Sunday, 30 May 2010

It's a huge s*** sandwich and we're all gonna have to take a bite...

I was going to write about the issues of the week, from Laws to Campbell, but throughout the last week or so, on the internet and on the TV, this question continues to be posed almost relentlessly:

"Why should Civil Servants pay for the mistakes of bankers?"

And it will continue to be asked over the next few months/years as the cuts are planned and take effect.

So I just wanted to return to this issue, briefly...

I have seen comments on social media that say public sector workers get 'paid less' than private sector works and this is one of the common misconceptions that are generated from the public sector, unions and the left wing media.

I'm sure civil servants are sick of seeing all these contract cleaners, warehouse staff, factory workers, call centre workers, admin staff, bar/hotel staff, waiters, care workers, etc, etc, etc, driving around in Porsches or the like, mocking their impending plight..!

The misconceptions and propaganda seem to confuse the whole of the private sector with the financial services. As if all the workers listed above are on massive wages and bonuses. A common quote I've heard over the years from public sector representatives when confronted with the issue of their pensions and benefits, was that they wished they could have the 'bonuses of the private sector'. (Well apparently some government agencies do hand out bonuses, just to perfectly contradict this oft-repeated mantra. One fine post-crash example was the FSA)

It may be true that some industries, particularly the financial services, have a bonus culture, but it is far from all and certainly few at the lower levels.

It has been the low paid private sector that is currently being criminally over looked during the election and now as the issue of cuts takes centre stage. Unemployment has been an issue, but not the conditions in the private sector as belts have tightened for two years. Gordon Brown even tried to take credit for keeping unemployment low even though it is in the private sector that changing working conditions (e.g. going part time, reducing hours, etc) meant many clung onto their jobs.

Times have been very hard for nearly two years, but apparently it is civil servants paying for the downturn? That doesn't really ring true in many circumstances.

Those rejecting the need for cuts seem to use the word 'victims' quite regularly, again as if they alone are feeling the brunt of the crash, just two years after it happened. That's a painfully slow shockwave...

The simple fact is we should all have to deal with it. It is actually quite insulting to those who have suffered, the unemployed and the low paid.

It has also been harder in non-unionised industries, obviously recent examples of Network Rail and BA have shown that changes in conditions are not forced on to them without a fight. While my opinions of unions have altered over the years and I do believe in collective action in principle, these actions are unlikely to ultimately help. Workers in many any other industries have simply have to put up with changing conditions, or leave, if they so wish.

Public sector unions will mobilise over the cuts, of course attempting to defend the interests of their own members, but I think ultimately that is the problem of modern British employment. The solidarity throughout the working population, formerly found in industrial labour, no longer exists and the influence is much more limited. Unions will be looking after narrow interests that wouldn't necessarily benefit the larger population, those who have already suffered, no matter how well intended any action is.

There is huge scope for cuts in the public sector and while the private sector has largely been squeezed it within an inch of its life, little has changed for public servants and surely it is only right and fair that the situation changes.

It is now close to two years that this downturn has effected the world economy and as it transpired the two main culprits have come away largely scot-free.

It was the banking sector and Government, through action and inaction respectively, that caused the crisis. However, with the banks having been propped up by Government and the cuts in public spending having largely been postponed until now, in many ways these two sectors have not felt the full effects of the downturn, or at least no as perhaps they could have, should have...

Yes there have been job losses in the banking sector and the Labour Government was thrown out at the election (though only just, Brown was clinging onto the door of No. 10 with his fingertips...), but the banks were saved from extinction and they have in some ways returned to business as usual. Perhaps they are trying to balance the books a little better, so have tightened their belts (much to the dismay of some would be borrowers), but bonuses are back. While in terms of Government as I have stated clearly for nearly two years the public sector has been largely saved from cuts.

The debt has gone from the debt of banks to sovereign debt, the debt of the nation. So who will take the greatest relative proportion of that debt? Not the rich, the rich will not suffer in the downturn and that was clear and identified long before the crash actually happened. In the global economy the super rich will prosper over the long term as the Times rich list has already illustrated quite clearly this year.

And in terms of my two protagonists, the Labour party don't seem too disheartened by opposition, since they weren't completely annihilated. I mean Big Al Campbell is having a right laugh on Twitter, on Question Time and while getting publicity for his trashy book.

Alastair Campbell

A man utterly convinced of his own importance

The fact is the level of economic growth was unsustainable therefore the level of investment in the public sector was also unsustainable. Cuts have to be made.

The idea of sustainable growth reminds me of the huge of amount of rubbish stated about Brown's economic record. The absolute best was early on in the crisis when on Jeremy Vine's Radio 2 show John Prescott claimed that Brown had delivered 10 years of "sustainable" economic growth. It so completely nonsensical it doesn't require analysis.

I don't think Vine picked him up on it properly. It astounds me that the likes of Prescott and Campbell get away with such nonsense so easily, or are allowed to by professional presenters and journalists.

John Prescott

F***ing clueless

Stick to what you know best John

Spot on

Maybe in a few years' time the higher level of investment could return, if significant growth returns. But probably not if the Tories have anything to do with and greater efficiency does need to be brought to the sector. This is a main aspect in the disparity between the public and private sector and I do intend to look more closely at Labour's legacy in the public sector and employment in Britain.

