More power Igor, give me more POWER!

The Conservative Party is on course for a triple figure majority in the 8th June general election despite causing impoverishment and cutting us off from our main trading partners without planning.  They can spin a good yarn and have powerful interested media outlets to promote it.  As for the three left of centre parties, Labour lacks an engaging narrative whereas the Liberal Democrats and Green Parties both tell clear stories.  All three seem to have at best niche appeal while May is pitching for the kind of nationwide approval only Tony Blair achieved in recent times.

We cannot despair.  We remain a parliamentary democracy and the government must answer to elected MPs.  Every seat denied the Conservatives, indeed every seat they hold by only a slender margin, brings them closer to scrutiny.  Though left centre parties face defeat, it is still worth campaigning.

A progressive alliance, as called for by the Green Party, is unlikely to deliver a left centre government but it can make it harder for Theresa May to narrow state-funded healthcare provision or impose divisive education policies: she may be opposed by some in her own side as well as by a slightly stronger opposition.  What we do now may help sow the seeds of change for the future.

In at least one seat there are moves to give an anti-Tory candidate a clear run.   Lists of marginal constituencies and how to vote tactically are starting to circulate on-line.  A think tank, Compass, is crowd funding for a website to help people build non-partisan alliances.  Small groups seem to be springing up of non-aligned inexperienced people, wanting to know how to help.

I think we need a non-partisan campaigning handbook if we are to make democracy work for us.  One of the earliest tasks is to work to increase voter registration.  Even if local parties cannot make way for a joint candidate, might they at least cooperate on that?

 

 

 

 

 

Jeremy Corbyn as Obi Wan Kenobi

I was tickled by the joke that new leader of the Labour Party resembles Alec Guinness as the heroic Jedi Master who comes in from the wilderness to guide the resistance against the evil Empire.  It is easy to cast George Osbourne as Darth Vadar.   I am not sure who is Yoda though.

Corbyn as Obi wan Kenobi (1)

Jeremy Corbyn as Jedi Master coming in from the wilderness: pencil and charcoal and photo-shopped with glow filter.

In real life we need a strong and credible Labour Party holding the government to account and building alternative policies.  Corbyn has the overwhelming  support of the Labour Party but not the Members of Parliament.  As ordinary voters, in or out of the Party, we need to tell all of them, leadership and backbenchers we absolutely expect them to bury their emotional differences and work together to hone credible policies that challenge the failed economic orthodoxy and support social justice.

It would be great if we could contact our MPs and tell them this.  A twitter campaign might look like this:

I am an NHS consultant and LP member. I ask Labour MPs to unite for social justice and to protect the environment. #MPspleasebackCorbyn

The idea would be each of us to say who we are and, if we want, our political affiliation, and also the issues topmost in our mind, but keep the same message and hash tag.  This is not a matter for Labour supporters and members only: all of us need a strong opposition functioning in parliament and now is the time for all of us to shape Labour into the party that reflects our concerns.

If anyone knows how to start a twitter campaign on these lines, now would be a good time to start.

Rainbow

Up and down the roads, I see giant, smug-blue bills being posted, supporting the Conservative Party candidate in the General Election. In this constituency, just 175 votes (0.03% of the electorate) separated the Liberal Democrat winner and Conservative runner-up in 2010. It is a top target for the Conservatives to win.

Tactical voting 3

Our house is divided between Labour (signified by red) and Green supporters (and one undeclared!).  It makes sense to us to support the Liberal Democrat candidate (signified by yellow).  As no party poster represents our views, I have made my own.   It would be fun to see more home-made election bills going up, especially (from my point of view) if they shared this rainbow of party colours.

Tactical voting 1a

Home-made poster now on display, much to the embarrassment of my family who think I am a bit mad.

The current predictions are that Labour and Conservative will each win around 270 seats, with 325 required for an overall majority.  The Liberal Democrats and Scottish Nationalists will hold the balance of power and, with a predicted solitary Green MP, could support a Labour minority government or left-leaning progressive coalition.  The more seats the Conservatives take, the more likely they are to lead a government, driven rightwards and towards authoritarianism by their extremist wing and partners.

To those who say we should always vote true to the party we support, I say this.  Let the parties take care of themselves.  As voters, we have to game the system against the odds, to get the government closest to what we want.

Tactical voting 2

This was my first attempt at a home made poster.  I like the idea of voter-driven reciprocity to challenge the system whereby parties take some seats for granted whereas a handful of marginal seats determine our futures. Using this website, I was really pleased to have had a promise of a Labour vote in Hammersmith from a Lib Dem supporter in exchange for my Lib Dem vote locally.  However, the vote swapping site seems to lack sufficient participants to be really viable.

 

 

Amnesty International campaign: Free Raif Badawi

Last weekend, I lost myself to my thoughts while cycling, pounding the country lanes crisscrossing the canal until I reached the flight of locks and junction with the canal path that would take me home.  I slogged through mud, half cycling half paddling until I emerged on the road again, to wheel my way with a flat front tyre.

Kingswood Junction, Lapworth 11 01 2015 (1)

The dredging boat “Shoveler” at Kingswood Junction, Lapworth, drawn as evening fell and the winter light faded. This was sketched in ink and water, then layered with conte crayon and pastel.

 

My thoughts have been shaped by last week’s slaughter of cartoonists and journalists in Paris and from there to the killing of Ahmed Merebet, decimation in Nigerian villages, refugees fleeing civil war in Syria, children killed at school in Pakistan. There are so many victims of extremism, intolerance and war and so many of these victims are Muslim.  These reports have fleeting existence in news media before being replaced.

Seamus Heaney’s poem Digging begins:

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

His writing has its roots in the physical act of digging, the hard slog, the smells of soil and potatoes, the sounds of cleaved turf.  He says of his forefathers:

But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

But lacking their brawn and skill, he concludes:

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

Raif Badawi wrote a blog in Saudi Arabia.  Metaphorically, he dug with his pen.  He promoted the values of freedom, and importantly, tolerance and respect.  He is being beaten for it.  What little we can do, we should do.  I have linked to Amnesty International’s petition against this abominable act.