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Symbolic Forest

A homage to loading screens.

Blog : Posts tagged with ‘elections’

Spearhead From Space

In which we worry that the PM is a potential Doctor Who villain

Since the election, I’ve felt a bit sorry for Gordon Brown, what with all the people who have rushed to gloat and put the boot in since his progressive downfall started. Last week’s Have I Got News For You featured a montage of his strained-looking toothy smile, his clunky body-language, as if the ability to smile and shake hands smoothly was indeed what really mattered in a leader. I can sympathise partly because my own smiles are often as bad as his, especially if I’m trying to pose. When I’m smiling for the camera, everyone else shuffles their feet and small children run away crying; so when people make fun of Gordon Brown for suffering the same problem, he definitely gets my sympathies.

People’s reaction to his clunkiness, though, just goes to show how much people are concerned today with style and slickness over intellect; and Gordon Brown’s defeat, which people are already treating as much less narrow than it actually was, is only going to reinforce that. When we see David Cameron and Nick Clegg standing together, I get an uneasy squirming horror-film feeling that something is not quite right: that we’re not watching real people, but some sort of shiny artificial human-mimicking lifeform whose twin bodies are slowly converging onto one set of features. By the end of this parliament, we’ll be ruled by Cameregg, one creature with two identical bodies, identical faces with features so blandly generic you could barely pick them out from a crowd. Ed Balls, and the Miliband brothers, might well be part of the same species: some sort of bizarre alien trying to put on a human face but turning into an inhuman everyman. It might just be the effect of modern spin-driven media-friendly politics – or maybe the Autons are real after all.

Wrong

In which I am right, but not in a helpful way

Well, part of last Wednesday’s post quickly came true: my “almost certainly wrong” prediction of the future did, indeed, turn out to be wrong. I was sorely tempted to claim I’d been right all along, or that I’ve got enough right that I can be considered reasonably infallible; but, nah, I got it wrong. As I did say I would. Hence, I was right. Hurrah! I should go into business as a futurologist; I’m good at it. And I’ve known people make bigger futurology U-turns.

More seriously...

In which there is some serious election stuff to talk about

Despite yesterday’s post, I do still indeed live in a safe Labour seat which is still a safe Labour seat. As predicted, shifting my vote in any direction would have made zero difference to the electoral outcome. And, as I implied yesterday, we live in a country where the majority of voters don’t seem to support the agenda of the largest party, partly because, I suspect, this election has been driven by negative pressure: people voting to try to stop Outcome A, rather than to cause Outcome B.

A couple of things have occurred to me, about the election result, over the past two days. Firstly, this parliament – however long it lasts – is going to be a very bad parliament for individuality of representation. In other words, MPs are going to get hardly any chance to vote conscientiously. They’re rarely going to get to express an opinion, and they’re never going to get a chance to represent their constituency over their party. Unless, of course, the government whips aren’t going to worry about losing votes, or the opposition whips aren’t going to worry about winning every vote they can, the whole of parliament is going to be reined in very tightly, and the whips will always expect party allegience to triumph over everything else.

Secondly, there’s lots in the news right now about polling station chaos, voters being turned away, ballot papers running out, and so on. And this can, really, only be down to one subject which has been avoided as an election issue: local government budgets. They are, in most parts of the country, pared down to their absolute minimums; and the constant shaving-off of any extraneous costs is inevitably going to hit elections. Councils, trying to save a little cash, will have cut down on polling staff; that inevitably limits the throughput of each polling station. They might have trimmed their ballot printing runs, figuring that 100% turnout is never going to happen. Unfortunately, the more slack you trim, the less space there is if you’re wrong, and we end up with a system which can’t cope with 4,000 more voters per constituency.* If we’d had the same turnout as 2001 or 2005, then maybe most seats would have coped; but that, to be honest, was never likely to happen. If council budgets keep getting frozen, the same problems are bound to happen next time too.

