Tuesday, June 30, 2009

One Year - or it's back to Square One

The Reform Act 1832 is often referred to as the start of modern democracy – abolishing rotten boroughs, giving seats to the industrial cities and extending the size of the electorate to 20% of adult men. It was also ferociously opposed by the Tories.

Why is this relevant? It is because EVERY item of constitutional and parliamentary reform over the last 177 years, whether it is secret ballots, votes for women, limiting the powers of the House of Lords, or assemblies for Scotland and Wales, has been opposed and argued against by the Conservative party. Once in power, the Tories generally don’t ‘un-do’ reform – but instead roadblock any further reform.

This is why it is essential that, in this last year before an election which seems destined to be won by the Conservative party, we move NOW on political reform. If the new Speaker wants to make improvements then he and the party leaders must get going on attempts now to make MPs genuinely accountable to those who elect them and to make parliament more representative and better able to scrutinise the government.

There have been a few sacrificial lambs and will be a few changes regarding expenses but if we don’t move now, then one year from now, David Cameron will be in Number 10, 400-odd MPs will just move from one side of the House to the other, the same old faces will settle back down in their safe seats, and nothing will happen! We will continue having a government with total power elected by the few and an unrepresentative and impotent parliament.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

York and Setanta

I haven't been updating lately as, like many of us, I have had a post-election campaign break. And, shock, I have had other things than politics on my mind.

We went to York for a few days. I work for the Local Government Ombudsman (on the administration side - so there's no conflict of interest as I don't investigate complaints) and previously all I have seen of York is the taxi ride from the station to our regional office and vice versa - and I have always thought it would be nice to have a few days off to see the sights in York. (We also have an office in Coventry - but I haven't really had the same interest).

York was very nice for a visit, lots of history and sights to see and recommended for a short break. Now preparing our next holiday - Normandy - to walk the D-Day beaches in October.

The other thing on my mind has been the demise of Setanta. For the last two years, in my continued resistance to the dish culture, I have subscribed to Setanta on Freeview and enjoyed the footy. Alas, like ITV Digital, they have now been forced to the wall.

Under competition law, Sky cannot bid for all the live Premier football. So the Setanta packages have gone to ESPN. And to watch ESPN, you have to, wait for it, subscribe to Sky! Something wrong there!

Hopefully there will be some non-Sky option to watch ESPN but there's a danger that Sky will resume a monopoly, indirectly, on Premier football as well as having got all the cricket.

Grumble over. Back to politics next entry! Is the expenses story still running?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Sing out loud - for STV

Mixed news for us in Kent. Our vote held steady, we gained one county council seat and are now the official opposition to the Conservatives as a result of Labour’s collapse. The problem is that we have only seven Councillors to oppose the Conservatives 74!

Every administration should have an effective opposition to keep it on its toes but how is this possible against such odds? I would like to know how opponents of voting reform can justify one party getting near complete power on just 40% of the votes.

Our Prime Minister appears to have made a death bed conversion to voting reform, but, not for the first time, it’s right question, wrong answer. We need a system by which the voter can choose between candidates of the same party – and not just have the one foisted on them by the parties. This is true freedom of choice.

Unfortunately the use of the party list and the election of the BNP's MEPs are giving PR a bad reputation. We must make a loud case for the far better option of multi-member constituencies and the Single Transferable Vote (and we must think of a more catchy name for it!).

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Meeting characters on their doorstep

Canvassing experiences can tell you interesting things about the people who have decided how they will vote.

Conservatives will look you directly you in the eye and say 'Conservative' in a forceful voice, as if to add, 'what's it to you' or 'what are you going to do about it?' As the Conservatives are the nasty party, then it stands to reason they must have some nasty voters.

Labour votes are very interested in shoes as they will quietly look at your feet, or their own feet, and whisper 'Labour' -as if to add 'please don't tell anybody'. I guess it's not the sort of thing you want too many people in Kent to know.

UKIP voters will stand to their full height, put on their Churchill expression, and boldly declare 'UK Independence Party'. You can almost hear the tones of Land of Hope and Glory.

Greens are very cheerful - as if to say the word 'green' brings on a smile - which it does I suppose.

Lib Dem voters (yes, there are quite a few ) will say 'Liberal Democrat' in a jocular tone - as if to add 'but I don't know why'. We must work more on our message.

I don't know what BNP voters would say (as I didn't meet any) but I imagine it's not repeatable.

Then you will get those who go on about expenses, corruptness and slam the door in your face. The fact that it was Lib Dems who exposed the expenses situation in the UK and the EU seems to have been lost. They will go down as non-voters.

Finally, you will get those that will say along the line of 'I have decided who to vote for but it is not your business but between me and the ballot box' in a pompous 'push off' sort of voice. They should be put down as Conservatives.

Friday, June 5, 2009

My result

Kent County Council - Swale Central
  • Mike Whiting (Conservative) 3,982
  • Alan Willicombe (Conservative) 3,849
  • Roger Truelove (Labour) 2,665
  • Ghlin Whelan (Labour) 2,168
  • Dave Manning (Liberal Democrat) 1,904
  • Keith Nevols (Liberal Democrat) 1,594
  • Sheikh Mihand (Official Monster Raving Loony) 566

Turnout - 33.4%

Considering we did no work in this ward, this was not too bad a result. Dave got 11.4% and I got 9.5%. As expected, long-time local councillor Roger Truelove lost his seat. In fact the Conservatives held five and gained two - so they now have all seven county council seats in Swale.

Despite our small numbers, we did a good campaign in our target ward - Swale West - where we increased our vote from 19.5% to 28.9% - although still well behind the Tories. Overall in Swale the Conservative vote percentage has been virtually identical to 2005 with Labour's vote crumbling and going to the smaller parties.

The whole experience of leafleting, canvassing and 'knocking up' was tiring but has been quite fun.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Vote, vote, vote!

It's now 9.30 am on election day and I am about to go to campaign headquarters to see how I can help get our voters out. I was up at 4.30 this morning (being a commuter I am used to early starts) to deliver 'good morning' leaflets for a couple of hours and now my wife and I have just returned from the voting station where I was able to vote for myself (and I hope she did too). I was relieved to see that my name was spelt correctly.

Isn't the European election form quite big? Took me a while to find the party I wanted to vote for.

Everyone - get out and vote today! And good luck to all the Lib Dem candidates.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

An unhappy customer

‘I am fed up and have no interest in any of you and you can tell your leaders that I won’t be voting because I am disgusted with the lot of you.’ Slam!

This was a highlight of an eventful Friday afternoon around Newington. After a lot of knocking on doors to be greeted by some don’t knows, it was nice to put someone down on the sheet as a definite ‘not voting’. So we won’t be calling there on Thursday.

Despite the recent negative publicity though, nearly everyone greeted me with courtesy and politeness. After all, if we were making lots of money out of expenses, we would be doing something different with our Friday afternoons.

Saturday was a day off to enjoy the cup final with a beer or two. Then Sunday back onto the leaflets as we go into the eve of poll and the last lap.

Two days to go. Everyone get ready to vote!