Post Election Reflection

Election Reactions

Twas a bit of a shock when the exit polls came up at 10:00:01pm, and even more so as the night rolled on.

I made it up to about 5.30am then faded for a few hours kip, was up again for the South Thanet result, but missed Balls losing his seat – caught all the others though.

I was flipping mostly between Sky and ITV, but I did intersperse some BBC, though only because Brillo was a part of the action.  As with many people coverage was supplemented by Twitter.

Here’s a sample of what was re-tweeted into my timeline then and since:

(click to embiggen, if needed)

Charlotte Damian Ellis Lily Mark Owen 1 Owen 2 Penny 1 Penny 2 Penny 3

Are you sensing a theme?

I see too that there are already protests going on.

This should be very simple, we had a free and fair election and the results are in.  The people have spoken, we should all respect the infinite wisdom of the electorate.  I didn’t vote Conservative either, my first reaction is not to worry for fictional scenarios of people starving all around me, as if unable to consume food because of who’s pulling the levers of power.  It’s like some or all of these people are living in a fantasy world.

Do they really think Paramedics will stop turning up to help the injured or Doctors will stop helping the sick because David Cameron is the PM?

This is if infantilisation of politics laid bare for all to see.

Unfortunately in going back over some of these tweets to get the screengrabs for this post, I also stumbled upon this tweet:

Penny War

In case you can’t make out the picture Penny is being asked to react to, here it is a little clearer:

World War 2

It seems you can make any obscene gesture, belittle the contribution of millions of women, many of whom would have been dyed-in-the-wool socialists… So long as the vitriol is aimed at “Tory Scum” there’s nothing offensive about it of course!

What a nice young lady this Penny must be.

I hated; literally hated living under Blair & Brown, but if in an inverse universe some muppet took to defacing war memorials with a similar platitude against Blair, Brown or Labour I am sure I, and all decent people would denounce such idiocy for that it is, without equivocation or caveat.

I wonder how many on the Left had the courage to denounce one of their own?

Exit Polls & 2020

At 9.50pm (approx) on Thursday I was talking to Sarra and I remarked that unless it was ‘another 1992’ I felt Labour would get in with the SNP supporting, but it was not because of an inspiring campaign by Mr Miliband, but because Labour are almost militarily well organised, and manage the media and their “narrative” very well.  They can change direction on almost any issue overnight, but they know how to get their points over and control the media.  Yes, plenty of people see it, and are not fooled or swayed, but the majority of people make their decisions from information gleamed from headlines and all of the detail that gets condensed into 15 minute news cycles.  I am not knocking people for how they engage, goodness knows there’s plenty in life I struggle to keep interested about that I know I should.

I remember watching in 2010 and thinking/hoping it was ‘another 1992’ but not only had the polls been pretty accurate all along, the exit poll was bang on too.  I guessed that after the postmortem following 1992 the shy Tory factor was weighted in, but in this case it seems not.  I think some broadcasters were cautious too, with a number of them pointing out that the number of undecideds was as high as one in four on some polls, just a day or two before the real thing.

The Tory’s are very complacent and if they’re going to stand a chance in 2020, after a decade in number 10, their going to have to get a lot sharper.  I refer back to the tweets above, this is (I imagine) the Labour activist base, and will be poisoning peoples perceptions on a daily basis.  The 2020 battle has already begun in that respect.

These shy Tories will not be shy of voting for someone else if the things that swayed them (probably the economic recovery) goes south now and it appears principally something the Conservatives did, could have avoided or were not strong enough on.

Electoral Reform?

I do find it quite annoying sometimes when I hear people talk about “electoral reform” because reform implies making an improvement or moving to something better, yet invariably such advocates are actually meaning that they want to move to a Proportional Representation system, which I for one think would be terrible.

For one thing, if we moved to PR, we would have to do away with local constituencies, which I think would be a tragic loss, as along with this you would of course lose the link between a particular area and a single MP.  Now it is true that in many areas people today have an MP they didn’t vote for, but at least you have an MP.  Aside for doubts on integrity and expense claims, across the board MP’s have historically taken their constituency duties very importantly.  If they are invisible to the people they represent, or failing to represent locals don’t take too to kindly.  Conversly if MPs use their seat as a parapet from which to further their own agenda, or an agenda the constituents don’t agree with, then they again have been seen to act in the past – though as with these things you can point to examples where this has also not been the case.

Now I accept that under PR representation would not be lost entirely.  We see with our MEP’s the different regions have different ways of carving up their responsibilities and providing that representation.  However, under PR you put candidate selection and preference into the the hands of Party leadership, and there is a much increased chance that the result will be a shift of loyalty away from voters geared toward adherence to party discipline and finding preference.  We all love when MP’s go against party orders in order to represent the wishes of constituents or their own deeply helped beliefs.  Under PR, the moment(s) Ed Balls, Vince Cable, Michael Portillo, Jacqui Smith got the heave-ho would never happen as they would be too far up the selection list, they would have in effect been untouchable.

