Lets call time on the tribal dance

I’m sick and tired of the childish tribalism in British politics, its about time we grew up and adopted a less confrontational system. I believe we need a more representative system that forces cooperation between parties, not the one we have now which promotes fighting against each other.

The house of commons sums up what I hate about British politics, one group of people sits on one side, whilst the rest sit opposite and oppose everything. I’m right, you’re wrong, you say this, therefore I must disagree. And the main attraction, Prime Minister’s questions, is a freak show of goons shouting, arguing and carrying on like children at a party with too much sugar and e numbers. Its embarrassing. It sets a really bad example, its almost like the louder, more obnoxious and more unreasonable you are the more qualified you are to be a politician. Debate is healthy, but only when it is a proper debate where all sides respect each other and act like adults. Is it any wonder that we have such a divided nation at the moment? We’re encouraged to take sides and no quarter is given.

We need a system that forces cooperation and in my opinion the answer in Proportional Representation. To start with, PR is a much fairer way of electing representatives, each vote counts and the country would actually get what it voted for. Inevitably it would lead to a more diverse range of parties winning seats too, and this would mean less chance of overall majorities, and a much higher likelihood of coalition governments, meaning forced cooperation and the country’s views being better represented by those in power. No overall majorities would also mean the extremes at either end of parties couldn’t get there way because cooperation would mean that a consensus view would have to be found, where a more moderate and sensible course of action is more likely to prevail.

Don’t believe the main parties when they tell you PR is bad because it causes weak government. Its crap. Their interest is in first past the post because it maintains their position at the top of the system, its a position forged from self interest not the peoples. The most recent coalition in British politics was obviously the Conservative Liberal Democrat one of the last government, was it unstable and un able to govern? No. The fact is that both parties had to cooperate and compromise, most commentators predicted that it would be a mess that wouldn’t last the term, but it did, and without any major fractures to threaten it. What did happen is that the extremes of each party were kept in check by the other side and we got a better government for it. I accept that many models of PR don’t allow for the constituency link with MP’s, but I’m sure a way could be found, we’re bright people, and with stronger devolution and more accountability locally, this wouldn’t matter so much.

The recent EU referendum has split the country, almost down the middle, band it has also showed the major parties are both deeply divided and unable to deal with issues that cut across part lines. Effectively there are two Tory Parties, the right wing Eurosceptic one, and the more centrist liberal one. These two groups share many values and indeed have much in common, however the fact is that the viciousness displayed throughout the campaign highlighted the divisions that existed before and will exist after. PR would allow for a split. One of the reasons that people who don’t really fit in a party still join, is because they want power, and in the first past the post system, nine times out of ten only one party is in power. A split in party would allow MPs the breathing space to be able to act more on their convictions and stand for what they actually believe, and PR would allow coalitions to be formed where common ground could be united.

Politics is too tribal, and I think the public are getting tired of it. The way politicians conduct themselves is important, they are asking us to trust them to make decisions which are in our best interests, but more often than not they act in a way that makes you think they are in it for the laugh, like its all a big game where points are scored for how well you can wind the opposition up. So lets end the tribal dance and work together to make politics work for us.

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Why I’m Standing For Election

This year I have decided to stand for election to the local council as a candidate for Yorkshire First. I have never done this before and I want to outline why, and what I intend to do in the unlikely event enough people vote for me to win.

Anyone who has read my blog will have a good idea of what I politically stand for, in case you haven’t, here goes. I believe there is a great democratic deficit in this country, our vote doesn’t always count, and the power in the country is concentrated too centrally, in too few hands. The Westminster government, based in London, is too far away from the rest of the UK, and its decision making process often ignores the needs of the different regions. At Yorkshire First we see a future where Yorkshire is able to stand up for its self, and make more decisions to be able to affect local communities, without the say so of national government. We also believe in the Bell Principles, a set of beliefs that politicians should be more open, honest and prioritise the needs of their voters over themself or their party. This is something I am passionate about.

