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The USA presidential election was interesting, because there was the… - Sally's Journal
April 24th, 2005
09:51 am

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The USA presidential election was interesting, because there was the big question of whether the Bad Guy or the Good* Guy would win. The UK election is more depressing, as it's a long slow wait to see whether the Old Bad guy or the New Bad Guy will win. How are you supposed to have hope about the outcome of something like that?



Labour have gnawed away at civil liberties, and universities, been a lapdog to america and blindly gone to war on a lie with no support from anyone but their american cronies. The Tories are running the most objectionable election campaign I've ever seen**, and show no signs of wanting to change Labour's course on the issues of ID cards or top up fees. I'd be pushed to choose between them.

I'm not even sure I want the lib dems to win. I mean, obviously it's better than either of the above two outcomes, but I'd much rather they got a couple of years in opposition as a training ground than got thrown straight in at the deep end and then thrown straight back out again for not being used to being in government (Although how hard can it be to run a country? ;-) ) However, as there is no way this is going to happen, worrying about it seems a bit pointless.

In that sort of climate, is it any wonder that people don't care? Don't vote? Watch the world changing for the worse but think there's nothing they can do about it? War protests, student protests, even fox hunting protests*** have all been ignored. Election promises of 9 years ago have been studiously forgotton once power was won. A vote for anything but the two bad guys feels overwhelmingly pointless in the majority of the country. A vote for *anything* feels pointless when life has trained you to believe everyone is lying for your vote.

I have a dream where all game theory is stripped out of the electoral system. Where instead of voting to keep people out, or voting because its how you've always voted, or voting because there's no point voting for anyone else except the Torys and everyone knows they're worse, people just vote for the party that's closest to what they believe in. I'm not even saying this has to be for proportional representation (although I think that would shift people closer towards doing this) - if people just shook off the politics of politics, listened to what the parties are saying (rather than what the tabloids say the parties are saying) and voted for what they wanted maybe even results of the first past the post system would change.

Of course, the worry is then that you end up with a country being run by BNP fascists. But what can you do if that's what people really believe in? I'm very dubious over any comment along the lines of "these people are not educated enough to vote" although it's something I find myself longing to say so often. Or perhaps "these people arn't social**** enough to vote" But if 60% of the country really do just want to live off what they've earned and leave the other 40% to starve do we have any right to insist they help other people?

And, having travelled round and round in endless electronic circles, we come back to the quandry of how do you make people care about other people. How do we put them in touch with a basic humanity***** that makes then want to let in asylum seekers, pay more tax, let poor people have free healthcare? Some days I doubt it's there at all in the majority of people. And then I remember the great outpouring of money that came from this country after the tsunami. I know that somewhere hidden in this country some people do still care about other people. But it seems to be something the main parties politicians haven't exploited at all in this campaign...

...which makes me worry, as they seem prepaired to exploit anything that will work, no matter how evil. So maybe it isn't there to be exploited.

*For which you may read "slightly less bad" if you want.

** As an aside, do go and read smhwpfs marvelous post about immagration

*** I don't think I'm right about everything

**** Christian? ;-)

***** Is it even a basic humanity? I think it's a good thing, but what if we've been bred be evolution to just look out for ourselves and our family

(28 comments | Leave a comment)

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From:lavendersparkle
Date:April 24th, 2005 10:42 am (UTC)
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I hate to admit this, but Conservative party policy is to abolish tuition fees. Of course this doesn't excuse for a second their election campaign which I've found really detestable.

I think that people are nice deep down it's just the way that the issues have been framed (see my earlier paranoid rant). There's few better examples of this than the Tory candidate who campaigned for a failed asylum seeker to stay, then photoshoped the photo in his election leaflets to make it look like he was campaigning for tighter migration controls. It's important to challenge people's views, for instance I'm quite a bad person to sit next to on a train reading the Sun.

As an aside, it is worth voting Lib Dem in South Cambridgeshire as Lib Dems are second and we'd need a 17.4% swing to win it. I also don't think that worrying that we'll enter government immediately is really a good reason not to vote for us as it's not that likely.
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From:atreic
Date:April 24th, 2005 11:00 am (UTC)
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Conservative party policy is to abolish tuition fees

Well, err, yes *blush*, but they do plan to make students loans charge commercial rates... I think it's just the whole general attitude that I don't see changing.

Do you know anyone in CSLD from Girton? I've got the whole of the college to flyer for South Cambridgeshire next week, as well as my exams... :-(
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From:ilanin
Date:April 24th, 2005 11:03 am (UTC)
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What, that the people benefitting from higher education should pay for it, when they can afford to do so, on the grounds that somebody has to because it doesn't pay for itself.

