Tag Archives: voting

Suffragette

I have at last seen this, as promised when I began my Edith Cavell commemorations.

I still don’t understand the film’s Monday release date, but then, James Bond was also released on a Monday. So perhaps it wasn’t to link with an historical event, as I thought.

Do see my earlier post (Edith I) with a picture of a Norfolk suffragette act. I take issue that this film is so London based, but women were busy all round the country.

On the posters for Suffragette, there’s Meryl Streep with Carey Mulligan and Helena BC. The list of actresses sometimes includes Ann-Marie Duff, one of my favourites. It does not mention Natalie Press, who is the key…. shall I spoil this? If you don’t know who EWD is, and you want to see the film, look away now (or at the start of the next paragraph).

Emmeline Pankhurst, Ms Streep’s character, is kept mysterious and does a short speech, recalling Streep’s earlier British historical role – the Iron Lady. Here she’s another, doing a kind of reverse of Maggie leadership, but who also harms in the name of her vision. Yet Emmeline’s work is often more sympathised with and its wake left good for society after her death in 1928 – the year of full voting rights for women in Britain.

This film is set earlier than those events, and its denouement involves Natalie Press’s character’s famous deed of 1913. It is unclear as to how many other characters are real – such as Helena’s good doctor Edith Ellyn whose husband (a minor role) was the only man who showed any kindness – though shutting your wife in a cupboard for her own protection may be a controversial expression of it.

The lack of good men was an issue, for the men are too evil: The laundry boss yells cruel orders and a more intimate kind of abuse. The main character, who is fictional, has a weedy but traditional husband who I expected to come on side and support her as Maud’s own draw to the suffragette cause grows.

What was most powerful about Suffragette was the closing list of years  that women’s voting rights were granted. New Zealand led the way in the late 1800s. Sadly, many of us weren’t shocked at the recence of Saudi Arabia – and that its promise is still unfulfilled; what made me gulp was that countries in Europe we may consider enlightened – such as Sweden – took till the 1970s. Many women had to wait til World War II was over to slip into a ballot box.

And yet the system is still one that doesn’t give fair voting rights, despite being legally allowed to cast a vote.

More film reviews soon – Steve Jobs, The Dressmaker and Carol

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Elspeth on Elections – numbers are not equal

I am dismayed to wake up to a blue world, again. By that I mean to more austerity, inequality in Tory Britain, as voted yesterday, 7th May 2015.

When I say voted… let me unravel a large asterisk:

There are circa 60,000,000 people in the United Kingdom.

46,000,000 of these are entitled to vote – note that 14,000,000 can’t – including prisoners, 16-17 year olds, some immigrants, and of course the children which make such an emotive part of campaigns but who have to trust others to ensure they have a positive future.

There was a 66% turnout – so that’s about 30,000,000 (we’re doing round figures here).

I’m always interested in why the 16,000,000 felt it wasn’t worth turning out at the booths. Didn’t they feel anyone would really make a change, or that their votes wouldn’t count?

I am about to show they are sadly right, at least about the latter.

So already, half of the population voted on the outcome for another 30,000,000.

So when the Conservatives obtained a 36% majority –

64% of voters didn’t choose them

which means 36,000,000 of those who could vote didn’t choose them

and 19,000,000 of those who did vote didn’t choose them

Their 11m votes is only a 10th of the population, and a third of those who voted

These 11m votes translated to 331 seats in government of 650 seats (ie over half, as well as the right to form a government).

The Scottish National Party (SNP) obtained 56 seats with 1.4 million votes, turning the whole of the Caledonia country a pale yellow.

The Green party obtained 1.1 million votes – up fourfold, almost half what the former alliance and third party got – but it got only 1 MP; and no regional swathe.

Rightly, the Greens are starting a campaign for a better voting system.

The unfairness is also seen if you go to the BBC official elections page and toggle “most votes” and then “most seats won” and see how the voting numbers and seats do not match.

I note that Liberal Democrats got 8 seats but with 1.2m less votes than UKIP, who happily only got 1. At well under half UKIP’s votes,  the SNP has 56 times as many seats.

It is also noteworthy that if Scotland had voted for its usual colours – red and a little yellow – we would have another hung parliament; and even more so if the Northern Ireland and Welsh national parties had not featured strongly in the results. I’m not suggesting the Celtic parts of the UK shouldn’t vote for their national parties, but illustrating the hard choice between influencing Westminster’s overall government and what seems a cry for independence. I will suggest that the strong nationalist contingent and alternative parties suited the Tories, who often do badly in the areas where Celtic parties do well.

