What would Clement do?

A Labour blog that witters on about Clement Attlee. Hurrah for The Major!

Archive for the tag “democracy”

Why, just once, Labour should back the Coalition…

Tonight in the Commons, Labour MPs have an opportunity to show disaffected Lib Dems that there is an alternative to Clegg.

Well, that’s the short tactical argument for voting for Lords Reform, of course there is a longer, much more principled set of reasons, to whit:

Ever since its foundation, the Labour Movement, of which The Labour Party is an intrinsic part (whatever Progress or Bob Crow say), has fought against entrenched power and privilege.  Go back as far as the Putney Debates of the seventeenth century if you like, you will always find slim red thread through radical, socialist and trades union positions on the issue of state-controlled preferment.

 True enough, New Labour at best fudged this, and with its leading protagonists and cheerleaders spending so much effort cosying up to Oligarchs and shysters, we nearly lost any opportunity to win democratic change.

Once before in this Parliament, over voting reform, we have seen the very worst example of parliamentary conservatism and narrow partisanship triumph over common sense and a move towards justice. We must not let it happen again.

By supporting the call for reform, Ed Miliband is staying true to the words and spirit of his first speech as Leader, and being true to the spirit of the pioneers who founded the Labour Representation Committee over a century ago.

Re-read your Thomas Paine, I promise you you will find no argument justifying a second chamber composed of placemen, high-born, or failed politicians (and of course Baroness Warsi).

Lord Puttnam and Bragg are no doubt wonderful, intelligent men, yet I hardly think that this trumps popular sovereignty. And they can always lunch at The Garrick and Groucho clubs instead. To paraphrase Bagehot, intellectual support for The House of Lords rarely survives first contact with the actual institution.

To side with the right of the Tory Party for the sake of causing the coalition one more embarrassment is both short sighted and petty. After all, we have yet to exhaust Osbornes’ Budget.

As a Party, we must be positioning ourselves as the reasonable alternative to the Coalition, which means finding common ground with Lib Dems, and Greens on issues such as democratic reform where we can. By doing this, we make Nick Cleggs job much harder at the next election.

On News International, & on Banking, the Labour Front Bench have scored two goals against Cameron and Clegg. Now lets make it a hat trick.

Let the Tories play games against each other on this one.

 

Utoya nine months on…

Today, as the trial of Anders Breivik gets under way, I am thinking about solidarity, about the family and friends of those seventy seven mainly young people murdered in cold blood last July in Norway.

Nothing can ever replace a life cut short, nor could I ever dare to imagine what their relatives and mates have been going through for nine months. Norway is a small place, it is estimated that one in four of the population knew one of the butchered. They were killed as “legitimate targets” in Breiviks opinion because they were members of the Norwegian Labour Party, fellow democratic socialists to us here in Britain. They were, and remain, our brothers and sisters.

As a civilised nation, Norway has no death penalty, so the martyrdom that the assassin seeks will elude him. In place of that, we have seventy seven heroes between the ages of fourteen and fifty one, with an average age of just under twenty.

They died as true martyrs to the causes of tolerance, decency and democracy. Today I salute them, and all in our worldwide movement for justice and human rights. I salute the fundamental decency of the Norwegian people.

Our only lasting memorial can be the re-doubling of our efforts to combat the messages of hate spread by groups such as the BNP and EDL, and hate-filled clerics of every religion. We must concentrate on what unites the vast majority of humanity, regardless of race and creed, once more we must call for the workers of the world to unite, and make all men brothers.

If we could stand silent at this years May Day marches and rallies, it would be a fitting tribute.

…NEWS FROM SOMEWHERE…

By: Our Staff Liar –

In a shock outburst this week, a fictitious source close to Nick Clegg announced that he was “unavailable” for comment, for discussion, or indeed for anything other than helping Samantha Cameron around the house.

Sources close to the Prime Monster’s other partner mentioned “doing the ironing, cleaning the bathroom, oh, and we need more Hobnobs.” as a fair summation of Mr Cleggs’ enhanced role.

Meanwhile, fibbers close to Danny Alexander, the Scottish Annoyance at The Treasury declared  him to be “pleased” on being declared “More annoying than Alex Salmond” by a leading made-up focus group…*

In other party of my imagination, Chris Huhne has been spotted doing a merry jig to the demise of Silvio Berlusconi. This long awaited retirement places the dull Huhne at last in the top ten of Western Europes’ leading political philanderers, ahead of that bearded LibDem who likes Eastern European assistants for their brains. ” For years everyone thought I was the dull one” said Huhne, “Well now I’m the dull one who left his wife by text.”

