For years New Labour has been told to stop its authoritarian agenda, with its Extradition Acts, ID cards, ISA, control orders, Digital Economy Acts and more, but they simply wouldn’t listen. They, as other governments around the world like Singapore’s, China’s, Russia’s and others believed liberty and free markets weren’t inexorably bound, and to an extent they were right. As long as most people are able to go about their simple basic tasks and to meet their basic wishes it has indeed appeared that most people were prepared at least to ignore the massive infringments on civil rights and attacks on human rights – just as long as they didn’t affect them.
Except New Labour has now been thrown out of power, admittedly for a number of reasons, but it’s authoritarian project must have played some small part, at least in not showing positives for voters to choose from positively; New Labour ran a thoroughly mendacious election narrative – fight for a fairer Britain (except we won’t treat whole swathes of people fairly at all). Now that David and Ed Miliband are running for the Labour leadership though, let’s take a look at their positions on this nasty little venture. Ed first:
Members of the public who feel the state is indifferent to them: faceless and unresponsive.
Public servants who felt that we didn’t value what they do and micro-managed too much.
And also on issues of civil liberties there was too much of a sense that we were casual when it came to the relationship of the state and the individual.
That needs to change.
It does indeed, and he was told as recently as February that it needed to change. But did the Labour manifesto (which he was responsible for) offer change? No. In fact his voting record shows he never wanted it to. ID cards, the Terrorism Act 2000 (with its insidious Section 44), voting against an investigation into the Iraq War and for ministers intervening in inquests – he was at the heart of the project to realign the relationship between the individual and the state. David though has legions of fans currently falling at his feet, and has said:
“New Labour was a reaction to the 1980s but it was trapped by the 1980s. Anyone who thinks that the future is about re-creating New Labour is wrong. I think we’ve got to use this period to decisively break with that. What I’m interested in is Next Labour.”
But he hasn’t suggested any wrongdoing by the Blair & Brown governments or even apologised for any. It’s unsurprising, because his voting record shows more or less the same (if not greater) commitment to the autoritarian nightmare from which we’re emerging as his younger brother’s. The elder Miliband is cruising on a cult of personality right now, which may or may not be deserved, but noone should be under any illusion about where his sympathies about civil liberties and human rights really lie. Former UK Ambassador Craig Murray alleges David is complicit in attempting to conceal New Labour’s true involvement in torture. Were that true you would really have to hope that his ‘Next’ Labour really did bear no resemblance to New Labour. We shall have to wait and see.
I’ve been wondering for a few days what the real, unique selling point of getting into coalition with Clegg was for Cameron. Was it out of weakness, given the right was calling for his head, after he failed to pull off a majority in the Commons? Was it because he could decapitate them after sharing the blame for the upcoming budget cuts? My personal opinion seems to be shared by a number of Tories, and is cross-posted from conservativehome:
“Cameron is deliberately using the alliance with the Liberal Democrats to reduce the power of the Conservative Right”
I’ve already published two sets of findings from the ConservativeHome Members’ Panel:
- 43% of grassroots members think Cameron gave away too much to Clegg in order to get a coalition deal (51% do not); and
- Tory members approve of Coalition by more than three-to-one.
The third is something Cameron needs to nip in the bud:
I’d disagree that it’s something he needs to nip in the bud. It’s entirely possible that Cameron has acknowledged that a significantly right wing Tory Party still can’t win a general election outright in the UK. By going into coalition he can sideline his right wing nutjobs and tack towards the centre. Obviously that poses significant dangers for him, but pulling any sort of success off with the coalition may very well yet be his ‘Clause 4′ moment – the point at which he stared down the elements in his party who had prevented it from becoming electable in its own right. If Cameron has used the coalition to ‘seal the deal’ with his party (which he had blatantly not done going into the election), then it poses severe challenges for the incoming new Labour leader, be it a Miliband or a Cruddas. I’d be very interested in seeing what a Tory leader not in hock to the most extreme elements of their party could end up doing.
(pic from my Lewishamdreamer Flickr profile)
Clegg’s putting his money where his mouth is. Some of you don’t like it, but he’s read the political wind, seen now is the time for coalition government, which after all is what proportional representation would deliver, and pulled an extremely unlikely coalition off. If PR really is that important to you, you’ll appreciate that some coalition formulations will be distasteful, but are the will of the electorate. If Clegg had stood to one side he would have betrayed the entire basis for wanting electoral reform in the first place, and by leading by example he may yet prove to a sceptical electorate just how right the call for change in the voting system is.