So why stand? Well I suppose its about time I put my name next to the things I believe in, and the more people that I can tell the better. Do I expect to win this time? Honestly, no, but I felt I really wanted to give the people of Northowram and Shelf a different option to what they’ve had before. The ward currently has three Tory councillors, is this a good thing? Only if you are a Tory supporter. I believe in more voices being heard in politics, and would love a more representational voting system, but unfortunately we dont have that, so giving people as much choice as possible is essential.

So what would I do if I won? Well, the short answer is, I’d listen. I have only lived in Northowram for two years now, and in that time I’ve just about got to know my neighbours, where the pub is and what the bus timetables are, but it didn’t take me long to know I wanted to make this the place I settled and raised a family. So I’m a new comer to the village, and a total outsider to Shelf, therefore I’m not going to pretend that I know everything that needs addressing in the ward. What I’d see my role as councillor would be that of someone who listens to the people who know best, the people who live and work here, and represent them, addressing the concerns they have and not serve any narrow agenda a central party could impose.

If you’re sick and tired of the same old parties, and the same old politics, and you fancy something different, then I’d love it if you voted for me in the upcoming local election. A vote for me is a vote for Yorkshire.

The people have spoken, well, some of them have

The 2015 General Election was meant to be the most unpredictable and tightly fought contests in British political history. Neither Labour or the Conservatives were going to get a majority, we were told, and there was going to be weeks and weeks of negotiating over deals and coalitions with all the smaller parties fighting to secure some kind or influence, including UKIP, who were going to make a breakthrough and win seats. What happened was not this.  As we know the Conservatives won a majority, UKIP lost a seat, and the Lib Dems were all but wiped out, in an election that surprised many and disheartened many more. There was one electric shock to the system however, Scotland turned yellow. The SNP managed to win nearly all the seats north of the boarder, sending Labour in particular back to England with their tail tucked firmly between their legs. This result has thrown up some serious questions about our political system, questions that the new Government will need to address.

A Tory majority?

The way our parliament works, and the fact that the Conservatives have a majority of seats, means effectively they can do what they want for the next five years. Fair enough I hear you say, they got a majority you say, well not exactly. In large parts of the country they didn’t get anything like a majority. Scotland is almost a Tory free zone, as are large parts of the north of England, so effectively they have the power to do what they want, even in areas that overwhelmingly voted for something else. This is a problem. It means that whole regions of the UK have zero representation when it comes to decisions that are made that effect their daily lives. If there were more powers at a local level this wouldn’t matter as much, because areas where certain parties are stronger would be able to elect the people they wanted to make more decisions that matter to their lives. This is the case in Scotland where they have a parliament of their own that can counter the fact there is a government in Westminster they don’t like or want, why not give other areas in the UK this opportunity? Many people in England are now starting to ask this question.

#takeuswithyouscotland?

#takeuswithyouscotland has been very interesting, for two reasons, firstly that large numbers of northern English twitter users would seemingly identify themselves with the Scottish more than they do with the south of England and secondly that lots of Scottish tweeters are very sympathetic, some even encouraging the idea. I don’t want the north of England to join Scotland, I don’t in any way feel Scottish, however I definitely feel closer in many ways to those north of the border than I do with many of my supposed countrymen in the south of England, I think the same could be said for Wales, but I also feel English in many ways too. The thing is my Englishness is secondary to my Yorkshireness and I don’t feel like the London based parties understand this. I want my county to have a voice that is listened to, like Scotland, and I think many other regions of the UK agree.

Representative democracy?

I’m no supporter of UKIP, in fact I’m almost the total opposite, but you can’t deny they got over three million votes in this election, and that equalled only one seat, on the opposite of this, the SNP needed less than two million to secure their 56 seats. This isn’t democracy. Some form of PR is needed in the UK to solve this problem and give the people the representation that they voted for. Arguments against PR are mostly rubbish, like the argument that PR gives you weak government, look at the Scottish parliament, a strong system that uses PR. I agree, however, that there is a question around providing local MP’s and the way that is not compatible with straight forward PR, but we are a very clever bunch, the human race, we’ve sent people to the moon, I’m sure we can find a workable system of governance that represents better the votes that people cast.

