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Why I’m backing AV – well kind of

I personally think the alternative vote system is as bad as the first past the post system. I also think that the referendum that the UK is having on Proportional Representation is about as interesting as a 5 year old repeat of Countryfile or Songs of Praise.

I have found it impossibly hard to get excited about this referendum.

The debates have not interested me. The advertising has not interested me. The polling has not interested me.

I am not alone. No one knows who is going to win, not because of the Don’t Knows but the Don’t Cares. The only people who will vote on this referendum are the people who bother to vote because they were handed an extra ballot paper when they go and vote for their local Councillor.

If as had been asked for by Labour this referendum been separate from the Local Government elections, the constituency of those voting would have been less than the Orange Bookers of the Lib Dems.

AV is a shitty little compromise. It was an awful proposal when proposed by Gordon Brown and it remains a bad proposal now.

Despite this, I am fully aware that voting no is more than a vote against the Alternative Vote. A no vote will close the door on electoral reform for years.

A no vote will produce headlines that the voters rejected electoral reform and that will become the accepted position. Politicians will for years refer to the referendum on electoral reform. If you do not believe me, look to Scotland, look across the pond to our American cousins.

In 1979, Scottish voters were asked do they want a devolved Parliament. The legislation was on the table and it would have been implemented if Scotland voted yes.

Purists who wanted full independence were against it. Unionists were also against it. Despite this the Yes campaign won the referendum. They did not however win with sufficient number. The Scotland Act 1978 would only be implemented if more than 40% of the population voted for it. Turnout was 63%. Very high for a non General Election vote. The Yes campaign secured 51.6% of the vote. It meant that the total voting yes fell far short of the required 40%.

That failure was reported as a loss for the Yes campaign. For 18 years it was “accepted wisdom” that the No campaign won and that Scotland neither wanted devolution or independence. The Scottish electors had spoken.

In the United States President Obama pushed through a health care plan for poor and middle America that is remarkably similar to the plan being pushed by Paul Ryan for Seniors. Subsidised health care insurance for poor and working Americans. Republicans were deeply opposed to helping poor people and want them to just die quickly.

Getting healthcare reform through Congress was a massive battle. It was nearly lost and it has become known as Obamacare. Bill Clinton lost his fight to get health care reform through in 1993. It was not until 2009/10 that the battle was fought again. Suposedly the American people just did not want health care reform. If “Oamacare” had failed it would have been another rejection of all healthcare reform, from single payer to “Tort Reform”.

It is often said pick your own battles. That is not always possible.

Someone else can involve you in a fight not of your own making and this is what the referendum for AV is. It is a de-facto referendum on PR whether you like it or not.

No AV is not going to get the BNP elected. First Past the Post already does that. If people vote for NAZIs more fool them.

No it is not going to cost billions upon billions. It will not be responsible for a single closed hospital bed or for equipment not being supplied to a soldier in Afghanistan.

No it is not a referendum on Nick Clegg.

No it will not produce a proportional Parliament and indeed the Party in front may get more seat than under first past the post.

It is however far better than voting for the status quo, especially if you are a supporter of PR because if you are a PR purist this will be your first and last opportunity to get voting reform for generations.

Still the lies. US News agencies lie about “violence” in London

March 26, 2011 3 comments

• An estimated 250,000 people joined the TUC anti-cuts march through central London
• The police arrested [b]a total of 9 people[/b], the clashes between police and “activists” had nothing to do with the main demonstration.
• More than a dozen stores on Oxford Street were occupied by UKUncut, as part of a separate but linked demonstration against the cuts, they have nothing to do with the TUC. They targeted Fortnum & Mason who have dodged tens of millions in tax.

The Metropolitan Police press office stated that today’s march has been largely peaceful and well ordered, with a small number of violent disruptions and just nine arrests

The Guardian reported

Matthew Taylor says UKuncut feel misrepresented by media coverage, saying that its occupation was not violent.

