Tag: Politics (page 1 of 8)

New World Order

So Scotland voted no, we can all get back to normal and the parliaments can focus on dealing with day to day issues again rather than trying to win the referendum. But what is normal? I always thought the days after the referendum would be volatile but it’s safe to say that things will never be the same again.

I’d predicted a Yes vote based on the mood around Glasgow and also on the Yes campaign which was pretty fantastic. You couldn’t escape the Yes campaign in Glasgow. Travelling between Central and Queen Street stations on a drizzly Monday night before the vote I walked by three groups of Yes campaigners who were still out fighting for votes. The Better Together campaign was nowhere. Stalls in Byres Road and Anniesland, Yes stickers everywhere and so many windows with Yes posters so it was no big surprise that Glasgow voted Yes overall. It was also generally a positive campaign from the Yes team both in the flesh and online. There was definitely more antagonism online from Yes campaigners but both camp’s had their loons.

However the Friday and Saturday after the vote took a decidedly nasty turn. I could understand frustration from the Yes campaign that they had lost by 10% especially as they had ran a long passionate campaign but I thought the claims of vote rigging, miscounts and clamouring for a revote were pretty desperate. The worst event though was the orange loyalists descending on George Square which up until that point had seen great celebrations for Yes campaigners. The behaviour and violence was disgraceful and in total contradiction to the events of the last few weeks. The Glasgow Commonwealths felt like a generation ago while watching the Youtube video’s from George Square. The Police should have done a lot more to defuse it but it was shameful how the events were reported by traditional media reporting it was Yes and No casuals fighting. I’d love to say heads in the sand but it was lies, pure and simple.

Also lies were the many many tweets that said No voters had voted for the trouble in George Square and this is what you get for voting No. Oh dear. Equally the vast majority of No voters were not conned by ‘The Vow’ but I guess it makes the loss easier if there is something to target. I didn’t expect Salmond to quit but Nicola Sturgeon is more than capable of filling his shoes and I think will also make the SNP more appealing to voters.

A few other notable points from the campaign:

  • The two TV debates between Salmond and Darling. In the grand scheme of things I don’t think they had the impact that was expected. I was surprised that Darling narrowly ‘won’ the first debate, but Salmond kicked his butt in the second. What changed? Salmond more prepared, more on the offensive?
  • Better Together was awful. Complacent, negative, lacking in idea’s and to be frank they looked desperate after ‘that’ opinion poll. I’m still surprised that the Yes campaign up against such poor opposition and having a dream year for events in Scotland failed to deliver a Yes vote. Tell’s me that there is a real core of Scot’s that do not want independence.
  • For all the Yes campaigns posturing about a fresh start away from Westminster and old broken politics, their cosying up to Rupert Murdoch must leave a sour taste in many an independence campaigners mouth. I still think the YouGov poll 2 weeks before the referendum was ‘questionable’. Online only, a different polling firm than The Times used before or afterwards and leaked by Murdoch who wanted to be seen to be influencing. Nasty.
  • The lack of answers from both sides was disappointing. Vote Yes and we’ll spend the next 18 months sorting out what that really means. Vote No and you may get some extra powers that we’ll spend the next 6 months sorting out. Considering the amount of money spent on the referendum there was a distinct lack of clarity from both camps.
  • Who woke up Gordon Brown? If only the No campaign had shown this sort of passion in the months leading up to the referendum.
  • A week before the vote and Cameron, Miliband and Clegg descend on Scotland. That didn’t annoy me as much as Salmond saying he and the Yes campaign were for ‘Team Scotland’ while everything else is ‘Team Westminster’. Utter bollocks and that stance annoyed many many people, just like the Yes campaign claiming the Saltire as theirs.
  • Funniest moment? Matt Lygate and ‘Bow down to your imperial masters!’
  • Bernard Ponsonby was by quite a distance the best political journalist throughout the campaign. The BBC by contrast looked fairly toothless.

