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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).

Jul 272015
 

With all the fuss about Jeremy Corbyn being nominated for election as the Labour party leader, anyone would think that the mainstream (read "parliamentary") Labour party is terrified that the slightest whiff of a genuine left-wing agenda by Labour will make them unelectable.

Perhaps so. Anyone who remembers the height of the Thatcher era when Labour was unelectable could well be worried that Labour might again make itself unelectable. And some of that distant past unelectability may well have been caused by the policies.

But not necessarily the 'left-wing' part of those policies.

In the recent election approximately 1/3 of the electorate chose to vote for the Tories which means that 2/3 did not. And that does not inlcude those who failed to find somebody worth voting for. And given the widespread revulsion at the early plans of what the Tories plan to inflict on us indicates that people could well be interested in a genuine alternative.

And that alternative is not "Conservative-light" (I refuse to use the trendy spelling of "light"; apart from anything else, there's a word for someone as old as I am trying to be trendy … and that word is "pathetic").

There is nothing more repulsive than a politician pandering to the lowest common denominator, and modifying their principles to make them more appealing to "middle-England". Perhaps this is why Labour is loosing their core work-class support.

Labour should be for the working classes, but the working classes including everyone who isn't a member of the idle rich which includes many people who don't traditionally think of themselves as working class. Such as doctors, solicitors, surveyors, bank managers (not "bankers"), etc. 

Take a look at the results of the Green party – a genuincely progressive party with left-wing policies – who went from 1% share of the votes to 3.8%. Despite being an unelectable fringe party with no hope of being elected, they massively increased their share of the vote. 

Perhaps a Labour party with sensible left-wing policies would not be electable, but at least it would be honest. And who knows? Maybe it would be electable after 5 years of Tory mismanagement and punishment for those who weren't born with a silver spoon.

Elements Have Their Way

 

 

May 092015
 

Well if you are a Tory supporter nothing went wrong; indeed you must be cock-a-hoop given that you have a Tory government when 64% of the voters wanted something else! But if you are against the Tories, you have to be wondering what went wrong.

The most obvious problem is the broken medieval electoral system we have. For practical reasons it made sense in the days of horse-drawn carts to ask each area to appoint a representative in parliament. But today we should be able to design an electoral system where MPs represent people not places, and where everybody can say their vote helped appoint someone to parliament.

As an example if all the votes for the Green party were distributed amongst the smallest UK consituencies (you did realise they are different sizes didn't you?), they would have ended up with 23 MPs instead of just 1! The Tories would end up with 240 seats rather than 331, which basically means that the Tories are very good at distributing their supporters.

In my case, my vote went towards a loser which means I'm "represented" by a politician whose policies and attitudes I find totally repulsive. There is nobody in parliament that I voted for. And the same applies to a huge swathe of the population who are now feeling alienated by the whole process.

And that is something that can and should be changed.

The alienation caused by the first past the post system is probably one of the causes of the low turnout; what is the point in voting if you live in a "safe" seat?

The most obvious difference in this election is the wholesale take-over of Scotland by the SNP, which surprised everyone. Which leads the new Tory government to a bit of a problem – with just one MP in Scotland, they essentially have no mandate to govern Scotland. 

And even in England, the Tory majority is nothing to crow about – a majority of 5 is what would have been called a "fragile majority" in the past. A Tory leader with such a slim majorty is likely to run into problems if they try and ram through a radical programme.

The Tories managed to persuade many of us that a bit more self-flagellation is necessary, and punishing the poor and unfortunate is good for the country.

The effect on the Liberal Democrats is both surprising and entirely predictable. Joining a coalition with the Tories was always a mistake in terms of future elections – it was always seen as helping to put the Tories into power, and many Liberals were far less accepting of this than they would have been to see the party join a coalition with Labour. What the Liberal Democrats failed to sell was the idea that their presence in government helped to amerliorate the Tory extremes.

