Blog Archives

Make all votes matter: campaign for real democracy


On Tuesday, politicians from across the political spectrum, campaigners and people from all walks of life (a few pictured below), took part in the Hungry for Democracy action initiated by Make Votes Matter, a 24-hour hunger strike to call for a new voting system, one that truly represents the diverse nature of Britain today.  

Labour, Green Party, UKIP, Lib Dems, Women’s Equality Party, SNP, and Plaid all shared a platform to fight for a parliament that truly represents the people. 

Proportional representation is advocated to ensure a fairer distribution of legislative seats   At present, the power of the vote is determined by geography because of the out-dated first-past-the-post electoral system. People feel disenfranchised and ask why they need to vote when the same party always wins in their constituency. In some of those places the winning candidate is elected on under 50%, and in some instances with under 40% of the vote.

In the last election our voting system made a difference in only 99 of 650 seats.

Over 80% of the public in 2017 voted for one of two parties. An estimated 20% of the electorate voted tactically to keep out the party they didn’t want.

Proportional voting systems used for elections in the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament, have been in place since 1999, providing a good blend of constituency MPs and  regional MPs.

Several parties – or groups within parties – are fighting for a manifesto commitment to proportional representation, building a better kind of politics. There could even be a cross-party, shared manifesto commitment to electoral reform and a constitutional convention.

A Progressive Alliance?

 

 

 

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Revolving Doors 39: NAO calls to order politicians supporting nuclear power

Today the National Audit Office – the public spending watchdog – recommends that the government reconsider whether more nuclear plants are needed and reproves ministers for failing to consider alternative ways of the costs of the Hinkley nuclear power plant, which could have halved the overall cost to households.

The NAO found that the case for building Hinkley Point had weakened while the government negotiated the final deal, partly because alternative low-carbon sources of power, such as wind and solar, became cheaper.

The plant is under construction in Somerset and is due to open in 2025, supplying 7% of Britain’s electricity. However, the NAO report recommends that the government produce a “plan B” to fill the gap in power generation if the project is delayed or cancelled. It notes that projects using the same reactor design in France, Finland and China “have been beset by delays and cost overruns”.

Note senior politicians or members of their families lobbying for the nuclear industry

  • Three former Labour Energy Ministers (John Hutton, Helen Liddell, Brian Wilson)
  • Gordon Brown’s brother worked as head lobbyist for EDF
  • Jack Cunningham chaired Transatlantic Nuclear Energy Forum
  • Labour Minister Yvette Cooper’s dad was chair of nuclear lobbyists The Nuclear Industry Association.
  • Ed Davey, Lib Dem energy minister’s brother worked for a nuclear lobbyist. When failed to be re-elected went to work for the same nuclear lobbying firm as his brother.
  • Lord Clement Jones who was Nick Clegg’s General Election Party Treasurer was a nuclear industry lobbyist.
  • Tory Peer Lady Maitland is board member of nuclear lobbyist Sovereign Strategy.
  • • Bernard Ingham, Thatcher’s press spokesperson, has been nuclear lobbyist for over 25 years.
  • Tory Peer Lord Jenkin was a paid consultant to nuclear industry.
  • Tory MEP Giles Chichester is president of nuclear lobbyists EEF

Comment from a Times reader who has long held significant reservations about Corbyn and McDonnell, ”Putting aside their sixth form foreign policy, I’m just about willing to give Labour a shot. If we’re going to have somebody (botching) the public finances I’d rather they did it out of well-meaning innumeracy – with some good ideas like a National Education Service & renationalised railways . . . “

 

Other nuclear industry lobbyists including politicians, journalists, academics and lobbyists are listed here: http://powerbase.info/index.php/Category:Individuals_linked_to_the_push_for_nuclear

 

 

 

 

 

A progressive alliance with progressive policies

Christine Parkinson has drawn attention to an article in the Guardian, in which MPs Clive Lewis and Caroline Lucas  express a profound sense of frustration and dismay about the Conservative victories won by narrow margins in places such as St Ives, Richmond Park and Hastings. They pointed out that if every progressive voter had placed their X tactically, Jeremy Corbyn would now be prime minister with a majority of over 100.

Highlights from their article

The regressive alliance we see forming before our eyes between the Conservatives and the DUP can only be fully countered by a progressive alliance on the opposition benches and if we work together there is nothing progressives can’t achieve. The limits of the old politics are there for everyone to see – the limitlessness of the new we are just starting to explore.

