Another uninspiring election


Looking for Beer, Baccy and Crumpet party? Thanks to Ray for pointing out that their manifesto is now online!

Despite having twice the number of candidates, I think I may have been a tad optimistic to think that this election would be any more interesting than usual.

Being 2013 unable to adapt, almost all the parties are effectively engaging with voters using a variety of social media tools pushing tons of leaflets through doors. So far I have one letter and one leaflet from UKIP, three leaflets from the Conservatives, five leaflets from the Lib Dems …and nothing from the other candidates. The other candidates shouldn’t be too concerned though since:

  • I don’t want a free booklet about how many people will move here from Romania and Bulgaria
  • Everyone seems to be fighting to save our green fields
  • The Lib Dem leaflets are as infuriating as ever (that rant will have to wait for a future blog post!)

I have actually found a few of the candidates amongst the people talking about the election on twitter. It wouldn’t be a huge loss if they weren’t though- not exactly much substance, more:

  • where they’re canvassing (need to do a uksnow style map for this in time for the next general election!)
  • what the weather is like
  • how great their support is
  • how busy their HQ is
  • who’s interviewing them

In just two missed opportunities:

  • John O’Farrell revealed that he spoke about local issues to Ed Milliband, just not what those issues were
  • Maria Hutchings is against building on green fields in Botley/Boorley green but less willing to engage in discussions about where the houses might go instead (I actually thought Maria’s twitter stream was reasonably good before the election- maybe she’s too busy knocking on doors to tweet now)

As for everyone else on twitter, today seems to have been mainly:

But what about the other candidates? There are plenty of them but finding out about them is not quite so easy. Maybe if I lived in the centre of Eastleigh, I’d know more. Luckily, Eastleigh News has some articles, including one for the Beer, Baccy and & Crumpet Party, and The Independent has a brief introduction to some of the lesser known candidates. Even better, Matthew Myatt has managed to record a few interviews with the candidates, including Howling Laud Hope.

All of which makes for a pretty miserable choice. So far Laud Hope is most likely to get my vote! If I get time, I’m planning to try out the 38degrees email the candidates form to actually try and extract some useful information to base my vote on. In the mean time, if you are a candidate, please feel free to leave a message below!

Update: most people seem to find this post while looking for the Beer, Baccy and Crumpet manifesto so added link to their manifesto! (22 February 2013)

Anyone can win here!


Well it turns out you can resign from the House of Commons, so if I was crazy enough to stand in the by-election I wouldn’t have to break any manifesto promises! (Even when it comes to resigning those weasily MPs have to bend the rules ever so slightly to get round the slight inconvenience of not actually being allowed to resign, which I guess isn’t a huge shock.)

The Eastleigh by-election should at least be a little more interesting than the last general election and, finally, I’ll get the chance to vote Monster Raving Loony! If there don’t turn out to be any better alternatives that is- at least it’s marginally less pointless than spoiling a ballet paper for a change.

I was wondering how the local Lib Dems might adapt their irritating campaign tactics for the by-election. The result won’t make any difference to which party is in government, and that’s already a coalition of the only two parties who can win in Eastleigh. Well, it appears that old habits die hard. I do hope they’re wrong; it would be so nice to have a change!

So far it looks like we can expect a massive seven candidates to stand but I’d still like to see more independents. There’s not long left to get nominations in but if anyone needs help with signatures, please get in touch!

Apathy


I’m finding it very difficult to get any enthusiasm for the election. Every day there’s another campaign leaflet to add to the pile…

…often more than one, but they just aren’t helping. (Two more arrived as soon as I took that photo!)

Going by the number of leaflets, you would think that the Lib Dems are the most keen for my vote with around 18 so far. Sadly most of them just put me off voting Lib Dem, and I’m still waiting for a reply to my letter to Chris Huhne.

If I was voting based on quality of campaign leaflet content, the Conservatives would be ahead by a nose. Only five from them but on the whole they are much more positive and go in to more detail. Entertainingly, their major negative streak is about the dire consequences of a hung parliament, which includes a claim that financial experts predict a fall in house prices. Excellent, a hung parliament is sounding better than ever, sign me up for some of that!

Labour have managed to deliver a grand total of zero leaflets. Well, saves me the effort of moving them from the letter box to the recycling bin. Have enough to fill that up already.

UKIP and the National Liberal Party (that name just reminds me of a scene from the Life of Brian!) are tied on one leaflet each. Plus we also got a random leaflet campaigning against a hung parliament. I had been planning to add leaflets to TheStraightChoice.org but with my new found apathy I haven’t got very far. I did add one scanned by a colleague after he got a leaflet from the only independent candidate standing in Eastleigh.

