strange_complex: (Chrestomanci slacking in style)
In this post I am reviewing three books which I actually read in 2015. I'm aware of how utterly ludicrous that is; just humour me. It's a thing I feel I need to do.

6. Conrad Russell (1999), An Intelligent Person's Guide to Liberalism

After the 2015 General Election, various Lib Dems shared lists of reading recommendations in the spirit of fuelling a #LibDemFightback. This one seemed the most universally-recommended, so I got it out of the University library and read it. It is indeed a very good articulation of what liberalism is about today (or was at the time of publication), and how it has evolved from its earliest recognisable origins in Whig opposition to James II’s interference in parliamentary autonomy through a series of different issues (religion, economics, personal freedoms, the environment etc.) as UK politics has changed over the centuries. I found the chapter on economics the most interesting and helpful for clarifying my own understanding of liberalism. Broadly, it points out that liberalism does not really have a clear default economic position in the way that (say) socialism does, because it initially evolved in a context where the main dividing lines in politics were not economic ones, but others – primarily religion. But because liberalism is essentially about the redistribution of power from those who are hoarding big chunks of it to those who don’t have any, it isn’t too hard to translate this to economic forms of power, and indeed there are plenty of early examples of liberals siding with the economically-exploited over their exploiters – e.g. Whig involvement in passing laws for the ten-hour working day in the mid-19th century. This in turn opens the door for a vision of liberal economics which is much more about cooperatives, mutuals, trade unions, breaking up monopolies and cartels, encouraging entrepreneurialism and ensuring level playing fields than the laissez faire approach often described as ‘classical liberalism’. I would love that vision to be more deeply embedded and widely understood in the Liberal Democrats today, never mind in wider politics – but unfortunately it is not. Meanwhile, back to the book, its big flaw is that it is unlikely to be at all accessible to anyone not already interested in liberalism and familiar with UK politics. Fair enough, it bills itself as being for the ‘intelligent person’, but that in itself is not very liberal really – hardly in keeping with the Liberal Democrats’ consitutional pledge (adopted verbatim from the Liberals before them) to ensure that no-one is enslaved by ignorance. And, as is often the case with similar riders, ‘intelligent’ is really just a synonym for ‘educated’ or ‘pre-informed’. So Russell will refer in passing to something François Mitterrand said in 1989 (I’m inventing the example, as I no longer have the text in front of me to provide a real one), without actually saying what it was or how it relates to the issue under discussion. A more accessible introduction to liberalism could certainly be written, then, and could do a lot of good by helping to ensure a broader understanding of what it actually is. As my friend Andrew Hickey, who also recently reviewed Russell's book points out, an awful lot of the people who are currently convinced that liberalism is a terrible scourge on society are actually working with a heavily distorted understanding of it, and would probably quite like the sort of thinking which Russell outlines if they knew about it. Attempting to communicate it is, of course, on us liberals, and clearly that is what Russell was trying to do. Until anyone can achieve a more accessible articulation of the same thinking, his book will probably remain the best introduction to liberalism we have.

7. Andrew Hickey (2015), Head of State

Talking of Andrew, he wrote a book of his own, and it's great! It is a novel, technically belonging to the Faction Paradox series, but I can personally attest that you do not need to have read any prior Faction Paradox stories, or really know anything about them, to enjoy it. It helps in particular that the story is very much set on Earth; though I don't know how much that is or isn't true for other FP stories – maybe they all are? Anyway, this one follows a surprise outsider's US presidential election campaign, which is clearly being manipulated by the Faction Paradox in some way, and which relates to traces of their activities also identifiable in the historical and mythic past. In order to tell this story, Andrew has used multiple interweaving narratives: different present-day perspectives on the presidential campaign, Victorian explorer Richard Burton, the 2002nd story of Scheherazade and various interpolations from non-human dimensions. This is not easy, but I thought he did it exceptionally well, capturing the various voices of his different characters distinctly and recognisably without making any of them seem over-mannered or cariacatured. For those reasons alone I enjoyed reading the novel and would recommend it to anyone. But there is of course an extra dimension of pleasure to reading a novel by a friend whose view on the world over-laps closely with your own. I recognised a lot of both the political and the online culture described, for example: in particular a female journalist blogging on a platform called 'dreamjournal', whom Andrew confirmed when I asked him was indeed based on the journalist I thought she was. He is even sweet enough to have included me in his acknowledgements at the end, although literally all I did was lend him a book of commonly-used Latin phrases with which he could pepper Richard Burton's prose. As for that presidential candidate – he's a Bernie Sanders, not a Donald Trump, but an awful lot about the campaign sections of this book did resurface in my mind during the latter part of 2016: high-level corruption and manipulation, people gradually realising that the 'no-hope' candidate is going to win, and a load of right-wing nutjobbery to boot. It's a pity real life has managed to turn out even more horrendous than what happens at the end of this book, but that's another matter. I'm really proud to know the author of such a great read.