Last week Jackie Ashley said:
I think he would be mad to engage in a full coalition, with cabinet seats and the rest of it. That would infuriate his activists and make him jointly responsible for Tory cuts. He needs to offer a deal from the outside, while he reviews the biggest mystery of the past election, which is why the Lib Dem poll bounce did not translate into any advance on the ground. It isn’t all the fault of the unfair electoral system.
And that’s the danger of course – that he gets tainted by being in power (particularly with such economically ruthless Tories) but there’s only so long the party can stand by and watch others take and use power, before they start looking a little pointless. It’s all well and good having noble policies and ideas, but it’s pointless if they aren’t used, which (sorry to say) means compromises have to be made. It’s undesirable but it’s the way of things, but Clegg clearly came to terms with that and decided to risk everything by moving his party back into government for the first time in three quarters of a century.
The electorate have shown that they will not be cowed by the media northe markets into voting for a particular outcome. Instead, they have sent a message that has confused everyone by its unfamiliarity. What can it all mean? Well, clearly they are not happy with the government as it is, nor are they convinced that the Tories offer something better. Instead they have voted for something different and sent the parties away to hammer out a consensus. Under a PR system, there would be a mandate for such an administration. It is only the familiarity of our current electoral arrangement that allows the media to treat the result as some terrible misunderstanding.
Clegg’s decided to show us what it would be like. And of course if he does provide ‘sound and stable government’ through this coalition, he’ll have made a better case to the British public for PR than any party political broadcast or policy document could ever hope to. By agreeing to a high-risk referendum on AV and perhaps hoping he’ll prove the case for PR by example he gets to play a high stakes poker game. On offer is genuine, lasting change to the political system itself; if he plays it wrong however the Lib Dems are essentially dead.
It was one of the many authoritarian disasters visited upon us under the New Labour surveillance state, but the ConDem coalition has just announced it’s over. And when I say over I mean over – even the Register has gone:
Both Parties that now form the new Government stated in their manifestos that they will cancel Identity Cards and the National Identity Register. We will announce in due course how this will be achieved. Applications can continue to be made for ID cards but we would advise anyone thinking of applying to wait for further announcements.
Until Parliament agrees otherwise, identity cards remain valid and as such can still be used as an identity document and for travel within Europe. We will update you with further information as soon as we have it.
The question will remain I suppose whether the coalition will tear up New Labour’s ‘Safeguarding Identity‘ document – their insidious attempt to redefine the relationship between the individual and state for the 21st century. If not then there’s scope for the scheme to return, but this augurs well, at least for this area of civil liberties.
Mark Henderson in the Times decries the loss of Dr Evan Harris from the House of Commons:
Yes, he is an atheist who believes that others’ religious beliefs should not constrain personal freedom. But many of his positions that some religious people dislike are well-supported by evidence: the scientific case for reducing the abortion time limit, for example, is flimsy, as the Commons Science and Technology Committee, on which Harris served, showed to good effect.
Harris’s support for evidence-based policy and free speech also extends to plenty of races in which religion has no dog. How can his support for well-regulated animal experimentation, for example, be characterised as solely motivated by drab, secular determinism? Or his advocacy for reform of the libel laws? Or his forensic scrutiny of the Government spending decisions that have decimated much of British physics?
It was science and evidence that defined Harris’s parliamentary career. This sometimes brought him into conflict with some (though not all) religious people, and it is impossible to deny that he takes a stronger line than many when it comes to religious interference with personal freedom. But it is very wrong to suggest he is a secular “one-trick pony” who sees everything through an anti-religious prism.
Parliament will be poorer for his departure. It needs MPs who share Harris’s respect for evidence.
I couldn’t agree more. Policy should always be determined by reason, by evidence, after rational debate and discourse. Evan Harris has been the parliamentary champion of these principles for years, and as I told him last night, has long been my political hero because of it. Sholto Byrnes in the New Statesman said:
If more MPs had been like him, it is highly unlikely that politicians would have come to have been held in such low regard. If more Liberal Democrats had been like him, I suspect they would be doing much better and might even have stood a genuine chance of replacing Labour as the main party of the left.
A consistently strong voice for the NHS and for science, he shared the title of “Secularist of the Year” with Lord Avebury in 2009 for their work in helping abolish the offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel. He has campaigned against faith schools and argued courageously in favour of abortion, euthanasia, immigration and gay rights.
