Being pragmatic


Apparently the government is worried about spreading misleading news:

Just because a story is online, doesn’t mean it’s true. The internet is great, but can also be used to spread misleading news and content. Make sure you know what you’re sharing. Don’t feed the beast. (Cabinet Office)

Maybe they’ve been reading my MP’s Brexit updates. Her latest update isn’t an improvement…

Well it’s been another bumpy week pushing the Brexit process along in a leaky Westminster, and from my inbox, more than at any other time, it’s crystal clear that this Parliament’s inability to find a route by which it can support a smooth, orderly and timely exit from the EU is harming our democracy.

Parliament had been trying to find a compromise solution to allow a smooth and orderly exit, and found several which were closer to a majority than Theresa May’s deal, despite the government’s efforts to block the process.

As Eastleigh’s MP, I’ve always recognised that MPs on ALL sides need to be pragmatic – if we are to move forward towards negotiating our future trading relationship, and that’s why I’ve supported the Withdrawal Agreement agreed with the EU27.

Pragmatism is clearly now a euphemism for agreeing with Theresa May, who hasn’t changed her red lines since she made them up, and hasn’t changed her ‘deal’ since November.

If MPs across the House had chosen to do the same, by now we would have left the European Union and be doing exactly that.

Out of interest, what do you think an MP’s job is?

Instead, MPs, in particular this week led by Labour’s Yvette Cooper, are pushing through Bills within just ONE DAY in order to try and thwart Brexit.

I agree that they’ve left things a little late but rushing the article 50 extension bill through doesn’t seem exactly surprising after the Prime Minister only requested a short extension despite the previous vote on requesting an extension. Also, it doesn’t ‘thwart’ Brexit at all, which I’m sure you realise.

If Ms Cooper and others were so intent on preventing a No Deal Brexit then they should have supported the negotiated Deal – it’s clear that their actual end goal is to drag, disrupt and frustrate the process in the hope that we never leave.

Threatening MPs with no deal to force them to agree a deal which they, rightly, believe to be bad for the country hardly seems pragmatic. At least they are trying to prevent no deal; there was a time time when you were concerned that the opposition wanted to “crash economy into No deal & blame this on Govt” which was far fetched even then.

Other MPs, led by the Liberal Democrats and SNP have taken a separate route to thwarting Brexit, instead choosing to push for a ‘Confirmatory’ formerly ‘Peoples’ Vote – a move supported almost exclusively by those who wish to reverse the result of the 2016 Referendum and ensure that we remain in the EU.

You really don’t seem to want to allow people to have a say on whether the deal negotiated by Theresa May meets their expectations. That would be slightly odd even if there wasn’t an impasse in parliament but, under the circumstances, it seems like a perfectly pragmatic solution to the current problems.

If a Second Referendum was held, I do believe it would be even more divisive than the first and only add to where we are now. People want us to do our jobs and deliver for them. It’s a very fair ask! I know people do still feel strongly on either side too and I appreciate and understand this. The division and current lack of cohesion can’t be taken lightly.

Holding the first referendum on Theresa May’s deal may well be divisive but that very much depends on how it’s conducted. If politicians started being honest about the trade-offs we face, and stopped framing the ongoing democratic process as thwarting the will of the people, or a betrayal, a referendum may well provide the space needed to bring most of the country back together. It’s certainly better than threatening the country with endless cliff edges to get your own way.

So, I have voted for every option by which I feel could lead to a timely exit from the EU – delivering on the result of the 2016 Referendum and to try to move us forward.

You have done a good job of supporting the deal we agreed with the EU, which only Kenneth Clarke did better at.

Recent by-election results have shown the impact that the inability to deliver Brexit is having on our democracy, with the number of people using their vote visibly reduced to around 30% in some areas – this comes on the backdrop of the EU Referendum which saw close to 80% of the people in our area turning out to vote.

Treating democracy with contempt probably doesn’t help turn out. Our first past the post system is another issue, especially when neither of the two main parties differ significantly on a subject as significant as Brexit. Even so, it will be interesting to see what happens in the local elections.

Yesterday I had many constituents visit Parliament for a chat and a tour, and it was clear overall that they want us to get on and deliver a smooth and orderly Brexit as soon as possible, and I shared this with the Prime Minister when I met with her again yesterday evening.

Have you started keeping track of constituents Brexit correspondence properly yet? If you’ve not already seen it yet, quite a few of your constituents signed the petition to revoke article 50. It’s a pity you missed the debate.

The Public has rightly run out of patience with those MPs who simply wish to and choose to continue to delay, disrupt and then choose not deliver on their promises to the electorate. There is a plague on all our houses by these actions, and our democracy, one of the world’s greatest, will surely suffer as a result.

