Later today, we the Scotch people all vote whether we want to continue as part of the United Kingdom. As something of a committed anti-Nationalist, you might be surprised to learn which way I’m voting (Yes). But what’s really important in all this is that until about a week ago, I was seeing rational debate and discussion, with isolated pockets of ludicrous propaganda from both sides. Then I woke up one day and my Yes friends are posting images of support from the likes of David Icke. Yes, David “the world is run by Reptilian Aliens, also I used to be a footballer” Icke. Then just outright lies and propaganda.

Thus began a spiral of hysterical shit-flinging desperation from both sides that I think just about everyone should be ashamed of. For the many of us who tried to be as rational and civil as possible, for those who stood firm while the shit hit them in the face. Shouldn’t we be proud? Maybe, but we all still stink of the same shit now.

And good work Nick Robinson and the BBC, you gave those rabid “unmistakable BBC bias!” people one good solid piece of unmistakable bias. Way to self-fulfil a conspiracy guys. Now we all have to put up with people calling for inquiries and ultimately your defunding if the No campaign wins.

Ah look, it’ll all be basically fine. I know it’s important and I know people are just passionate about their futures, and far be it from me to suggest that it’s all inconsequential. I’m just tired of the whole thing to be honest. But not so tired that I won’t hop on that train tomorrow night and take a 2.5 hour round trip just to put my X on a dumb piece of paper, that on some existential level doesn’t really matter to me.

I am voting Yes because I believe in a better future. That future doesn’t come tomorrow, or even in 5 years or 10 years. It’s an unending journey. Things will never be the way they should be, but every day we should try to get closer to that. When the status quo is untenable, when it drags our political centre further and further to the right, what choice do we have but to throw it out and start fresh? “But Paul, what about the cuuuuurrrrrrreeeenccccccy uuuuuuuuuniooooooon?” BLAH BLAH BLAH. Yeah, I’ve had those discussions and there’s all sorts of questions, but here, the night before, I just don’t care any more. The worst case scenario is still more interesting to me than whatever this boring-ass business-as-usual bullshit we’re living now is supposed to be. Here’s the big secret: ultimately, nobody really knows how anything works. Everyone is just making it up as they go along. The future is made up by people who are guessing. Some people are better at guessing.

In that part of my brain I call my heart, once I push that one other thing that’s in there to the side for a moment, all I really want is for the future to be better than the past. I don’t believe in utopias, or dystopias, I believe in the trying and failing and trying again, and I believe for the first time in my entire life that I could be a part of a nation that takes ownership of its future. I look forward to a future where I can say I am Scottish and feel pride, instead of just nothing.

That all sounds disgustingly romantic when I put it like that. Kind of weird considering the first chance I get to move to another country I might just take it, independent or not.

Vote Yes, vote No, Vote however you want, just please, vote for reasons that you’ll be proud of. And then, when this is all over, can we please stop flinging shit at each other?

American Politics

I follow American politics more than UK or European politics. Why, you might ask, considering I live in the UK/Europe, and not in the US of A?

American politics is kind of like professional wrestling. It’s a lot more entertaining than British politics for the most part.

On top of that, the stakes are higher, and the rhetoric is better. There are so many things in America that seem so weird from an outside perspective that colour every facet of their politics, from gun rights to political funding, to healthcare.

The fact is that legally, in America, the provisions set forth in the first amendment have been extended to corporations. That alone seems absolutely INSANE to me.

Continue reading

Now I’ve Got Yellow Fever (Not Literally)

I considered a pun-title along the lines of “there’s an election in my pants” and then starting the post with the line “… and everyone who voted SNP is invited.” But instead I opted to not do that but still mention it, thus allowing me the twin luxuries of having and eating my pun-flavoured cake.

Anyway, Scotland’s parliament is now majority Scottish National Party. I was just postulating earlier that if you came at UK politics from a position of total ignorance, you might assume them similar to British National Party, which the obviously are not.

Seriously though, I’m pretty stoked about the Scottish results. The AV referendum results seem pretty dire, so we’ll see if next time round the distaste people on the right and left have for a right/left coalition, combined with the Conservative-favouring seat reduction will be enough to prevent a similar result, or if in fact another coalition comes in anyway. Either way, it’s increasingly looking like the SNP are going to work their assess off to prove independence is the way forward, and the Tories have no way to stop that short of forcing an early referendum – which the Scottish people will not be happy with at all.

Now I’m less than happy with this Conservative Westminster government, but for me the issue isn’t as black and white as it is for a large number “up here”. I am pretty excited to see how Alex Salmond plays this, in terms of being able to make demands and coalesce public opinion against Westminster’s cuts in Scotland. I’m actually excited about UK politics again! Hooray!

