The Jeremy Clarkson Distraction

That Jeremy Clarkson should be fired is pretty much indisputable, The Guardian’s Owen Jones explains why here. Clarkson’s continuing employment with the BBC is not, however, what this article will be discussing.

The Clarkson debate came out of nowhere to dominate the news cycle and political discourse since details of the fracas emerged on the 9th of March (Derailing coverage of a major Ed Miliband interview). His list of supporters include David Cameron, and now apparently his hunger striking daughter Nancy, not to mention the million plus people who signed the petition calling for his reinstatement.

But where did this petition come from? A right-wing blogger called Paul Staines, better known as his pseudonym Guido Fawkes. The self-confessed anti-establishment blogger, who incidentally is better connected to the Conservative Party than your average Daily Mail journalists, created and publicised the campaign for Jeremy’s reinstatement. The campaign has dominated the hearts and the minds of ordinary voters for the past fortnight, it has distracted attention away from David Cameron’s cowardly refusal to engage in a leader’s debate, it has distracted attention away from George Osborne’s vote buying budget. In the midst of the most important general election campaign for a generation the biggest discussion taking place in the United Kingdom is whether a talentless middle age man should keep his job after conducting a racially aggravated assault on a co-worker.

The campaign of distraction, led by Paul Staines, culminated in a former vice-president of Conservative Future, the youth wing of the Tory Party, driving a tank across London to BBC headquarters. This blatant headline grabbing act happened before the petition had reached the one million signatures mark Staines said would trigger the stunt.

In short what we have is a Troy outlier, obstinately crusading on behalf of the common man, getting his Tory mate to drive a tank across London to stop a rich toff losing his job. Meanwhile Staines’ friends in government poll rating spike after a budget giveaway, with the public to distracted by Clarksongate to properly see the budget for what it is. So much for being anti-establishment eh Paul?

 

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Behind The Benefit Bashing Headlines Lies A Nasty Ideology That Is Not Confined To The Daily Mail

the void

mustard-tree-protest A protest was held outside Manchester homelessness charity Mustard Tree yesterday over their involvement with workfare. (h/t @gajagwyn)

There was a time when policies to send sick or disabled claimants on workfare, or sanction the benefits of lone parents, would have been met with horror by the electorate.  There have always been grumblings about the social security system, as with any other institution, but unemployment was once seen as a personal tragedy caused by wider economic failings, not a personal failing caused by laziness or the wrong attitude.

This change in public opinion did not happen by accident.  Just like immigration can be used to whip up and divide sections of the population, so can the social security system.  The implanting of the idea that somebody is getting something you aren’t, even if this isn’t really true, is an age old technique.  The grass on the other side of the…

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Liberal Democrats – Clinging onto Power

Nick Clegg has attempted the few Liberal Democrat loyalists left by claiming his party “stands up for the moderate majority” and “If you want a stable government that won’t lurch to the extremes of left or right, then you have to vote for it.” In a rather Machiavellian move Clegg is angling to position himself as Kingmaker after the election on May 7.

How Nick Clegg feels a government propped up by his soon to be resoundingly rejected Lib Dems will confer any legitimacy is a mystery. Current projections put the Lib Dems on course to win as few as 19 seats[i], down from their 2010 result of 57. The party has consistently polled below the incipient Green Party, as well as seeing the Green Party over take his Lib Dems as the third biggest party in England & Wales, yet Clegg still sees his party as fit for government.

Happily the obscenely undemocratic prospect of Nick Clegg the perpetual Deputy Prime Minister is remote, much to his chagrin. 19 seats is unlikely enough to push David Cameron’s Conservatives over the finish line. While the Labour Party would surly turn to a progressive alliance first, only landing on the Liberal Democrats as a last resort and probably with the condition of Nick Clegg’s head. Given Cleggs demand for Gordon Brown to quit during talks over a Rainbow Alliance in 2010 the chance of seeing Nick Clegg’s face in government again seem slim, even if he does manage to hold his Sheffield Hallam seat.  

Nick Clegg wishes you wouldn’t keep taking his stuff, and then when he comes to get it back, throwing it to someone else so he can’t have it back.

[i] http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/ukpr-projection-2

Route to a Better Democracy 2 – Let Parliament Crumble

 Parliament

 

Part two of a series “Route to a Better Democracy” where the DWP examines the case for replacing the Palace of Westminster.

Speaker John Bercow has said parliament will have to be abandoned within twenty years  unless serious renovations are made. £3bn must be spent to make the building safe and inhabitable. Heating, water, draining and electrical systems in the 19th century building are described as “extremely antiquated.” It seems parliamentary procedures and practices are, for some reason, left off this list. Rather than spend £3bn on renovation, the money would be better spent by abandoning the old and embracing the new; in the name of democracy.

