Eastleigh by-election, 2013 Tactical Voting Crib Sheet

Long ago (2011), some concerned citizens got together and tried to change the way we elect our politicians here in the UK. We wanted to switch from the fatally flawed First Past The Post to a more healthy Alternative Vote system in which voters would be free to vote for the candidate that best represented their beliefs.

Alas, it was not to be. So rather than voting because of agreeing with candidates, the voters of Eastleigh will once again be voting based upon whom they hate the most. So, to aid in their bile, I have put together a simple voting crib sheet to help them work out how to really stick it to Miliband/Cameron/Clegg.

Hate: Liberal Democrats (Nick Clegg)
Vote: Labour (John O’Farrell)

Why: Eastleigh is a Lib Dem/Conservative marginal. This means that other parties are unlikely to win and thus the electorate should tactically vote depending upon who they dislike the most out of these two candidates. Voting for Labour would drain the Liberal Democrat vote, sending a message to Nick Clegg that his party has been rejected by the left. Don’t fear, the conservative vote will hold up and the liberal democrats will lose, hitting those pesky lib dems with a double whammy – they lose the seat, and face a resurgent labour party. Clegg will be crying in his soup before the day is out.

Hate: Labour (Ed Miliband)
Vote: Conservative (Maria Hutchings)

Why: If Labour can’t make inroads in the south (even with a charismatic candidate like John O’Farrell), then they have no hope of winning the general election. A victorious conservative party would prove that the electorate was supporting the austerity cuts and all of Ed Balls’ whining was pure poppycock. Osborne would be able to stand up in the commons and say, “Hey, turns out people LOVE cuts. Eat that, Miliband!” Ed will be crying in his porridge before the day is out.

Hate: Conservatives (David Cameron)
Vote: Liberal Democrat (Mike Thornton)

Why: The conservative party have managed to convince themselves that the reason for their poor poll ratings is that they are being watered down by those pesky liberals. When people say, “Boo! No to cuts!” What those Tory back-benchers hear is, “Boo! No to weak-and-restricted- not-going-far-enough cuts!” A victory to their coalition partner (and arch-nemesis) would shut them up good and proper. Why vote Lib Dem rather than Labour? A victory/swing to the Labour party will be dismissed as merely the natural process of a by-election. The Labour party is bound to harvest votes as it is in opposition. Voting Lib Dem sends a strong message it is Conservatives, not government, that is being rejected. Cameron will be sneezing on his eggs benedict before the day is done.

So there you have it, tactical voting in a nutshell. Cynical? That’s First Past The Post for you.

Election Pain and Tactics

As the AV Referendum nears, both sides of the Coalition are beginning to gnash their teeth and growl across the wide pit that is government. So simpler would it have been if this was a Coalition between the Lib Dems and Labour. In such an instance, the Labour rebels would have been hushed up, turning the divide into a simple government vs opposition debate. Instead the Coalition is split along party lines, with a rather confused Labour party joining both groups, like teenagers trying to start a scuffle in the playground. It is a cluster-fuck of epic proportions.

It is perhaps the unpredictable nature of this referendum that has everyone on edge. The polls seem to fluctuate quite dramatically depending upon who you ask. One minute the ‘Yes’ group are flagging, the next they’re pulling into the lead. On the day it’s all going to come down to who can get their vote out, and with so many Lib Dem voters disaffected, this could dramatically hamper the ‘yes’ campaign.

Rather more predictable is the local elections. Expect a slaughter of the Liberal Democrats, big gains for Labour, and a Conservative Party holding firm, mainly because the Tory voters have nowhere else to go. The week following the inevitable disaster for the Lib Dems is going to be followed with countless interviews with disgruntled ex-liberal councillors blaming Nick Clegg for it all. I have no doubt that there will be many calls for his head and the end to the coalition, but this would be a dire mistake.

Nick Clegg will not survive another general election. This is true, yet it would be so even if he wasn’t unfairly carrying the blame for every unpopular decision the government’s taken. Being the smaller party, the Lib Dems were ultimately the ones who had to make a choice to join the coalition or not. The Conservatives pulled over in their white fiesta and said, “I’ve got sweets in here if you’d like to get in?” and the Lib Dems were the ones who had to decide whether or not to climb on-board.

This pact makes any electoral campaign difficult. Do you hammer the coalition partner, or side with them? The idea of Nick Clegg and David Cameron taking bites out of each other in a televised debate is preposterous. The only sensible option for a smaller party facing such circumstances is to formally end the Coalition in the run up to the general election, elect a new leader and campaign as an individual entity. Sleepwalking into an election as the junior in a Coalition could easily see them getting dumped by the Tories, the moment they secure a majority.

Would this mean that the Lib Dems would be distancing themselves from the Coalition? Certainly not. Such a process is all part of the reality of Coalitions, and the Lib Dems should be proud of what they’ve gained from such a weak hand. At the moment the public and the Labour party don’t understand how coalitions work and it is the duty of the Liberals to show them.

The only other option available would be to merge the parties, and that would be very messy indeed….

The Rise Of The Stupid

It is a well known stereotype that the older a person gets, the more cynical they become. After being fooled, let down and deceived so many times (even though in the minority of encounters) they can’t help but view the world through tinted glasses. Is it possible the same can be said for a democracy? Does a state ruled by the people for the people naturally slide into crippling cynicism?

