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Showing posts from May, 2015

Votes for 16 in EU Referendum?

Huh.  What do I know?  Having been dismissive of the idea that votes for 16 year olds is on the agenda at the moment (see post below), I caught this story in the Guardian.  Apparently Labour and the SNP may make common cause to at least secure the reduced voting age for the EU referendum.  In this instance such a move, if successful, could be a boost for the Yes camp, although generalising about the capricious young is always a bad idea.

Young Voters make a difference

There continues to be debate amongst politics students, political scientists and crowd-pleasing politicians at student conferences over the voting age.  Should it be reduced to 16?

Unlikely though it is to happen, it becomes a prescient question in the light of two recent referendums.  The 2014 Scottish referendum allowed 16 and 17 year olds to join the vote, and saw a huge proportion of that age group give momentum to the Yes vote, for full devolution.  Then came yesterday's vote on gay marriage in Ireland.  Passing by a 62% vote, few doubt that young Irish voters felt particularly mobilised to join the referendum, even travelling from hideouts abroad to do so.  Now the youth vote alone did not give Ireland a constitutional amendment which introduced gay marriage equality.  In Scotland, the reduction in the vote to 16 did not ultimately produce devolution either.  But in both cases, a radical change to the status quo was given momentum, and the possibility of popular consent, by…

UKIP and the politics of Mao

My A-level students are sitting their exam on twentieth century Chinese history this afternoon.  It is an extraordinary topic, dominated by the figure of Mao Zedong.  Mao may have started with great ambition and ideals for his country, but most remember him now as the power-crazed lunatic who led China into the Great Leap Forward (deaths 40 million, though many estimate higher) and the Cultural Revolution (deaths around 1 million, and a devastated Chinese educational and cultural landscape).

One of the incidents I hope my students will recall is Mao's reaction to some criticism levelled against him by an old and trusted colleague. When Peng Dehuai, then the defence minister and head of the army, dared to broach some criticisms of Mao's plans for what proved to be the disastrous Great Leap Forward, he was greeted by a storm of abuse.  Mao took him to task in front of the Communist elite, gathered at a conference in Lushan, blasted him for his temerity in launching such obviou…

Skinner 1, SNP 0

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Perhaps Scottish Labour could requisition the services of Dennis Skinner, the "Beast of Bolsover".  The parliamentary veteran and plain speaker has defeated them in their first attempt to remove him from the seat he's been occupying for 45 years or so.  These SNP types, for all of their bread and chip suppers on the terrace and their take-over of Labour's favourite bar, are wimps after all.

Of course this is all rather arcane and of no significance to the average voter whatsoever.  But the increasing issue of the 56 SNP MPs is this.  What will all these MPs actually do, given that most of the issues affecting their constituents are dealt with now by the MSPs of the Scottish Parliament?  What is the British taxpayer awarding them £67,000 for?

Time to move on with devolution and save at least £3,752,000 a year straight off.

Those who can, organise; those who can't, commentate

Lynton Crosby is certainly entitled to a bit of triumphalism.  Getting Boris to London City Hall is one thing, but getting David Cameron back to Downing Street with a majority against all the odds certainly ranks as one of the great Lazarus tricks of modern politics.  So well done Mr. Crosby.  If you weren't already in the super-league of international political consultants, I guess you must be not only in it but near the top of it now.

He's left us with a bit of a gift too.  Not a big speaker to the press (no good campaign manager wants to be the story during a campaign, as Alastair Campbell should have realised) he has now given a departing interview to the Daily Telegraph.  Amongst all the post-election ink flow, this one provides some of the more interesting and controversial analyses, coming as it does from the man who won.

As I read his interview, I warmed to the man, far more than I might have expected.  It was two points in particular that produced that feeling of pos…

Chuka's withdrawal

Chuka Umunna was never considered to lack ambition, and had long been talked of as a future leader.  His unexpected withdrawal from the leadership race raises questions that reflect poorly on the current state of our political and media relations.