I have just spoken to Ukuncut protesters inside Fortnum and Mason and contrary to an earlier report [5:06] there has been no violence and the atmosphere remains positive. They also say that reports that it was a “rogue group” that has occupied Fortnum and Mason are untrue – they are all Ukuncut activists.

Nine arrests, when hundreds of thousands marched.

An entirely separate mob targeted banks and even the Police are reporting that they had nothing to do with the hundreds of thousands who turned up to protest.
So why are American news agencies telling lies about London?

200,000+ march in London. This is a REAL Tea Party.

March 26, 2011 1 comment

Compare and contrast the Tea Parties across the Pond.

In America, the right wing became concerned about deficit spending on 20 January 2009. Astro turf groups were set up all over the US to encourage Klan retireees to support an agenda that would deliver no health care for them and higher taxes to pay for tax cuts for billionaires, along with cuts to the very social security system that most of them rely on.

Contrast that with the “Tea Party” now in the UK.

They are not supporting terrorist actions against the government.
They are not calling for the UK equivalent of second amendment solutions if they din’t get their way.
They are not demanding to see the birth certificate of David Cameron.
They are not out demanding tax cuts for billionaires.

They are joining with the Trade Union movement and Government employees to fight and oppose the spending cuts so lovingly called “austerity measures” and so fully supported (supposedly) by their extreme equivalents across the pond.

More than two hundred thousand people are protesting the cuts. Estimates go as high as double that. The police are not reporting numbers.

They are not the “usual suspects” of rioting students or Labour Party activists.

There are people from all Parties, worried about the impact the cuts will have on their local services.

BBC reporter, Mark Easton blogged

A regiment of purposeful Gloucestershire ladies were making their way to a kitchen-table meeting. Over tea from a pot and cakes from a stand, they discussed the arrangements for tomorrow. They are planning to join the protest.

“I’m scared of going on a political march” says Chloe Lees, announcing that she has never been on a demo before.

“I don’t want to be kettled. I refuse to pee in the street whatever the cause.”

Nevertheless, the plans have been made and Chloe will be on a train tomorrow morning with her “Save The Libraries” placard.

“I’m taking my 74-year-old Mum,” says Susan Caudron. “This is the only way to make a difference. Now we really have to get out there and show them how we feel.”

Eighty-five-year-old Eugenie Summerfield adds her voice:

“I’m not fit enough to be there but I’ll be with you in spirit. I’m so angry about what’s happening, not just in Gloucestershire but all over the country. I’ll be with you all the way.”
There is authentic passion in the room. The tea-party in the Cotswolds is not politically motivated, but they have been roused by the threat to the users of familiar and well-loved public services.

What a contrast to the Koch funded lot in America, the only protest group in the World to demand more cuts in government spending (but only when a black guy is in charge).

The Coalition trolls the internet. Smash my Nimrod.

January 28, 2011 1 comment

Smash Our Stuff was an internet phenomenon that featured a group of Canadian men purchasing a popular product (normally at launch) and destroying it in front of other people who waited for ages to buy it. The site started as “Smash My iPod”, they became so popular that they went on to buy and smash an XBOX 360, a PS3 and a Wii.

The reactions of the crowd, who were waiting patiently in line, often overnight, was often one of shock mixed, in some cases, with anger fuelled by jealousy.  Here they smash a PS3.

Apple sued them because they did not like to see their beloved items get smashed.

Well British taxpayers waited for 10 years to get nine Nimrod MRA4 reconnaissance aircraft. They cost a total of £4billion.

Three of the planes are 90% finished. One is complete and ready to take off.

Now that they are pretty much ready, the British government is smashing them up. Literally. This will cost taxpayers an additional £200 million and the Contractors get to claim all the scrap metal.

So Smash My Stuff – you have been trolled. Fifty hour waits, compared to a wait of 10 years, £400 launch products v £450 million planes that will never “launch”.