8. John Buchan (1927), Witch Wood

I learnt of this book from the British Library's exibition, Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination in autumn 2014, where it was presented as an example of folk horror and likened to Witchfinder General in particular. It's a reasonable comparison. This story deploys the classic folk horror motif of an educated outsider coming into a small, traditional village community: in this case a newly-ordained priest, David Sempill, assigned to a parish named Woodilee. It's also set during the Civil Wars, though in Scotland rather than in England, and involves accusations of witchcraft. After those face-value similarities, though, it's a pretty different kind of narrative: essentially a historical novel concerned with how the ideological conflicts of 17th-century Scotland translate into personal struggles for its main character. On the one side, Sempill owes loyalty to the Kirk and, through its Solemn League and Covenant, the parliamentary side of the Civil War. On the other, he increasingly finds that his efforts to help the sick and the needy put him at odds with his parish leaders and church elders, who are more concerned with personal reputation and formal doctrine than actual morals or spirituality, and that his sympathies are drawn instead towards royalists and aristocrats. Witches and indeed fairies are overlain onto this, in ways which allow Buchan to highlight the hypocrisies of the parishioners and tangle up Sempill's political leanings with romantic attraction. But there is nothing overtly supernatural in the book: only a bit of paganism-cum-Devil-worshippery and Sempill's hyper-romanticisation of his girlfriend. Most of the politics and religion I could take or leave to be honest, not having any great investment in either, but the novel does contain some very engrossing sequences: Sempill's terror journeying through the dark wood at night, the utter devastation of his village by the plague, or the tormenting of an obviously-vulnerable old woman by a witch-pricker. Those are what have stayed with me, and what made it worth reading.
strange_complex: (Asterix Romans)
Well then. For what it's worth, after the initial disbelief and disappointment, my basic response to the referendum result is the 'rolling up my sleeves and getting on with it' one. I won't be at all sorry if for one reason or another we never actually do end up leaving the EU - e.g. if the country ends up in such a deep economic, political and / or constitutional mess that Article 50 is never invoked. But I'm not pinning my hopes on that, and I'm certainly not signing any petitions calling for a new referendum under different rules (though I don't at all mind other people signing that petition as a way of registering the extent of disappointment and anger in the country). Rather, I now want to focus on trying to make this country the best place it can possibly be, given the hand we are now holding.

[That said, I think I will have a go at claiming the Irish (and therefore EU) citizenship to which I am perfectly entitled by dint of having an Irish grandmother - though it won't be a trivial process. As far as I can tell, I'll need no less than nine original copies of birth / marriage / death certificates and certified passports, including one (the original birth certificate on which the whole thing rests) which would have been issued in County Sligo in (I think) 1912. Yikes!]

Anyway, going back to making this country the best place it can possibly be, living through the entire referendum process has certainly done a lot to reaffirm my liberalism. Two main issues stand out, both connected, and both of which strongly reinforce (for me) the essential core of liberalism - a concern with excessive concentrations of power, and a desire to break them down and redistribute it.

Firstly, the power concentrated into the hands of people like Paul Dacre and Richard Desmond. For decades now, newspapers like the Daily Mail and Daily Express have been publishing front-page lies and hatred about both immigrants and the EU, while inadequate bodies for press regulation have failed to challenge them, and, on the rare occasions when they were were successfully challenged, they have only needed to publish retractions in tiny print on the inside pages of the papers. Meanwhile, the requirement on the broadcast media to provide balanced political coverage is interpreted as an instruction to give equal air-time to voices on either side, rather than to challenge lies themselves or identify any kind of prevailing consensus. This approach has been characterised by some as "Shape of the Earth: views differ".

