AV it!

Watching from a distance, it’s possible to view the campaign for the AV referendum with a detached amusement. But it’s becoming increasingly hard to stomach the ‘No’ brigade.

It’s perhaps not surprising that ‘No to AV’ is turning into one of the most dishonest and tendentious political campaigns in British history. For a start, it’s being engineered by the seconded chief of the Taxdodgers’ Alliance. Secondly, and more to the point, the only logical argument in favour of FPTP is that you favour a system that allows a party which 64 per cent of the population actively went out and voted against to have powers that would make a dictator blush. Not surprising, it’s an argument no one is making.

So we’re left with the smear and the half truth, both familiar to long-time observers of the Taxdodgers Alliance. The front page of the No to AV media webpage gives the game away – six smears against the Yes campaign, one ‘positive’ story – some F-list Tory sportspeople backing the no campaign (including such glittering luminaries as, err, pram-faced Fleetwood boxer Jane Couch)

They have a go at the Electoral Reform Society for, err, campaigning. In fact, our idiot boy Chancellor, Gideon Osborne, comes out with this gem

“The Electoral Reform Society – which is running some of the referendum ballots – stands to benefit if AV comes in because it could be one of the people who provide these electronic voting machines”

Erm, yes. Except we won’t need the machines because, in my experience, the bank clerks and social workers who count our elections can … err … count. And so what if the Electoral Reform Society did benefit? If its subsiduary, Electoral Reform Services, makes more money from clients (such as The Conservative Party, which runs its elections on a system that is a kissing cousin of AV) what will it do? Well, given that it is a wholely-owned subsiduary of the Electoral Reform Society, we can probably speculate that it will spend the money on … campaigning for electoral reform.

And David Cameron is equally dishonest and duplicitous, declaring falsely that under FPTP, all votes are of equal value. Are we to assume, then, that the Conservative party spends the same in marginal Morecambe as it does in safe-Labour Preston or solidly Tory Wyre? Well, fortunately, we have the figures. Wyre’s 71,612 voters had £7,179.16 spent on them by their Tory candidate (10p a head). Preston’s 61,025 voters received a lavish £725.75 (a tad over a penny apiece). For marginal Morecambe? £31,135.24 for 69,254 voters (45p). So, to David Cameron, your vote is worth at least four times as much if you live in a marginal than in a safe Tory seat. If you live in safe Labour territory? One 45th as much. The true figures, taking in cash from Central Office are, needless to say, likely to be even more damning.

It seems to Cameron, all votes are equal – but some are more equal than others.

Anyway, that’s quite enough logic and reason. Time to take a leaf from the ‘No to AV’ playbook, here’s the best negative argument yet against FPTP;

Anything that unites John Prescott, Margaret Beckett, Nick Griffin, Baroness Warsi, John Redwood and Norman Tebbit simply has to be a very, very bad thing

End of the world?

The tension is building – there are just a few hours left before England finds out it has blown its chance of hosting the 2018 World Cup.

OK, perhaps it’s a bit hasty to dismiss the bid already – after all, I do have previous for making duff predictions on such matters (although World Cup draw guesses have a more favourable record on this blog).

But, undeterred as always this is my take on the fields for 2018 and 2022

2018
Russia

Russia must host the World Cup one day. It’s one of the world’s most populous countries, football-loving (if not to the football-mad level of the three other bidders), cash-rich and with a plethora of large, international cities. But now? Ridiculous visa rules, limited transport infrastructure to link the disparate cities, complete lack of stadiums . . . after South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014, Russia is surely a gamble too far for Fifa. The fact Vladimir Putin has chickened out has been given a significance it perhaps doesn’t warrant. He was only going to be there if his country was nailed on to win – and it’s not. Verdict; second

Belgium/Holland
What’s not to like? Football-mad people, great cities, superb beer, it’s really hard to see why this bid hasn’t gained more traction. OK, the stadiums aren’t all there yet and some of the cities scheduled to host games are on the diminutive side, but it seems that co-hosting is counting against the BeneLux pair more than it is against Spain-Portugal which, when you consider how small the countries in question are, is hard to fathom. Verdict; fourth

Spain/Portugal
Seems to have stolen England’s thunder as the ‘safe’ choice. But it’s hard to see why. The countries are on the verge of bankrutcy, not all the stadiums are ready and one of the partners held a World Cup as recently as 1982. Still, the fabulous football of the Spaniards and positive memories of Euro 2004, not to mention the sound political connections of the Latin diaspora, seem to be putting them into contention. Still, the fact that one bookies was offering odds of 6/1 against them leaves a few doubts. Verdict; Winner

