miss_s_b: (Music: Progtastic Rock Wankman)
Sky news have been busy bunnies in the leadup to the election, creating these horrific lovely videos of the political leaders. If you haven't seen them, they're embedded below

What I want to know is, which of these do you think is most excruciatingly, buttock-clenchingly awful? I mean yes, there's some skill involved in clip selection and editing and whatnot, but honestly...

Poll #16651 Which is worse?
This poll is closed.
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: Just the Poll Creator, participants: 8

How far did you make it through watching General Affection?

less than ten seconds
1 (12.5%)

about thirty seconds
1 (12.5%)

the whole thing, baby
6 (75.0%)

How far did you make it through watching Ballot Ballad?

less than ten seconds
2 (25.0%)

about thirty seconds
1 (12.5%)

the whole thing, baby
5 (62.5%)

Which is worse?

General Affection
2 (25.0%)

Ballot Ballad
4 (50.0%)

I couldn't possibly choose. They're both excruciating
0 (0.0%)

What do you mean worse? They're both awesome, and no I HAVEN'T had my medication today, why do you ask?*
2 (25.0%)

* I'm allowed to ask that question cos I haven't had mine.
miss_s_b: Vince Cable's happy face (Politics: Vince - happy face)
The FT has spent a huge long article endorsing the tories, and three lines towards the end of it saying "oh by the way, in a seat where the tories aren't a choice, you might as well vote Lib Dem, they're acceptable". Many of my fellow LDs have greeted this with almost orgasmic cries of joy that a serious paper has endorsed us.

Eurgh. Basically we are cheering on the media for treating us as an adjunct to the tories, as opposed to treating us as Labour lite the way they did prior to 2010. Are we so inured to attack from the press that we'll treat ANY crumb from the rich man's table as a five star seven course feast? Well, clearly we are. And we're HELPING them with that "we'd give the tories a heart & labour a brain" graphic.

I am NOT a heart for a Tory.
I am NOT a brain for Labour.
I am a Liberal, and while I'm a pragmatic liberal and will therefore WORK with others, I'm buggered if I'm going to be somebody's comedy sidekick, or celebrate that the FT (or the Economist for that matter) thinks I am.

ETA: goes double for the Grauniad saying "vote Labour (unless you're in an LD tory marginal)" too
miss_s_b: (Politics: Democracy)
1, the moderator totally needs a mike-cutting button for each participant. Cameron & Farage in particular kept shouting over her, and I thought it was incredibly rude.

2, the polls of who won are going to be stuffed with party partisanship. Much more interesting to me are the polls of who people thought did worst, because with 6 enemies to choose from the partisans are going to be more honest. The other interesting - and sobering - stats were the questions most Google during the debate.

3, ITV want to be quite careful about political balance given the relative amount of talking each participant did - although, of course, Cameron's repeated shouting over the moderator adds to his higher total. Honestly, loads of tories were tweeting he looked like he was in charge. I just thought he looked like a boorish prick. But then boorish pricks often do get to be in charge, don't they?

4, For me, on performance rather than policy, Sturgeon won by a mile. But I think Clegg edged second.
miss_s_b: (Mood: Grateful)
So I had a really not-good day at work today. Things bothered me that shouldn't have, and other things didn't go my way for odd reasons, and the phoning gods were agin me (RIDICULOUS amounts of wrong numbers today, like seriously ridiculous). And then I got on the bus home, and there was a girl talking to someone on her phone, trying to estimate how long before she got home. I asked where she was going, and told her how long it would take; and then we got chatting.

She was smart and switched on. She was interested in politics, and she had opinions. She was passionate about what she believed in and she wanted to enthuse other young people... she really cheered me up, frankly, after all the cynicism and world-weary no-point-doing-anything stuff I hear on a regular basis.

So thank you, girl on the bus, for giving this jaded old political hack some hope on a bleak evening. I really value that, and will continue to do so, even if we never meet again.

Thank you.
miss_s_b: (Mood: Brain Hurts)
So, a couple of years ago Labour pulled out of a stable Lib/Lab coalition on Calderdale council despite the agreement having a year still to run because they thought they could go it alone in a minority administration. Last night that administration was finally toppled, after a series of scandals where the cabinet appointed by the minority administration kept ignoring the will of full council, in a no confidence vote. Labour are screeching about this in very personal terms in every medium that will afford them airspace. Apparently toppling Swifty from his rightful seat of supreme executive power that he gained without even a majority* is a betrayal, and a conspiracy cooked up against Swifty and the rest of Labour by foul evil nasty people.

This only makes sense if you understand one thing: Labour people think anything Labour = objectively, unquestionably good and anything not!Labour = bad. A moral judgement has already been made before any action is ever taken. Tories, of course, are ALWAYS evil, but Lib Dems and Greens can be acceptable; IF and ONLY if we are doing whatever Labour want us to do. As soon as we show any sign of not-supporting Labour in any way they scream that we are BETRAYING them. Because obviously, the fact that we all joined another party doesn't mean we don't support Labour REALLY, it just means we like other coloured shirts or something. And as soon as we become BETRAYERS we are automatically WORSE than the Tories. Tories can't HELP being evil, you see, but we made a CHOICE to be evil by not supporting Labour.