The issue of debt reduction and cuts is complex, but many of those fundamentally opposed to spending cuts are suggesting that the debt should be paid by increasing taxes.

This blog article is along those lines

So effectively the private sector pays, even if some public sector workers suffer de facto pay cuts, the basis of the debt would be paid from wealth generated in the private sector.

Taxes will have to be increased of course, but the idea of just taxing the rich, or the banks, or whoever; will not work without the corresponding cuts. The rich should pay their fair share and banks need to be levied (something Labour was waivering on), but tax increases have to be combined with spending cuts.

To put it simply, the rich will avoid the taxes as best they can and the conditions at the wrong end of the private sector will continue to deteriorate as the burden of the tax is shifted. Even if the low paid are not directly taxed, companies will cut further in attempts to maintain profits.

I have to admit that this scenario adds some credence to the Tory and business leaders claims about the NIC rise, the 'tax on jobs'.

Job cuts, pay freezes, etc, etc. The low paid in the private sector shouldering an even greater level of the burden to maintain the conditions in the public created during an
unsustainable boom.

It's just the way the system is now. Labour and their supporters may not like it, but then they had 13 years to at least try to do something about it.

I don't know if I'm hammering the point home... I would hope the point is clear enough, there is more than just the disparity between the rich and the poor in this society Tory and Labour alike have mangled over the last 30 years.

A bit bogged down by debt and cuts. I will move on this weekend...

Monday, 24 May 2010

Cutting remarks

Against the clock once more. I don't seem to have enough time outside of commuting to work, to do my part in paying off this massive national debt, under increasingly difficult conditions. It's a hard life...

There has been a reasonable amount of activity of course, in the early days of this coalition, but two major stories that hold my interest are the Labour leadership race and the impending cuts in public spending.

These are ongoing matters (the Labour leadership bun fight will drag on for months it seems), so I will look them again, but I wanted to make some quick comments, in a vain attempt to keep up with things.

Ed Balls and Ed Miliband criticised the Iraq war over the weekend. Well that's very big of them... Just 7 years after the war, and granted neither of them were MPs at the time of the war, but we heard barely a squeak out of them until now. Now Brown has gone these brave boys have piped up.

Balls thinks he can do what he likes now Brown has gone.

"S**t. Is that Gordon?!"

But it is David Miliband who has once again stated that we 'should just move on'. It is true that none of what has happened can be undone, but the effects of the war will continue to be seen for years to come. Many people feel the angry about the thoroughly deceptive way the Labour Government acted before and after the war and that we have not received anything close to satisfactory answers and admissions.
You could make a lot of comparisons to other historical events stretching back over many years and the extent to which we've 'moved on', World War Two seems to still get a lot of press these days...

But a good example I saw a couple of years ago was on Question Time when the Leader of the SNP, Alex Salmond, picked up the former Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, about his dismissal of questions about the Iraq war. Lord Falconer was saying we need to 'move on' and it's in the past now, when Salmond pointed out that this attitude was coming from a Government that was considering an apology for Britain's involvement in the salve trade.

Some people do pick and choose which parts of 'history' to move on from. Maybe we'll hear from Blair's descendants in 200 hundred years. Now there's a thought...

This sort of attitude from David Miliband is just an example of the dismissive and patronising disposition that I came to expect from the New Labour hordes in the latter years of their government. He's going to have his work cut out trying to change the mechanics of that spin machine. As since he was integral to it, can it really change?

"Next Labour", really? That's pretty desperate and I reckon they are scrambling around trying to come up with something new.

Maybe that was a covert parting shot from Alastair Campbell? Whoever it was, I bet Mandelson was probably laughing his arse off that one.

Mandelson and Brown consider their legacy

"Well we f***ed over Miliband. Me and you Gord, they won't forget us in a hurry..."

Patronising, dismissive, deceptive; some of New Labour's finest traits and all embodied in Peter Mandelson. But they still like to have a laugh...

They're all at it, Tory or New Labour, taking the piss. But some of them get caught out.

I'm thinking 'time and place' with Liam Byrne's joke letter to his successor at the Treasury about there being 'no money left'.

Different economic and political circumstances he might have got away with it. But I've seen Mr Byrne's 'performances' a few times, I can't say I'm a fan...

But laugh it up, because cuts are on the way. A lot of people are running out of time (just as I am as I write), because the axe will fall as announcements today have made clear.

I will come back to this subject again, as I say it will continue to roll on of course, not least because of the reactions from the Unions as plans are laid out and the cuts begin. The thing that I find slightly disconcerting is this very common viewpoint that the public sector should be saved from cuts, on various timescales, what a tragedy the cuts will be for normal working people and 'why should civil servants pay for the mistakes of Bankers?'

I agree that no job cuts are good and also that frontline services should be protected as much as possible.

But hundreds of thousands of people have been losing their jobs in the private sector over the last two years. Pay and recruitment freezes and declining working conditions have occurred throughout the private sector. There is a common focus on higher earning bankers apparently carrying on regardless, but this is not replicated through the rest of the private sector at all, times are still very hard for those at the bottom.

In comparison the public sector has been largely sheltered from the downturn and in many ways it has been sheltered from the effects of the global economy over the last 30 years, which have continued to radically change conditions in the private sector. Except in one way, in that Gordon Brown's Treasury benefited from a long period of economic growth based on global economic circumstances, so the public sector grew. And as that growth turned out to be completely unsustainable, surely it correlates quite directly that the size of the public sector is unsustainable?