Oh, and we also got our Green list MP, Patrick Harvie, who happens to remind me of Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor…

Election Fever

I went into this Scottish Election mostly interested in the national AV referendum, but now with three results in, I’m utterly fascinated by the scale of this Lib Dem backlash. I don’t agree with their motives, but it seems like the people who hate the Tories – in many cases an ingrained position not necessarily informed by logic – also hate anyone they see as willing to get in bed with the Tories. The negative Lib Dem swing has been HILARIOUS. Hilarious because Scotland in its anger, seems to be swinging so far away from the Lib Dems that SNP are actually stealing safe Labour seats as well. Maybe Scotland really has finally had enough and is ready for independence?

Looks like this will be a very good night for the SNP. Absurdly so in fact. It is interesting to see the national Scottish passion reflected in this way. Carry on.

P.S. In case you were wondering:

  1. SNP
  2. Green
  3. Yes to AV

Yes to AV

It’s wall of text time!

I think the No to AV campaign is based on mistruths, and preys upon the public’s fear of change. Here’s some of the issues I take with their logic.

First of all, the idea that people get more than one vote. Except of course, their first preference vote must first be eliminated, so in reality they only have one deciding vote. The issue at hand is that somehow one vote each is equality. Well it’s not, when the vote is split between similar candidates. This often leads to a minority winner because two similar losing candidates split the vote between. The real issue for the Conservatives of the No to AV campaign is simply that AV works against Conservative favour, because their opposition is split amongst so many different parties united in their disdain for Conservatives.

Does everyone having one vote mean votes are all equal? Yes if there are two options. If there are three or more options, anyone who votes for a party that has no chance of winning is throwing their vote away and having no say in their representative.

Is it fair to have a system that works in the favour of certain political parties? No I guess, but then FPTP works in favour of Conservatives. AV does two particularly important things. First, it allows people to vote for their genuine first choice, instead of being forced to vote tactically to avoid an unwanted result. But it also allows them to place their second or third choice vote for a more viable candidate, which they might otherwised be forced to be their only vote in FPTP whilst not being a close match to their political ideals.

Secondly, it moderates extremist votes. For example, first choice BNP voters will likely have their votes recounted in favour of Conservative or Labour (or anyone else for that matter), whilst still allowing their horrible views to be expressed democratically. It won’t help BNP get in, because thankfully there’s nowhere in this country that over 50% of the population would express a BNP preference.

The system is hard to explain at first that much is true, but the idea that people won’t understand it is just insulting, quite frankly. Sure, you’re stupid, but I’m not [satire]. The truth is, people don’t really need to understand the counting method perfectly. What they need to know is that they vote their preferences in order, and that the winner will have more than 50% of votes expressing a preference for that candidate. It eliminates the least popular, and emphasises overall candidate support. The actual runoff voting doesn’t even occur unless nobody wins the first round by 50% of the first choice vote.

Need a refresher though? I’ll try to sum it up quickly.

  1. Voters place their preferences on the ballot in order, eg. 1, 2, 3, 4 and so on. They can vote for as many or as few candidates as they like.
  2. Once polls close, a first round of counting is initiated. All the first choice preference votes are counted. If someone gets over 50%, they win.
  3. If nobody has over 50%, the last place candidate is eliminated, and all of their ballots are recounted for second preference votes. These votes are distributed correctly amongst the remaining candidates. If someone gets over 50%, they win.
  4. This process is repeated until someone gets over 50%, or a majority.

Too long? Didn’t read? Watch a video featuring Dan Snow:

He’s Dan Snow! Son of Peter Snow. No relation to Jon Snow from Game of Thrones. He’s a nice guy!

It’s fairly simple really. It’s a system that ensures a majority of voters have expressed a preference for the winning candidate. It means your vote will be much more likely to ensure a winning candidate you would rather have.

Just to present the opposite side, here’s the No to AV ad I saw last night that got me so angry that I punched a hole through the space time continuum to today so that I could write this angry rambling nonsense.

Seriously? Do you trust a blind man. He’s blind. That’s unfair. He’s a liar, and an adulterer. Seriously though, I’m kidding. Not about not liking David Blunkett. He’s an awful man. You remember the ID cards thing? Blunkett. Talk about the blind leading the… No, I’ll stop.