The Conservatives actually only got 6 more seats than the minimum needed to win the election.

There were 26 parties in the election, many of which have never run in my area; but that wide choice points out that this is a multiple horse race – not the two to five horses often presented. At the end of the BBC’s results is an integrated, undigested lump called Other – 0.5% of the vote, bigger than most of the mini parties, and almost the size of Plaid Cymru and Sein Fein, who won several seats. 164,000 people chose someones that the Beeb – the establishment’s voice, whether they pretend to be or not – chose to not even name.  One of these obtained the only seat out of the mini parties – but I’m struggling to find out who or where it is. I suspect these are independents, which are on the rise – Good – except that they can’t form a cabinet and become Prime Minster, which is why many are dissuaded from voting for them.

I trust this shows how unfair our system is.

See my cloud tag for previous election thoughts

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Elspeth on Elections – Council 2013

My analysis (yes I’ve had an extra day) is quite different from any local and national paper I’ve read – and it’s not all about a leader whose name recalls a Count Duckula Episode*

The English county election results this week have been exaggerated by the press. They all focus on UKIP, blurring the overall picture. A letter to the Independent said that the press’s coverage of the Purple Party caused their profile to be raised and helped them win votes – why couldn’t they have focussed on other parties, particularly the Green one? And what might our outcome have been then?

The i helpfully published a nifty before and after map of all the counties going to the vote, with statistics about changes (which didn’t add up and some misprints). It was clear that UKIP actually lost seats and its entire presence in places where it once held them – Bristol, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire. Leics is not +2 for UKIP – it’s merely maintained its 2 seats; Staffs lost one seat.

 UKIP won no overall control of any council and in all cases was considerably under the minimum seats needed to do so, even where they came second (eg Norfolk, Lincs, Kent – were a third of the requirement, c15 to 40+). Mostly UKIP came 3rd-5th place winning only 2-4 seats, and did not feature everywhere – there’s none in the North save North Yorks, or in Bristol, or Essex, where other parties grew (see below). 

I suspect that disaffected Tory voters would feel uncomfortable choosing a left wing party and there is, save the BNP (who lost its council seat) but one for them to pick; and nor would they want to choose the other half of the coalition, the Yellows.

I picked a couple of counties to analyse in detail (from their own council interactive websites), and found that only a few actual UKIP seats had been won, and that these had been Purple previously. I also noted that it happened in areas where only red, blue and purple stood – I don’t remember any Greens or independents or small parties candidates in anywhere UKIP were most successful.

The Greens have long been in my view the 4th party (which reminds me of the AA advert that called themselves the 4th emergency service). They held on to their presence in all of their councils bar Cambs, doubled their number in Bristol and Worcestershire, and introduced themselves in Essex, Warwickshire, Cornwall. They lost a couple from their hotbed in Norwich, but gained back the seat held on to by defecting local leader. But the Greens put up only a small proportion of seats – whereas UKIP were widely represented.

I also see a welcome rise in independent candidates; already the majority in Cornwall and Anglesey (the only non English election); they are now top on the Isle of Wight, 2nd in County Durham still by a large margin (though smaller than it was), North Yorkshire; and sizable in Lincolnshire above the Lib Dems, although coming 4th overall. 

I note a huge loss for the two parties in government, both in seats and county favourites which I’d like to think shows disillusion with them. I am glad that the colour of the political map has changed – there are three red counties instead of one, 10 less blue and 12 (not 4) not being under no overall control – which is how I would like to see politics done. 

I am concerned that UKIP has been chosen (note I do not spell it the annoying Guardian way) by several as its protest vote, I’d like to think, hoping it took seats from Tories and Lib Dems whilst not swapping them for a recent government which frustrated even its own supporters. As I said above, there was not always anyone else to tick beside. And I think that’s why 70+% once again did not vote. Do they feel all parties are bad, none are different, that their voice won’t be heard, whoever’s in power? 

I’ve seen little focus on the silent majority in news reports. I feel that having to pick this or that and not being able to say none of the above or suggest anything else makes voting very limited, especially with first past the post voting system that favours the two original parties. 

I am dismayed by the presumption (which I do not fully believe) that all these purple crosses mean that the public want more severely right wing policies. When it’s already so right wing it’s farcical, if it weren’t so dangerous and frightening; when you wouldn’t believe it if you put it in fiction – some are asking or harder welfare rules (how could there be?!), and tougher stances on immigration. 