I don't think anyone if they were honest and had some real experience of the public and private sectors would deny that there is huge scope for these cuts. Only the most rabid Unionist or sheltered public sector worker would object to any cuts. I imagine we'll see a few in the coming months/years.

The fact is we're all going to have to pay for the mistakes of the Bankers AND the Labour government, because of their lax regulation.

I don't see why the private sector, particularly the low paid, should have to work and compete in increasingly difficult environments, to help maintain the conditions of the public sector through these hard times. As well as have to pay off all this debt.

Would that have been Labour's "Future Fair For All"?

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Downing Street...

So the Labour Leadership contest is beginning in earnest. But I bet they wish they could go back to the 1990s...

It's a pity Alan Johnson has counted himself out, he was the strongest candidate all round.

Ed Balls, if he stands, will be having a laugh. The party would be insane to choose him, even his own constituents are not fussed on him!

At the moment it's all about Milibands. But I can't take them seriously.

And now I know why, I thought I'd seen them somewhere before...

The Milibands are looking forward to the Leadership contest

David and Ed

Oh the memories...

Bert and Ernie on Sesame Street

And here's an exclusive snap of some of the new Shadow Cabinet

I think that's Ed Balls on the left, with his wife... And John Prescott back in the cabinet..?

Thursday, 13 May 2010

What is the Alternative Vote?

So there we go, they cobbled together some sort of agreement. Let's see how long this lasts...

The first coalition government in 65 years, of course the last one was during the war. Adverse times we are living through, but I don't think it's quite the same as fighting the Germans... Unity is necessary in such times, I'm not sure it will work out the same way now. But then Nick Clegg does seem desperate to grasp hold of his chance at government. Who knows what he'll endure...

Nick takes one last look at his 'supporters'

Forgive me...

"We got you now Cleggo!"

A journalist asks Nick Clegg a particularly testing question

"So are you now David Cameron's b*tch?"

Oh yeah, never forget who's in charge. B*tch...

Later that day

Obama congratulates Cameron but is quick to explain the World Order

"You're my b*tch now"

It all sinks in...

In truth is it does seem that the Conservatives have conceded a reasonable amount to the LibDems.
They're both desperate for power. Is the cynical view. Or they both want to maintain a stable government to steer the country through these tough economic times. Is the bull***t view... They're all power crazed lunatics

Yes, lunatics.

Why would any normal rational person want to do such a s*** and invariably thankless job..?

There does appear to have been a reasonable level of compromise. The Tories have given five cabinet posts (even Ken Clarke pushed aside from Business secretary, but they had to get Vince Cable in somewhere), however token, they will need to have some sort of voice otherwise they will leave the coalition.

In terms of policies, the Tories were always going to keep Trident (though a massive part of Lib Dem spending cuts), the same goes for nuclear power with the Tories' 'Green' side.
The Lib Dem stance on immigration was never likely to get far with the Tories. The issue of Europe is one will just have to see develop.
On civil liberties they had common ground and no matter what anyone thinks of the new government, I don't think many will mourn the passing of ID cards, which had become something of a white elephant.
In terms of the economy they seemed to agree on the urgent need for cuts to deal with the deficit, though apparently the perceptions of the scale of the urgency varied slightly. They also have common ground on banking reform.
The Lib Dems have got agreement on the £10,000 tax threshold which did surprise me. And no matter what Labour might argue about how that could affect the books, how can anyone of a Left wing leaning argue against that? (Unless a rabid communist...) A huge financial boost given directly to the lower earning working class, of any circumstance, not just credits given to those who are eligible. It's a well intentioned tax cut and it puts Labour to shame as far as I'm concerned.
The Tories have also conceded their Inheritance Tax change, which is a good step in a similar direction. It's possible the overall tax burden will shift (VAT rise) and we will pay in some manner, but I would hope the balance could not be redressed completely for low earners.

The major condition was always going to be electoral reform, the LibDems know that they have to come away with something. This is their first major opportunity at power in 35 years, they can't waste the chance to change the system to give themselves better prospects at future elections and of course allow all of the electorate to have their votes count.

Just imagine the scenario where they do not get reform and the Tories manage to increase their popularity. That could potentially consolidate First Past The Post for any number of years. Though that is of course a worse case scenario, but not impossible for one reason I will mention below.

The Tories knew for the coalition to be serious they had to offer something, so the Alternative Vote (AV) system is on the cards for a referendum.

It's certainly not Proportional Representation. It really is just a token gesture, one that was first made by a desperate Labour party earlier this year. Simply to curry favour, when they knew full well they were heading to defeat. I therefore took an instant dislike to it.

It is basically an extension of the FPTP system, the constituency aspect will remain and be the basis for the allocation of Parliamentary seats. There is just a greater aspect of preference and choice in the casting of ballots.

But there are a couple of Pros, as far as I'm concerned:

- It could lead to a better correlation between the overall votes and seats and could give some smaller parties a chance.
- It could be a stepping stone to PR, if successful.

The Cons I can see are speculative. The system is in use elsewhere, but not on the scale it would be used in a General Election here.
Obviously as I mentioned that essentially it is just a form of FPTP and does not necessarily reflect the overall wishes of the electorate.

