The great British public recently had a chance to make history in this country and change the way our MP's were elected, from an out dated, heavily biased system called First Past the Post (FPTP) system to a slightly less out dated and slightly less bias system called the Alternate Vote (AV). Alas, with the Prime Minister sticking his oar in (I think that's the expression), and using his party's rather substantial resources (apparently), he managed to persuade (scare, frighten, intimidate etc.) the majority of the country that it's best to stick with what the country knows and what best suits his party, the First Past The Post system.
Having read Victoria Coren's article on the Guardian website (Luvvies or lads. What a choice) about her experience of the whole thing, I've finally realised that the whole process was doomed to failure from the outset.
The question that was asked on the ballot paper was asked as follows:
"At present, the UK uses the "first past the post" system to elect MPs to the House of Commons. Should the "alternative vote" system be used instead?"
So the response is either Yes we should change to the Alternative Vote system, or No we should keep using the First Past The Post system. This is why you ended up with the two opposing sides called the Yes2AV campaign and the No2AV campaign.
Basically, for those wanting electoral reform the question was asked in the wrong way. Why, you say?
Well while reading Vicky's article she mentions one important thing about the way the majority of Britain thinks. She says:
"Shall I vote no, then?" I wondered. "Everyone else will. And I am British, after all. I hate and fear change of any kind. I didn't like it when the newsagent got a new window display."
To put this another way, people these days are for nothing and against everything. Should we have wind farms to provide our power requirements? Not in my backyard. A just say No attitude to everything. And this attitude appears to have manifest itself in the way that people voted in the referendum.
In that case, how would people have voted if the question that was asked was the following:
"At present, the UK uses the "first past the post" system to elect MPs to the House of Commons. Should we keep this system or use the "alternative vote" system instead?"
If the question have been put this way, the response is either Yes we should keep the First Past The Post system, or No we should change to using the Alternative Vote system and the two campaigns would then have been the Yes2FTFP and the No2FTFP campaigns which would have meant that those in favour of keeping the current system would have had to but more work into justifying why to keep the FPTP system instead of spending most of their time scare mongering about change.
Alas this thought comes far, far too later to make any difference but looks like the next opportunity for electoral reform may come sooner that some might think. The House of Lords is in urgent need of reform and it would be fitting if that reform could be of a democratic nature, an elected chamber. And what about the system used to elect this new second chamber? How about some kind of proportional system may be?
"As many - EFF included - have been saying for years, filesharing is not the reason that the recording industry has fallen on hard financial times. In fact, the recording industry’s complaints that the sky is falling really only apply to..."
I was listening to a podcast from the Commonwealth Club of California the other day.
The podcast was a talk from Michael Moore on his work and films upto and including his new film 'Capitalism: a love story'.
Something was said during this that made me think of the question 'Why would someone vote for a politician whose policies are going to harm you'?
At the time I was thinking of the impending disaster of having a Conservative government in this country (something that appears to be all but inevitable at the moment when the General Election comes around next year), and the fact that a large number of poorer people in this country will end up voting for them, not because their policies will make these people better off (infact it is likely to be the exact opposite) but because the Conservative party are seen as the most likely party to 'kick out' the current 'New Labour' government as they are doing such a bad job of running the country at the moment.
This thought lead me to an analogy comparing this to a person who is allergic to nuts.
For someone who is allergic to nuts, it doesn't matter how attractive the packaging the nuts come in is, it doesn't matter how tasty the nut manufacturer claims the nuts are, it doesn't matter how glitzy the TV adverts are, if they eat those nuts it could kill them, so they wouldn't eat the nuts, would they?
The same idea can be applied to politicians. If doesn't matter how smartly dressed or nice they look, it doesn't matter how convincing their PR teams or adverts and party political broadcasts are, if doesn't matter how good a speaker or narrator they are, if their party's policies are going to harm you (either financially or in terms of your quality of life or some other way) you're not going to vote for them, are you?
I've just been reading the statement put out by Rupert Read, the Green Party candidate for the upcoming Norwich North by-election, on the Rackheath eco-town project, one of the eco-towns that the UK government is currently in the process of building.
The point he is making about the proposed new by-pass to link this eco-town to Norwich is an example of the one, really big concern I had when these eco-towns were announced, the fact that you need to build a whole new road system to link these eco-towns to existing towns and cities in the area where they are being built. A new, large, road building programme is never going to be good for the environment.
Here's my pennies worth.
Instead of eco-towns, how about eco-suburbs, built in suitable, environmentally friendly sites, around existing towns and cities. That way the amount of new road building to link these new developments is kept to a minimum and it wouldn't take much to extend the existing public transport infrastructure to include these areas.
I know this doesn't sound as 'sexy' or headline grabbing as eco-towns, but I would've thought it would be better for the environment, which is the whole point after all.
Despite the better press coverage, despite the 44% increase in the vote and despite details such as the party beating Labour into 5th place in the South West and polling the highest amount of the vote in areas such as Brighton and Norwich, the Green Party of England and Wales is still left with just 2 MEP to keep up the party's good work in the European Parliament.
