Tagged: democracy

The Cat’s Post-Election Demands

Guy Debord's Cat

Whoever wins on May 7, we will have to take to the streets and demand fundamental changes to how this country is run. There must be no let up. After the last election in 2010, people marched to demand fair voting. Sadly, the momentum was lost on the first day, when marchers went home after listening to Nick Clegg’s impromptu speech on the steps of Lib Dem HQ. They believed his warm words, but I didn’t. The Lib Dems are flim-flam artists, who will do anything to grab power. The march itself was overwhelmingly bourgeois. I wrote about the short-lived Take Back Parliament movement here.

Here are The Cat’s key demands.

  1. A proportional voting system based on either the mixed members proportional system (in Scotland) or the single transferable vote (in Ireland)
  2. The abolition of the House of Lords
  3. The abolition of the monarchy and, by extension, an end…

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“You would vote for independence too,” says North-East based Scot

With the Scottish independence referendum only days away, journalist and university lecturer Neil Macfarlane explains why he would vote yes. And why he thinks you would too

I’m a Scot who lives in the North-East. There are loads of us – chuck a paper aeroplane out your front window and you’ll probably hit one. I’ve lived happily here for years, but it won’t surprise those who know me that I would like Scotland to vote yes to independence next week.

I hope this happens because I don’t think the three main Westminster parties represent my politics any more. I like the idea of getting rid of nuclear weapons, of universal education, and I worry about the future of the NHS and the welfare state.

I think it’s sensible to increase immigration to help reverse decades of emigration by Scots like me and my family. I feel uncomfortable about parties of all stripes blaming foreigners and the poor for all problems.

I think the UK government and media is too focused on London. I think many people in the North-East feel the same about these issues.

I don’t know for sure if an independent Scotland would be richer or poorer but I do think it would be governed by people with its interests at heart. I like England and English people very much and I don’t think Braveheart is a good film.

My generation (mid 30s) are among those most likely to vote Yes. The media often explain this away by pointing out we were impressionable teens when Braveheart was released. It’s a funny observation – comfortingly so for some – but not quite right. There’s a more crucial formative figure than William Wallace.
Margaret Thatcher came to power only months before I was born, and was Prime Minister for over a decade as I was growing up in Edinburgh. It didn’t make sense that this could happen when it seemed to me that everybody I knew voted against her.
I remember my dad ranting at the telly and the chants of “milk-snatcher” in the playground. I still remember the day the teacher announced her resignation. The entire class of 11-year-olds erupted in celebration, on their knees with clenched fists, or jumping on their chairs. No one complained about young people being disengaged with politics in those days – we didn’t have the choice.

Thatcher remains the longest serving Prime Minister of my lifetime, yet she was repeatedly rejected by the people of Scotland at the polls. When our teachers taught us about democracy, and how generations had fought and died to preserve it, something didn’t fit.

By the way, feel free to swap “Scotland” in the paragraph above for “Middlesbrough“, “Sedgefield“, Sunderland” or “Bishop Auckland“.

Pretty much all of this applies to the North-East, too. Sometimes people dismiss the independence movement by asking if there should also be separation for the North-East, for Manchester, or Liverpool.

Personally, I don’t see why not – if that’s what the people want. But the argument misunderstands what Scotland is. It is not a region of a country. It is its own country and always has been.

The United Kingdom only came into being 300 years ago as an agreement between two nations to form an alliance. Scotland was not conquered. Its remarkable achievements in science, philosophy, engineering, literature and statecraft had been established for centuries before 1707, and that spirit later combined with the same from England, Wales and Northern Ireland to make the union thrive.

This time last year most Scots liked the idea of the UK being a partnership of equals, and a sizable majority were happy enough to keep it that way. That has now changed.

The No campaign has been horrendously misjudged. Scots always believed they could be independent, but most doubted if they should. The Conservative-Labour-Lib Dem Better Together campaign then set about claiming that Scotland would collapse into disarray if left to its own devices. The campaign was dubbed “Project Fear” – by the No camp themselves.

Scots were told: You can’t keep the pound, you can’t stay in the EU, your aspirations are pipe dreams and we’ll rebuild Hadrian’s Wall to keep you out when it all goes wrong.

