Wednesday, 12 May 2010

'New Politics' in Number 10

So Nick Clegg has got into bed with the Tories, and we now have a new Prime Minister: Old Etonian and fifth cousin twice removed of Queen Elizabeth II, Dave "he's just like one of us" Cameron. The BBC notes that he's the first Old Etonian to hold the office since the early 1960s - well aren't we a progressive country! On the brightside the more despicable aspects of Tory policy will undoubtedly be restrained by the Liberal Democrat coalition; although I'd hate to be one of the millions of Liberal Democrat voters who have given such a disgusting Tory party a veneer of respectability.

Nick Clegg has been the first of the four Liberal Democrat leaders I have disliked - I've said it long before today. He encompasses so much of what is wrong with modern politics: the gloss, the bullshit, the desire to be seen as your friend. In this, the same as Cameron, he is undoubtedly an heir to Blair - although he is careful to talk of 'new politics' rather than something as trite as a 'third way'. Whereas I was pleasantly surprised with how much the Labour Party achieved under Blair (although I continue to dislike the man), I have less hope of being surprised at the end of the following parliament. Although the is one glimmer of hope: the Tory desperation to form a government.

The compromises that have already been made by the Tory party to form a coalition government reek of its desperation. The Tory party has backed 'modernising' Cameron over the past five years purely as a way to get into government, and the government had to be formed - whatever the price. Failure by Cameron would have consigned the party to the wilderness for another 13 years as it ripped itself apart searching for an electable face. It remains to be seen whether the price they are willing to pay today, will still seem such a bargain in six months time. With such a volatile period ahead it seems a bizarre time to propose 5-year fixed term parliaments; it'll be interesting to see whether its workable in 5-months.

Personally I would rather have had a passionate, bloody-minded, cantankerous PM who stood for what he believed in. Someone who listened to the experts, made a decision, and if necessary told the ignorant masses to f-off. Unfortunately democracy doesn't allow that, and we seem condemned to a future of Britain's Got Political Bullshit. Forget convictions, just say you're doing it for your gran.

I'm not generally a big fan of revolutions, preferring the gradual change that has been the primary characteristic of British politics, but I must admit that the envisioned mediocre politics of the future is almost enough to make me reach for the pitchfork.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Election Wordle: Like a sweary wordsearch

It's a tradition this days to put everything into a Wordle, so I thought I'd put my 320 election night tweets into one

What's most surprising is that despite all the swearing, and an excessive amount of tweeting, my number of followers didn't actually go down!

[nb. I took out the #ge2010 hashtag as it was on most tweets and as such overwhelmed the Wordle].

Election Reflection: Did Britain win?

As anyone who was unfortunate enough to be following my Twitter stream on Thursday and Friday will have realised, I have a love/hate relationship with British elections. I love politics, but I hate the right wing. Unfortunately in the UK a lot of people are ignorant enough to vote Conservative, and every time I see a smug over-privileged face winning a vote I get angry, drunk, and swear a lot [you should have seen the tweets I deleted before sending!]. I don't believe "politicians are all the same" or "there's no difference between the parties". There are the progressive parties such as Labour, Liberal Democrats, and Greens, and there are the reactionary parties of the right. We may not always agree with the progressive parties' policies, but we can identify with their ideologies. During my life I have always voted either Liberal or Labour, because whilst I recognise people do not have equal abilities (after all, there are those ignorant enough to vote Conservative), I passionately believe people should have equal opportunities. Despite a bad night for the Lib Dems and Labour, this election has provided the opportunity for the parties of the right to be locked out of politics (or at least a majority government) for the foreseeable future!

Whilst the Conservatives have the biggest number of seats, failing to get a majority can only be considered a massive failure. Three terms of a Labour government and an unpopular Prime Minister and they are still not voted in! As the results show, the British majority are progressive: 30% Labour, 24% Lib Dems despite the best efforts of a disgusting right-wing press. Maybe the daring copyright-busting Mirror front page did just enough to remind us that class politics are still there, however hard our friend Dave told us otherwise:

With the Liberals holding the balance of power there is at last a glimmer of hope for the Liberal dream of proportional representation. Whilst the Labour Party have always overly-benefited from the current first-past-the-post system, due to their strong heartlands in the North, it may be time for them to put the country before the party. Whilst the thought of a BNP or UKIP MP makes me feel physically ill, is it a price worth paying for a future of progressive governments?

The next 12 months in politics as I would like to see it:
- A Lib-Lab coalition with smaller parties for 1 year (Caroline Lucas for Environment secretary?)
- A referendum on PR
- An election on May 5th 2011 under PR

None of these stages will be easy. The coalition will probably require the loss of Gordon Brown. A shame not only because I believe he is a great and honest Prime Minister, but because he is an intellect any government would be poorer without. Ideally I would like to see him return to the Treasury, with Alan Johnson as PM, but I recognise that it'll never happen. There is a difference between Charles Kennedy and William Hague returning to the front benches of their parties, and a former PM doing it.