Who would stand up for you or your local area at Prime Ministers questions, if MP’s were selected on regional or national lists?

PR would also lead to coalitions as the norm, and I don’t think the British people actually want that.  If there was one highlight of the campaign it was the three leader Question Time, which was both surprising given that the BBC staged it and dissappoining for the omission of Nigel Farage.  However, it was the audience which made the show and one of the central themes was that they wanted to know what each leader would do, or which policies they would trade in coalition talks; which of course the leaders can’t answer.  In Elections, I feel the Parties should publish manifesto’s and should talk about what they’re going to do, and the electorate should vote on that.  What is the point when those promises go out the window the very next day and politicians decide what the government will do instead?

There is also something to say about the person (or party) who gets the most votes – i.e. majority rule being fundamental to successful Democracies thriving.  Sure, minority voices and opinions should be heard but the majority opinion should be what an electorate gets.  For all the talk of PR being representative of the way we vote, there were 650 battlegrounds in this election and every single one of them had a winner, even the one’s which haven’t changed party selection for five or more decades.

I voted UKIP and so, you would expect me to say (I would imagine), ‘hey, UKIP got four million votes and only one MP’ but i’m not going to.  I am going to instead point out that the electoral and voting systems were not selected by chance one day before the election, it has been in place for a very long time.  Therefore, one way that all the parties were on a level playing field is that they all fought under the same rules and under the same system (constituency size anomalies aside, which do need to be addressed).  I don’t think being a poor sport about this will do UKIP any favours, nor do I think Labour & Conservatives will endorse changing a system that has served them so well for the last century, and will continue to serve them (or any two major parties) for the next hundred years.  The third party in the UK is always going to expend energy on this battle and get nowhere.  The aim should be, for any aspiring party to get to that second place, and consolidate so as to look to move on and challenge for Government.

Any real reform should be tied to real reform of the House of Lords, which it barely is now.  It’s just about all appointee’s now, yet retains no real power to strike down the commons.  The can is being kicked down the road, but at some point the Lords is going to turn into a UK Senate, and when that happens it’s going to need to limit it’s members and find some democratic legitimacy.  I wouldn’t back PR for the Lords/Senate either, unless it remained a watered down, low cost revision chamber.  However I think the Lords, in a post-EU UK could perform a very important role, and redress the metropolitan bias we see in the Commons if seats aligned more fairly on a geographical basis (Counties, Cities and certain Metropolises splitting perhaps 200 seats).  Lords could still play a role in a democratic chamber contributing to debate, but perhaps their roles could be limited in terms of voting.

All of this aside I was happy to see that the Tory/UKIP/DUP/UUP vote share broke 50% in a country that I think is at least 50% inclined to the right, but because of the previous availability of only the Lib Dems as an ‘alternative’ weighted MP representation very much in favour of the left.  Perhaps in a four party system (plus the others) and under First Past The Post we may get stability of government and when coalition is needed, it may be more representative of the opinions of those who cast their votes.  I don’t say this to be anti-left wing, I do acknowledge that there’s plenty I rely on week to week and I have advantages today that would have (quite possibly) never happened without Left Parties and Unions.  My objections to Labour and Pro-EU Leftwing parties will, I am sure come up here from time to time, we can explore those further then.

UKIP

It was a mixed night, as alluded to above.  How fantastic to get a little under four million votes, and a strong showing in about 120 seats.  How bitter sweet when then contrasted to Nigel Farage, Mark Reckless and Tim Aker all losing their battles, and UKIP coming out of the election with one less seat than it went into it.  Which way is the momentum heading in that case?

I am not a Nigel hater, he has for a long time been UKIP’s biggest asset.  I voted for him in the leadership race in 2010, in a pretty weak field.

I do think he will continue to be a strong presence, and an asset to UKIP.

I personally think it’s time for a change, but I want Nigel inside the tent and still active.

It should not escape attention that Nigel has now run five times for a Westminster seat and failed on every occasion.

I am keen to see who else might stand now, and I think UKIP do have a lot of strong (or potentially strong) options.  Paul Nuttall, Suzanne Evans and Douglas Carswell are the three that spring to mind, though one wonders if or how they would compete if Nigel re-contested the leadership.

What UKIP needs, I don’t think Nigel can deliver.  UKIP needs to keep on fighting the image war.  Every comment by every member is under a lot of scrutiny with most media companies looking to paint them as racist, misogynistic and down right loony.  Some too will spin them as as “old school Tories”; and that’s where Carswell, who is undoubtedly someone with wonkish promise might not be the best to serve as leader, given that he was a Tory MP under 1 year ago – the jury is probably still out on whether that would help or hinder a 120 seat, 2020 strategy, which would be heavily geared towards making gains in Labour heartlands.

