Unity, not division

To many of the politically engaged the fact that the Tories are getting over 40% in the opinion polls seems very strange indeed. How on earth can a government this bad be storming to victory in the UK general election? The answer is that democratic elections are never decided by the politically engaged, but by the  larger part of the electorate that isn’t interested in politics. The politicians themselves have learnt this.

So we suffer the mantra of ‘strong and stable government in the national interest’, repeated endlessly in lieu of an answer to any question. It’s seems just mad that the government can simply declare themselves to be strong and stable without any evidence to back these claims. It is repeated and repeated, it’s becomes part of the background hum of everyday life and perhaps to many not engaged with politics then take it on board like a truth.

It is so easy for those of us politically engaged to be surprised at this. It is so easy to forget that for many elections are the time to try and get a feel for which lot, which political party seem less incompetent at running a country. Largely I feel they do this by listening to the media and their own social conversations, largely to assess which political leader seems to have the edge.

In an ideal world, the politicians would present their vision and their policies and argue for them. The media then scrutinise what the politicians say and their policies and present more in depth coverage of the issues. However this happens less and less these days, as a repeated lie until becomes a truth has been found to be far more effective at ‘winning’ elections. A particular problem British democracy has is that the mass media, television and newspapers blatantly support the Tories and skew the scrutiny in their favour. For example, Mr Miliband’s [Labour] energy cap policy derided by the media in 2010 is now championed by the very same media when that policy now comes from the Tories.

I spoke to a lifelong Labour voter last week who felt she couldn’t vote for Mr Corbyn as she didn’t feel she could trust him. Yet she didn’t say the same thing about Mrs May who has no stronger grounds to claim trust. in a personality battle I would suggest Mr Corbyn shades it:

Strong

No-one has actually defined what exactly a strong leader is. I think it’s something like a determined leader, someone who will get things done whatever the opposition. Defined thus, Mrs May has this quality. However not listening is also a weakness and can mean a stubbornness to pursue bad policy. Yet Mr Corbyn also has this quality, the strength and the stubbornness,  having held firm to his beliefs over the decades and been on the right side of history, whilst Mrs May faltered. What perhaps is important is the reasons behind being stubborn, for the sake of your career or to defend a principle.  Mr Corbyn has had to deal with a media and half of his own party determined to undermine him at every opportunity, yet he has continued, that is a strength.

Stable Government

Again a very spurious word to define politicians. Stability can be defined as resistance to change, that the government will endure whatever may happen. With the likelihood of  a supportive party who falter to uphold their own principles to remain in power [I believe the Tories are ditching conservative values], as a government they may be described as stable, but not for any innate properties of themselves, merely their own circumstances. Corbyn on the other hand has been incredibly stable, in his views over the years, it is his party that has been unstable, still recovering from the machinations of Blairism. Unlike May Corbyn appears more willing to listen and find a compromise between not betraying his beliefs and getting things done, such flexibility aids stability in politicians.

In the National Interest

What? This is the Tories who’ve run this country down at every opportunity, selling off the family silver to their pals, only to loan it back at extortionate rates of interest to the people, further crippling us. The streets are full of the homeless, food banks, the NHS are barely coping, housing costs have rocketed, education in decline, a weakened economy and all thanks to thirty years of unchecked right wing government. Whereas Corbyn seems a little more concerned about the country as a whole, his gets things wrong, but the checks and balances will hold Corbyn to a stabel path, more than May and their narrow focus on people such as themselves of the Tories.

I just think that on a clinical assessment of character, Corbyn should be walking this election. Yet he isn’t. The Tories and the media make out Corbyn to be some radical communist who would plunge the UK into some kind of Soviet style planned economy. Whereas to those on the outside he is a mainstream moderate left wing politician and one who would have to dilute his moderate aims in government, to gently start the work of rebuilding this divided broken Britain, rather than continue the work of division and destruction, of us against them, of a minority hegemony always getting it’s own way and blind to the need for balance.