At first sight, it may seem illiberal to restrict the freedom of the press, but the press is in any case not currently free from powerful individuals seeking to propagate lies for their own financial or political gain. More fundamentally, a democracy (which is a tool for distributing political freedom) cannot function properly if the people who live in it do not have access to accurate and impartial information on which to base their voting decisions. See e.g. Russia or North Korea for details. And it is very clear indeed that in this referendum (as also in the AV referendum five years ago), people voted on the basis of claims which were untrue, while any attempts by moderate people to counter those claims, or the decades worth of misinformation and bigotry which they tapped into, were hopelessly drowned out by the power of the tabloid press. If that press had been properly regulated years ago, this might not have happened.

Secondly, the power concentrated into the hands of the 'big two' political parties by our First Past The Post voting system. One of the most common arguments against proportional political systems is that they allow members of extremist parties to win seats at elections. But in my view, this is a good thing. Once a party's representatives have been elected to office, they are subject to the white light of accountability. If they implement policies which turn out to be disastrous, or fail to deliver on their promises, they will lose their popularity and be voted out again. In my view, we would be much better off today if UKIP had started winning council seats and parliamentary seats in serious numbers twenty years ago. Then, people might have had the chance to discover that they are a bunch of self-interested con-merchants while the damage they could inflict was still relatively limited, and before we arrived at the almighty mess we are in now.

Furthermore, most proportional voting systems, but especially the Single Transferable Vote, make politicians much more accountable to the electorate than FPTP. Safe seats largely disappear, parties campaign meaningfully against one another in all parts of the country, and voters can choose between individual members of the same party, based on nuanced preferences (e.g. liking Blairite Labour candidates but not Corbynistas), without harming that party's overall political prospects. I believe that if we had been using STV already for decades, the main parties would not have been able to get away with parachuting their favoured candidates into seats where voters were not being presented with any meaningful alternative option. Then, we would not have the huge yawning gap between the electorate and their supposed representatives which seems to have contributed to enough of that electorate deciding to use the EU referendum to deliver them a kicking in return for years of neglect and dismissal. Under STV, parties would have had an incentive to develop real solutions to the problems which older working-class voters are trying to express, rather than just telling them it's all the fault of immigrants and the EU. Even UKIP would probably have evolved into a more responsive, solution-focused party, rather than the fantasists they are.

If you've been nodding along while reading the above, and would like to help solve these problems for the future, here are some things you could do (if you haven't already):

1. Join Hacked Off, who are campaigning for a free and accountable press. It's free to sign their declaration or sign up for campaign bulletins, though of course they would love donations too.

2. Join the Electoral Reform Society, Unlock Democracy and / or Make Votes Matter, all of which are campaigning in different ways and with different emphases to improve our political system. It's £24 p.a. (or less for concessions) to join the ERS and Unlock Democracy, and free (though again donations welcome) to join Make Votes Matter.

3. Join the Liberal Democrats. I know we're far from perfect. We too have floundered in the white light of accountability. But we are the only political party in the UK which stands fundamentally and explicitly for the liberal principles I have discussed above. If you'd like to know more about what we think we stand for, read the preamble to our constitution. The final paragraph (beginning "Our responsibility for justice and liberty cannot be confined by national boundaries...") explains why we have always been, and will always remain, committed to collaborative international organisations like the EU.

4. Join any other political party. Yes, even UKIP (though I hope you'll prefer not to). Because the more people in this country are members of political parties, the smaller the gulf and the better the dialogue between politicians and the electorate.

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strange_complex: (Donald Sutherland Body Snatchers)
The plots of two of the films which I saw on the second day of the Fantastic Films Weekend depended heavily on motifs of disguise, with key characters turning out to be someone other than they had appeared to be. So there are significant spoilers under the cuts for Captain Clegg and The Man in Black.

19. Captain Clegg (1962), dir. Peter Graham Scott

This is a tale of piracy and smuggling )

TV pilot: Tales of Frankenstein: The Face In The Tombstone Mirror (1958), dir. Curt Siodmak

This is exactly the sort of little-known gem I go to the Fantastic Films Weekend to see )

20. The Man in Black (1949), dir. Francis Searle

This was the second part of the double bill opened by Tales of Frankenstein, and is another little-known Hammer gem. It pre-dates their specialisation in the horror genre, and is in fact a murder mystery )

After seeing this double-bill, I could have gone and watched Barbarella, or this year's collection of short films, which multiple people assured me were excellent. But I've learnt in previous years that doing nothing but back-to-back films can be pretty exhausting - and besides I didn't want to miss the chance to view the museum's Hammer horror make-up collection, compiled from archival material left to them by make-up artists Phil Leakey and Roy Ashton. The stuff actually on view wasn't that extensive, although apparently they have a lot more sketches and photographs which you can book an appointment to view in detail at any time. But I did get to see some interesting design sketches, concept models and photographs, as well as some actual latex attachments used to achieve the distinctive looks of the Mummy and Frankenstein's creature. Best of all were Dracula's actual fangs from the original 1958 film, complete with a chamber which allowed blood to drip down them through little wires, and sat in a glass case next to tins with hand-written labels saying things like 'Vampire bites' and 'Nostril enlagers':

Dracula's actual fangs from 1958!