England
Should be a no-brainer. The most-watched league, the best stadia, first-rate commercial connections, very little needing to be done. OK, so the selection of Milton Keynes as one of the host cities stuck in the craw of some fans (including me). But the farcical way the bid had been managed by the FA, not to mention a complete failure to cut the right deals with the Fifa powerbrokers, has left the England bid team scrambling to stay in the race. David Cameron, Prince William and David Beckham might be the the most persuasive line-up of right-wingers this side of the 2012 Republican primaries, but they’ve got it all to do. Still, odds are shortening and perhaps there’s one lasty twist in this sordid tale yet to come. Verdict; third

2022 comments follow

PR man Cameron needs some PR help

Never thought the day would come, but ex-PR man David Cameron needs some PR help.
PR of the proportional representation kind, of course. He’s under the delusion that first past the post ‘works for the people of Britain.’
Well, Mr Cameron, it clearly didn’t work for the 64 per cent of the people of Britain who voted for a candidate not wearing a red rosette last time round. Nor the 57 per cent who never voted for his beloved Margaret Thatcher.
Cameron claims fair votes leads to backroom deals and ‘behind closed doors’ decision-making. And this is different to the current system how, exactly? The Parliamentary whip, the party line, would all be broken down were prime ministers forced to reach across party lines. Flights of fancy like the poll tax and the Iraq War would be much harder to pull off. Backbenchers would be beholden to the public, not the party machine.
Even the US, with its primary elections and the checks and balances provided by Congress achieve many of the same goals Cameron seems to keen to avoid. Ronald Reagan managed to govern with a Democratic congress. Does Cameron lack the confidence to try to lead Liberal Democrats to his way of thinking?
Low marks also for Ed Balls, the schools secretary, who trotted out the lie that PR reduces the link between the MP and his/her constituncy. If you follow the model imposed by Labour for Euro elections, he might just have a point.
But using a single tranferable vote, candidates are forced – absolutely forced – to work their consituency for all it’s worth. In a system where you have to compete with representatives of your own party for the public’s vote, you simply can’t afford to be a carpet-bagger. Why a Norfolk-born, Harvard-educated former FT leader-writer representing a former coal-mining community in Yorkshire should find this prospecy unappealing is…. well, draw your own conclusions.
And finally, proving Godwin’s Law once and for all, we have Norman Tebbit. He cites PR as a factor in bringing the Nazis to power. Not for the first time in his life, he’s talking out of his rear end. A quick look at the figures shows that the highest vote the Nazis ever polled was 37 per cent – keeping them in opposition under PR, but the kind of figure that hasn’t lost a British election in three decades. In fact, PR served, at least briefly, to keep Hitler in check and ultimately forced him to use undeomcratic means to seize power.
PR is, along with the economy, the key issue of this election. We can’t, in Mr Cameron’s words, go on like this. It’s time to join the grown-up world and give everyone a vote that’s worth something.

‘Thank God I don’t have to vote Tory’

Were those the words echoing in the ears of millions of voters on Friday morning? Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems appear to have the initiative, taking advantage of a collpasing Labour vote and pinning the Tories back to a total that’s barely better than they managed in 2005. It’s not quite a ‘Go back to your constituencies and prepare for government‘ moment, but Clegg’s party looks to be on the threshold of a major breakthrough to compare to its 1997 success, guaranteeing them seats at the next cabinet table, regardless of who is at its head.
I’ve long sensed that the Tories, just like Neil Kinnock in ’92, hadn’t sealed the deal with the electorate. Cameron’s Eton background and lack of real political pedigree, combined with the lumbering collective memory of the 90s ‘nasty party’ suggested that, while they may have enough votes for an overall majority, many of those casting their ballots would be holding their noses and hoping for the best. The more viable the Lib Dem alternative looks, the more likely it is to pick up votes – and with the way the latest polls are looking, could it be that the rise will be self perpetuating and the Lib-Dems getting towards the magical 40 per cent their polls say would vote Lib Dem if they thought the party could win?

More likely, in my opinion, is a slide back towards the main parties, leaving the Lib Dems perhaps targetting an extra 20 seats and getting within two or three points of Labour. So here goes. First prediction of the election;

Conservatives – 34 per cent
Labour – 29 per cent
Lib-Dems – 26 per cent

Most likely the Lib Dems will take seats where they’re currently second to Labour rather than surging through from third (look for Pendle as a possible, interesting exception). Also there would be a small Con to Lib swing, so a handful of tight seats could fall.

According to the excellent BBC election calculator, that leaves Labour as the largest party with 282 seats, 44 short of a majority, the Tories on 260 and the Lib-Dems on 79. And we’re into hung parliament territory with a vengeance…

Quick word on the previous post; Still no sign of Labour in Blackpool South, one leaflet from Ron Bell (couple of pics of David Cameron, tiny Conservative logo well below the fold and an oblique reference to Kensingtongate). The Lib Dems also remain conspicious by their absence.