Some readers — especially those who have described me as being “an apologist for religion” — may be surprised to see me praising him. On the contrary, although I may disagree with some of Evan’s stances, I think he has been one of the most principled MPs in parliament, sticking to his convictions and standing up for a true-liberal view of free speech and of the idea of liberty itself.
There have been fears voiced for some time that Murdoch was trying to pave the way for Fox News in the UK. Those fears are groundless – it’s already effectively here. Watch Sky News’ Political Editor Adam Boulton rip into Alistair Campbell:
Now I can’t imagine that Alistair Campbell needs help from anyone, certainly not any sympathy, but this was quite absurd. Campbell’s always going to behave badly – does that give Boulton the freedom to lose his temper with him on live television? Sky News said Boulton had ‘defended his integrity’, but I can’t believe for a moment that if Paxman or Humphrys had reacted like that at the BBC, that they wouldn’t have been fired.
This ‘shock jock’ brand of journalism can’t be allowed to take over mainstream TV news, otherwise we really do embark on the US’ road to nowhere.
So Brown has finally done the honourable thing and offered his resignation as a price for coalition with the Liberal Democrats. He’s offered an immediate switch to AV via legislation, and a later referendum on STV. So shouldn’t the Lib Dems join him in a minority coalition? Erm no.
How can the Lib Dems possible ally themselves with the party which unrepentently ushered in our surveillance state? Right through to last week they were crowing about just how authoritarian they needed to be, ironically for a country they insisted wasn’t ‘broken’. Could Clegg work with Alan Johnson, who is still defying the European Court of Human Rights on his department’s abuse of the National DNA Database? And what about the Home Office’s defiance of the Court on prisoners’ voting rights? Could Clegg work with Prime Minister David Miliband, who is still defending the government’s right to torture, and trying to prevent us knowing about it? Could New Labour ever walk away from ID cards, given that its ID strategy for the 21st century depends entirely on them and the real problem – the identity register?
Would a New Labour/Liberal Democrat coalition repeal New Labour’s Digital Economy Act? Would they shut down the Independent Safeguarding Authority? How on earth could New Labour ever agree to any aspect of the Freedom Bill whatsoever? Given that there are no moves visible (yet?) showing the demise of New Labour, how could this coalition be better than one with the Tories? Don’t say have it be led by Nick Clegg because that’s just not going to happen, despite his popularity. Unless New Labour dies or the Tories offer AV+ for the Commons at the very least, I can’t see a coalition of any kind working, at least not without destroying the Lib Dems. Brown’s manoeuvre was super, no doubt timed by Alistair Campbell and Peter Mandelson, but he really must not be the only stumbling block to working with the Labour Party.
I’ve been predicting for some time now that the outcome would be a @Conservative minority administration, and my view hasn’t changed one iota, whilst David Cameron and Nick Clegg discuss the notion of a coalition or at the very least a deal of some kind to allow a Tory minority administration to function at least past this summer. Marina Hyde adds some flavour to the current ‘negotiations’:
“I must make clear I would be willing to see any of the party leaders,” Brown wheedled, reminding us that he is above all a guy whose entire political career has been about the free and humble exchange of ideas with his peers, as opposed to an obsession with cleaving power to himself so monomaniacal that it would occupy an entire symposium of psychiatrists.
Meanwhile, Cameron enticed Clegg with “a big, open and comprehensive offer”. Even though the Tory leader thought the Lib Dems were cuckoo on everything from defence to Europe to immigration, and would rather staple his eyelids to the floor than give them PR (I paraphrase slightly), they totally had stuff like the pupil premium in common. What could possibly go wrong?
Brown will resign within the next week. I suspect he hasn’t done so already because he wants to time it for maximum effect in any negotiations he may try with the Lib Dems after they stop talking with the Tories (and they will). And this is where it gets impossible for Clegg – if he tries for a progressive majority with Labour, how could he do with with the thoroughly discredited Brown? And even though the electorate don’t vote for the leader, how could such a still-minority coalition have any legitimacy with a leader who hadn’t been in place for the election? Much of the result must surely have been down to the electorate’s disgust at the way Brown was imposed on the British people, even on the Labour Party itself.