* The figure there comes from Sheffield Hallam, one of the constituencies that reported trouble, which reported a 5.8% turnout increase, up to 51,135 or just under 74%.

In A Nutshell

In which we cover an election result that the reality-based media seems to have missed.

A late election result just coming in, from the often-overlooked Symbolic Forest West South West division. We take you live to the count…

As the acting returning officer for the constituency of Symbolic Forest West South West, I would like to announce that the votes cast in the constituency were as follows:

Alan Beard, Beardy Religious Party. 108.
John Jacob Alexander Damp-Etonian, Not As Popular As We Claimed Party. 11,207.
Claire Rebecca Redjacket, Not As Unpopular As You Thought Party. 11,206.
Frank Edward Balanced, Looked Good On The Telly Party. 7, 986.
Rupert Henry Purple, There’s A Polish Supermarket On Our High Street I Mean What Are We Coming To My Father Didn’t Drop Bombs On The Germans For Nothing Where Are All These Foreigners From Anyway Party. 1,073.
Dave Peasant, Scary Shades Fist In The Air Party.* 67.
Enoch Powell (Deceased), I Was Right All Along Party. 3.

I therefore announce that John Jacob Alexander Damp-Etonian has been elected to parliament, even though nobody really likes him and everyone else is going to claim they won anyway. Now, where’s my bottle of gin?

* I thought for a moment that lack of sleep had led to me imagining the Land Is Power party, whose candidate, standing with fist raised, looked like a nightclub bouncer playing Musical Statues. His main policy, apparently, was to replace income tax entirely with property taxes.

Politics, ad nauseam

In which we predict the future, badly

Back in 2006, there were some local elections, and I wrote what I thought at the time. It was written in what you might call a prescient situation: about a local council who had run up a huge deficit under Labour, before being taken by a Tory-Liberal alliance who co-operated to the extent of not competing for council seats. Possibly, then, like the general election after next; although things are unlikely to be that extreme.

Back then my point, essentially, was: it’s only worth voting if you’ve got something worth voting for. Abstention should be a positive choice. Now, though, with the general election coming along tomorrow, things are slightly different. I still don’t feel, now, as if there’s any one party that is really pulling my vote in. For some reason, though, I feel equally that not voting at all isn’t an option. I’m not sure why, but this election seems impossible to ignore.

So, I’m definitely going to vote tomorrow. I don’t know who for, though; I’ve become one of those mystical “floating voters” who doesn’t decide an election result until the very last moment. I’ll walk into the booth, make my mark, but I can’t tell you yet who for or why. You should go and vote, too. Largely, because you can.

But anyway, after all that, my prediction for tomorrow’s election is that there won’t be a majority. There will be a hung-balanced parliament, or whatever you want to call it; and the largest party will form a minority government, with everyone else promising to “do what’s best for Britain”. It will last a surprisingly long time, too; and then, just as everything seems to be going so well, in about 15 months time it will collapse over something like election reform. I know that, being so specific, I’m almost certainly wrong; but at least I’m making a guess. Wait and see if it actually happens.

Awoken by the poltical hubbub

In which there has apparently been a lot of fuss over nothing

Well, yes. It’s been quiet round here, hasn’t it. And, as I’ve said before, modern politics makes me want to retreat further into a bunker. There’s a reason why the three sane-and-national parties are so close together in the polls right now: on the surface they’re so close together on everything else. Do you support the ex-public-schoolboy who wants to cut taxes on business and cut public spending, or the ex-public-schoolboy who wants to cut taxes for lower incomes and scythe public spending? Or, of course, the ex-university-firebrand who is also going to cut public spending, but not yet? If you don’t like those, there’s the right-wing fringe: the doddery old chap who leads his party from the House of Lords, who responds to most questions with “I’m not a professional politican, so I don’t know all the details or what’s in our manifesto – can you ask me the questions I wanted you to ask me, please?” If you don’t like his apparent lack of knowledge of most things his party plans to do, there’s always the Cambridge graduate* who thinks that Ireland is part of Britain, and that none of those nasty foreign types should be allowed to settle here unless maybe they’re from a country like France where potential voters might want to retire to.** There’s probably a left-wing fringe, too, but they’ve not popped up on my radar.