Perhaps all the campaign posters are supposed to get me more excited about voting. They tell me a huge amount about what the parties stand for don’t they? Still, there is some entertainment from the, ‘who moved my sign’ squabbles. I had thought that the Lib Dems were going to win the prize for most signs, with the Conservatives taking gold for largest surface area, but after the Lib Dem banner appeared on the M27, there’s still everything to play for. (I’d love to know what the local council would have to say if residents stuck up random signs the rest of the year. Perhaps we could all declare our favourite supermarkets to find out!)

All of this old style electioneering should be consigned to the history books by now with the dawn of the digital age. Elections 2.0 should enable candidates to really engage with voters. Early signs were promising, with four of my candidates having twitter accounts: @ChrisHuhne, @MariaHutchings, @LeoBarraclough and @raymondfinch. Sadly I wouldn’t recommend following any of them. Broadcast media seems to be more their cup of tea. (There is one local candidate who deserves an honourable mention for his Election 2.0 posters, not that I can vote for him unfortunately.)

In the past I have always been very keen that everyone should vote, but given the quality of the choices available I’m coming round to the idea that not voting may actually be the best option. (I do like the Nobody poster!) Some lucky people even get to vote for no candidate. In the end though, even if I don’t vote, I’ll be doing it in person; it’s not actually apathy, it’s lack of choice.

Is blindly sticking a cross on a bit of paper once every few years just an illusion of democracy? What do you think the chances of any real change are after Thursday? Whatever happens, the politicians are going to win.

Update: a couple of links that might help when deciding who to vote for: (5 May 2010)

  • Hedge End People have a General Election group and some of the candidates have responded to questions on local issues.
  • Unlikely to help the apathy, but this article has an interesting graphic view of where the parties stand, and how the three main parties have shifted over recent years.

Manifesto


For the last few local elections I’ve had no one to vote for. It’s not long until the general election and I’d really rather not have to spoil my ballot paper again, which could be a problem…

Lib Dems

The local Lib Dems are keen to point out that they don’t just appear at election time, which is true. Unfortunately the result is that their newsletters just tend to annoy me a lot more often. The latest front page is all about their opposition to building houses on greenfield land. Now I’m not all that keen on the idea of that either if there are alternatives, but planning seems to be a problem on the brownfield Wildern Mill site as well. (Still resisting the urge to have a real rant about local planning in general, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time!) There’s also a reminder of previous campaigns, including the fight to stop a gravel pit. The good news is that Eastleigh does have excellent recycling collections for all the newsletters.

I might be more tempted to vote for the Lib Dems on national issues, except they keep reminding me that there isn’t any point.

Conservative

Seem to keep a fairly low profile locally. Either that or they just don’t think I’m likely to vote for them. They often seem to be campaigning for the same things as the Lib Dems. For example, Maria Hutchings’ out of date looking web site also features the fight to protect green spaces and over development.

The Conservatives biggest plus point nationally is that they aren’t Labour, and they could win the next election.

Labour

They appear on the ballot paper but I have no idea what they think about local issues. Nationally, they seem to have put the unelected evil Lord Mandelson in charge, so there’s no chance I’ll be voting for them. If Mandelson keeps coming back, he’s not getting the message.

RON

There was UKIP as well last time but otherwise we don’t seem to get much more choice in Eastleigh. Not even an option to reopen nominations to give the candidates/parties pause for thought. So who can I vote for. One idea bubbling away in the back of my mind for a while is that I could vote for myself- I’d just need to get on the ballot paper.

That was all before the Digital Economy Bill, which was beginning to look like it would go through without any real opposition. What can you do when none of the parties support your views? The Digital Economy Bill might still sneak through without the scrutiny it requires, handily under the cover of an election campaign so, while I would rather not stand in the election, I haven’t ruled it out completely. Scarily, I’ve already been offered the £500 deposit and a nomination! My manifesto would be simple: to stand down at the earliest opportunity. So a vote for me would be a vote for RON. Yes, a single issue candidate, but one who it’s safe to vote for. Does anyone want to join the RON party? A good way to register frustration with politicians and draw attention to the Digital Economy Bill, or a waste of time and money?

Update: Eastleigh News have a handy guide to my competition. I wonder if anyone else is thinking of standing.

