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Archive for the ‘Political campaigning’ Category

May 24,2010

There are Presidential Elections in Colombia at the end of this month.  Whilst there are no doubt attempts to influence the result through scare tactics, the country’s Defence Minister has warned that “hackers plan to disrupt” the Elections.  This apparently follows an attempt to disrupt the legislative elections that were held in March that affected the company hired to transmit the results over the internet and explains why the head of the National Electoral Council has said that the voting system is “falling apart”.  However, his solution was to propose a wider use of electronic voting systems, which would not obviously deal with the problems if there are concerns about people hacking into the existing systems.

It certainly raises questions about whether enough work has been done on the protection and security of electronic voting systems and of electronic counting systems like those used in the London Mayoral elections.

May 18,2010

The LibCon coalition government is in danger of getting a reputation for trying to gerry-mander Parliament.

First, it pledges to protect itself from being thrown out of office by proposing the 55% rule, which would overturn the centuries-old process whereby a Government defeated (by one vote not 65 votes) in the House of Commons had to resign.

Now, we are learning more about the proposal to pack the House of Lords with coalition supporters.  Last week, I reported that the coalition agreement between the Tories and the LibDems talks about the House of Lords in the following terms:

“In the interim, Lords appointments will be made with the objective of creating a second chamber reflective of the share of the vote secured by the political parties in the last general election.”

And speculated:

“So this sounds – in the short-term – like a proposal to create 96 new Liberal Democrat peers and 77 new Tory peers (assuming no Labour ex-MPs are appointed to the House and the Crossbench numbers remain the same) so as to reflect the votes secured in the election.”

The Times confirmed this yesterday and speculated that the first wave of appointments would be soon and listed possible nominees. 

The LibDems are in an ecstasy of excitement about the possible preferment on offer.  Apparently, they have already had “an election” to choose their nominees and LibDem Voice has the top thirty lucky winners – headed by my old friend, controversial Brian Paddick, the former Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropoltian Police and LibDem Mayoral candidate for London.  However, (and this could only be the LibDems) the validity of this election has already been called into question and other LibDems are describing the names as “odious”.

However, this triumphalist bickering misses the point.

The new coalition already commands 37% of the seats in the House of Lords.  This is in practice a working majority, as the non-political Crossbenchers who comprise nearly 30% of the House do not vote as a bloc and turn out less frequently.

The previous Government never had more than 30% of the seats in the Upper House and was regularly defeated by a combination of Conservative and LibDem peers. 

It had previously been agreed that following the departure of most of the Hereditary Peers, there should be approximate parity between the two main Parties in the Lords (and, in practice, it took nearly ten years after the election of 1997 for Labour to have the same number of Lords members as the Conservatives) .  This was to avoid a situation in which the Government of the day would ever have an automatic majority. 

This convention is apparently now to be set aside.

While the House of Lords exists in its present form, its raison d’etre has been its ability from time to time to challenge the Government and make the House of Commons think again about the details of legislation – in a recent session approving 3,000 amendments to Government Bills.

This rigour is too much for the new Coalition – so their response is to pack the House of Lords with their own supporters.

Most people would call that gerry-mandering.

I couldn’t possibly comment.

May 9,2010

There is a certain amount of hysteria in various quarters as to why Gordon Brown is still Prime Minister and is still at Number Ten.

Yes, of course, Labour “lost”  the General Election.  It lost its overall majority in the House of Commons by losing 91 seats.  No-one is arguing about that.

Equally, no Party “won” the General Election.  The Tories gained seats, but not enough to give them an overall majority in the House of Commons.

And just for the record the LibDems lost seats.

So we are now witnessing what happens in most other countries after a General Election – especially those where they have PR-based elections – negotiations between the political Parties to see whether an administration can be formed that can command a majority in Parliament.

But, in the meantime, the Queen’s Government must continue.

So – as is the norm – in every other country where they go through similar processes the out-going Government remains in power on a caretaker basis until they are either confirmed in power or a new administration is agreed.

The Cabinet Office has strict rules as to what Ministers can and cannot do during such a period.