* One source from the group was quoted – “Its not that he’s Scottish, or that he’s ginger, its because he is Danny Alexander – he just stands there, two feet behind George Osborne with a slight smirk on his pasty face.” Said the anonymous Mr Kennedy.

 

WHY I AM VOTING YES TO AV

In two weeks time, we get the first chance to fundamentally change our political system since universal adult suffrage was achieved in the 1940s – when domestic servants were enfranchised, and Oxbridge types lost their two votes.

I have already said that given the two choices on offer, I back AV over no change, and as the campaigns draw to a close, it is time to re-state my reasons…

Firstly, as some opponents of AV have already commented elsewhere, First Past The Post is manifestly undemocratic. Most governments do not represent will of the people by votes cast, let alone the total electorate. In the 1980s, taking the whole electorate, The Tories won no more than 36% of possible votes at any election. The same applies to New Labour, and to this Coalition. Only 217 out of 650 MPs returned in 2010 had over 50% of the vote.

Secondly, the great, and largely ignored seat theft that this Government is perpetrating against you and I. Regardless of how we vote in the Referendum, 50 seats will be axed, at a stroke making our established political class stronger, and also more distant from us. The only measure within our power right now to even slightly ameliorate this would be to make sure that every MP needed at least 50% of the votes cast in their constituency. That would be AV.

Thirdly, if passed, AV would give impetus to Lords Reform – lets kick the unelected into touch.

AV is just a start, and we could further modify the system to create a more proportional one after the barriers to reform come down.

AV is no block to radical reform – it is radical reform.

Look at those who back the current system – Press Barons, The Tax Payers Alliance (led by a non-dom), and Tories, with conservative New Labourites and a smattering of Blairites.

I would like to see a system where every MP has to reach out beyond the usual middle class middle ground of voters – with AV, not only second preferences but voter registration and participation become key.

I urge you all to think hard about this – we need a better way, and a better Government.

Ham-Faced Spam Robot Strikes Again!

AAAARRRGGGHHHH!!!! Woke up this morning to hear Cameron telling us plebs just why AV is sooo bad for us…

  1. Apparently, we are all too thick to use anything else other than a cross on a ballot paper. (Well, future generations may be, after Govey’s education reforms…)
  2. It is not always proportional – unlike, of course, First Past The Post.
  3. Other Parties may gain seats at the expense of the two main parties. (Note to Dave – yes, thats what voters want, you freak.)
  4. Some peoples votes would be counted twice (eh???). It is much better to keep a system whereby less than 2% of all votes decided the last election…
  5. Err… thats it.

Come off it Tory boy, you and The Taxpayers Alliance can take a running jump.

For a more considered rebuttal of the Eton Trifle, see George Eaton in The New Statesman –

http://www.newstatesman/blogs/the-staggers/2011/02/cameron-point-system-hung

May 5th – Our Choice, Our Chance…

So, on May 5th we get the chance to alter our voting system from First Past The Post (FPTP) to the Alternative Vote (AV). With Ham-Face and Little Nicky setting out the opposing arguments this morning, it would be useful to review what we have, and what we could get.

THE SYSTEM AS IT IS:

At the moment, our political system is a Constitutional Monarchy, that suffers a little Democracy to intervene now and then. Parliament is Sovereign, with the power to dismiss the Monarch – a power not used since 1688, but that led to the abdication of Edward VIII in 1937. The House of Commons is theoretically where power lies – as the elected chamber is the only place where legislation can be decisively approved or denied. The unelected Lords can only amend Bills, and since Lord Salisbury back in Victorias day, no Prime Minister has sat there. Practically, power lies with The Cabinet, some would say The Cabinet Office.

Our Electoral System is based on FPTP, and in practice this means that the candidate with the most votes, regardless as to whether this is a majority, wins. At the last General Election, fully two thirds of seats were won by candidates who had less than fifty percent of the vote.

Our participation in elections as voters has been declining since 1945, and our disengagement with the political process is at its highest since the vote was won for women and the propertyless. The expenses scandal, the perceived unresponsiveness of our elected members, and the narrowness of the terms of official political debate (the hunt for the nebulous “Middle England”)have all contributed to this. There is a distinct class divide in voting – the richer you are, the more likely you are to vote – which partially explains why our major parties spend much of their efforts trying to placate a mythical “mainstream” vote, whilst ignoring other considerations.