Parliament has the appearance and atmosphere of a colonial gentleman’s club. Prime Minister’s Questions resembles a playground slagging match; the only thing missing is cants of “fight, fight, fight!” Women are disproportionately filled with revulsion at parliament, and no wonder considering the arrival of “Blair’s Babes” was met with cries of MELLONS.

The hypocrisy of MPs referring to other members as Honourable or Right Honourable , while obviously despising each other only serves to make people think parliament has nothing to do with them. It creates distance between those who rule and those who govern.

The pomp and ceremony of the Black Rod and the state opening of parliament look ridiculous when compared to the lives of people in the poorest regions of the country. Which brings me to the fact that the rules and regulations of parliament have no bearing on the lives of the people of the UK. This serves to make MPs an insular bunch who have no concept of what life is like outside of the Westminster bubble.

A new Parliament

Let the palace of Westminster turn to rubble, and be left as monument to the folly of the past. With £3bn a new parliament could be built away from London, in a more central position. In one stroke the institution would be more relevant to those outside of Greater London.

The new parliament should be built in a horseshoe shape, a subtle nudge away from adversarial politics and towards compromise. This move could encourage more women to get into politics.

The weekly Prime Minister dodges the question time should be abolished, it’s simply embarrassing. MPs heckling and jeering should be hulled out of parliament and summarily executed suspended without pay.

Voting by physically walking into a room is abhorrent, open to gross abuses of power from the executive. Votes should be conducted electronically, as they are in the European Parliament.

A modern building should be built to foster a new way of doing government. We should not be looking to the past and an institution that only outlawed marital rape in 1991 for governance. We should look to the future and a new parliament that is fit to govern in the modern age.

 

Route to a Better Democracy – Compulsory Voting ?

Part one of a series “Route to a Better Democracy” where the DWP examines the case for Compulsory Voting.

 

Voting is compulsory, with various degrees of enforcement, in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Cyprus, Ecuador, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Nauru, Peru, Singapore, and Uruguay. These countries consider voting a civic duty, akin to jury service.

In federal election 94% of registered Australians turned up to vote. The penalty for not voting is minimal, a fine of $10 or roughly £10. Just 65% of people voted in the 2010 UK general election.[1]

Why voter turnout is a problem

A more detailed breakdown of voter turnout reveals more worrisome trends. Just 44% of 18-24 year olds voted. 76% of over 65s voted.[2]

18-24 year olds, those with arguably the biggest stake in the future of the country, overwhelmingly intend to cast their votes on the left; traditionally with the Labour Party but more recently with the Green Party. Over 65s are polar opposites, voting in huge numbers for right wing parties; be they the Conservatives or UKIP. 10 Million People in this country are now over 65[3].

This disparity in voting leaves the coalition government pandering to over 65s at the cost of the young. The Tories court the grey vote on one hand; by promising to keep paying the winter fuel allowance to the richest pensioners (A move which could cost 100 million pounds), and paying market smashing interest rates on pensioner bonds.

With the other hand they plan to abolish jobseekers allowance for 18-21 year olds and stop housing benefits for those under 25.

These policies will bring deprivation and stagnation to our young population. Yet the fed up, lied to, and alienated Generation Y stubbornly refuses to vote in large numbers.  

A potential solution

“Don’t let the Liberals make our democracy the plaything of cashed up interest groups.” Julia Gillard on a Liberal plot to repeal compulsory voting.

Compulsory voting protects the rights of marginalised groups, the disenfranchised, and the poor.

In the UK home owners are 19% more likely to vote than those on Housing Benefit, is it any wonder that interest rates remain low while housing benefit is inadequate at best?

Young women are 11% less likely to vote than their male counterparts [4], is this why women only make up 22%[5] of MPS?

Compulsory voting protects the right of the vulnerable. It forces politicians to appeal to broader constituencies, while curtailing the power of small but politically potent groups.

Extremist parties will find it harder to gain a foothold under a compulsory vote system; their views will need to appeal to the majority, not the plurality.

Political power will be thrust into the hands of voters, “None of the above” will appear on ballots. Enabling voters to force a second vote if they aren’t satisfied with the candidates on offer.

Those who genuinely don’t wish to participate could choose none of the above or simply spoil their ballot. The right to show dissatisfaction with political system will still exist.

What I have proposed is an extreme solution, but the problems and injustices that face the marginalised are also extreme. Protecting the rights of those alienated by the system is paramount to a free and fair democracy, protecting the vulnerable is paramount to the future of any country.

 

[1] https://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/2613/How-Britain-Voted-in

[2] Ibid

[3] http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/research/key-issues-for-the-new-parliament/value-for-money-in-public-services/the-ageing-population/

[4] https://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/2613/How-Britain-Voted-in

[5] http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/research/key-issues-for-the-new-parliament/the-new-parliament/characteristics-of-the-new-house-of-commons/