Month: April 2015

Electoral Reform Is British Politics Next Big Challenge

The single worst response I hear when asking people who they’re planning to vote for is “Labour to keep the Tories out” or whichever two parties it may be. In a democratic sense, it is genuinely sad that people feel the need to vote tactically in a general election that will affect them in most areas of their lives. There are huge issues in politics both in Britain and abroad and while overseas problems may prove to be trickier, a lot of the domestic dissatisfaction can be resolved by an overhaul of our unfair electoral system.

In the last General Election, the Liberal Democrats tallied a massive six million votes, which was nearly a quarter of all votes cast but they only won a paltry 58 seats – a quarter of what they actually deserved. Ironically, with the Lib Dems slumming it down at around 9% in the polls in the lead-up to the current election, they would actually obtain more seats under a system of proportional representation right now than they did in 2010 under First-Past-The-Post (FTPT), telling you all you need to know about how flawed and unrepresentative the current system is.

Not only has the current FPTP voting system proven to be irreflective of the British electorate’s views time and time again, those ‘chosen’ Members of Parliament then have to have their decision making ratified by a house of privileged Lords in the government’s upper house. To think that an entitled few can actually be given a genetic claim to government in 2015 in Britain is frankly obscene.

Unrepresentative… Parliament does not accommodate all of the nation’s views

An overhaul of Britain’s electoral system would not only deliver a more legitimate representative democracy, it would also address several key issues that plague British politics in the process. Firstly, there would be no majority governments – that might sound like an odd thing to list as a positive but hear me out. In a two-party system, which we currently abide by, we are usually dealt a majority Labour or Conservative government, and subsequently permission for either to implement their undiluted reckless ideologies. And when it doesn’t satisfy us, we elect the other one to do the exact same five years later. Doesn’t this sound like Einstein’s definition of insanity; repeating the same behaviour over and over again and expecting different results? The two main parties are now only commanding two-thirds of the popular vote, and I would bet a fair portion of that support comes from the fact they’re the only two that could feasibly form a government in this system. We, in the UK, have now embraced a more plural attitude to politics and our electoral system needs to evolve in tandem.

As a result, people will feel that their vote actually counts for something – because it will. In the current system, votes effectively count differently due to the simple accident of where you live. For instance, those in a safe seat have a far less valuable electoral opinion than those in a marginal seat – and nobody seems bothered by it. If we were, for argument’s sake, to switch to proportional representation the votes of each person would actually carry equal clout, voter apathy would decrease and the rise in drives for Scottish and Welsh independence would be lessened as more people would see their opinions manifested in parliament rather than a fleeting pressure in a capricious opinion poll.

Fair…How better systems would have changed 2010’s votes

In turn we would see the end of ‘tactical voting’. Democracy should never be about picking the lesser of two evils. Now the parties, and indeed the electorate, lack their former rigidity and don’t abide to a strict ideological conservative, liberal or socialist regime and rather diverge in to many political areas, there is less reason for a two party system that basically encourages people to champion who they dislike least.

We also need to focus on not allowing a duopoly of politics like we see in the United States, lack of pluralism in politics simply diminishes democracy. One of the best ways to achieve this is to set a cap on party donations. Is it really a coincidence that The Sun, the UK’s largest newspaper has backed the winning party of every election for over twenty years? Is it right that one of the world’s wealthiest and most influential men in Rupert Murdoch can berate his staff from the very same publication for not doing enough to turn the British electorate off of Ed Miliband? This influence is poisonous and manipulative and far from conducive to true democracy. Thankfully, the Liberal Democrats at least have committed to addressing this in their 2015 manifesto.

In reality, British politics is sick. And at this rate it will only be a few years before it is lying prostrate on its deathbed waiting for the plug to be pulled. Robotic politicians towing to party lines have certainly contributed but they are too victims of a system that makes it easy for the established parties to be complacent and retain power yet impossible for the smaller parties to do the same. Yes, the AV referendum was defeated in 2011 – but it was incredibly sketchy and in as short a time as four years, politics in this country has changed dramatically. I would personally rather we didn’t keep subjecting the nation to the unrestrained force of Labour’s reckless economics or the Tories’ callous social policy on the whim of a third of the voting public. Politics in this country is becoming increasingly opaque, in a time where transparency is the key to defeating political dispiritedness. Ironically, a change in system won’t benefit either the Conservatives or Labour, and they are realistically the only ones able to enforce it – and just as with everything in this tired, almost laughably archaic procedure, until either the Tories or Labour have an appetite for it, genuine democracy will merely remain a pipe dream.