We have had fairly hard right wing governments for 38 years in the UK. The people of Britain have forgotten what a left wing or even centrist government is like. We have had government that have ruled for the minority of right-wing people, now any left wing government would be for the good of our society and everyone within it, a correcting government. The miners dispute which started me thinking about politics is now almost two generations ago and the sense of patriotism and community that connected us all with those communities has largely evaporated. It is the grandchildren of those who said ‘Never trust the Tories’ who are now voting who know no different Britain. The right wing minority has manipulated the people and the economy to maintain a grip on power to the great detriment of the this country and even managed to lay the blame on the EU for its own failings.  So much so have they been successful at this that people are now prepared to vote for the very people who made the mess in the first place, just to resolve the Brexit question which isn’t as important as it has been made out to be. So now we face yet another election, merely to resolve another internal issue in the Tory party. We have no balanced choices anymore, just more extremism or less and we do want less extremism don’t we?

It’s to wake up and say ‘Stop’. The British Isles now needs a radical change in how we do things. Those of you who read my pages here will know that my solution is taking back control, for genuine democracy and self-government. Somehow, we have to get this message through despite the London and Tory centric mass media, despite the Tories illegally throwing vasts amount of money (that they swindled off us in the first place) back at us to secure their continuing hegemony. Wake up Britain!

Being British

I survived and indeed thrived in a week doing everything in the Welsh language. Dw i’n wedi blino iawn ac mae fy ymynedd wedi toddi [I am really tired and my brain melted]. The most amazing thing was I now know that it is possible to live in another language, which is incredible for someone who was monolingual for so long. More on this nes ymlaen [later on]. Sorry I’m still thinking of saying things in Welsh before the English! It was also lovely to spend a week away from the UK general election and finally get around to visiting some of Edward I’s castles in North Wales.

Disturbingly, the first thing I noted was an opinion poll putting the Tories on 40%. Huh? . This just makes me feel so sad after a week in a really positive community. Have people really forgot what being Welsh and/or British is?

You don’t really know your connection to your country until you live away from it for some time. Long enough to pine for the things you love about your home. Most of the time it is just the native sweets and chocolate that aren’t available worldwide, but it’s also other things like: church bells, proper chips, cask ale and cider, the incredible naffness of the screech of the wheels of a Pacer train going around a corner, Indian restaurants, the National Health Service, the 2p games at the seaside, afternoon tea, BBC Radio,  the bizarre but lovable traditions that have been maintained and the general sense of what somehow holds British communities together.

Yet, all these cool things about Britain are under threat, not by immigration, not by the EU, but by this continued obsession with right wing corporatist government, placing the interests of a wealthy minority above everyone and everything else. I do think that the vote for Brexit was simply an expression of the frustration of losing the things we love and a sense of helplessness about it which found expression with Brexit. But why oh why oh why are people turning to the Tories, the very people who caused the losses and the people who continue to perpetuate them?

Wales is different to the rest of Great Britain, which is made up of so many diverse communities, but we have so much in common. I am Welsh and Wales has it’s own history and peculiarities, yet so does England and Scotland. We should not get bogged down by what is different, but simply celebrate our diversity and enjoy living amongst so many communities in such a rich and varied island. We should never accept a single definition of beimg British.that there is only one way of being, one economy to prioritise or only one language we should use.

It is time for the people of Wales and the rest of Britian to just wake up and look around at what is happening to our society, to be Indy Curious and seriously think about autonomy for Wales, to be open to new possibilities. Why stick with the Tories? You don’t keep taking things out of communities to give to those already wealthy and put nothing back into the communities that generated the wealth: closing schools, closing hospitals and community groups struggling for resources are signs of failure, not signs of success. To use a farming analogy, you don’t keep growing crops out of a field and put nothing back into the soil and then wonder why your yields get worse every year, you nurture the soil, you put fertilisers back into the soil, you put back into the soil what it needs to enable it to produce food. It’s exactly the same thing with communities, you plough back in investment, you improve services for the future, to enable those communities and their economies to thrive. This is what Wales badly needs as do communities all across Wales, Britain and indeed the whole world.