Their latest effort was billboards claiming: “Vote no if you love your children.” The polls are at 50:50, are they saying half the people in Scotland hate their kids? It’s so long since the Scots heard the positive case for the union, they’re beginning to suspect there isn’t one.

In the face of this onslaught, the Yes campaign has flourished. Grassroots activists have packed out town halls across the country making their case, bloggers have amassed followings to make newspaper editors cry with envy.

People who have never voted are being helped to register, and volunteers are putting on buses to give them a lift on polling day. Discussion on social media is dominated by funny, spiky, imaginative Yes voters.

There are touring arts festivals. Millions have been inspired by the idea that Scotland could become a fairer, more successful country, and by the promise of progressive policies that would never be offered by three Westminster parties all fighting over the same ground.

This isn’t petty nationalism. It is an inclusive movement. Every resident will be given a Scottish passport on day one of independence. One of the most high profile campaign groups is English Scots for Yes, who give away teabags branded: “Have a cuppa, vote yes.” There are groups for African Scots, Italian Scots,Polish Scots. I am proud of the fact I don’t get a vote but those who live in Scotland do, regardless of where they were born.

It’s even spreading beyond the border. A recent poll showed an even higher proportion of people in the North-East back Scottish independence. I’ve lost count of the number of times friends have asked: “Can we come too?

The response to all of this has been a wishy-washy offer of more powers for the Scottish parliament, without saying exactly what those powers might be. This was George Osborne’s first intervention since he announced Scotland couldn’t keep the pound – a move which actually caused an increase in support for independence. At this point, the Chancellor could knock on every door in Scotland offering a free carwash, foot rub and £1000 cash and the polls would still rise for Yes.

While the SNP published a manifesto for Scotland’s future a year ago, Labour and the Tories are now trying to scramble a response with only days to go. Why not before now? Perhaps because they weren’t listening, because it’s too far away, because there are too few voters… because it was never a priority for them.

It’s a feeling the Scots, and we in the North-East, know all too well.

Source –  Northern Echo, 11 Sept 2014

‘We must do more to teach British values’ – Hexham Tory MP

The UK needs a dedicated minister for integration to promote British values and identity, according to a North MP.

Hexham  MP Guy Opperman urged the Government to consider appointing a dedicated minister as he backed the Government’s plans to require schools to teach British values.

It follows claims that extremists or religious conservatives have attempted to take over schools in areas of Birmingham with large Muslim populations.

Independent schools, including state-run academies, are already required to encourage pupils to respect British values, which are defined as democracy; the rule of law; individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those of different faiths and beliefs.

Education Secretary Michael Gove has announced this requirement is to be extended to include local authority maintained schools.

But the Muslim Council of Britain has expressed “deep concern” at the debate over British values, saying: “We have no objection to British values. On the contrary. We believe in a tolerant, more free and more equal society.

“We want a real debate that does not regard us as conditional Britons.”

Other critics have claimed it is wrong to suggest tolerance and rule of law are British values, as if the UK is more committed to them than other countries.

But speaking in a Commons debate, Mr Opperman said: “One would hope that those are universal values, but we know that the reality worldwide is that they are not universal values, but are particular values of this country.

“In that respect, these purportedly universal values are, in fact, very British and their promotion must be a very good thing.”

He said he wanted to ask “whether we need to consider introducing, as the Canadians have, a Minister for integration.”

Canadian Minister Jason Kenney had succeeded in “formulating and promoting integration of people of many different faiths,” Mr Opperman said.

“His portfolio includes citizenship, multiculturalism, immigration and integration. It is the unification of those strands of Government Departments and the difficulties faced that we genuinely need to address.”

Skills Minister Matthew Hancock said he agreed with Mr Opperman that British values were not shared by everyone.

He said: “British values are not universal around the world, and we should be proud that they are very widely, if not universally, accepted here at home.

“Those universal values flower in Britain because of the protection of our strong democratic state, defended through liberty – with blood, in times gone by – by our forefathers and the forefathers of those from many different backgrounds.”

The Department for Education says that the new regulations will take effect in September 2014.

Schools will be expected to show how they are promoting fundamental British values and challenging pupils, staff or parents who express opinions contrary to those values.

Action will also be taken against schools where, for example, girls are disadvantaged on the grounds of their gender – or where prejudice against those of other faiths is encouraged or not adequately challenged.

