miss_s_b: (Politics: Democracy)
2015-08-17 05:20 pm

OMOV for Lib Dem Conference: a brief outline of the problems I have with it

OMOV is going to come up again at conference, and it's one of those ideas that superficially seductive, and, to be honest, I lean in favour of just from a simplicity point of view. However*, there are some arguments against which I think need to be answered before I'll consider voting for it. I'll outline them below, along with some ideas which could mitigate (although not necessarily solve) each one:

1, Entryism. Yeah, I know, we're the Lib Dems, who's going to bother? But the current system of conference reps does at least mean that someone who comes to conference with a voting pass has at least been given a cursory glance over by their local party. This could be mitigated by having a length of service clause (you can't vote till you've been a member for a given amount of time) but that wouldn't deter really determined entryists, and would mean that the one person you've thought of as a natural lib dem, who your local party has been courting for years, would also be denied a vote when under the current system they aren't. Also people who continually let their memberships lapse due to forgetfulness would be perpetually unable to vote. This could be mitigated by people signing up for direct debits.

2, Geographic concentration. This is already an issue - wherever conference is closest to supplies the majority of voting reps for that conference. I can't see OMOV making this any better, and I can see it potentially getting worse. A lot of policies we vote on have different applications in different regions. This could be mitigated by allowing online voting, but that opens up whole new vistas of cans of worms.

3, Tyranny of the Majority. Y'all just knew I was going to bring up John Stuart Mill at some point, didn't you? Dear old JS. If you have OMOV, and geographic concentration, and entryism, you run the risk of packing of policy votes. Now, arguably, this already happens. We've all** been in the hall for Julian and Evan's traditional "get rid of faith schools" motion/amendment, which it's quite clear the hall is going to vote for, and then the payroll vote come rolling in and vote it down. The payroll vote is smaller now, but that doesn't mean other packing factions won't emerge, and OMOV would make it lots easier for them. Packing of votes necessarily means smaller local parties/AOs/SAOs get less says, and I, for one, am in favour of diversity of opinion. This could be mitigated by retaining the current conference rep system.

4, Single Issue Pressure Groups. People would turn up en masse to vote on one motion. Can you imagine what 38 degrees would do to conference? This could be mitigated by retaining the current voting rep system, or by the long service requirement

5, Doesn't solve the problems it claims to solve. Becoming a conference rep is touted as a major barrier to participation in conference by proponents of OMOV. I have never known of a local party that does not have difficulty filling up all their available conference rep slots, even the ones that believe the emails that come from head office telling you you're entitled to less than you actually are. If turning up to your local party AGM and putting your hand up when the chair says "Who's going to conference, then?" is an insurmountable barrier to participation for a particular individual, I don't think that OMOV will make them more likely to participate. Maybe it will for a few, but not the majority. And yes, there IS a problem with moribund local parties in some areas, but OMOV doesn't suddenly invigorate them. No, the major thing that prevents people participating in conference is that it costs a small fortune, and again, OMOV does not solve this. This could be mitigated by not telling people a system is going to do something it demonstrably isn't and can't? IDK.

Now, I'm not actually dead set against OMOV. As I said at the beginning, it has a beguiling simplicity. But I would like to see genuine solutions to the problems I have with it before I vote for an unknown system over one that I know, and know works.




* up yours, Govey
** for a given definition of all
miss_s_b: (Politics: Democracy)
2015-07-20 09:22 am

On Corbyn: It seems the right-wing press have learned nothing from what happened with the SNP

You can't move these days for articles in the right wing press, and even in some Labour outlets, declaring how Labour will never get back in unless they stop demonising the right; I'd like to posit an equivalent theory: that right-wingers, especially those in charge of certain national newspapers, as well as those who have been in charge of the Labour party for the last 20 years or so, don't understand what motivates lefty voters.

Look at what happened with the SNP last general election. The more the rightwing press fulminated about what a disaster it would be if the SNP came close to the levers of power, the more the Scots voted for them, and the more the English said they wished they could. People in this country in general, but especially its lefties, do not like being told what to do. They don't like being told what to do by politicians they mostly detest, and they don't like being told what to do by journalists they trust even less than politicians.

The mood around Corbyn, and the reason his support is snowballing, is intrigued. Everybody who pays attention to politics had heard of Burnham and Cooper; few had heard of Corbyn. He's therefore new and interesting. The EDM about Pigeon bombs just makes him look like he has a sense of humour. He speaks human, unlike any of the other three Blairite clones. And the more the right-wing press and the right-wingers currently leading the labour party squeak about what a disaster he will be and how nobody should vote for him, the more people like him.

I have, actually, been wondering if it's some sort of deep dark reverse psychology in action. Like "we must say he'll be awful, that's the only way to get people to vote for him!" Because, of course, there is also the right wing view that if Corbyn wins, the Labour party are doomed.

