Saturday, 4 June 2016

Democracy Would Be A Good Thing

Following on from last weekend, I'd like to return to the subject of the Referendum and in particular the view I see being frequently voiced that a vote to exit the EU would leave us at the mercy of an increasingly right-wing Tory party. Readers will recall this was the opinion expressed by the former Channel 4 journalist Paul Mason, who used it as a reason for reluctantly voting to Remain, despite his extreme antagonism towards the EU as an utterly undemocratic and failed institution. 

I have to say I find this an extraordinarily negative position to take, coming as it does on top of all the other negative arguments that make up 'Project Fear', namely figures plucked from the air regarding economics and migration, security, the threat of war and probably plague if the Tories thought they could get away with it. The Nation has indeed been scared witless and clearly the Remain camp think this is the only way to win. This might well prove to be the case, but of course it just makes the chances of the Tory party reuniting on June 24th that much more unlikely. There will surely be carnage in the Conservative Party at the way David Cameron has conducted himself.

To put it bluntly, I not only find this argument depressing, I find it it flawed because even if there is some truth in it, shouldn't the answer be to make sure we don't elect a government that is leaning ever-more to the right, or at least that such a party is not able to command a majority in the House of Commons? The Tories only have a majority of 12 and they are in deep trouble over the election expense scandal uncovered by Channel 4 News. Their desperate attempts at thwarting a thorough investigation have been effectively torpedoed both by the High Court and now a District Judge in Kent. This from the Independent:-
Tory MP's attempt to block police investigation into election fraud allegations fails    

An attempt by a Conservative MP to block a police investigation into allegations his party broke election spending rules has failed. Kent Police last week applied for an extension of the 12-month statutory limit into investigations of potential breaches of the Representation of the People Act at the 2015 general election.

An investigation by Channel 4 News and the Daily Mail newspaper alleged that the Tories broke spending limits in key marginal seats at the last general election. Strict spending limits are put in place to ensure that parties with wealthy financial backers do not have an unfair advantage over others. It is alleged that in South Thanet, accommodation for bussed-in activists was not properly recorded locally and that this led to spending limits being broken by the Conservatives.

However Craig Mackinlay, the Tory MP for the constituency, and his election agent Nathan Gray, launched a legal bid to argue that no extension should be granted to the police for the investigation. Their legal team argued that no special circumstances are in effect and that no extension should therefore be given. If they had succeeded, the investigation into the marginal seat would have effectively been stopped in its tracks.

Folkestone Magistrates Court however granted Kent Police the extension on Wednesday afternoon. The force will now have an additional year to look into the allegations.

“There is a very significant public interest in the matter being fully investigated,” a district judge Justin Barron said, according to local newspaper Kent Messenger. “The consequences of a conviction would be of a local and national significance with the potential for election results being declared void.”

There are also questions about other 29 key constituencies in the General Election where Channel 4 alleges which some £38,000 of accommodation for visiting Tory activists was undeclared locally.


"Democracy is not a given; it must be fiercely protected."

I saw this statement on twitter recently and it got me quite angry. Firstly, what a toothless bloody waste of space the Electoral Commission has proved to be when it takes the dogged efforts of Channel 4 News to unearth the election expense scandal, not the official watchdog. What do they do with the damned election expense statements each year - just file them without checking anything? It strikes me they're not 'firecely protecting' our democracy - they had to have a bomb put under them to take any action at all.

Secondly, what exactly is the nature of this 'democracy' we supposedly have when it's based on 'first past the post'? A system that only works if we lived in a two-party state, which we don't, so very neatly always splits any opposition to the majority party, thus delivering the sham of a democratic decision when more people have voted against that majority party! How can anyone claim we live in a democracy when 4 million UKIP votes resulted in only 1 MP, for goodness sake?

But this very neatly takes us to the very worrying totalitarian argument I heard voiced the other day that the People can't be allowed a truly democratic option because they might vote the wrong way and elect a right-wing government. Until explained to me by a staunch life-long Labour Party supporter, I had completely forgotten how this extremely illiberal view still holds sway on the Left. I'm assuming that the same view is held by the Right who fear the People just might vote-in a socialist government? 