(Sorry about the shadow - I couldn't use a flash as it reflected on the glass, so this was the best I could do). I then wandered round the museum's new exhibition on the history of the internet, which explained the development of ideas like distributed networks very clearly, and included interesting collections of early technology with what now seems like unbelievably limited capacity. But I did find the cabinet which was clearly designed to help children understand what on earth life without the internet might have been like rather disconcerting, what with its record-player to demonstrate life without iTunes, Monopoly board for life without online gaming, letters to represent life without email and so on. It's rather scary at the age of 35 to discover that museums are devoting exhibition space to the strange, alien world of your own teens!

21. I Drink Your Blood (1970), dir. David E. Durston

My final Saturday film was grindhouse classic I Drink Your Blood - a tale of satanist hippies driven (even) mad(der than they already were) by rabies-infected meat pies )

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strange_complex: (Clegg checks the omens)
I've just got back from a weekend in Sheffield, where I went to attend my first proper LibDem party conference )

Policy making )

What I actually attended )

Meeting people )

Anyway, there's lots more I could say about it all, but it's bed-time now, and I'll be back into full-on mega-busy mode at work again tomorrow. So I guess I will leave it there. Definitely an experience I'm glad I made time for, though, and I hope I'll get to do it again before too long.

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strange_complex: (Me Yes to Fairer Votes)
I'm still busy campaigning away for Yes to AV, and will probably write more about the local campaign soon. But today I'd like to take a little time to point out why the Alternative Vote can deliver clearer messages to politicians about what voters actually want than First-Past-The-Post, using the example of this week's by-election in Oldham East & Saddleworth.

This by-election came about because the man who won the seat at the General Election, Phil Woolas (Labour), was found guilty of knowingly telling lies about his closest opponent, Elwyn Watkins (LibDem) in his election literature. The judges ordered a re-run of the election, and Woolas was suspended from the Labour party.

The resulting by-election attracted a great deal of media scrutiny, and prompted very sustained campaigning efforts from both the Liberal Democrats and Labour: the latter now headed by a replacement candidate, Debbie Abrahams. And the basic reason for all of this was that by-election results are normally seen as diagnostic - a sort of mid-term barometer reading on how all of the political parties involved are doing in the eyes of the electorate as a whole.

So what data has the result yielded, and what can it tell politicians about what voters are thinking? Let's compare the detailed results in OE&S from May 2010 and January 2011:

May 2010 - Turnout: 44,520 (61.2%) +4.4

CandidatePartyTotal votes Percentage % change
Phil WoolasLabour14,18631.9-10.7
Elwyn Watkins  Liberal Democrat14,08331.6-0.5
Kashif AliConservative11,77326.4+8.7
Alwyn StottBritish National Party2,5465.7+0.6
David BentleyUK Independence Party  1,7203.9+1.8
Gulzar NazirChristian Party2120.5+0.5

January 2011 - Turnout: 34,930 (48.0%) −13.1

CandidatePartyTotal votes Percentage % change
Debbie AbrahamsLabour14,71842.1+10.2
Elwyn WatkinsLiberal Democrat11,16031.9+0.3
Kashif AliConservative4,48112.8-13.6
Paul NuttallUK Independence Party  2,0295.8+1.9
Derek AdamsBritish National Party1,5604.5-1.2
Peter AllenGreen5301.5N/A
Nick "The Flying Brick" Delves Monster Raving Loony1450.4N/A
Stephen MorrisEnglish Democrats1440.4N/A
Loz KayePirate960.3N/A
David BishopBus-Pass Elvis670.1N/A

Firstly, overall turnout was lower than at the General Election, as is typical for by-elections. So it's no good comparing overall numbers of votes - we have to focus on the percentage won by each party. On this basis, the obvious story is a collapse in the Conservative vote (-13.6) and a boost in the Labour vote (+10.2), with the Liberal Democrats holding more or less steady in the middle (+0.3).