(The tax payers have been trolled as well by the Military contractors but no one seems to care)

Grant Shapps v Britain’s worst Council?

January 28, 2011 1 comment
Grant Shapps, Jon Collins

Grant Shapps and Jon Collins. Fighting talk

Grant Shapps, the Tory Party’s answer to the young Tony Blair in looks and mannerisms has got in to a war of words with the Leader of Nottingham City Council, who is refusing to publish spending over £500.

Councillor Jon Collins claimed that publishing expenditure over £500 was “playing to the tabloid gallery”. Probably because the local paper found that the Council had wasted money on

  • An undisclosed sum to hire a cherry-picker to remove conkers from a tree because officials saw them as a health and safety hazard.
  • £600,000 on publishing and distributing free magazine Nottingham Arrow to 113,000 households
  • £200,000 on a “Proud of Nottingham” campaign with signs, banners and posters
  • A trip to Cannes, on the Cote d’Azur, taken by six council officials including the chief executive Jane Todd in 2009, costing over £30,000

There is however more to this waste than those headline figures and what gets ignored in his story is the disgraceful way that Nottingham treats its poorest residents and its staff. If a Council had been run as badly as Nottingham in London, we would have never have stopped hearing about it. As it is safely out of the way few know that it can very easily be called the worst Local Authority in Britain.

Councillor Jon Collins is foolish to bring this failing City to the attention of the national media.

This is not a question of Labour v Tory, it is simply a Council that has been allowed to foster a culture of personal fiefdom that runs throughout the Council. From the Leader down to all too many of the lowliest Team Leam Leaders. More often than not no regard is given to the law.

Law – in Nottingham for somewhere else. It is not for nothing that Nottingham earned the name Shottingham, the crime capital of the UK. The Council is far from being the best example of being the upholder of legislation.

Nottingham is a Council that cross-checked every resident who claims a single person discount against credit reference agency records. That by itself is of questionable legality. They compounded this by then over claiming money from the Department of Work and Pensions.

Where a claimant is flagged by their “cross check”, the Council then bills the DWP, through Council Tax Benefit for the full Council Tax (without any discounts), – even if the very same Revenues & Benefit Service have for the purposes of much stricter benefit laws verified that the claimant is single.

Want to know how long it will take you to get a claim paid if you are on low-income and need Housing Benefit? Don’t ask Nottingham. To hide the real scale of the backlog they built up staff are instructed to record outstanding work on MS Outlook diaries. They are told not to leave the work outstanding on their document management system. As a result, the level of work outstanding is massively understated. Auditors have told TheBigotBasher that many claims for Housing Benefit take well over a year to pay, some took a number of years to pay. The target to pay a claim is 14 days.

Staff who were moved to the “new” library Customer services facilities have been provided with desks so small that they can barely fit their computer keyboard and mouse on them. For a Council that spent fortunes removing conkers from tress, health and safety for staff is a secondary issue. The photocopier has been given more floor space than the staff. If this was one of the fleeing employers of Nottingham, the Council would be coming down on them with a ton of bricks for the way the staff are treated.

The Council spent £millions on a new building. Already toilet facilities smell and are deteriorating. When a member of staff reported the problem they were told “Well what did you expect, we’re not at Loxley now, no luxuries”. As if decent toilet facilities, in a supposedly modern air-conditioned building are a luxury.

Ministers may be wondering what Nottingham has to hide with their refusal to publish expenditure details. The answer – a lot. Send the auditors in.

Illegal Insurrection

November 30, 2010 1 comment

I really do not understand the idiocy of the right in America any more.  They actually terrify me because of their stupidity.

The reaction of American Conservatives to Wikileaks has been terrifyingly stupid. They either want the extermination of Julian Assange or in the case of Bible Spice, outright war with Europe. Bible Spice and the people that support her really do want open warfare with Europe because of wikileaks, like full on send in Predators with Hell Fire Missiles. Yay. Duck and Cover.