A further complication though must surely be the gulf between Labour and the Liberal Democrats. How on earth could the party demanding PR and the Freedom Bill, which would abolish Labour’s authoritarian project, ever work with the architects of it? Brown, both Milibands, Jack Straw, Harriet Harperson, Ed Balls, you name it – every last one of their names are wedded to state surveillance and control by police and database (one Miliband is an apologist for torture, but we’ll get to that should he become party leader). Not only can’t I imagine Clegg being able to do business with them, but I can’t imagine any of them willingly rolling back their nigh-fascist, corporate-friendly agenda for him. Either they look embarrassingly weak by doing Clegg’s bidding, or Clegg destroys all his popular support by not demanding the Freedom Bill as a precondition of doing business with them.
So David Miliband as Leader of the Opposition by the summer, a Cameron minority administration within a week, and real political paralysis continuing continuing into the distance because of an absence of any parliamentary, electoral or constitutional reform taking place. We need PR, a fully elected Upper House in parliament, strict term limits (ending the ‘wash-up’ period), but we also need an end to professional politicians, making careers out of gaining and retaining power, and not working for the best interests of the electorate. Until the two of the main parties at least start talking seriously about Iraq, Afghanistan, social housing, climate change and a Robin Hood tax at the very least, and an end to ID cards, the ISA, the Digital Economy Act, abuse of the National DNA Database, and markets in state health and education provision, we’re all screwed.
It was an awful night wasn’t it? I mean what happened to the rise of the Liberal Democrats? How on earth could so many polls have picked up such a seismic shift in British politics for so many weeks, for it to drop right back off the bottom of the scale again? How could so many rational people vote Tory again, given what they did last time, and considering how awful their policies were this time? It wasn’t all doom and gloom though:
Caroline Lucas’ triumph in the Brighton Pavillion constituency was despite the first-past-the-post voting system, and really should be celebrated by anyone involved in progressive politics in the UK, particularly those who are looking for a genuine alternative to the neoliberal consensus offered by the three main parties. Sadly in my constituency the Green vote melted away – Joan Ruddock was returned as MP yet again, and the council went overwhelmingly back to Labour.
Elsewhere the Commons lost Dr Evan Harris, which quite frankly is a disaster, although you wouldn’t know it from the Torygraph:
A stranger to principle, Harris has coat-tailed some of the most vulnerable and weak people available to him to further his dogged, secularist campaign to have people of faith – any faith – swept from the public sphere. The Lib Dems served the purpose of providing him with a parliamentary seat, but his true love was the National Secular Society. For a doctor, he supported the strange idea that terminally ill people should be helped to kill themselves. He pretended to defend Roman Catholics by attacking the Act of Settlement, with the real aim of undermining the established Church of England. A drab, secular determinism was his sole motivation; his parliamentary career consequently a one-trick pony.
Now he’s gone to spend more time with his NSS pamphlets and the House of Commons is better for his passing. His political demise will be mourned only by those with a strange fascination for death, those euthanasia enthusiasts whose idea of care for the elderly and infirm is a one-way ticket to Switzerland. But now Dr Death cannot bring a malign influence to bear on the legislature any longer. Bye bye, Evan.
Nasty, nasty, just plain nasty, and that was written by an Anglican priest, who’s supposed to believe in charity. Evan Harris’ parliamentary career (which will surely resume after the next election in 6-12 months) was marked by an emphasis on science, rationalism, evidence-based policy making, compassion and common sense. Whatever the issue you knew the moment he was interviewed about it you knew he would be the one, often the only Member of Parliament who would actually make complete sense. On parliamentary reform:
The recent Coroners and Justice Act – to mention just one of many – contained significant amendments to the law on murder, mercy killing, manslaughter and assisted suicide. While the media debates these matters and the public expects its MPs to, these weren’t even discussed in two days of debate because of the way the government organised the guillotines, as I protested, with no consultation and without regard to the lack of propriety involved in seeing the elected house passing laws “on the nod”. No other self-respecting democracy would tolerate this control of the agenda by the government.