But how do we explain this, and what does it mean? One problem with first-past-the-post is that we can't really tell. Clearly, it's out of line with how the three main parties stand in nationwide opinion polls, which would have conditioned us to expect a collapse in the LibDem vote rather than the Tories. But why didn't this happen? Is it because Elwyn Watkins had such a good relationship with the local electorate that his own vote has held up in spite of nationwide discontent with the Liberal Democrats as a party? Is it because Tory voters in the constituency deliberately decided to vote tactically for the LibDem candidate in an attempt to keep Labour out, as numerous commentators have suggested? Or is it some combination of both?

Under FPTP, we can only speculate about what happened, and what it all 'means'. At best, opinion pollsters can ask a sub-set of the voters about the reasons behind their decisions. But wouldn't it be even better if all of the voters in this constituency could have expressed their preferences clearly and unambiguously at the ballot box in the first place?

This is one of the things that AV offers. Imagine that Tory voters in particular - the main group suspected of tactical voting in OE&S - hadn't had to do so. Imagine that they could have expressed their true preferences by ranking candidates instead. Then we would be able to see more clearly what the real picture was.

The suggestion is that a third of people who voted Tory in the general election actually switched their votes to the LibDems in the by-election - not because they positively supported the LibDem candidate, but because they negatively opposed the Labour candidate, and saw Elwyn Watkins as best placed to defeat her under an FPTP system. If this is true, AV would make that shift, and those feelings, transparent. Under AV, we would be likely to see those same voters, now freed of the need to vote tactically, being able to put the Tory candidate whom they really preferred first, in the knowledge that if he were eliminated, their second-preference votes for the Liberal Democrat candidate would still be carried forward to help decide the final outcome.

This means that AV would have allowed local Tory voters to express their preferences in more detail, transmitting more information about what they actually thought about the candidates running for office via their choices at the ballot box than they were able to under FPTP. Indeed, this is of course true for all of the voters in the constituency, not just the Tory ones. I'm simply picking on local Tory voters because they are the most obvious example here of voters whose preferences we can't fully understand when expressed only through the FPTP system.

To me, what all this demonstrates is that AV is a superior electoral system to FPTP because it conveys a clearer message to politicians about what the people who are voting for them actually think and want. It enhances the political dialogue by making it easier for voters to indicate to politicians when they approve or disapprove of their actions. And if politicians want to do well under an AV system, they will need to listen and respond to the extra data which voters are providing to them. Indeed, they will have to, because of the requirement which is also part of the AV system that a winning candidate must secure the support of at least 50% of their voters. In other words, AV should mean an electoral system which is literally more democratic, because politicians become more responsive to the will of the voters.

I'm also quite aware that in this particular constituency, the likely message from voters to politicians which AV would have transmitted clearly, and which FPTP did not, is disenchantment with the Liberal Democrat party. If the LibDem share of the vote really did hold up partly thanks to Tory tactical voters, then that is perhaps not such great grounds for self-congratulation as Tim Farron tried to claim afterwards. And you know, much as I am still steadfast in my support for the party, I think it would actually be better for us to hear the clearer message that AV would have delivered in OE&S. It would have been a more accurate barometer of what we're getting right and what we're getting wrong, and a more helpful guide as to how to do something about it.

Of course, ultimately no by-election result can ever be a really accurate reflection of national political success or failure. Obviously local issues and local personalities play a huge role; as does the scope which voters tend to feel for registering a 'protest vote' in a situation where they know that it will have no effect on the party of national government.

But I would like all voters to be able to express their opinions more clearly in both by-elections and general elections. I want a better dialogue between voters and politicians - one in which our voices are stronger, and our candidates are forced to listen more attentively.

And that is (just one reason) why I am saying Yes to AV.

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strange_complex: (Clegg checks the omens)
I can't be at the LibDem party conference this year, because it clashes hopelessly with a very busy freshers' week here in Leeds. But I have been following along as much as possible via the BBC Parliament channel and my many friends who are busy tweeting from the conference hall.

I've been following with particular interest this morning (either side of holding a meeting to explain to freshers how Study Abroad works), because conference has been debating the Equal Marriage proposal which LibDems for LGBT action (aka Delga) were drafting when I went to their strategy conference in the summer.

The good news is that that motion has now passed, making the LibDems the first UK party in government to officially support the introduction of equal marriage. You can read the full details of the new policy, including the equality of opportunity which it pledges for transgender people, religious organisations, and the status of relationships across international borders, here.