- A large percentage of the voters in any one constituency will still not have their interests represented by the selection of the winning candidate.
- In safe seats where there is a strong Labour or Conservative bias it is unlikely to have any affect and will only really affect marginals. So effectively just a slight expansion of competition in the FPTP system.
- Tactical voting is still likely, but would be more complex. Someone could easily mark their own party down and another up, in an attempt to prevent a party winning.
- As it is, many people find it difficult enough to decide on one party. A lot of voters' rankings will not necessarily reflect any considered preference.
- Like it or not, accept it or not, it is more complicated and could put off voters. Although it appears you can rank any number of parties, but then as the point above implies, if people vote for fewer parties or only one, it takes the system back towards normal FPTP.

Despite the negatives I envisage, I would vote for it, in the hope that it could lead to acceptance of a further change.

The only issue I see, as I alluded to above, is that a referendum on AV could work in favour of the Tories and their instinctive desire to keep FPTP. It might be why the Tories were willing to offer AV. They could risk it because he system is not too different to FPTP and in a referendum, if the Conservative vote combines with a vote determined to get some form of PR, perhaps in a low turnout, then it could go against AV. The Tories could then use that against any further moves for reform.

The Tories will want some electoral change whatever happens to even up FPTP, currently weighted in favour of Labour.

The LibDems push for fixed terms does seem to be an attempt to prevent the Tories from ceasing the opportunity to consolidate power and in turn halting reform. It'll be interesting to see how that works out.

Anyway the old argument for FPTP, ensuring strong government was clearly weak. It's possible but look at the mess now. There is a confrontational political culture and that would have to change in a proportional system.

The ironic thing about our system is that the parties are instinctively opposed, even though they have converged on the middle ground. They now just fight it out over very similar policies, from similar perspectives.

There is some common ground between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats as I have mentioned, however, the similarities do seem to be greater at the higher echelons; those hoping to consolidate power. MPs and particularly grassroots on both sides do not seem anywhere near as keen and that could topple the coalition quite quickly.
But who would sabotage this opportunity in Government, without giving it a chance? Not the average Tory surely?

A Lib/Lab pact would not have worked and the negotiations appeared half-hearted. Dark Lord Mandelson's powers were apparently ineffective and the talks broke down quickly with each side grumbling about the other, again half heartedly.

How could it have worked? Even with Brown gone, it wouldn't have lasted.

And Brown couldn't have last.

A defeated man

Brown resigns as Prime Minister

I do hope he doesn't break down on me, he looks awful..! Where's Phillip when you need him? Oh no, I remember, Mr Brown made his opinions quite clear during the election...

A bit more like it

"Ah yes, you're one of us"

I thought Nick Clegg looked he was fighting his conscience, trying to keep down those nagging doubts that he's selling out.
But maybe not. I mean he's a public school boy too. Of good European breeding. So maybe... Maybe all is not as it seems.

He offered choice, but look what we got!

One and the same. A coalition of Toffs!

It was all a game during the debates and even Cameron's joke, about Clegg being a joke, all of it a sham! A clear conspiracy...

Well Cameron has almost got what he wanted. He is Prime Minister, the youngest Prime Minister in 200 years. But has he bitten off more than he can chew?
I don't think many would deny that it is a Poisoned Chalice. The economic situation is dire, whichever way you look at it, and there are tough times ahead. The deficit is huge and dealing with it will be difficult, while Labour can snipe from the sidelines at the solutions to the problem they in part caused.

I don't think Labour should be allowed to get away with anything like that. They need to have a good look at themselves, though I'm not sure they will.

But I won't let it lie whoever is in power. They're all the same...

The three party Leaders at last Sunday's VE Day remembrance service

What are these men thinking?

Well it seems more apparent here.

Clegg: Thanks Dave. No-one about, I'll just slip this massive 'sweetener' in here. No-one suspects a thing...
Cameron: Why don't you just quit, you old goat?!
Brown: Is that a bigot I can hear?!

More to come on Labour, they may be in opposition now, but that won't stop them. Plenty of parting shots from them and they're as patronising as ever, they just can't help themselves!

Their Leadership race will gain pace and that should be amusing. And Gordon Brown needs a proper Goodbye of course...

Saturday, 8 May 2010

The Fall Out, from 30 years of political incompetence

Perhaps not complete incompetence, but after some 30 plus years of experimentation with social democracy, we had a further 30 years that witnessed two consecutive versions of the state alongside the free market, here we are. Political limbo it seems, with no clear direction out of it.

I was going to mention on Wednesday that I'm glad it's over, but the fall out is looking joyful and it could be a long one, that could well end in an election. Great...

More of this?

Does anyone want that? Including them?!
Well Cameron and Brown anyway...

More of this lot?

God help us, we've had 13 years of what is produced from this sort of meeting of minds.

Mandelson's malevolent presence seeping into every scene...

The hung parliament was long predicted by the polls but this whole state of affairs has also been a long time coming, the uncertainty in political life reflects the uncertainty in society. There has been increased engagement in the election in general, but certainly in terms of the many floating voters, there is little connection with the parties, people are unsure about what they stand for and can offer.

It's not surprising after the two long periods of government, the events of the last two or three years have been a culmination of the huge economic and social changes that have occurred over the last 30 years, combined with the final unmasking of a corrupt and unjust political system.

Apart from the electoral and political reform that I will continue to demand, I can't see how this one can be resolved satisfactorily.