Labour's failure was probably down to several things :-

  1. The failure to demolish the myth of Labour's economic incompetance that "caused" the recession. It was the global failure of the banking system that caused that failure. Labour's spending was actually reasonably restrained until the need to rescue the banks arose.
  2. The failure to come up with a true alternative to the austerity plan of the Tories. Given the level of government debt that would be a hard job, but it could be started by pointing out (quite rightly) that simplistic austerity makes the debt problem worse.
  3. The inability to persuade that most voters are actually "working class". There is a historic problem with the class system by which people think of the working class as cloth-capped horned handed manual workers of one kind or another. In reality, everybody who works for a living is working class.

Of course whinging about it is not going to change things. We have five years of Tory mismanagement and punishing austerity to accept now.

May 232014
 

In my opinion, there is one clear thing from the local election results: Lazy journalism. UKIP merrily announced before the election that they were expecting to cause a political earthquake, but the results have been nothing like that at all. Lazy journalists picked up on the earthquake phrase and misused it to talk about the results.

UKIP has done quite well; they’ve even exceeded their internal prediction of getting 100 councilors. But they have not done nearly well enough to cause a political earthquake. That would be more along the lines of getting enough councilors to push one of the big two into third place (or lower).

The numbers aren’t all in yet, but UKIP looks to have won 155 council seats which is still less than half of the next biggest party (the Liberal Democrats on 399 seats), despite the fact that the Liberals were slaughtered – they’ve lost more councilors that UKIP has yet are still in third place. In fact both the Tories and the Liberal Democrats lost more councilors than UKIP gained, and Labour gained a lot more than UKIP.

And UKIP controls not a single council. It’s still an “also ran” party.

Ignoring the fact that UKIP is the kind of party that nobody with more than two brain cells wants to see in power, UKIP is in the position of being a minor party. A single-issue party that has yet to break into the mainstream. If they continue to progress at the rate they are doing (unlikely in the extreme), they may start winning councils in another decade.

No earthquake in sight.

Sep 262010
 

Yesterday we heard the news that the new leader of the Labour party is Ed Millband – and congratulations to him. Ever since then we have had the media rambling on with the same old theme – more or less “but … but … it was the undemocratic unions who voted him in”.

So? It is not as if the Labour party has some sort of secret democratic process that changes every five minutes; the union vote was known well in advance, yet we heard no complaints before the result. Sometimes it feels as if the media look for any possible note of negativity in any news. Why not portray the news for once, and look at what difference Ed may make ?

There are undoubtedly Labour party members a bit suspicious of the influence of the Unions – after all it is hardly every party that allows people outside the membership of the party to vote. But why not ? The Labour party is supposed to reflect the interests of the working man and woman, so shouldn’t their representatives have an influence on the leadership ?

Sometimes the media gives us the impression that political parties need to have free and fair elections to select their leaders. Nothing could be further from the truth. A political party is effectively a private members club who put up their members for election whenever the opportunity presents itself (if funds and inclination are available).

Excluding the Liberal Democrats who have had a more chaotic life over the last 50 years, the Tories had their first leadership election in 1965 (over 100 years after their first government), and the Labour party had their first leadership election in 1922 some time after their formation. Indeed the only voters at those elections were the MPs of the respective parties!

The Labour party is unusual in allowing the unions to vote … or more accurately, the members of those unions. If they choose to do so, who are we (as non-members) to say it is wrong ? If you feel it is wrong, join the party and campaign for change.

And lets have a few less curmudgeons in the media please!

May 112010
 

There are those who claim that the possibility of the Tories and the Liberals combining into a coalition, or worse Labour and the Liberals combining into a coalition is undemocratic because it would not be what the public has voted for.

Perhaps, but it is no less democratic than a parliament with a clear majority. We do not have right to select the Prime Minister, just our representative in parliament. We expect our representative to vote for (actually technically it’s not vote against) the leader of his or her party. It is interesting to note that there is nothing in our system that allows for MPs changing parties – if you voted for a Labour party candidate, he gets elected and then immediately joins the Tory party, there is nothing to be done – your representative has been chosen even if you do not agree with his defection!

