Tag Archives: Nick Clegg

Miliblogging*

If it is true, as H. L. Mencken suggests, that ‘no-one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public’, perhaps it is equally true that no-one ever lost power in the UK by underestimating the stupidity of our electoral system.

The Tories attempt to win an election with a leader who is their own version of Blair-lite, then the leadership election looks likely to throw up the possibility of Labour fighting the next one with a version of Cam-light: David Miliband.

Still, at least there is going to be a contest this time, the powers behind the various Labour thrones having realised there is no sense in allowing another leader to be anointed, after how well that worked out for Gordon Brown.  Yet it is undeniable that Miliband the Elder is the front-runner.  Can I be the only one to find this strange?

David Miliband voted very strongly for the last parliament’s anti-terrorism laws, a stricter asylum system and for replacing Trident.  He was very strongly for ministers being allowed to intervene in inquests, brought in after the Kelly and Menezes inquests caused a few blushes on the government benches.  He was both strongly for the Iraq war and strongly against any kind of inquiry into the Iraq war, an exact reversal of the feelings of many Labour Party members on the subject.  He has some very interesting views on the torture of terrorism suspects and the public’s right to know what its government is up to.

In short, there is a real possibility that, once again, the party established to act for the interests of working people via left-wing principles and ideals may end up with a fairly right-wing leader.  How, one wonders, can Labour have the brass balls to call itself a left-wing party any more?

(For comparison: Nick Clegg was anti the terrorism laws, replacing Trident, ministers intervening in inquests and a stricter asylum system.  David Cameron was against the anti-terrorism measures and ID cards, for the war but also for the investigation and flip-flopped a bit on asylum, as you would expect with the right-wing press breathing down his neck.)

The party of the workers has always been slightly ashamed of its lowly routes, the first Labour Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald was also arguably the first ‘champagne socialist’, much preferring hanging out with Duchesses at their country seats to sitting in pubs singing the Red Flag.  But at least the ‘s’ word did appear then!  Now Dave Semple wonders if Labour and socialism can have anything left to do with each other, while Obsolete sees this attempt at debate as a postponing of the inevitable.

It appears that as we head into our ‘future filled with cuts‘ those alleged to be fighting on ‘our’ side will be arguing straight from a Daily Mail editorial for the shrinking of the welfare state, tougher immigration laws and freeing business from pesky regulation.  As Chicken Yoghurt notes, the dividing lines between our rulers will be shaved until wafer thin.

Still, at least it gives me an excuse to post this intriguing insight into the future of British politics:

Three parties, in different coloured rosettes, with a broadly similar aim of shafting the electorate helping hard-working families.  Four legs good, two legs better!

*Or if I didn’t write the post myself would it be Milivanilliblogging?

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The Clegg and Compo show

Here we all are then, the Dave ‘n’ Nick show opens with the release of the initial and snappily titled ‘Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition negotiations agreements’ on how we are to be governed.  You can read the whole thing here.

The agreement does demand close inspection, because there are at least a couple of hopeful messages for the future directed at those who may be feeling concerned.  Here is one such commitment that initially caught my attention, something which you might have hoped would never need to be carved into tablets of stone in a civilised country, had recent events not so manifestly demonstrated otherwise:

We will end the detention of children for immigration purposes

Almost gives you hope, doesn’t it.  Add to that:

  • a commission charged with separating retail and investment banking
  • action to tackle unacceptable banking bonuses
  • funding for the NHS should increase in real terms in each year of the Parliament

and you might find yourself questioning if the Conservatives had actually won on any of the negotiating points.  Don’t run away with that thought, though, because of course they did:

  • modest cuts of £6 billion to non-front line services… within the financial year 2010-11
  • a review of the long-term affordability of public sector pensions
  • an annual limit on the number of non-EU economic migrants.

As playwright (and exotic dancer) Dan Rebellato commented on Twitter:

 

so I agree, it is vital for us as voters to retain some cynicism about the whole process.  On the other hand, it is equally important for the Conservatives that they don’t cause undue alarm in this initial period, calming the nerves of people with a visceral hatred of all things Tory, reaching out to wavering Lib Dems and making us all believe that they have our best interests at heart.  There are even some reports of a much deeper change in outlook, if Tory blogger Tim Montgomerie is to be believed:

‘They don’t believe us when we say we’re not two-headed, monstrous Thatcherites so we’ll just have to prove it in office,’ was the conclusion of one leading Cameroon.

I find myself with the words of Mandy Rice-Davies echoing in my head: ‘well he would say that, wouldn’t he?’  When most of the Cabinet count their small change in the millions rather than in silver and copper, you have to question how far we can realistically expect them to understand the concerns of us plebs.  Are they likely to protect the hard-won services and policies that may seem like an unnecessary extravagance at this time of extraordinary economic turmoil, but which we recognise as essential in the battle to keep body and soul together?  I wonder.