So it was OK for Labour to stab us in the back and kick us out of coalition because Labour are good and Lib Dems are bad.
But it's a BETRAYAL for us to vote against them in a no-con, even after they have stabbed us in the back and kicked us out of coalition, because if we want to be good we should be supporting them, not our own political beliefs.

I would laugh at this sort of "logic" were it not that so many of the electorate accept it unquestioningly :/

*or even a watery tart throwing a sword at him.**
** honestly, if I went round saying I was an emperor just cos some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me, they'd put me away***
*** and I'm not even called Dennis.
miss_s_b: Vince Cable's happy face (Politics: Vince - happy face)
I have been thinking for about 24 hours now that I should post about the Labour party's response to the domestic violence statistics and how nonsensical, counterproductive, and stupid it is. Given that I have been in that situation, and so has my mother, I think I can come at it from a position of some authority of experience. Given that I have also worked for the CAB and seen how the system fails victims of all genders and ages, I think I can say I have some authority there too. And as a feminist and activist, I could point to how topdown solutions implemented by powerful mostly-white mostly-het mostly-men groups rarely work to help the oppressed, and the Labour party are worse for this than most because they have good intentions and are therefore blind to their own flaws, and take any criticism of the way they go about things as a criticism of principle.

But frankly, what would that acheieve? It wouldn't help any of the people (elderly, children and partners alike) who suffer from domestic violence, and it would take up valuable time that could be better spent doing something else. Yes, domestic violence DOES need tackling politically, but not like this, and there are people suffering DV who need help NOW, not whenever some possible putative law comes through.

So if you REALLY want to actually help people suffering from domestic violence, here are two links for you.

Volunteer for Refuge
Donate to the Survivors Trust
miss_s_b: (Default)
So there are a bunch of Labour PPCs and assorted others today doing a coordinated clamour for renationalisation of the railways. This is a superficially attractive idea, and one that up until recently I might have agreed with myself, so I want to go into why I now believe it would be bloody stupid.

The way that privatisation was done was a cock up. You'll get no argument from me on that. The current franchise system for Train Operating Companies (hereinafter TOCs) is the worst of both worlds. Also, I have no issues with the fact that after the collapse of Railtrack, the infrastructure was basically brought back under state control in the guise of Network Rail. Land and track beds are a natural monopoly, and thus state control makes sense**. The actual rolling stock, though? Why does that have to be a monopoly? It doesn't.

The reason people still feel like it does is because of the afore-mentioned stupid franchise system, which means we basically have several regional monopolies rather than one national one***. We have competition on the railways in the same way we have competition for huge government contracts in other areas, and it's always the same usual suspects who bid for contracts because they are the only ones who can, and we end up with a cartel who fleece both the consumer at the ticket barrier and the taxpayer on the subsidies****.

In the few cases where some little company has managed to get an Open Access Rail contract, you can see how TOCs' contracts might work under a properly Liberal system. The example local to me is Grand Central, who run a service from various West Yorkshire stations to King's Cross. Their trains are beautiful, their service makes sense, and their prices are great. Contrast this with the Byzantine and delapidated system run by Northern Rail (my local franchise holder), or BR when the railways were still under state control, and you start to see what I'm driving at.

Train services aren't shit because they were privatised, they were shit under BR too. Train services are shit because they weren't privatised enough. You can't have proper competition under a franchise system. If there was proper competition there would be room for lots more companies like Grand Central to bid for (say) one or two slots on the timetable, start small, and build up really great services, instead of the monolithic state-in-all-but-name services we have now. There would be room for community-run and co-op run services to start up and (hopefully) flourish. Under the current system there's no way that can happen.

What is it that convinced me that all this is true? The NHS. NHS England operates under a much more liberal market structure than NHS Scotland, NHS Northern Ireland, or NHS Wales. This is consistently painted as a Bad Thing by many groups on the left. And yet, I am a Liberal, and I don't care what system of ownership something has on idealogical grounds, I care what works to deliver the best outcomes for people. On pretty much every measure - from life expectancy to waiting times - NHS England outperforms the other three. Proper liberalisation of the market WORKS, and that is why I am for it in the case of the railways.

In political terms, of course, the problem with this is that renationalisation makes some superficial sense. The current system is shit, does cost us more in subsidies and buggering about than the nationalised system did, and is in urgent need of reform. I actually think that in terms of winning votes, the Labour party might be onto something, because one of the types of person this will appeal to is the type of politically illiterate pub bore who has an opinion on everything, doesn't care that many of his opinions are mutually contradictory, and doesn't think about the consequences of what would happen if his ideas all came to pass. This type of person will look at the current system, see it's shit, shrug and say "well, renationalise the railways. That'll solve it." and move on to talking about how lazy immigrants who came over here to claim benefits have stolen his job by working more hours than him.

