Digital Curtain


The internet was a bit dingy yesterday as part of a worldwide protest against some proposed US legislation. There is already plenty of information and commentary about the latest attempts to tackle issues of ‘piracy’ at the expense of a free and open internet so I won’t try and repeat it all here. I did want to say something though since, basically, I don’t actually get a say. While the Digital Economy Act here in the UK was hardly a shinning example of democracy in action, its impact was at least limited to people within the UK who could in theory influence the final outcome at an election.

The thing that seriously concerns me about the US proposals are the extraterritorial implications. Perhaps I’ll be getting a postal vote in the next US elections, along with everyone else using the internet. I hope they send it to my new address.

Every cloud has a silver lining though, and I hope attempts to tamper with the workings of the internet only make it better. I’ve long thought that DNS is basically flawed, so perhaps this is an ideal opportunity to work on improvements like IDONS (Internet Distributed Open Name System). And the sooner the internet routes around the UK and US, the better!

Photo © Federico Negro (CC BY-NC 2.0)

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Nothing better to do?


MPs must have finished debating all the important issues recently because now they’re getting all flustered by a European Court of Human Rights ruling that a blanket ban on prisoners voting is unlawful. If the primary purpose of prison is punishment, then I would have thought it would be better to keep inmates slopping out rather than taking their vote away.

The suggestion that keeping the ban on voting for some prisoners while allow others to vote also seems fairly pointless. Why even worry about where to draw the line? If my calculations are right, the entire prison population is less than a single constituency like the Isle of Wight. Even then, it seems optimistic to think that voter turnout in prisons would reach the heady heights of around 65% outside prisons. It looks like only 4% of prisoners even registered to vote in the Republic of Ireland.

Giving prisoners the right to vote is hardy going make any difference to re-offending rates is it? So just give them all a vote and stop whining. I do understand why a lot of people don’t like the idea of prisoners getting votes, but who likes the idea of bankers getting bonuses? And how’s that working out?!

Photo © Andrew Bardwell cc by-sa 2.0

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.

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)

So you want my vote…


Tomorrow morning I’ll be walking down to the local polling station and I still have no idea who to vote for. The first problem is finding out what the choice is, luckily the Eastleigh council web site at least has a bunch of PDFs listing who’s standing.

It looks like I’ll be able to choose from this motley collection for the European election:

  • British National Party
  • Christian Party “Proclaiming Christ’s Lordship”
  • Conservative Party
  • English Democrats
  • Jury Team
  • Liberal Democrats
  • No2EU: Yes to Democracy
  • Pro Democracy: Libertas.eu
  • Socialist Labour Party
  • The Green Party
  • The Labour Party
  • The Peace Party
  • The Roman Party. Ave!
  • United Kingdom First
  • United Kingdom Independence Party

There’s been barely any discussion about what the MEPs will actually been doing in the European parliament. I don’t need a European election to send a message to Gordon Brown (sorry Gordon, but I have just never been able to take you seriously as PM), and it seems fairly pointless to vote based on whether I think we should be in or out of Europe. I kind of like the idea of a pan-European party improving the system but I don’t know enough about Libertas to guess whether that’s what they’ll actually do. (And it will always be a guess, since I bet a few people were expecting a referendum from Labour.) The Jury Team idea sounds interesting but probably not that constructive in practice. Maybe if the party membership were the party whips, voting throughout the term of the elected MEPs in a kind of ongoing referendum… but I suspect people would get bored of that fairly quickly. The Roman Party is in with a chance of getting my vote if I could find out a bit more about Jean-Louis’ plans. (Not much out there, but I did find this leaflet.)

Possibly even less interesting is the council election, with only the usual suspects lining up:

  • Conservative Party
  • UK Independence Party
  • Labour Party
  • Liberal Democrat

Ignoring the Labour Party (who don’t even seem to try here, which is fine by me) and UKIP, the choice between Conservative and Lib Dem is hardly great. The two of them seem to endlessly blame each other for exactly the same local problems and say very little about real solutions. One slight difference is that the Conservatives just turn up at election time, which is I suppose at least efficient.

Oil, gravel, houses and the crematorium NIMBY moaning is just annoying. Hands up anyone in Hedge End who doesn’t live in a house under 40 years old, use a car and isn’t planning to die? No, didn’t think so. As for the tap in the council offices; it’s not for a kitchen sink (which would be a bit extreme), it’s a pretty sensible way to provide drinks for employees. I’d go on but I think I’m well in to ranting territory already. If I vote Conservative, it will be at least partly because they haven’t had the front to tell me that one of the other parties can’t win here. And if I vote Lib Dem, if will be at least partly down to @mpntod – more MPs should be connecting with people like Martin.

On balance though, I’m very likely to be voting Limbo.

That was a political broadcast on behalf of a grumpy old man. We now return to our normal service.