Capping The Voting Age: The Wrong Method To Achieve A Positive Outcome

A few weeks ago I wrote a piece looking at Jeremy Paxman’s suggestion to cap the voting age in order to create a fairer society in the UK.

After a period to reflect on the proposal, and after speaking with a number of people on the topic, I have realised that what Paxman suggests is not a “progressive policy”, but is instead a highly undemocratic one.

Though the policy, if introduced, would create a higher proportion of left wing voters in the election turnout and result, which would be of benefit to the Left and it’s supporters, the means by which it would reach such an outcome are not in line with the belief in a free and fair society.

Essentially, though it may produce a positive outcome, it is the wrong method of reaching such a result.

Continue reading “Capping The Voting Age: The Wrong Method To Achieve A Positive Outcome”

The UK General Election’s Red Wedding

The clouds were darker this morning, the sun was less piercing, the shadows of people I passed, and indeed even their faces, were longer. The birds were not singing as sweetly, the air was not as crisp and clear, and the wind seemed particularly cold as it blew against me on my way to work.

The election night of May 2015 will go down as one of the most frustrating, and depressing nights of my life. Somehow, some way, David Cameron not only managed to hold on to his place in Number 10, but he actually managed to strengthen it. After 5 years of austerity measures the UK gave the Conservative party an increased representation in the Commons. As one commentator online stated; “can a country have Stockholm Syndrome?”

I, like many people, was profoundly shocked by the BBC Exit Poll forecast, but in hindsight that would have been a much more preferable result. As it turned out, even the BBC Exit Poll had it wrong. It was far too optimistic a projection.

There are positives to be taken from the election, but they are minor victories. The discovery that your kitchen has survived the bombing despite the rest of your housing having been blown apart. They are the thinnest silver linings on the very darkest of clouds.

Nigel Farage – for the time being at least – has abandoned his pretence as a politician, resigning from the leadership of UKIP after failing to get elected to Parliament. Nick Clegg has also resigned from his post as leader of the Liberal Democrats. In a frank and honest admission – perhaps the first time we have ever seen honesty from Nick – he stated that the results of the election were a “catastrophe” for the party. From the lofty heights of having 57 MPs in Parliament, the Lib Dems now have only eight. It is a massacre worthy of an episode of Game of Thrones.

Speaking of massacres, Labour have also been left licking their substantial wounds. North of the border, in Scotland, the SNP political earthquake has left few survivors. Just three of the 59 available seats have survived the onslaught, one each belonging to Labour, the Lib Dems, and the Tories. It is a stunning achievement for the SNP and the Left in Scotland, and they have every right to celebrate. Alex Salmond, now an MP himself, said that the “lion has roared.”

As the lion roared in Scotland, England had nothing but a whimper. Progress from the Greens in the constituencies where they stood was perhaps the only positive note to take from the elections. Labour’s shambolic failings have left the country awash of blue and the outlook for the next five years is bleak.

Cuts estimated to be in the region of £12 billion pounds are to occur, fox hunting is likely to be legalised, the Human Rights Act is to be scrapped, TTIP is to proceed, fracking will continue, and there is set to be an in-out referendum on the EU. Worryingly, this is just the tip of a very large, and now unrestrained, Tory iceberg that we are heading towards with reckless abandon. If this is the path the country has chosen to take, I fear for its people and its future.

Such is my dejection and disappointment with the election result and the choices of the UK voters, that there is a very real consideration revolving in my head regarding leaving these shores. A Masters has always appealed to me, and perhaps now I have an excuse to return to academia and escape what is sure to be a hellish five years.

How can this have happened? I am not entirely sure. The polls were wrong, the media was wrong, and the people of the UK have left me with the overwhelming sense that they are wrong also. I simply cannot comprehend how after five years of brutal public sector cuts, the Tories have managed to tighten their grip on power. We are turkeys and every week is set to be thanksgiving.

