consensus was that it probably will not make much difference, and I’m not going to disagree.

What was amusing though was that they seemed to have concentrated in what the politicians might say in their tweets or on their Facebook pages – missing the point of social networking entirely. Most of us do not pay much attention to what politicians say online on various social media sites; we stick to what our usual contacts say. It is what they say that may influence how we vote in elections.

Of course just like “water cooler debates”, it will not have a great influence over how we vote – it is just one more piece of information.

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