Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Where now for a liberal-leftie?

May 11th, 2010

So, the bird has gone to roost in the tree; it remains to be seen whether it will prune back the branches to make a nest, while proudly displaying its plumage, or if it will soon give leaf itself, and become indistinguishable from its new home. While the former situation may make me feel happier in the vote, it also increases the chance that tree and bird will fall out, possibly bringing the whole metaphor down with them.

When the prospects of a Liberal Democrat – Conservative coalition first began to become a practical possibility, rather than a theoretical one, I was initially horrified that the paint may have been flaking of my yellow vote to reveal the blue underneath. It was a popular sentiment. When I tweeted “If the Lib-Dems do team up with the Tories, it will be like a twist in a film when you realise one of the heroes is the bad-guy.” It was rapidly picked up and re-tweeted (forwarded) around the Twittersphere by over 160 people. Clearly many like me felt betrayed, and worried that all the talk of “A vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for the Tories” would turn out far more literally than they may have expected.

However, as time passed it became clear that options were few. While many of the left looked on at a prospect of a grand liberal coalition, the numbers would have been tight, and an already aggressive right wing press would have been attempting to destroy the coalition before parliament was even seated. It was also clear that several senior members of the Labour party were opposed to the proposition, raising the prospect that internal rebellion would seriously threaten the stability of an already precarious position.

The battle was enough to secure a key concession from the Conservatives though, matching Labours offer of AV. With that my most major opposition to the Lib-Con pact was abolished, although I hope the Liberals keep the pressure on to ensure that the changes go through. The situation wasn’t ideal, and I wasn’t about to pretend I was happy with it, but when the cards are dealt you have little choice but to play.

I still worry though. The Conservative party holds vastly more seats than its little pet bird, and I fear that they may get dragged into the fold. Sacrificing ideals for stability, for want of being heard, or for want of power. Furthermore, it is hard to deny the rightward drift of economic policy in the party over the past few years, and it seems possible that the shelter of the leafy boughs of the Conservatives will catalyse this further. Which leaves a problem, if yellow and blue become indistinguishable, either through incompetence or power-grabbing, where next?

Labour may seem an obvious choice, however their dubious record on civil liberties leaves me concerned. While a few back bench rebels still buck the authoritarian trend, the ability to vote for one of them will largely depend on which consistency I end up voting in.

The Greens are considerably to the left of most the mainstream parties, both socially and economically. However, the party occasionally allows its policies to be driven more by ideology than evidence, leaving a few dubious decisions in their science policy. Fortunately they do appear to be attempting to address these in response to criticism in response to their European Election manifesto. Additionally I can’t help but feel that some of their policies seem impractically naive, however this may just be a side effect of their considerable contrast from the mainstream parties. That said, after the election I discovered that my local Green candidate was following Ben Goldacre on twitter, something that had I realised before-hand would have likely persuaded to switch my vote to her.

So where does that leave me? If the AV vote system does get introduced, at least I will be able to vote for who I want, even if they are a minority party. I must admit I am unfamiliar with many of the other minority parties, although know I rejected the Scottish Socialist Party on the basis of their belief in an independent Scotland. (I rejected the SNP on similar principals) It also doesn’t help that most discussion of neo-liberal economics, Keynsian economics etc. just causes my brain to melt. To actually try and work out if it a) is ‘morally’ acceptable and b) will work, is sadly a bit beyond me.

And that’s that, an entry that tails of into navel gazing hand-wringing. How fucking Lib Dem of me. If you want to preach your party, you are welcome to do so in the comments. I’m genuinely interested.

(Note: First time comments will need to be approved manually. I’m not blocking, I’m just being slow.)

Not in my name

Jun 9th, 2009

Sixty-five years ago 160,000 troops landed on the beaches of Normandy to drive back the forces of fascism, and to protect the freedoms that they held to be important. Thousands of others worked behind the scenes to provide the ships necessary to co-ordinate such an astonishing feat, not to mention those involved in the concurrent air assault.

On Sunday, the UK elected two members of the British National Party to the European parliament.

Already, many words have been written by people vastly more knowledgeable and articulate than me. Members of both the left and right have expressed the disappointment, anger, and sorrow at such an event. On Monday, and late Sunday, Twitter swarmed with people discussing the result and its implications, and for most of the day BNP was the top trending topic, with many other related terms putting in an appearance further down the list. Blogger Anton Vowl considered how some of the failures of New Labour led to this situation, not through any particular success of the BNP but through the apathy of other voters. Others, in their frustration, threw eggs.

I shall not be re-hashing these arguments. They are elsewhere and the points have been made. I shan’t be throwing any eggs, our position against the BNP is stronger than that; we don’t want to re-enforce their delusions of martyrdom. I will however say this: The BNP don’t speak for me. They claim they represent average Britions; I’m British, they don’t represent me. They claim they wish to make Britain great, but in doing so attempt to destroy the things I love about this country. We are better than this. The BNP may talk of “stemming and reversing the tide of non-white immigration” but they do not do so in my name. hnh

Anti-racism and fascism organisation, ‘Hope Not Hate’ is collecting signatures1 to deliver to the European parliament to show that the BNP do not speak for all British people. If you feel that the BNP do not speak for you, and wish to make your feelings known you can find the petition here.