This, you see, is because the Conservatives and Labour have to put together proposals which are econmically feasible and costed since there's a chance they might have to implement them. The LibDems know nobody is going to look that closely so they don't bother.
From:don_corio
Date:April 24th, 2005 11:41 am (UTC)
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Higher education should be a priority to any government: on a utilitarian level alone, as Britain is losing its economic and political place in the world because we lack skills. Those academics that we do train can make better money in America, and so do. Free HE should also be a priority because of its civilising and mind-expanding effect. People should not be put off education because of the cost. People should not be saddled with a life-time of debt for improving their minds.

The idea that, because education cost something, the "consumer" should pay is, frankly, laughable. If the same rationale is applied to cancer care, then it loses all force - indeed it is morally objectionable. Cancer patients could take out loans to cover their hospital bills (if of course, they could find someone to loan them the money), as someone has to pay for them. No-one has suggested this as NHS policy yet, though.

The Liberal Democrats are in fact the only party whose costings stand up to external scrutiny; a summary of their costings is available here: http://www.libdems.org.uk/media/documents/summarycostings.rtf

I'm not quite sure how the Tories intend to impliment ID cards, put 40000 new policemen on the streets, scrap tuition fees, create a new "border patrol force" (perhaps they forget we are an island), stop army cuts AND cut taxes. They'll never cut bureacracy down. As to Labour, their tax promises at the last election turned out to be complete fabrications.
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From:ilanin
Date:April 24th, 2005 12:37 pm (UTC)
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I've seen no such "external" (your link is very clearly not *external* scrutiny) scrutiny of the LibDem plans claiming they add up; the only thing I've seen is the IFS arguing that the projections for the 50p rate are overoptimistic by at least £200m in the first year alone, with the gap between projection and reality to widen each year.

Britain is losing neither its economic nor political place in the world; it is still the fourth largest economy (sometimes the fifth, depending on who measures it) and still a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Lacking skills is nothing to do with higher education; the kind of "skills" you're referring to are the preserve of secondary education and Further Education, not HE.

I don't accept that the argument for education doesn't work for health care - I think it does. It's a system the left wing of the Democratic party of the United States has been pushing for for decades; government support for those who can't pay, let those who can pay for themselves.

And as for bureaucracy - well, I have a fair idea of how the Ministry of Defence works, and if other ministries are similar, then the savings are certainly there. I see no reason why an incoming government with a committment to decentralisation shouldn't be able to achieve them, with sufficient political will. I also don't think the Conservatives actually will, but they'll do better than anyone else on the ballot paper.
From:don_corio
Date:April 24th, 2005 02:20 pm (UTC)
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Yes, those figures are the Lib Dem's costings. I can't find anything on the internet about external scruitiny, but remember that Newsnight reviewed the figures, and found fewer problems with the Lib Dems' plans than with the Tory/Labour figures.

As to Britain keeping her place in the world - we are indeed a large economy, but have a stagnating manufacturing base. We are particularly short of engineers (taught at HE level, I think you'll find), not to mention the social problems caused by lack of Doctors, nurses, teachers... Oh, and we're on the security council as a nation who is prepared to deploy force, one with an aging nuclear deterrant. The UN security council is hardly the most dynamic of organisms anyway.

The problem with any kind of means-tested policy toward education, healthcare or legal aid is that the government will indeed pay for the very poorest - though whether the very poorest will feel able to take advantage of this aid is debatable. Fears, underachievement at school level and low expectations keep people out of education as much as cost does. The richest will pay for themselves. Those stuck in the middle will be unable to comfortably afford the service, and will get no help. Equally, I don't see that someone's social background alone should determine their access to a government service. Surely academic ability and a desire to learn should play a part if you are going to be selective in education.

I agree that there is scope for reducing waste in the civil service, but doubt that any incoming party will be able to make cuts. Perhaps I've just watched too much "Yes Minister".
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From:lockymclean
Date:April 24th, 2005 01:20 pm (UTC)
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In 2001, all the Labour supporters in Girton I knew voted Lib Dem. All the Lib Dem supporters voted Labour. I mounted the most effective flyering campaign of all three parties on my own, the tactical vote cancelled itself out and Andrew Lansley increased his majority ;-)

AFAIK there's no obvious tactical vote in South Cambs as although LD may be second, it's only just (Con 44.2%, LD 26.9%, Lab 24.3%). Almost every single Labour voter in the whole of South Cambs would have to vote LD to win it.