I would agree that people are entitled to be frustrated about the prime minister’s track record of unnecessary delay. She wasted a huge amount of time calling a snap election after triggering article 50. She only finally managed to agree a deal with the EU in November last year, which MPs were then not given the opportunity to vote on until months later. She keeps on delaying and running down the clock, which she started without an agreed plan even within her own cabinet.

Remind me which promises that were made in the referendum campaign will be delivered by Theresa May’s deal. What about in the event of no deal? Our democracy is suffering already and only a significant change in behaviour will begin to repair the huge damage that has been done.

That is why I will continue to work towards delivering on the EU Referendum Result, and help the Prime Minister to move our Country forward.

How? By voting to leave ‘on time’ regardless of the consequences? By refusing to compromise to get an alternative deal through parliament?

I know that some constituents have concerns over the current discussions between the Government and the Official Opposition, however, we do not choose the Leader of the Opposition.

My only concern is that they are just for show. The government should have been working across party lines since the beginning, and certainly since you lost a majority in the snap election.

I think it is right the Prime Minister works across Parliament to try to seek a consensus, but I do very sincerely like many others do find this hugely difficult due to the history and associations the Leader of Opposition has on record of being engaged with.

To be fair it must be difficult working with the prime minister given her history of broken promises.

Yet delivering on the outcome of vote cast by my constituents both in June 2016, as well as in the General Election in June 2017 is what this Government must do and can never stop trying in this and if we can find common ground it will be a welcome miracle!! But it may deliver again different challenges. We will see! GULP!

Those outcomes were a narrow majority to leave the EU, and your party losing its majority. The prime minister still seems to be having difficulty accepting either of those things.

But to conclude for this post- something brighter-There is hope and opportunity beyond leaving the EU and by Parliament delivering on the Referendum result – we have so much to gain!

Such as?

MPs must now chose to believe in a Global Britain in the way voters have entrusted their belief in us.

Good grief, we were Global Britain. Leaving the EU is not going to make us any more global, and leaving without meeting our international obligations will be incredibly damaging to our global standing.

If not, our democracy runs the risk of being damaged beyond repair. The stakes for all Parties are high – with the public now just seeing us as a whole delivering nothing but heightened divisions and ongoing damage.

The stakes are high but the biggest risk at the moment is a prime minister who is almost out of control.

It’s high time for this whole Parliament to do much better – as sincerely it is in the National interest.

I couldn’t agree more! It’s time for all MPs to step up.

Advertisements

Contempt of democracy


My MP. Mims Davies, recently emailed her latest Brexit update to Eastleigh constituents but if, like me, she didn’t send it to you, don’t worry; it didn’t say anything new. In fact, despite my response to her last update, it contains the same specious claims as before: control, borders, money, citizen rights, jobs, etc. I guess she didn’t read my letter.

It would be a joke if it wasn’t so serious, unfortunately it looks like Mims is going to carry on spreading the same misleading alternative facts as the prime minister until the bitter end. It’s this complete contempt for democracy that has got us in to the current mess and, whatever happens on the 29th March, it’s not going to end well.

Both leave voters and remain voters have legitimate concerns about democracy and respecting the referendum, and both are right to feel aggrieved because we have all been treated with utter contempt from the very beginning. Starting with David Cameron’s reasons for giving us a referendum.

If you think the EU referendum had anything to do with a genuine concern for what the country wanted, ask yourself why there wasn’t a referendum on something the country actually cared about before 2016. For example, austerity, or the NHS.

No, David just wanted to solve a problem he had with the Conservative party, and protecting the conservative party has featured just as strongly in the self inflicted crisis ever since then.

Having called for a show referendum it would have been nice if MPs had taken it seriously but unfortunately they proceeded to treat the whole thing with just as much contempt as the prime minister had. No need for a threshold on such a constitutionally significant question because it’s just advisory. That turned out well didn’t it.

Happily we don’t need to say too much about the actual referendum campaign, suffice to say it was universally awful.

And the result of trying to unite the Conservative party was a toxic narrow victory for leaving the EU, which looks like it has successful divided the country for a generation. It’s also worth noting the result is unsafe but since it was advisory, who cares?

Things looked bad, but even at this stage David could have built a sensible consensus on the way forward that truly respected the narrow win for leaving the EU. Dave? Dave?

Oh.

David Cameron outside number 10

Photo: Open Government Licence v3.0

Things really took a turn for the worse when Theresa-totalitarian tendencies-May moved in. Respect for democracy? Don’t make me laugh! From the outset, this was her chance to get rid of all those pesky foreigners that she’d been failing to keep out for her entire career.