One charge levelled at AV in this ad it is how much it will cost. Like most of these throw-a-figure-out-there scare tactics, it is pretty much nonsense. Now I may be wrong, but I don’t think it’s that hard to scare a cab driver into spouting right wing lies on or off camera. £250 million? For what? The proposed AV system is countable by hand. The proposed counting machines are no more required than they are in any other election system. That number does not actually stand up to reason.

They say First Past the Post works so why change it? It works does it? Does it really? Why then do I hear almost everyone around election time expressing a very clear opinion that their vote won’t count so why bother? The youth of today are disenfranchised by the whole political system because they all too often live in a seat where at best only one of two parties will win. If they vote at all, they’re often voting tactically. Under AV, you can feel proud to vote for a party with no chance of winning (and isn’t that what you’ve really always wanted?), without wasting your vote. Conservatives don’t care about that because the right wing of UK politics is far more uniform than the left. They benefit from the split vote effect.

Let’s use a made-up colour-coded example that could be easily summed up in a chart but I’m not going to make a chart for the sake of a futile rant:

  1. There’s an election okay? With me so far?
  2. Labour win 40%, Conservative win 41%, and all the others win 19% total.
  3. Under FPTP, Conservatives win narrowly, Labour loses narrowly, and the rest of the votes are dismissed as meaningless. Following?
  4. This is where it gets more tricky. Of the 19% who voted for neither Labour nor Conservative let’s say 9% is for an ex-labour independent candidate, 7% for an ex-Conservative UKIP candidate, 3% for the Socialist Worker’s United Independence Coalition Senior Citizen’s Party.
  5. Under AV, let’s assume everyone used their second preference. First out is the Socialist’s Parks, Recreations and Lemon Grove Assasinations Committee, and of those votes almost all highlighted Labour as second preference. So let’s say 3% to Labour. Could be to anyone, but in this case it’s Labour, just because it’s easier for you dummies to understand. You’re so stupid you couldn’t possibly understand [satire]…
  6. Labour now have 43%, which is more than Conservatives, but still not enough.
  7. So now the UKIP asshole gets knocked out, and from the ballots every one of them states Conservatives as second preference. So 7% goes, you guessed it, to the Conservatives. Could be only half picked Conservative as a second preference, could be none of them even stated a preference, but in this case they all voted Conservative. Stop asking questions you stupid idiot. You’re so stupid you probably think that Carly Simon song is about vanity [more satire, now with added out-of-date pop culture references].
  8. Conservative now have 48% to Labour’s 43%. And yet & yet, what about that remaining 9%? Let’s have a look shall we?
  9. The Ex-Labour independent’s voters obviously all picked Labour second choice, and so all of his 9% goes straight to Labour.
  10. Labour now have 52% to the Conservatives’ 48%. Labour, with more than 50% of the vote, win this election. The people have spoken, and slightly more of them would rather a Labour candidate win than a Conservative candidate.
  11. Simple right?
  12. But it doesn’t matter now because living under AV there’s no money left because they needed to buy supercomputers to read dots off a piece of paper. Also the BNP have taken over and Nick Griffin is now a Tsar. And all the other countries of the world are laughing at us for using such a redonkulous voting system.
  13. I am joking. I would never use the word redonkulous. It’s called satire. It’s called clumsy cack-handed satire.

Oh, and my personal favourite argument is that only three countries in the world use AV. Really? Because you know AV is used throughout the UK for electing party leaders (Labour AND Conservative don’t you know?) and group representatives for all kinds of official bodies, in local elections, mayoral elections. It is also used successfully in Australia for their House of Representatives (though voting there is mandatory which is obviously unpopular). The fact it’s not in widespread use for parliamentary elections does not mean that’s because everyone thinks it’s bad. It’s because the FPTP system is entrenched.

The best thing about AV to me is that in theory it discourages campaigning based on a zero-sum game mentality. Of course, due to the way that practice is also entrenched, that stuff will probably keep right on rolling along for some time. The system allows a more clear representation of actual candidate or party support regardless of whether or not that candidate or party actually wins. People can vote with their beliefs without feeling they are wasting their vote, which prevents vote-splitting. Minority parties will be better represented in the numbers, though they will only be more likely to win in a case where a split was significant. It encourages positive campaigning so that people will vote for their hopes and not against their fears (which ironically is how the AV system will likely get shot down on Thursday unfortunately). That sounds like a good democracy to me.

So yeah, I am voting in favour of AV this Thursday, and I reckon you should too. I will be very interested to see the regional breakdown of results, and find out what correlation there is between No and Conservative constituencies. Also you should vote in the Scottish elections to if you can. They make it easy for you, they put both votes in the same place.

Vote YES to AV. Or no if you disagree to it I guess. Whatever.