Thursday, 20 May 2010

North West Regional Meetup, 13 June 2010

Now that the elections are out of the way, we're having another regional Libertarian Party meetup in the Lounge Bar of the Royal Station Hotel in Carnforth, Lancashire, starting about 12.00 Noon on Sunday 13 June. This is just across the road from the famous railway station which was used as a location for the film "Brief Encounter". This is a nice bar that does decent food - the Station Burgers are both reasonably priced, tasty and very filling. There'll be a lot to discuss, since we now have experience of running an election campaign in Manchester and we're now in the process of recruiting candidates to stand in the local elections next year, not only in Manchester but in all parts of the North West.

Our meetups are pretty informal and you don't have to be a Libertarian Party member to attend. Anyone interested in libertarian ideas is welcome - so feel free to come along, talk about libertarianism and see if we're the sort of party that you'd like to support. We're a very friendly group.

EDIT 31/5/10

Please note that this meetup was originally scheduled for 6 June but has now been rescheduled for 13 June. My fault, I forgot about a prior commitment on the same day. I hope this doesn't cause any problems for anyone.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

A National Ballot

As it seems that some form of agreement between the Tories and Lib Dems may be emerging, democrats must maintain the demand that electoral reform has got to be part of the political reform.

The need is straightforward. We need legislation in the first Queen’s Speech that provides a national ballot within months in which the following alternatives are offered to the electorate:

1. A Conservative preferred option which might be expected to be the maintenance of First Past The Post, but with a smaller number of MPs and equal sized constituencies.

2. A Labour preferred option which is likely to be the Alternative Vote System.

3. A Liberal Democrat preferred option which would be the Single Transferable Vote System that they included in their election manifesto.

4. No change to the existing system.

5. An additional choice proposed by the Electoral Reform Society if they wish to present one.

As the Conservatives are the largest Party and they are adamantly opposed to fair votes, it may be that the Lib Dems will cave in and agree to allow the Tories to govern without a commitment to give the voters this choice. If that is the case, we must demand that those people who argued for fair votes before and during the election should stand by their commitments and present a Bill to Parliament for a national ballot on the above lines. There is actually a majority in Parliament for reform of the electoral system and that should allow such a bill to pass into law. In the event that a minority Conservative Government prevented this Bill from being presented to Parliament or obstructed it being passed into law, they should face a vote of no confidence and another election be forced.

Democracy in Britain must be modernised and the current opportunity presented by the lack of an overall majority by a single Party must result in genuine electoral reform being offered to the public.

Electoral Reform

Opportunities for meaningful political change do not come often, but there is one now and it must be seized.

The situation is clear although it is complicated. The Tories did not win the right to form a government, but Labour most definitely lost the election. The bizarre effects of a First Past The Post (FPTP) election means that many people who do not support Labour or the Tories either do not have any opportunity to vote for a party that they do support or they vote tactically for one of these two in order to keep the other out.

This means that although the Lib Dems (LD) had 28% or 29% popular support before the election, only 23% of voters turned that support into a real vote. In addition to this, the LD vote was more evenly spread than that of the two major parties so they had lower chances of their votes being converted into seats. The consequence is that with 23% of the vote the LDs have only 10% of the seats. That is profoundly undemocratic and it is worse when you consider that 28% of voters may have wished to vote LD.

For Libertarians, the situation is far worse. We are in the position that the Green Party were in a generation ago. Despite the Greens standing hundreds of candidates and having a massive public profile for their policies, they have only just been able to secure a single seat in Parliament for their leader. This is a democratic disgrace.

For a new party with good, clear policies that would appeal to many voters, but lacking big financial backers and the army of backers of the big institutional parties, FPTP prevents any chance of even the smallest success in either national or local elections. That is not democracy and it must change now.

The Labour Government has taken this country into such massive debt that our economy is on the brink of collapse with all the terrible consequences that are beginning to unravel in Greece. This means that we must have a new Prime Minister and the prospects of reasonably stable government in the short term established very early this week. If that is not achieved, there will be great volatility in the currency markets and it will become harder every hour for all of us to be saved from very serious damage to our quality of life and financial future.

The tasks for today for our political leaders are these:

Gordon Brown

Resign immediately. You were never elected as leader of the Labour Party, you were never a legitimate Prime Minister, your performance in office has been disastrous and in the only leadership election you have ever faced you have conclusively lost. The Labour Party cannot maintain any credibility so long as you remain Prime Minister and the interests of the country require Labour voters to be adequately represented in the negotiations to form a government.

