Where Have All The Moderates Gone?

Being moderate isn’t sexy. When you join an old friend for a drink, your heart doesn’t leap at the suggestion that you do so in moderation, no matter how sensible the notion may be for your knackered old liver. Films about moderates barely exist; we’d rather watch a man crying “freedom” whilst having his guts sliced out, than a diplomat negotiating a mutually beneficial treaty. Moderation has never been popular, and approaching the UK General Election 2015 we are about to see it wiped clean from the face of our political scene. It is ironic that the common perception of politics is as a homogenised battle for the centre ground. Quite the opposite, the centre has been abandoned, a no-mans land for none but those crazed and doomed liberals, shell-shocked and wandering the scorched earth wondering what the hell just happened.

Given the hopelessly outdated first-past-the-post system, the results of the oncoming election are difficult to predict. The distribution of the electorate weighs the system heavily in favour of the two main parties, but their failure to generate any good-will beyond their base, combined with growing disaffection, means that the Labour and Conservative parties have drawn in the wagons and are waging a defensive campaign. This is no longer an election either side can win; they can only lose. Factor in the rise of nationalist parties such as UKIP and the SNP and you’ve got the makings of yet another hung parliament.

Which might make you think that we’re in for another coalition, another fudge in the centre – a backroom deal cooked up by those rotters in Westminster. But as we approach the general election and the parties begin to position themselves for such an eventuality, the likelihood of a coalition becomes increasingly unlikely. The Labour party has ruled out a coalition with the SNP. The SNP has ruled out a coalition with the Conservatives. The Greens have ruled out a coalition with anyone. Ironically, the only party to talk openly about the benefits of joining a coalition are the Lib Dems, the one party for whom a formal union will be utterly untenable. Nick Clegg could only enter into another pact retaining the same degree of influence as before – a deal that neither the Tories nor Labour are likely to accept given the reduced Lib Dem numbers from the upcoming slaughter.

Most of the smaller parties, having spent five years condemning the concept of compromise, now face the prospect of governance, but to do so they must first reconcile this with their previous rhetoric. The result is lots of talk about “confidence and supply”, an utterly unsustainable position that would fall apart at the very first unpopular but necessary vote (of which the next five years is certain to be packed).

Which begs the question, what right do any of them have to rule out a coalition in the first place? An election campaign is effectively an extended job interview, and you don’t conduct yourself in an interview by listing off everyone you’d out-right refuse to work with. If you can’t grow up and find a way of working with those you oppose, then you have no right to claim you’re a supporter of democracy. Democracy, by its very nature, is about finding a way of getting all the peoples of a nation to work together rather than grind each other into dust.

But as I said, being a moderate isn’t sexy. It’s a lot easier to grab votes by saying “we will never work with those scumbags,” than “there is always a compromise to be found.” Perhaps that is why the Lib Dems continue to plummet in the polls. In a recent interview, Nick Clegg described himself as being anti-establishment and anti-populist, which is a pretty accurate description of where the Lib Dems are at this present time. They exist in an uncomfortable netherworld between the entitled comfort of governance and the demagoguery of opposition. If we are tested by another hung-parliament, it’s possible that we may look back on 2010-2015 as a golden era, a time before the storm when a party was willing to work with another despite facing electoral oblivion. Can you think of another party that would have put up with such hostility for the benefit of a stable economy? If the fortunes were reversed, and it were the Conservatives whose poll rating had dropped to single digits early on and showed no sign of recovery, would they have stuck out the full five years? Would Labour? The SNP? Right now Nick Clegg is the most hated man in British politics, but once we’ve seen the chaos that politicians are lining up to promise, we might well wish for his return (not that he’ll be in a position to do so – the moment the Lib Dems are out of government, the left leaning grass-roots will have his head).

However much you despise your opponents, you can’t erase them. This is why revolutions end in bloodshed, whilst it is compromise that produces real reform. We can spend the next five years bickering like children afraid to go near each other lest we catch the lurgey, or we can reach out like grown-ups and find a way of moving forward. But to do so we need to shake off the petulant mentality of Braveheart fantasy. It belongs in the movies, not in the ballot. And perhaps it’s best to vote for the person who suggests taking it a bit easy. The liver can only handle so much.

More Referenda, More Nonsense

We don’t do referenda very well in the UK. I’m not sure if they’ve been successful in other parts of the world, but the last one we held descended into an avalanche of BS that froze the debate beneath so many lies that the truth couldn’t be found. When placed in the hands of the public, the truth lost out.

So now we, and by ‘we’ I actually mean ‘they’, the Scots, have a chance to vote on another constitutional matter: whether or not to embrace independence and leave the United Kingdom. It is a once-in-a-lifetime chance, so how is the debate shaping up?

