In which I look at the latest polls
In which I take a look at the opinion polls, and what that'd mean for parliament.
In which I look at the first leader's debate in the UK
In which I look ahead at the Leader debates
In which I look at the general election so far, and lament the lack of engagement with the public
In which we head to a general election in the UK
In which I nag the BBC to correct an anomaly in their electoral online coverage.
In which I look forward to the election
Gordon Brown recently wrote to David Davis to say this:
As you know, Prime Ministers are available once a week at Question Time to debate all the issues of the day, and I was disappointed that you chose to step down as a Member of Parliament in advance of Question Time on Wednesday, 11 June rather than coming to the House to debate with me the issues around the use of CCTV and DNA evidence, and the measures we have taken to protect our national security.
Nevertheless, the leader of your party has the opportunity each week to ask six questions on those issues that caused you to leave his Shadow Cabinet. He has had two such opportunities to date, but he has yet to ask any such question. He has two further opportunities to raise these issues before the 'by-election' on July 10th, and I am sure that if he shares your strong feelings about them, he will not duck those opportunities.
David Davis has replied, with a masterful letter:
Thank you for your letter of 26 June. This is the second time you have responded to me directly, since my resignation from the House of Commons in protest at your relentless assault on British liberty.
First, you gave a speech on 17 June at the IPPR, a favoured Labour think-tank, hardly an environment that allows for the vigorous and open debate we so sorely need. Now, you insist that any questions I wish to ask on this vital national issue be raised within the narrow confines of Prime Ministers Questions, where you have developed the novel practice of asking - rather than answering- the questions.
I note from your speech on 17 June that you genuinely believe in the positions you have taken and stand behind the sustained erosion on British liberty, which regrettably means that the country must expect more to come in the future. Equally, it is deeply disturbing how ill-informed you are about the basic effectiveness of your security policies - from 42 days, ID cards and the DNA database, through to the ineffectual deployment of CCTV at immense cost to the taxpayer.
We need a proper national debate on these important matters - not just set piece speeches to carefully choreographed audiences or the weekly one-liners you deploy at PMQs. If you were serious about debating these important issues, you should have put up a candidate or at the very least allowed your Ministers to debate publicly with me. Having cowered from both options, it is a bit rich to snipe from the sidelines in a serious debate that will proceed with or without you. Even at this late stage, I would be only too willing to adjust my schedule to debate you or any Cabinet Minister in public, if you feel able to relax the restrictions currently in place.
In short, Brown has said "You lost an opportunity to 'debate', but you should have got more support, nah nah ne nah nah." and Davis is saying "Anytime, Any place, Anywhere - bring it on".
Dunwoody cannot confirm that the prime minister is an asset. This is despite her being explicitly asked three times, and then having it explained to her that it was surprising that she could not say he was an asset.
Via the Crown
In France, every day is dedicated to a Saint. Not only does a child have a birthday, they celebrate a 'Saints day'. Until recently, the name had to come from this calendar. This is why we have lots of 'François' and 'Pascale' and very few 'Kylie's. Anyhow, today, the day of the London Mayoral Election: Vendredi 2 mai ... the saints day is 'Boris'.
Update: Boris Wins
Ha! Labour's got a hammering in the local elections. I'm pleased. Why? Not because of the 10p tax rate, or because of the continual tinkering Labour has done to our constitution without a clear plan. Not because of the imbalance they've created in our constitutional settlement by giving each part of the UK a degree of self determination except England. Not because of the spin or the lies. Not because of the wars. Not because of the increased cost of living with house prices much higher than incomes.
Well, maybe I'm a little annoyed for those reasons.
Why am I mostly annoyed with Labour?
Mostly because of the way they've systematically undermined civil liberties in the UK. It's been a little chip-chipping away. Detention for 90 days without trial. No? 28 days then... let's make it 42... ID cards (if you have nothing to hide), terrorism bills used on people who shout 'nonsense' or wear a T-shirt in the wrong place, removal of the right to protest in central London (people have had problems having a tea party in parliament square, must have been the protest cake).
All done with the best of intentions, and, as it's to 'help the fight against terror', done in a way that the vast majority won't mind; until, like the proverbial lobster, they find the water temperature has been gradually increased and it has become too hot.
When I grew up, the IRA were regularly blowing places up (yes, I know about July 7, I was in London, that doesn't change the point). Regularly. They blew up central manchester in one of their last acts before the ceasefire. They blew up parades, children got killed. They even blew up the government of the day during their party conference.
The UK never took measures like the current lot feel are necessary. It's Orwellian... keep the populace scared of the 'invisible enemy' and you can keep power....
Gits. They've done more to disrupt the 'way of life' in the UK for the long term than any mis-guided bomber(*).
For that reason alone, they deserve to lose the power they temporarily wield.
Next week on More 4 at 10pm, a documentary called 'Taking Liberties' will be shown This is repeated at 11pm on more 4+1. Please try and watch it.
(*) Yes, it's true that really devastating attacks are possible, dirty bombs and all sorts. However, one can never totally shield against things like that. Even if we choose to live in a full-blown totalitarian regime. Is that truly how we want to live, on the off-chance that it might stop a theoretical risk?
By the way, I'm feeling much better now. It's all good. Thanks for asking (or not).
To my mind, a lot of these problems are not purely to do with Tony - they'd outlive him, but it's a good start.