Electoral reform will be central condition on which the LibDems will want to base a coalition with the Tories. And of course the Tories' ideas of electoral reform are quite different from everyone else's.

On the news tonight I saw Daniel Hannan, the Conservative MEP who is clearly on the right of the party, but possibly representative of a more honest face of the party (famous for slating the NHS for the benefit of US media, as well as attacking Brown in the European parliament. Part of the honest face Cameron tries to keep more deeply hidden...).

Daniel Hannan - An honest right wing nutter

He said that though they should consider reform, he didn't think the time was right after the political scandal because the public would not be happy with systems that favour different parties. So he was focusing on the benefit to parties, not the voters. FPTP benefits particularly the Conservatives but also Labour, a PR system may have a LibDem Labour leaning but that simply represents the choices of the public.

Not that there is anything to discuss or explain there, but that illustrates an aspect of the Tory perspective. Offering a cross party review, the Conservatives did not entertain the thought of PR during the campaign so it'll be interesting to see how that pans out...

Daniel Hannan did advocate a referendum, but not sure he is very representative of many Tories there.

Liam Fox (Tory Defence)was on the BBC news saying that he did not meet one person while campaigning who said that the electoral system was their main concern, it was unemployment, economy, etc.

First of all, he has a safe Conservative seat so most of those in his constituency wouldn't see it as an issue and I don't think any politician walks into confrontations with their political opposites wherever they are. Secondly in that unusual situation of meeting an MP, first and foremost might not be the system itself, but the general state of the country. A lot of people by their own admission don't fully understand the political system, many don't know what a hung parliament means, I came across that yesterday. Reform might not be the first subject broached, but in venting any feelings about the issues, they want to have their voice heard and no-one was happy with the expenses scandal even if the issue was largely over-shadowed during the campaign

This attitude from the Tories just illustrates the problem, a minority (all polls show there is no majority position in this country) ignoring the interests of a separate significant minority. There is one majority in this country, the majority that believes in proper representation. That transcends most political understanding.

There is some common ground between the two, on public spending for instance, but surely more differences than similarities. Their stances on the environment and civil liberties (ID cards) have been mentioned as having some harmony. But i think the Liberals can forget scrapping Trident and I'm not sure how they would compromise their differences on Europe and also immigration.

Perhaps lowering the voting age will be dropped. I hope Clegg has already dropped the 'old enough to die for you country, old enough to vote' 'argument'. I've heard it a few times. It isn't true, you have to be 18 to serve on the frontline. I don't think it's even worth looking at the ways in which someone could technicality die in the service of your country before the age of 18.

This morning Cameron and Clegg stood side by side during the VE day anniversary, they're looking like right muckers now. That's British politics for you, slagging each other off for years, let alone a month, now they're on the phone every night...

A problem of any coalition, but particularly this one, is that ideologically throughout the parties, there are chasms. From the parliamentary parties to the grassroots supporters. So how long could it last?

The one key demand that I think the majority of the population want to see delivered is Gordon Brown's resignation. Arguments have been proposed that a Lib/Lab pact has over 50% of the popular support and therefore Brown has the right to carry on. Oh that rankles slightly... Not in terms of a Lib/Lab government, but in terms of Brown as PM. So to set out my view and I would hope a common view; he has absolutely no mandate for power. Obviously the 23/24% who voted Liberal Democrat were not voting for him and even within the Labour vote not everyone supports his Leadership. Firstly, they voted for their local MP, the nature of the system, one vote cannot be counted as a vote for the leader. Secondly, as I have not had time to analyse in this blog, Labour still have a strong core support and a guaranteed vote, people would not consider a different party no matter who the Labour leader is (Wales seems to be a reasonable example of that).

They cannot spin this election into an endorsement of his Premiership, not in any way. Fortunately I haven't yet seen them try. Twitter has gone quite, it's eerie...

I would hope that Nick Clegg would have Brown's resignation as a condition, though that of course could get complicated, as any alternative Leader would not have a mandate. Miliband seems to be the most prominent name for that circumstance. But the prospect of an election will loom large if the Tories cannot agree with the Lib Dems, whether now or during the next few months.

And so be it. As long as Brown goes. And if he doesn't leave, if he continues to squat at Number 10, I will be going down there. F*** it I'd quit work just to go down there and heckle the **** (this is not personal, honestly...). And I don't think I'd be alone in that feeling, I might have to make a rallying call.

There have been 'Fair Votes Now' demonstrations in London today, but of course it's not so easy for people in the sticks to get down there to join in. As time goes on and if there are no satisfactory results we could see more activity and more involvement. I would hope so anyway.

The news today has mentioned a late night conversation between Brown and Clegg that wasn't particularly amicable (though the official line is that is was amicable).

Well just imagine what Brown must be like after a few whiskies.

I bet poor Sarah was trying to wrest the phone from his grasp.

"No, I'm going to speak to the f**ker, f***ing 'Kingmaker'! Fucking c***! Fucking c**tmaker! Ha! There's one for Campbell. The c***!"
"No Gordon, let's get you some cocoa and get you into bed. You've had too much."
"Ho Clegg, now you listen to me! I'm the f***ing King! You prance around on the telly, smiling and winking at the camera, all la-dee-f***ing-da! I'm gonna tell you how it's going to be! You think you understand all those bigots better than me?! You f***ing toff! You and f***ing Cameron!"
"Gordon stop it! Gordon..."
"Get off...!"