In reality, it is the elected MPs who decide who the Prime Minister is to be. What effectively happens is that the Queen (or King) selects a candidate Prime Minister. Although the Queen could pick whatever MP she wants as Prime Minister, in practice she selects the obvious choice – basically the leader of the majority party (or coalition). The Prime Minister then takes a “Queen’s Speech” to parliament and the MPs either vote in favour, or against – in which case the Prime Minister basically isn’t accepted by parliament so has to resign and force another election.

The key worry of those who claim that we could end up with an undemocratic result is with the possibility of a Labour-Liberal coalition – a “coalition of the defeated” – forming the next government. Is this fair ?

If you put add together the Labour, Liberal and nationalist MPs, they more than outnumber the Tory MPs, so even under our current electoral system, the hypothetical Labour-Liberal coalition is actually more representative of the will of the people than a Tory government.

After all, all the major parties have lost this election – Labour, Liberals, and Tories. The Tories have the largest number of MPs but not a majority. They cannot claim to have won this election any more than Labour can, because under our system “winning” is effectively having more than 326 MPs. And they do not.

If we end up with any coalition, it will be a coalition of the defeated. And yes the possible Tory-Liberal coalition is just as much a coalition of the defeated as a Labour-Liberal coalition would be.

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.

May 082010
 

So after some 36 years, we have a “hung” parliament again with no party in overall control. There’s a joke in there somewhere to do with hanging politicians from lampposts, but I cannot quite see how to fit it in. Except to say that the politicians should sort out some sort of consensus government in a fairly short order.

The overall effect of the way that the public voted is that we effectively voted for a coalition government – no single party obtained a majority so the only stable government will be a coalition government. There are people going around saying that only the Tories have the moral right to form a government because they are the single largest party (on just 35% of the popular vote!); those that believe that misunderstand that we are in a “balanced parliament” situation where it is the largest coalition that has the votes to form a government.

Without second guessing the results of the negotiations, there are some obvious possibilities.

Conservatives On Their Own As  Minority Government

This is the option that could quite easily see the Conservatives in the electoral wilderness for another generation. Everyone can see that the only sensible option for a stable government would be to form a coalition to ensure a relatively stable majority. Opting to go it alone, would indicate that the Conservatives are unwilling or unable to share power with any other party despite it being in the best interests of the country.

A minority government of this kind is likely to be so unpopular with both the other politicians and the public that it would be unlikely to last for very long and quite possibly would result in the Tories being pushed to third or fourth place in the polls at the next election.

Frankly it does not seem very likely – I would expect that if the Liberals cannot get a good deal with the Conservatives, they will go across the road to Labour.

Con-Lib Pact

This combination seems a little unlikely to be honest – a coalition between unrepentant reactionaries and progressives ? The discussions are going on as I write this, and it is quite possible that some sort of agreement could result in such a coalition government. But there is a fundamental conflict between the two parties – Liberals are very interested in electoral reform, and the Conservatives are very much in favour of the current system which has seen them form the majority of governments in the 20th century.

If such a coalition forms, I see it as only lasting until electoral reform has taken place … or when the Liberals realise that the Tories promises on electoral reform were just a big con. It is also likely to be a coalition with a considerable level of bad feeling – whatever the leaders might feel, the ordinary MPs and ordinary supporters just are not going to like it very much.

Lib-Lab Pact

These two parties are almost natural allies in forming a coalition government as both are progressive parties. And the resulting coalition government is likely to be more stable than a Lib-Con coalition. There are those who would say that that such a coalition would be ignoring the will of the people who have voted Gordon Brown out.

Well, they would have a point if Labour were attempting to form a minority government, but that is not what this is about. Between them, Labour and Liberal have more than 50% of the popular vote, so can quite legitimately claim that as a coalition they have a more legitimate claim on government than the Conservatives alone who have just 35% of the popular vote.

The question would be, would the Liberals go back on their word not to work with Gordon Brown, or would Labour ditch Gordon Brown and elect a new leader to work with the Liberals ? It would certainly make some kind of sense for Gordon Brown to go as a sort of symbol of the end of the Labour government. After all, whilst nobody has “won” in the old fashioned sense of getting an overall majority, it is certainly the case that Labour has lost it’s overall majority.

