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...?


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