Then comes the referendum. The right-wing press will recognise the potential for the Conservatives to spend years in the wilderness, whilst the Murdoch empire will lose much of it's influence in government whichever party he supports. It'll be a very close run event, but I think ultimately fair-play and people's realisation that every vote will count will tip the balance in favour of PR.

Finally the election. Under a PR system we'll have even greater responsibility for engaging in the electoral process. For too many of us politics is something that happens only at election time. When the progressive population says nothing it allows the politics of hate, fear, and ignorance raise its head. More of us should be taking an active interest in the day-to-day politics of Westminster, and at a local level, and not just when a particular bill grabs our interest.

It'll be a while before we know the outcome of this election, but for now Gordon Brown is still Prime Minister, and the future is far from as bleak as it could have been.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Don't just vote tactically, tell people!

The polls are not looking good, in fact we could be waking up on Friday morning to the sight of David Cameron walking into Downing Street with a Conservative majority government. Like many progressive-minded people, who dream of a more equal society, I will be voting tactically on May 6th: I will be voting Labour.

Unlike many people I'm in a privileged situation. I like both Gordon Brown, and the current Labour MP for Wolverhampton South West - Rob Marris - and on Thursday Rob will be getting my vote. But even if I didn't, if I was a disillusioned Labour voter, or I had previously voted Liberal Democrat*, Rob would be getting my vote on Thursday. This will be the closest election for many years, and if you are in a marginal constituency you must vote with your head.

In my own constituency, Wolverhampton South West, it's a two horse race between the Conservative Party and the Labour Party. That's not the message the Lib Dems are sending out in their ward leaflets that constantly tell me "Conservatives can't win here", but it's a fact.

In Wolverhampton South West a progressive vote for the Liberal Democrats may as well be a vote for the Tories. The Labour government has, not surprisingly, made mistakes during its thirteen years in power, but as @TheFagCasanova so eloquently stated:
Voting Conservative, because you're angry with Labour is like sawing your balls off because your trousers are too tight.
Without a doubt, if the Conservative Party win the election on Thursday, it will be partly attributable to the continuing power and fear-mongering of the right-wing newspaper industry in its death-throes; this election is a long way from being a social media election. Maybe it's something to do with British reserve, and the old mantra of "don't talk about politics and religion". Well politics is too bloody important to be quiet about. Change your avatar! Twitter your views! Let people know if they're in a marginal, let people know who you're voting for, and if you're voting Conservative, expect to be called a wanker.

And if you know people in Wolverhampton South West, let them know who they should be voting for: Rob Marris.

*In fact, I have voted Liberal Democrat at every previous general election.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Why I Will Never Vote Conservative

Unfortunately the General Election has coincided with a massive influx of work, so I haven't had the time to knock out any of the political blog posts that have been bursting to get out. However, with only a few days to go, I felt I should really at least say why I would never ever vote Conservative.

The Conservative Party is fundamentally a party for the justification of society's inequalities.

They regularly repeat the myth that people are a success through their own hard work, whilst those that are unsuccessful or unemployed have no one to blame but themselves. Such a myth is very appealing to voters. Not only to the rich who want to feel good about society's inequalities, but also to those who feel they deserve more. After all, "if it wasn't for the dole scroungers we'd all be better off". The truth, however, is that success has very little to do with some innate hard work ethic, and far more to do with sheer blind luck.

It's easy for David Cameron to stand at the Prime Ministerial Debate and tell us that unemployed people, if offered a job, should be forced to take it. Easy because at no point in David Cameron's life was he ever likely to be forced to take a minimum wage job working in a factory with no prospects. Easy because David Cameron was never brought up in an environment where there were no prospects and no opportunities, not only for the individual but for the whole family, street, area.

It is, of course, too easy to pick on David Cameron; his life has been one long list of privilege unknown to the average man in the street. Surely the rest of us got where we are today through our own hard work? Personally, I think you'd have to be pretty arrogant to think so; failing to recognise the role of the people who you've met along the way.

I always think that if anyone has the right to be arrogant, I do. Brought up on an estate in a single-parent family, kicked out of home at 17, before spending years on the dole and working in food processing factories. Then, 10 years ago, I decided to sort my life out: an evening class at the end of a 12-hour shift in chicken factory, a degree, a PhD, and at the end I get more for a day's work than my mother ever has ever earned in a week. On one level the story I've just told is complete: there was no hidden pot of cash or opportunities that aren't available to everyone in this country. On the other hand, the story misses a lot. It misses the the important details that are so often missed when we promote ourselves as deserving what we've gotten. It ignores the middle-class aspirational values I had drummed into me as a child, it forgets the person who persuaded me not to drop out of my undergraduate degree, and that part of the reason I ever got to do a PhD was my undergrad supervisor wrote my research up as a journal article. Whilst my life has been far less privileged than most, I've also had my share of luck on the way.

I don't deny we need to deal with problems such as unemployment, anti-social behaviour, and crime. But if you start the conversation from the point of view that you deserve what you have, and others don't, then you're a fool and you'll probably vote Conservative. Personally, I never will.