This morning

"F***! I could do with some time off, but some f***er'll move into my house. Still Prime Minister...!"

Later this morning

"Oh f***, what did I say?"

So what to the Liberal Democrat vote? What happened to a vote for political and electoral reform?

The Liberal vote would have struggled, as it always has, under the current system. Many floating voters would still have felt that their vote was simply wasted in Labour and Conservative dominated seats. Of course it wouldn't be wasted as such, because they are all counted and if the percentage had increased then weight would have been given to the Liberal's position.

A lot wavering Labour voters may have wanted to keep the Tories out and something similar may have happened with wavering Tories.

Generally it seems that the polls during the campaign indicated some sort of desire to do something different and at least nod towards a protest, as often happens with local and European elections, but then when it came down to it, many couldn't go through with it. The general election perhaps being seen as too important.

On the Channel 4 alternative election night programme they mentioned, with some international commentators, a possible inherent inability to change in this country, or unwillingness to. We talked the talk but at the business end shied away from it...

Any vote for party other than the main two could have been seen as a protest vote or a vote for change. The combined UKIP and BNP vote was five times that of the Green party. Not very progressive, especially in these times of highlighted environmental problems. Just one prominent example being the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the other main headline during the election week. And these are the two parties who clearly deny any climate change problem.

A vote for LibDem, Green, Plaid, SNP, etc, would be looking for some sort of electoral reform. The vote for the other two would have very different priorities.

In fact the vote for these two parties nearly doubled from 2005.

Neither got a foothold, but there was this increase in support, UKIP's almost as big as the LibDems. So the media couldn't really use Nigel Farage's plane crash as a metaphor, even though he didn't beat John Bercow.

The BNP didn't come out particularly well from this election; fights, problems with marmite... And apparently they lost out in the local elections.

But if you look at the figures and the maps on the BBC link, something is becoming quite clear. Their combined vote is approximately 1.5 million (5% - ironically the cut off line for representation in the German Bundestag, in part designed to marginalise the extreme parties in their PR system), that is significant and though this has been mentioned from 2005 if you look at the figures just for England, then the overall picture changes. Labour's support drops and the right wing parties take around 45% of the vote.

It has long been identified that a Labour government in London is propped up by support in Scotland and Wales and more than one paradox is presented. Labour have devolved power to the regions, but if they allowed full independence they would be in trouble in England. Whereas the Tories who have been most against devolution, would gain the most.

The main BBC map shows swathes of blue through England and though the proportional view accentuates the red urban areas, the figures show the true picture.

The truth is the Tories could potentially benefit in a PR system, when you look at that right wing vote. Granted in a PR system it is actually difficult to predict all of the variations that could occur. Some of the BNP vote is disaffected white working class and the Lib Dem vote is likely to strengthen, possibly from the right as well. But devolution could be a bit of a catch 22 for the Tories, if PR were to come about.

Scotland is hugely important to that situation and the region closet to independence. I'm not going to claim to know a great deal about Scottish politics, so I can't explain the Labour increase and Lib Dem loss, but it does show how important Scotland is to Labour's cause.

So what happened to the vote in Wales? There was a swing to the Tories, but under FPTP Labour held the seats and the LibDems will have lost out because of it.

There is a genuine fear of a Tory government, the feeling is that the cuts threatened would be worse under the Tories and this would have maintained Labour support. And rightly or wrongly, there is still a fundamental loyalty to Labour. This can be seen in the red block in the map of South Wales.

There are understandable roots to both the loyalty and fear, Wales suffered heavily under Thatcher's government. However, under Labour Cardiff has done well, partly because of devolution and there has been public sector expansion, but there hasn't been comprehensive development throughout Wales. Similar to many of the regions of the UK. The concern is that if the Tories come in Wales will lose out because of funding cuts and this wouldn't be replaced by any focus on development.

So the LibDems will have suffered from the anti-Tory vote, but I have not looked at any of the analysis about Plaid Cymru, their overall vote actually dropped. That has to be seen as a very good opportunity missed, in terms of gaining disaffected Labour votes.

The complaint I heard during the campaign was that they did not have an equal footing, being excluded from the national TV debate, but as has been shown that didn't actually end up affecting the LibDems overall share. Plaid may have suffered from the same problems as the Lib Dems in Wales, without the fluctuation that the Liberals enjoyed. But looking at that share drop there could be deeper problems involved.

It'll be interesting to see which way the debate goes on further devolved power if there is Tory or Tory/Lib government. It would also be interesting to see how the Liberals and Plaid fair if there was a national PR system.

Paddy Ashdown said after the election that the 'country had spoken, we just don't know what they've said...' And I've heard and read plenty of comments about the country being undecided, also uncertain and indecisive. To be fair we're not 'The Borg'. The population is not one huge entity, it is asked a simple question and one month later produces a report "The Nation is not sure. Please ask again later".

We're not one, it is because there is a nationally based media that there is always talk of what "we" are doing, etc, etc. From the way in which "we" live our lives to how "we" felt about Princess Diana death. The USA for instance have a national sense of identity but I think they are more acceptant of their diversity.

Over here the media and politicians will then change focus when it suits and champion our diverse and multi-cultural nation. And it is, so that is why we need proportional representation. The nation is diverse, it is also disparate and divided, the only fair system is one that allows everyone to be represented properly, a system can also have a local aspect.