The next few months will be very interesting. What new powers will Scotland get, what the future vote share will look like in Scotland and how will Nicola Sturgeon change the SNP going forward? I’m amazed at the number of sign-ups the SNP have got, almost at 70,000 now which is almost two and a half times the number they had pre referendum vote. I can see this being a real challenge for Sturgeon as almost all the SNP hierarchy have said that the vote was a’one in a generation’ opportunity yet the majority of the new sign-ups are demanding at the very least another vote if not independence if the SNP return a majority to the Scottish Parliament. It’s a nice problem to have for the SNP, but a problem none the less.

As for me I have no idea who I would vote for at the next general election. Thinking through my options:

  • Conservatives. Never.
  • Labour. Not the way they are carrying on at the moment. Matching Tory austerity budgets? Miliband is hard to like but worst of all was standing on the same ticket side by side with the Tories during the referendum. Labour should have stood for the No campaign on their own. I can see it being a generation before they get back in power in Scotland, if not longer. As for Westminster, it should be English votes for English laws and Miliband again looks lost when it comes to this issue. Many in Labour should be ashamed.
  • Liberals. No backbone, lost their principles as soon as power became a realistic option.
  • SNP. I agree with much of what the SNP stand for, except for Independence which is a bit of a deal breaker.
  • Greens. Might be closest to my ideals?
  • Others? Cranks and racists. No thanks.

Scottish politics has changed for the better and we have a generation that is active and energised. If the mood of the people of Scotland spreads throughout the UK we could see the most unpredictable general election for years. The beginning of a New World Order or just a small blip? Only time will tell.

Blogging Bollocks

Interesting week with the NHS. Firstly the Republicans in America start spinning stories that the Brits hate the NHS. British people are shown in an advert paid for by a right wing group slagging off the NHS. Later the people who took part claimed they were duped into taking part and they are very annoyed at how they were portrayed. Worse, relatively unknown Euro MP Daniel Hannan has been spreading nonsense on right wing American news programmes about how bad the NHS is. This video tell’s the story so far.

Of course some of Hannan’s quote’s in isolation sound far worse than his interview as a whole but the fact that he chooses to peddle his thoughts on Fox etc in America devalues him in many people’s eyes. His blog claims he has spoken about NHS misgivings for 10 months now in the UK and you should go and buy his book to read what he says. He handily gives you an Amazon link too. Nothing like a politician making a bit on the side.

Anyway, of more interest was the backlash that kicked off on Twitter. Thousands of people tweeted with the hashtag #welovethenhs and a real show of force from NHS loving twitter users forced the NHS into the headlines. Gordon and Sarah Brown tweeted, David Cameron panicked and distanced himself from Hannan and Labour made the most out of the situation. Obviously this couldn’t stand so in waded the right wing bloggers, particularly Guido Fawkes. He blogged that this wasn’t a viral storm and then quoted some figures comparing the hashtag usage against the numbers signing up to the e-petition calling for Brown to resign. His Tory loving commenters lapped this up, quoting it on other blogs and tweeting it to all who wanted to listen. What a load of bollocks.

The e-petition has been running for over 10 months. In April this year, over six months after launching, it had reached 30,000 signatures. In four days, the Twitter hashtag has been used by 16,000 users. So which is the most popular? The e-petition has had roughly 230 sign up’s per day. The hashtag – 4000 tweets per day.
*Update* – looks like Sky news is wrong and the e-petition started up in April 09, running for six months. Thanks to Kalvis Jansons who started the petition for clearing that up. I guess that makes around 500 sign up’s per day.

Hold on you may say, the Twitter hashtag system is abused by spammers and advertisers posting up rubbish but using the popular hashtags. True, so those numbers are inflated. The numbers on the e-petition though are greatly inflated too. Scrolling through the latest 500 sign-ups on the e-petition website shows lot’s of made up names and dubious celebrity sign up’s. Some may be true but I don’t really believe David Miliband MP has been one of those to sign up. If it really was him he would have signed up a long time ago, not just in the last 500.

I’m all for healthy debate but I really despair when people can’t see sites like Guido Fawkes as right wing attack sites. Off course, he peddles it as an honest and fair attempt to expose those in parliament but look through his posts and in particular the venom that can be found throughout the comments (he also has a nice habit of blocking anyone who is anti him or anti Conservative) and then make up your mind. And next time, before you start to tweet round comments and stat’s, have a little think first.