On free speech:
On maintaining a secular NHS:
But maybe Ben Goldacre puts it best:
Recently we were comparing hate mail, and it occurred to me that you could only really pay tribute to the vital contribution Evan has made by listing all the groups who despise him, and the vicious hate campaigns they have mounted. The antivaccination conspiracy theorists hate him, because he drove for more and better evidence on the MMR and autism hoax, and helped expose it through the GMC. The animal rights protestors hate him, because he has dared to stand up for necessary and well-regulated animal experiments, an unpopular cause even among those who quietly benefit from their results. He is despised by fundamentalist christians, because he defends stem cell research and a woman’s right to choose what happens to her own body when she is pregnant. Homophobic christians (not all christians, but the homophobic ones) despise him, because he is clear that if you run a B&B, you have to let a gay couple stay, the same as any other (and although nobody ever mentions it, if you’re gay and run a B&B, you have to let a christian stay too). He is despised by homeopaths because he dared to examine the evidence for their magic beans, he is despised by climate change denialists for the same reason, and alongside all of this, he has led the field on libel reform and on free speech, on disentangling church from state while remaining respectful on religion, he has stood up and been a clear thinker on the role of scientific advisors and evidence on policy, and much more.
But of course he was up against the likes of this:
@Nadine4mp: Do my eyes and ears deceive me? Has Dr Death really lost his seat ?
Evangelical Christianists are on the march, demanding special rights in employment, and now in politics seek to supplant progress, equality and reason with myth, superstition, fear and hatred. That’s not the politics I recognise in this country, that’s not even the way I see this country at all. Make no mistake it’s a triumph that the BNP had such a catastrophically bad night on Thursday night, and that the Green Party is now represented in Westminster, but that chamber is not the place for those who seek to turn the clock back on modernity itself. I myself will continue to argue against religious extremism in any area of civic life, and for the diversity agenda to continue to operate against bigotry and discrimination, not to uphold rights to discriminate. I’ve long been a fan of Dr Harris and hope very much for his political career as an MP to resume with as short a gap as humanly possible. I hope my readers who agree that the principles of the Enlightenment should be fought for at all costs will join with me in making sure we get this vital asset to our lives back in parliament soon.
@Nick_Clegg tells you to get out and vote (and I’d agree if you haven’t already):
Others aren’t so sure:
Either way, in this election there are vested interests which are terrified you’re going to take their power away from them. So ruin the HateMail’s day. Ruin Murdoch’s day. And at the very least don’t whatever you do vote Tory (or BNP for that matter but I sorta hope that’s self-evident to anyone reading this). Jonathan Freedland and Johann Hari offer last minute salutory reminders why not.
I’ve been told by my polling station’s returning officer that turnout was the heaviest she’s seen. In my constituency – a so-called ‘safe seat’, I really hope that’s a good thing.
by John Pilger
Staring at the vast military history section in the airport shop, I had a choice: the derring-do of psychopaths or scholarly tomes with their illicit devotion to the cult of organized killing. There was nothing I recognized from reporting war. Nothing on the spectacle of children’s limbs hanging in trees and nothing on the burden of shit in your trousers. War is a good read. War is fun. More war please.
The day before I flew out of Australia, 25 April, I sat in a bar beneath the great sails of the Sydney Opera House. It was Anzac Day, the 95th anniversary of the invasion of Ottoman Turkey by Australian and New Zealand troops at the behest of British imperialism. The landing was an incompetent stunt of blood sacrifice conjured by Winston Churchill; yet it is celebrated in Australia as an unofficial national day. The ABC evening news always comes live from the sacred shore at Gallipoli, in Turkey, where this year some 8000 flag-wrapped Antipodeans listened, dewy-eyed, to the Australian governor-general Quentin Bryce, who is the Queen’s viceroy, describe the point of pointless mass killing.
It was, she said, all about a “love of nation, of service, of family, the love we give and the love we receive and the love we allow ourselves to receive. [It is a love that] rejoices in the truth, it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. And it never fails.”
Of all the attempts at justifying state murder I can recall, this drivel of DIY therapy, clearly aimed at the young, takes the blue riband. Not once did Bryce honor the fallen with the two words that the survivors of 1915 brought home with them: “Never again.” Not once did she refer to a truly heroic anti-conscription campaign, led by women, that stemmed the flow of Australian blood in the first world war, the product not of a gormlessness that “believes all things” but of anger in defense of life.
The next item on the TV news was an Australian government minister, John Faulkner, with the troops in Afghanistan. Bathed in the light of a perfect sunrise, he made the Anzac connection to the illegal invasion of Afghanistan in which, on 13 February last year, Australian soldiers killed five children. No mention was made of them. On cue, this was followed by an item that a war memorial in Sydney had been “defaced by men of Middle Eastern appearance.” More war please.
