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.
In July Peter Hitchens wrote: “Globalisation hasn’t worked but our elite have not yet been held to account”. As he said, the EU referendum result was a heartfelt protest, but is Brexit likely to enhance the lives of those who made that protest? He continued:
“There is nothing good (or conservative) about low wages, insecure jobs and a mad housing market which offers nothing but cramped rooms and high rents to young families just when they need space, proper houses with gardens, and security”.
But people are re-engaging with politics
Hundreds of thousands have joined Labour. Tens of thousands have joined the SNP, Greens, Tories and, since the EU referendum, the Lib Dems – and this, in an age when we have been told that people no longer want to get involved in politics. The growing adherence to Sanders, Corbyn, the SNP and radical parties in Greece, Spain, Italy and Iceland suggest that the existing order is being challenged and new hope is emerging.
In a different article Hitchens said: “If (like me) you have attended any of Mr Corbyn’s overflowing campaign meetings, you will have seen the hunger – among the under-30s and the over-50s especially – for principled, grown-up politics instead of public relations pap. Millions are weary of being smarmed and lied to by people who actually are not that competent or impressive, and who have been picked because they look good on TV rather than because they have ideas or character”.
Is it just a matter of time before parties regroup?
Some Conservative and Labour voters are moving to UKIP, some to the Liberal Democrats – and others are listening to calls for a cross-party progressive alliance.
In July there was a “Post-Brexit Alliance” meeting with speakers including the Liberal Democrat’s Vince Cable, the SNP’s Tommy Sheppard, Labour MP Clive Lewis, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, Amina Gichinga from Take Back the City and the Guardian’s John Harris. This month, a statement calling for progressive parties to work together for electoral reform was published; it is signed by Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, Jonathan Bartley, co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, Leanne Wood, Leader of Plaid Cymru, Steven Agnew, Leader of the Green Party of Northern Ireland, Patrick Harvie, Co-convener of the Scottish Green Party and Alice Hooker-Stroud, Leader of the Wales Green Party.
‘Principled, grown-up politics’ indeed.
Rattled by Labour’s Oldham by-election success and three other recent by-election victories, right wing journalists are now moving away from gripes about Corbyn’s national anthem silence, and his consistent support for moves to stop wars, to focus on those of his supporters who have high incomes.
They ignore those of the 99%, the people to whom Corbyn has given hope, and who continue to support him, as seen in audience reactions, by-election wins and Labour Party membership figures.
The FT’s Janan Ganesh (below left) enlightens ‘poor whites’
Possibly influenced by UKIP defeats in all four by-elections, Janan Ganesh whose articles I usually will not read, earlier wrote approvingly: “Political apathy in the UK is perfectly respectable”. Now he writes hopefully: “Years will pass before we know the consequences of Jeremy Corbyn’s time as leader of the opposition Labour Party but the alienation of working-class whites, UKIP’s quarry (sic), has to be among them”.
He hopes! And, trusting in the power of the press, he is trying to achieve this. His arguments are too specious to repeat but may be read here on free registration for anyone who wishes to spend time in this way.
Ganesh writes about ‘’poor whites, especially those who line the eastern edge of England and populate the deindustrialised north” – subhuman? – whom he believes Corbyn has alienated: “Many will not vote. A few who can swallow their ancestral aversion will go Tory”.
UKIP fits the bill?
He appears to prefer a UKIP resurgence: “UKIP still has what it takes to win the larger share of these votes: economic populism, rhetorical bluntness, name recognition. The shambles of its leadership is not fatal. Populism does not attract people looking for a government but people bored of having their plain sensibilities laughed at. If Mr Corbyn leads Labour into a general election, UKIP need only stand still to move forward”.
With an ego enhanced by his entry as one of Debrett’s 500 most influential people, he then refers to the return of the ‘perfumed Islingtonian’ !
And the unwholesome Giles Coren (right) in the Times (scroll down his entry – but avoid the even nastier Esquire article) adds substance to this trivial attempt to alienate Corbyn supporters: “a cabal of wealthy north London professionals who have taken an interest in Labour because they haven’t much else to do”.
“Labour is the new hobby for the idle rich: Corbyn’s revolution is a Woosterish indulgence for Islington millionaires. They’ll join any protest, if they’re not in the Dordogne”.
Readers who can face it may read the article here — at a price: “A disproportionate number of Labour members who have joined since the 2015 general election are ‘high-status city dwellers’ pursuing well-paid jobs,” reported The Guardian on Thursday, after getting its hands on leaked data commissioned by the party.
Ganesh adds that protests/demonstrations are “Weekend japes, in other words. Because being a Labourite in 2016 is nothing but another leisure option for the seriously rich. Like sailing or collecting wine or riding to hounds”.