The changes that are needed are just superficial, it's not only about the electoral system. It is also about political culture, the confrontational style of our parliament would have to change and the need for coalition government and consensus will have to accepted, by everyone. Diversity requires compromise.

I'm not a complete idealist, I know that not every voice can be heard nor can every whim be catered to, but at least PR would be better than a system set up to allow a minority to rule and openly mock everyone else. They do it each week in parliament, jeering and waving their papers like a bunch of morons. It's been a right laugh for them but it has to end.

Finally, I'm not sure that the problems that occurred in polling stations around the country will have much fall out for the result of the election. It seems there could be some actions resulting from it, so we'll see if that develops, but it should be quite embarrassing for the local authorities.

We have an apparently simple registration system, so simple that it is open to fraud, and the voting forms are hardly complicated, but during an election where turnout was expected to be high many polling stations could not cope. I suppose some people might have traipsed along at all hours, these first time voters...! They just didn't prepare for it particularly well, all they need is enough bodies.

But it's the exact kind of area where they'll get by on as little as possible and also where cut-backs will occur. So perhaps the cuts are well under way already.

It's just another sign of a very poor system. We've got disenfranchised voters, fraud and an unrepresentative parliament. And our Leaders poor scorn on countries all over the world for those reasons. How does that make us look to the rest of the world...?


Tuesday, 4 May 2010

The Last Days of Westminster

I do stand by what I wrote in the last post, in general, it was what I thought at the time of 'Bigot Gate'(and posted a few days later when I had time...). But I've read and heard more opinion and occasionally I do get fleeting moments of sympathy for Gordon Brown. And I'm very much open to new ideas and beliefs... I'm likely to vote for my fourth different party in the last 13 years.

Politics is not the same as football, there should be no loyalty to a party. It's not a betrayal, not anymore. Some Labour members might even consider that now and it looks like there was one potential example in the papers on Tuesday; 'crazy old' Manish Sood, as he's now known in the party.

Anyway the media did blow things out of proportion with Bigot Gate, as they always do. But it is difficult to get a sense of proper proportion with modern media as it is; the internet, 24 hour TV. Though the TV debates have opened up this election and it is the most uncertain in years, it hasn't been hugely exciting, so a media that does have an anti-Brown slant was always going to jump on it. Ripping into Brown is easy and more interesting than with Cameron or Clegg.

And with the internet everyone has their say. I think there was something underlying the incident, but it is an election campaign so a lot the opinion was partisan and perhaps not fully considered. From all out attack on Brown throughout the election many will quickly defend but I'm still slightly surprised how many people actually feel sorry for him.

(One voter on BBC breakfast actually said they'd decided to vote Labour because of the incident and sympathy for Brown. Pity for the Prime Minister is as good a reason as any to vote for your local MP)

As I've made clear on this blog, I'm not a huge fan of Brown and I did find it tremendously easy to take a stance against him. But I'm not biased, I don't endorse the Conservatives. If Cameron had got caught out calling some toff a 'tosser'...
No, it's not the same is it? Everyone would love that.

Cameron is overheard reminiscing over some old snaps

"Yeah, they were all c**ks."

Or if Nick Clegg was overheard calling... Er, someone... Paddy Ashdown perhaps. Calling him an 'old f***wit'... Well, probably no-one would blink an eyelid.

Clegg actually made a slight gaffe the other day saying 'Lord Ashdown' when he meant Ashcroft, but barely an eyelid battered... And I can't find a trace of it on the internet. The Lib Dems are still not quite on an equal footing in the media.

But Nick has done well, there's no doubting it

"Kneel before Clegg!"

All because of the TV debates, so imagine how different things could have been...

"Should have been me!"

"It could've been me, if I weren't such a p***head, right?!"

"What's that?"

Whichever way you look at it, Labour's former core support, generally what was the working class, hasn't done very well out of 13 years of Labour rule. The Toffs however, no matter what the Tories thought of them, did very well indeed out of 18 years of the Conservatives.

But that's enough of this particular 'Gate'. I really do need to move on, we all do...

"Now f*** off!"

I'll move away from the personalities though I will meander back to it of course. Throughout the campaign I've always meant to get round to the issues, just like Brown and his mates keep on telling us to, but when I've been drawn to the TV debates, and focused on the images and the sound-bites. So, very much like the overall story of the coverage of the election.

Labour talked about substance but when you did listen there wasn't a lot there. So what we had was the rise of the Liberal Democrats, the idea of choice and the possibility of electoral reform bringing real change. Not the fake kind of change that David Cameron offers. A lot of people wouldn't agree because they won't have have wanted to see that. Labour has some staunch support and the Tories are still looking at a potential majority and the rest of us, at a great threat to reform.

Catching a few bits of the First Time Voters' Question Time tonight and the subject of personality and issues was raised, again. But the point was made that although image, etc, has dominated the coverage that doesn't mean that voters will decide on the personalities. Some may be swayed, but people will consider the policies and how a party's government might effect them, as well as good old loyalty, misplaced or otherwise.

Labour supporters, on the back foot from the very start on personality, have harked on about the issues, but as I have identified on this blog, we have just heard the same sound bites and mantras, repeated ad nauseam. And there has been no real debate, Labour have the record to examine, but deny any problem or fault (the 10p tax band is the only one that springs to mind, not enough focus on the likes of that). So as I have heard throughout their government, the electorate is patronised and effectively told they are mistaken. Forget the issues, that is the style and the spin of their years in government.