  1. I sign this out of my own moral revulsions that I have become associated with these people by virtue of nationality. The petition is not an attempt to overturn the democratic process. []

Weddings

May 26th, 2009

On Saturday I attended my first wedding of the year. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, and the whole thing went off seemingly without a hitch to the various guests assembled. Well, apart from the bride’s car breaking down, but what would life be if it couldn’t mimic a sitcom every once in a while. But in short, everyone was in a great mood, and the whole thing proceeded with a genuine sense of warmth, which was down to more than just the weather.
The fact that the happy couple were tying the knot wouldn’t come across as a surprised to anyone there. They had been together for many years already, and to anyone who knew them their marriage had become a matter of when, not if. Two people recognising and celebrating the fact that they love each other, what else could be more deserving of celebration?

You’d think so anyway wouldn’t you? Except for some people, a change of one small detail, one which I have in fact neglected to even mention in full, would change the above situation from something which should be celebrated, to something which should be prevented.

Today the Californian Supreme court voted to uphold Proposition 8, a dark stain which had made Obama’s victory in November, somewhat bitter-sweet. For the 52% of Californian voters who gave their support to the legislation, gender is far more important than love when it comes to marriage. Seemingly “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” bears a footnote ensuring that it is somewhat tempered if you happen to love someone with the same genitals as you.

“The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.”
Earl Warren 1891-1974
Governor of California 1943-1953,
Chief Justice of the United States 1953-1969

Of course, America has been through this all before, albeit in a slightly different guise. It has been 42 years since Earl Warren, a Californian, overturned Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act, and ended race based restrictions on marriage throughout the US. I’ve borrowed a quote from him, which is as valid now as it was then, and I hope that he’d approve of its usage in this context, even if it would distance him from 52% of voters in his state, and countless members of his Republican party.

Political Compass

Apr 22nd, 2009

I first played around with the political compass a few years ago, and was vaguely worried that I may have betrayed my old self, and have darted to the far right without quite realising it. As it happens I haven’t, and indeed I think the score is somewhat more extreme in the other direction than it had been previously.

Your political compass
Economic Left/Right: -7.88
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -8.62
Political Compass

Now in practice of course I realise that asking everyone to march to my drum would be ineffective, impractical, and immoral. While I’m not prepared to indulge every contradictory philosophy, finding some abhorrent, and still others mutually exclusive, I realise that expecting everyone to become raging liberal-lefty is not going to work in political terms, or even practical terms. As a result were I ever to become a mainstream politician, I’d probably have to take a bit more moderate a position. This is probably why I’d never be a mainstream politician.

There are also many points raised on which my opinions are far more nuanced than a four point scale will allow. I don’t think this changes my idealism in my approach to them, but believing something is a good idea is still fundamentally separated from knowing how to implement it. I also realise that any ideas I may have will almost invariably need to work in our current social climate, and complete political upheaval required to achieve some ideals will cause more problems than it solves. While I may be less than enamoured by the pandering to popularism democracy results in, I’m far less keen on many of the alternatives which have been seen. I may very well love everyone to live governed by rules of sunshine and happiness, but unfortunately I fear that the rules of Kalashnikovs and power would find a way to take hold.

One question intrigue me, and I’m not sure I see it as a left-right argument.

There is now a worrying fusion of information and entertainment.

The question itself could be interpreted to apply to many facets of the modern entertainment and information industries. I’m currently a big fan of Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe, but should that push me more to agree or disagree? The program is entertainment undoubtedly, but also informative, but paradoxically one of its prime thesis is to attack the way in which the news has allowed the need to deliver facts to be hijacked by the need to entertain. Is there hypocrisy in this situation? Secondly, infotainment has been one of the primary driving forces of the web and internet, with sites like Wikipedia being both methods of entertainment and sources of information. While I think letting entertainment get in the way of your facts is a Bad Thing™ I don’t think I could say the same for the reverse, although perhaps the end result is inevitable.

Watching the surfers

Jan 4th, 2009

Right, its Sunday so here I am living up to my new year promise. Probably a bit sketchy today, as I’m more focused on my train journey back to Edinburgh tomorrow. Last time I checked they were still clearing debris from the West Coast Mainline, with delays of up to an hour. According to the info on Nationalrail.co.uk this should be sorted by Monday. But we shall see.

However, rather than complaining about the rail service (which would be rather unfair given the circumstances in this particular incident) I’m instead directing my eye at the governments proposed crime fighting Internet and phone database.

For those of you not in the know this will stop short of archiving the content of messages (Thank Cod!) “but would have details of sites visited, along with senders, times and recipients of e-mails and calls.” Which frankly, in many cases is enough. While the government clearly hopes to catch communications with osamabinladen@hotmail.com (yes, I realize that it will be somewhat more complex than that) they’ll also be building a database that will reveal a huge ammount of information about ordinary citizens.

But perhaps more worrying is that the government is even outsourcing this work. So not only will the govenment have access to this information, but also the random company to which they outsource it. And while the government promises harsh fines if the data is misused, that wont exactly help those who have had their data leaked. And all this before we even consider someone leaving a laptop in Starbucks.

I realise that the most of these records exist already, kept by ISPs and telecoms services. I realise that the police can already gain access to many of these records. But it strikes me that a central database only makes breaches of security more valuable to those who obtain the data, more wide reaching, and very possibly more likely.