Of these, the most worrying to me is the Legislative and Regulatory Reform bill
For people thinking that these laws could never be abused, remember the guy who was forcefully ejected under terrorism legislation for calling out 'Rubbish!' at the Labour Conference (whilst being told that he was free to call out such things from the stage)? Just a couple of days ago a man was hauled off of an aeroplane because he listened to 'London's Calling' in the taxi.
I kid you not.
The current executive is moving us slowly and surely in a direction that could charitably be described as 'not good'. The ballot box is a place where we can act.
Unfortunately for me, I live in a Tory safe area (with Lib Dem is second and labour nowhere to be seen) - so it's not clear exactly how I can protest via the ballot box, but there are many people out there who can.
The BritBlog Roundup has once again been published, lots of post-election roundup. This site has a mention. (In future weeks, when I want to link to the roundup I'll add the roundup to del.icio.us and it'll appear in the RSS feed only)
I'm a voxpop on 'Have your say' - with a quotebox! (both times I've been posted, I've had a quotebox)
This is not a mandate, and it should not be seen as one. Blair's party has taken a majority for the seats with some 36% of the votes. What stronger arguments are there for wholesale electoral reform? If any politician starts to bemoan 'voter apathy' then I hope that the interviewer asks them about their stance on reform as the electoral system is at the root.
Let's keep electoral reform on the agenda...
So, Blair has a reduced majority (not quite reduced enough for my liking). Voting Lib Dem did not get people Tory (was that a fib? Crikey... who knew?) Labour has around 36% of the vote (not all seats have declared), with 33%, and yet Labour has almost twice the seats as things stand, there are 351 labour seats to 191 conservative.
This election is a strong case for electoral reform, especially when we consider that there seemed to be a large number of people prefering A yet voting for B in order to keep out C. Indeed, Labour capitalised on this with their 'Vote Lib Dem, get Tory' campaign.
Tomorrow, in case you didn't notice, is the UK general election. I would you encourage you to vote. Even if, no, especially if you think it's all a bit below you and irrelevant.
Take a nice evening stroll, go past the polling station, nip in and write 'none of the above' across the paper if you really don't want to endorse anyone. The spoiled ballots have to be looked at... and counted.
Even if you believe that the voting system is fundamentally unsound, go and cast your ballot, spoil it if you must, but vote. If you're in a truly safe seat, vote for a party which promises electoral reform (if you can), as far as I know only Charles Kennedy has even mentioned that in this election, however, I would vote for virtually anyone if they stood for this!
If you're in a safe seat, vote. Your preference brings forth the day that the party who wins power loses the popular vote - and that could give rise to electoral reform, something which we so sorely need in this country.
Please, go to the polling booth, even if you are spoiling your ballot! If you never make the trip, politicians will never address your issues!
On May 6th, and any day after that, if you get a chance, be sure to challenge any politician who bemoans voter apathy on their position regarding electoral reform.
Oh, and if you need some help to make up your mind, there is this quiz, however you may need to take your local circumstances into account. For example, in my area it is a race between Tory and Lib Dem, Labour is a 'wasted vote'. Where I used to live it was a Lib Dem and Labour race, before that it was Tory/Labour. If you're first choice is in the running, vote for them. If your first choice is not in the running and the other two are unpalatable, vote your first choice. This is the only way that they can be in the running in the future! If your first choice is in third place, and you have a preference between the other two, and they're neck in neck, then good luck! You should see the need for electoral reform!
Once again, Labour is insisting don't protest or the Tories win card, which has been widely discredited. There is an awful lot on the site you're reading right now about this issue, and I don't want to repeat myself unneccessarily (though I'm right behind neccessary repetition!)
Isn't First Past the Post wonderful? No? No. However, there is a nice bonus for the people of Sedgefield. They have the power to unseat the Prime Minister, and (for Labour voters) to do it without handing a seat to the Tories. There is a strong independent in Reg Keys.
Rory Bremner writes on this issue, saying:
If all Conservative voters in Sedgefield, and Lib Dem voters, and disillusioned Labour voters, vote for Keys, it could be enough to overturn his 17,000 majority. It's possible.
According to the homepage, the polls show Blair and Keys neck in neck! However, this would be a massive result, given that in 2001, Tony got over 60% of the local vote. Unfortunately I have been unable to find an independent poll to back this up. I'd love to see one!
For balance: Michael Howard is standing in Folkestone and Hythe. Based on the 2001 results, Labour voters there wishing to 'decapitate' the Tories should vote Lib Dem. Charles Kennedy is in Ross & Skye, in 2001 he polled roughly 3 times the votes of his nearest rival, the other parties all got very similar votes. Like Tony Blair his seat seems safe, unlike Tony Blair there is no obvious protest available (something which itself is another argument for making votes count).
A list of other candidates can be found here.
Additional: There is the cleverly named Blair Ditch Project
For those who didn't see it, Question Time is available here. It really is a 'must watch' piece of Television, especially for curious Americans (who don't get programmes with the public asking questions at all, but instead get a controlled debate).
One question which I wanted to see was 'Why have you not appeared on this programme for four years, Prime Minister?'
I was pleased to see Dimbleby ask Blair why he would not appear on a platform simultaneously with the other guests (as is the regular format of the programme). Maybe next election?