But back to Nigel.  I have long thought that UKIP needs to undergo some measure of modernisation.  Not the ‘hug a husky’ abandonment the Conservatives went through under Cameron, but some polish and some updating.  I don’t mind the £ sign being central to the logo, but I do wonder if some people might look at it and wonder if it is not rooted in the battle of Euro vs Sterling which was settled some time ago.  Harking back to the past is another charge, one which actually means very little but because of it’s unspecific nature can sting, and colour how younger voters will view the party.  The UKIP website did get a much needed face-lift not too long ago, but it was well overdue and is still quite basic.

There are criticisms of Farage’s management style and tendency to want to keep loyalist close and drive out people of differing opinions.  I’m not too sure on this, as some tales seem too be rooted in bitterness, but I do think Farage is seen as polarising (as much as i’d like to go for a few pints with him) and in 2020 to get over that line in the key battlegrounds, a different face might better serve; though (as I said) I would hope Nigel would still play a key role and be out there campaigning.  If UKIP remains the “Nigel Farage show”, they may never push on.

The bottom line in politics is power and this means seats.  Nigel was in charge and rightly resigned for not winning his own seat.  UKIP can’t be a real sustained and relevant force in the UK if it can’t get it’s own leader elected to Parliament.  If they are not moving forwards, they are moving backwards and seat gains were a must at the past two General Elections, and the results from each total 1 seat, which arguably Carswell won by getting elected as a Tory and then being good as a constituency MP.

So, I hope some of the faces we’ve seen come to the fore for UKIP in past 5 years weigh up their chances, speak to colleagues and friends and see if within themselves there’s a successor that they might all get behind or if anyone has a compelling alternative vision they’d like to fight for and some vision for how to take the party forward will be spelled out.

That all said…

The 2017 Referendum

It’s with a heavy heart I type this, but I really do think the battle is all but lost already.  I speak of my personal desire to see the UK leave the EU.

There was a time when holding a referendum seemed like the best, fairest and logical way to highlight concerns about our relationship with the EU.  The democratic deficit, the rule by bureaucracy, the deceit in Westminster at who’s really in charge, the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy and how they have had a devastating affect on so many people.  UKIP have done an OK (not great, but OK..) job at highlighting how the UK can’t really make decisions on certain things, this is why they are viewed as the party against immigration, when the point was originally that none of the Westminster Parties could deliver on Immigration concerns whilst the UK remains rooted in the EU (and why the debate then gets shut down with mudslinging and name calling – to avoid the issue).

I doubt we’ll get this referendum by 2017, it is supposed to follow a UK renegotiation of our position within the EU.  I cannot imagine any deal where any of my top concerns about the EU get addressed, and I certainly don’t believe the EU will compromise on it’s core mission, that for ever greater union.  Nor do I believe they will concede any ground on the Unions tenet of freedom of movement for people, which is fueling our current national discussion on immigration.

I fear a sham campaign, where the forces for staying in will out-spend and out-organise what I already assume will be a disjointed and dysfunctional ‘Out’ campaign.  The media will line up in favour of staying in, probably even The Sun and The Mail who would on the surface have you believe their editorial line is “eurosceptic”.  Look too to other “eurosceptics” who’s opinions will be sought, such as Boris Johnson and think tank Open Europe and immediately it’s safe to assume they will campaign for an “In” vote.  This false positioning has been established in the wider consciousness, and though I do think that through common efforts this could be highlighted and more and more people will realise this, the truth is a couple of front page ‘exclusives’, a little electoral drama and we can all pretty much imagine how the final weeks of any campaign will already look.   Even if the vote does get close, the recent experience with the Scottish referendum shows that people can be swayed with a late offer to dilute the vote from *In or Out*, versus, *In, In with reform (i.e. some late offer) or Out*… the ballot paper of course will not change with these late developments.

Having only 1 UKIP MP in Parliament is also going to lessen the only party in Parliaments contribution to the debate.  The traditional three will all bicker, but all will campaign to stay in.

We’ll be stuck in the EU until UKIP can command Parliament to withdraw, or war, or something else as earth shatteringly huge.

None the less, let’s get stuck in.  Who know’s I’ve been wrong before, even as recently as last Thursday at 9.59pm.

So Long, Farewell…

The BNP went from about half a million votes in 2010 to less that 2,000 nationwide (and only 8 candidates) in 2015.

British politics will be much the better for their absence I should think.

The BNP grew under a system dominated by the Conservatives, Labour & Liberal Democrats, and have been killed off by UKIP.  Ignoring peoples concerns, however unpalatable to those in the Westminster bubble, is what gave fuel to that extreme party, by engaging, informing and promising to represent UKIP, as a non-racist party did the job.  Not that I expect that to be a widely held opinion with the Pollies or the Journos.

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