As for those we elect, increasingly and overwhelmingly they come from similar backgrounds regardless of party. Very few MPs have come from outside of the Middle Classes, and the domination of The Cabinet by men from Oxbridge is simply an extreme version of this. In the last edition of the late Anthony Sampson’s “Who Runs This Place?” a marked trend towards certain professions was noted – Law, Finance, Local Government and Higher Education are the major areas of practical experience that our MPs have. Student Politics is the proving ground for this new political class, who in attitude see the rest of us as at best foot soldiers in their campaign for ultimate power. This is regardless of party.

FPTP has resulted in the many seats being “safe” for one party or another – leading to a strengthening of party machines and “a job for life” for some of the least worthy members of the house. Only at times of major upheaval in politics – 1945, 1979, 1997, do these seats even stand a chance of being overturned. in effect, your preference only counts either at one of these elections, or if you live in a marginal seat.

Effectively, under FPTP, a party needs only to win around 30% of the available vote to have a rock-solid majority. This happened throughout the 1980s, ’90s and the last decade. In May 2010, less than 2% of us decided the result.

A culture of entitlement reigns, believing themselves to be a Meritocracy ( whilst misconstruing the term), a certain arrogance can be detected amongst this self-justifyng elite.

What We Could Get:

The Alternative Vote system means that instead of just putting one cross next to one candidate on your ballot paper, you instead rank them in order of your preferences, as far as you wish – so in my case that would be Labour 1; Green 2; and the rest can go hang, unless I like their candidate. Its up to you how far you go. The votes are counted, and the candidates with least votes is eliminated, their second preferences added to the other candidates. This continues until one candidates has over 50% of the votes. Around 14 million of us already use this system for elections in Trades Unions,Political Parties, Student Organisations and such, so many of us already have experience of it. It must be said that whilst this is a more consensual system, it is not proportional – we can still end up with Governments elected by a minority of the electorate.

Possibly the starkest image is best provided by The British Electoral Survey at Essex University, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. In a wide-ranging study, the BES took a representative survey of voting preferences at the May 2010 election, and found the results to be thus:

Conservative     283 – down 22

Labour               248 – down 10

Lib Dems            89 – up 32

At first glance, for the left this looks unpalatable, but look at the arithmetic – we would have been able to offer what Gordon Brown couldn’t last May – a stable Coalition with the Lib Dems. Whether the Orange Book gang would have taken this up is another matter, but there is a strong possibility that the decimation of the Welfare State and dismantling of the NHS would at least not be on the agenda. Remarkably, last May ten seats would have changed straight from Tory to Labour, and only one vice versa.

Many seats regarded now as “safe” would now become winnable. ALL MPs would be returned on over 50% of the votes cast in every constituency.

Our MPs would thus have to work harder for us – local issues would become really important – no more promises to “look into” a third crossing for Waveney for example, only for your MP to forget it until election year.

You get a potentially bigger say, with AV there is no need for tactical voting, simply pick your favourite candidate first. If they don’t win, you still get a say. So Labour votes in the South West and East Anglia now matter, as would Tory votes in Scotland and South Wales.

At a stroke, MPs would have to reach beyond their comfort zones – Surrey Tories and Keith Vaz take note…

The Alternative Vote keeps what is best about the current system, the historic constituency link – you will still know who your MP is, and be able to lobby them.

If extended to local government, then the “Rotten Boroughs” that regularly infest Private Eye would be altered – one-party rule over Tower Hamlets or Suffolk would be altered. No more “sigmoid waves”, “virtual councils” or distant aloof local bigwigs.

If AV is passed, then the possibility of an actually elected House of Lords is strengthened – no more input by those who rely on their place by contributions to party coffers. We would finally have a Liberal Democracy – over two hundred years since Thomas Paine wrote The Rights of Man.

AV is far from perfect – it would be better to have a more proportional system, such as AV plus, as recommended  by The Jenkins Commission on Electoral Reform, yet is a start.

There is just one more point. As part of The Coalition stitch-up over Reform, the Tories have been able to tag on the axing of 50 seats, on the grounds of “cost” – as if you can put a price on Democracy. If AV fails to go through, then the Tories, with Liberal Democrat support, will have managed to Gerrymander the electoral map of Britain, with minimal consultation with you, that no-one voted for, potentially solidifying their hold on power. Only AV will go some way to ameliorating this.