It suddenly occurs to me how radical I am when believing that democracy would be a good idea and that the present system is completely untenable, undemocratic and we must campaign for Electoral Reform at the earliest opportunity. And yes I know we had a Referendum on that a few years ago, but the Liberal Democrats f*cked it up by selecting a completely incomprehensible system.        

Of course the EU Referendum is completely democratic, which is why it's proving so unsettling to so many people and especially the Westminster elite. You'd think there'd be no scope for tactical voting, but bizarrely that's exactly what's happening! Boris Johnson suddenly becoming eurosceptic in order to try and become Tory leader and Jeremy Corbyn suddenly keen on staying in the EU, not just for party unity, but because he's shit-scared of what an unfettered Tory government might do. This from the Vox Political website:-         

Corbyn puts clear red water between him and Cameron, promising Labour would veto TTIP trade deal

This is why Jeremy Corbyn and David Cameron could never share a platform, even though they both want the UK to ‘Remain’ in the EU. Corbyn may be lukewarm on the idea of remaining – but he is absolutely sure that a Tory Brexit would result in a deregulatory free-for-all that would be “a disaster for the majority of people in Britain”. Here’s the best example of what he means:

Cameron wants to force through the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement as soon as possible, forcing down the quality of goods produced across America and Europe, and forcing down the wages and quality of life of the people who make them. The plan is already in considerable trouble, with many EU member states expressing concerns – and Jeremy Corbyn said today that the UK would refuse the deal altogether if Labour was in government.


So, I'm tempted to ask, why cast a vote in the Referendum on the basis of what the Tories might or might not do? Rather, why not vote according to whether it's felt the EU is a good thing or not and ensure the Tories don't get back into a position of unfettered power by campaigning for Electoral Reform? 

There's some interesting news about the last general election, again on the Vox Political website:-  

Labour shift leftwards had no effect on general election defeat – report

There is no evidence that Labour lost the general election because of a shift to the left, a new post-mortem into the bruising defeat has claimed. The report by the University of Oxford adds that while immigration, welfare, and Ed Miliband’s leadership all played a part in the unexpected defeat, it was more about perceived competence and rhetoric than policy. It also claims that the party’s anti-austerity message led to some gains in England.

The authors add that Labour’s “equivocal support” of benefit caps did not necessarily help the party win any more supporters at the election. “Perceptions of welfare matter,” they said. “But it is not the precise amount that is important. Rather people care about whether the amount given to people is enough to live on.”

Professor David Stuckler, of Oxford University’s Department of Sociology, told The Independent: “We analysed the election results using the British Election Survey data that can tell us what happened to Labour voters over time and, unlike focus groups, cover the entire country. What also sets apart our approach is that we can use these data to look at those who switch parties; the key swing voters.

“What we’ve learnt so far is that Labour didn’t lose because they were seen as having moved to the left. In fact, on a left-right spectrum, the public consistently see Labour as closer to their own views than the Conservative Party.”


Finally, there's this on the website:-

Labour's only hope of survival is if Britain votes for Brexit

It is now generally accepted that if Leave win the referendum, David Cameron will have to resign. However, nobody has so far asked what a Leave result would do to Jeremy Corbyn. After today's speech backing Remain, I believe it's obvious that he would have to go too.

In truth Mr Corbyn has so far had a dismal referendum campaign. Not only has he disappointed many of his supporters by falling into line on the EU with the ruling elite whom they asked him to challenge, he has also disappointed his enemies by campaigning for the EU so tepidly. If he really wanted people to believe in his conversion to the EU after 40 years of denouncing it as a capitalist conspiracy he should have barnstormed the country to denounce the folly of his giddy youth.

If Corbyn is unable to prevent a Leave vote then there will be little or no reason for the Labour party to persist with him as Leader. So let's suppose Labour MPs right across the party spectrum pass a vote of no confidence in him and ask party members and supporters to choose another leader. Unlike last time, few MPs would repeat the mistake of nominating him, or any other hard left candidate. Labour MPs would surely only nominate leadership candidates they believe could win a general election.