Labour MP John Denham said teaching British values was “ill-judged and may be counter-productive”, adding: “All the attention has been focused deliberately on one community, the Muslim community.”

Source – Newcastle Journal, 29 June 2014

Minister’s Mock Funeral in 1848 – Time for a Revival for Iain Duncan Smith?

Beastrabban\'s Weblog

1848 Book

I’ve been reading Mike Rapport’s book, 1848 – Year of Revolution (London: Little, Brown & Co 2008). This is about the ‘year of revolutions’, which saw uprisings against the old, Conservative orders and empires break out across Europe, in Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Frankfurt, Milan, Venice, Prague, Krakow, Budapest and Galicia. Liberals and Democrats rose up in the hope of establishing more representative electoral systems, a wider franchise, or the abolition of the monarchies altogether. German and Italian Nationalists attempted to create a united Germany and Italy out of the various independent states in which their nations were separated, while Polish, Czech, Slovak, Magyar, Romanian, Serb and Croat nationalists attempted to forge their own states with a greater or lesser degree of autonomy and independence. This was also the year of the publication of Marx and Engels’ Communist Manifesto, when Europe was indeed haunted by workers’ protests and uprisings against…

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Six million people fall off electoral register due to ‘lackadaisical’ councils

Vox Political

vote

Local councils have been failing to check voter lists by making door-to-door visits – leading to a loss of no less than six million people from the electoral register, the BBC has reported.

This is before a new system comes into operation that will require people to put themselves on the register individually, rather than being registered as part of a household. This has been designed by the Coalition government and it is widely believed that it will discourage people who are not Tories or Lib Dems from registering – effectively rigging elections in favour of the ruling parties.

In addition, it is widely believed that the public in general is losing faith in democracy after being forced to put up with one government after another who have sidled into office with a minority of the vote – most people have voted against them. These governments have then imposed…

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The anti-democratic nature of the Tories or ‘freedom’ by another name

Guy Debord's Cat

The Conservative Party and their allies in the press and the various think-tanks are anti-democratic. Since the 1980s, the Tories have embarked on measures designed to destroy democratic institutions that do not fit into their notion of democracy. These people believe that freedom can only be obtained through them.

Here are some notable examples:

  1. The abolition of the metropolitan counties in the 1980’s. These democratically elected councils were abolished simply because they had the temerity to stand up to Thatcher’s anti-democratic policies which were designed to destroy local services. The metropolitan councils formed the single biggest opposition to Thatcher. When they were abolished, the people living in the metropolitan counties had no local voice or government.
  2. Draconian anti-union laws enacted by Thatcher are about to be strengthened by the current government. Trade unions are democratic bodies that act in the interest of their members. Leaders are democratically elected by their membership. The recent lies…

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Bite the Ballot, The Coalition and Youth Voter Apathy

Beastrabban\'s Weblog

Bite the Ballot

This morning, the BBC’s breakfast TV show covered the activities of a new group, Bite the Ballot, which is attempting to combat voter apathy amongst young people and encourage them to vote. The programme showed one of their members explaining to a group of young people that unless they vote, they have no voice in determining important government issues and that somebody would be voting for them. They also interviewed one young woman, who gave the reasons she believed that young people didn’t have an interest in politics. She didn’t take much interest in it, because she felt she didn’t know enough about it. Politics, and the differences between the parties, for example, weren’t taught in schools. And without a proper grounding in these issues, young people simply had no interest in it or voting.

The programme also remarked on the influence of members of the older generation, like…

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Osborne’s bid to end democracy by the back door

Vox Political

140115TTIP

The Coalition government has finally put its cards on the table, calling for the completion of a ‘free trade’ agreement with the United States of America that will end democracy as we know it today.

Do you think this statement is needlessly hyperbolic? In fact, it probably does not make the point strongly enough!

You will lose the ability to affect government policy – particularly on the National Health Service; after the Health and Social Care Act, the trade agreement would put every decision relating to its work on a commercial footing. The rights of transnational corporations would become the priority, health would become primarily a trade issue and your personal well-being would be of no consequence whatsoever.

Profit will rule.