Basically, "snowball" and "hell" come to mind... Anyway, Andrew Lansley is one of the nicest Tories you will ever meet - similar personality to my own from what I have seen of him. Why do you want to oust him? We're not all evil :-(
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From:lavendersparkle
Date:April 24th, 2005 02:27 pm (UTC)
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I don't have anything against Andrew Lansley himself as I don't know him, just the Conservatives in general, particularly this campaign. Sally seemed in her post to want to vote Lib Dem and as they're second in South Cambs I was pointing out that she could vote for them and not feel that she was letting in a badder guy by voting for a party which is third.
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From:lockymclean
Date:April 24th, 2005 07:52 pm (UTC)
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Ah OK, sorry for the inadvertent slur on your character! ;-)
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From:atreic
Date:April 24th, 2005 09:07 pm (UTC)
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Andrew Lansley does indeed seem to be a really nice guy. However, we live in a country where the politics are dominated by parties, and I couldn't vote tory as I'd feel that in some way I'd told them that I wanted them to do the things they've said they'll do in their election campaign. Which I don't.* All I can hope is that one day he'll see the light and switch to our side ;-)

* Interestingly, non of the tory literature going out in South Cambridgeshire (or at least Girton Village) has had anything to do with the national campaign. No handwritten scralls of prejudice anywhere, just polite little comments like "look how nice the traffic calming is"
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From:ilanin
Date:April 24th, 2005 11:01 am (UTC)
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The Conservatives don't have a policy on ID cards, and I can't imagine a Conservative goverment introducing an ID card bill, because the party is split down the middle on the issue. Michael Howard almost lost his Shadow Chancellor and Shadow Home Secretary when the issue was just about supporting Labour's. Getting David Davis to actually introduce one seems like snowflake-in-hell territory to me.
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From:atreic
Date:April 24th, 2005 11:06 am (UTC)
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*cough* Scotland *cough*
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From:ilanin
Date:April 24th, 2005 11:12 am (UTC)
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Would you like to expand on this?
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From:rochvelleth
Date:April 24th, 2005 12:23 pm (UTC)
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IMHO PR can't work (look at the Weimar Republic).

That's as much comment as I have time to give atm - sorry, but I'm trying to keep my head on Roman Britain :) If only I could entirely resist the all-too-interesting discussions that take place in your LJ! (actually, they make me envious - you always get so many more comments than I do! I think you have better ideas than me :) )
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From:lavendersparkle
Date:April 24th, 2005 02:42 pm (UTC)
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Oddly enough PR hasn't resulted in mass murder and war in modern day: Belgium, Brazil, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Iceland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain or Sweden, to name but a few.

I'm not a historian but I think that lots of factors were more important than PR in Hitler's rise to power, particularly given that the Nazis were the most popular party electorally in the last election held in Germany before Hitler came to power. If they had gained that high a proportion of the votes in a first past the post system they would probably have had a parliamentary majority.
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From:ilanin
Date:April 24th, 2005 02:52 pm (UTC)
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Sigh. The problem with the Weimar Republic (and pretty much every country you've listed there) wasn't anything to do with mass murder and war, it was that it was impossible for any party to get anything done - the government seemed completely ineffective, which was basically the thurst of Hitler's "vote for me because I'll actually do something" campaigns.

Which goes some way towards explaining the continent-wide economic malaise in Europe

I'm not an expert on interwar Germany but I think that Nazi support was heavily concentrated in several areas, which would probably have been a disadvantage as they ratcheted up massive majorities in working-class areas and failed to take any seats elsewhere.
From:don_corio
Date:April 24th, 2005 02:57 pm (UTC)
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I'm not a historian but...no, wait, I am a historian. PR, coupled with economic instability, is generally held to have weakened the Weimar state. Governments were unstable, and changed rapidly; they were open to sabotage from other parties within the Reichstag and had to build decidedly shaky coalitions to survive.

I don't think anyone can claim that PR "let" the NSDAP into government in Germany. After all, they had a reasonable proportion of popular support. But the President was prepasred to offer them a significant role as part of a coalition government because previous governments had been unable to maintain workable alliances. It does seem as though Von Papen (Chancellor prior to Hitler, and his first Vice-Chancellor) thought he could make use of the NSDAP block without them doing much damage: in short, he needed their numbers.

With a different system of parliamentary elections, the centre parties might have been able to build a stronger party presence (i.e. whipped) in the Reichstag; Hitler would not have been invited in. They might also have been able to maintain governments and political stabilty in the country at large.
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From:rochvelleth
Date:April 24th, 2005 04:10 pm (UTC)
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As pointed out by other comments, my focus was on the weakness caused by PR. A PR-elected weak government is something of a liability. But I'd better stop commenting now because I really should go do some more work.
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From:ixwin
Date:April 24th, 2005 01:42 pm (UTC)
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A few disconnected thoughts:
  • Basing one's vote purely on what the parties say when campaigning (and, presumably, their past record in office, where applicable) would only work if a) you could believe that all parties meant (and truly believed they could deliver) everything they said (and were open about the unpopular policies they planned to implement as well as the vote-winning policies) b) there was some kind of independent assessment of policies for plausibility with regard to e.g. affordability of spending compared to proposed tax policy

  • if 60% of the country really do just want to live off what they've earned and leave the other 40% to starve do we have any right to insist they help other people?. I refer you to nlj21's comment a couple of entries back that giving people what they want is not always what is best for them.. 'Course who's in a position to say what's best for people is a difficult question - but I think it's probably fair to say that many of the people in favour of tighter immigration controls aren't aware of e.g. the facts & figures outlined in smhwpf's recent post on the topic.