Labour’s failure can be viewed from many standpoints, but I believe that it shows just how out of touch with their voters they have become. It is no surprise to me that the unashamedly anti-austerity parties all fared well at these elections. Plaid Cymru received their third highest vote share ever, holding their three seats in Wales; the Green Party received over one million votes with their MP Caroline Lucas increasing her majority in Brighton Pavilion; and the SNP now effectively rule Scotland.

Labour, with their controlled immigration stance and their Tory-lite austerity policy, failed to offer anything. If after five years of opposition you actually lose seats as a party then it is time for a very serious re-evaluation. Labour are out of touch, and they have been for years. Former Lib Dems now see the Tories as a better option, disaffected members of the working class feel abandoned and turn to UKIP for support, socialists and left-wing advocates are heading to the Greens and the SNP.

In the coming weeks and months we are set to see the full force of the right-wing Tory agenda. I expect it is to be a dark time for millions of people across the country, but despite my desire to abandon this country to its fate, now is not the time to run. We must organise, and we must fight, because what we have experienced in the last five years is nothing in comparison to what is to come.

We are the resistance. We are the opposition.

Brighton & Hove

 

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This article was originally published on Cultured Vultures on 11/05/15

The Illusion of Choice

This week brought the news that the leaders television debates on the BBC and ITV will have their format changed in order to accommodate other parties. Such a step is a necessary act if we are to truly believe in the ideals of democracy, but even with this change, we are too commonly presented with the illusion of choice instead of the reality of it.

For far too long in the country, both the media and the political parties have reinforced the feelings of a two party system. Similar to the United States whereby they have either Republican or Democrat, we in the UK have fallen hook, line and sinker for Labour or Conservative. These, we are told and we believe, are the only possibilities.

Labour and the Conservatives have been fighting one another for so long, a blur of red fists and blue fists, that they have began to look remarkably similar. With these two parties being the only choice for UK voters for decades, their policies were not incredibly dissimilar. Indeed they could not be, for fear of alienating the population, and therefore potentially losing votes. Both Conservatives and Labour voted in favour of invading Iraq in the early part of this century, and more recently both Conservative and Labour have voted to continue the policy of austerity.

With such friends, who needs enemies? And with such opposition, who needs support?

There are a multitude of reasons as to why the UK voter turnout has gradually decreased, but one of the reasons may well be that people have awoken to the fact that a vote, in this UK democratic system, is rather meaningless. There is light between Labour and the Conservatives, but for the large majority of people, that light is so slim that it may as well not be there. It does not surprise me that some disillusioned voters on the left now refer to Labour as “red Tories.”

The problem with having only two parties with any chance of forming a government is that an array of choice is not offered to the nations voters. The two parties pick their issues, Labour with the NHS, the Conservatives with the economy, and besides those, they agree on pretty much everything else. Even with the recent climb of UKIP, and the presence of the Liberal Democrats in the coalition, difference between parties is rare.

Two weeks ago the voters were told that the options were Labour, Conservative, UKIP, or the Liberal Democrats. All of these parties are headed by white, middle class males; all of these parties are committed to the idea of continuing austerity; and all of these parties have taken a controlled or anti-immigration stance.

There is choice at the general election when you look at the Big Four – as I shall call them here – but it is the same choice that you see when you walk into a shop and glance at the fridge to find Tango, Pepsi, Coke, Fanta, Dr Pepper, Sprite and Lilt. There seems to be a choice of drinks, a wide variety of options that are open to you, but no matter what you buy, your money will only ever end up in the hands of a select few.

Cynically you may see Labour as Conservative-lite, or “red Tories”, an improvement on the Conservatives, but still too close to them for comfort. You may see Conservatives as Labour, but with more focus on economy and harsher views on immigration. UKIP have been dubbed “more Tory than the Tories”, and so they may be seen as Conservative-hard. And the Liberal Democrats? Well, they just seem to position themselves wherever they are more likely to pick up voters.