More than 40 electoral alliances, in which people across parties cooperated on tickets including support for proportional representation and the common goal of preventing Conservative candidates winning, were pulled together quickly for the snap election. People from different parties worked together to ‘do politics differently’ and there was a sense that politics has become hopeful and positive again.

We shouldn’t forget the challenges we face:

  • markets that are too free,
  • a state that can be too remote,
  • a democracy that still leaves so many voices unheard
  • and change on a scale our people and our planet can’t cope with.

It is going to take a politics that is social, liberal and green to overcome these challenges. No single party or movement has all the answers. We are going to have to learn to cooperate as well as compete to build the society of which we dream. And we are going to have to recognise that the future is not a two-party system but one in which smaller parties grow – both in influence and in their electoral representation.

Colin Hines adds detail: also advocating a progressive alliance of Labour, the Lib Dems, the SNP, Plaid and the Greens he says that they will need to get their ‘policy ducks in a row’ to win it. He continues:“Firstly, these must provide hope, not just for the young, but for every community in the country.

“To do this Jeremy Corbyn must revisit and vigorously shake his people’s QE “money tree”. This could pay for real economic activity on the ground via decentralised infrastructure projects to make the nation’s 30 million buildings energy efficient, ensure a shift to localised renewable energy, and the building of local transport systems.

“Secondly, the divide between young and old must be bridged by policies fostering intergenerational solidarity. Older people with significant saving should be offered “housing bonds”, paying, say, 3% interest to help fund a massive council and affordable homes programme.Tuition fees would be scrapped, but so too must be the threat of having to lose a home to pay for care, or having to scrabble for means-tested benefits such as heating allowances.

“Financed by progressive and fairer wealth and income taxes, and a clampdown on tax dodging, this should have an election-winning appeal to the majority of grandparents, parents and their young relatives”.

 

 

 

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Was fear the key?

In the Birmingham Press , Steve Beauchampé, who correctly predicted that the Tories would be the largest party in terms of seats and vote, comments on the results of the General Election 2015. The writer has made a pedestrian (3) summary of points made:

  • although (Ed: because?) a decent and honest guy, Ed Miliband has never convinced voters that he was Prime Ministerial material, whilst Labour was not trusted on the economy.
  • The Conservatives had their relentlessly vaunted ‘Long Term Economic Plan’ whilst Labour gave us Liam Byrne’s ‘I’m afraid there is no money’ piece of paper, probably the shortest suicide note in political history.
  • No party wins a UK General Election when both their leader and their economic competence persistently polls second in the court of public opinion, something that Miliband and Labour did for almost five years.
  • the Conservatives, having finished second in a large majority of Liberal Democrat seats in 2010, were always the most likely beneficiaries of the expected Lib Dem vote collapse.
  • it was clear that Labour would suffer heavy losses to the Scottish Nationalists – in a geographical area where the Conservatives themselves, quite literally, had almost nothing to lose.

The fear factor

A hung parliament still seemed likely though, possibly allowing Labour to try to form a government by assembling a left-leaning alliance. But . . . cleverly knitting together the public’s two main worries, Cameron’s claim that: “One wants to bankrupt Britain, the other wants to break up Britain” might just have been the most effective line spoken during the entire campaign, whilst their poster showing Ed Miliband in Alex Salmond’s pocket was crude but effective.

Labour’s incessant lambasting of the SNP merely reinforced this narrative and with the minor gains and losses between Labour and the Conservatives largely cancelling each other out, and with the First Past The Post electoral system taking care of any threat from smaller parties – such as the United Kingdom Independence Party and the Greens – the Conservatives were all but assured of retaining power.

The travesty of First Past The Post: surely the most effective lock for perpetuating the Labour/Conservative hegemony anyone could devise:

UKIP polled almost 3.9m votes (12.6%).

The Green Party over 1.1m (3.8%), but each won just a single seat.

The Lib Dems (2.4m votes and 7.9%) remain under-represented with just eight seats, Labour, the Conservatives and (probably for the first time) the SNP are significantly overrepresented.

There seems little prospect of either an elected Second Chamber or the devolution of powers to English regions involving democratically accountable structures.

When we can’t even offer every MP a seat and table in the Commons chamber and adequate office space in which to carry out their duties what hope is there for more fundamental reform?

Only around 66% of those registered to vote actually did so, whilst millions more people aren’t even on the electoral register (Individual Voter Registration saw over 900,000 drop off in the year to December 2014 and far more could join them at the end of 2015).