Not very well, is the answer. Frustratingly, neither side seem to be arguing about the issue itself: independence. Instead it has devolved into a tit-for-tat argument as to whether or not Scots would be better off outside the union or not, when in fact they should be discussing the philosophical core of the question. It is very much like when the AV Referendum descended into talk of “Will this be good or bad for Nick Clegg?” or “Will this let in the BNP?” when in fact these are all transient issues, inconsequential when picking a piece of constitution that could last hundreds of years. If Scotland becomes independent every Scot could become broke, or they might each become over-night millionaires, and yet it wouldn’t matter. They are choosing the future of their country, to reject or accept the motion based upon the state of their wallets over the next few years, or even decades, is incredibly short sighted.

The cynic in me feels that the Yes campaign would like to avoid this philosophical core of the debate, because it appeals to a nationalism rooted in a bygone era. Yes the Scots have had to put up with atrocious acts by the English hundreds of years ago, but seeing as how the current population of Scotland are not hundreds of years old, to resent the English for acts committed by those who are dead against those who are also dead isn’t very logical. A more reasonable objection to unionism would be to call for a republican state free from monarchist rule, but the yes campaign have already stated that they’d like to keep the monarchy, significantly diluting their argument.

Despite my Grant ancestry, I consider myself English because, well, I was born and raised in the south, but like my northern brothers and sisters, I cannot stand conservatism. Tory policies offend me to my very core, but dissatisfaction with the policies of successive Westminster governments cannot be used to justify seceding from the union, because this is an ever repeating argument. If Scotland leaves the UK because they don’t like the policies of the nation as a whole, then what’s to stop the Isle of Skye leaving Scotland when the successive Scottish elections doesn’t go their way? And so on, and so on. Dissatisfaction with a democracy isn’t a reason for independence, it is a reason for devolution. Unfortunately the Yes camp seem to be focusing all their attention on pointing out how shit the conservatives and labour governments have been. That might be true, but that’s democracy folks.

Now, to those who believe passionately in a Yes vote, I hope you don’t think me unfair. If you want to argue that you feel no kinship with the other nations of our union, then that is a completely legitimate argument, and I wish you the best of luck making it, but so far that is the only argument that stands up and I don’t think it’ll find a majority.

As should be clear by now, I hope that Scotland votes No to Independence. But once that No vote is secured, we should completely overhaul the way our democracy functions into a federal system where Scottish, English, Welsh and Northern Irish parliaments have full control over their state-wide policies, leaving issues such as foreign policy to a core executive government.

Something does need to change, and Scots need more autonomy, but a bitter divorce is not the way to go.

London Looks Pretty Daft From Over Here!

It’s the day after and some Lib Dems are still standing. It seems someone was on hand with a knife to cut the nooses and drag each and every one of them into parliament to make them actually vote. The vote passed, but only just. Around half of the liberals rebelled, voting against, with a handful abstaining. It is sad that they felt they had to oppose it, given that it is generally agreed by any independent body that studies the figures that this is a much more progressive bill than the current state of affairs, but then those protesting outside weren’t interested in such frivolous things as ‘facts’.

I was watching from Prague as the vote came in, rather thankful to have found BBC World on my hotel TV set. The BBC were flicking between the inside of the commons, packed to the gills, and parliament square, even more crammed. In the segment I saw they were interviewing a student who was claiming that it was the police who’d been provoking the confrontations. Fair enough, I can understand that. But then they went to a gentleman beside him, an English Teacher, who said that this bill ‘brought in by millionaires’ was damning his students to pay 30 quid a week, a sum poor families couldn’t afford.

This statement alone shows the amount is disinformation floating around the minds of the protesters. No-one is going to be made to pay up-front. They will pay back their fees when they begin earning over 21k – when they can afford it. The concept of making higher earners pay more is a LEFT policy, not a RIGHT one. A lot of students who fail to get high earning jobs will never be made pay back the full cost of their loans. Why? Because if you can’t afford to, you won’t be made to.

But such logic was beyond the British public gathered in London yesterday. There were calls to “bring down the neo-liberal state”, though what they wanted to replace it with I can’t imagine. Labour? A bunch who brought in detention without charge and invaded Iraq? Yes, I guess they were much nicer, let’s usher them in!

What was most tragic was the sense of doom in the crowd. You would think the legislation being passed was to end education entirely, rather than ask students to contribute once they begin earning. “They have voted away our futures,” one said whilst being interviewed by the BBC. What utter nonsense. Perhaps they’ve voted away a trip to the pub, or a takeout tikka-masala, or whatever 7 pounds a week would have bought you. That’s not your future.

