Friday, December 30, 2011

"Blue, Purple, Green, Red and now Black" by Jon Williams

Labour has another new colour "Black". A thinktank established by Lord Mandelson. It has released two documents one called "Why fiscal conservatism and social justice go hand in hand" and the other "Cameron's Trap: Lessons for Labour from the 1930s and 1980s". (see here and here for details and downloads- plus this article in the Guardian).

Roughly translated "cutting your cloth according to your means" or "only spend what you can afford". This is more of a Tory than Labour policy that neglects to mention the poorest in society will never be able to have free income to spend or for that matter make some savings for their future. It doesn't mention investing in infrastructure to promote growth and hence creating new jobs. It talks about an "enterprising state" which is another way to introduce private companies in the public sector as a means to make profit at the expense of tax payers. These documents - one can only call them Blairite or New Labour - always start trying to rectify the bottom of society - without mentioning the top of society or make suggestions to equalise some of their benefits (tax loopholes) downwards to the middle / lower parts of society.

With a poor economic outlook Cameron's and Osborne's poll ratings are twice that of the two Ed's. Ed Miliband's conference theme of "predatory capitalism" predicted to be stolen by Cameron and hailed as the saviour, while the Labour party allowed it to develop. The Tories have a consistent repetitive message of "there is no alternative" to reducing the deficit, which the electorate understands and I'd be surprised if they have heard of Labour's five point plan. Getting Labour's message right (e.g. manufacturing and exporting), consistently repeating it and then the electorate will listen.

(Various responses to the Black Labour proposals can be found here)


Thursday, December 29, 2011

"A People Deceived - Without Malice !" by Ken Curran

The arteries of our parliamentary system have become so sclerotic. It cannot respond to hear the heartbeat of the people of these British Isles. So a growing decline in the unity of our people is being reflected in a rising interest in the self-determination of Scotland and Wales. As recently as last week Professor Salverson of Huddersfield University writing in the Guardian, argued for a step towards the reshaping of a new United Kingdom which would be based on Regional Government. He suggested an amalgamation of the Yorkshire Region, the North East and Cumbria. This is not as fanciful as some people may suggest. I don't believe that we should dismiss such proposals out of hand. I sense a growing feeling of uncertainty over the possible ending of the Union. The speculation stems not so much from an upsurge of nationalism in Wales and Scotland, but from a feeling that the Westminster Government increasingly fails to reflect the views of the people.

Rotten Apples In The Barrel

Much of our current political, social and economic debris (with its greed , mistrust and disillusionment) has its roots in Thatcherism. I am aware that she has not been around physically for a good number of years. However, in her role as the Ghost of Christmas Past she still walks the corridors of Westminster. The "Political Class" has not renounced her, nor has it cleansed itself of self-seeking individuals who almost daily bring our democracy into dispute. These people inhabit each of our major Political Parties. Few of our current MPs have really served their time to prove they are worthy, capable or trustworthy for their positions in Parliament. The state of our society and the decline of our country is all too apparent. Streets awash with litter from cans and plastic bottles. Unkempt parks and playgrounds. Boarded up shops. Rising unemployment. Young people thrown out on the scrap heap of a derelict, non-directional and valueless society. As with the collapse of Ancient Rome, Britain is no longer fit for purpose. The huge investment and suffering by those generations who fought the 1939-45 war to build the Welfare State, National Service and our Educational Provisions, has been squandered and destroyed by what is being turned into a greedy and philosophically aimless nation.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Death Of Democracy

The latest Report of the Electoral Commission shows that there are now six million people missing from electoral registers. The numbers of missing voters are especially high amongst the young, ethnic minorities, the poor and the mobile/rootless. One consequence is that the electoral boundaries which are currently being redrawn will be massively distorted as those missing from registers are not evenly spread throughout society. Overall, it will fiddle election results - disenfranchising many of those most in need.

This is the BBC's coverage of the Report
: it provides a link to the full report itself.

What is needed to overcome this democratic disgrace is a proactive registration system which uses modern technology to track people and provide for full and regular canvassing by registration officials. To ensure that young people who have just attained registration rights are not excluded, the voting age should be dropped to 16 and the initial registrations should take place via their schools whilst they are still 15. The sale of electoral registers to commercial interests should be banned, as some people avoid registration to hide their details from those who are, say, pursuing them for debt re-payments.

In the 1992-93 Parliamentary Session, I ran a Private Members Bill which attempted to tackle the above problem. I had the support of the then Labour Leader, the late John Smith; whilst even Tony Blair as Shadow Home Secretary pressed for its support. But it was defeated by the Conservative Government. My proposals were stimulated by the negative impact which the Poll Tax had had on electoral registration. Technology has been transformed in the past 20 years, so the details of my proposals now need to be brought up to date. Nor at this initial stage had I seen the relevance of "votes at 16" to my proposals.

I went on to press the issue regularly in other legislative attempts; especially in the 1999-2000 Parliamentary Session, when I put up a stream of what I saw as "improving amendments" to what became Labour's Representation of the People's Act. The Act did, however, introduce a weak version of one of my proposals which was for Rolling Electoral Registration. This allows people to transfer their registration to their new residence when they move, rather than having to wait until a full new register is being constructed. The measure has only ever had a slight impact on the safeguarding of electoral registration. It is swept aside by other factors.

The Labour Frontbench needs to pick up the issue and act (in a modern setting) upon the type of principles I started to propound almost 20 years ago.

Whilst democracy requires much more than a system of one person one vote, it must be based on that principle.