That is why all of us in Labour, and everyone who believes in Democracy, must support the Yes to Fairer Votes Campaign.

Noes To The Left…

Two recent articles on the Referendum on Electoral Reform (no, please wait, its not that dull…) by decent leftwingers against change have got me thinking. Nick Cohen in The Spectator today, and Darrell Goodliffe at Left Futures (links on your right) both have it in for AV and Nick Clegg. As a Democrat and a Socialist, I have to disagree with my no-doubt honourable opponents here, and this is why…

Nicks article is mainly a sustained diatribe against celebrity endorsements of the Yes campaign, and, to a certain extent I have to agree – certainly I do not believe that any campaign or issue is “good” on the say-so of an actor, singer, poet or model. Often I find myself taking a reverse opinion, wondering where on earth you could find Fois Gras in Asda, or eat swans stuffed with owls whilst wearing only cruelty guaranteed fur and blood diamonds. But this is simply the reaction of someone who doesn’t like to be hectored at by those richer, safer and more powerful than himself. In the case of Electoral Reform, surely anyone who has the vote in the UK is entitled to their opinion? The charge Nick makes is that we in the yes campaign are hiding Nick Clegg behind the skirts of Helena Bonham Carter.

Now for those of a Liberal Democrat persuasion, there may be some truth in this, but the fact remains that the Yes campaign is much broader based than that. I really have little sympathy for Little Nicky and his Orange Book groupies, but the case for reform of our voting system is much more important than any one party. Mr Cohen and Mr Goodliffe decry the only option on the table for change – that of the Alternative Vote (AV). I understand the misgivings, and the arguments against it, but is it not better to get some change, rather than none? The Royal Commission under Lord Jenkins proposed a system incorporating AV plus an element of proportionality – AV plus, which could be introduced early on if Labour commits to it fully, and we win in 2015. And heres the rub, whatever the Lords have managed to squeeze out of the Coalition in concessions, we still lose 50 MPs and constituencies before 2015. The majority of these will be Labour, in a staggering move more suited to Al Capone than a democratic government. Without a change in the voting system, Labour face the prospect of being gerrymandered out of office for at least a decade. What on earth will be left to save in 2025? Will we have to start all over again? Can we?

For Labour, there is also a tactical consideration here. We oppose the Coalition on pretty much everything they are doing, and that means laying into the Lib Dems. This is no bad thing at all, but we may very well have to form some kind of alliance with them at some stage to win back power. To do this, we must prove ourselves to be willing to make changes, and to live up to the “Democratic” part of Democratic Socialism. We may also see a growing number of Lib dem activists from the Social Democratic wing come over to our side… Yet No campaigners within Labour, honest though they may be, are proving themselves just as tribal as Clegg, and as wedded to the old Tory “No reform” policy as Ham-Face Cameron… Think again Please…

Egypt – A Festival Of The Oppressed

The events unfolding across the whole of the Middle East should give heart to anyone who believes in Democracy and Liberty across the world.

In Cairo, in Lebanon, in in Tunisia,In Jordan, in Yemen, in Iran, the pressure has been building over the past few years, and has erupted into the streets, with demands from ordinary people for reforms and the downfall of the ruling cliques of kleptocrats and dictators.

Who on earth will shed a tear for Hosni Mubarrak? Other than the State Department, I cannot find anyone comes to mind…

Yet his party, the National Democratic Party, remains a member of The Socialist international – why??? In the name of all we hold dear, this bunch of crooks are in no way Democratic, neither are they Socialist. Expulsion is the only correct policy in this case.

They are however nominally secular, although the state they own still persecutes religious and atheist minorities with enthusiasm.

There are worries that their downfall will see the implementation of an Islamic State – one which would take a much harsher line on Israel, and lead to Islamic reaction gaining another base, along with Iran. This is a definite possibility, as the persecution of The Muslim Brotherhood and its ilk has given them much support amongst the poor. The Brotherhood have so far been pretty absent from the streets, as have the fractured opposition parties. This looks like a genuine people power movement.

However, given the fact that the people facing rubber bullets and tear gas in Cairo today want Mubbarak out, and price reform, along with freedom of expression and democratic reforms, I doubt that the radical Islamists can hold this movement in their hands.

This uprising is inspired by events in Tunisia, in Jordan, in Lebanon, and also by events a few years back in Iran. No leader in the Middle East is safe, the decades of tyranny that followed colonial rule may very well be coming to an end – if this is so, then it is our duty to support the people against the state, against dictators, against torture and oppression.