Mr. Umunna states that he thought he was ready for the pressure that being a leadership candidate would bring but had under-estimated the level of coverage and intrusion that it actually brought.  This does not appear to be a candidate running away from a potential scandal.  This seems to be a man who has looked over the parapet and decided he wants to have a life rather than run into the no man's land of leadership coverage.  In this, he follows another Labour MP who looked like a good bet for a party seeking able and empathetic figures to lead it, Dan Jarvis.  Mr. Jarvis decided not to enter the race because of the potential impact on his young family.

Chuka Umunna has done his soul-searching and reached a pretty rapid conclusion.  Bu…

The hell keeps on coming for Labour

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There was an outpouring of Blairite angst over the Miliband election campaign last week, but the hell isn't over yet for the "Hell, yeah" leader.  Today's "Times" sees political columnist Philip Collins provide one of the most seering condemnations of the Miliband experiment that I've read.  It makes Peter Mandelson sound like Bagpuss.

Collins' first targets are the "cavalry of denial" who are lining up to contest the Labour leadership, so Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham.  Noting that Labour's electoral problem was as significant in England as in the much reported Scotland, he describes Yvette Cooper's recent article for the "Mirror" as "a platitudinous, intern-drafted press release for the Pontefract and Castleford Express", taking her to task for the blithe belief that the average voter really liked a lot of what Labour was saying.  Er, no they didn't, notes Collins.

On to Andy Burnham, whom he beautifull…

A One Nation PM and his Thatcherite Cabinet

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David Cameron gave a dignified and well considered speech on hearing of his final victory in the election. Able to lead with a Conservative majority, he described himself as a "One Nation" prime minister, making a clear pitch to position himself in the centre of British politics.  He at least, it seemed, was not taking the erroneous lesson from the election that Britain is a naturally right-wing country.  Instead, he was making a valiant attempt to reclaim the most potent Tory brand in electoral politics.  His cabinet appointments, however, have rather belied his own personal branding, for David Cameron has, on the surface of it, appointed one of the most right-wing Conservative Cabinets ever.  Not even Margaret Thatcher could boast such a Thatcherite cabinet.

Take the early appointments.  Michael Gove at Justice, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, Defence's Michael Fallon - all have articulated routinely Thatcherite positions.  Hammond, who favours leaving the EU, is pr…

Was it a bad campaign, or are we bad voters?

It's the anniversary of the defeat of Germany in 1945 today.  Many have said that the western countries were fighting to preserve liberty and democracy.  At least in part.  So it might be worth considering the state of the democracy that today's anniversary kept in being.

As commentators use up the last of their "what sort of coalition are we likely to have" scenarios, they've turned to the "what a dreadful campaign it's been" ones.  This has been most eloquently - and perhaps lengthily - illustrated by Michael Deacon's piece in today's Telegraph, but he is not alone.

It's a moot point as to how seriously we should take the journalistic moaning of stagnant campaigns.  Politicians are where they are, and do what they do, largely as a consequence of the way our brave journo have covered previous campaigns, and cover politicians generally.  Douglas Murray has identified this aspect of the state of our democracy most clearly in this piece fo…

Sparing a thought for the poor bloody politicians

I know we shouldn't be too sympathetic towards our would-be leaders.  They're grasping, lying, slippery, power-hungry egoists out for themselves and likely to ruin us all in the process.  Aren't they?

It's not a popular thought, I own, but I do have more than a sneaking sympathy for the plight of our putative representatives, and especially their leaders.  Pounding the streets day after day, meeting inordinate numbers of punters who are all experts in everything, having to be nice to even the most moronic questioner....it's not exactly an idyllic existence.  One of my friends, soon to be elected if the runes are right, is about to depart a well paid job with some decent off-time, for a relentless, looking-glass existence which will require far more hours of his time and yield a far smaller income.  And yet he's pretty cheerful about it, because at last he's got a chance to engage in public service of the highest level.

They're all expected to take buck…