Update: It’s now too late to register a new party, which is a shame- I was thinking that “For The Win” would look good on the ballot paper! There is still time left to stand for election, but after much consideration I don’t think there is really enough time to go for it this election. If I did stand, I would want to do it justice and put in some serious work, otherwise it would basically be an expensive way to spoil my ballot paper! I would need to think about my current job, properly research the mechanics of submitting nominations and the rules that govern candidates. I would also need to check that I could actually deliver on my manifesto pledge and stand down immediately in the unlikely event I won! (I just assumed that would be possible, but while chatting to my campaign team someone pointed out that it might not be possible, so definitely worth finding out. I wouldn’t want to be one of those parties that make all sorts of promises which they don’t keep!) Then there would be the small matter of attempting to get at least 5% of the vote!! Still, depending on how bad the next batch of MPs are, you might see a few “For The Win” candidates in the next election! Just leave a comment if you would like to be one of them! (13 April 2010)

Digital House Arrest


The Digital Economy Bill is exactly the kind of ill-considered law I have come to expect from the current government, however I am very disappointed in the apparent lack of opposition from the other parties.

Today I received a reply from my MP, Chris Huhne, following my email and letter to him about the bill, unfortunately I had already read the same response on the Liberal Democrat Voice before his letter arrived. I appreciate the time he took to reply but the LibDem team will only be getting half a cheer from me, and here’s why.

Chris begins his letter by largely supporting the Digital Economy Bill, stating that many aspects of the bill are vitally important to the UK’s creative industries. Having read the bill, I just don’t believe that. For a start, the bill has very little to do with a digital economy, containing a pick ‘n’ mix of barely related clauses (‘wide ranging’ in politician speak):

Tinkering with Television and Radio Broadcasting Bill

Chris is happy that the bill changes Channel 4′s remit, changes regional news on ITV and plans to make all my analog radios useless. Apart from buying new radios to listen to the same thing, will anyone notice? There’s also some stuff in there on radio licenses and it looks like the days of teletext are numbered.

Are you Really Old Enough to be Playing that Video Game Bill

Chris also supports classification of computer games. Well at least anyone who isn’t old enough will know which games to get hold of to impress their mates.

We are Aware There are Some Problems with Copyright Laws and This is the Best we Could Come up with Bill

The Liberal Democrats support the creative industries, so I’m puzzled that Chris doesn’t even mention the “Extension and regulation of licensing of copyright and performers’ rights” clause. Strangely, some current copyright holders don’t seem too keen to get this kind of support. I’m not surprised given how little respect some creative industries have for copyright already. Public lending also gets a spit and polish for audio books and e-books.

So from my quick flick through, that’s all the vitally important parts of the bill (?) leaving…

Enforcing Copyright Yourself is Just Such a Bore Bill

Before going any further, I should make it absolutely clear that I am not fundamentally opposed to copyright law, and I actually work in an industry where copyright protection is important. That said, I personally think that copyright laws should be an incentive for the creative industries to, well, create new content. I have been concerned for a long time that neither the public nor creative individuals get a particularly fair deal from the current arrangements. As with the law in general, the odds are stacked in favour of people with the most money and this bill only makes matters worse.

Without any new legislation, the creative industries should already be able to take action against illegal downloading using the internet, in the same way they can take action regardless of how the illegal copyright material was obtained. Apparently that’s not good enough, so under the guise of a digital economy bill, they want new powers to protect the old economy.

There are plenty of things the creative industries could do to help themselves. I suggest that first on the list for them to try would be to stop treating their paying customers with such contempt. I hope they’ve already stopped installing dangerous software on my computer without my permission, but how about competing with the pirates to make watching a DVD more enjoyable, or allowing me to watch a DVD I’ve paid for where ever I want to, or not changing your mind after you sold me something? With this kind of behaviour I would expect any changes of the law to include more regulation for the creative industries, not more protection for them. It’s ironic that none of the quarter of a million creative people who’s jobs are allegedly at risk can come up with some better ideas, especially given that they really should have the most to gain from a digital economy.

Access to the internet may not be a fundamental right, but how can you seriously expect to have a digital economy if people are at risk of digital house arrest? As I told Chris Huhne, I don’t believe disconnection is a proportional response even if it did only effect one person, who was proved to have downloaded something illegally beyond reasonable doubt. Would you stop someone leaving their house if they came home from the market with counterfeit jeans? How can we have a digital economy when a single industry has a veto over whether any other industry can do business with their customers over the internet? Access to online government services? No. Online bank account? No. Paperless billing? Think again. Internet shopping? Not any more. Working at home? Time for a holiday. NHS Direct? Please phone… unless you’re using Skype of course. Smart metering? The lights are on but no-one’s home.