Time for Change?

Watched Question Time tonight – really good with the politicians on the rack again but with the old party politics back in play. However some really interesting points tonight.

  • Recognition of the anger around the country at the MP’s expense row.
  • Acceptance that criminal proceedings should take place – deliberate fraud has occurred.
  • Each party has to clean up it’s act.
  • Martin Bell – each party faces a test which it will pass or fail – can it clean up it’s MP’s and not just the old guard and back benchers but also take action against cabinet and shadow cabinet members? Labour is messing this up right now and as the party in power should be doing a lot more than it is.
  • A general election now would elect a very different parliament.
  • Is it time for electoral reform?
  • Will celebrity MP’s become more common?

The part that was really interesting was around reform of parliament and election of independents. The panel was split between the need of established party politics so that effective government could take place against election of independents to shake up the parliament.

It got me thinking – could a People’s Party, a coalition of independents standing on the ticket of anti-sleaze become a dominant force? What if the independents weren’t just known faces like Martin Bell, Esther Rantzen et all but acknowledged business leaders and academics? How many of our current MP’s are actually fit to lead? I’m not measuring fitness based on the expenses scandal either. What qualifications do our current crop of MP’s actually have apart form going to the right schools and universities, joining their party branches at an early age, working for former MP’s as researchers etc. Where’s the business acumen, the proven leadership? Sadly lacking in many cases.

It was no surprise to see the larger parties saying that the only answer was for them to sort out their issues. They were the only way forward. William Hague dared to suggest that it was only the large parties that could take on issues like unemployment, financial crisis and defence. What a cheek. Neither party has covered itself in any glory in the last two decades. With the public not having much of a choice would it not be better to vote on qualified independents rather than a candidate chosen by the local party offices especially when the selection is made to satisfy a quota or is based on the candidates influence and background? Do we really need 1300 officials in parliament? How different would a slimmed down parliament with proportional representation look compared to today’s mess?

I can’t see electoral reform taking place in the short term but a coalition of independents with a ticket of anti-sleaze and a commitment to fight for electoral reform would win many many seats if there were an election in the next 6-8 weeks. Throw in a few respected celeb’s into the mix and there’s the potential to have many more seats and power than the Liberals while denting Conservatives and especially Labour. Sadly the chance of the election taking place this year are slim to non existent. By 2010 this could well be old news. Hysterical mass media will have moved onto the next big thing. Can you remember when swine flu and the credit crunch dominated the news? One things for sure – if issues like this don’t get people out voting, nothing will.

Snouts In The Trough

Over the last ten day’s or so there has been only one story in UK politics – MP’s and their expenses. A media storm has built up around the amount that MP’s have been claiming for. In fact it’s not just the amount that have annoyed people – it’s the content of these claims. Paying for moat cleaning, gardens, second homes farther away than your primary home to parliament, some outrageously high food bills – it just smacks of taking the system for a ride at the taxpayers expense. It’s not limited to one party either – Labour, Conservative, Liberals and the Others all have been exposed primarily by the Telegraph. The full list of their investigations make for sobering reading. The Telegraph have spun this story for all it’s worth, drip feeding a couple of new MP revelations each day to maximise the publicity and also to keep the pressure on MP’s and in particular the government.

Ultimately it’s the Labour government that is and will come out of this the worst. The first week of bad press was all reserved for the government and those MP’s that abused the system. Gordon Brown refusing to apologise was a critical error. With the Telegraph switching to the Conservatives, David Cameron, and it doesn’t fill me with glee writing this, played a master stroke by apologizing before anyone had really seen just how damaging some of the tory expense claims were. Moats, tennis courts and more examples of flipping. The whole flipping tag really winds me up as it’s a playful little tag for a disgraceful abuse of position. The whole point of the second home payments was to allow anyone to stand as an MP and ensure they weren’t disadvantaged by a lack of money. Instead many MP’s put expense claims in for one home, then flipped what they called their second home allowing them to put claims in for another property. Outrageous – how could this be allowable in the rules? Why did nobody until now think this wasn’t an issue?