“Gooks”, “rag-heads”, “scum”
In the Opera House bar a young man wore campaign medals which were not his. That is the fashion now. Smashing his beer glass on the floor, he stepped over the mess which was cleaned up another young man whom the TV newsreader would say was of Middle Eastern appearance. Once again, war is a fashionable extremism for those suckered by the Edwardian notion that a man needs to prove himself “under fire” in a country whose people he derides as “gooks” or “rag-heads” or simply “scum.” (The current public inquiry in London into the torture and murder of an Iraqi hotel receptionist, Baha Mousa, by British troops has heard that “the attitude held” was that “all Iraqis were scum”).
There is a hitch. In the ninth year of the thoroughly Edwardian invasion of Afghanistan, more than two thirds of the home populations of the invaders want their troops to get out of where they have no right to be. This is true of Australia, the United States, Britain, Canada and Germany.
What this says is that, behind the media façade of politicized ritual – such as the parade of military coffins through the English town of Wootton Bassett — millions of people are trusting their own critical and moral intelligence and ignoring propaganda that has militarized contemporary history, journalism and parliamentary politics – Australia’s Labor prime minister, Kevin Rudd, for instance, describes the military as his country’s “highest calling.”
Here in Britain, the war criminal Tony Blair is anointed by the Guardian’s Polly Toynbee as “the perfect emblem for his people’s own contradictory whims.” No, he was the perfect emblem for a liberal intelligentsia prepared cynically to indulge his crime.
That is the unsaid of the British election campaign, along with the fact that 77 per cent of the British people want the troops home. In Iraq, duly forgotten, what has been done is a holocaust. More than a million people are dead and four million have been driven from their homes. Not a single mention has been made of them in the entire campaign. Rather, the news is that Blair is Labor’s “secret weapon.”
All three party leaders are warmongers. Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrats leader and darling of former Blair lovers, says that as prime minister he will “participate” in another invasion of a “failed state” provided there is “the right equipment, the right resources.” His one condition is the standard genuflection towards a military now scandalized by a colonial cruelty of which the Baha Mousa case is but one of many.
For Clegg, as for Gordon Brown and David Cameron, the horrific weapons used by British forces, such as clusters, depleted uranium and the Hellfire missile, which sucks the air out of its victims’ lungs, do not exist. The limbs of children in trees do not exist. This year alone Britain will spend £4 billion on the war in Afghanistan, and that is what Brown and Cameron almost certainly intend to cut from the National Health Service.
Edward S Herman explained this genteel extremism in his essay, The Banality of Evil. There is a strict division of labor’s, ranging from the scientists working in the laboratories of the weapons industry, to the intelligence and “national security” personnel who supply the paranoia and “strategies”, to the politicians who approve them. As for journalists, our task is to censor by omission and make the crime seem normal for you, the public. For it is your understanding and your awakening that are feared, above all.
I have to vote with what I believe is right. The temptation was to switch my vote from @DarrenJohnsonAM to @TamLewisham – the Clegg effect was (and presumably still is) propelling the Liberal Democrats through to coalition government, and in my view there’s nothing more important than getting proportional representation and repealing New Labour’s authoritarian state. But Mike Marqusee breaks that argument:
The government the signatories are asking us to elect (and to vote for with enthusiasm) will continue the war in Afghanistan, the subordinate relationship with the US, and the international and domestic “war on terror” with its terrible human toll. It will continue to harass immigrants and pander to xenophobia and racism. It will implement public sector cuts on a vast scale, to the detriment of the living standards of the majority and in obeisance to the global financial elite. By adhering to the neoliberal dogma that unites Clegg with Cameron and Brown, it will exacerbate the inequalities that have already reached obscene dimensions. And in the unlikely event that it takes anything like the steps needed on climate change, that will only be because a popular movement has dragged it by the scruff of the neck.
I really wish this weren’t such a strong analysis. Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems want a proportional voting system to – continue more of the same. They offer a complete departure from governmental obsession with databases and surveillance, from rejigging the relationship between the individual and state, but they’re still tied into the same neoliberal nonsense as the Labservatives. Where’s the talk about social housing? Where’s the substantive talk on climate change? Why are they talking about ‘savage’ cuts to public services, instead of a Tobin/Robin Hood tax?
The Green Party offers a living wage, the removal of market forces from the health service, a Robin Hood tax, a high pay commission and an end to the privileged status of faith schools. They’re against destituting asylum seekers, don’t agree Trident should be replaced and would cut tuition fees and City Academies. It may not be perfect, there may be flaws but it’s sure a start and tomorrow I shall be voting enthusiastically for Darren Johnson.