Suddenly, the prospect of a new and electable Labour leader in 2020, leading a united party against a fractious and embittered post-Cameron Tory party looks compelling. It's certainly a better prospect for Labour than the Remain scenario: Corbyn leading a fractious and embittered party against Cameron’s anointed successor, in an election almost no one believes the party can win.

It is also very possible that a Remain vote will have highly unpopular consequences in a short time. Britain will have signed up to anything the EU wants to throw at it. The EU would then push ahead with its plans for a European army and more European taxation, more European control or influence over business law, social security and employment law. Although Britain is allowed to stay outside the Eurozone, it is forced to share the ever-increasing costs of propping it up. And of course we continue to face uncontrolled migration from the EU – accepting an indefinite supply of refugees from the euro, with no hope of change.

All or any of these would quickly make Cameron's government very unpopular. But Labour would not necessarily benefit considering Corbyn’s own Remain stance. Instead Ukip would be able to say "we told you so" and mop up droves of disenchanted Labour voters.

To make the Leave scenario even more attractive to Labour: the party could join a grand post-Cameron coalition to secure the best possible terms of Brexit. Frank Field, a leading Labour Leave advocate, has already called for this. If they really want to win the referendum then Tory Leave leaders should commit themselves to this because it could have a major impact on the campaign.

All of a sudden, Labour MPs would see a chance of gaining office in 2016 instead of waiting for 2025 at the earliest. This could concentrate minds powerfully. Even the most ardent Remainers might find it their patriotic duty to return to government to help negotiate Brexit and to deliver the country from a pure Right Wing free-market-crazed Tory government. The fear of such a government after a Leave vote is a major deterrent to Labour and left-of-centre voters – so the Leave campaign should remove it.

Labour ministers could serve in the grand coalition until the terms of Brexit are established. Labour would then leave and holds a serious, meaningful debate with the Tories until the 2020 election over Britain’s new independent future.

Of course the Scottish Nationalists would demand a new referendum on Scottish independence. But it's difficult to see how they would win it. Labour could easily say to the Scottish voters: “You know damn well that there is no oil bonanza to finance an independent Scotland, not now and not for years to come. So do you seriously believe that Scotland will have importance and influence in the EU – as much as it does in the United Kingdom? Do you really believe that the EU will transfer more resources to Scotland than it now gets from being in the UK? Independent Scotland would be a small applicant member of the EU. It will not get any special terms. It will have to sign up to anything the EU demands. It will have to use the euro, if not immediately, then before very long. Will the EU care if unemployment goes through the roof in Scotland – any more than it cares about mass unemployment in Greece, Italy, Spain or Portugal or anywhere else in the Eurozone? Are you really sure that so-called “independent” Scotland will thrive in the bureaucratic, undemocratic and economically foundering remains of the EU? Or would you prefer to share a democratic, outward-looking, independent future within the UK?”

This would offer a better hope of reconquering Labour votes in Scotland than limping along in the status quo.

Suddenly the prospects for Labour after Brexit look fairly rosy. The end of David Cameron, a new electable Labour leader, early return to government, a serious mission for the country and even a possible revival in Scotland. Like any other Leave scenario, this golden future for Labour is of course highly speculative. It would mean taking big risks and could end in tears. But that is surely better for Labour than accepting the certainty of further decline and defeat after a vote for Remain.


  1. Don't worry folks - the EU referendum will put Dodgy Dave & Gorgeous George out of office, the Tory election fraud will generate by elections, the Other Milliband will be parachuted in by Labour to usurp Corbyn, Labour will win the early General Election, winter will end in Narnia and the world will return to normal.

  2. Ian reading some of these colleagues on this blog over the last few days is depressing. You have a duty not too only focus on negativity as that in itself is creating a self fulfilling prophecy for many staff preventing them from moving on from this TR disaster #irresponsible editing

    1. I edit what I find and get sent. Where are the positive stories? I don't count moronic 'TR is great'.

    2. 07:28 - it's always someone elses's fault: "I blame Jim Brown!". Why insist on infantilising the probation workforce by placing "many staff" in the role of victim? The only self-fulfilling prophecy is the catastrophe that is TR, i.e. a not-thought-through, not piloted, rushed & utterly piss-poor piece of parliamentary incompetence & organisational vandalism.