But the biggest problem with a Lib-Lab pact is that it would have to be a “rainbow” coalition of essentially everyone who does not want to see the Tories back in charge. This adds up to around 329 MPs including the nationalist MPs from Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland (but ignoring Sinn Feinn who do not take up their seats). Whilst the nationalist MPs may not work with Labour on their own in their respected countries, they very well may support a rainbow coalition as the best way to prevent the Tories from getting in.

Con-Lab Coalition

Well it makes sense numerically, but can anyone really see this one being a realistic possibility ? Not likely.

It is fun to contemplate what may happen, but the only real answer to all the speculation is to wait and see what happens. There is an interesting possibility of electoral reform, which may very well be finally accomplished – if the Liberals stick to their guns and insist on it as a precondition for their membership of a coalition government.

And indeed it could well the that insistence that breaks any coalition between the Liberals and the Conservatives. Various comments leaked by the Conservatives indicate that they at least do not believe in electoral reform, or believe how important electoral reform is to those who believe it is vital.

If we end up with a coalition government (or a less formal arrangement that amounts to the same thing), we will end up with a government much more like governments in countries with less unfair and far more sensible voting systems. We will end up with a government much less likely to resort to extremist policies and a government much more likely to reflect the collective will of the people.

Apr 282010
 

So this lunchtime, Gordon Brown was being interrogated by an ordinary voter. Fair enough. But later after getting into his car without checking his microphone was off, was heard calling her a “bigoted woman”. He has already apologised, but the damage has allegedly been done.

It is certainly the kind of mistake no politician would like to make – an easy boost to all the others.

It has been seized on as an example of how Gordon Brown has no sympathy with the interests of common people. Possibly.

But it could also be his way of dealing with stress – to insult someone in “private” (and he thought it was in private) is a way of letting off stream. Anyone who has worked in IT will undoubtedly be familiar with the strategy. And a politician meeting with a member of the public who is asking aggressive and unscripted questions is likely to get a little stressed.

And who is to say he is unique in this ? Gordon Brown has been caught out by making two mistakes – expressing his feelings out loud, and not making sure he was really in private. Other politicians have so far in this election have not been caught out, but who is to say that they do not do exactly the same ?

Looking back a day later, and what now ? I would say that nobody is really interested in Brown’s “disastrous” mistake – despite all the fuss in the media. Is his mistake more an opportunity for the media to make a fuss ? The subject hasn’t come up in conversation and nobody has encountered this page through a search. Perhaps to the ordinary voters out there, there are other factors far more interesting than whether Gordon Brown sometimes is a little less than diplomatic in private (or what he thought was private) ?

Apr 262010
 

Under our current voting system, voting for the candidate who represents the party you wan in government is not necessarily a smart way to vote. In some cases, choosing the party you want in government is throwing you vote away on a party that is very unlikely to win in your constituency. For instance in the constituency that I live in – Portsmouth South – anyone who votes Labour is pretty much throwing their vote away. The effective choices are between Liberal, or Conservative candidates.

With a transferable vote system (which of course we do not have), a Labour supporter (which isn’t me!) may well vote Labour as their first choice, and Liberal as their second choice to reduce the possibility that the Conservative candidate would win. Similarly, a Tory supporter in Scotland may choose Liberal as their second choice to reduce the chance of a Labour candidate winning.

Under our current system, it is probably better to choose between the two (or rarely three) leading candidates, picking the one that you least dislike the least. Whilst it may go against the grain to vote for somebody other than your preferred candidate, it does mean that your vote against the candidate you dislike the least is more effective.

Smart tactical voting is more complex than this of course – it involves checking the details of your constituency (you may also want to check the Voting Power details for your constituency, and the relevant Wikipedia article), and working out from the previous election results which two (or three if the third is within about 5% of the second placed candidate) and working out which one you would least dislike.

The Tories are warning that a vote for the Liberal party is voting to keep Gordon Brown in power – which is effectively saying that smart voting can accomplish something, but obviously slanted towards favouring voting Tory wherever you are. Whilst no party will encourage tactical voting, it can be for the benefit of whatever party you would prefer.

Vote tactically – it’s the smart thing to do!

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