Britain cannot go unrepresented internationally.  There are key meetings in Brussels in the coming week of EU Foreign Ministers and EU Finance Ministers.  Britain will need to play its part in these.  So Ministers will attend, but will keep their counter-parts in the other Parties fully informed throughout.

That is right and proper.  It is not Labour clinging to power.  It is Labour playing its appropriate part in a constitutional process.

May 7,2010

The Conservatives must be mightily disappointed with their performance on Thursday in London.  The assumption had been that the “conspicuous benefits” of having a Tory Mayor in the capital would produce substantial gains for the Conservative cause when it came to voting in the General Election.

And what actually happened?  There were, of course, some major  scalps – for example, Martin Linton in Battersea, Tony McNulty in Harrow East and Andrew Dismore in Hendon.  However, the Conservatives were hugely disappointed not to beat Karen Buck in Westminster North, Andy Slaughter in Hammersmith, and Sadiq Khan in Tooting.

Labour still holds more Parliamentary seats in the Capital than all the other Parties combined – so much for the Tory target of forty or more seats in London.

The counts in the local elections are not yet complete (hardly started in some instances), but we already know that Labour has taken control of the Boroughs of Harrow and Enfield that were previously Tory-controlled.  (I make no comment on the huge Labour victory over the Liberal Democrats in Islington or Labour’s increased majority in Haringey, as in both of these the Tories were totally irrelevant.)

Boris Johnson and his Mayorality delivered worse results for David Cameron than almost any other Region of England.  some people are already speculating about a hidden agenda (“It’s all gone tits up, call for Boris” indeed) ….

May 7,2010

I had always understood that the rule used to be that provided an elector had turned up at the polling station by 10pm they would be allowed to vote.  If the queue stretched outside the polling station, then a presiding officer would go outside and stand at the end of the queue – anyone arriving later would be refused a vote but all those queuing before 10pm would be given ballot papers.

So what went wrong today?

It looks as if the Electoral Commission have taken it upon themselves to tighten up the rules by saying that only those to whom a ballot paper had actually been issued by 10pm would be allowed to vote.  This is demonstrably unfair because if local council election administrators fail to employ enough polling station staff there will be queues and the problems we have seen tonight will occur.

I hate to be partisan but who runs Sheffield City Council (where the problems were first reported)?  The Liberal Democrats.

May 6,2010

The news that Nigel Farage survived a plane crash earlier today prompted a sick thought.  (I should immediately say that I am hugely relieved that Nigel Farage survived and that his pilot may not have been as badly injured as at first feared – I may not like Farage’s politics but he is certainly a lively adornment to political discourse.)

The sick thought was that had he been killed the election in the Buckingham constituency would have been void and would have had to be re-run.  This would have meant that John Bercow would definitely not have been returned to Parliament in time for the first session of the House of Commons on 18th May when the first business will be the election of the Speaker.

I have no idea if the procedural textbooks would have provided a solution allowing Speaker Bercow to be reelected in absentia.  However, I am sure those many Conservative MPs who seem to have an abiding hatred of Speaker Bercow would have not been able to resist the temptation to elect an alternative.

Now they’ll have to wait and see who it is that the electors of Buckingham return tonight.

May 6,2010

After voting, I spent the morning campaigning in Wood Green in one of the wards that will be pivotal in determining whether Haringey Council remains Labour and whether LibDem Lynne Featherstone is replaced as MP by Labour’s excellent Karen Jennings.

I  had originally intended to work today in Hornsey Ward – the area I represented for 24 years until 2002.  However, I was told that they already had at least forty committed helpers there alone – a support level never achieved in the six local and seven national elections that I remember in that Ward.

In Wood Green, amongst the electors that I saw, not only was the Labour vote holding up, but also there was an enthusiasm to vote that was extremely encouraging.

Again, there was only a minimal Tory presence – it amounted to a gas-guzzling car parked outside the polling station with a large Conservative poster on its side and the engine running in case the parking attendants came by.

May 6,2010

Members of the House of Lords are like convicted prisoners and people detained under the Mental Health Act – we don’t have a vote in UK Parliamentary elections.  I am tempted to believe that when the franchise was framed those drafting the legislation equated the inside of the House of Lords with a penal establishment or a lunatic asylum.  However, I expect the real reason is that as we are already Members of Parliament we do not need further representation in the House of Commons.