I read UKIP’s policies as I am a fair minded person – as I did for 9 parties, not keen that they should plant cookies and think I am in any way a supporter. The “milder BNP” epithet still stands. Some of their tax ideas were interesting, but badly put with poor sentences (now I feel I’ve set myself up!). I definitely detected a Thatcherite “everyone pays the same” over income tax – something which lost her even staunch Blue sympathisers. And as for Trident… I wondered if I were reading an anti Green party parody instead of a serious manifesto. 

What I do hear is that racism should not be linked to national pride or wanting a sense of identity. It is true that we have lost our sense and right of being a distinct nation apart from our Celtic neighbours, who have gathered more strength in that. I have heard the comment that it’s racist to be an area where there’s no other nationalities and ethnicities – but that seems to be reverse racism, attributing judgement and narrowness, as if positive discrimination is to be applied to where people live. We should never feel awkward, discriminatory or lesser for having more indigenous people than not.   

But UKIP and its cousins (BNP,  English Democrats) are linking multiculturalism to our problems, making outsiders causes to be repatriated rather than seeing them as potentially enriching, although this is crude and unrepresentative to say that the above sentence encapsulates their policies. Remember the freedom we’d like to move abroad, especially if we needed refuge. 

The work ethic that the right wing wants clashes with what they say about foreigners. They want us to get any job and work hard, but they’re cross when immigrants do it instead of original peoples; and don’t see that the very work ethic they wish to promote to benefit claimants creates a culture of poor working conditions, even kinds of slavery. No, getting round minimum wage and working an unhealthy amount of hours is not acceptable, and if one person accepts a bully’s terms, so will the next… And life is not about toil and the taxable income you generate, or submission to hierarchy…

 

I am glad the ruling parties have a message that people are turning from them. I am glad there is more shared power and co-operation (what I’d hoped from the 2010 general elections) in the county councils. I am glad more independents are gaining voices.

I’m alarmed that several have chosen to vote for a further right wing party, and that (looking at comments online) that some do support harsher regimes (which don’t affect them, of course).

But I am sorry that we have a system where so many don’t feel it’s worth their while going to the booths – and that’s the statistic that should speak the most. It’s what can’t be said in a ballot box that really counts.

 

* a 1990s cartoon:  episode No Sax Please, We’re Egyptian  “I am the One they call Nigel”

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Police commissioner – why I’m not voting

There has been some talk that voting should be compulsory. Yes people died to allow all to vote – but it is an opportunity – it should not become a requirement, with further policing to force us.

 

As I’ve said before I suspect the lack of turnout is the belief that voting doesn’t work: that first past the post system does not mean our choice will even count; or that all the candidates are much the same – and none of them are who we would like or who will make a positive difference.

 

Many people in Britain feel that voting for their local police commissioner is not something they want to bother going to the poll booths for. Candidates mostly stand for a political party and the ones I have read of do not impress.

 

What I fear this move is about is creating pleasing seeming statistics, and more “tough on crime” talk. It could make life hard for both the police and the public.

 

What policing should be about:

‘Police’ is an unfortunate phase, a verb that means to nose and control. What we need is a body who helps keep us safe through laws only needed for protection – and not the powerful few. Laws should not be excuses to collect revenue for governments through fines. They should not be nannying, controlling punitive rules. We should not fear or distrust our police, who should not be curtailing freedom of expression.

 

The Green Party, who did not want this to come to vote, put questions to the candidates, including public accountability and the right to peaceful protest.

 

Nationally, we read regularly of police brutalities to protesters; and in the last week, there has been news that questions the behaviour of undercover police.

 

My local force has recently blasted front pages with their sprees of raids, and threaten more; their ‘message to criminals’ is, when finally deciphered, is aimed at minor crimes and a show of strength. Raids should be about emergency  rescue, not minor drug dealers. It also publicly sent messages to potential kerb crawlers, displaying their car number plates.

 

Meanwhile, it made reporting crime (which was largely down to their lack of doing their duty) more trouble than it was worth and failed to follow up a complaint for inappropriate behaviour.

 

I think many of us have mixed stories of the police, and as we pay for them through council tax, they especially need to be accountable to us and doing something worthwhile.

 

As there is no space on the voting form for ‘none of these’ or ‘I don’t want this’, I am saying it here, and making clear what kind of police force we expect and need, and making a stand against the force we often actually get.

 

I hope the prediction of under 15% turnout is true – do not we have a law that there needs to be a minimum proportion for a vote to count? Most of us don’t want this imposed on us – isn’t that a voice in itself?

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