Sunday, April 24, 2011

truth or dave

Nick Clegg has come out. Tired of taking the punches that should have been aimed elsewhere, angry at the manipulative and false behaviour of his PM, he has declared himself no longer a puppet of the conservative government but the leader of their coalition partners, and a leader to be reckoned with. It’s about time. His credibility was almost at rock bottom and his party facing relegation to the league of minority no-hopers.

Reminiscent of Popeye the Sailor Man opening a can of spinach and affirming “That's all I can stands because I can't stands no more", he has flexed his political muscle and stood up to the intimidation that he has been subjected to by just about everyone in the blue corner.

Finally he has lost patience with the myths, deceit and lies about AV that are being peddled by the Prime Minister and some of the members of what Clegg decribes as a 'right-wing clique' that includes Baroness Warsi, the unelected pseudo-minister for nothing much who said that AV rewards extremism. She knows it doesn’t. So the party which incomprehensibly she chairs is sharing the NO platform with the only other parties opposed to the change, namely the extremist BNP and Communist Party. Great choice, Baroness.

Cameron himself has said that AV will demand expensive voting machines; a deliberate pretence to an electorate he knows wants visible signs of reduction in unnecessary public spending. But surely we are not as stupid as he thinks. AV is the system that elected Cameron to lead the conservative party; it worked well for him but he thinks our collective intellect is not high enough to use it wisely.

I listed in my previous post some of the other myths about AV and ways in which the NO campaign is based on untruths that are angering not only Nick Clegg but also all those who know that AV is a better and fairer electoral system that will make politicians work harder and be more reasonable and truthful. It is badly needed.

Nick Clegg is doing the right thing at the right time. Maybe this Easter weekend aptly marks the beginnings of the resurrection of the Liberal Democrat Party.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

just say yes

If the election of the leader of the Conservative party in 2005 had been on a First Past the Post system then it would have been won by David Davis with Cameron coming in second. But the party realised that it was simply wrong that someone should be elected with support from only 31% of the voters, so they used the AV system and after the second round our current PM was in the lead with 46%. The third and final round pushed him to 68% with Davis still claiming only just over 30% of the votes.

In other words Davis had virtually no support at all from anyone who preferred another candidate whereas Cameron had the secondary support of the fans of the eliminated candidates, namely Liam Fox and Ken Clarke. The majority of voters said they were happy to have Cameron elected (albeit not for all of them as their first choice) but, apart from a small minority, certainly did not want Davis to become their leader.

The Labour party also uses the Alternative Vote system to elect its leader, allowing Ed Miliband to be in charge even though his brother whatshisname was in the lead after the first round and so would have won under FPTP.

So it’s a good system for the parties, who seem to understand it perfectly well and like it, but many of their MPs don’t think it’s right for inferior people like us to use when we elect them to parliament. Why ? Because it will make them work harder to gain our support. Because their safe seats may become more contested and they will have to invest time and effort in defending them. Because they don’t want to change a system that provided them with a gateway to their high salaries, privileges, incredibly generous pensions and dubious expense claims. Because they are scared of AV. Because they know it will give voters more choice and more power.

They know it is a better system than the one we have but the majority of MPs will never miss an opportunity for demonstrating hypocrisy and this is a golden one. At the last election, only a third of them had the support of the majority of their electorate; only 1.6% of voters played a decisive part in the election.

There are many myths about Alternative Vote which are dispelled by the YES to AV Campaign.

The No Campaign headlines its case with flawed arguments.

They claim that FPTP delivers clear outcomes. Really ? In 2010 for example ?

They say AV is complicated. It isn't. The No Campaign insults our intelligence. The mechanism for counting votes is simple and easily understandable. But those not interested don’t need to know how it works; they just need to know that they can (if they want to) mark one candidate as their first choice, another as second choice and so on. Or just put a cross against one candidate as they do now. Nobody has to use the extra flexibility that AV offers. It’s a choice.

They say AV is expensive. Of course it isn’t. It requires paper, pencils, and people counting. Just the same resources as our current system.

They say AV is unfair. A laughable accusation. It’s a lot fairer than FPTP. The leaders of the two main parties thought it was perfectly fair when it was used to elect them, though Cameron is now firmly against it and Miliband is keeping cowardly quiet.

They say AV gives some people more votes than others. That's the daftest of all the feeble criticisms made by the FPTP supporters. If it were true then when they count the votes the total cast would be more than the number of people in the electorate. It won't be. Under AV, everyone will have one vote but with more choice. It is the current system that is unfair, giving voters in marginal constituencies much greater power than those in safe seats.

The hollow No Campaign is based on their slogan that “It should be voters that decide who the best candidate is, not the voting system.” Absurd, meaningless, inane nonsense. A vote of No to AV is a vote for No to Common Sense.

AV will give us all more power to make MPs work harder to gain our support and to maintain it. AV will enable Strong Voters, Accountable Politicians, Popular Government and Mature Politics.

Everybody should take this opportunity to vote for AV. Make the change. For the vast majority of us it really is the chance of a lifetime.


Tuesday, April 05, 2011

going down

Footballers and bankers have much in common. Selfish, mercenary, obscenely overpaid, thoughtless regarding their effect on other people, and threatening to sulk, stamp their feet and go abroad if they don’t get what they want. When Wayne Rooney lunged his face at a TV camera and swore, he knew he was virtually untouchable and would receive little in the way of sanction.

If an ordinary person swears in public, causing alarm or distress even to only one other, he can be fined a week's pay. Rooney’s outburst is seen and heard by millions and is fined much less than half a day's pay, a punishment akin to being asked to go to his room. He must be given credit for making an apology saying "emotions were running high, and on reflection my heat-of-the-moment reaction was inappropriate; it was not aimed at anyone in particular." Or at least whoever wrote it should be given credit, because it sure wasn’t the player. Even an apology is taken care of for him.

After all he was only doing what players do during a game, this time to a camera but usually to the face of a referee who makes a decision against them. Referees do nothing to stop it as they know it wouldn’t be for their own good as the sport is dictated by a powerful mafia of clubs who will make any referee who offends them an offer he can’t refuse.

Verbal abuse, play-acting, spitting, cheating, and intimidation are all part of the beautiful game, much less a sport than a distasteful industry where money, money and money are the drivng forces. The abuse extends to the spectators, where even those who want to just watch the game are cordially invited by a threatening minority to ‘stand up if you hate the scum’ and to proffer vitriolic hatred to the supporters of the opposing team because they are so impolite as to be supporters of the opposing team. How dare they ! Just because they live in, say, Blackburn, that surely doesn’t mean they are allowed to support that town’s team rather than the London club they are playing against. So f off back to where you came from. What the perennial commentator John Motson describes as “some lively banter amongst the crowd” is typically two groups of angry, hostile fans shouting obscenities at each other and arranging to meet outside the stadium afterwards for a fight to the death.

So it’s not a matter of one eminently dislikeable player doing what comes naturally to him in front of a camera. He is just a reflection of a self-centred unpleasantness that is endemic throughout the game, professional and amateur. Greater punishment of an individual, whilst more just and satisfying, would achieve very little. Stricter rules on behaviour must be consistently applied to all players by all referees, whatever the short term consequences to the clubs. Football needs a reincarnation with a new ethos based on sporting conduct and far less money flowing through it, and needs it soon.