Disparity is the thing that always sticks out in my mind about Labour's failures over the last 13 years. It is not just about the divide between the rich and the poor, but also the young and the old, the public and private sector. The financial safety and stability large numbers from the Baby Boomers have benefited from, even after the recent downturns, differs greatly from the insecurity and uncertainty that younger generations are confronted with. Similar differences exist between the public and private sector, particularly defined at the lower end of the scale, in terms of conditions and benefits. Though each party says it would address the public sector deficit, Labour have created the current situation

Just have they have economically. The Tories are not necessarily blameless in creating the economic structure we have, but Labour had 13 years and if Gordon Brown is still willing to accept the plaudits for the growth during his years as chancellor, he should accept full responsibility for the current situation. I am continually amazed but the numbers who cannot see through his smoke and mirrors explanations and excuses. He must indeed be a clever man, a convincing man.

Brown here, either attempting mind control or a skull grip

"Let me make you understand..."

But as the Tories are not blameless in terms of the nature of our economy, nor will they provide a solution. Laid bare their economics will always be Laissez-faire, they can't help it...

I don't know about economic reform, but the only thing I think we can hope for it electoral reform and hopefully a new direction emerging from that. At least it could save us from this bloody 'Big Society'. It doesn't sound very big and it certainly isn't clever.

I don't go all the way down the barking right wing Daily Mail line, they may have some substance in a few of their stories, though not a lot... Never let it be said that they overstate a point, but today's front page took scaremongering to a new level.
(I will post a pic when I find one)
Britannia with dark glasses and stick heading towards a cliff and storm following the sign to 'Hung Parliament', as Sun rises in the direction of 'Strong Government'

The headlines states "Vote DECISIVELY to stop Britain walking blindly into disaster".

That's right; 'disaster'...!

Where to begin...? That could be used in the definition of electoral scaremongering.

So thousands of crazy Tory supporters, run out and vote as they would have anyway...? You may have swung the odd Tory wet, but I would hope little more.

A hung parliament would be the best way to bring us towards electoral reform and the public do have a desire for it.

The Tories have no desire for it and for obvious reasons. They want, what is essentially a right wing minority in this country, to have the ability to govern the rest of the nation.

A system that allows any small minority to hold sway and impose its wishes on the whole of the nation is entirely unfair and no longer acceptable.

The problems of hung parliaments and coalition governments are being wheeled out and I think the arguments involving Italy and Greece are weak. Greece? We're not there yet (are we...?) and I'm not sure it's the electoral system that's the problem. And Italy? Come on, I think even they'd admit we don't have corruption on the scale they've had, not just now... There are so many PR systems in the world, and in the regions of this nation, but obviously the critics don't mention the successes and benefits, they mention a basket case and the home of the mafia (sorry, but it is...).

I've always advocated the German system and yes they've always had their problems, but they're a little more secure than we are at the moment. The system is proportional but retains a constituency aspect and it was designed to produce consensus.

Critics here talk of backroom and dodgy dealing, but surely haven't they all just promised to clean up our politics. Greater transparency should be part of that and therefore part of any new system. A cleaner, fairer system needs to be forced on our politicians.

Labour's talk of tactical voting shows how ridiculous and archaic the system is.

But of course it does illustrate the absurdity of the system. That voting for the party you support doesn't count and you have to vote for a party you don't support to keep from government a party you dislike.

It is desperate and shouldn't exist. However, the paradox is that yes the overall absurdity of the system is likely to be its downfall if we have a hung parliament, but a specific distasteful aspect, the tactical vote, might keep the Tories out and be the straw that broke the camel's back.

And though the reform is what I would like to see I can't say I like the way Labour go about it. Peter Hain says the aim is to drive through political reform, but let's be honest, they only mentioned electoral reform a few months before the impending election when they were staring defeat in the face. And then they only offer Alternative Vote, a half baked idea that isn't necessarily fairer at all (it's a struggle for many to even choose one party). They've had 13 years and only when their backs are to the wall... Pathetic.

Jack Straw revealed the true attitude of the party machine when he said the only alternative to a Labour government is a Conservative government. Don't let then fool anyone on this as well, they were very happy having a minority vote giving them a healthy majority. I can't believe anyone would be fooled...

On newsnight tonight, a former civil servant from the Heath/Wilson era spoke about the possible outcomes of a hung parliament. He alluded to what I believe is convention, that if Labour do get the most seats he will remain Prime Minister until resigns and all deals are done.

I would hope Brown has some self respect. Because if I wake up on Friday morning and Labour have come third with the most seats and Brown is stubbornly clinging to power...

I'll be marching on London!

Who's with me?!!


Well that's supposed to be Owain Glyndwr.

Ok a bit more populist

"Electoral reform!"

And for some English balance. Wat Tyler, apparently...

But this is more like it.

The Chartists in Newport

Let's land one back on the likes of Prescott...

We're witnessing the demise of a relic


Quickly back to personalities, if anyone's still interested
I did like this article by Charlie Brooker, mainly because I think I saw a clip of Brown in Tesco (if not it was a similar walkabout).

His robotic lines were pricelss and I was thinking 'vaguely' human. But maybe I am being a bit harsh on him...