Nick Clegg

Do not make any deal that does not include a commitment to the introduction of electoral reform with a timetable for completion before the end of this year. You stood on a platform of fair votes and your present bargaining position owes everything to that undertaking. Failure to deliver electoral reform would be a betrayal of the worst kind and would not be forgiven.

David Cameron

You did not win a mandate to form a government and the economy of this country is in such a perilous position that you have a duty to reach agreement without delay on the formation of a government that can command a clear majority in Parliament so that effective decisions can be taken without delay. There is no Parliamentary majority among parties of the political right. Differences between Tory and LD memberships mean that a coalition is unlikely and a supply and confidence arrangement will be fragile. In these circumstances you should present a simple draft Queens Speech and emergency budget to all Parties and seek agreement to them being allowed to pass. Despite the opposition of your party to PR, there is clear demand from the public for electoral reform and it must be offered within a strict timetable that does not extend beyond this year. All other Parties should allow your minority government to function until a reformed electoral system is in place and a new General Election can be held.

The chaos of queues outside polling stations as polls closed; the disgrace of stations running out of ballot papers; the nonsense of an unelected second chamber and the absurdity of not having fixed term Parliaments, all contribute to Britain being seen as a country with third world election standards and grossly outdated democracy. All our leaders have an urgent responsibility to resolve these matters with the urgency that is necessary to prevent us collapsing into a third world economy as well.

Friday, 7 May 2010

The End of the Beginning

The count for the local elections in Manchester took place at the Town Hall this afternoon. I was allowed to take two people along with me, so I took the Libertarian Party Chairman Gregg Beaman and a sympathiser who isn't yet a party member but who had contributed to the campaign. I found it to be an enjoyable experience. Fortunately the count didn't last as long as last night's General Election counts, but I had time for a cup of coffee and a chat with the Lib Dem candidate Gerry Diamond, who comes across as being a pleasant guy even though I don't agree with his politics. The local Lib Dem godfather Damien O'Connor was also there – it happens that he and Gregg knew each other a few years ago when they were both members of UKIP, so they had a chance to catch up on old times. The Labour candidate John Flanagan was there, but he seemed a bit aloof and didn't say anything to me. No sign of the Tory that I could see. The Greens were there too, and also the BNP candidate and one of his comrades. They didn't look very comfortable – a pair of twenty-somethings in ill-fitting suits who spent most of the time propping up a wall while the rest of the room avoided them. They looked like they were getting ready for a court appearance instead of an election (I was dressed much more stylishly in my combat jacket, jeans and Prisoner tee shirt – I think it's my sense of casual elegance that makes me so attractive to women). At one point, Flanagan tried to get support for a walkout in protest at the BNP even being there, which would have been a pretty childish thing to do – whatever else is wrong with them, the BNP are a legal political party with a perfect right to attend the count.

The count was over pretty quickly, and the result was as follows:

Lib Dem 1596
Labour 2402
Libertarian 55
Green 80
bnp 400
Conservative 265

Total votes: 4798

Flanagan gave a short speech in which he thanked the people of Newton Heath for voting for him and promised to do his best to serve the people of Newton Heath - not a word about the people of Miles Platting and Collyhurst South, which are also in this ward, don't ask me why. Possibly it's because Flanagan's not too familiar with the area, being from Gorton. You'd have to ask him.

I have to admit that the result was a surprise to me. I thought Gerry Diamond would win, his team certainly put plenty of work in, but unfortunately we've got another four years of Flanagan. The number of votes that I got as the Libertarian Party candidate was a pleasant surprise. I thought I'd get maybe 30-40. If that doesn't sound a lot, consider the fact that this is the very first election campaign that the Libertarian Party has mounted in this part of the country, that I'm an inexperienced candidate, that the ward was swamped with Lib Dem and Labour propaganda and that there would have been a lot of tactical voting going on. So I'm actually quite pleased that 55 people decided that it was worthwhile voting for me and the Libertarian Party. It comes to about 1.15% of the total vote. If you're one of those voters, thank you very much. I will do my best to ensure that you have plenty of opportunities to vote Libertarian in future elections. I don't know yet if I'll be a candidate next time, but I'm sure I'll be turning up in some capacity in future campaigns, maybe acting as an agent for another candidate or even just delivering leaflets. I've got the experience now, so I'm sure I can make myself useful. And I'm convinced that Manchester deserves a credible alternative to the current false choice between Labour and the Lib Dems. The Libertarian Party aims to be that alternative.

I'd also like to thank all those who supported me, whether in person by helping deliver leaflets or by sponsoring my campaign. It's been a real pleasure to work with such a dedicated team and I fully expect to be supporting some of them when they stand as candidates themselves.