Yet, Theresa May rabbits on how much she says she cares about unity and the United Kingdom, when in reality her policies will continue to cause harm to the things she claims to care about and then has the gall to attack those groups who are fighting for their communities.

To advocate an independent Wales is not about seeking separation or  being somehow anti-English. I seek autonomy for Wales because what Wales needs is simply not being provided by UK government and there is nothing to suggest that this will change anytime soon. I love Wales and I love Britain. I want Wales to be able to look after itself to survive and thrive, just as I want other communities in Britain to thrive. With autonomy Wales would be empowered to work together with communities across Britain, to share ideas and re-build British communities. Seeking Welsh independence is the most pro-British thing that there is. I want every community to succeed and to achieve that means helping your own community first. Supporting the Conservative party is about division, taking away power from communities and giving it to the rich multinationals. There is nothing wrong with large corporations, but they just have an unfair advantage at the moment. A large supermarket chain can force out local butchers and other local businesses, whom are often more efficient than the big corporations.

So, lets wake up Wales and the rest of Britain, let’s take on the spirit of Owain Glyndwr, who rose up against the oppression British communities by the English establishment. It’s time to really take back control and stop voting for this lot of corrupt Tories. It’s time to work together to preserve the traditions of Britain and embrace the future with open hearts.

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The Flag of Glyndwr

The problem of democracy and why the right always win

The problem of Democracy

Absolutely livid, is how I feel after the results of the 2015 UK general election. The most right wing government possible got in and things are going to get worse fro the UK. This has made me wonder, why so many believed the lies, the distortions of the truth, the slander of the alternatives. Why didn’t the electorate seek a stronger economy? Are the electorate idiots? I feel as though they are, in reality they are not.

Democracy began in Greece, with the idea that citizens would debate and bring about legislation to improve the economy. This was deemed better than a single ruler, liable to bias and corruption. This is the basis of British parliamentary democracy. The British system is based on the idea that each region, or constituency, elects someone to represent them in parliament. The idea is to elect someone of sound judgement, capable of making the best decisions for those they represent. So, the members of parliament (MPs) gather evidence from academics, industrialists, lawyers and other experts. Then the recommendations produced are debated  until a consensus is reached and legislation enacted. At heart it’s a good system.

The problem with democracy is factions, or political parties. These factions compete and vie for power, thus basing their decisions on ideological rather than pragmatic consensual grounds. This became the traditional struggle between the  left and right wing view. This isn’t necessarily a problem as it’s a democracy, representatives of a faction that take their ideology too far will be replaced and order restored. This assumes that the electorate are making rational choices, based on economic performance of the nation. This assumption that voters rationally weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of a proposed scheme of legislation falls. It falls especially in modern times as the factions leaders have learnt how to manipulate information and distort the decision making process. The right have been net beneficiaries of this, which is why I am so outraged. I have said in an earlier blog that I am a Social Democrat. I am a centrist. I don’t believe that either the left or the right are inherently better than the other, balance, the optimum central ground is inherently better. This is my political theory: economic

The above figure visually represents my theory that the political centre is the most efficient for a population. The chart requires answers to two questions: Why is the centre more efficient? Where is the centre?

Why is the centre more efficient?

A Marxist view of economics is that it is a struggle between capital and labour. An extreme left view is that labour is is more important and creates such ideals that everybody should receive the same wage for an equal amount of labour and markets should be heavily regulated, An extreme right ideal is that capital is more important, an incentive to increase productivity and achieve growth through innovation requires encouragement, innovators should be financially rewarded and markets should be very lightly regulated. In a left leaning economy, the lower paid workers do relatively better and the better paid are less well better of as multiples of the lowest waged. In a right leaning economy, wealth concentrates with the better paid and the income gap widens. Thus there is a political spectrum from left to right, most people ideologically place themselves at varying points along it.  A true democracy would achieve a politics at the mid-point between all  views, the centre ground.