This is the type of voter that Labour are currently haemmoraging in droves to UKIP*****, so appealing to them is a good survival tactic for them. The type of person who cheers when Labour think of yet another thing they are going to fund with the bankers' bonus tax which they currently plan to spend many times over.

Of course I have no doubt that were renationalisation to make it into the Labour manifesto it wouldn't actually happen were they to get in******, but that won't really matter in electoral terms. There are a lot more reactionary pub bores than there are people who actually pay attention to what works. The problem for Lib Dems is: how do we package sensible policies in a way that makes sense to the reactionary pub bore? This, I think, is a problem which I would make a LOT of money if I could solve...

*with a little help from [personal profile] matgb and Alisdair, with whom I regularly have discussions about political stuff, both online and off.
**similarly with roads, etc.
***The reason we have it is because John Major had romantic notions about the golden age of rail and wanted to bring back GWR etc. and went about it in a cack-handed way. I have a soft spot for Major, and think he is harshly judged as a PM, but he really did make an arse of privatising the railways.
****just like in the arena of justice and security it's always G4S and Serco who end up with government contracts because of the ridiculous preffered bidder system and the size of the contracts being drawn up, but that's a blog post for another day.
*****whose entire policy platform is designed in this reactionary way - "X is a problem. How do we solve X? Y might work." with no consideration of the fact that Y doesn't work with any of the other policies they propose, and indeed, actively works against some of them... -_-"
******Don't even get me started on the rank hypocrisy of a party which introduced tuition fees against a manifesto promise that they wouldn't, and then raised them against a manifesto promise that they wouldn't attacking US on the fact that we kept tuition fees lower than they would have been under either Labour OR Tories governing alone... -_-"
miss_s_b: (feminist heroes: DCI Gill Murray)
So today is Beltane, and this means contemplation of summer and less-covering clothes, and lots of us are going to be feeling a bit insecure about what we look like. I've seen a lot of posts about making your body "acceptable" for beachwear, and I've seen a lot of other posts decrying those posts and condemning the way they concentrate on percieved flaws and make people feel insecure.

I have a LOT of insecurities about my body. I'm going to list some of them: NOT because I am after sympathy or argument, but purely for illustrative purposes. cut for length and ickiness )The thing is, despite all these percieved flaws, I still have several people who are willing, nay enthusiastic, to fuck me. I have people who, with heartrending sincerity, will lovingly stroke my skin and tell me that I'm beautiful**. Now, I'm fully aware that the plural of anecdote is not data, but the number of people who have fucked me and/or are enthusiastic to fuck me is approaching statistical significance, and they all seem to be in agreement.

If that applies to me, with all my physical flaws, then surely dear reader, it applies to you too. Yes, you may have imperfections. Yes, they might really bother you. But so does everybody else, and none of us judges anyone else as harshly as we judge ourselves.

As it comes to summer and more revealing clothing, be gentle with yourself, don't worry about your flaws, and remember that we all have imperfections but are none the less deserving of love and acceptance.

*your definition of "too much detail" may vary from mine.
**and yes, I'm aware of the old theory that to get anywhere with girls you tell a smart girl she's pretty and a pretty girl she's smart, but I'm as certain as I can be that these people genuinely believe what they are saying.
miss_s_b: (Mood: Facepalm)
All you people posting stuff to the UKIP freepost address to cost them money? You do realise you're actually costing the Royal Mail money, right? There's this little thing called "abuse of freepost". If you're not aware of it you can be damn sure the Kippers are. If you post them anything larger than large letter size the Royal Mail won't even try to deliver it because large letter is the maximum size for standard freepost*. So bricks might be a problem. And if you post them stuff they don't want they can refuse to pay for it under abuse of freepost.

Now, if you've posted something saying it's from YOU it's entirely possible the Royal Mail could take YOU to small claims to recover the cost, but it's probably not worth their while in legal fees to do so. So it's almost certainly not going to cost you, personally, anything. But the Royal Mail are going to suffer financial losses from this. Me personally, I don't think that makes the political point you were wishing to make.

Just so you know.

ETA: there are people on twitter contending that - like when these campaigns have happened previously - UKIP might just give in and close down their freepost address and that will be a victory. So, if UKIP close down their freepost address, what happens? The Royal Mail get to store warehouses full of undeliverable mail (which costs them money), and people have to pay to contact UKIP (which costs THEM money) and UKIP no longer have a freepost bill to pay (so they are paying LESS money) and will no longer have to sort through mail they didn't want to recieve anyway (so their admin costs will be lower). Pls to be explaining to me how this is a victory against UKIP?

Here's an idea: if you want to defeat UKIP, vote for someone else, and encourage other people to do likewise. If enough people don't vote for them they lose deposits, in the Euros if not the council elections, and that's WAY better than possibly potentially costing them 42p and a bit of annoyance, right?