If you need last minute proof why New Labour is no longer fit to govern, check out Home Secretary Alan Johnson’s defence of the government’s policy of destituting asylum seekers:
”What people see is a sort of ”Euro-friendly” that would have us in the single currency. They would have an amnesty for illegal immigrants, they would allow asylum seekers to work, which is utter, utter madness.”
I think that’s an appalling, inhuman position to take. New Labour’s policy of forced destitution of asylum seekers has been one of the many low points of their period in office, but Cathy Newman has gone further and fact-checked Johnson’s wider claim that it was ‘madness’ because 83% of asylum seekers were found not to have had a genuine claim:
His 83 per cent figure ignores 10 per cent of asylum claims which were granted leave to stay in the UK on humanitarian or discretionary grounds – making it hard to dismiss these as not genuine.
He also ignores the cases subsequently found to have genuine merit on appeal – just over a quarter of those that make it through to an appeal tribunal.
That’s not to dispute that the majority of asylum claims are rejected. But given the context in which Johnson cited the statistic and the need to be careful about the way figures are presented on such an emotive subject, we rate his claim fiction.
Good old Alan Johnson. The party which is currently promoting ‘fairness for all’ clearly means nothing of the sort.
Word has it that the Tories will try to declare themselves the winners even if they fail to win a majority in the general election tomorrow. The Constitution however has something else to say about that:
Despite the claims of certain media commentators and aggrieved Conservative politicians at the weekend, there has been no “new rule” dreamt up in the Cabinet Office for the event of a hung parliament. The constitutional position has long been clear: if no party secures an overall majority then Gordon Brown, as the incumbent prime minister, has the constitutional right to remain in office to try to form a government.
Constitutionally, a PM cannot be forced to resign because the opposition believes it has a better mandate to govern. But in practice, whether the PM stays in office and tries to form a government is dependent on the political circumstances in which he finds himself.
Britain’s system is unusual in that the prime minister does not have to resign if his party fails to secure a majority. Until a deal is done he would serve as a caretaker premier, whose powers and authority are limited by the rules governing electoral “purdah”. The constitutional conventions and precedents are designed to provide continuity – to ensure that at no time is the sovereign without a government.
The basic principle is that the government must command the confidence of the Commons. That is not the same as securing an outright majority – merely that no combination of parties can form a majority against it. If the incumbent PM has the confidence of the Commons then he can continue in office.
And this I suspect will be what comes into play on Friday. I still believe that Cameron will command the largest party in the Commons, but will fail to win a majority. I also think Brown and Labour will try to find a solution immediately to keep the Tories out. I’m not convinced they’ll find it – partly because Brown is an unpalatable partner for the Lib Dems (Clegg is known to hate him), partly because it seems highly unlikely that New Labour will agree to dismantle its aggressive, torture-supporting authoritarian state, just because its preferred coalition partner wants it that way. Would David Miliband really be a break from old politics? What about Alan Johnson?
The pressure on Brown from the Murdoch/Mail Axis of Evil will be merciless, the political pressure from the Tories themselves possibly much greater, and the will of the people thoroughly subverted. Cameron will do what it takes to run a minority administration, which through trampling on the Constitution and ignoring electoral reform, will within a short span of time destroy itself. Cameron and the unreconstructed Tories are on the wrong side of history.
Well I guess his party needs all the votes it can get in the run-up to Thursday, but this is makes alarming listening:
Note how Hague answers a different question to the one answered. He suggests that Philippa Stroud hasn’t been suspended as Sutton & Cheam’s Tory PPC because isn’t in favour of discrimination against gay people, yet that wasn’t what was asked, nor is that what the controversy around her centres around:
Question: “If Philip Lardner, Conservative candidate for North Ayrshire & Arran was suspended after writing on his website that homosexuality was ‘not normal’, why hasn’t Philippa Stroud been suspended – she clearly thinks the same thing?”
Hague: “Well I hope she doesn’t think the same thing and she’s made the statement that I referred to yesterday about her current views, and about the suggestion that she is in favour of discrimination against gay people would be false. I think she has put that right.”
He clearly wants this story to go away, but what if this story is true? Don’t anyone let this drop. Religious extremism, despite what Hague wants you to think, is not the same as straightforward bigotry – it’s far more insidious, and at the heart of a new Tory government it would make the Thatcher years feel like a walk in the park.