I am really, really, really, really pleased about that.

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strange_complex: (Amelia Rumford archaeologist)
I couldn't post this last night, because I just could not get onto LJ at any point after Doctor Who ended. So what follows was actually written in Yahoo! Notepad yesterday evening, and lightly edited this morning in order to get the tenses right.

Gosh, well. I think I can only possibly start writing about this with the end first )

So where the hell does this go now? )

Anyway, as for the rest of the story, yes, it did play out much like Three's encounters with our reptilian cousins )

The Doctor and Ambrose )

Nasreen Chaudhry )

So, Chris Chibnall may not be the most highly-regarded of Doctor Who writers, and it may well be that without the shock ending (which must surely have been largely Steven Moffat's work), this would have ended up as another largely predictable and forgettable story. But, as it was, it worked for me. Looking forward to yet more historical action next week.

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strange_complex: (C J Cregg)
Well, this election aftermath story is certainly throwing up some surprises, isn't it? I was a bit downcast about it all on Friday afternoon. I didn't think the LibDems had a strong enough hand to make electoral reform a central tenet of a coalition with either of the other parties. And if that couldn't be achieved, I couldn't really see how any of the three most likely outcomes (Con-Lib coalition, Lab-Lib coalition or Tory minority government) would ultimately do anything much else other than damage the Liberal Democrats in the long term - and hence damage the prospects of them having any serious input into the formation of government policy in the future. Like a lot of people, too, my immediate instinctive reaction to the idea of a Con-Lib coalition was "ugh!".

But I clearly underestimated Nick Clegg and his negotiating team )

What will actually happen is still anyone's guess )

Not everyone is happy with the outcome of this election )

I've got to say that I'm not seeing horror and betrayal in my corner of the internet )

Personally, I'm pretty OK with Con-Lib if it's going to achieve the implementation of as many of the LibDems' key manifesto commitments as it looks like it might. It's not going to be 'Torygeddon' - that wasn't the outcome of the election, and it's not how the Tory party would be able to behave while held on a tight leash by the LibDems in the context of a formal coalition. I'm not sure Lab-Lib is as workable - but if it can be made to work, I'd be perfectly happy with that too on the same grounds. It's a pity that the particular type of electoral reform that's being talked about by both Labour and the Tories at the moment is alternative vote, when single transferable vote is a lot fairer - see [ profile] innerbrat's excellent discussion for details. But that any kind of electoral reform is being seriously offered at all is amazing - never mind all the other issues surrounding the economy, taxation and education which are all clearly going to end up being resolved in ways that are much more to my taste than either the Tories or Labour could have managed alone.

Everything could still fall apart, of course, without any of us really getting anything we want - no matter what we voted for. But one thing is for sure. Between the outcome of this election, the priorities of the Liberal Democrat party, and the activities of groups such as the Take Back Parliament coalition, the issue of electoral reform has become a central part of the political discourse. People are talking about it all over the internet, and yesterday evening the BBC News channel provided a detailed outline of the differences between FPTP voting, AV and STV. It feels to me as though this issue won't just fade away again now. And that is one of the main reasons why I voted LibDem in the first place.

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Polling night

Friday, 7 May 2010 05:04
strange_complex: (Tick my box)
Well, it's nearly five a.m., well over half of the seats have declared now, and so far it's a pretty depressing picture. There have been a few surprising results, but no sense of a big swing of popular opinion; no big shocks or iconic defining moments. Just a slow but steady trickle of seats of all sorts falling to the Conservatives.

Far more depressing, of course, is the spectacle of thousands of voters being deprived of the chance to cast their votes at all because of an inexplicable failure on the part of polling stations across the country to predict that they might want to. I'm particularly bothered to note that most of the places where the polling stations ran out of ballot papers or didn't have time to process everyone who wanted to vote before 10pm were urban constituencies - that is, exactly the places that are most crucial to both Labour and the LibDems.

My silver linings about this are two. One - it has already clearly produced widespread rage, and we have been promised a thorough enquiry by the Electoral Commission into exactly what happened. Some results may be declared invalid, and if the overall situation is a hung parliament, it may be yet another argument for basically have a re-run of the entire election in the very near future. Two - this issue, along with high voter turn-out in general and large numbers of postal votes, seems to be contributing to delayed counts in a lot of the seats where it happened. As I've said, they are generally the types of seats which are most likely to come out as Labour or LibDem. So as their results do come out, they may start to show that the real Tory lead is actually smaller than it currently looks like it is going to be - at least if they are held to be valid, anyway.