* OfC you can have enhanced freepost which takes larger items, but no poilitcal party is going to pay for that just to get surveys back
miss_s_b: (Politics: Democracy)
Note to readership: I have been having a very bad brain day today. This blog post came out in fits and starts over about 6 hours. Normally something like this would take about 15 minutes. So please understand if I am not as quick to respond to comments as usual. Thanks.

Much is often made* of the fact that our politics in this country is done by the privileged, not just in terms of race and gender, but class; that you need to have money to get anywhere; and that our journalists are from similarly privileged backgrounds and do a bad job of scrutinising the politicians. We need to break down the elites that govern us to truly have a fairer society in which everyone can get on in life**, we are told. Just as an example, there's this piece on Scarlet Standard which I read earlier.

There is certainly an argument to be made that there are too many people in parliament/journalism who haven't the first clue what it's like to be poor, and it's also true that being privately educated means that your parents had some money when you were a kid. But because there is an overlap between those two groups does not mean that they are the same thing***.

The problem I have with attacking people for being privately educated is that people don't fit into neat little boxes with interchangeable labels. Compare and contrast the following two examples:
  1. A privately educated, able-bodied, cis white person, with post graduate law degree, and family in positions of power/privilege including running a radio station, a famous artist, and headmaster of a school

  2. A bisexual single mother from a family of socialist activists who abandoned the Labour party after Clause Four was removed, who has never had a job paying much more than minimum wage, and who has often gone without food to pay the rent or feed her child?
Both of those are, of course, descriptions of me. But in the extremely unlikely event I were to become an MP, which of those descriptors would be chosen for me by the people who think we should have class warfare? You can bet a lot of people, especially in the Labour party, would pick the first set, and bemoan yet another privately educated white lawyer getting into parliament****.

I don't particularly resent that; the Labour party is as the Labour party does, and it's not for me to tell the opposition what they can and can't attack me on*****. But me personally? I think every politician is an individual, whatever their educational status, or gender, or race, or whatever, and we should be critiquing what they do, or how ill-informed they are on a topic, not where they come from. If they are unfairly legislating against the poor (or women, or immigrants, or whatever), or if they show breathtaking lack of knowledge on a topic, then attack them for THAT, not for the choices their parents made for them when they were young.

I do, however, object to the lack of diversity in parliament and journalism. Not because it's unfair (although it is) or because it's unrepresentative (although it is), but because the homogeneity of person going into parliament/journalism leads to a homogeneity of thinking, and that leads to poorer parliament and poorer journalism. Study after study shows that diversity increases success in business and in other fields, so it should definitely be encouraged. But the problem would be the same if parliament were entirely composed of poor women, rather than being largely composed of rich men as it is now. The problem is the homogeneity, not the attributes of the homogenous people. That's why we ought to look to achieving diversity, not promote more of one type of person or another.

Acheiving diversity is very difficult, though, which I think is why many try to reduce it to a box-ticking exercise. You don't achieve diversity by having x percentage of people possessing y attributes in a given field and then it's done and you don't have to worry about it any more. Which attributes do you pick for that anyway? Race, gender expression, sexuality, mental health status, physical health status, whether you're a parent or not...? The list is potentially endless. Increasing the number of women in parliament won't achieve diversity if they are all rich; increasing the number of poor people in parliament will not achieve diversity if they are all white; etc. etc..

To achieve diversity, powerful elites need to consciously look outside their comfort zones, and purposefully seek out people who think differently in order to learn from them. Otherwise you end up with recruitment processes like this:

... where no matter how many boxes are ticked, nepotism still holds sway.

*regularly by me, it must be said
**on message, in volume, over time, that's me.
***and even if it did, there is nothing to stop a rich person from truly empathising with the poor, just as there's nothing to stop the poor from reading the Daily Mail and moaning about scroungers.
*****While I do, of course, reserve the right to respond in whatever way I see fit.
miss_s_b: Animated Viking shouts lots of words that originated in Viking language (Fangirling: Horrible Histories)
Am composing this on my phone on the bus so it may be typo-ridden, but...

There's been a lot of outrage on Twitter today about some people who pinched food from the bins at the back of a supermarket being prosecuted. In my view this outrage is fair, but it does worry me that people are reacting as if this is a new thing. When I worked at a supermarket (and I did in fits and starts from being 16) the store always prosecuted people they caught nicking from the bins. This is not a new thing.

I thought it was a bit heartless, to say the least, so I asked management why. Apparently the rationale was that if someone got ill from eating something they had pinched from the bins they, or their family, might sue. Preventing this terrible eventuality was much more important than letting hungry people eat stuff that was getting thrown away anyway.

