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Apr 222017

May continue to cut public sector salaries year on year.

May continue to pillage the public services we all use to pay for the bankers mistakes.

May continue to make tax cuts for the rich.

May continue to cut welfare payments to the poorest families in our society causing a huge increase in child poverty.

May continue to stumble and fumble around during the Brexit negotiations in all likelihood resulting in a poor deal for Britain.

May continue to antagonise the non-English countries of the union increasing the likelihood of a break-up.

May continue to add powers to the secret policemen until we’re living in a police state (hint: it’s not that far off).

Time to look past May to June and choosing anyone other than May.

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!

Apr 182010

There is a suspicion that the elections in the UK just might result in a hung parliament where no party has an overall majority. In other words no party has more MPs than all the other parties put together. In such a situation, a government formed from the largest party tends to be quite nervous as it can be thrown out by its enemies if they all manage to agree.

The preferred option is for a coalition to form out of two or more parties who can swing (if all their MPs obey the party whip) an overall majority.

However in either case, the government is not as stable as it would otherwise be. Hung parliaments usually have a poor reputation because they typically do not last very long and spend more time arguing amongst themselves rather than actually doing anything constructive.

At least in the UK. In Europe, hung parliaments are common enough that coalition government is the norm rather than the exception.

The Tories – after the first “presidential” TV debate where Nick Clegg was surprisingly effective – are suddenly banging on about how dangerous hung parliaments can be. Ignoring those scum-sucking lying politicians for the moment (at least as far as we can), are hung parliaments actually good or bad ?

Well the truth is that they do not happen enough in the UK for us to know. We do know that hung parliaments in Europe are quite common and that it does not appear to be a complete catastrophe there. Of course there will be those who point at countries like Italy and ask whether we want a government as unstable as they have. But I will also point at Italy’s economy and say that it doesn’t seem to have done much harm – Italy is the 7th largest country in the world in terms of GDP.

It is entirely possible that a hung parliament in the UK will cause a momentary loss of confidence by the financial markets, although those that panic are eventually going to be counter-balanced by those with cooler heads that realise that the UK is not going to go bust just because it has a potentially unstable government. It is likely that the economic effect of a certain cloud of volcanic ash will have a greater effect than a day or two of instability in the economic markets.

If we can avoid being distracted by the probably relatively minor economic problems of a hung parliament, we can look at more interesting aspects of one.

This will be an opportunity to get a government which does not let either of the old major parties (Labour and Tory) have everything their own way. Of course a coalition government will have one or other comprising the largest part, but another party – most likely the Liberals – will have a big say.

The likely result of such a hung parliament is significant electoral reform because the smaller parties are more interested in it than the old school parties who do quite well out of our archaic and undemocratic electoral system. Sure you hear of Tory and Labour plans for electoral reform, but what they plan is tinkering around the edges, and the Tory plans revolve around making the political system cheaper with the effect of making our current system even less democratic than it is at the moment.

If the thought of a hung parliament is currently making you consider one of the big two parties, perhaps you should reconsider – a hung parliament is not quite as bad as the politicians of the big two will have you believe, and the increased chance of genuine electoral reform is worth taking that risk.

Apr 092010

If you listen to what the Tories are saying you will be under the impression that one of their radical proposals is to tackle benefit fraud. The money saved from this will go towards reversing the rise in national insurance contributions.

Sounds good doesn’t it ?

Well it would be, but it really isn’t a change at all. Benefit fraud is apparently at the lowest level for 10 years – the current Labour government has been tackling it and somewhat successfully at that. Even the Tory idea of stopping benefits to benefit cheats is hardly a new idea – they are just making the “stoppage” longer.

Apr 082010

The Tories have been slowly trotting out a procession of business leaders who think a Tory government would be a good idea. This is supposed to be news ? We know that the Tories are bankrolled by big business, which gives those business leaders a considerable say in what the Tories do – not explicitly, but in terms of influence.

Labour of course is similarly indebted to the unions, which gives the union leaders considerable influence over Labour’s policies.

Given that I am not a fat cat but one of the workers, I am likely to be less unhappy with the union’s unfair advantage with Labour in charge than with the fat cats hotline to a Tory government.

But I’m not happy about either Tories or Labour being beholden to any select group. It doesn’t seem to me to be a healthy situation if some group has an unfair access to the corridors of power because they helped fund the political party who managed to win an election.

There is of course the Liberals who are not funded in the same way, but realistically they are unlikely to win a majority. The best chance for Liberal involvement in the next government is with a “hung parliament” with no overall control – at least until a pact is established.

The real answer is to make party funding independent of private interest groups.

Apr 062010

Now that it has been announced, we can look forward to a very tedious month whilst the politicians try and grab all the headlines with variations on “look at me” (with the hope that their exhibitionism will turn into a vote). At least we know when it will be over at last.

Of course because of the election system we suffer, most of us don’t have much in the way of a say in what the next parliament looks like and who makes up the government. Apparently around half of the current seats in parliament have not changed in terms of what party the MP represents in over 40 years! So much for democracy.

Of course there is a form of democracy at work here – those few of us who live in marginal seats are effectively the ones who decide what bunch of politicians make up the next government. The rest of us are expected to vote according to the usual pattern and return an MP for our constituency no different to the previous one.

Perhaps we should remember the expenses scandal, and vote for independent candidates not affiliated and obligated to the party machines.

Mar 282010

One of the tedious things about the UK election system is that we do not know when the election is coming, so before the date of the election is known we have a kind of “phoney election” where the politicians all go head to head being even more critical with each other than they usually are. And of course generating even more hot air than usual.

And then the election gets announced and all the tediousness goes into overdrive.

What for ?

Because of the election system in the UK, there are only a handful of seats (the “marginals”) where the result makes a bit of difference. If like most people you live in a parliamentary seat which is to a greater or lesser degree “safe”, your vote is effectively pointless and all the politicians making noise in your face about how bad the other politicians are, are just wasting of your time.

It seems that there are just 60 seats that are marginal enough to make a difference – 60 out of 646, roughly 9%. So only 9% of the population have a vote that counts! At least if we all vote more or less the way we usually do. Basically the political establishment counts on the majority of us acting like sheep.

The funny thing is that if politicians were honest and actually admitted that the voters in “safe” seats didn’t count, the normally safe seats would be up for grabs. So our electoral system accidentally rewards dishonesty! Kind of puts the expenses scandals into a new light doesn’t it ?

Of course even if you are one of the lucky few living in one of the 60 marginals, the election process takes far too long – who needs many weeks in order to make up their minds ? Most of us already know who we would vote for in the next election, so delaying it just allows the politicians to puff up their feathers.

Just remember we can always ignore the “big three” (Labour, Conservative, ad Liberal) and go for the independents and we might have a chance of getting some proper electoral reform rather than just a bit of tinkering around the edges.

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