The system as it is, is broken, we have entire regions of the UK that are under the rule of a government they didn’t ask for, and literally millions of people who voted for parties that have no representation in our parliament, or have no way to influence it at all. In my opinion by giving regions more power over the decisions they make, and making those power making organs democratic and accountable, you give people a reason to vote, their vote would matter, and their regional voice would be better heard. We also need a more representative system of national government. Lots of people vote tactically for people they don’t want to, or don’t vote at all, simply because the system doesn’t work. Of course, we have a majority government in power, so I won’t hold my breath.

Time to shout a little louder

You have to hand it to the SNP, not so long ago they were seen as nothing more than a bunch of nationalist nutters, popular with some, but ultimately on the fringes of UK politics. Fast forward to 2015 and they are now a real force in Scotland and may well have a massive impact on the coming General Election. 

The SNP were very clever in the way they made the referendum on Scottish independence an issue of Westminster or us. People weren’t just rallied to the call of an independent Scotland they became supporters of an SNP that they saw as anti UK, and most importantly anti establishment. This is important. In England those who have become disenchanted with the ‘Big Three’ have been offered an alternative in the shape of UKIP, and people who wouldn’t have voted for them have, just to stick two fingers up to the establishment. Where the SNP has Scottish independence, UKIP has Europe, both these issues might not be at the forefront of everyones minds, but they have been effectively used to galvanise support for the respective parties. 

One of the over spills from the Scottish referendum was the issue of Devolution within England. The trouble is there are many different views of what a devolved England looks like. Some would have an English Parliament, some propose City regions, personally I think we need to be more radical and have regional governments, that support a much wider level of devolution so that people have more of a say in the decisions that actually effects their lives. I think the UK needs it. I don’t agree with the SNP’s calls for independence, I think we are genuinely better together, but if central government ignores the issue and continues to fob the regions of the UK off with second, third and fourth rate devolution then it will begin to fracture and split. 

At this moment in time the SNP is forcing its agenda upon Westminster because it is shouting loudly and voters in Scotland are listening. Wouldn’t it be great if Yorkshire had a strong voice like this that could really challenge the powers in London and deliver much more for the county? Well it does, by voting for Yorkshire First you would be sending a message to Labour, the Tories and everyone else that it’s about time the interests of Yorkshire were taken as seriously as other parts of England. 

Things in my view this week….2

Must miss viewing

Question Time is pointless. All we ever learn from Question Time is how good at avoiding answering questions directly politicians can be, the ‘winners’ being the ones that appear to answer the question best without actually answering it. The fact that when celebrities go on, without the ties of political affiliation, often give better, and more honest replies to questions, making a mockery of the whole exercise. All Question Time does is show politicians in their worst light; tribal, evasive, out of touch and full of blame.

Ticket touts

Ticket touts do my head in. When attempting to buy Noel Gallagher tickets last year I made sure I was up on time, logged into the website, and ready with my credit card in hand, about five minutes later, it was sold out and I had no tickets, unlucky. But then I looked on re-sale websites, such as Stub Hub and Viagogo, which were immediately advertising tickets to the event, the thing is they were being sold well over the face value of the ticket. Now I have no problem with people selling tickets to events they can no longer attend, or if they’ve changed their mind, but when people buy four tickets and immediately sell two on for a profit, that does my head in. They are stopping people getting tickets that they really want, just to make a few quid, it’s touting, and it needs to stop. Re-sale websites should not offer tickets at a price higher than face value, this would stop the problem immediately, and people who want to attend events can, at a fair price. 

Cricket World Cup

Cricket is a funny game. England, one of the games major players, have just been unceremoniously dumped out of the World Cup, having been demolished by Australia, humiliated by New Zealand, walloped by Sri Lanka and finished off by Bangladesh. For much of the tournament they have looked like they are playing a different game to the rest of the teams there, the thing is that cricket IS different games within a game. T20 and ODI’s aren’t the same game as test cricket, yes there is a skill set common to all three, but each has it’s own set of skills that are unique to that format. England’s problem? They don’t seem to be able to grasp this. Peter Moores is, I’m sure, a very competent coach, he wouldn’t have the job if he wasn’t, but to give him the job of coaching all three formats is ridiculous, I mean you don’t see Roy Hodgson coaching the England 5-a-side team do you? Get a coach for each format of the game, pick a team for each format and go from there, simple. 

