Just Vote

April 14, 2010

I was recently sent this email by Neil from The Raging See. I hope he doesn’t mind if I replicate it in full.

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If ever there was a time to be engaged in politics it is now. It is essential that a message is sent to those that are elected to represent us in Parliament so they fully understand that they are there to represent their constituents, all of them, not just the ones that voted for them and, not just to support some party machine. It is easy at times like this to think that they are all the same, and god knows they certainly try and morph into each other, and to wonder whether there is any point to casting our vote but, we can not be apathetic when it comes to politics.

One vote might not seem like much when you are casting it but it sends a message, it says that you care and, it it says what you care about. There only wasted vote is one that has not been cast even if you vote for a minor party or independent or single issue candidate you are telling whoever is eventually elected as your representative what is important to you. You are telling this country and those in power what matters to you

Casting your vote is the first step in the democratic process, a process that is constantly being undermined and, a process for which countless people through history and even today are prepared to sacrifice their lives for. And make no mistake, your vote will affect lives, not only the lives of people in this country but the lives of countless people around the world, you vote could be a matter of life or death. Yes, your vote matters and, wherever it is possible, you should vote for something rather than against something. It doesn’t mater if the “something” you are voting for is not going to win, what matters is that our elected representatives know that this is what we care about, that we are engaged, that they are answerable to us and that it matters enough to us that we are prepared to get up off our arses and to make our way down to a polling station to exercise our right to vote.

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He also thought we might like to watch this:
Thanks Neil

And the winner of the Chancellors debate is …

March 30, 2010

… George Osborne.

I know that that view will jar with most people on Twitter and those that voted in the polls last night – the Channel Four poll that closed at 9pm exactly, just as the debate finished, had Cable on 36% and Darling and Osborne on 32% each. While the Guardian poll (that closes at midday on Tuesday), currently has Cable leading with 47.8%, Darling second on 27.2% and Osborne third on 25%.

Now, I’m not going to give you a detailed breakdown on the debate itself – you can read a great BBC summary here, or visit the Channel Four microsite, or even read Rory Cellan-Jones’s summary of how it played on social media – but I will give you a quick summary of my perceptions of it.

Firstly, I enjoyed it. I liked the seriousness of the debate and thought that the format worked well. And arguably it was Channel Four and the presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy who won overall.

I’m not sure it told us a lot though.

Vince Cable came across as honest, dependable and very much a safe pair of hands through the current crisis. Part of the reason he can do so is that he is arguably the least likely to get the job after the election (despite the valiant efforts of the invincecable team); but also partly because he genuinely seems to get it.

Alistair Darling came across as relatively confident if a little dull. He didn’t say much in terms of actually policies, but then he was never really likely to – if he didn’t say much during his election speech then he wasn’t going to say much here. I think that his reputation is likely to come away relatively unscathed from all of this – not just the debate, but the whole recession and likely election defeat for Labour (he can blame Gordon Brown for both). He seemed to have the air of someone who is confident he will fight another day.

George Osborne was expected by most observers to fare the worst – he was considered by most to be the most economic lightweight of the three. And on that score – he won. He came across a bit smary at times – especially when it looked like he was trying to chat up a student that asked a question; and he seemed to dumb it down at times. But he also spoke to the audience. A couple of times when Darling was trying to beat him up on a point Osborne explained to the audience what the row was about – of course with a bit of extra spin.

Tweetminster recorded that sentiment for George Osborne dropped the least after the debate – a victory of sorts. (All three lost points – Osborne lost 1 point, Darling and Cable 3 points each).

I think a debate like this doesn’t make people actively decide to vote one way or another, but it helps them to justify that decision. In that sense, all three did well, but Osborne came out on top as he was the weakest link for his party before the debate.

Having said all that, this great post from The Media Blog sums it up nicely, especially the tweet from @DominicFarrell – “Those who will decide the #election were watching Coronation Street”

This debate was only a very small skirmish in the bigger war.

“Altogether rather grubby”

March 23, 2010

That was the quote from Peter Mandelson regarding the ‘cash for influence’ scandal that has hit Parliament. I think that it is a rather neat phrase – and not just for this incident, but for nearly all current MPs by the sounds of it.

First of all we had the expenses scandal; now this ‘cash for influence‘ scandal; and on top of all that, the BBC is reporting this morning that the rules regarding foreign trips have been breached on numerous occasions by multiple MPs.

It seems to be yet another case when you just want to bang your head against a brick wall and just scream – “do these people just not get it??!!

With all of these cases I’m sure that the media has taken a few things out of context and has happily created extra indignation (it’s what the tabloid media does best). However, the fact is that our MPs should just be beyond reproach, they just have the appearance of being beyond reproach.