It is a shame that we have lost out on at least one seat due to the fact that the number of MEP's this time round was cut from 78 to 72, meaning that the South West area now only has 6 MEP's instead of the 7 MEP's it had before the elections last week. I say it is a shame because if the number of MEP's for the South West had remained at 7 then the 7th MEP would have been the first Green party candidate for the South West, Ricky Knight.
It is a shame that the party missed out on a seat in the East of
England by (if my calculations are right) 1% or 15,945 votes.
It is also a shame that the party missed out on a seat in the North West by 0.4% or 4,961 votes (This is the seat in the North West that went to the BNP).
The news gets worse. If the votes for the European Parliament was taken as a whole nation instead of region by region the Green Party would have got 6 MEP's instead of 2 (as illustrated at the site http://icon.cat/util/elections/ddumGbgDXU).
So what good news can be taken from this.
Well, as already mentioned, the party increased it's share of the vote by 44% from the 2004 election results. That's a big deal and something the party can build on in the run up to the next General Election which has to take place within the next 12 months.
The other big thing to take from these results is that the Green Party won the biggest share of the vote in Brighton and in Norwich, which puts the party in the best position it has ever been in to win seats in these area's in the General Election, and as we have seen, with the exemplary work of Caroline Lucas and Jean Lambert, it only takes a few good people to make a positive and substantial difference.
The other positive thing to take from all this is the success the party had in the local elections.
In my own neck-of-the-woods in Gloucestershire, we now have a Green councilor on the county council and the Green party have added significantly to their numbers in areas such as Lancaster and Norwich and now have 123 councillors on 42 councils in England and Wales.
The party is making progress and needs to keep up the hard work. It is easy to look at the European elections and be downcast that the number of MEP's didn't increase this time round, but it will happen as long as the hard work continues.
I've found out in the last 24 hours that despite working in a sector that is relatively secure in the current times, and despite working for a company that turned a good profit last year, it doesn't make you immune to being made redundant.
And so it was, yesterday afternoon, without any prior indication or warning that the department I work in was told that 2/3's of the staff in the department will be made redundant in the coming months and the duties of these positions will be re-allocated to staff working in Romania and the Philippines. Welcome to the world-wide economy.
You see, I work for a company that is one of a group of companies owned by a bigger, parent company. As a group of companies there are offiices and staff in numerous locations across Europe including Bucharest in Romania through to the Czech Republic, Poland and west ward to the UK, Ireland and Spain, as well as offices in the USA and the Philippines.
Since we were taken over by this parent company a couple of years ago, we have been allowed to run as a separate company, but now, all of a sudden, they seem to be content with ripping the technical support departments to shreds in the name of saving money (or more likely to maximize their profit margins). This is a clear and blatant attempt to do this as they have the audacity to openly confirm that they are taking these duties and giving them to staff in Romania and the Philippines, areas of the world that I would image are not as well paid as here in the UK.
This does a disservice to our customers as support is effectively being out-sourced to a foreign country. I guess the parent company (which is German) didn't see the uproar in this country a few years ago when the banks out-sourced their customer support to foreign countries (which is why UK Banks make such a point now about the fact that their call centres are UK based) and this does a disservice to us, their staff, by basically saying that we don't care how much hard work you have done for us, thanks, but goodbye.
Still there is a 1/3 chance that I will keep my job, but if I'm as fortunate in this as I am in my poker playing at the moment, then a suppose I need to get my CV updated :-(
Looks like the BBC got this one seriously wrong.
Over the last few days there has been a lot of controversy over the BBC's decision not to show an aid appeal for donations to help the people of Gaza by the D.E.C.
The D.E.C (Disasters Emergency Committee) is, as their Wikipedia entry says, "an umbrella group comprising thirteen UK charities. These charities are all associated with disaster related issues such as providing clean water, humanitarian aid and medical care."
Among the 13 charities that operate under the D.E.C are The British Red Cross, Christian Aid, Oxfam and World Vision. These and the other charities are well established organisations who quite possibly know a lot, lot more about disaster relief than the BBC do. In recent times, working under the D.E.C. these charities have raised millions of pounds to help in situations such as the Congo (DR) Crisis, the Myanmar (Burma) Cyclone disaster, the Bangladesh Cyclone disaster and the Indian Ocean Tsunami Earthquake.
But now the BBC have "a concern about whether aid raised by the appeal could actually be delivered on the ground." It is a sorry state of affairs to see a broadcasting company, particular one such as the BBC who is normally held in high regard, questioning whether 13 of the most respected aid agencies in the world are capable of doing their job.
The statement issued by the BBC's Director-General then goes on to say the following:
"But there is a second more fundamental reason why we decided that we should not broadcast the appeal at present. This is because Gaza remains a major ongoing news story,..."
So now, not only are they questioning the compentency of 13 of the world's most regarded aid agencies, they are now putting news before the lives, health and well-being of thousands of people in desperate need of help.
This is a very sick and twisted view of the world and definately not what anyone (apart from the BBC) would call impartial.
As a aside, it appears that some of the critism may be deflected from the BBC today as there are numerous reports that Sky will not be broadcasting the aid appeal either. This, though, is not suprising if you consider that Sky (otherwise know as British Sky Broadcasting) in the UK is a sister company to Fox News in the USA. Nuff said I think.
The other thing to bear in mind here is that the BBC is meant to be there to report the news and not to BE the news.