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27 May 2009

Open Letter to David Cameron

Open Letter to David Cameron

Dear Mr Cameron,

Even before the Daily Telegraph blew our political system out of the water I had come to the uncomfortable conclusion that, for the first time in my life, I had no idea how I would vote at the next General Election. I had even contemplated not voting at all.

Having spent my life enthusiastically opposing the Conservative Party in all its manifestations by supporting the Liberal Party, the SDP, the SDP-Liberal Alliance, and “New” Labour, I now find myself in the unusual position of calling for “Two cheers for David Cameron!”

I award you “one cheer” for your quick and strong response to the recently-exposed wrong-doings of Members of Parliament, in particular to those of your own Party who have been found wanting.

I award you the “second cheer” for your public commitment to widespread reforms of our parliamentary system.

This is far as I can go, however, because everything you are now calling for will come to nought until or unless you accept the need for a democratic voting system. It is manifestly obvious that in any constituency election involving more than two candidates the “first-past-the-post” voting system is undemocratic. And yet ever since I have been old enough to vote (50 years) I have listened with increasing despair to politicians like yourself making statements like (1)“Our system provides strong government” and  (2)“Our system has served us very well”.

On the first, “strong government” is not necessarily democratic government, and on the second, what you and your colleagues mean is that the system has served you very well!

Although it is clear that the general public’s growing apathy and cynicism towards the political process has been increased by the current expenses revelations, I would ask you to consider the possibility that we have become heartily disillusioned with the whole process because, for the most part, our votes count for nothing, and even when they do, the results are not really democratic.

A system that can elect an MP with less than half the votes cast can in no way be described as democratic. I am not arguing for Proportional Representation, with all the disadvantages that it brings with Party Lists and so on, but merely a system that ensures that the person elected in each constituency commands a real majority; there are a number of ways this can be done as you know, and I don’t need to rehearse them here.

How is it possible to defend a process whereby Candidate A might receive 20,000 votes, Candidate B might receive 19,980 votes, Candidate C might receive 19,500 votes, which then results in Candidate A becoming the duly elected Member?

This charade of a voting system, and the frustration born out of being subjected to government after government after government with large majorities in the House of Commons, but commanding the electoral support of well under half the voting population, and the common knowledge that governments stand or fall on the say-so of a couple of dozen marginal constituencies, all provides an unsavoury mix of cynicism and apathy.

The day on which you publicly acknowledge these truths and commit yourself and your Party to doing something about it could be the day on which I decide – for the first time in 50 years – to vote Conservative.

I hope I can look forward to being able to award you your “third cheer”.

With best wishes,

Lionel Beck.

Ryedale Constituency – (whose Conservative MP has claimed £500 of our money for pot plants and bushes at his London home before selling up for £280,000 profit. I hope he is also grateful for my contribution towards his matches and firelighters, bags of compost, a trellis and plant food, not to mention cups and saucers, a lavatory brush and a casserole dish.)

25 May 2009

The US Republican Party

It would appear that the soul of the recently defeated Republican Party is now been fought over between Colin Powell and Dick Cheney.

From my side of the herring pond I feel bound to pray that the soul of what's left of George Bush's legacy is kept well out of the hands of Cheney.

Powell is a fundamentally decent man. No wonder one or two right-wing bigots have wondered if he is still a Republican.

Don't get me started on Cheney ..

11 May 2009

The Party's over!

Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act all the juicy details of our MPs expenses and allowances were due to be exposed next month, but thanks to the Daily Telegraph's ability to get their hands on the details in advance we have now been treated to several days of gory details, firstly those relating to the Government, from the Prime Minister downwards and through all his Cabinet members, and now it's the Conservative Party's turn to be blown out of the water in today's Telegraph.

We have seen how thousands and thousands of taxpayers' pounds have been expropriated under the stupidly lax system of expense allowances for such things as gardening, patio furniture, mock Tudor beams, items of clothing and toiletries, cleaning services, soft furnishings, kitchen appliances, plumbing work, electrical re-wiring, toilet seats, and so on and so on. Assistance with mortgages are given on second homes. Nobody denies the need for second homes when an MP's constituency is several hundred miles from London, but many of these MPs who have second homes turn out to be living within easy commuting distance of Westminster.

Many MPs have been getting second homes improved and enhanced at taxpayers' expense and then selling them in order to buy yet another one and start the process all over again.

The sickening thing is that a good deal of this has been achieved withing the "Rules" and so it is patently obvious that the rules need re-writing and overseen by a totally independent body.

Barbary Follett - a Labour MP - claimed £25,000 p.a. for personal security. She was told by the officials who vet these claims that it might look a bit odd if it became public, but allowed it anyway. Now it has been made public, and yes - it looks a bit odd. Follett claims she doesn't feel safe living in Soho. Well, nobody made her live in Soho! And in any case, if she wants personal security she is married to a multi-millionaire husband - author Ken Follett - and so should be able to afford her own damned security!

The public at large is getting hugely angry by all these revelations about snouts in the trough. And so far it has been made obvious that they are both Labour and Conservative snouts. It remains to be seem whether the Liberal Democrats turn out to be any less pig-like.

I'm guessing - even hoping - that at the forthcoming local and European Parliament elections voters will make a special point of voting for anyone other than the Parties currently wallowing in pig swill. At the same time I hope that such a feeling will not lead to people voting for extremist parties like the BNP. That would not achieve anything useful.

It is a shame that those MPs who are honest and are claiming only what is fair to claim will be tarred by the same brush.

I think that Parliament should be dissolved and we should start all over again with a snap General Election. The public could then make a point of not voting for those greedy and (sometimes) fraudulent MPs and put them out to pasture.

There was a nice Matt cartoon in the Telegraph the other day: two MPs walking together outside Parliament, and one says to the other, "I went into Politics to improve my living room".