Similarly, it is difficult to feel much confidence in the sudden raging appetite for political reform amongst those who typically consider themselves to be the natural party of government.  Having been kept away from the top jobs for over a decade, they won’t be keen to vacate them so readily.  The Alternative Vote system proposed in the agreement is a long way from the demanded Proportional Representation,  as noted by John Q Publican:

It’s about safe seats. AV is the only one of the alternative systems which preserves them intact. Safe seats are graphably the reason for the expenses scandal. Safe seats allow parachuting of candidates, placing too much power in the hands of central committees over local candidates and parties. Safe seats are wholly counter-democratic. And the LibDems have almost none of them, but the other parties have quite a few each

 It does seem that if we are not very careful, what we could end up witnessing is a rapid return to what Rosemary Bechler calls ‘business-as-usual politics’, instead of what benefits us as voters:

We want open discussion and robust decision-making that takes in a range of options we can keep our eyes and ears on.  We want people who answer to our criticisms face to face (as opposed to Jeremy Paxman’s). We want people who ask us what we think much more often.  And we want a democratic, fair, adult, proportional electoral system

So how do we go about getting that?  I believe we must keep up the pressure by demanding a fairer voting system until we get it – the Take Back Parliament campaign is one way of doing this.  Another is to join 38 degrees in deciding what comes next, following their successful actions during the election to counter adverse publicity about hung parliaments and challenge candidates to support electoral reform. 

Whatever the outcome of this, the first UK hung parliament since 1974, it must not be more of the same.  Keep watching!

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Disobey on 6 May

Watching the Dailies Mail, Telegraph, Express and the Sun spew rage-fuelled invective across their own front pages this week has been wonderfully exhilarating.  That their attempts to slur Nick Clegg prior to the second leaders’ debate amounted to little more than, in Tabloid Watch’s memorable description, ‘hysterical bawlings from the sidelines’ caused the warm glow that comes from being proved right to reach blistering levels at ten minutes hate HQ.  It was delightful to look on as the rest of the population finally caught up with what Liverpool fans have known for 21 years.

Newspapers lie.

The problem with lying, as your mum probably taught you once, is that eventually it catches up with you.  You start off with the ones about fascists being good chaps, if a bit misunderstood, and eventually it leads you to a place where stories about a live TV debate that contradict the evidence of anyone who actually saw it for themselves seem normal.

The Independent tried to take advantage of the anti-Clegg furore with a cheeky advert stating that ‘Rupert Murdoch won’t decide the election.  You will’.  Apparently this breaks the cosy rule about one newspaper not going after the proprietor of another, the dishonouring of which  caused James Murdoch to pop round to the Indy’s offices to engage in the kind of toy-pram-evacuation manoeuvre which is a gift to anyone within hearing distance with a Twitter account.

As the newspapers in question take a short breather from hysterical ranting, Anton Vowl asks a pertinent question when he wonders if it is them or us who have run out of steam.  While there are promising signs that this election is not going to be the usual handing over of power between two identical political parties, following an ordination of the eventual winner by an Australian media mogul, it must be a remote possibility that they will let go of the levers so easily.

Still, this election is perhaps the best chance we have to fuck up their programme and raise merry hell before they go back to ignoring us for another five years.  So, along with the White Rabbit and Beau Bo D’Or, I urge all ‘people of goodwill’ to engage in some evidence based voting to disobey Rupert Murdoch on 6 May.  After all, he can’t send James round to yell at all of us.

Independent picture thanks to Beehive City

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None of the above

Bless ’em, it seems as if the ‘traditional media’ are struggling to cope with the vagaries of electioneering in these modern interconnectivity-driven times.  First the formerly ‘great ignored’ Nick Clegg gets a 10-point bunk up due largely to appearing on the gogglebox and not coming across as a complete twat.  Then all hell breaks loose, as the Tory-cheerleader press goes apeshit at the thought of Facebook campaigns causing the ‘natural party of government‘ to miss out on the heralded and therefore inevitable coronation, thus unleashing hell against those they used to deride as sandal-wearers.

Call me insanely optimistic if you will, but there does seem to be something in the air to indicate that this year’s poll will not simply be a rubber-stamping of ‘business as usual’ across the next Parliament.  There are websites where you can research what your MP has been up to for the last five years and what might happen on 6 May where you live, campaigns seeking to engineer a hung parliament, or pressing for electoral reform here and here.

If you are of the belief that they are all the same, that ‘none of the above’ is the only viable option, get to the polling station with a marker pen and deface that ballot.  Make damn sure that your refusal to engage is taken for ‘visible and vocal abstention, not apathy‘.  Because after all, as a fellow lover of fine malt whisky once said,

The question nowadays is not what makes government work. The question is how do we make it stop

–P. J. O’Rourke

It is also heartening to note that, in amongst all the new media shenanigans, the old skool medium of egg chucking still getting a look in.  Seems some things will never change, after all.

The tragic remains of the egg following its encounter with Cameron

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