Also threatened would be any other public service that has been privatised by this and previous governments, along with any that are privatised in the future; all would fall…

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“Ban The Unemployed From Voting”

Defrocked UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom, a swivel-eyed loon of the first order, has come up with another one – ban the unemployed from voting.

He has attacked the fact that some will still get a vote even if they have “contributed nothing to the national exchequer at all and maybe never will”.

You might well think he’s talking about corporations who pay no tax here, or rich individuals who can afford accountants to bend the rules to avoid paying their fair share, but of course no…Bloom subscribes to that weird right-wing theory that the poorest are to blame for everything, and are probably doing it just to be spiteful.

No, his solution is that  the electoral system needs to give “more electoral power” to the wealthy who “create the revenue”.

In other words, a system where the vote of the richest is always worth more than that of the poorer electorate, and those at the bottom getting none at all.

Good thinking Godfrey ! When the worst off in society cant even comfort themselves with the thought of voting idiots like you out at the next election (even though that prospect is a rank outsider at the best of times) then maybe bombs not ballots will become the order of the day. Because once you’re totally disenfranchised, what have you got to lose ?

He explained his rationale further – “I do not expect to vote in a Unite ballot because I am not a member and pay no dues. I do not expect a vote at Marks and Spencer’s AGM because I am not a shareholder. We need to get to a system where the interest of the individual and the state are more compatible.”

Yes Godfrey but… you see, this is a nation, not a company or a trade union. The vast majority didn’t apply to join it, we just ended up here as an accident of birth.  If the accident had been slightly different some of us might have been born with silver spoons in our mouths and would spend our days trying to dodge paying taxes rather than scraping by.

And this idea that the poorest contribute nothing. Bloom, who apparently worked as a financial economist (although it may be worth noting that in 2008 Bloom’s company,TBO, was fined £28,000 by the Financial Services Authority for ‘posing an “unacceptable risk” to customers) doesn’t seem to realise that however poor you might be you still pay taxes – Council Tax and VAT at the very least. Some unfortunates also have to pay the Bedroom Tax.  So lets have less of this “contributing nothing” crap.

Of course the man’s an arse, although what that makes the people who voted for him I shudder to think (and I am almost tempted to suggest that they are the people who should have their right to vote removed).

He is a member of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, a tax-exempt libertarian organization located in Auburn, Alabama.   Its website states that it is dedicated to advancing “the Misesian tradition of thought through the defense of the market economy, private property, sound money, and peaceful international relations, while opposing government intervention”  and has published views critical of democracy, which authors in Institute publications have called coercive, and incompatible with wealth creation… so I think we have pretty good idea of where he’s coming from.

Bloom, who seems to hate women almost as much as the poor,  confessed that has visited brothels in Hong Kong. He claimed however he never consummated the visits (even the most hard up prostitute has to draw the line somewhere …) and also claimed “terrified young women beaten into prostitution often from Eastern Europe […] is only a very small aspect of the flesh trade”, and concluded that “in short, most girls do it because they want to.”

After inviting students from the University of Cambridge Women’s Rugby Club to Brussels in 2004, he was accused of sexual assault, making “sexist and misogynistic remarks” and using offensive language during a dinner party. One student handed a formal letter of protest to the President of the European Parliament, heavily criticising Bloom’s behaviour.

Bloom who sponsored the club with £3,000 a year, admitted making misogynist comments but denied sexual harassment. Perhaps, given his Hong Kong experiences, he thought his three grand actually entitled him to act like that.

In December 2008, Bloom was carried out by an intern after making a speech in the European Parliament while drunk, the second occasion on which he was accused of being drunk in the chamber. During the speech, Bloom denied that MEPs from Poland, the Czech Republic or Latvia have the ability to understand economic relations.

On 24 November 2010, Bloom was ejected from the European Parliament after directing a Nazi slogan at German MEP Martin Schulz who was speaking in a debate on the economic crisis in Ireland. Bloom interrupted Schulz and shoutedEin Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer at him.

Bloom was filmed at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen congratulating the French for bombing the Rainbow Warrior, a Greenpeace ship, in 1985.

In the clip, posing in front of the present Greenpeace flagship, Rainbow Warrior II, Bloom said, “Here we have one of the most truly fascist boats since 1945, well done the French for sinking (it).”

Truly a prince among men…