Brian May and the Party Political Mug’s Game

Brian May
Brian May

We’ve never liked Queen, but it recently occurred to us that Brian May’s Common Decency campaign looks vaguely like a more polite/less ragingly cynical version of the Defensive Voting thing we keep going on about.

May, the band’s 67-year old guitarist, is on the telly every five minutes at the moment plugging this new initiative, an attempt to transform the political landscape through a combination of cajoling apathetic non-voters into turning out on May 7th, and getting them to vote as a bloc for candidates they collectively deem to be the most ‘decent’ on offer, regardless of party.

We’re increasingly thinking that in a neoliberal non-democracy, under abjectly rubbish First Past the Post, people need to look at elections strategically rather than as just millions of atomised individual choices – and the natural evolution of that idea would be to organise like-minded, non-tribal voters across the country, get them to collectively decide which is the most viable non-Tory candidate in each constituency, all go away and vote along those pre-agreed lines and encourage others to do the same. Continue reading “Brian May and the Party Political Mug’s Game”

Defensive Voting: The Greens And The Slightly Nicer Flipside

Caroline Lucas
Caroline Lucas

Our adventures in sell-out electoral Machiavellianism continue now, with a look at the Green Party, and places where our rubbish Defensive Voting idea actually lets you vote for them. Unfortunately, there aren’t many.

Having argued that even dyed-in-the-wool left-wingers should reluctantly vote Lib Dem in places like Wells, this time we turn to places where Defensive Voting is less shudder-inducingly horrible.

The Green Party’s emergence as a genuinely left-of-centre force with increasing public exposure is about the only good thing to have happened on the political front in the last five years. They’ve embraced ideas we never thought we’d live to see talked about in a mainstream context. Now you can turn on the telly and see Natalie Bennett or Darren Johnson endorsing the Citizen’s Income scheme and the need to end economic growth. And they’ve grown at a mind-boggling rate. At the peak of the much-trumpeted ‘Green Surge’, the party gained 13,000 new members in one week.

And yet, despite all that, the Greens will win hardly anywhere on May 7th. That’s the wonder of our spectacularly dismal First Past the Post electoral system.

The least worst realistic outcome we can expect from May 7th is a minority Labour government, pulled leftwards by an anti-austerity voting bloc made up of the SNP, Plaid Cymru, and the Greens.

The ideal outcome, of course, would be a crushing landslide victory by the Happy People’s Socialist Party that annihilated the Tories, the Lib Dems and the feeble, supporter-forsaking Labour Party in one fell swoop, while enacting a programme that made the Greens’ look like it was drawn up by the Pincochet Fan Club. But that’s not going to happen. Continue reading “Defensive Voting: The Greens And The Slightly Nicer Flipside”

Defensive Voting: A West Country Case Study

Wells
Wells

Further banging on about Defensive Voting. Which, come to think of it, is probably just tactical voting with a specific political purpose in mind – namely stalling neoliberalism through the Westminster infrastructure long enough to nail together some kind of radical left-wing alternative outside of it (there was an excellent bit of analysis published by Counterfire this week which came to similar conclusions). And this time, we’re looking at it in relation to a conveniently local real-world example.

Wells in Somerset is one of the most marginal constituencies in the country. It also happens to be the next one over from ours.

Most constituencies are ‘safe’ – the people living in them reliably vote for the same party in election after election, and that party easily wins by a mile. Yeovil, for example, has been Lib Dem for over thirty years (well, technically, it was Liberal from 1983 to 1992, then Lib Dem ever since). At the last election, Lib Dem candidate David Laws got 31,000 votes, 13,000 more than the next placed candidate.

As such, safe seats don’t really matter. The ones that do matter are the marginal ones, the swing seats as they’re often known – constituencies like Wells that are much more likely to change hands. These are the places that will decide who’s in government this time next year. Continue reading “Defensive Voting: A West Country Case Study”

We’re All Stupid: (Not) Watching The Leader’s Debate

tv debate

After whole minutes of thought, The Bemolution decided not to watch last night’s seven-way leadership debate, and took in a 1997 episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer about hyenas possessing people while simultaneously watching Twitter watch the debate instead.

To lazily quote an old blog post rather than have to think of a different way of saying the same thing, the debates are an “awful development, further chiselling down what should be a vast, complex, citizenry-engaging discussion about how societies are run into a rubbish squabble over who gets the top job. They’re a stunningly shallow American export we never should’ve touched, and need scrapping immediately”.