    3. Jim, youve never worked in TR so you should have a glass of "shut the hell up".

    4. TR is shit, basically.

    5. The simple truth is that many of us would move on....but to what? We are working through the most ill thought industrial/workplace change there has ever been. The main principles of sound business change are all at the 'work in progress' and even planning stage...yet the business is operating with no allowance or adjustments for change to consolidate and then build. You want examples? The NPS IT system is an unmitigated disaster with repeated failure in real time delivery. E3 should be renamed 'suck it and see' workforce planning. Then there is management, given HR processes with little experience or insight into the human bit of the process, that this is about people management not process delivery. Then there is the fundamental error of making civil servants ( second class) of practitioners.
      Moving on is impossible when there is no destination, no vision, just a series of process maps without cohesion or purpose in any way related to probation.
      NPS PO

  3. Agree 08.45! Vote remain or we are all *ucked!

  4. This blog gets me through the day

  5. "Labour would vote in a candidate capable of winning the next election." What like Andy Burnham or Yvette Cooper both of whom failed miserably to gain enough votes to even come close to Corbyn in the leadership contest. Much as a lot of people rail against Corbyn and the alleged damage he is doing to the Labour party can we really claim that Blair & Brown did anything at all to bolster its credibility. Or even Milliband for that matter? Like him or loathe him, I admite Corbyn for having principles and sticking to them even if I don't necessarily agree with all of his views. it makes a refreshing change from the tabloid chasing Westminster politico crap most politicians espouse.

  6. Have to say that I'm on the fence about Brexit. We have no real clue whether or not leaving would be a good thing or even remaining would be a good thing because none of us can see what lies ahead in the future. I will vote to remain simply because would anyone in their right minds really follow a path of action espoused by Boris, Grayling, Patel etc? Anything that bunch of idiors claims is a good idea is cause to run like hell in the opposite direction. Not saying the remain camp has been any better but they are slightly less idiotic. I really can't wait for the referendum to be over so we can all sit back and watch the Tories implode in a very spectacular manner

    1. I completely agree. After all the rubbish from both sides it's down to asking the most important question "what would grayling do?"
      Then don't do that!

  7. Get to get and hear what Owen Jones and John McDonnell are saying about remain.

  8. If you want to lose our last remaining workers' rights, including the right to paid holidays, vote Leave!

  9. Or vote remain & TTIP.

  10. As an employer, manager, leader and owner im votting to leave. In is bad for business and employees

  11. Please can someone update me on what's happened to the Sodexo CEOS? Have they gone? I hear an ex prison governor is running CRCs in the south of England.

  12. According to Tweets from a well respected legal blogger we are unlikely to get much electoral consequence when the Tory Election Fraud business reaches a conclusion.

    Among other things I saw this

    "David Allen Green


    Full article at @FT next week, Tory expenses investigation most likely outcomes:
    - max £20k fine
    - few if any disqualifications/by-elections "

  13. Oh yes, My vote is to Remain. Remain in the EU and continue to be part of the bigger picture. Why Brexit and risk the expansion of a Tory dictatorship. Yes we are better off as we are - Europeans.

  14. still dont get what Scottish independence is about....

  15. I'm voting leave after much thought. Remain, and nothing will change. Vote leave and the tories are at each others throats, and the EU faces an existential crisis. That could force real change....

    1. LOL if you think a brexit vote will usher in an era of weirdy-beardy communism lite I've got a bridge to sell you!

  16. E3 is the new enemy within, a deeply flawed system to support court closures shorter format reports to ensure that the system doesn't slowly grind to a halt...and on other matters does anyone know if ACEs are on performance related pay or if they receive bonuses as there just seems to be an unhealthy obsession with targets at the moment........

    1. Not to my knowledge, I believe it's just a trickle down from the bean counters in the CRC.
      Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown and all that.

  17. Tr is great. I cant wait til Monday