Who Should LGBT+ People Vote For?

General Election fever is in full-swing. Different areas of society are being urged, swayed and pleaded with to vote a certain why. With that in mind, who should the LGBT+ citizens of the United Kingdom be voting for next month? Labour? The Lib Dems? The Greens? The major seven UK parties are all very different on their vision for the next steps in LGBT+ equality and here’s why;

The en vogue parties in the LGBT+ community right now are without a doubt the Labour party and the Green party, with the latter soaring in support from gay, bisexual and transgender people. In fact, just this week Peter Tatchell called out for us to vote Green next month to further the agenda of equality. Now, I have looked at the Green party manifesto and everything they want to do for the LGBT+ community is nice, fluffy and genuinely quite lovely, but too typically of them – vapid. There is very little substance to what they specifically would do to help those in the LGBT+ community. Bar misleading claims that Caroline Lucas was the one that drove the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act through the last parliament, the Greens actually have a weak case for the gay vote.

The Labour party are also being touted as champions of LGBT+ rights, despite failing to place Marriage Equality in their 2010 manifesto and even this year their offer is very slim too, only outlining an LGBT Rights Envoy to promote human rights internationally – a good idea but ultimately, it’s not a lot. Plaid Cymru make a positive contribution in their manifesto and are probably the second best choice in this election – with a clear strategy to tackle specific acts of LGBT+ discrimination in many different areas. Their nationalist counterparts the SNP are surprisingly quiet on the subject. In spite of being on the social left; they offer nothing more than an a mirror of Labour’s international ambassador plan. Unsurprisingly, the Conservatives, who probably think the work for LGBT+ equality is done with the passing of same-sex marriage under Cameron’s premiership, offer absolutely nothing specific in their manifesto. UKIP are similarly mute, they haven’t even pledged to increase homosexual activity during drought season. Apparently Farage’s “people’s army” is “not driven by the needs of differing special interests groups”. I guess his is a heterosexual people’s army instead.

Hero… Lib Dem Lynne Featherstone (left) was the biggest LGBT+ advocate in the last Parliament

Is this meagre choice really the best LGBT+ citizens can hope for from the next election? In my view, the answer is no. The real party for LGBT+ people is still plugging away and providing sound basis for a progression in equal rights – and they are the Liberal Democrats. We’re told we’re not allowed to trust my party – we’re simply poisonous in the media realms – not to be entertained on the back of one broken pledge, a mistake no other party has ever made. But just hear me out. In the Coalition government, the Lib Dems succeeded in implementing marriage equality, almost solely on the back of the pluck from former MP Lynne Featherstone. And this is just one example in a long, long history of the Lib Dems catering for LGBT+ needs. The preceding Liberal party was the first to introduce a gay rights section for policy, while the Lib Dems have actively supported drives to make the age of consent equivalent, protect LGBT+ asylum seekers from unjust criminal charges abroad and oppose the ban on teachers being allowed to disclose their sexuality.

Thankfully, the Liberal Democrats haven’t stopped there and the party has pledged even more for LGBT+ citizens in their 2015 manifesto. The Lib Dems want to extend the rights of co-habiting heterosexual couples to homosexual ones, include all relationships in qualification for Civil Partnerships, crack down on homophobic bullying in schools, make homophobic football chanting a criminal offence like racist chanting is, permit humanist weddings, seek to end the disgraceful  and unnecessary bans on blood donation for MSM, pardon those convicted of historical homosexual ‘offences’, and they even match the SNP and Labour’s pledge for an appointed international  gay rights advocate – and in greater detail too.  For gender non-confirming people, the party have pledged to introduce “X” gender markers on passports and eliminate the need for a gender dysphoria diagnosis to acquire legal gender recognition.

Equal rights for LGBT+ citizens is one of, if not my biggest passion in politics and the Liberal Democrats are simply streets ahead in this vicinity and have been for a long long time. I wouldn’t say this if I didn’t mean it and I wouldn’t have joined a party that didn’t put the drive for LGBT+ equality at the heart of their policy making. If you really want a conscious, caring, allied voice for non-heterosexuals in government for the next five years then don’t vote Green, don’t vote Labour, vote Liberal Democrat.