Meanwhile, I'm still waiting for my current constituency, Leeds North West, to declare. I note with pleasure that Bristol West, where I lived in 1997 and cast my first vote, has seen an increased LibDem majority. But that pleasure is distinctly tarnished for me by the news that my more recent former constituency, Oxford West, has fallen to the Tories, causing the wonderful Dr. Evan Harris to lose his seat.

Elsewhere, it's a pretty depressing night for the LibDems. They've lost a few here, gained a few there, but generally look on track to do what the exit poll predicted, which is retain more or less the number of seats in parliament which they already had. I'd like to know what their overall share of the vote nationwide is - has that gone up? I hope so, as it will strengthen their ability to claim that they should be able to have a decisive input into whatever happens in the wake of this election. But it's disappointing after the support they've been enjoying lately, and far short of what I'd hoped for them.

Ooh, this just in, though - Charles Clarke loses out to a LibDem candidate, and has a face like a slapped arse! That was fun.

Anyway, dawn is breaking, and David Dimbleby is sounding pretty tired and fed up now. I guess most of us feel much the same. I'm not too tired myself, as I have been deliberately time-shifting myself over the past week in anticipation of this evening - as the time-stamps on my last few posts will make clear. This is still rather later than even I'm used to staying up, but I can do another hour or so. If you're still up too, or even getting up early to check in on LJ before you go to work, drop me a comment and let me know you're out there!

ETA (05:30): excellent! Leeds North West holds, with an increased LibDem majority! Now why couldn't that have been repeated nationwide, hmm? I could go to bed now, especially since it will still clearly be a good 24 hours before we really have the slightest clue what this result will actually mean. But I'm still anxious to hear what has happened in Sheffield Hallam (Nick Clegg's seat, and clearly badly affected by polling station problems).

ETA the second (06:40): Clegg's seat now declared, and I'm very impressed by his speech emphasising the utter unacceptability of people being deprived of their votes first, and then saying we shouldn't rush into anything without taking time to think it through. Sensible man. Apparently the Queen is a sensible woman, too - she said early on that she wouldn't see anybody before 1pm. This seems to me like advice for life; and besides I don't think she's in much danger of being disturbed today at all. I could go to bed now, but still don't feel much like it. I will pay for this later.

ETA the third (09:00): OK, the BBC are closing down their election night coverage, it's still not completely certain that the Tories won't win an outright majority but it's pretty likely, and now I think I really am going to have to go to bed. Annoyed that the LibDem's share of the vote seems to have gone up slightly overall, but their number of seats has gone down. FPTP the post is clearly never going to work for them - so here's hoping that there is enough willingness now for them to push successfully for electoral reform.

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strange_complex: (C J Cregg)
So, here we stand on the eve of what is clearly going to be one of the most ground-shaking elections in living memory. I believe the closest I've seen to this level of excitement and sense of change before was in 1997, when Labour overthrew an eighteen-year-old Tory government to begin what has turned out to be a thirteen-year stint in power.

I actually voted last week, because I choose to have a postal ballot for the sake of convenience. Unlike a lot of people in this country (even still at the time of writing), I was never in any real doubt about how I was going to vote in this election, so didn't see any point in delaying the process. I'm certainly never going to vote Tory, so that wasn't an issue. Labour have, in all fairness, done some pretty good things since 1997 - for example, the minimum wage, granting control over interest rates to the Bank of England, and civil partnerships. But they've done some pretty shitty things, too - tuition fees, illegal wars, the campaign for ID cards, and of course lately cutting HEFCE funding so badly that my subject and my own job are now under threat. So there's no way I am going to vote for them either.

Anyway, I never really was. Ever since the first election I was eligible to vote in (which was in fact the 1997 one), I have consistently voted Liberal Democrat. Well - apart from the 2005 election, that is, in which I was disenfranchised because a letter I didn't know I was meant to be expecting got lost in the post. THAT was upsetting, and one hell of a strong reminder of what a precious possession the right to vote actually is.