The Conservatives attained absolute power on 36.1% of the vote and despite having few, if any, elected representatives in many of the largest conurbations. Such unjustified concentrations of power are also to be found under Labour rule; for instance the party controls all 96 seats on Manchester city council.

Yet instead of addressing these seismic failings in our democratic system, Britain is likely to spend much of the next five years becoming more isolationist. It is all very depressing.

Read Beauchampé’s Press article in full here.

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Austerity 5: austerity v humanity: SNP, Greens and Plaid Cymru :

The choice and stakes in a general election have never been more stark

Another insightful article by John Wight, whose work was featured on this site in February. He celebrates the emergence, on a mainstream platform, of the voice of progressive politics for people in Scotland and all over Britain:

“Nicola Sturgeon, along with Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood and the Green Party’s Natalie Bennett, outlined a vision of hope as an alternative to the conservatism of the mainstream parties, Labour included, who remain prisoners of Thatcherite nostrums to greater or lesser extent”.

Wight sees Ed Miliband as being ‘in a bind’, commenting “Of course, in the event of a hung parliament, the Labour leader will cooperate with the SNP and other progressive forces in order to govern”.

Britain is described as being a desolate and callous place with child poverty, pensioner poverty, the demonisation of benefit claimants, immigrants and the ‘othering’ of entire communities.

For those whose lives have been blighted by austerity and (the writer adds) the more fortunate who are totally disgusted with “government of the rich, by the rich, for the rich’ to quote his earlier article, Wight says that hope is more than a word, it is a lifeline.

The country is crying out for an investment-led alternative in order to return sustainable growth to the economy, replacing the policy of economically illiterate austerity, whose outworkings are analysed by the distinguished American Professor Paul Krugman.

Wight concludes the Nicola Sturgeon, “in articulating the need for transformational change, has become the story of the 2015 general election – to such an extent that the old saw, ‘Cometh the hour, cometh the man’, needs to be amended to read ‘woman’.

“Austerity v humanity. The choice and stakes in a general election have never been more stark”.

 

To read his article, click here.

 

Plutocracy in the news: the FT has at last noticed that the political-corporate revolving door is spinning at an even more alarming rate

A few days ago Anne sent a link & expressed concern about the news that Dave Hartnett, formerly HMRC chief, has secured a new job at Deloitte.

revolving doorrevolving doorHer misgivings were echoed by Margaret Hodge MP, chair of the public accounts committee, which criticised Mr Hartnett for agreeing the deal with Goldman Sachs, which waived up to £20m of interest penalties on offshore bonus payments.

Earlier, David Hencke of Exaro News reported that Ed Lester, former chief executive of the Students Loans Company,had been appointed by the Department of Business, Innovation and Science to head the troubled Land Registry – despite the SLC’s poor performance, including:

  • problems with lost documents,

  • equipment failures,

  • difficulties with the online application system,

  • and answering only 5% of peak time phone calls.

An accelerating trend

Now the FT politely notes “The trend of ministers and officials leaving for the Big Four seems to be accelerating. PwC announced last week they had recruited Alan Milburn, the former Labour health minister, to advise on change in the NHS, sparking anger from local union leaders”.

Opening with Hartnett, it continues with Paul Kirby, who returned to KPMG after heading the Number 10 policy unit, and Neil Sherlock, the former adviser to Nick Clegg, who has moved to a senior post with PwC, adding that some time ago former home secretaries Charles Clarke and Jacqui Smith also made the move as consultants for KPMG.
Number-crunching:

The analysis from publicly available data shows 18 people have left top positions for KPMG, Deloitte and PwC, a sign of the symbiotic relationship between government and the companies at the centre of recent tax avoidance rows”.

Following the money:

The findings also show the companies themselves have spent a total of more than £1m paying for staff to work within the main three political parties, fuelling claims of a “revolving door” between politics and tax planning . . . Since the 2010 general election the three main UK political parties have received £1.14m in kind from three of the biggest accountancy firms: KPMG, Deloitte and PwC. PwC has given £503,442 to Labour in the form of multiple secondments. It has also given £289,619 of advice to the Liberal Democratsand £12,634 to the Conservative party”.

Under the last two governments, big money has increasingly skewed the decision-making process in favour of the corporate world – meanwhile the electorate suffers higher utility bills and other essentials rise in price, further enriching the few.