I genuinely think that those who say he'll be an unelectable disaster if he wins are dead wrong. The received wisdom that you have to be either Tory or Tory Lite to win only has worked so far, sure. But it's done so by depressing turnout, not by converting vast numbers of voters. Normal People countrywide who haven't voted in years will vote Corbyn the same reason people in London voted Boris in the first mayoral election he stood in: they think it'll piss off the political elites, and they think that'll be funny. Lefties who haven't had anyone to positively vote for in decades will flock to him because he speaks the language of hope, not despair. And it'll almost certainly be the death of the Green party as all those watermelons roll home.

So yeah, if I was a Labour member, I'd probably vote Corbyn, and do it with a song in my heart. And I think all those rightwingers who are encouraging votes for Corbyn because they think it will kill that Labour party are in for a nasty shock if he actually does win. Lucky for all concerned, I'm not and never would be a member of that bunch of authoritarians, right?
miss_s_b: Vince Cable's happy face (Politics: Vince - happy face)
2015-05-29 12:17 pm
Entry tags:

On the political use of wording.

One of the big successes the Labour party had in the last government was the creation of the term "bedroom tax" for something which is not even a tax, and the blaming of the coalition government for it when it is something they started*. Labour are really good at blaming other people for things they started and/or wholeheartedly embraced - tuition fees, privatising the NHS, etc. - but what I'm really interested in is the use of language to fight a perceived injustice.

One of the most consistent trends of the last ten years (again, started by Labour) is the punishment of the poor for being poor. Benefit caps, having to jump through arbitrary hoops to continue receiving a meagre JSA, ridiculous work capability assessments, all of these are equally embraced by both Labservative parties. I was working at the CAB under Blair, and a huge amount of time was taken up by appealing disability benefit decisions, etc. And part of the reason these things are accepted by the general public is that they have swallowed the Kool Aid that people on benefits are scroungers - to the extent that even people on benefits, while they assert their own right to receive benefits, will none-the-less think everyone else on benefits is a scrounger.

The problem is that most benefits don't actually benefit the person in nominal receipt of them. The claimant doesn't see any gain from soaring housing benefit because it goes into their landlord's pocket, not theirs. Tax credits mainly help employers who either can't or won't pay decent wages. JSA conditional on workfare benefits all those employers who get subsidised to "employ" a free workforce rather than people they actually have to pay and train. So I propose a change of wording.

Housing benefit is easy. Housing benefit is Landlord's benefit. When you refer to it as Landlord's benefit you are calling it what it is. Tax credits, I propose, should be called "Exploitative wage top up". There's a whole raft of disability benefits which should be called things like "paltry amount grudgingly given to try and keep you out of hospital" or something similar.

What benefits do you think should be renamed?


* yes, I am aware that the LHA has some differences from the private sector version, but it's the same concept.
miss_s_b: Vince Cable's happy face (Politics: Vince - happy face)
2015-05-06 08:48 am

Politics is Show Business For Ugly People; press & politicians both collude to keep it that way

I am writing this as I listen to John Humphries pretend to interrogate the prime minister. Humphries asks questions in an aggressive way, he talks over Cameron, he words things provocatively... but he still lets Cameron avoid giving a single proper answer. Cameron is at this very second saying how he needs to address the big questions and not duck them while ducking Humphries' questions. It's show business for Cameron, because he gets to tell everyone he's submitted himself to a grueling Humphries interrogation; but it's also show business for Humphries because he gets to appear to be the fearless interviewer, speaking truth to power. It's all bollocks. Both Cameron and Humphries are dancing a choreographed dance around pre-determined limits, and neither of them strays for a nanosecond from the formal pattern.

David Cameron and George Osborne have both visited Calderdale more than once in this campaign. Nobody knew they were coming before they came except for the press and a select few in their own party and a few council officers. Each event was carefully stage managed. No ordinary people were to be allowed anywhere near. No inconvenient questions were to be asked. And it's not just the tories - Labour and my own party are as bad. Every top rank politician lives in abject terror of a Gillian Duffy Moment, so they allow the party machines to collude with the press in the Battle Bus culture in which pre-selected journos go to stage-managed photo calls in which only the most photogenic and meek ordinary people are even allowed into the building.

This isn't how politics should be. For a very few politicians it's not how it IS - people like Tessa Munt and David Ward haven't gone very far down this rabbit hole. But since being in government our leadership and leading figures have swallowed that this way of behaving is the way to do it - certainly it applied when Vince Cable came to Halifax. It's all so fake, and people can see it's fake, but when they tell politicians they detest the fakery politicians just stage-manage things all the harder.

And this, by the way, is yet another reason why Nicola Sturgeon is doing well this election - she has let the great unwashed come near, unlike any of the Westminster leaders.

Frankly, I don't care what either of the Labservative parties do because they are both as bad as each other, but I really really wish my party would stop doing this shit. And I swear to you, gentle reader, that I will do everything I can within the party to stop it happening.

If we can't have discussions with any ordinary member of the public, we don't deserve political success, and if a Gillian Duffy Moment happens, if we can't deal with THAT we don't deserve political success either. A politician who has to be insulated from people who disagree with him unless they are carefully stage managed is no politician at all.