Why I vote LibDem )

Why I don't vote tactically )

What I think / hope will happen at this election )

Anyway, tomorrow night I shall be having a few friends round to watch the results as they come in. It's fun to play drinking games involving sips of appropriately-coloured boozes as each seat is declared, of course - but that's also a strategy liable to cause you to cease caring and slide underneath the coffee-table before the night has advanced very far. Some might say that that would be for the best this time - but given that I do actually want to know what is happening, I have chosen an alternative, sugary method of marking the results. After extensive research in town on Tuesday, I concluded that M&Ms offered the best balance of good, strong primary colours, reasonable price and relatively minimal wastage. So I purchased five large packets of them and spent a happy quarter of an hour today sorting them out into their respective colours, like the roadie in Wayne's World.

If the contents of the packets are any indication of the election result, I can report that there will actually be a surprise Labour majority with the LibDems in second place by a narrow margin over the Tories:

If that's how it turns out, just remember folks - you heard it here first!

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strange_complex: (Girly love Alma Tadema)
With thanks to [ profile] diffrentcolours:

I'd just like to promote a new campaign by Nick Clegg and LGBT Lib Dems calling for Marriage Without Borders - removing the gender restrictions on marriages and civil partnerships, and improving international recognition of same-sex relationships.

Please sign the petition; if you're on Facebook you can become a fan, but do make sure you sign as well - and pimp it to your friends! Get HTML code to copy and paste!

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Early results

Friday, 6 May 2005 06:59
strange_complex: (C J Cregg)
Well, given the hopes expressed in my last post, I can't complain too much about the results as they stand this morning: Labour 351, Conservative 192 and LibDem 59 at the time of writing.

This basically meets all my criteria for happiness: Labour have had a kick in the teeth, but not to the extent that the Tories have actually got in, while the LibDems have increased their majority. My only complaint is that more of Labour's lost seats didn't go to the LibDems instead of the Tories. But it still constitutes a good consolidation of their existing position: hell, I remember the days when they had all of 18 MPs, and were proud of it. It's also nice to see a) that their share of the vote overall is now standing at around 23% and b) that many of the places where they made really significant gains have large student populations. This latter means that young, and in most cases presumably first-time, voters are choosing the LibDems, which as those people filter up through the population pyramid should mean a steadily increasing share in the vote overall.

Naturally, all three sides are claiming it as a victory: Labour on the grounds that they won a third term at all, and the other two on the grounds that they increased their holdings. I think Michael Howard has every right to expect his party to keep him on after this, and I'm certain Charles Kennedy is safe. So the most interesting question now is whether Tony-boy will jump or get pushed before the next election.

I'm also very pleased to see three independent candidates winning their seats - apparently the largest number since 1945. We have George Galloway for the anti-Iraq War "Respect" party in Bethnal Green and Bow, Dr. Richard Taylor kept Wyre Forest, which he originally won in 2001 on his "Save Kidderminster Hospital" ticket and Peter Law, a Labour rebel who left the party due to his opposition to all-woman candidate short-lists, has won Blaenau Gwent from the official Labour candidate. I realise that the party system allows effective governments to be formed, but it's always nice to see that it isn't 100% dominant.

In other news, splorfle, splorfle, Mr. Kilroy-Silk, but I do wish more BNP candidates were losing their deposits... :-(

Early indications

Thursday, 5 May 2005 22:18
strange_complex: (C J Cregg)
Cor, I hope the BBC's exit poll doesn't turn out to be accurate. I'm all for seeing Tony's majority slashed, but barely any change for the LibDems? *grumble*

Last election:
Labour - 413
Conservative - 166
Lib Dems - 52
Other - 28

Exit poll predictions (c. 20,000 voters):
Labour - 356
Conservative - 209
Lib Dems - 53
Other - 28

My hopes:
Labour - 370
Conservative - 150
Lib Dems - 100
Other - whatever's left

Of course that's not my dream parliament. But it's within the bounds of plausibility (or appeared so before the exit poll came out), and would see everyone going in the right direction (according to me!). Labour still in power with a slight majority, thus giving us the better of two evils until the LibDems are really ready for a full attack next time round. And meanwhile the Tories impotent, and the LibDems in a position to kick some serious ass as an opposition party, and fight from a solid foundation next time.

Well, we'll see. Right now I'm off to cheer on Sunderland South in their attempt to get into the Guinness Book of Records by being the first seat to declare four elections in a row.

EDIT: They did it! Results as follows:

Monster Raving Loony Party - 149
British National Party - 1166 (yuk!)
Liberal Democrats - 4492
Conservative - 6923
Labour - 17982


Labour -5%
Conservative +2%
LibDem +3%


strange_complex: (Default)

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