Having said all that, I do feel slightly sorry for the former university firebrand, who, I’m told, caused havoc with the administration of my own alma mater back in the 1970s. Because, to be honest, I’m fully aware that politicians aren’t angels. Practically everyone I know, everyone I’ve ever come across, is willing to be polite to someone’s face, then complain about them behind their back. We’re all happy to say things in private, when we think it’s private, and we don’t expect that our enemies are listening in. If there’s one thing you can criticise Gordon Brown for over the events of yesterday, it’s that maybe he was too polite in public, and wasn’t willing to stand up strongly enough for what he presumably believes: that people who ask vague and poorly-stated non-questions that imply they don’t like the free movement of labour in Europe are, bluntly, wrong.

My vote, to be frank, doesn’t exactly make much difference. I live in one of the safest Labour seats in South-West England, one which even Michael Foot didn’t manage to lose in 1983. To move it to either of the other parties would need a monumental local swing: 13% for it to go Liberal, 15% to go Tory. The last local elections did see some movement towards the Liberals in some wards, but not, I think, enough to unseat our MP. Because of that, I don’t have any real expectation that the option I choose next Thursday will make any difference at all to the overall result. I’m fairly sure I promised one of our local councillors, too, that there was no way I was voting Labour whilst he still wanted to build a guided busway through Ashton and Spike Island; he still does, I assume, so I feel duty-bound to uphold my promise. Unfortunately, the Liberal Democrats also seem to like the idea, so it looks like this may well be the first election in which I end up spoiling my vote. Having said all that, though, the fuss over Gordon Brown and Gillian Duffy*** has had one effect on my voting intentions. For the first time in a couple of years, I’m considering voting for Labour.

* Robert Graves had a lifelong antipathy to Cambridge graduates. I must say, I think his instinctive reaction to them was wrong; but possibly, in this case, it would have been justified.

** Or they know how to build the nuclear power stations that he’s going to fill the country with, of course. I wonder how much uranium we have left.

*** Whose anger at being called a bigot is slightly tempered by the fact that she didn’t really understand what the word meant.

Humility

In which Yorkshire and the Humber turns nasty

This is just a quick note; I didn’t intend to write another political post so soon again. But I felt it needed saying, as someone who was born in the now-deceased Humberside and was a registered voter in the Humber region until last year. I’m ashamed, to come from a region in which a six-figure number of people are willing to vote for a party with no real policies other than removing citizenship from non-white people. The elected candidate claimed in his acceptance speech that he “heard a rumour” that the Prime Minister has considered annulling his election result. No doubt his party would love for that to happen. What is more important: this election result happened because of a drop in turnout. It shows how vital it is that we have an open democracy where voters are able to make an educated choice, and exercise their right to make it.

The Politics Show

In which we run through a few voting-related topics

I’ve been quiet about politics here lately, save for that post about revolutions the other day. The more noise there is about politics in the press, the less I want to add to the “debate”. All I feel like doing is pointing out the endless opportunism and hypocrisy of all, and that’s so plain it doesn’t need to be said.

We did vote, though. However apathetic I might get about politics, I still keep an eye on the news and the policies; and voting’s important. To get back on to the French Revolution, it’s one of the rights that Robespierre fought for even as he was also fighting for the right of the government to purge anyone he considered to be in the government’s way. I know I keep harping on about the French Revolution, but it’s still rattling around in my head a lot and I’d like to get it out of the way to make room for normal things again. Getting back onto the topic: lots of people would say that the European Parliament isn’t important, that despite the laws that emanate from it, most of the work done there emerges from the back room of the Commission. To that I’d say: voting for part of a partly-democratic system is better than voting for none of it. Moreover, I have my own view of Britain, and how I’d like Britain and the regions of Britain that I particularly care about represented in the wider world. The MEPs that represent us form an important part of that.