  • I think overall the world is getting better, not worse. Although it could certainly be getting better a lot faster than it is at the moment

  • I do think it's inherent (and selected for by evolution) in human beings to care for those outside our families. At least, I think it is inherent for us to care for those in our "tribe" - which can be as narrow as 'my family and friends' or as wide as 'everyone in the world, ever'. Game theory suggests that it benefits the group as a whole if people can co-operate and trust one another, and things like our desire to see wrongdoers punished have evolved as ways to prevent wholly selfish people from getting a free ride on the system and thereby ruining it.

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From:lockymclean
Date:April 24th, 2005 01:52 pm (UTC)
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I wish everyone would vote for the party which is closest to what they believe in. It would certainly make campaigning a lot easier, as none of the politicians would have to do any work to convince people to vote for them.

Unfortunately we are stuck with the basic problem that a large number of people in this country are very thick and/or very ill-informed or just don't give a damn (I think that those three criteria between them account for about 60% of university-educated voters and 90% of all school leavers) *shrugs*
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From:senji
Date:April 25th, 2005 08:49 am (UTC)
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Closest to what they believe in. *sigh*.

Evidence suggests that in practice (even without tactical voting) people from the whole range of the belief spectrum vote for all parties.

On a personal note, much like Sally, on a local level I'd like to vote for Lansley, since he appears to be genuinely ept (which is nice after however-many years of Campbell), but his party is probably the furthest from what I believe.
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From:lockymclean
Date:April 25th, 2005 10:06 am (UTC)
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Good point - I'd forgotten about the personal factor. Gerald Kaufman is another good example in Manchester Gorton, which is just down the road from where I am in Manchester Central. Even though Labour is increasingly unpopular with the Asian community, which has a massive presence in Rusholme, Fallowfield, Gorton and Levenshulme, and even though the Lib Dem candidate is being supported by practically every shop on the Curry Mile and the Manchester/Stockport Road, Kaufman will never be unseated because he is such a good local MP.

Anyway, back to revision...
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From:sonicdrift
Date:April 24th, 2005 03:45 pm (UTC)
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I was looking at it as a choice of "a guy who wants to be able to have anyone arrested and detained without trial" or "anybody else". Given my lack of strong political preference I don't have a problem in voting to reduce such a large majority.

Personally, I've found the Labour campaign most objectionable. The posters describing the "35billion spending cut" and "NHS charges" were hardly fairplay.
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From:atreic
Date:April 24th, 2005 09:02 pm (UTC)
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Err, but you're in Cambridge. If you're voting to keep Labour out, the Lib Dems came second in Cambridge last time...
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From:sonicdrift
Date:April 25th, 2005 11:43 am (UTC)
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Why draw any conclusions on who I'm voting for based on my criticizing
Labour's campaign? I formed my opinion by looking up the facts and
reaching my own conclusion rather than having a loyalty to any particular
party.

For example, which ever party produced a poster saying it's rivals planned
"35 billion spending cuts" and then said they meant their rivals were only
planning smaller increases compared to them I would consider it
misleading. My opinion is certainly not based on what the parties say
about each other. You never specified exactly what you didn't like about
the other campaign or why, so I can't read up on it and tell you what I
think. Surely someone's sense of honesty should remain independent of
their political view?

BTW weren't the Lid Dems and Conservatives only separated by about 900
votes (2.2%ish) at the last General election? I'd quote the 2004
council results where the Lib Dems clearly won.

I should so stop reading the bbc website's election coverage and do some
work:)
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From:bluap
Date:April 26th, 2005 10:03 am (UTC)
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I think that I've decided that my ideal result would be a hung parliament, leading to a Lib-Lab coalition. Tony Blair would resign, and we'd have Charles Kennedy as prime minister, and Gordon Brown as chancellor.
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From:atreic
Date:April 26th, 2005 10:17 am (UTC)
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You should read Sam's post here :-)
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From:ghoti
Date:April 28th, 2005 09:41 pm (UTC)
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I don't think 'substantially reduced Labour majority with Lib Dem opposition' is too pie-in-the-sky. I'd like to see that.
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