Daily archives: June 1, 2009

We Need Proportional Representation

The current convulsion in our politics, and the meltdown in support for New Labour, will throw into sharp focus the risible unfairness of our electoral system. As a mechanism for representing the views of the British people, it plainly fails.

That is true in “Normal” times, where just 42% of the vote can hand a large majority in parliament to a Thatcher or a Blair. On the basis of this “Mandate” of a minority, they rule with breathtaking arrogance and utter disregard for the views of the majority who voted.

It is argued that this provides “Decisive” government. That is a misnomer. It provides domineering government with an inflated self-regard. It provides corrupt, inefficient, over-centralised and irresponsive government. For God’s sake, it provides the kind of crap governments I have suffered my entire life.

As New Labour goes into well-deserved meltdown, the inanities of our electoral system will become more apparent. You can find various swingometer predictive engines all over the web, but none of them copes too well with the effects of a three party system. Trust the back of my envelope instead.

New Labour benefits hugely from the concentration of its support into urban constituencies. A hundred of these rotten boroughs are virtually impervious to challenge. For the Tories to get a parliamentary plurality – more seats than New Labour – they need to get about 3 per cent more votes than New Labour.

But should the Liberal Democrats beat New Labour into third place at the General Election, New Labour will still on most scenarios get many more seats than the Lib Dems. If New Labour and the Lib Dems each polled 23%, at a general election, then New Labour would get approximately 80 more seats than the Lib Dems.

Get this – if the Lib Dems were to get 27% to New Labour’s 21%, astonishingly New Labour would still have around 40 more seats than the Lib Dems. In Parliament New Labour would still be the “Official Opposition”. with all the enormous privileges that postion brings over the third party.

In fact, you need a result which goes something like Conservative 41, Lib Dem 29 and New Labour 18 before the Lib Dems overtake New Labour in parliament and can become the official opposition.

Convinced of the case for reform?

There then comes the thorny question of which system should be adopted. I completely reject the AV+ system recommended by Roy Jenkins’ report, produced when Blair was pretending to be interested in constitutional reform. Any system which lets political parties decide the order of candidates on the “Party list”, and does not allow voters to choose between them, is Stalinist. We have this appalling party list nonsense in Scotland now, and the quality of list MSPs is abysmal.

I strongly favour Single Transferable Vote, as giving the most complete choice to the voter and much the best opportunity for Independents and small parties. Here, you have multi-member constituencies and a list of all the candidates. You rank them in order – 1,2,3,4,5etc, as far as you wish to go. So you can give your first prefence to an Independent, then a couple of Tories, then a Green, if they happen to be the candidates you like.

I support the Vote For A Change campaign, while having strong views on the direction I wish it to go. I rather liked this sentence from their launch statement:

Too many MPs seem more interested in changing their homes than changing the world.


Do sign up.

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Will Darling’s Eyebrows Finally Turn White?

Political Scotland is a small place. You can’t be a part of it without knowing people from the places in Alistair Darling’s life – Kirkcaldy, Loretto’s, Aberdeen University, Edinburgh City Council.

Exactly like his contemporary Tony Blair, Darling comes from of a wealthy Edinburgh family prominent in Conservative politics in the City. Like Blair, Darling went to one of Edinburgh’s most exclusive private schools.

I take the view that all members of the New Labour cabinet share guilt for the war crimes of aggressive war, torture, apropriation of economic resources, breach of the Geneva Conventions and many others. I detest New Labour with a vengeance for that, and for their assault on civil liberties in the UK. Darling is also much implicated as Brown’s No 2 in the deregulation of the Ponzi banking sector of the economy, which has caused such huge misery now.

But all that said, Darling’s reputation among those who know him, is of a very pleasant, even kind, man. He has other interests in life besides work and politics. He stands out for that in a governrnent full of truly unpleasant, thrusting careerists. Darling has served Gordon Brown with complete loyalty, and never given any hint that Brown was anything to do with the economic disaster that followed Brown’s lengthy Chancellorship.

Brown has several times today refused point blank to confirm that Darling will still have his job next week. If Brown has no intention of moving him, it would do no harm to say so. What purpose would be served by building suspense?

It would wrong to presume that this means Brown will sack Darling. Brown’s habit of intrigue is so ingrained he almost never answers any question openly. Bully Brown may enjoy the feeling of power from making people sweat over the reshuffle, in fear or in expectation.

Nobody believes Darling has had the slightest autonomy from Brown in running the economy. If Brown does indeed stab Darling, in a hopeless effort to save his owm political skin, it will be an act of treachery and monumental ingratitude, particularly as there is less than a year to the election anyway.

But then, nobody in Edinburgh is saying what a nice man Gordon is.

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You Are Not Alone

In May we had 79,321 Unique Visitors as measured by Statcounter. Pageloads is a much higher figure.

This despite some teething problems in switching over to a new server. Yet again, it is a new record.

You may also be interested to know that posts on my continuing work against UK complicity in torture attract the least readers. General foreign policy does a little better. The most popular articles this month were attacks on the right wing bloggers.

Quite an interesting month really. Got married, had a son, flew to Africa. You can’t complain nothing happens on this blog! Here’s a picture of Nadira to cheer you up. Cheers me up, anyway.


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Petraeus Admits US Airstrikes in Pakistan Worsen the Situation

I have been explaining that US policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and particularly bombings of civilian areas by drones, is causing a strengthening of fundamentalism in Pakistan.


There has been authoritative confirmation of this from an unlikely source. US General Petraeus has been giving evidence in support of Obama’s fight against the American Civil Liberties Union, to suppress further photos and videos of torture of prisoners, apparently including rape.

Petraeus’ evidence says that to release the torture material would further inflame opinion against the United States, when it is already inflamed by bombings and civilian casualties and anti-Americanism can be measured as increasing:

Public support for the U.S. is declining in Pakistan because of military strikes there that the U.S. conducts from Afghanistan, according to the top American commander in the Middle East.

“Most polling data reflects” an increase in anti-U.S. sentiment, General David Petraeus said, without identifying the source of the polling.

Pakistanis are angered by “cross-border operations and reported drone strikes” that they believe “cause unacceptable civilian casualties,” Petraeus wrote in court papers supporting President Barack Obama’s decision not to release photographs showing the abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan


The big question is, why does the US continue with a military strategy which they acknowledge is counterproductive and destabilising Pakistan?

Interestingly, apart from the Bloomberg report, there was almost no mainstream media coverage of this aspect of Petraeus’ evidence. His statement that to release the torture visual material would endanger US troops was widely reported, but almost nobody reported his views on the effect of US bombing on public opinion in Pakistan.

Petraeus has since been on Fox News and rather stunned them by arguing strongly for the closure of Guantanamo and respect for the rule of law – including the international law of armed conflict (he referenced the Geneva Conventions).

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