We did actually watch the first thirty seconds while fiddling with the DVD player. The announcer burbled some codswallop about Salford. There were some sub-Apprentice/Spooks stop-start swooping camerawork over the Mancunian skyline, set to plasticated techno that sounded like it came from about 2001. Presenter Julie Etchingham said something about the ‘big iss-oos’ facing the country. Clegg looked terrified, Nicola Sturgeon looked stilted, Miliband looked calm, Leanne Wood gave a nice happy smile and looked delighted to be there, and David Cameron did a face that made him look like Michael Howard. All of which are the kind of profound, substantive judgements the debates encourage you to make. No-one ever really offered a satisfactory explanation for why the Irish parties weren’t invited. Then the DVD kicked in.

After two hours of watching 140-character opinions dribble out from the #leadersdebate hashtag, we’d gleaned many an insight into the woeful state of twenty-first century public discourse, including 1.) that a lot of people labour under the misapprehension that you can calculate the definitive winner of something as subjective and un-scientific as a debate, 2.) that a lot of people were just going to declare victory for the person they already liked the most going into it and 3.) that according to numerous self-appointed arbiters of truth – more numerous than those calling it for any other leader, anyway – the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon was the most impressive. Continue reading “We’re All Stupid: (Not) Watching The Leader’s Debate”

Vote Defensively (But Voting Isn’t Enough)

Generic voting image
Generic voting image

The biggest political event of the year, if not the decade, is obviously going to be the General Election in May. You’d struggle to describe the mangled, dystopian thing we’d be left with after another five years of the present government as ‘a society’.

The Bemolution’s political views aren’t especially well represented within the Westminster mainstream, what with pledges to essentially dismantle modern civilisation and start again tending to go down like a lead zeppelin in the key marginals. This makes elections morally challenging.

A lot of fuss was made in the media last year when Russell Brand supposedly endorsed not voting. Brand – someone we unashamedly like – clarified his position after a fusillade of criticism from across the political spectrum: he doesn’t vote, he said, because there’s nothing worth voting for.

Broadly, in our irrelevant opinion, he was right. But we’ll still vote, and would encourage other similar-minded types to do the same. It’s what we call ‘defensive voting’.re Continue reading “Vote Defensively (But Voting Isn’t Enough)”

Auntie and The Greens: BBC Bias and the Leaders’ Debates

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett flanked by Deputies Amelia Womack and Shahrar Ali
Green Party leader Natalie Bennett flanked by Deputies Amelia Womack and Shahrar Ali

The BBC’s handling of the Leaders’ Debates is obviously scandalous, but, given its past conduct, shouldn’t be surprising.

The BBC is refusing to let the Green Party in to the televised debates it’s planning in advance of next year’s General Election. Auntie has decided that Nigel Farage and his hard-right intifada are worthy of admission, and that Natalie Bennett’s Greens aren’t.

In a letter to the Green Party’s communications director, the BBC explained its reasoning: “UKIP has demonstrated a substantial increase in support since 2014 across a range of elections along with a consistent and robust trend across a full range of opinion polls; the Green Party had not demonstrated any comparable increase”.

Green supporters and assorted irked progressives responded: the Greens beat the Lib Dems in this year’s Euro elections, they argued, receiving 1.2m votes, 150,000 more than Clegg and co. They’re now polling neck-and-neck with the Liberals in opinion polls. The Greens are the fifth biggest party in the Scottish Assembly, and the third biggest in the London Assembly. Since January, membership of the Green Party of England and Wales has jumped 45%. They’ve had an MP in Parliament for nearly five years – UKIP have only had one for about five weeks.

We’re probably well in the minority in thinking the leaders’ debates are an awful development, further chiselling down what should be a vast, complex, citizenry-engaging discussion about how societies are run into a rubbish squabble over who gets the top job. They’re a stunningly shallow American export we never should’ve touched, and need scrapping immediately.

Almost inevitably, though, they’re here to stay. And if that’s the case, and some are going to feature upstart xenophobe Nigel Farage, of course they need to include the Greens, if not Plaid Cymru, the SNP, and RESPECT’s George Galloway too. Continue reading “Auntie and The Greens: BBC Bias and the Leaders’ Debates”