The city elections made the news, being the one yellow blob on the map surrounded by a sea of blue; but we didn’t get to vote in those. Due to the city electing by thirds, only two thirds of the city wards participate in each election. This year, we were one of the wards which took a holiday.

I did hear, a few months back, of a campaign to end the “by thirds” system in Bristol and move to all-out elections. It seemed to be a Labour Party led campaign: at least, I first heard about it via a now-former Labour councillor, who had started a petition for it on the council website; and it emerged just after the council’s minority Labour administration had resigned. I could see partly why the Labour party might be attracted to the idea: although they only held about a quarter of the seats on the council, at the elections, over a third of the seats up for election were Labour seats. They lost heavily, as they were predicted to do, at a time when they were the party with the most to lose. What goes around comes around, though; at the next election, things will be a little more balanced, and Labour will only be holding about 20% of the seats up for election.*

I’m not convinced that there’s any need for all-at-once elections. It might make it hard for some parties, some of the time, to gain control of the council; but often those parties find themselves in the position they deserve. Moreover, it can be a good thing for it to take several elections for a party to gain control of the council, and the overall time taken is no longer. All-out elections would only make sense if proportional representation was brought in at the same time; and I can’t see the local Labour Party being in favour of that. Maybe they will be after the next council elections, though.

* Although that is still a higher percentage than they now hold across the full council.

Running The Place

In which we consider the blind spots in people’s xenophobia

People I come across, for once, seem to be getting themselves interested in politics. The local elections, and the soaring cost of petrol,* are for once getting people interested in who runs the country, or things like that.

Sadly, most of the people I come across at work and day-to-day aren’t the sort of people you’d trust to run the country. Trains of thought go along two lines. “Wouldn’t it be nice if things were a bit cheaper,” and “there’s too many foreign people about, you know.” They then say to our Token Polish Office Temp: “I don’t mean you, of course, but you know what I mean. There’s too many foreign people about.”

They don’t really mean that he’s white; it’s just that people everywhere seem to have an enormous blind spot when it comes to “these dirty foreigners.” The sort of people, at least, who say there are too many foreign people about, always have one big exception: foreigners they know personally. They don’t count. They are decent people, unlike the rest of them, the great mass of indistinguishable and interchangeable Foreign People who are here to steal their women and marry their jobs (or something like that). “Oh no, I don’t mean you, I mean all the ones who you read about in the papers.” Why is it that they still believe what they’ve read in the papers, have heard from a mate in the pub, will pass on in a “joke” text message, when all their personal experience goes in the opposite direction?

* it is a Rule Of Clichés, apparently, that any time the cost of petrol is mentioned, the word “soaring” has to be attached.

Vote

In which we lament the state of politics

Politics has been depressing me for the past few months. That’s why I’ve stopped writing about it. The government seems to be going further and further downhill; but there is no alternative that I’m willing to vote for.

Still, it isn’t a choice for me tomorrow, because of where I happen to live. My vote probably won’t make too much difference at the next general election, either. I really should be voting for a party that supports proportional representation, if I can; but as we don’t have it, that would be throwing my vote away. At least I have a few years to worry about it.

I really do feel that there is noone at all, now, to represent me. Earlier today, the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill completed its Third Reading in the Lords. That’s the bill which will, the government hopes, ban kinky porn – except that it is framed in such a horribly vague way that nobody, including its supporters, really knows what convictions it might lead to. It is going to ban sexual imagery that is “apparently life threatening”. So, a picture of a normal couple having normal sex, not illegal. If they’re not wearing a condom? Well, you’d think, no difference there. If they’re not wearing a condom and you write “this man has AIDS” over the top of it? Bang, that’s three years in jail for you. Maybe. Nobody really knows. You’ll have to wait and see.