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.

Scars

It seems an age ago, yet the scars of 2003 still run deep throughout Britain and the rest of the world. The wound was the Iraq War, a misjudgement of epic proportions that ruined the reputation of the west and blacklisted liberal intervention in the eyes of the international community.

It is this legacy that is the true failure of that war. Whilst bombs eventually stop being detonated, the anguish remains, and this can be seen clearly in our attitude towards intervention in Libya.

Astonishingly, a majority of the public are against the removal of Gaddafi. They want us to back off and allow the civil war to resolve itself. It seems the scars of Iraq run so deep that they cannot view any intervention as anything other than sinister. It seems a conspiracy is at work.

Yet the objections raised are misguided. Back in 2003 the majority of the public were for the Iraq war (no matter what they may have claimed later), and I fear that this same majority has once again found itself one the wrong side of the argument.

Iraq, and indeed Afghanistan, were completely different situations to Libya. Neither country were unstable at the time, nor were they threatening their neighbours. It is true that both the Taliban and Saddam were loathsome brutal rulers, but there was no organised opposition ready to take over upon their demise; this had to be artificially created afterwards. The timing of intervention came from external forces. In the case of Afghanistan there was a vengeful American population that needed to see bombs dropped, and Iraq was simple political momentum, rather than events on the ground.

Libya couldn’t be further from that. It is a state that had turned against its own people and threatened them with death should they protest for human rights. Unlike Iraq, it is clear the people of Libya want democracy and want the west to intervene, and it was right that we did and continue to do so. Had we not, the international community would no doubt be reeling from witnessing a bloody massacre in Benghazi, and being condemned for not acting.

The opposition to our actions seems threefold; firstly that we cannot afford it. This argument is not actually relevant as to whether or not to act. If a hospital is at full capacity and there is a disaster nearby, the staff should still go to lengths to aid those injured. Likewise, no matter how overstretched the police budget is, they would never simply say, ‘we’re not going to investigate any more murders’. Of course an overworked and underfunded military is going to be put under immense strain, but the question of funding is endless. You could pour every penny the country has into its military, yet still it would be considered underfunded, because the possibilities of where to spend the money is limitless.

The second objection is that we are intervening in Libya, but not in other states where there have been brutal repression of citizens. But as before, Libya is a different situation. In Libya the movement against the state reached a certain momentum that we could openly throw our weight behind. Sadly, the protests in other countries have not yet reached that point. If we intervene too soon we run the risk of crushing what is a delicate growth.

Finally there is a suspicion we are only intervening in Libya because that have oil. This argument does not stand up to reason. Unlike Iraq, Libya’s oil wasn’t under sanctions, there was no ‘untapped’ source to exploit. If our aim was to get at Libya’s oil we would have allowed Gadaffi to crush the resistance and then go back to normal. If anything, we are jettisoning a reliable source of oil in favour of an unreliable democratic source. That’s not sinister, that’s noble.

RIOT!

Riot! Smash! Destroy! No Compromise! Down With The Rotters!

Yes, the streets of London have become a battlefield. We’re talking full on destruction, the end of times, Revelations, and all that. OK, perhaps not. Perhaps it was just a small bunch of tits who got carried away, but there is a larger bunch of tits who can’t be dismissed: the NUS.

First of all, I’m not wholly against violent protest. I think there is a place for it, though that place is rare and only in cases of extreme immorality on behalf of the state. After protesting the Iraq War time and time again, perhaps a little violence might have tipped the scales in our favour? After all, the government sure showed us that no amount of peaceful protest was going to change their minds. Not one bit, m’laddio. But even in that case, with all the ethical urgency and life or death outcomes available, violent protest would probably have proven counter productive, turning opinion against us, rather than against Blair and The Sun.

How tragic then, that instead of getting violent over bombing innocents, our students chose to get ‘so passionate that they couldn’t control themselves’ over having to pay a bit more in fees for their education. Now, forgive me for siding with a Conservative administration, but doesn’t that strike you as a tad selfish? It doesn’t come across as a principled stand, but more as an attempt to be a bit richer in the future. It’s not even as if they have to pay the fees up front, they pay them back once they are earning above 21k. If your degree proves worthless when it comes to getting a job, then – hurrah! – the state isn’t going to come knocking.

Now, I’m saying this with full sympathy for their cause. I believe that education should be free, but I also am a pragmatist who understands that things provided by the state need to be paid for, and there currently is no money. It’s a huge shame, but students need to foot-the-bill. It’s better that than, say, shutting down the NHS, or ending primary school education and leaving it up to parents.

So should students feel pissed off? Certainly. Should they be getting violent? Certainly not. It makes them look like toddlers throwing a strop.

But I began the article pointing the finger of judgement at the NUS, rather than the violent few. What are they doing wrong?

It seems the NUS, furious at the rise in tuition fees, have decided to punish the Lib Dems for abandoning their pledge to oppose tuition fees. They have threatened a decapitation strategy of every Liberal MP who votes for the bill. With such harsh opposition, MP’s such as Nick Clegg, might lose their seats come the next election.

Surely, I hear you say, that is the correct thing for a pressure group to do? The Lib Dems did, after all, break their promise and need to be held to account. Shouldn’t the NUS flex their muscles?

No, and here is the reason why. If the NUS punish the Lib Dems harshly, it could cripple our democracy.

The British public no longer want to vote for just two parties. The choice between Labour and Conservative is one that is no longer palatable in the modern era. Some will want to vote Liberal, some Green, some UKIP, SNP, etc. This shift is only going to continue, eating away at the old system where one party would control parliament over the other.

In this multi-party future, the only way of getting a government that can pass legislation is for coalitions to be formed (something very common in Europe). It could be Liberal-Conservative, Labour-Green, Conservative-UKIP, anything, as long as it controls a majority in the house of commons. These coalitions will need to negotiate a platform for governance, somewhere between the two parties ideologies, depending upon how many seats that party has. For instance, imagine a coalition is formed between the Green party and UKIP. In this imagined outcome the Green party has 320 seats and UKIP has 50. Obviously the Greens have the greatest sway in this case, and their policies would be close to the Green Manifesto with some anti-Europe concessions. If the seats were reversed it would be a mostly Euro-Sceptic government, with a few policies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In elections, all parties would still campaign of what they would do if they got a majority by themselves, but if they formed a coalition, then obviously what they do would be somewhere between them and their new partner, depending upon how many chips the electorate dealt each of them.

So why are the NUS threatening our democracy? If they punish the Lib Dems for compromising, then it will scare political parties out of either promising anything vaguely ideological that couldn’t be negotiated in a coalition, or they will cease forming coalitions at all. In either eventuality groups such as the NUS can kiss their goals goodbye as British politics is either brought into a fearful state of stalemate, or turned into an awful homogeneous gloop, with no politician willing to propose something difficult to deliver.

What should the NUS be doing instead? They should be out campaigning for the Lib Dems, trying to give them a majority next time, instead of forcing them to compromise with the Tories. Sadly it looks like they want to destroy the one real political ally they have.

Stupid bloody students.