Obviously triggering article 50 without a plan and calling a snap election makes perfect sense. Who wouldn’t give up their best (only?) leverage and waste a good chunk of the subsequent two year deadline just to lose your majority?

Having made these unforced errors, the contempt for democracy shifts up a gear. She hasn’t once behaved as if she lost her majority. In attempting to ram her own personal Brexit through, she has trampled over parliament at every opportunity. Mostly successfully to MP’s great shame.

Talking of shameful MPs, my MP is now essentially voting to leave the EU on 29th March with no deal. I would really love to know how she thinks this is in anyway a good thing for the UK or her Eastleigh constituency.

She still talks of 17.4 million people as if that number still exists, rather than being a fleeting coalition of people projecting their own vision of leaving onto the blank canvas of the leave campaign. What she’s actually doing is fuelling that belief that democracy is frozen in time in 2016 and must be respected at all costs, rather than being an ongoing process. It’s a dangerous illusion that will surely fail when people realise that none of the promises made in 2016 have been respected.

No one voted for the kind of Brexit that we’ll get if we leave the EU on the 29th March without honouring our international obligations.

Since MPs have so spectacularly failed to do their jobs over the last two years (obviously with some notable exceptions) it doesn’t seem unreasonable to go back to people with the options that are actually available.

Sadly Mims is not the only one to characterise a referendum on Theresa May’s own personal Brexit deal as a Second Referendum. Perhaps she’s confused because MPs have already had two chances to vote on the deal, but the rest of us haven’t even been given our first opportunity to provide our informed consent. In the unlikely event that the people voted to remain in the EU at this stage, how is that in any way disrespectful of the people in 2016? Or was the snap election disrespectful? It’s hard to keep up on what is democratic and what isn’t.

None of this is going end well, whether we eventually leave the EU or not. Thanks to a persistent pattern of contempt for democracy by a large number of people in the UK, including my MP, the mother of parliaments is not looking well. I fear that it’s almost too late to save her.

Undecided Eastleigh by-election voter


Thanks to 38 Degrees handy email the candidates page, I decided to to stop waiting for random leaflets to drop through the door. It’s certainly helped me narrow down the options- after all, if they don’t reply when they want something from me (my vote) what are the chances of getting a response when they’ve been elected.

I didn’t get quite the same response rate as the Hedge End Blogger but surprisingly, especially given the short notice, almost half of the candidates actually replied. The next few posts are from the candidates but first, here are the questions (in no particular order!)

From: James Taylor – Hedge End
To: Colin Bex – Wessex Regionalist, Danny Stupple – Independent, David Bishop – Elvis Loves Pets Party, Daz Procter – Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, Diane James – UKIP, Dr Iain Maclennan – National Health Action Party, Howling Laud Hope – Monster Raving Loony Party, Jim Duggan – Peace Party, John O’Farrell – Labour, Kevin Milburn – Christian Party, Maria Hutchings – Conservatives, Michael Walters – English Democrats, Mike Thornton – Liberal Democrats, Ray Hall – Beer, Baccy and Crumpet Party

Subject: Undecided Eastleigh by-election voter

Message:

I will be voting in the by-election tomorrow unfortunately I have not yet heard from all the candidates, and the candidates I have heard from have not addressed all the issues that are important to me. Please could you answer the following questions to help me decide who I should vote for:

1. What are your views on equal rights, for example do you support the introduction of gay marriage?

2. I am very concerned about the introduction of secret courts as part of the Justice and Security Bill. Would you oppose the introduction of secret courts?

3. In my view MPs have a poor track record on technology issues, for example the ill-considered Digital Economy Act, which my last MP was unwilling to discuss. What are your views on repeated attempts to introduce a snoopers charter?

4. Do you agree that it would be easier to reduce dishonest and corrupt business practices if there was more transparency in company relationships and ownership? How would you tackle this issue? For example, would you back legislation to crack down on non-trading companies?

5. Can you promise to fight to protect NHS services both nationally and at our local hospitals?

6. Would you support any changes to the current laws on abortion and, if so, what changes would you like to see introduced?

7. What role do you think an MP has in local issues? What will you be able to do to help resolve issues like planning that other locally elected representatives are not able to do?

8. What measures would you take to promote green technology and to prevent climate change?

9. Do you have a by-election manifesto where I could find out more about issues that are important to you?

10. Do you intend to stand in future Eastleigh parliamentary elections?

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. Please let me know if you would prefer me not to publish your responses on my weblog.

Good luck tomorrow.

Thank you to all the candidates who replied– you’ve made it through to the final round of voting tomorrow!

If anyone else is still having trouble deciding, there is also a 38 Degrees by-election hustings video.

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.