Messrs Ganesh and Coren have no idea what is happening outside London
Labour’s new strength lies in its core supporters who do not read these articles and would discount them if they ever wasted money on them. The establishment has been ‘rumbled’. Here (below) are a hundred or so of the thousands in Birmingham who attended Corbyn or Momentum gatherings. Far from wealthy, their incomes will have been hard-earned . . .
Face it: at long last advertisement/corporate dependent mainstream media and their corporate-political masters have lost their former influence over most of the general public – and that is a wonderfully healthy and hopeful development.
Not the news they wish to hear?
In two Kent seats and in Liverpool, UKIP came second.
Yesterday, a generously worded welcome for Karen Constantine’s Newington victory, taking a seat from UKIP, came from Mark Pack, Liberal Democrat commentator and public relations expert. Karen, a trade union equalities officer and mother of four, will now take her place on Thanet District council.
This led the writer to find in all three Labour election gains this week.
On the 21st, Labour also won the by-election for Ramsgate Town Council with Susan Kennedy being elected, again with UKIP second. Susan is a consultant working in education at national and local level, medical education, university lecturing, secondary school teaching and senior management.
Today, Nova Charlton won the Thatto Heath ward (St Helens Council) contest with 964 votes and UKIP’s Alastair Sutcliffe came second with 182. Nova is an employment officer for a housing association who has been campaigning with Labour for the last five years and says: “Holding a place on the council is about being honest, questioning and challenging, and standing up for what your community is asking for.”
A Google search only revealed these successes reported in local papers in Kent and Liverpool.
Had Labour lost, there would have been two-inch gloating headlines!
On Friday, Jeremy Paxman wrote an article about HS2 in the Financial Times, opening with incredulity (“How on earth are we even contemplating this scheme?”) that the project had not been an issue for the three main parties during the election campaign, “All decided that the planned HS2 high speed railway line from London to Birmingham and then — if things go to plan — on to Manchester and Leeds by about 2033 was A Good Thing . . . it was left to the UK Independence party and the Greens (who generally love railways) to point out that HS2 is a grotesque waste of taxpayers’ money.
Some points raised:
- Despite living in an age of austerity, the main parties were as one in believing it a brilliant way to blow a projected £50bn of public money.
- It will not be £50bn; cost controls on public spending projects are laughable – see the over budget Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly buildings, the cost of the first high speed rail link and the National Health Service IT project.
- At the end of years of digging and disruption we shall be able to get from London to Birmingham 30-odd minutes quicker.
- To get from Leeds to Manchester on HS2 you would have to travel south to Birmingham and then north again on the other side of the country.
- If, as has been predicted, Birmingham will turn into a suburb of the capital, that will only be for those wealthy enough to afford tickets.
- The point that seems not to have been much recognised by huge numbers of the poor saps who will have to pay for this project is that at the end of their journey north, the happy business folk will not be alighting in the centre of Birmingham, at New Street station, but will have to take a 10-minute walk to get there from the planned HS2 terminus (Ed: unless the Metro is completed).
Jeremy Paxman concludes:
“Britain is notorious for its shuddering transport policy. When was the last time you heard an MP say, “I’m begging the prime minister to let me go to the Department for Transport and stay there forever, so we can get this country moving properly”? Building a decent infrastructure is serious, unglamorous work with little political dividend, so our system is hopeless at long-term planning . . .
“[U]nless someone comes to their senses soon, future generations will definitely be able to look at great tracts of concrete laid across the countryside to enable a slightly quicker journey through our overcrowded island. More than likely, they will still be paying for it”.
Iannucci: now is the best time in a generation to go out and vote – generate churn and change in a way that doing nothing never can
In a January article Iannucci wrote: “They’ve had months, years even, to prepare and mighty budgets for media spend, and yet we feel so little the wiser. You get the impression they’d love their manifestos to go out encrypted. It’s easy to see then why the Brand mantra – “Don’t Vote” – has so much appeal. Post 2010, we all got austerity measures, bedroom taxes, NHS reforms and tuition fees that absolutely nobody voted for because absolutely no political manifesto mentioned them. So why shouldn’t we abandon our political masters and stay at home?
Extracts from a more recent article by Armando Iannucci in the Observer
Questions to David Cameron included:
- What are the further £10bn of welfare cuts you need to make but haven’t detailed?
- Do you accept that parliament will not vote on a possible replacement to Trident until next year?
- If so, can you explain why the Ministry of Defence has for the last two years spent £1.24bn on “getting ready” a replacement and preparing “long lead” parts of an as-yet unvoted for missile system?
- Is it true that for your first year in office you had no idea of the full scale and ambition of Andrew Lansley’s NHS reforms and were furious when you found out?
- Why did you push the TV companies to schedule as many of the TV debates as possible before the publication of the party manifestos?
- How can the electorate question you on your proposals if you’ll take questions only before you propose them?