Manifesto Check

Where the parties stand on LGBT+ issues in their 2015 manifestos

LGBT2015

Student Disunion

#TrollTheNUS – https://www.facebook.com/events/1028359820527087/

Recently the National Union of Students (NUS) released their pre-general election campaign for 2015, a tradition that is supposed to mobilise the youth vote and champion student politics on a national stage – however this year’s campaign is less remarkable for the promotion of student involvement in the democratic process and more for partisan alienation of those who don’t subscribe to a very specific ideology.

The not so subtle smear drive against the Liberal Democrats for what is perceived as a betrayal over the issue of tuition fees in the 2010 coalition agreement is the focal point of their campaign. Seemingly angry at a perceived dent to student finances, the union has spent £40,000 of student money to whinge about it five years later – that costs more than your degree. The NUS is supposed to be an independent body that encompasses, reflects and supports the variant, diverse political views of student bodies up and down the country – and with that in mind, this campaign is disgraceful.

Truth... Tuition fee repayment under Labour and the Lib Dems

Truth… Tuition fee repayment under Labour and the Lib Dems

Firstly, let’s clear up any discrepancies over the Lib Dems controversial U-turn on tuition fees. I, even as a Liberal Democrat member myself have a major issue with the party’s failure to deliver the policy that was one of the focal points of our 2010 manifesto. It’s frustrating but concessions had to be made to form a stable government in a time where the economy was anything but. The less publicised version of events is that both the Conservatives and the apparently supreme student guardians Labour both opposed the abolition of tuition fees, so the policy was undeliverable unless the Liberal Democrats won an outright majority. After all, it’s probably a little silly to expect a party that was awarded just 57 out of 650 seats to enact their full manifesto as the junior party in a coalition government, but I guess that’s a discussion for another time.

Regardless of this shortcoming – which has been persistently apologised for by both the party and Nick Clegg by the way – the Lib Dems are still championing rights for students such as the delivery of the Pupil Premium and commitments to slash public transport costs for students dependent on the service. The point I’m making is a sense of Lib Dem abandonment of the student population is so far wide of the mark.

Clangers... Labour aren't student policy champs

Clangers… Labour aren’t student policy champs

The big issue of this campaign by the NUS is its blatant subterfuge. The union carries very cosy links with the Labour party. Does anyone else find it convenient that the SEVERAL broken pledges by Labour on tuition fees are ignored in this ‘student retribution’ campaign? They pledged to not introduce them, and then did so in 1998. By 2001 they were promising not to raise fees but went right ahead in 2003. Ten years later, the party want to reduce the fees to £6000, which will only benefit those students with more disposable income – just when you thought Labour couldn’t slink any further to the right.  Perhaps, the most staggering fact of all is that students are now paying back less in loans under the Lib Dems than they were under Labour, despite the heightened fees. Surely the NUS’ decision to turn a blind eye to all of these clangers by Labour on student politics has nothing to do with the fact that each NUS leader has been a Labour party member for the last thirty years running, and that the Lib Dems are traditionally their biggest competitor for youth support?

Look for yourself, the party’s each have their own ideas for student politics – some more than others. The NUS should place the impetus on students to explore their own political opinions and form an identity for themselves. They should not pigeonhole a group of people they’re supposed to represent in to a parochial parable that only serves their interests. The so-called National Union of Students has done nothing but disunite the student population by propagating votes for their chosen political ends on the back of a false pretence whilst typecasting 10% of the student population as supporters of poisonous liars.

Accurate... How the campaign should have looked

Accurate… How the campaign should have looked

Thankfully, an anti-campaign aiming to troll these biased perjurers is in place, you can donate money to the Liberal Democrats, if you’re that way inclined and not let the NUS manipulate you with senseless propaganda. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that this campaign is a disgusting betrayal of the student population, something they’re purportedly against. The only liars here are the NUS, they haven’t failed to deliver on a promise, they’ve tried to exploit student to further the power of their UKIP-lite overlords, they should serve the student population – not manipulate them.

#TrollTheNUS – https://www.facebook.com/events/1028359820527087/