So, you know, by all means be cross about it. I certainly am. But don't pretend is a new thing, or the fault of the ebul ConDem gubmint and a terrible indictment of Cameron Britain; it's not. It's standard supermarket practise.
miss_s_b: Vince Cable's happy face (Politics: Vince - happy face)
Yesterday on Twitter (today, if you don't do twitter but do read my linkspams) I linked to a post called Why Marketers Fear the Female Geek. If you read my blog for libdemmery or Doctor Who you might not have bothered clicking the link, but I urge you to do so. It's the clearest explanation of how marketing works I have ever read. Go ahead, do it now, I'll wait.

The more astute among you will have already realised how this applies to British politics. Especially if you were listening to the news this morning. Both Labour and Tories have announced things today which are desperately chasing a small and shrinking proportion of the population, actively at the expense of everyone else (in Labour's case it's racists, in the Tories' case it's pensioners). Why are they doing this? Well, because they are marketing men. David Cameron worked in PR, for pity's sake. They've identified a demographic they can appeal to and they are appealing for all they are worth, trying to squeeze every last vote out.

The problem is, the longer this goes on, the more people are left out in the cold. Politicians whine all the time about decreased turnout at elections, but then they only ever try to appeal to a subset of those who already vote, which leaves everybody else angry and feeling disenfranchised.

Politics desperately needs a Disruptive Innovator. And it really, REALLY should be the Lib Dems. We made a half-arsed attempt at it in 2010 with the Tuition Fees + No More Broken Promises schtick, and we ALL know how that went; if anything that has made things worse because we didn't follow through on our marketing. But we can, and should, do better. We have LOTS of disruptive and innovative policies, we just need to get them taken seriously by the electorate. Well, I say, just... After last time there is going to be a once bitten, twice shy effect.

I think we're doing better with the Euro campaign for this year. We're the only party not doing the racist dog whistle race to the bottom of saying IMMIGRUNTS BAD all the time. We're pointing out actual facts and things about how being in Europe and free movement of peoples across Europe actually makes us richer, both economically and socially. In a country that's reading a lot of Daily Mail, that's bold, radical, disruptive innovation right there.

We need to be thinking about how we're going to do this for the general. And we need to be thinking about it now, if not sooner.

ETA: it has been pointed out to me that perhaps I could have worded one of the sentences in this better. Pensioners are, as a group, growing as a proportion of the population. But if you are appealing to voters you are appealing to individuals within a group, not the whole group, and individual pensioners get old and die. If you craft a message that appeals to post-war generation pensioners but ignores the baby boomers (like my parents) who have VERY different views, the group you are appealing to is shrinking and you are putting off their replacements.
miss_s_b: (Default)
It's August, the Westminster Bubble is mostly free of Actual News, so the commentariat turns to navel-gazing. Why, they opine, WHY is poitical party membership falling off a cliff? It's particularly plaintive this year as the Tory party is rumoured to have dropped below 100,000 members - as recently as 1990 they were over a million, down from a peak of nearly 3 million. There are a lot of comment pieces about this in the mainstream media, and most of them seem to me to miss the salient point.

When one joins a poltical party, what does one get for one's money? It seems to me, not very much.

Chance to become elected

You are much more likely to become elected if you are a member of a party than if you are an independent. And yet, the number of us living in safe seats, and the number of seats available in the first place, means that most mmbers of political parties won't get the chance to become elected, and that's even if they wanted to. Lots of people would rather not be. And those who do become eleced still need the supprt structures provided by a party, so there need to be lots of members who are not (and don't want to be) elected to office.

Chance to influence party policy, and thereby the law of the land

This depends on the party. In the Lib Dems, the Greens, and the Pirates there are strong demoratic structures, and party policy is determined by members. I have been very proud to see policies that I have been involved in the formulation of become actual laws (shared parental leave, for example). In Labour and the Conservatives it sees to me that internal party democracy is weaker, although I am sure people will correct me on this if I am wrong. UKIP I have no idea.

The problem is though, that if your party DOES get into government, there's always the chance that the leadership will ignore party policy in favour of whatever the Daily Mail says. I strongly suspect this, or at least the perception of this, to be behind huge amounts of the falloff in Lib Dem membership the last couple of years.

The bottom line is that if you want to influence party policy, and thereby the government, you're much better off if you can afford to spend money directly influencing public opinion in a swing seat, because then all the parties will rush to pander to you. Beating your head against the brick wall of party machinery can sometimes achieve cracks in the wall, but mostly it achieves a sore head.

You can get information from the party about what's going on

This can be quite useful. Although the information is quite partisan, it's still going to give you more than you get from the mainstream press. The thing is you have to sign up for a lot of this even as a member of the party. I get to see this every day at work. My work colleagues are signed up to different email lists to me. We all sometimes get stuff that the others don't. People unaware of how these things work are going to miss out on a lot.

You can help select candidates for office

Well, you CAN, if you're someone who is good at getting in with the local party heirarchies. Most people who join a political party never go to a local party meetng.

You can get to meet famous politicians

See above.