If the political landscape was a football pitch, the Big Four would occupy a space in the centre circle. The Tories and UKIP to the right of the centre spot, and Labour to the left slightly. With the entire pitch to play on though, where are the other parties, and why is nobody taking advantage of the space?

Within this centre circle of parties there are a number of issues which are just not discussed or even contemplated. Political slogans and re-election campaigns choose to focus very narrowly on single issues. Ed Miliband insists on tackling “the cost of living crisis” as well as the NHS. David Cameron is all about jobs, growth, and the economy. Nigel Farage, as everyone is well aware by now, has an issue with foreigners. Immigrants working, immigrants claiming benefits, immigrants causing congestion on the M4, and so forth. Nick Clegg just seems a little lost.

So these are the issues that the leaders have declared worthy of the public’s attention. These are what the general election will be won and lost on. The Big Four are your only option, and if you are to get change, it will only come about in a very narrow framework. Austerity, but Labour austerity. Anti-immigration policies, but Tory anti-immigration policies.

The breath of fresh air in European politics that is Syriza has only gone to further reaffirm the fact that real choice in the UK at election time, is thin on the ground. As I write this they are gearing up for the 2015 Greek general election, and if the polls are to be believed, they are to lead Greece come Monday morning. In a country mired in turmoil, and with its people deciding that centre circle politics will not be enough to save them this time, Syriza have finally given an opportunity for real change. Their 40-point programme looks at issues many parties would not even contemplate.

The UK needs a Syriza of its own, not because I believe a party like Syriza to be the best option, although that is true, the UK needs a Syriza of its own because such parties are necessary within democracies. In order for democracy to live up to its billing, you need a multitude of opinions and ideas. In essence you need choice, and for too long the UK has just not been getting that.

Where are the parties talking about nuclear missiles, and the renewal of Trident? Where are the parties that are opposed to the barbaric practices of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, who have long been allies of the UK? Where are the parties that recognise Israel as an enemy of freedom, an obstacle of human rights, and an apartheid state routinely conducting war crimes? Where are the parties who want to abolish UK tuition fees for University students? Where are the parties looking for a fairer method of voting, introducing proportional representation rather than the unsuitable and dated first past the post system? Where too are the parties opposed to UK military engagement overseas? Or the monarchy?

Democracy, like the Premier League, is larger than simply the Big Four. There are very real parties out there, with very valid policies. Many of which you would strongly support if only you knew about them.

Do not let mainstream media, and the mainstream political parties, blinker you into believing that there is only a choice between four. There is not, and it is time we showed them that.


Recommended links:

Scottish National Party – link to their homepage
Green Party – link to their homepage
Plaid Cymru – link to their homepage
National Health Action Party – link to their homepage
Socialist Party – link to their homepage
Socialist Workers Party – link to their homepage
Class War – link to their homepage

 

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2014: A Broken Britain

Society heads to ruin, and those that lead us there,
Take us forth on promises of making things more fair,
Our benefits cut, our bedrooms taxed, we’re squeezed for every coin,
Ever since Clegg’s yellow and Cameron’s blue did join,
The rich are getting richer, at the expense of the poor,
They may use the front, but we’re shown the back door,
UKIP is persistent, it’s the foreigner we must fear,
Despite the twenty billion pounds they’ve added living here,
Continue reading “2014: A Broken Britain”

MEP’s: Wealthy, Vain and Accountable To No One

He took a long drag of his cigarette. Perched awkwardly on an exterior pub seat, his face hovering over the screen of his phone, he exhaled the smoke whilst stating “346 votes, can you see me? Can you find it?”

He repeated, “Yeah, I got 346 votes. It’s not bad.” Sucking on his cigarette again he quickly glanced at me.

He must have known I was watching, and listening, indeed the whole street could listen at the volume he was announcing his recent failure. Although he tried to remain upbeat, the disappointment in his voice and across his face was clear.

On the banks of the river Thames, not far from Gunnersbury station, I was sat watching, and listening to the scene unfolding before me.

Continue reading “MEP’s: Wealthy, Vain and Accountable To No One”