Seriously, this was Sarah Plains contribution to the Wikileaks debate

We all applaud the successful thwarting of the Christmas-Tree Bomber and hope our government continues to do all it can to keep us safe. However, the latest round of publications of leaked classified U.S. documents through the shady organization called Wikileaks raises serious questions about the Obama administration’s incompetent handling of this whole fiasco.

First and foremost, what steps were taken to stop Wikileaks director Julian Assange from distributing this highly sensitive classified material especially after he had already published material not once but twice in the previous months? Assange is not a “journalist,” any more than the “editor” of al Qaeda’s new English-language magazine Inspire is a “journalist.” He is an anti-American operative with blood on his hands. His past posting of classified documents revealed the identity of more than 100 Afghan sources to the Taliban. Why was he not pursued with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders?

What if any diplomatic pressure was brought to bear on NATO, EU, and other allies to disrupt Wikileaks’ technical infrastructure? Did we use all the cyber tools at our disposal to permanently dismantle Wikileaks? Were individuals working for Wikileaks on these document leaks investigated? Shouldn’t they at least have had their financial assets frozen just as we do to individuals who provide material support for terrorist organizations?

Most importantly, serious questions must also be asked of the U.S. intelligence system. How was it possible that a 22-year-old Private First Class could get unrestricted access to so much highly sensitive information? And how was it possible that he could copy and distribute these files without anyone noticing that security was compromised?

The White House has now issued orders to federal departments and agencies asking them to take immediate steps to ensure that no more leaks like this happen again. It’s of course important that we do all we can to prevent similar massive document leaks in the future. But why did the White House not publish these orders after the first leak back in July? What explains this strange lack of urgency on their part?

We are at war. American soldiers are in Afghanistan fighting to protect our freedoms. They are serious about keeping America safe. It would be great if they could count on their government being equally serious about that vital task.

- Sarah Palin

When Liam Fox argued for the renewal of an independent nuclear deterrent, I bet he never expected that the Nation we would need to deter was a US governed by a wannabe Spice Girl.

The Human Rights Act: “Safe in Our Hands?”

November 27, 2010 Leave a comment

Now this is good news. Ken Clarke, the Justice Minister has confirmed that the UK will not be leaving he European Convention on Human Rights, which means that in any review of the Human Rights Act the ECHR will have to be a cornerstone of any Bill of Rights legislation proposed by the coalition.

In a reply to David Ruffley on the votes for prisoners issue, a poison chalice left by the last Labour Governent Clarke told the House of Commons

The coalition Government do not intend to withdraw from the European convention on human rights, which was imposed by the victorious British on the rest of Europe after the war in order to establish British values across the countries that were recovering from fascism and was drafted largely by Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, who put what he thought were the best principles of British justice into it.

The pledge to scrap the Human Rights Act and to replace it with a “Bill of Rights” was nothing more than Cameron pandering to the Daily Mail. The British Government is a signatory on the ECHR and therefore if cases were not handled by UK Courts they would be handled by Strasbourg (as they were before the passing of the Human Rights Act). The Conservatives, despite their claim for supporting the “Sovereignty of the United Kingdom” would have by dancing to the tune of the Daily Mail surrendered the sovereignty of the British Judiciary to Strasbourg.

The reaction of activists from the Conservative side of the coalition (if the blogosphere is actually representative of opinion) is predictable. The reaction on the left has been wrong (if the UK left blogistan is represented by Sunny Hundal). The coalition committed itself to reviewing the Human Rights Act and replacing it with a Bill of Rights. The fact that it will be built on the ECHR is a victory for common sense. The civil liberties agenda of the coalition does not make the cuts in public services any better but if implemented it will make the UK a freer, (if less fair) place to live. It also serves as a reminder why Neo-Con Labour had to leave the body-politic forever. It is telling quite telling that Ed Milliband recognises that as well.

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