But MP’s did think there was something wrong with this. Heather Brooke first asked for expenses to be made public in 2004. If it wasn’t for her fight to have the information made public we wouldn’t be seeing MP’s being brought to task today. If the expenses system was fair and the majority of MP’s weren’t abusing the system as the story is trying to be spun now, why did the house of commons try so hard to block moves to have expenses be made public, trying to overturn decisions that were made against them. Even recently we’ve seen Harriet Harman trying to defend MP’s and also say the problem with publishing receipts is that MP addresses are revealed. Tosh – you can publish expenses without revealing an address.

Another reason that Labour will suffer the most is that they could have made changes. They were in power. If it was such a serious issue they could have made changes within 24-48 hours. It’s been done before – why not now? They’ve also got the old guard still plugging away at these outrageous leaks. Michael Martin really isn’t fit to be speaker of the house. It’s nothing to do with snobbery as his cronies will spin to anyone who listens. He’s so out of touch with public feeling on this. They don’t want to see him get annoyed about the leaks – he should be taking the matter in hand and reacting to how the country feels. His reaction in parliament this week was of a man who’s had his dirty little secret revealed and he wasn’t about to go down without fighting it. Idiot. Then you have George Foulkes turning on a BBC presenter for daring to interrupt and question MP’s. The video is below.

Foulkes came across as a bully. I guess everyone’s reaction is that his time will come. The electorate will take care of him. Of course not. He’s now a Lord so quite easy for him to come out and say what he really thinks, not what the public want to hear. Another idiot. Going back to the claims itself it’s easy to see why there are shouts for police investigations. Flipping is bad enough. Claiming for a mortgage already paid off doesn’t sound like a simple error when it was £16,000 claimed for. Labour’s David Chaytor is also accused of claiming £13,000 for a mortgage on a house already paid for. Worse, it’s also claimed he flipped houses six times. Ridiculous. How could this ever be seen as being fair and reasonable? There’s other strange claims as well – Alex Salmond claiming £400 every month for food expenses yet he’s made just over 16% of the votes. A man with three jobs claiming the maximum amount for food each month. It stinks. It really sticks in the throat that so many MP’s stepped forward last week to hand back money. Reminds me of series one of The Wire – politicians happy to take money until found out all the while trying to influence the investigation. I wonder if the team at the Telegraph feel like McNulty and Co chasing the money.

The fear out of all of this is that democracy, in the short term at least, is under threat. All mainstream parties, in particular Labour will take a hit in the upcoming Euro elections. What I can’t figure out is whether people won’t bother to vote as a protest or will instead switch their vote. If they don’t vote then it’s a chance for smaller parties to gain power. In the Euro’s that means parties like the Greens, UKIP and the BNP. Worrying times.

So what next? Well out of all this reform that been talked about the one thing I want to see is a clear and open process in which all data is published and freely obtainable for all to see. For me that means RSS, XML or a web service so that MP expense claims can be used by anyone as they see fit. How many of these claims would have been made if they were to be made public within one month of being claimed? We certainly wouldn’t see the shit storm that we see now. The Conservatives are making a step in the right direction by publishing the expense claims of the shadow cabinet here, also available as an XML feed. Not ideal as it should really come from an independent body but it sets the tone and shows that action is being taken eventually.

There are more sources of data that prove very useful available now. The Guardian have an up to date spreadsheet of all the claims currently known made by our MP’s. Using this you can see clearly how there are some strange claims being made – this map shows claims made against MP’s constituencies. Couple that data with sites like The Public Whip and TheyWorkForYou and it’s clear who the hard working MP’s are.

One wonders though if all this could have been avoided while still providing access for everyone to stand as an MP. Build a hotel. One that could comfortably house all the MP’s and make sure it’s in walking distance of the Houses of Parliament. Food would be provided and an MP wouldn’t have to pay for anything. Wi-fi and those all essential TV services for Jacqui Smith would be provided – not a claim in sight! No need for expensive second home claims or all those costs to furnish a second home. Sounds all too sensible, no?

In Three Days Time…

…she could be vice president of America.

She had no idea she was being pranked but no doubt her staff will spin it that she was playing along and it was obvious to her. What an idiot.

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