We do, however, get a vote in elections for the European Parliament and for local elections.

So this morning I was able to play my part in the democratic process.  It also set a test for Haringey’s electoral administrators as to whether I would be issued with the right ballot paper – a test I am pleased to say they passed without me having to prompt them!

I cast my three votes, of course, for the three Labour Council candidates – all of whom will make excellent councillors if elected.

Two notable features.

First, the polling station was busy.  The presiding officer, who has been presiding there for as long as I can remember, said it was the heaviest morning voting that she could recall and that there had been people waiting outside to vote at 6.50am.  So, it looks as if there is going to be a high turnout.

Second, there was a complete absence of the Tory Party.  There were tellers outside the polling station from Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, but no Conservatives – even though this was a constituency that was continuously Conservative up until 1992.

May 5,2010

One of the lessons of the 2010 General Election seems to be that the Prime Minister should be very careful before opening his mouth in front of a microphone. 

It has now emerged that at a rally on Saturday the Prime Minister was caught calling one of his senior female Party colleagues “a prostitute”.  He subsequently denied it saying, first, that he was calling the microphone “a prostitute” and then later that he was really very friendly with the colleague concerned and that the reference to her as “a prostitute” was jocular. 

The senior Party official concerned has said that she wasn’t near enough to the Prime Minister to have been the subject of his remark …..

The General Election is, of course, the General Election in Mauritius.  The Prime Minister is Navin Ramgoolam and the senior Party official is Nita Deerpalsing.  But you knew that already, didn’t you?

May 4,2010

Most political commentators are now hedging their bets in terms of what will happen after the General Election.  Nick Robinson talks about a “growing expectation” that David Cameron will be Prime Minister but then fudges it by saying that we “can’t know the outcome”.

I am prepared to make a firm prediction, however.  If the polls stay as they are and there are no last minute shifts, there WILL be a Tory Government with a small (10-20 seats) majority.

And what will happen then?

It is pretty easy to predict that too.

An emergency budget within weeks in which Chancellor George Osborne (and doesn’t that strike terror in the heart?) will solemnly tell the nation that “the books are so much worse than we expected”.  So VAT up to 20% (maybe 25%) and an immediate public sector jobs freeze and pay freeze (if not a pay cut) coupled with a massive reduction in budgets and a suspension of most public sector capital spending.  This will be softened by an emergency Bill to “enable” the “Big Society” (or the post -bureaucratic state as they originally wanted to call it).

This will enable the Cameron Government to tell the public that they don’t need to worry about the cuts in schools budgets or the collapse of SureStart or whatever else it might be, because local effort can provide alternatives or keep things going.  Hopi Sen brilliantly explains what the impact of the Swedish Schools model would mean and Luke Akehurst has the reality of “The Big Society”.

In practice, very few people will have the inclination or the opportunity to organise alternative “community-led” provision and those that do will not be the low-paid, the marginalised or the dispossessed.  And they certainly won’t be those whose families are hit by the job losses in the public sector or the double-dip private sector recession that will be precipitated by an Osborne emergency budget.

Meanwhile, Cameron’s small majority will give disproportionate influence to the fanatic Euro-sceptics and climate change deniers in the Parliamentary Conservative Party.  To keep them sweet, the UK will become totally marginalised in Europe and allied with the Sarah Palin wing of US politics – the result will be the forfeiture of Britain’s position in the world.

So an isolated, bankrupt nation with devastated public services beckons after Thursday.

It is not an enticing prospect, is it?

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to happen.

Yes, there will be a Tory Government according to the present polls.

But, there is still time.  It only takes one in thirty Tory voters to realise that the Conservatives are still “the nasty Party”, one in ten of those flirting with the LibDems to realise that Nick Clegg is really Cameron-lite and decide they don’t want to help him deliver a Conservative Government, and one in ten of those that were planning not to bother to vote to realise what is at stake and that their vote matters and that their really can be “a future fair for all”.

It is not that many and all that needs to happen is that they listen to this in the next twenty-four hours.