It's a badge of honour

Uh, no. Normal people percieve EVERYONE who joins a political party, of whatever stripe, as weird. This is because, with less than half a milion people (I'm not counting Union affiliate members of the Labour party here, partly because many of them aren't Labour supporters, and partly because union membership is in steep decline too) being card-carrying members of any political party, we ARE weird.

It's a social club, and you can use it for networking

Again, this only really applies to people who go to the local party meetings. It's not a social club for the armchair member. For me, embedded as I am in the party, the Lib Dems are my family. But having kept in touch with various people who have left for various reasons, it's clear that those friendships, once forged, don't die just because someone is not a member of the club any more.

It's a public statement of what you believe in

So is a t-shirt, and a t-shirt is cheaper.

The list above just came from the top of my head, but it's obvious from it that although there are benefits for people who want to be activists, for the armchair member there is very little. And even for those who want to be activists, all too often you pay your subs, turn up to a local meeting, and discover that you have to spend ten years delivering leaflets "voluntarily", all the while paying your subs like a good little soldier, before anyone will listen to a word you have to say. Even those of us who have reached the rarefied position of having something of a voice regularly get told to shut up and deliver leaflets by those higher up the chain.

To me the reason membership of political parties is dwindling is blindingly obvious. For the vast majorty of members, you pay your money and you get nothing at all. The next biggest group are the group who pay their money and get roundly abused and expected to work very hard for the privelege of having paid. For a vanishingly small number, the benefits listed above become worth the money. But for most people? Why in the hell would you hand over hard-earned cash, particularly in today's economic climate, for a big pile of bugger all? You might as well go down the pub (while there's still some pubs left) and spend your money there.

If political parties want to stop the decline in membership they need to offer something that people think is worth spending money on. I don't see it happening any time soon...
miss_s_b: (Politics: Democracy)
And thus I am taking some time away from the internet - twitter, blogs, the lot - until it calms down. I have no wish to get in between people gleefully installing Thatcher Memorial Dancefloors and people pompously taking the moral high ground and sneering. I'll wait till the next big news story is announced and the mayfly attention of the internet moves to that before I come back, just for my own sanity.

I suspect I'll be doing the same again as and when her funeral is announced, too.

miss_s_b: (Default)
I'm filling in a meme on a DW community, and it's asking me what other fandoms I'm involved with aside from the one the comm is based around. And it got me thinking (possibly because I have been reading The Wee Yin's tumblr too much, and she definitely treats politics as a fandom) - does politics count as a fandom?

Poll #12355 Politics as a fandom?
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: Just the Poll Creator, participants: 22

Does politics count as a fandom?

Hell yes
14 (63.6%)

Ew no
4 (18.2%)

What the hell are you talking about?
0 (0.0%)

4 (18.2%)

miss_s_b: Vince Cable's happy face (Politics: Vince - happy face)
We had a discussion in the office Saturday morning. It was a wide-ranging and occasionally sweary discussion. It touched on Leveson, CCDP, access to justice, housing and many other areas. And at the end of it, we reached a conclusion. The conclusion was this:

The problem with Lib Dems in government* is that they don't listen to or trust the people who know what they are talking about.

For example, I am not a big economics geek, but I know enough about it to know it's important and to know who IS a big geek and which of them to trust ([personal profile] matgb is one, Richard Flowers another. Another example, on IT systems, I know a bit, but not as much as someone like Zoe O'Connell. On science, there's the magnificent Huppmeister. On digital rights, there's Dave Page. I could go on, but you get the idea.

When one is in power, the trick is NOT to try to become and expert on everything, because that isn't humanly possible. The trick is to surround yourself with people you can trust who are experts in the various fields you need to make decisions on.

Now theoretically, this should be easy in the Lib Dems. We have lots of experts, and lots of internal party committees that they can join or be elected to which would theoretically smooth their communication with the party leadership and the parliamentarians. Even better, our leader recognised before we went into coalition that going native when surrounded by civil servants might be an issue, and warned us to keep an eye on him (and the other parliamentarians) for it. And we have lots of councillors and council leaders who have experience of officers trying to control them and methods of avoiding it.

So if we have the people who can solve the problem, and a leadership which is alive to the problem, why is the problem still happening?

I think it boils down to trust. Somehow the leadership and MPs have lost trust in the people who know what they are doing within the party and started to listen to the siren call of those who have been embedded in the Westminster Bubble for decades. This is something that members of our party who are/have been in local government leadership positions predicted; those Westminster Bubble types have years of experience of persuading MPs that they need to listen to them and nobody else.

Communication between the leadership and the experts within the party has got more distant and one way, despite the best efforts of the experts, because the parliamentarians have started to believe that the civil service knows better. Emails from the leadership have become steadily more patronising and mansplainy as we get further from 2010. And this isn't going to change because I (or anyone else) has a moan about it.

To be honest, although I can see the problem, I don't have the first clue what to do about it. Any of yoou lot have any bright ideas?