Western civilisation has made great advances in science and technology over the past centuries. Western society has moved beyond subsistence agrarian local communities to an industrial world.  Britain in the nineteenth century industrialised. By specialising labour and moving people into efficient factory production, clustered in cities located near the fuel source, coal, ultimately standards of living improved and economic growth was achieved. This has made economics much more complex, increased the inter-dependence of the individual family unit on wider society and the state. This has lead to the phenomena of state provided services, with increased efficiency due to application of industrial techniques. It has also led to an expansion on private enterprise. Hence the question arises for populations of what services are more efficiently provided by a state monopoly and which are better provided by private enterprise. The political left argues that generally the state is the best provider, the right argues that generally private enterprise is the better provider. In my view, neither is generally best, it depends on the service provided. Furthermore as society changes the relative efficiency of state or private changes, this is decided by government, subject to the democratic will of the population.

One example, health services. It is much more efficient for health services to be provided by a state monopoly. If it is assumed that quality of health in the U.S and the U.K. is the same. Then the amount of money per capita used to provide healthcare in the U.K.  from taxation is a lot less than the amount paid per capita in the U.S. through private medical insurance.

Another example, cars. In the twentieth century cars produced by private companies were of better quality and more efficient, in comparison to those produced by state providers in communist Eastern Europe. Where there is a genuine market, competition works and delivers gains. So, if provision of services are allocated between public and private sector, with varying levels of regulation, they can be economically evaluated for efficiency.  So the most efficient economy will have a mixture of private and public service provision, this mixture, this balance, represents the political centre.

Where is the centre?

In the middle! Actually, where the exact centre is is difficult to ascertain. I think that everyone thinks that they  are in the centre. Arguable it is through democracy that decides where that centre is. Ideally economic efficiency drives that choice. The problem of democracy is that populations end up with governments that are not of the centre. There is this left-right divide. People identify themselves as being left-wing or right-wing, or even (as I did) centrists. I would argue that such identification is wrong, the divide is relative.

If I had been an adult in 1970s Britain, where the trade unions held the government to ransom, demanding higher wages for labour, I would have been regarded as a right-winger, as I would have advocated increased regulation of the trade unions, and privitisation of several state services. By the late 1980s, I would have been regarded as a left winger , as I would have felt that government policy went too far to the right. It has been a long time since the U.K. has re-balanced However, all my adult life, the political factions of the right have been in control, the efficiency of the U.K. economy has decreased, the population keep electing right wing governments and the economy moves further to the right. A democracy should be re-balancing the economy towards the efficient political centre.

Why the Right always win

Western democracies are odd, as they are made up of factions or political parties. These parties have ideological agendas to pull the economy away from the political centre. Centrist parties, tend not to do very well. Arguably centrist parties don’t do well because they have no emotional appeal. Depending on an individuals upbringing, family circumstances, choice of career etc, most people bind to the left or right faction due to this sentimental attachment, which is crazy. Even when the U.K. Labour party became a right wing party (just more moderate than the Conservatives), many continued to support tham out of party loyalty, rather than loyalty to principle.

A party that achieves power is said to have ‘won’ an election. This idea is actually preposterous, political parties are actually representatives, they serve the population, it’s not supposed to be about winning/losing, they are there to serve, not to dictate or glorify themselves. A party is in power either because democracy has worked and their faction is the one required to re-balance the economy or the party has been successful in providing misinformation to ensure their lot/ party has the reigns of power. Sadly and perhaps increasingly the latter is the case.

In the recent U.K. election campaign, the main political parties rarely argued the case for their proposals, debate was stifled. instead the main parties relied on a battle of rhetoric about who was best/ least worse. the politicians are not doing their job. People work, get paid and pay taxes to provide for state services. The left factions say ‘We need higher taxes to pay for public services’, which is correct if and only if that is what the economy needs at the time. The right factions say ‘We need to decrease taxes as public services need to be reduced’, again, this is correct if and only if that is what the economy would benefit from. In this simplified scenario, most electors opt for the right faction, as it seems obvious to the individual that they would wish to pay less in taxation. The thing is that is isn’t necessarily the case that the individual is better off by selecting this option. This is the problem of democracy. This is what annoys me as the U.K. elects right wing government after right wing government with no re-balancing.