Once again, I state that this fight is our fight. We must stand on the side of the people facing corrupt police brutality.

Solidarity is a concept that is at the very heart of our movement, our history, our ideas. Now is the time to show it.

Contact The Foreign and Commonwealth Office at http://fco.gov.uk/      fill out the feedback form in the contact pages, showing your support for those fighting for their rights across the Arab World


An Open Letter To Honest Opponents.

In the past few months I have met many Conservative and Liberal Democrat supporters in the blogosphere, and in the main, I have found them to be courteous and respectful of other opinons. Obviously I avoid blowhards like the plague, and with Lady P at my side I know better than to simply be rude for the hell of it (however much fun it would be).

I have also noticed that supporters and members of both parties are disgruntled to say the least with certain aspects of the Coalitions policies. In politics, it never does to attribute uniform beliefs to your enemies. In this spirit I ask my Liberal Democrat colleagues in the Yes To Fairer Votes Campaign, and Conservatives of a truly One Nation frame of mind to read on and ponder…

Is it honestly true to your principles to restrict the British people’s access to their land? To sell off ancient forests held in common, for the benefit of all?

Is it wise to fillet our Defences, as this administration is doing?

Is it just to erode the living standards of agricultural workers by abolishing their independent wages council?

Is it wise to allow one multinational company unheard of control over the media?

What patriotic Government allows such levels of tax evasion by the wealthy and large British corporations?

Is it good Conservatism, or Liberalism to erode our access to, and connection with Parliament, by destroying long cherished geographical boundaries and regional loyalties?

Is it fair play to instigate campaigning by smear and inference, as in the London Mayoral campaign?

Do you really believe that the upheaval this Government is instigating is in the true benefit of the NHS?

Does it really make sense to further atomise our national Education system, potentially excluding the talented poor for a generation?

Is it not simply politically motivated spite to add further needless anti-Trades Union legislation to the toughest Trades Union laws in Europe? Is this not something Disraeli would have baulked at?

How wise and patriotic can it be to seriously harm Britain’s universally respected voice to the World – The BBC World Service? Is it responsible? Is it truly what you want?

Are you entirely comfortable with a Government that is enacting legislation that was in neither of your parties’ manifestos, nor written into The Coalition Agreement?

I realise that we will not agree on everything, that is the nature of politics. But I also see that many of you oppose some, if not all of the measures listed above. I hope that we can all work together to help ameliorate the flood of ill-written, ill thought out legislation we see coming out of westminster and Whitehall.

For our nations’ sake I know that we will be able to work together at times…

Phone Hacking – The Scandal Spreads

Former Lib Dem MP Paul Marsden’s  questions as to whether his phone was tapped by the Trinity Mirror Group have led to the continuing Phone Hacking scandal being widened to potentially encompass the whole of Fleet Street – or at least the Tabloids, possibly a number of Broadsheets as well…

It also touches upon issues of Police corruption – were members of The Metropolitan Police Force (sorry, Service) on the payroll of one or more media groups? Where does this leave us as to the reliability of information received? Who are these officers, and will they be sacked and lose their pensions, as they rightly should? Why was Scotland Yard so tardy in bringing an investigation into this?

Scotland yard have reopened their investigations as of yesterday, citing “new evidence” that has come to light. This raises a few more points –

It is now impossible to claim that Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire were working alone – the new investigation includes notes from Mulcaire marked “For Ian” (presumable Ian Edmondson – just sacked by The News of The World), “For Clive”, and “For Gregg”.

Ex-MP Paul Marsdens request broadens this out to The Daily and Sunday Mirror – quite a reasonable assumption, given the prevailing atmosphere in Fleet street. According to the Independent today “If you ask any tabloid journalist, they will quietly say “everybody is doing it”…”

The key personnel in the frame now would be Rebekah Brooks (formerly Wade), Ian Edmondson,  Coulson, David Yelland, and Piers Morgan:

All of these august media operators learned their trade at News International under the fabulous Sun editor and grumpy rightwing git Kelvin Mackenzie.

The Christmas dinner soiree where James Murdoch met Ham-Face Cameron was at Rebekah Brooks’ Oxfordshire home, with Coulson in attendance .

Rebekah Brooks refused to attend a Commons enquiry into the press, and some members of the Committee claimed that they declined to have the Sergeant-At-Arms order her to do so, for fear of News International digging into their private lives.

The whole set-up stinks to high heaven…

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