Tag Archives: democracy

How to rig an election

I don’t believe the Labour Party administration are rigging the leadership election to keep Jeremy Corbyn from winning. I don’t think that’s what they’re trying to do, and I don’t think they’d succeed in doing it if they tried. I think Jeremy Corbyn’s likely to win: if he loses, it won’t be because of the Labour Party’s purge of voters.

We’ve seen in the US since Bush was awarded the victory in November 2000, that a determined group of people with the power to have hackable e-voting machines built and installed, the power to ensure legal investigations are only used against the opposition, the power to shut down voter registration for the opposition, and of course the power to “cleanse” electoral rolls of voters likely to choose your opponent, can deliver victories for the Republican Party: the outright vote-fixing may be mathematically detectable.

I don’t think that’s what’s happening in the Labour leadership election.
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Let prisoners have the vote: yes or no?

By Friday 23rd November, MPs will have to decide whether the UK should be in defiance of an ECHR ruling or David Cameron.

David Cameron says:

“no-one should be in any doubt: prisoners are not getting the vote under this Government.”

Prisoners votingLord Lester of Herne Hill, a QC who sits on the Commission on a Bill of Rights, said

offering a ban was merely political posturing, and it was inevitable prisoners would get the right to vote.

Asked if the Government would have to the vote to prisoners in some form, he told The Daily Telegraph: “Of course – either that or we are in the same position as in Greece under junta. Greece had to leave the Council of Europe.

Please note that it’s not even a question that “all prisoners must have the vote” – it’s perfectly legitimate to ban some prisoners from voting. Continue reading

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Filed under Elections, Feng Shui Kitten Fixes Stuff, Human Rights

Aberdeen: people power won

In quick summary: in November 2008 an oil billionaire, Sir Ian Wood, got an idea for a concrete Italian-style piazza in the centre of Aberdeen, to be achieved by transferring a public park into private ownership. He offered to spend £50M of his own money to part-pay for his stony vision. (He likes concrete and no trees: Union Terrace Gardens has lots of trees.) (Update: apparently some of the trees would have survived.)

Annie Lennox, November 2011:

If Sir Ian Wood wants to invest £50m into the centre of Aberdeen, that is fundamentally good, but I disagree with the way he’s going about it. It is not because I’m a reactionary, it is not because I’m against modernity or change. It is the way that this was done; it is short-termism, it is short-sighted.

From what I am gathering, he is not saying: “I have £50m, I want to talk to you, I want to hear what you guys want.” He’s telling the city this is what he will do with it. I think it’s very imperious. I think it is very, very important to listen to more people, the people who are living there, the citizens of the town.

This offer from Sir Ian Wood interrupted a long-term plan for developing Union Terrace Gardens. A consultation was carried out, which overall rejected Wood’s scheme, and then in November 2011 the SNP-controlled council had the Electoral Commission run a referendum across the whole City – in which Wood’s scheme won by a slight majority.
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Single Transferable Cake

Single Transferable vote

1. You number the candidates on your ballot that you want to get elected, in order of your preference.
2. If there are candidates you don’t want to get elected AT ALL, you don’t put a number next to them.

How it works at the count

1. All the One votes are counted (first preference).
2. The candidate who got fewest One votes is eliminated. (“You are the weakest link. Goodbye!”)
3. So if you voted for that candidate as One, the counters now count your Two vote.
4. All the One and Two votes are counted.
5. And so on…

In the recent party elections, 1330 cakes were baked. Your choices on the ballot were mostly cake parties – strawberry cake for the Red Party, purple cake for the Heather Party, cherry cake for the Green Party, a bundt cake for the Orange Party, and a chocolate cupcake with yellow icing for the Yellow Party. Also standing were a pint for the Beer Party, an apple for the Apple Party, a lollypop for the Lollypop party, and a pair of scissors as an independent.

Only three choices can win.

When you voted, you chose cherry cake as your first preference, scissors as your second preference, strawberry cake as your third preference, purple cake as your fourth, the chocolate cupcake with yellow icing as your fifth, and the apple as your sixth. You don’t like beer, lollypops, or bundt cake.
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I need a new boiler

If someone gave you, out of the blue, no strings attached, £1,773.96 – what would you spend it on?

I would probably get new kitchen cupboards. Or I might spend it on getting my house rewired. Or it would go (part-way) towards the cost of a new boiler. If I got it at this time of year, I’d likely spend at least part of it on Christmas presents and other winter goodies. Retrospectively, a couple of hundred would go to pay the plumber who fixed my bath and toilet last month, and who is still lingering in my overdraft – so technically, that part would go to the banks. But most of it would go to small businesses in my local area.