It sounds like I’m anti-protest, but I’m not. I’ve been on quite a few protests in my time, it’s just they were over strong moral issues like war, nuclear armourment, or infringement of civil liberties. This is an issue over how to finance a service through difficult times. Something to debate about, sure. Something to write to your MP about, definitely. Something to get into a scrap with the police over? Er.. not really. It’s embarrassing how selfish our students have behaved. Utterly, utterly embarrassing.

Oh, and any who claim to be anarchists who attended the protest: anarchism is about freedom from the state, ie. Universities being free to charge for their services, and civilians being free from taxation to pay for services they don’t support (in an anarcho-commune universities would be funded through charitable donations). Clearly these numbskulls think anarchism is about kicking in a window. Idiots.

What I Won’t Be Doing On Election Day

I won’t be taking part in the May election. Sure I’ll vote, I’ll complain, I’ll rant endlessly to whoever will indulge me a moment, but I will not knock on peoples doors like I did in 2005. I’ll never do that again.

As soon as a person dons a political party badge a strange thing happens. They cease to be a human being. All likeable attributes are immediately stripped from the poor bastard and what is left is a walking target for the masses to throw shit at.

“You’re all the same!” they would howl at me as they slammed the door in my face so hard they were hoping the wood would fuse and never open again. I was always perplexed at that. How was I in any way like the Tories against whom I campaigned? But then, I was on the inside looking out, if only I could have seen me through their eyes I would have witnessed the faceless political blob I’d become, a walking advertisement for corruption, dodgy dealing and lies. Yes, the moment I’d tried to change Britain for the better I’d revealed myself to be the enemy.

So no thank you very much! Not this time. This year I’m going to be the one slamming doors. I’m going to be the one heckling some poor idealist who only wants to add you to his long list of “undecided”. You just watch me! I’ve been training my mouth to produce more saliva for extra spitting volume.

Of course that wasn’t the most gruesome aspect of election day. The true horror happens when you spend a whole day at the voting booths themselves. The average voter turns up, shambles into a little cubical, has some alone time, and then returns to deposit their vote. Its all rather similar to a sperm donor clinic, very similar if you think about it; most people’s votes are wank anyway. This is the truth you see when you witness voters close up. For a whole day.

First you have the grey vote. You remember the original Dawn of the Dead? When all the zombies gather at the shopping mall, mindlessly going through the same motions they used to when they were alive? Well it’s the same on election day with OAP’s voting Tory. They don’t know why, but they feel compelled to do it. As they totter in you can hear them chatting about how it’s nice to have a day out, “Oh I don’t know anything about politics, but its nice to see people down the community centre”. And it is a nice day out for them, who can knock that? The problem is that they are slowly strangling out political system just so they can have a nice day time, kind of like an entertainer on the tube filling balloon animals with nerve gas.

Then you have the working class who are so out of touch with modern times that they actually still refer to themselves as “working class” instead of middle class which is what they are. They hark on about always voting labour as if they are still the beleaguered underdogs set upon by Thatcher who must stick together no matter what, instead of the dirty sell outs they spend all their waking consciousness pretending not to be.

The final major group are the liars. These are the ones who sneak into the polling booths to vote conservative because they a) hate foreigners, b) are quite well off and would like lower taxes to get even more well off, c) hate people who aren’t foreigners but look like they should be, d) are a bit scared of Europe, or e) are deeply sexually repressed and want to stop anyone else having any fun whatsoever. People of this ilk usually have the sense to be ashamed of their vote, so when leaving swear they voted for another party. This is why there is a disparity between the exit-polls and the final results. It’s called the tory-bounce. And it’s shameful.

The last stragglers are the cocky superior arse-holes who think they’re all that because they vote morally, which usually means they vote lib-dem. Being such a young party, the liberals don’t have the advantage of feeding upon peoples sense of tribalism, instead they have to convince voters with things like “policy”. Can you believe it? Crazy! The result is that all lib dem voters get all smug that they actually put some thought into it. Some even write lengthy blogs slating all other sorts of voter, the scummy bastards!

This small group of voters is the reason why the lib dems are stuck around the 17-19% mark in the polls and are doomed to never shift. There simply aren’t enough voters out there willing to put thought into their vote. They can never compete with the greys, the greed-heads, the working-middle classes and the swingers.

The swingers, by the way, are not the sexually liberated fellows you’re thinking of, but swing voters who confuse polls by being easily duped into supporting either Labour or Conservative depending upon what the tabloids told them that day. You won’t see them at the polling stations though, they’re far too fickle. If you want a little cup of political jizz, you have to turn to the others.