Sunday, May 30, 2010

Away One Week and the Coalition Hits Scandal Already

Having just returned from a weeks holiday in the Mediteranean and being totally cut off from the internet, 24 hour news and news in general, I expected the BA strikes to be headline. My flight got cancelled so I was moved onto an earlier one so lost my day in Barcelona (grrr) but my missus got her little boy back a day earlier (ahhh). So on balance I'd let BA off if it wasn't for the Titan Airways pilot, performing the stand-in service, finding every bit of turbulence in UK airspace.

Instead, I pick up the paper and read a headline that feels a year out of date: another damned, bloody expenses scandal. David Laws resigned, thankfully, showing the dignity fitting of a Minister (something which became rarer and rarer with the Labour administration). But what the hell was he thinking. Rightly or wrongly, sexual improprietry brings about more government resignations than results of their competence.

First rule of putting yourself up as a candidate for parliament in the 2010 was thus:
Are you comfortable with your sexuality?

Three or four elections ago I could understand it, but there's no need for public figures to stay in the closet this day and age. And if you do, don't leave a breadcrumb trail with public money.

Irritating, that's all I can sum it up as.

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Icelandic Ash Returns

The ash returned to the UK this weekend with a number of airports being shut down and no-fly zone restrictions over the airspace being imposed by the Civil Aviation Authority. I have lots of vested interest this time with 3 flights including family and myself scheduled this week.

Nothing can be done in the short term but hold tight. However, in the long term picture, where the frighteners have been put out by saying this volcanic disruption could last 20 years there is this strange quote in this BBC article from aviation expert, David Learmount:

"This could go on for 20 years or more. We just don't know how long this volcano is going to erupt for. Technologically there's nothing we can do about this. We cannot build engines and aircraft which can fly safely through volcanic ash, it's just out of the question. The only thing that we can do is get better at predicting precisely where every part of the volcanic ash cloud is."

So with all our technological prowess there's no chance at all that we can disperse or filter dirty air before the engine sucks it up? No way at all? In 20 years? I find that incredibly hard to believe.

Lets just say, where there's a profit, there's a way.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Where Geeky Politics Gets You

Doing the rounds on Twitter:
FPTP error 404: Government not found. Please reset your voting system to
proportional representation and try again

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Sunday, May 09, 2010

So, a Hung Parliament

I don't know why, but the Liberal Democrats went Ross Perot on us be largely failing to make the gains their exposure in the Leaders' Debates promised. As such the bizarreness of the first past the post system reared its head as the Lib Dems gained as extra 1% of the vote share in a House of Commons which has 4 more MPs than the last and still conspired to lose 5 seats.

Hopes of having 100 seats were dashed and we now have the bizarre permutation where the Tories don't have a majority (306 seats) but Labour (258) and the Lib Dems (57) couldn't combine to make a majority coalition either, at least without nationalist help.

Thus a Lib/Con coalition is the only combination that will give us a strong government for this parliament. Of course, this strength is questionable with the compromises that must be made in order to satisfy both parties.

My struggle is working out which outcome is best from here.
Lib/Con coalition
Lib/Con pact
Lib/Lab conglomerate
Con minority

Lib/Con coalition
This is the only option that will give a stable government for the 4/5 years. I can't say I'm a fan of this combination mainly because this government would execute the cuts needed and the public won't thank them for it. The Liberal Democrat brand would be contaminated by this association and we would again resume the Red/Blue power struggle. Having some governing experience may do some good for the Lib Dems and make the voters more friendly towards them but that's a big gamble.

Lib/Con pact
This is where a deal is made in the next few days for a programme that will last no longer than a year as the Conservatives back some of the Lib Dems minor bills and the Lib Dems abstain from Conservative bills they disapprove of, rather than vote against. If the Lib Dems had any sense, they'd get hold of the Treasury books and make a big attempt at getting the full picture and making very specific plans for the economy ready for the next general election in 5-12 months time.

Lib/Lab conglomerate
A lot of parties will need to pull together to make this work. The price to be paid to appease the nationalists is that England takes the biggest hit on service cuts/tax rises. It would be hard to see this last a full term, just like a Lib/Con pact. The appeal for this is again, the Lib Dems can take a look at the books and as Labour took us into this mess they will receive near the entirety of the blame for subsequent austerity measures.

Con minority
Should this eventuality occur, things get really unpredictable in the short term. Would the Finance Bill on the back of the emergency budget pass? Would its failure result in a fresh election in July/August? With the Tories effectively giving the public a budget to vote would they win or lose?

There's something about the Con minority government which makes me think we'll reach a conclusion to the economic situation sooner. Another election this year with a bit more information to hand would suit me fine.

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Thursday, May 06, 2010

Election Night (2) - Polling Stations

There's a big deal being made of the number of polling stations where there's still a queue outside after 10pm. Leeds and Ealing in particular, have been pointed out with camera queues. There's also an issue with people not being allowed to vote, all told.

The good news for Preciding Officers is that the procedure is very, very simple. Doors shut at 10pm. No ballot paper at 10pm, no vote. http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/electoral_commission_pdf_file/0009/55836/UKPGE-PSH-web-FINAL.pdf

As with any queuing activity (to which, us Brits are very accustomed), we know if you join a queue late, chances are you won't get through the door before closing time.

The factors raised so far are:
  • Not enough ballot papers
  • Outdated polling lists
  • Latecomers to queues
  • Inefficient handing out of ballot papers
  • Showing up without polling card
Latecomers only have themselves to blame. The stations are open for 15 hours, leaving it until 9pm to show up naturally more dangerous than showing up at 8am. Showing up without your polling card is socially irresponsible. Not doing your bit, as it were, to keep the process efficient.

Not enough ballot papers and outdated polling lists are disgraceful reasons to deny people their right to vote. There is plenty of time between the electoral roll cut off date and election day. Time enough to get a list together. Same for ballot papers. Each station knows exactly how many people to expect and should have a threshold of spare ballot papers beside. Turnouts of 100% do not happen so there is no excuse for not having enough ballot papers.

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Election Night (1)

5 years ago, I started this blog. Without looking at the archive I have two memories of the time: Liverpool in the epic European Cup final and voting Labour, then going home to wash my hands.

I didn't like the negative campaign the Tories were running at the time and I don't like the negative campaign Labour are running this time.

Oddly enough, TV had a larger part to play in the 2005 election as it was Tony Blair's appearence on what I believe was Question Time or it might have been Newsnight where he had a set piece with an audience. Not on its own, but that played a part in swaying my vote.

This year I found it much easier to vote. My mind was made up before the election was called and centred on two issues:
Land Value Taxation
Making the British public believe there is an alternative to Red and Blue

On both counts that makes Lib Dems the clear choice. I'd like to see them do well. Realism means they can't be expected to get an overall majority. With that in mind, I've come to these idealistic and realist figures which I'd like to see as an overall result:

Conservative 326
Labour 185
Liberal Democrats 100
Others 39

You could be forgiven for thinking that I'd be in favour of a hung parliament. Ordinarily I would but that leaves the possibility of Gordon Brown remaining as Prime Minister. That's a result I could not stomach. This is the safest, restrictive option under the circumstances.

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