I asked a friend when the idea came to me what he would do, and he said he would probably blow it on eBay – so a large part would go to small businesses all over the UK, a part would go to the Post Office, and a part would go to the multinational corporation eBay.

What would you spend it on?

While you’re thinking about that, let me tell you where I got that from. I read on the news that the bailout package now planned for the eurozone – the money that’s going to be given to the banks – is about £870bn. The population of the EU is 490,426,060 – just under 500 million. Divide £870 billion by 490 million, you get £1,733 and change.

We already know from practical experience in 2008 and after, that giving billions to the banking world will do nothing to rescue the economy. The problems we have are due to bank failure: but the banks, given billions, simply go back to what they were doing that caused the crash.

Here’s how the economy works: consider it a year at a time. The government needs money to run the country. So it estimates how much money it will need, and borrows that amount. (In fact the UK’s loans are long-term and mostly internal – we’re a creditor nation, which means we loan more money to other countries than we borrow. Despite the Tory doomsaying, the UK’s national debt is not huge either compared to other similar countries nor in our country’s history.)

The government borrows the money, because it’s completely unfeasible simply to shut down the country and not spend anything to run it for a year – the government’s income comes from taxes, and if the country isn’t running, the government gets no taxes. This is not, despite what you’ve probably heard what the Tories say on TV, like an individual borrowing on their credit card. All governments borrow and lend: it’s how national economies work.

The government will be getting money in throughout the year by taxing us. We give them part of our income via what we earn and what we spend. Businesses – the small local kind that can’t afford to pay armies of tax lawyers – get taxed on their profits. (I’m simplifying enormously, yes.) The richer you are, the more tax you can evade, but most of us pay taxes and thus the government has an income.

At the end of the year, if more income has come in in taxes than the government borrowed, they have a surplus: if less, they have a deficit. Tory doomsayers will try to get you to panic about the deficit, but it’s not really a problem for a rich, stable country like the UK: the government’s security in borrowing is the national economy itself. But if significantly less has come in by taxes than the government expected, then they have a problem. The economy is shrinking. People aren’t earning. They aren’t spending. Businesses aren’t making profits, and so aren’t paying tax on them. The government is getting less money.

The right-wing solution at this point is to cut spending: to make public service workers jobless and to cut services. This is called “austerity”, and it doesn’t work.

It doesn’t work, because, as you can see for yourself, what the government needs is more money coming in. When people lose their jobs, the government loses the tax they paid on their income: people spend less when they’re worried about their jobs (I’ve been putting off buying a new boiler for the past two years because every year I’ve never been sure if I’ll still have a job in April) and perhaps worst of all, in this country, if you’re broke you will tend to spend a higher proportion of your money on the cut-price items in the supermarket – and that means more money for the supermarket (and the big-chain supermarkets are all excellent tax evaders) and less money for the supermarket’s suppliers and therefore ultimately for the government.

When the Tories decided to throw all those people who worked for the government out of a job, they made cheap, short-term “savings” – those people weren’t getting a salary from the government any more. But neither were they bringing in an income. Less tax for the government. Bigger deficit at the end of the year. The Tories thus dealt a serious blow to the economy in the guise of “saving money”.

People use public services to be able to work. Cuts in public services mean fewer people working. Less spending. Less tax. Bigger deficit at the end of the year.

But this isn’t a party rant, because no party is proposing what I’m about to suggest, and no one will. The people of Greece have been denied a referendum – they won’t get to decide if they want to endure two generations of utter poverty as the bankers get the billions, because the only other option that is said to be “realistic” is for them to leave the eurozone. And if Greece left the eurozone, other economically poor countries would leave it too. Soon there wouldn’t be a eurozone.

So here’s my utterly unrealistic, completely Keynsian solution.

Don’t give the money directly to the banks. Give it to the people of the European Union instead, and let each one of us decide how much of it we’re going to let the banks have.

Let every adult claim their seventeen hundred pounds and change. Let mothers claim it for their children. (Statistically speaking, as a general truth of development work, if you want money to be spent as a benefit for the whole family, you make sure the mothers get it.)

The economic benefit across Europe would be huge. Some people would opt to make an extra payment on their mortgage, pay back their overdraft or their credit cards – that part would go directly to the banks, and that would be up to the individual. A solid boost of spending in every part of Europe – a sudden jump in the economy – would bring in profits for businesses, income for individuals, tax for governments, everybody’s happy. If the banks can’t get enough to keep from failing, well, let the small savers (anyone with under £30,000 in savings) get their money back, and let the big savers crash.

We’ll never get this. Not because it wouldn’t work. Not because it would be too complicated.

But because it wouldn’t benefit the banks: and they’re really running the EU. As we see, when the birthplace of democracy doesn’t get to have a referendum because the people’s answer might not suit their real overlords, the banks who got them into this mess.

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