- Do you feel responsible for a political culture in which more than a million benefit claimants were sanctioned and penalised in 2013 but only one HSBC tax evader has been prosecuted?
- How do you feel about the rise in suicides of people who have been denied disability benefit?
- Why do we have so many food banks? Why do Save the Children and the Red Cross, two organisations set up to work abroad, now work extensively in the UK?
- How do you square launching the “big society” with Iain Duncan Smith’s refusal to meet volunteers from the food bank charity the Trussell Trust in 2013 because he felt they were “scaremongerers” and “political”?
- Why did IDS refuse to speak in a 2013 Commons debate on the growing use of food banks? Indeed, why did he leave that debate early?
Questions to Ed Miliband included:
- Why do you not make a speech highlighting the benefits immigration has brought to this country?
- Why did your work and pensions spokeswoman, Rachel Reeves, say Labour “is not the party of people on benefits”?
- If you’re prepared to admit that New Labour made mistakes over wealth inequality and financial deregulation, will you go further?
- Will you also admit that many of the administrative problems in the NHS were caused by New Labour’s mission to inject private market forces into an organisation not built for that purpose?
- Will you admit that much of New Labour’s obsessional drive to impose targets on the NHS pushed staff to breaking point with, to cite one example, paramedics suffering from urinary tract infections because their bosses wouldn’t permit them toilet breaks?
- If you’re in favour of commissioning a replacement to Trident, will you or any of your team be making a speech defending the cost and outlining your clear reasons for prioritising a nuclear deterrent over other spending plans? Or is this an awkward subject?
- When so much of the first-, second- and third-generation immigrant community votes for your party, why do you still prefer to use the language of “restricting” immigrant numbers employed by Conservatives and Ukip?
- Do you like the unemployed? Or are you embarrassed by them? Do you take it for granted they vote for you? Are you fully aware many of them are turning to the Greens, Ukip and the SNP instead?
- Why do you feel the need to talk tough about welfare cuts and immigration levels without much prompting?
- You do realise that the slogan Vote Labour, We’re a Little Like Ukip is not going to bring out your base?
Iannucci reflects: “Now is the best time in a generation to go out and vote. With such a fragmented system on offer, nothing is inevitable. Uncertainty may create instability, but it can also generate churn and change in a way that doing nothing never can. The truth is, we haven’t been abandoning politicians – they’ve been abandoning us . . . The 45% who voted yes to independence in Scotland . . . is driving the agenda in Scottish politics as powerfully as if it had been on the winning side . . . Alternative answers such as Green, nationalist, pro-NHS, even the Pub Landlord (standing against Nigel Farage), no longer look like stupid also-rans”.
To read the March article go to http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/28/questions-for-cameron-and-miliband-armando-iannucci
Earlier this month George Parker of the Financial Times asserted: “it is the state of the economy that remains at the heart of the malaise in British politics”, but his other reflections were nearer the mark.
He said that: “Panic over the rise of the populists is spreading across the Westminster establishment, which is turning on itself in a round of recrimination bordering on self-loathing. With a general election less than six months away, British politics is about to enter a volatile and unpredictable phase”.
Another comment: “Polls suggest voters regard the Westminster class as out of touch and incompetent . . . Global events have exposed the inability of the British elite to identify risks, let alone deal with them. From the financial crash, through the rise of Russian aggression in Ukraine to the surge in Islamic radicalism in the Middle East, Westminster politicians were initially blindsided, then appeared impotent in their response”.
A serious indictment – and he should have added to it a reference to the fatally corrosive effect of the corporate–political alliances which skew decision-making in favour of the already rich.
This is seen as corruption by many, here and in America (see cartoon). It is noted that – in this particular – the Westminster class are far from ignorant and incompetent when adding to their incomes and those of family and friends – aka ‘feathering their nests’.
Mr Parker expresses the sense, among some British voters, that they are victims rather than beneficiaries of globalisation, which – Political Concern adds – has offered so many opportunities for leaders of corporations and governments to enrich themselves at the expense of the ‘rank and file’, vastly increasing economic inequality and environmental pollution.
He continues: “If the mood continues, the next election could see a remarkable rejection of traditional politics . . . neither of Britain’s main parties can expect to win an overall Commons majority in the election, which will be held on May 7. A period of instability and multi-party coalitions – possibly including minority parties as diverse as UKIP, the Scottish National party, Ulster unionists and the Greens – is a real possibility”. And adds:
Both Tories and Labour acknowledge that supporting UKIP has become a cry of pain from people who no longer feel they have a stake in the future and have lost faith in Westminster politicians to help them.
Many will watch with interest campaigns by ‘minority parties’: SNP, the Greens, NHAP, Plaid Cymru, in Cornwall Mebyon Kernow and UKIP, which still gives cause for concern.
Time for change!