This is by no means a full discussion of the issues, but then I’m not in parliament where all of these issues and more should be getting some serious debate. Sadly there’s a chance no one will be able to have that debate in parliament. Oh well, good luck UK plc, you’re going to need it.

Update: A few related posts generated manually to go with the ones WordPress found. (28 March 2010)

Update: A couple of Guardian articles on the Digital Economy Bill (31 March 2010)

Update: A depressing day following the #debill debate, but a found a few more articles along the way. (6 April 2010)

After today’s idiotic debate in parliament, I wonder if more people might be tempted to stand for election to show politicians that they can’t just push whatever they like through parliament when no one is looking. The close of nominations is 4 pm on Tuesday 20 April 2010 and for a coordinated effort there’s a deadline of 12 April 2010 to register a new party. Just a thought.

Update: No big surprise that the bill went through the washup, demonstrating the poor state of the UK democracy along the way. (8 April 2010)

Let’s just hope that candidates get some tough questions on the subject when they’re out campaigning.

Update: The morning after… (9 April 2010)

And finally, someone who will be keeping my vote: TalkTalk!

Liberal Democrats can’t win here


Every so often a local Liberal Democrat newsletter drops through the door, and almost without fail they make me less likely to vote for them! The problem is that they include a graph like this (except that they seem to round down the Conservative votes, and they only include the top three parties)…

39% Lib Dem, 38% Conservative, 21% Labour, 3% UKIP

In the latest, Christmas & New Year, edition the graph is titled “It’s so close here!” Ok, personally I’d like to see the space used to explain why voting Lib Dem is worth doing, but I guess that isn’t so bad. Unfortunately they go on to claim, “Gordon Brown and Labour have already lost here!” and “Chris Huhne Wins!” Interesting, so the next election has already been decided based on the 2005 results? That seems like a fairly silly thing for the Lib Dems to be suggesting given the national results…

22% Lib Dem, 32% Conservative, 35% Labour, 2% UKIP

So clearly Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems have already lost! Fail. Fortunately past performance is no indication of future results.

Both the claim that the choice is only between Lib Dem and Labour locally, and Lib Dem’s failure to convince people that there is an alternative to Labour and Conservative nationally, reminds me of one of my favourite Simpsons episodes (thanks to Big Dunc for this quote):

Kodos: It’s true, we are aliens. But what are you going to do about
it? It’s a two-party system; you have to vote for one of us.
[murmurs]
Man1: He’s right, this is a two-party system.
Man2: Well, I believe I’ll vote for a third-party candidate.
Kang: Go ahead, throw your vote away.
[Kang and Kodos laugh out loud]
[Ross Perot smashes his "Perot 96" hat]

I haven’t decided who to vote for yet but one thing’s for certain: the next election can’t come soon enough!

Update: it seems that I’m not the only one this annoys and someone mentioned that Sandra Gidley has done the same thing in the past. Sure enough there’s a graph under the heading “With Labour out of the race, more and more people are switching back to Sandra and the Lib Dems!” on her web site. At least Chris Huhne’s web site discusses issues I’m actually interested in, instead of wasting space; I just wish the local newsletter would do the same. I had higher hopes for Martin Tod since the graph of election results on his site was a pretty reasonable reporting of recent council elections, rather than some assertion of future results. Sadly there’s a familiar looking, “Only Martin Tod or the Conservatives can win here” graph on a recent letter. Very disappointing. (19 January 2010)

Update: unsurprisingly, it looks like the Lib Dems don’t like it when someone uses similar logic on a national scale! I wish the lot of them would stop going on about who can’t win and start spending a little more time being constructive. (27 January 2010)

Update: Just spotted the latest version of the ‘Labour can’t win’ graph on Chris Huhne’s new web site, with the full results this time. Sadly I’m getting reminded that the Lib Dems can’t win the next general election every time I get their leaflets. Twice in the same leaflet on one occasion; guess they must have run out of news for that one. (3 April 2010)

Update: Instead of covering all their leaflets with these negative and counter productive graphs, the Lib Dems should be pushing the, somewhat radical, idea of voting for who you want to win. It seems a somewhat disingenuous to be tweeting things like this…

Amazing YouGov poll unpublished by Sun shows 49 per cent Lib Dem support ‘if u thought the Lib Dems had a signif chance’ @ChrisHuhne

…while telling me not to vote Labour so that the Conservatives don’t get in. (20 April 2010)

Update: It appears they like this kind of graph in Cambridge as well. Perhaps the Alternative Vote would help. (3 May 2011)