Monthly Archives: May 2015

FIFA’s corruption should be measured in blood, not money

So, Sepp Blatter wins again. Despite all the scandal (forget the past few days, the past 17 years should’ve been enough), Blatter has been once more crowned king at the head of FIFA. Predictable, if still hugely depressing – this is, after all, the man who suggested female footballers wear tighter shorts, who’s shrugged off stories of match-fixing, who confidently once declared, “there is no racism in football”.

Obviously, making ill-advised comments isn’t the worst thing Blatter is known for; he’s also presided for years over what is now said essentially to be a worldwide criminal enterprise. You only have to look to the settings of the next two World Cups for evidence of questionable ethics: The first, belligerent, LGBT-unfriendly Russia, will host the World Cup in 2018. This, despite the fact that the former Soviet Union hasn’t shown as much aggression towards its neighbours since before the Berlin Wall fell (heard the recent one about Putin threatening Denmark with nukes?).

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Time to strike…or not?

On Monday and Tuesday next week, employees of Network Rail were due to go on strike, but both unions have just called off their action. The strike had been called by the RMT and TSSA unions, and would have caused massive disruption for individuals and businesses, with perhaps 90% of trains not running. Should we be angry at those striking when it is so disruptive?

Network Rail last year posted a profit of £1bn, a 39% increase from 2013. Senior executives patted themselves on the back with ~45% pay rises, despite all the bad press Network Rail has had recently. Meanwhile, the rest of its workforce was only offered a one-off £500 taxable lump sum, and any future pay rises will track inflation. It’s easy to understand why the employees wanted to take action, and in a top down, hierarchical organisation, the only way to get yourself heard is to rebel.

Our new full-fat Tory government plans to make strike action require 50% turnout and 40% support of union members voting in favour, which will effectively make almost any future strike action illegal. Let’s not forget that the Conservatives won the election with only 24% of the population voting for them.

As cuts become more severe, and profit is directed only to those at the top, strike action should become more prevalent, and we need to encourage and support it. If your train is cancelled next week, don’t blame the underpaid staff, blame the senior executives and government.


Featured image – Rose and Trev Clough (via Geograph)

A democracy controlled by a minority

“This isn’t what we voted for” – this statement is perhaps more relevant now than when we made it our tagline last year. While we now have a majority Conservative government, one with free licence to carry out the regressive policies in its manifesto unimpeded, the vast majority of the population did not vote for this. Only 36.9% of the vote was for the Conservative party, equating to 24.4% of the population eligible to vote. Across all seats, approximately 63% of all votes were discarded, counting for nothing, thanks to our winner-takes-all ‘first past the post’ electoral system. Even worse, it is said that only about 200,000 votes in marginal constituencies swung it (you can even calculate the value of your vote). Continue reading

The biggest loser in this election? Our broken democracy

Watching the count results come in and listening to the speeches in the early hours of this morning, something quite odd happened – UKIP found common ground with the Green Party. As Douglas Carswell pointed out in his winning speech for UKIP’s only seat, almost 5 million people will have voted for either UKIP or the Green Party in this election, but that only translated into 2 MPs. Under a proportional representation system, that would instead result in many more MPs than SNP has achieved in Scotland.

That failure to translate those 5m votes into seats is less a translation of how my party or the Green party campaigned. Rather, it tells us how dysfunctional our political system has now become. Approximately four times more people voted either for the Greens or for Ukip than the SNP, yet the SNP is expected to get many more times the representation.

Douglas Carswell

As Andrew Marr pointed out, electoral reform has traditionally been a left-wing issue, but after tonight’s result it is set to become an issue for both sides of the political spectrum. While more UKIP MPs could be very negative for our political discourse, in the longer term a move towards a proportional representation system would undoubtedly be beneficial for our democracy, because the first past the post system is proving disastrous – voting to keep another party out, voting to maintain the union, voting to devolve from the union, an SNP landslide disregarding all ~50% votes for other parties, and the votes of the majority of the country being discarded in the name of a ‘strong government’ – a concept we are growing used to doing without.

The Election in UKIP

If current predictions are anything to go by, UKIP is set to receive the third highest number of votes at the 2015 election, bringing it in just behind Labour and the Conservatives. It means that, tomorrow, around 13% of people in the UK will enter voting booths and think of one party, one that they believe is best for Britain. They’ll think of UKIP, the party that has no time for climate change, multiculturalism or a public NHS; they’ll think of UKIP panjandrum Nigel Farage, with his sweaty face and his colourless M&S suit, splashed with lager and infused with the fog of a thousand cigarettes. “Yeah,” they’ll sigh to themselves. “This is the one – this is the party for me.”

It’s not been an easy election campaign for UKIP. If anything, Nigel Farage’s party – a kind of time machine which will, if elected, transport you back to a Britain where workers couldn’t afford healthcare and anyone with skin a shade off-white was treated with suspicion – has been more gaffe-prone than all the other parties put together. Of late, they’ve been challenged to a duel by a Polish aristocrat, because of their treatment of immigrants, blamed traffic jams on immigrants, and rejected the call for a raise in the minimum wage, because of immigrants. None of the insanity has, however, done much to stymie support for the party. Nor has it convinced UKIP members to stop making excellent mistakes even in the final weeks of their election campaign.

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Why voting for a small party is not a wasted vote

Over the last few weeks we’ve seen all the news outlets pick their sides. Many of the establishment rags have gone with the Conservatives, for obvious reasons. The Express has backed UKIP, failing to see the irony in donating £1.3m to the party while still declaring it a ‘people’s army’. Perhaps more interestingly are the typically ‘left-leaning’ or independent voices. The Guardian and Russell Brand have chosen to back Labour, the general view being that we are better fighting Labour to make them do the right thing than watch our country be ruined by those bloody blue ones. The Independent has made the mistake of not being independent, and published an editorial calling for a repeat of the Tory-Liberal coalition, much to the distaste of its readership (but it’s perhaps no surprise from a newspaper owned by one rich individual).

I could sympathise with the view that it’s better to vote for Labour to keep the Tories out if I had any faith that the Labour leadership would seek to reverse the damage done to our country already and introduce positive changes. The fact is, 2015 Labour is very similar to the Conservatives. While there are many individuals in the party who undoubtedly have the best interests of our country at heart, the party on the whole is entangled with industry and the establishment.

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A tactical vote suggests approval for one of the three main parties. They won’t have ours

Want the Tories out? Vote Labour. Do not vote Green or SNP – you’ll only be splitting the left vote. Alternatively, if you seek to deny Labour the chance to govern, vote Conservative. Don’t even think about voting UKIP – it’ll just steal votes away from David Cameron’s party. As for the Lib Dems, give them your vote if you want to ensure whoever they decide to do a deal with never strays ‘too far right or too far left’.

This is what you’ve been told, anyway. Seemingly almost every party leader wants to pressure you into casting your vote based on how it’ll allow you to best cheat the system. Failing to recognise that such an endorsement confirms how absurd first-past-the-post voting is, the leaders have proceeded not just to tempt you with what treasures a vote for them will buy you, but to terrify you with the fear of what a vote for someone else will bring. Even Nigel Farage has been telling UKIP supporters to vote Conservative, so behind the tactical vote is he that he’s willing to lose a percentage just to ensure Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon don’t bring their deadly cocktail of communism and Scottishness into parliament.

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