The general election of 1997 was perhaps the last hurrah of British politics. We’d been let down too many times and, perhaps naively, threw our hopes behind the Labour party. By 2010 that dream had been repeatedly thrashed and, like a triple-divorcee contemplating a possible date, the electorate were left doubting if they could ever again believe the words of a politician.

The split in the public was reflected in the election result – a hung parliament. No specific party was given the endorsement needed to form a government, though by the size of the Conservative result it was clear the public wanted them to play a role in whatever coalition was formed. After a few days of political negotiation the inevitable happened: a coalition between the conservatives and the liberal democrats.

And then, just a few months later, it began: the rise of the stupid.

As if on auto-pilot every announcement is now greeted with cynical fantasy – selling forests to local organisations? It must be so they can be chopped down! Devolving power in the NHS? It must be to privatise healthcare! (rather amusing that one, consider for a moment the huge row the Americans just had over the hint at state interference creeping into their private healthcare system) Changing the way universities are funded? It must be to stop poor kids getting an education!

And now – reform of our political system. The most important piece of legislation this country has seen in a generation is being shouted down by cynical fantasy arguments that shouldn’t exist in a democracy, yet thrives in ours.

The No to AV campaign shouldn’t be allowed to get away with claiming that switching to AV would cost £250 million, given that this is a complete fantasy. Neither should they be able to infer that if AV fails, this money (that doesn’t exist) would go towards flack-jackets for soldiers or cardiac equipment for sick babies. In a healthy democracy the public would laugh at such ridiculous scaremongering tactics, yet in ours the argument grows traction. The public, so cynical in their approach, are willing to grasp any negative claim as gospel, believing that anything from the political sphere is to be opposed.

The rot is deep within our culture and has been spreading for sometime, but is now reaching epic proportions. Logic no longer counts in British politics. It seems to have been replaced with a strange national masochism masquerading as scepticism. Democracy by sophism is rising and there’s little that can be done to stop it.

Take, for instance, a publication found on openDemocracy titled “Fight Back”. A collective work praising the rise of demonstrations against the coalitions broken pledges and cuts to public services. It is a belief, held by this group and others, that through modern means of communication the public can strike back against a morally corrupt government. But it is sophism. Whilst on the one side damning the coalition parties for breaking pledges in the name of comprise they praise their own organisation for putting aside ideological differences in favour of finding common ground. As one author writes: “it would be a great shame now to descend into ideological fetishism”. In other words, “we need to get rid of these cowardly compromisers and replace them with people like us who are willing to put aside our beliefs for the common good”. The startling hypocrisy should be obvious, but it seems the more these groups grow, so does the self-congratulation and intellectual mutual masturbation, putting aside the glaring contradictions inherent in their words.

This mentality could be clearly seen in the furore over the forest sell off plans, a harmless attempt to devolve power and improve the quality of our forests that was demonised until the image held in the public’s eye was completely different from reality.

Yet the beast that is awoken cannot be easily lulled back to sleep. The NUS shamelessly whipped its membership into a frenzy over the raising of tuition fees, and yet now, after the protests are over and the resentment remains, it is they who have to reap what they sowed. It’s been reported that the NUS sent letters out to their membership admitting that they greatly exaggerated the impact of the government’s proposals and pleaded with students to work with universities. Having manipulated the masses, they are now paying the price. What’s done cannot be undone.

A movement is on the way. A great rise of the stupid. They compare their efforts with those of the Egyptians, an insulting comparison that could only be made by a people that do not know what tyranny really is. It’s a movement similar to the tea-party in the states, but from the other end of the political spectrum. And like the tea-party, they aren’t interested in logic. Just outrage.

The Fight Begins

The political scrap over the AV referendum began today with the ‘no’ campaign being launched in London. The government is confident that the bill will be passed in time for the deadline, so it looks like in May we will vote on whether or not to switch to the tragically flawed ‘Alternative Vote’ system of elections or stick with the outright corrupt ‘First Past The Post’. Already the two campaigns are growling at each other, and it’s going to be a hell of a dirty fight.

I looks like the ‘no’ campaign is going to be driven by labeling a ‘yes’ vote as a vote for Nick Clegg. The Deputy Prime Minister is the most unpopular man in British politics (God knows why, did I miss a week in the news when he raped a puppy in Trafalgar Square?) and the enemies of reform are going to exploit this to their advantage. Expect hundreds of rabid students turning out to vote alongside Murdoch on this one. How utterly bizarre.

The big question seems to be what will Cameron do? This campaign is going to be one long smear against Clegg, so can Cameron afford to be seen endorsing it? Probably not, but if he doesn’t turn out to campaign against AV then his own back-benchers may well turn the cannons on him too.

The biggest problem the ‘Yes’ campaign faces is getting its supporters excited enough to turn out. Those who care enough to want the voting system changed generally want PR, recognising that while AV is better than FPTP, it is still unrepresentative. The campaign needs to convince these people that to fail on this hurdle out of some idealistic protest will not help them get PR. In fact, the opposite will happen – FPTP will be enshrined in our political system for another generation.

A lot of nonsense is going to be thrown around over the next few months. Expect more disinformation similar to tuition fees, selling of forests and NHS reform. Will the British public fuck themselves over one more? It would be funny if not so horribly tragic.