On polling day, our democracy will fail spectacularly…

It really doesn’t matter what you think of Corbyn or May. All the manifestos, the (non) debates, the spin, vox pops and soundbites – all will have absolutely no effect. For in some two-thirds of constituencies the result is already known. Indeed, on the morning of 9 June, the returning officer will declare a Conservative as my own member of Parliament. I know this because for the last 67 years my constituency has always been Conservative regardless of who has the keys to number ten. Unless I vote Tory (and I most definitely will not), my vote will not matter.

Sadly, forgone conclusions like this make a mockery of our democracy. Unless you live in a marginal constituency, then you will have no influence on who forms our next government. But it’s even worse than that, for under our first past the post voting system, most of us will end up with a government that we didn’t want (no party since at least 1945 has ever won more than 50% of the popular vote).

Put another way, a relatively small number of swing voters, in a minority of parliamentary constituencies, will ensure 100% of the power goes to a party that is supported by less than half of those who voted. The winner will take it all; and democracy will have failed spectacularly.

Note: For information on proportional representation, please see Make Votes Matter and the Electoral Reform Society

Advertisements

And so it begins…the alarming prospect of five more Tory years

britain-20526_640

And so it begins…The general election campaign kicks-off officially today with when the current parliament is dissolved. As it currently stands, we face the alarming prospect of five more Tory years taking us towards a hard Brexit, with continued austerity, and the underfunding of our public services.

Calling the election has been a cynical, and well-calculated step by Theresa May. She knows things will get ugly as Brexit day approaches. I predict that she will not have secured a good deal (if any deal at all), the pound will fall further, inflation will be rising, and international companies will begin pulling out of London and elsewhere.

But she knows she has a massive lead in the polls, due in part to the continued in-fighting within Labour ranks; and a media, including it seems our BBC, that presents the Tories in a favourable light . Not only that but she will also avoid the embarrassment of a potential 20 or more by-elections if  Tory MPs are prosecuted for alleged election fraud.

And if this wasn’t cynical enough, Theresa May is refusing to debate anything on TV with the leaders of other parties. Instead she will settle for soundbites, and pro-tory articles in right-wing newspapers. Public accountability it seems, is not her thing.

Sadly, this unwillingness to engage in democratic debate will end up being to her massive advantage. She has everything to lose from debate, and nothing to gain. Indeed, in our flawed first-past-the-post democracy she will, unless there is some real shift in opinion, likely win well over half of the seats in the new parliament, with much less than 50% of the vote. What’s more, she will claim a mandate to pursue her hard Brexit with far fewer total votes than the number who voted “leave” in the referendum. Meanwhile, the majority of us – the ones who didn’t vote Tory – will have five more years to endure.

 

 

 

 

the year is 2024. this is our future history….

I shouldn’t be surprised, but I’m still shocked at what they’ve done to this country. It’s as if we’ve learnt nothing, even now, almost a quarter of the way into the 21st century.

Of course we new it could happen. After their election in 2015 the Tory government went on a rampage. Their first 100 days saw them put into place the powers needed to control the electorate and marginalise any opposition. First it was their snoopers charter, enabling electronic surveillance on a scale never before envisaged. Fear of terrorist attacks made it a popular move, and dissenting voices were ridiculed as soft, wishy washy, left-wing and unpatriotic. Of course this extra surveillance gave the government early warning of proposed campaigns and any unfavourable media reports against their agenda; enabling them to pre-empt and counter with tremendous effect.

Next came the anti-union legislation, coupled with new measures to speed up the privatisation of our NHS, social services, prisons, schools and colleges. Legal strikes proved almost impossible to organise; and new laws were brought in making it a criminal offence to organise unofficial action. Selling off the BBC was hailed as a golden moment by the Government and the media, all but wiping out any serious analysis of the government’s programme by the broadcast media.

Then we had further restrictions on what charities could say despite their rapidly growing role providing services that were once the job of the public sector; and in filling the gaps left by a series of severe welfare cuts.

The referendum that took us out of Europe the following year proved pivotal. Laws from Europe protecting workers and the environment were soon repealed, while a new British Rights Act was brought in based on so-called British values. This was big on rights to create wealth and own property; but proved totally ineffective at protecting civil liberty. Indeed, the right to protest was curtailed with limits on, among other things, the number of people that constituted a legal demonstration. Immigration was effectively halted; and many recent migrants chose to leave due to a climate of discrimination and hate that flourished in the post European era.

Alarmingly, the expected popular backlash against the government  never really materialised. A sympathetic media were very quick to undermine opposition leaders. labelling them as anti-British, against progress, and of course, left-wing. Their private lives were disrupted and some even criminalised for daring to organise protests. This soon become the establishment response; and sadly it gained traction in our increasingly divided society.

Most of us had pinned our hopes on the election of 2020, but the disappointment that night proved worse than in 2015. Despite securing an even smaller share of the popular vote than before, the Tories held on to power with a majority of two. Once again the first-past-the-post electoral system proved their saviour. The rebranded right-wing Labour party failed to make any headway, losing seats to the Lib Dems and to a confident Green party that secured over 7 million votes. 

For many of us the prospect of another five years of conservative policy was too much. By summer 2021 the Labour party had imploded. Three of its MPs joined the Tories, and a sizeable group refused the party whip. Many  activists simply resigned from the party. The only real opposition inside parliament was coming from a rump of whip-less Labour traditionalists, and an alliance of Green, SNP, Liberal Democrat and Paid Cymru MPs. Outside of parliament there were sporadic and sometimes violent protests, unofficial strikes and occupations at a number of universities.

But despite this period of unrest, the division between the haves and the have-nots meant that for the better-off half of the population, the country was a happy place. It was perhaps this fact, plus the relentless media messages and police harassment, that led eventually to the end of the unrest. People had grown weary and despondent. No doubt just what the government wanted.

Home owners, who by now were almost all aged over 40, were enjoying a surge in house prices; and landlords were exploiting their wealthier tenants like never before. Gated communities were proving popular; and a whole new service sector was springing up to cater just for their needs. Indeed the haves rarely needed to go far, with almost everything they needed being delivered to their secure and nicely painted doors.

But for those who could not afford to buy or rent anything decent, daily life was far from happy. Before the 2020 election there had been a growth in the number families sharing with others, pooling resources in order to get by. Housing co-operatives were now common, as was squatting. And in some cities whole areas were rapidly being dubbed the new shanty towns as homeless people improvised their own housing with boxes, tents, sheds, and caravans. Unsurprisingly with this hardship came poorer health, and reduced participation in education and civil society.

So with a year until the next election, Britain is a grossly unequal country. Social mobility is for much of the country, a thing of the past. But while the poor and vulnerable suffer and die, the better-off thrive and the wealthy propser. If you have money and property in 2024, you are well looked after.  

Personally I’ve been lucky. A reasonable occupational pension and a job with a charity means I don’t struggle. But I have no health insurance so the threat of serious illness always haunts me. Today I am joining some fellow activists. I expect we’ll be turned back a good mile from the fracking rig. But this ritual is being repeated by environmental campaigners all over the country on an almost weekly basis. If we are lucky the police will be expecting the protest at another fracking site, so we may get through. If we succeed, the plan is to stay until we are arrested.