* not all of them, and not all of the time, but enough of them enough of the time to make it systemic
miss_s_b: (Politics: Democracy)
I've seen a huge number of theories on this, but given some politicians' disdain for actually doing research and finding things out, I suspect we'll never have a definitive answer. After all, it's much easier to pontificate from assumptions than do research... With that caveat in mind, I'd like to take a look at some of the theories.

1, Nobody votes in winter elections

Turnout in winter elections does tend to be depressed by 5 or 6 percent. This may be a factor, but it's clearly not the full explanation when in some places turnout didn't even hit 10 percent.

2, There was a lack of information about the elections

There was no freepost mailshot. The London-based national media were totally apathetic about reporting that the elections were happening (unlike the bloody London mayor, which the rest of us had to suffer ad nauseam). The government didn't push the elections either. The Choose My PCC website was abysmal, and the helpline was worse than useless. This all gave the electorate the impression that nobody could be bothered. Again, I think this was a factor, but not the full explanation.

3, There was a lack of meaningful choice

Even if you get over the hurdles of lack of information, you discover that most of the candidates were standing on identical platforms. More bobbies on the beat, less anti-social behaviour, etc. Unless you have strong ideological political convictions (which is not very many people these days) from which you could extrapolate the values of the candidate (because very few made overtly political statements) how the hell were you meant to choose between them? And if there's no meaningful choice, people won't bother to vote - I personally think this is a large part of the decline in turnouts in other elections too.

4, People object to the idea of a politician running the police

This may be true, although it shows ill-informedness about how the police were run before. Again, I think the media must take some share of the blame for this. Pretty much all of the reports I have seen have described the PCCs as replacing the Police Authority - which is something of a misconception - and have not described how the existing police authorities were comprised of local councillors anyway so were already politicised. The only thing that has really changed here is the name of the police authority - they are now police and crime panels - and the fact that the chair of the authority has been renamed commissioner and is now directly elected rather than indirectly.

5, People who object to the idea of elected police commissioners had no way to register their disdain other than to stay away

Although there have been a larger number of spoilt ballots this time, people are still unaware of the power of a spoilt ballot, and so tried to send a message by not voting. Unfortunately, we all know that politicians and the media will paint this as "voter apathy" and people "not bothering". This will increase feelings of disenfranchisement and frustration among the electorate. At some point this is going to boil over, but clearly this election wasn't it.

If you DO object to the very idea of elected police and crime commissioners, by the way, I recommend either signing Unlock Democracy's open letter to Theresa May or signing the epetition here, or both.

6, People are just generally pissed off with politicians, political media, and elections

I, personally, think this is the nub of it. And because people are just generally pissed off with politicians, political media, and elections this feeds into the perception that there is a lack of meaningful choice - if all politicians are the same and they are all venal scumsucking money-grubbing bastards, why bother to try to choose between them? It won't make any difference.

The causes of this are many and complex, but a large part of it is the electoral system which forces there two be two big broad church parties of disparate people BEFORE an election rather than coalitions forming after; a large part of it is the media who love to take politicians down and misrepresent them for sensationalist reasons; some of it is a lack of education on politics and its processes; and some of it is the dishonesty of politicians in not admitting that actually, there is very little difference between any of the main parties precisely due to the above effects.

There needs to be a sea change in politics in this country. People like Loz Kaye and even the idiot Farage are doing their best to bring that about peacefully, but powerful forces are ranged against them. The Labour and Conservative parties really don't want to see it happen because it will mean the end of their century-old strangehold on power, which is why all of the opprobrium for unpopular government decisions has been aimed by them at the Lib Dems. The dead tree media don't want to see it happen because pluralist politics is far harder to report than red/blue blue/red spats, which is why all of the opprobrium for unpopular government decisions has been aimed by THEM at the Lib Dems.

But I think it's going to happen. Whether or not it happens peacefully depends on exactly how hard the establishment resists, but we've already seen riots, record low turnout in elections, and we're seeing the demonisation and othering of everyone from the disabled to those who dare to voice dissent on twitter. It takes a lot to make British people rouse from their "mustn't grumble" natural state and revolt, but we're seeing signs of it happening. Our political class (myself included) needs to pay attention to this and do something about it, before the entire edifice gets burned.
miss_s_b: (Fanigrling: Rumpole)
There appears to be something of a backlash against this concept going on at the moment, and everyone I see lashing back against it seems to be lashing at so many straw men they're in a blizzard of dried grasses.

Evidence-based policy does not mean you can't do ANYTHING without randomised control trials on every single facet of every policy. It DOES mean that we should pay attention to what we are doing currently and note what it's effects are and see if those effects push towards or move away from our aims. I don't see what the problem is with paying attention to whether what you are doing or proposing achieves it's aims?

The word "evidence" does not preclude consideration of anything other than randomised control trials. Empirical evidence from one person is still evidence. Hearsay evidence is still evidence, albeit not very persuasive. A randomised control trial might be more persuasive, but if you haven't got one of those there are still other forms of evidence you can consider. Evidence is not an on/off switch, but a complex sliding scale of persuasiveness.