All hope is not lost…

The people of this country have been written off in terms of politics, the vast majority don’t care and would rather vote for their favourite Karaoke singer on the X Factor than vote in a general election, or so we’re led to believe. This is the opposite of  what I’ve encountered this year whilst canvassing however, people do care, do have an interest and definitely have their own opinions, they just feel for too long no one has listened to them. If we want people to engage with politics, maybe politics has to engage better with people, for me, to make politics more relevant to everyday lives then make it more local. Politicians  often refer to the British Public like its one group of people, it’s not, in every different part of the UK there are different issues and different attitudes. Have discussions with people about the things that actually bother them and you will get interaction, as long as you listen to them that is. 

And so it begins…..

Things are moving, it’s now only a few months until the General Election and campaigning for most is in full swing, and for the first time ever, I will be joining in. 

As I’ve written before I’m a supporter of Yorkshire First, and this is the first General Election we’ll fight. To fight a general election you need people to stand before the electorate, and joining our first candidate Paul Salveson who is standing in Colne Valley, we also have candidates in Leeds, Shipley and now Calder Valley. Rod Sutcliffe is a retired GP who lives in Cragg Vale (read more here), and I’ll be doing my best to support his campaign. 

I’ve never been involved in canvassing for an election, so this year is all new to me. I suppose the aim for me isn’t to ram my views down anyone’s throats, I just want to let people know who we are and what we stand for. It will be good to hear the views of people and gauge what interest there is in the election.  We’ll be in Brighouse this Saturday (7/2/15) spreading the message, and probably freezing our bits off, so if you want to learn a bit more, or just have a chat then come down and see us! 

Time to end panto season for good

When was the last time you watched Prime Ministers Questions? Or any debate in the House of Commons for that matter? Never you say? You turned it on and realised what a huge mistake you were making and turned it over? I don’t blame you, I’m a politics graduate, and even I don’t watch it. In fact I bet the only time most people see it is when snippets are shown on the news, and what do we see? A bunch of mostly public school/Oxbridge educated over grown children loudly arguing and insulting each other. Yawn.

Every time I see Prime Ministers questions on the news I’m struck by how silly, petty and childish it appears. The two sides sit opposite each other, shouting, gesticulating, insulting and behaving like a class of 6 year olds arguing about who kissed who in the playground. Whenever someone makes a crap joke or comes up with a ‘hilarious’ put down the whole house erupts like a bunch of drunken apes, any grown up watching this show can’t help but think ‘yeah that’s not for me’. I know politics is very emotive, and the people in there care about the things they discuss, but can they not do it in a more civil, grown up manner? Why is one party pitted against the other? Why can’t they work together?

There’s no denying politics has a massive image problem, people are increasingly turned off by it. When people ask what I did at uni and I tell them I did politics, the most common reaction is ‘why? It’s boring!’ when I then relate politics to their daily life they suddenly become engaged and have an opinion again. It’s not that people don’t care, it’s that people feel detached from it, like it’s not something they can get into. The confrontational style mud slinging may appeal to supporters of the parties, but they are losing the interest of everyone else.  Its time we ended this pantomime style politics for good. We need politicians to have a grown up debate, and engage with people on an adult level, unfortunately I can’t see it happening any time soon.

This week signalled the start of campaigning for the General Election, and predictably it followed a very negative route. Labour said ‘don’t vote for the Tories, they’ll take us back to the 1930’s!’, then the Tories came out and said ‘don’t vote for Labour, they have all their sums wrong and are going to ruin us!’. Claim and counter claim seem to be the way this election will be fought, the ‘everything we say is right, everything they say is wrong’ attitude is so depressing. If this turns you off, like me, then I urge you not to just give up your vote, instead engage with people who want to have a positive, adult debate about politics. I’m a supporter of Yorkshire First, and that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re putting together a positive vision for Yorkshire and one that is free of traditional party squabbling. Let’s leave the children to their games and leave politics to the grown ups.

The alternative to the alternative

Clearly people are sick of the main political parties in the UK, UKIP made huge strides in the European elections, and have recently done what many people said they’d never do. The peoples of Clacton, Rochester and Strood have elected to parliament two former Tories who now stand for UKIP.