The expenses scandal was, to my mind at least, a simple case of the rules of the club being broken and outdated and the fact that it was a ‘club’. Members had been brought up to believe that this was the way the club behaved and anyway, the members policed themselves. It was the expenses scandal that made me want to start this blog and support the concept of independent MPs as I thought that it highlighted that the system of selecting MPs – career politicians and party patronage – was broken. I purposely avoided pointing fingers at individuals as, apart from a few exceptional incidents, I felt that it was the system that the individuals worked within that was mainly at fault.

However, the latest incidents show that it is more than the rules of the club that are broken. Many of the individuals that choose to enter Parliament seem to be broken to start with – at least in moral terms.

I think a post from Ewan MacLeod sums it up well – Ewan isn’t known for commenting on politics (he writes the excellent Mobile Industry Review). But when he is moved to comment as an average voter – calling it “Simply ridiculous. Absolutely 100% ridiculous” then that shows the depths to which the current batch of MPs has sunk in the minds of the electorate.

Gordon, let’s call the election quickly and flush out this lot shall we?

What we’ve learned so far from the Iraq Inquiry

March 11, 2010

If you’re interested in what’s going on in the Chilcot Inquiry then there is a really interesting summary on the Channel 4 blog. Read it here.

I listened to Gordon Brown’s evidence the other day and thought the questions raised to him were so weak as to be almost pointless.

What I did think was interesting however, was Brown’s desire to show himself as an important politician in the Blair Government  – yet at the same time not so important as he actually had anything to do with the decision to go to war. I’m surprised he was willing to subjugate himself as much as he did.

But my main thought was – pah! I could have asked more incisive questions. It felt like a bit of a whitewash and a chance for Gordon to wash his hands of the affair before the election.

Three MPs and one Lord charged

February 5, 2010

So the MPs Expenses Scandal has finally led to some criminal charges with three MPs and one member of the House of Lords charged. They are Elliot Morley, Scunthorpe, Labour; Jim Devine, Livingston, Labour; David Chaytor, Bury North, Labour and Lord Hanningfield, Conservative.

You can read more about the news of the charges on the BBC site.

Surely, however, the overriding view has to be: only 4 people!!

For all the revelations we heard about MPs ‘flipping’ homes and listing second homes that were miles away from their constituency (or Westminster) it will seem to most ordinary voters that many more MPs should have been charged.

But if their actions weren’t illegal they were certainly immoral and as an electorate we have the opportunity to be the jury on those charges when the election comes around.

I was on the radio today …

February 4, 2010

… talking about independent MPs obviously.

It was all a bit strange but I was on the 5 live phone-in with Nicky Campbell this morning for a few minutes to promote the cause of independent MPs.

You can listen to the programme until Thursday 11th Feb. I’m the first caller on (Patrick from Southwell), at about 6 minutes into the programme.

You can listen here

The programme was about whether we, as a nation, had forgiven our MPs for the expenses scandal, linked of course to the news that some MPs have been told to pay back just over £1m in total.

I only heard about the subject a few minutes before 9am, but I decided to phone in with the point that we shouldn’t be talking about forgiveness for the current crop of MPs, but with an election looming we should be looking at how to make the system better for the future. So I phoned up and spoke to a researcher, who listened politely, and that was that.

Then about five minutes later a different researcher (or possibly the producer) phoned me back and asked me to repeat my views. After I’d done that he said, great, we’ll put you on and then the phone was put through to the studio and I could hear Nicky Campbell introducing the phone-in programme.

So I didn’t have time to make any notes, or even prepare myself properly. But I think I came across okay and I said what I wanted to about the need for independent candidates and hopefully independent MPs.

Dr Richard Taylor, Independent for Wyre Forest

January 25, 2010

It was really interesting to hear Dr Richard Taylor the independent MP for Wyre Forest speak on Saturday. He was the first speaker at the workshop for independent candidates on Saturday – and it was a great way to kick off the day.

The one thing that came through very clearly while he was speaking was his enthusiasm for being an MP and the sense of responsibility he felt at having been given such an important job. In fact he talked several times of the ‘tremendous responsibility’ he had been given.

It wasn’t just being an MP that he had such enthusiasm for – it was being an independent MP.

He spoke quite eloquently about the problems it can bring – which was also one of the main privileges – having to decide for yourself how to vote on each issue.

For most party MPs the decision making process is removed for them as they have whips to tell them how to vote, or even if the whips aren’t there they just vote against the other lot. They don’t have to consider what is best, to genuinely weigh up the facts of the case, to reflect on what would be best for their constituency or the country. In many instances they only have to take into account what is best for their career – and that, of course, is voting along party lines.

As an independent you have both the luxury and the responsibility of voting with your conscience on each occasion.

I was honoured to be able to meet, talk to (briefly) and listen to Dr Richard Taylor explain this so well.