The rejection of evidence-based policy strikes me, with my legal training, as completely wrong-headed. Because if you reject evidence-based policy, what you are doing is asking for policy that has no evidence for it. Policy that has no evidence for it at best is policy that nobody knows whether it will work, and far more likely is policy that there is evidence that it doesn't work, simply on the basis that most policies have been tried by now, so we have some evidence on whether or not they work.

Why in the name of Paddy's pants would anyone find that preferable to policy which we have some evidence that it works?
miss_s_b: (feminist heroes: river song)
In discussion on twitter today, someone Not Like Me* praised me for trying to understand their position. I am having a rather mixed set of reactions to it. Obviously gratitude (it's nice to be praised) and faint smugness (yes, I AM awesome) but also a large dollop of confusedness (it was described as a rare thing to do) and quite a lot of sadness (why is it rare? Surely everyone reasonable tries to understand other people?).

I suspect this plugs into my fondness for debate, and my dad having drummed scientific method into me. How can you debate something with someone if you don't understand their position? How can you test someone's reasoning if you don't know how that reasoning has been reached? So I try very hard to understand the positions of people Not Like Me because I don't know without trying to understand them whether or not they might have a point in whatever they are arguing for/against.

What I don't get is why this isn't second nature to everyone else?

I mean, sure you might be totally convinced of your rightness in a particular argument (I often am ;)), but if that's the case, surely you'd be better forensically dismantling your opponent than just dismissing them? And to do that you need to at least try and understand where they're coming from. You can pick holes in a cloth if you don't know where it is, after all.

Or you might want to totally support the position of the people unlike you. But without trying to understand them you might unwittingly undermine them or cause them pain (and this is something I suspect I am rather prone to, which is a big part of my wish to understand).

Now I'm not saying that this is easy. It often isn't, particularly because I do occasionally get things wrong and have to publicly apologise/backtrack. But surely it's easier than being dogmatic and unmovable and ignorant? Surely it's easier than pissing people off, either purposefully or inadvertently?

I guess this is just another thing I don't understand that I would like to. Like a circle in a circle...

* for the purposes of this blog post it doesn't really matter in what way I differ from the person I was talking to, so I am keeping it deliberately vague. A person being Not Like Me is in no way meant as a perjorative - in fact, in many cases it's a positive advantage - but just as a description.
miss_s_b: (feminist heroes: DCI Gill Murray)
Yes, the coalition parties got a drubbing. Yes, Labour won back lots of seats. But that's not the big story, and Labour would do well to resist the urge to rub Lib Dem faces in it (not that they are resisting, of course...). The big story of what happened yesterday was turnout. In most places it was less than 30%. LESS THAN 30%!

This is not a ringing endorsement of the Labour party, this is a big two fingers up to ALL politicians. It explains the Green wipeout in Cambridge when they had net gains overall, and came close to taking (for example) Birkenhead with over 40% of those who turned out voting for them. It explains the gains for Respect in Bradford - and we're already seeing hopes for all sorts, including saving the Odeon, attached to Respect, which I shall be very sad but very unsurprised to see dashed.

Triumphalist Labourites tweeting that (for example) in one ward in Hull they got 80-odd percent of the vote and intentionally not mentioning the turnout (18.7%) are 1, missing the point and 2, setting themselves up for a big fall. When you factor in turnout, that Hull ward was won by 15.7% of the vote. That's not something to crow about, not for politicians of ANY stripe.

The public hates us ALL. Yes, at the moment they detest the coalition parties more than Labour, but that won't last if Labour get in. Politicians of all parties need to be very worried indeed about the message that extremely low turnouts are sending us, because at some point there's going to be a really big upset if we don't. Possibly even if we do.
miss_s_b: (Politics: FU)
There's a letter in there from one "Concerned Voter" complaining that candidates spend more time writing to the local paper than they do knocking on doors talking to actual voters. I haven't actually written to the Echo since I stopped being press and communications officer for the local party, although obviously I read it, so I just emailed to say the following:
I write in response to "concerned voter" of Rastrick. Obviously, I can't speak for other candidates, but the reason I no longer do door-to-door canvassing is that the last time I did it, someone set their dog on me. My garden gate vaulting skills are pretty good so I was uninjured (just); although I am happy to engage in the cut and thrust of debate, I draw the line at risking my personal safety.

Concerned Voter will be glad to know that I have, however, been spending between twenty and thirty hours a week in telephone canvassing on behalf of my party in the run-up to the local elections, and although I may not get around to her (or him) I am doing my best. Meanwhile, if any Brighouse resident wishes to share their concerns with me (whether or not I am elected to serve them on Thursday) I am quite happy to be contacted, and easy to find on the internet or behind the bar at the Old Ship Inn - although when I am at work the concerns of Brighouse residents must necessarily take second place behind the serving of beer.
...And now it's back to work work work, I'm afraid.
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