UKIP are a party of againstists, they’re against the EU, they’re against a public NHS, they’re against gay marriage, but it’s very hard to see what they are for. This is depressing. In an age when millionaire politicians are forever telling us what benefits and public services they are cutting, because as a nation we are too poor, surely we need to look to a more positive answer to our problems. The turnout for the European elections was really poor, it was around 35%, and the recent by-elections weren’t much better at about 43% with UKIP gaining about 60% and 38% respectively. Is this proof of the publics disgust at the political status quo? Yes, is it an endorsement of UKIP? No. Nigel Farage claimed that the  European election wins were proof that people were sick of the established parties, and they wanted a change, a UKIP led change, but the fact is that only about 10% of eligible voters actually voted for his party, more just didn’t vote at all, apathy was the winner, not UKIP.
As you may be aware, this summer saw a Scottish independence referendum, which the no campaign won, just. In the end it was a really close call, much closer than most people expected, indeed in the last few weeks of the contest Scottish independence looked like a real possibility. I believe the reason for this lies with the way in which both campaigns were viewed. The yes campaign was seen as positive, offering voters a vision of how they could change the system and be better off, whereas the no campaign was seen as negative with scaremongering, and playing on voters fears about the pound and oil. Many of the people who were asked why they shifted from a no to a yes claimed that the negativity of the no campaign was a strong factor.  In stark contrast to recent elections in England, the referendum in Scotland had an incredible turn out too of around 85%, are the Scots politics mad people who love voting? Of course not, the difference here was that the people of Scotland had a real decision to make where the opportunity for change was real.
So what happens if UKIP get 10-15 MP’s at the general election? Will we see dramatic change? No. We’ll still have a Westminster government dictating to the rest of the UK, the only difference will be that with UKIP possibly holding the balance of power there will be a shift to the right. The thing is it’s not the the colour of the tie that needs changing, it’s the whole way in witch the political system works for people. The UK is one of the most centralised countries in Europe, perhaps that should read England, for if you live in Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales there is at least some degree of devolved decision making, England, however, is ruled by the iron fist of London. The regions of england have to go cap in hand to Westminster every time they want anything, and since regional development bodies like Yorkshire Forward were scrapped, it’s become even more like begging. It’s no coincidence that 9 of the 10 poorest areas in the whole of northern Europe are in the UK, whilst the richest is Inner London. Power, money, the media, almost everything is concentrated in the capital and I think it’s about time that changed.
We need to devolve power within England. An English parliament, favoured by the Tories and UKIP, isn’t the answer, all you do is replace the words UK parliament with English parliament, essentially it’s still the same thing, a South East dominated body detached from the other regions in the country. What we need is regional devolution, but not watered down devolution being offered by Labour. LEP’s, city regions, or what ever you want to call them, are both unelected and ineffective, nobody asked for them and nobody really knows what they do, and in my opinion if you base decision making around a single city, all you’ll do is drag the money to that city. Leeds for example is the centre of the Leeds City Region, which is designed to benefit the whole of West Yorkshire, but as the most dominant part of this partnership there is surely the danger of Leeds coming first, ahead of Wakefield, Calderdale, Bradford etc.. The other problem for me is what if you don’t live in a city? What city region does the Yorkshire Dales or the Lake District fit into? Surely it would be better to have a democratically elected body that can represent all the different parts of a region, fairly.

Yorkshire has an economy and a population easily big enough to warrant its own assembly, indeed it’s population is similar to that of Scotland and it economy is larger than that of Wales. This is a positive solution, giving power to people over the region they know best will make a real difference. By standing for this, Yorkshire First has given the people of Yorkshire an option, if you’re sick and tired of Westminster, if you want a change, and you don’t want to vote for negative parties that don’t have the interests of the region at heart, then vote for Yorkshire First. I would urge everybody who wants change for Yorkshire to sign the Yorkshire Pledge,  www.yorkshirepledge.org.uk, and if you have the opportunity to, vote for Yorkshire First. A few UKIP MP’s here or there won’t make a difference, but one Yorkshire First MP would send a real message to those in charge that it is time for Yorkshire.

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