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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Cummings and the zombie parties

Dominic Cummings says https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9708057/Dominic-Cummings-prepares-unleash-salvo-Boris.html ’all the parties are rotten to the core, old decrepit entities literally dying on their feet.’

It’s hardly surprising. The current British electoral system can be gamed, and so the parties concentrate on ‘the swing voter in the swing seat’, spending fortunes on focus groups, computerised voter modelling and tailored propaganda.

The people don’t understand the ins and outs of most political issues, and they are hardly likely to be educated by what they see and hear from the mass media. They rely more on sensing the soul of the party they support, and that too has them confused: it’s been a long time since Labour stood for the working stiff and it is riven by factions; while the Tories are perceived as the party of privilege, banding together in the pursuit of power and hang the principles.

If the third party, the LibDems, ever got into power they would explode, like the chameleon placed on a tartan, for they have a habit of saying one thing locally and another nationally, as we saw in last week’s by-election campaign: against HS2 and free rein to housebuilders in Chesham and Amersham, in favour of both in central party policy.

Every political system has its vulnerabilities. In ancient Athens, where all free men voted in their assembly, the weakness was the power of the orator. Demosthenes got Athens to resist the Macedonians; the result was defeat for the city and ultimately his own death.

In modern Britain, it is the unequal vote that skews outcomes. In a ‘safe’ seat you may as well not bother voting, but if you didn’t vote for the winner the system doesn’t let you signal that he/she was at least your second or third choice, so you feel disconnected. Also, in most constituencies – about two-thirds, from when I looked at the 2005 and 2010 General Elections – the winner fails to gain half or more of ballots cast; not so much ‘First past the post’ as ‘Nobody reached the post.’ Last week, Sarah Green won with only 30.4% of the vote (or 16% of registered electors.) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2021_Chesham_and_Amersham_by-election#Results It’s hardly a basis for Littlejohn’s cry ‘What the hell happened to the Conservative Party?’ https://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-9702591/RICHARD-LITTLEJOHN-hell-happened-Conservative-Party.html

There is also the disjunction between numbers of seats won and the share of the votes cast nationally. Despite the landslides of 1945, 1979, Blair etc., only twice since 1918 has any party ‘passed the post’ in General Elections - the Conservatives both times, in 1931 and 1935. https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-7529/#fullreport

In my adult lifetime, there have been only three occasions on which my vote counted exactly the same as anyone else’s: the EC referendum in 1975, the Alternative Vote referendum of 2011, and 2016’s Brexit.

In the first we were misled on sovereignty (or at least, it was downplayed) and Wilson’s government pamphlet implicitly threatened us with the loss of ‘FOOD and MONEY and JOBS’ http://www.harvard-digital.co.uk/euro/pamphlet.htm if we didn’t ratify our (future EU) membership.

In 2011, as I remember it, the two major parties poured sludge all over the idea of AV. The No Campaign broadcast of 11 April https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-politics-13048603 featured Rik Mayall’s Alan B'Stard promising everything to get in, then forming a coalition and welching on all the manifesto promises. Funny, that is what we got under the present system and ironically, the AV Referendum wouldn’t have happened at all if Nick Clegg hadn’t made it the price of his joining the Tories and ratting on the LibDems’ tuition fees pledge.

That leaves 2016. My surprise at the even-handed media coverage of the issues was trumped by the Establishment’s shock at the result; but that’s the flip side of their chronic beamed-down propaganda operations – it made them deaf to messages coming the other way. ‘Nobody knows anything,’ said a stunned Dimbleby when the result was declared; or at least, nobody who matters. They’ve had PTSD ever since, and the subterranean coal-seam fires of their supporters are still burning on Facebook.  Don’t expect to get such a chance again; this isn’t Switzerland.

Cummings is right, but until the voting system is fairer and the people better informed, expect the zombies to continue slugging it out well into the future.

1 comment:

Paddington said...

The British politicians have learned the lessons from those in the US, especially the GOP.