To  illustrate my point: An individual goes out to work and brings home his monthly wages. some of those wages go to the government in taxes. The individual then pays for services that the government doesn’t provide, such as housing, water, energy supply, internet connection and basic food.  The individual is then left with their disposable income. Individuals will use this income to save money for a later use, or use to provide quality of life by paying for entertainment, quality food or whatever the individual may choose.The point is that if taxes are reduced, the cost of paid for services increases, but not by the same amount. Here is the fallacy. If the economy if not at optimal efficiency, and to the right of the optimal centre, then actually the cost of paid for, private services will be higher than the amount saved from lower taxation, disposable income reduces and quality of life falls.

Of course, in a democracy people will discuss where the actual political centre is. However I’m angry because, the economic data shows that the U.K. economy is too much to the right. For example privitising the NHS (health service) in favour of a less efficient model. Due to the problem of democracy the electorate votes in a government that intends to make things worse. All of this is compounded by divisive policy from the right wing government that benefits some different regions of the U.K. to the detriment of others, What this means is that if an individual lives in the better off area, then the political centre is in a different place than for the economy in a deprived area.

With thanks to http://benjaminstudebaker.com/ for inspiration to solve the problem of democracy.

A victory for fear that no-one voted for

I feel really depressed by the results of the British General Election.The British General Election of 2015 was billed as a game changer for British politics, it was, but the result didn’t reflect that. As soon as I saw the exit poll figures, I foresaw the end of the union, that few actually want. The numbers:

UK vote share:

Conservatives 36.9% (+0.8%), Labour 30.4% (+1.4%), UKIP 12.6% (+9.5%), Liberal Democrats 7.9% (-15.2%), Green 3.8% (+2.8%), Plaid Cymru 12.1% (+0.8%) (Wales only), SNP 50% (+30%) (Scotland only).

What depresses me is that the two main establishment parties vote was little changed, yet the Conservatives won a victory on the number of seats to give them five years to do whatever they want, which is very very scary. The election was fought on fear of change, that managed decline was more stable than change. By the Conservatives winning with a tiny increase in vote, their victory was more due to the collapse of the LibDems (representing a rejection of the last five years by supporters of a centrist party, uncomfortable with the right wing agenda) and the rise of UKIP than any popular endorsement of the austerity agenda.

The British political establishment has given the UK neo-liberal governments for thirty years, the nation and our economy has become weaker and weaker because of this. Anti-establishment parties, all increased their share of the vote (UKIP, Green, SNP, PC), which to me reflects a growing rejection of neo-liberalism, but due to the antiquated electoral system is not reflected in parliament, with the notable exception of Scotland.

Scotland was the story of the election, The SNP with 50% of the vote, took all but three Scottish constituencies. This is not a reflection of nationalism or a desire to split from the UK as such. I have many friends in Scotland, and being Welsh, understand the issue. The electorate in Scotland were not afraid, to seek a new kind of politics, an alternative to the neo-liberalism that has lowered standards of living, particularly in the North and Western ‘fringe’ of the UK, whose economy hasn’t been allowed to grow due to the power of the the London based financial services industry. Change is what Scotland voted for. The desire for independence isn’t based on nationalism, but simply is seen as the only way of having an alternative political system, to have real economic growth that the English seem afraid of or more accepting of the status quo (well for those in Southern England who generally have suffered less from the UK’s industrial decline.

The victory for the Conservatives and their divisive politics will further increase the divide between Southern England and the rest of us. It is this that will most likely lead to the break up of the UK in the next five years, rather than support for a National party in Scotland.  It is simple hard to see anyone sticking up for the benefits of unity as the nation becomes divisive, resentful and argumentative. A strange election for probably the last UK election as we know it.