» referendum ¦ What You Can Get Away With

Libertarian ‘Utopia’ Styled After Ayn Rand Book Spectacularly Falls Apart Almost Immediately – Almost too good to be true, but it turns out that libertarians are really easy to con with utopian scams.
The real Olive Garden scandal: Why greedy hedge funders suddenly care so much about breadsticks – Humorous internet presentation appears to have been a ploy by asset-strippers.
Yah all right? – The plural of anecdote is not data, but was there really that much of a ground campaign from either side in the Scottish referendum.
Independence, devolution and power – Alex Marsh’s good summary of the post-referendum situation.
‘Poor people don’t plan long-term. We’ll just get our hearts broken’ – The realities of living on the poverty line.

, , ,

A few thoughts:

1) We don’t need a Dangerous Devolution Act

After decades of people talking about Britain needs to change, David Cameron appears to have put the accelerator right down, and in order to balance Scotland’s Devo Max England, Wales and Northern Ireland are going to get new powers at a lightning rate too. It’s the British system at it’s worst, with everyone running round like headless chickens to get something, anything done as quickly as possible in order to be seen to be doing something. As has been seen time and time again and the Dangerous Dogs Act is the exemplar of this speed-driven process – this just creates more trouble further down the line. We’ve taken years to get this far, we don’t need decisions now taken in days.

2) We only need one process

We had three separate petitions for a constitutional convention this morning, we’ve got Ed Miliband calling for one separately to David Cameron’s proposals and I’m sure other people are putting together their proposals and calls for action together right now. What we need is for all these people to come together and agree on one process for dealing with this, not hundreds of different competing ones that will amount to nothing. And it has to be an inclusive process, inviting people from across the political spectrum and outside of it to take part in it. Even if they choose not to, they have to have been given that opportunity to give it credibility.

3) New people need to have control of what happens next

Once the various people calling for change have got the ball rolling, they need to step back. This can’t just be a group of the usual suspects getting together to rubber stamp a few ideas floated down from Whitehall or Labour’s NEC which someone will then ram through Parliament. This has got to be a genuine process of the people, for the people and by the people, and the people not the politicos have to be the ones who run it and control it.

4) We need new language for this process

Yes, it’s a constitutional convention to talk about further devolution, but can’t we find some other words to describe it? If we genuinely want something new, then we have to be prepared to change the way we talk about it to get people involved, not just stick to the same old ways. People want change, and we need to ensure that this process delivers it with the widest involvement possible, and that change may need to involve us changing the language we talk about politics with.

Just a few thoughts at the end of a day without much sleep, so they’re loose, unfocused and subject to change. We need to be moving on this now and making things happen before the opportunity for mass involvement fades and it becomes a conversation of the elites again.

, ,

While I’ve been talking about the Scottish independence referendum online over the last few weeks, I’ve been careful to try not to talk about how I would have voted, or to tell the people of Scotland how to vote. If you want to understand why there are such resentments at the way the UK is governed, the tendency of many English people to assume that no one can make a decision before they’ve weighed in and given their opinion is a good place to start looking.

So, I’ve scheduled this post for a little after 10pm, when voting should have stopped and the only chance of me lecturing Scottish voters is if someone’s very bored stuck in a long queue to vote as the polls close. If you are that person, I hope you’re wait’s not too long, but be happy at the fact there’s a good chance you’ll appear in background footage on the news.

The main problem for me in thinking about how I would have voted is that a lot of the discussion has centred around two competing nationalisms – Scottish and British – and if there’s anything guaranteed to exclude me from a debate, it’s a question of which imagined community you think you belong to most. Both sides have been equally obnoxious in their proclamations that their nationalism is the best, though the hyperbole prize is surely won by Fraser Nelson’s claim that the UK is “the greatest force for good that the world has ever known.”

That leaves it to a decision based on practicalities, and I’m almost persuaded by the arguments of people like Charles Stross that an independent Scotland could be something new and different, a chance to start again in the early days of a better nation. (Though ‘break up the Westphalian system’ does sound like the slogan of the world’s most obscure Marxist fraction) However, the more I look, the more I see there’s nothing there behind the vision, and it’s far from the only vision of what an independent Scotland could be like. When Alex Salmond spends his time meeting regularly with Rupert Murdoch, admiring Vladimir Putin and getting massive donations from people like Brian Souter, I can’t help but wonder what the people with the power to shape it imagine an independent Scotland being like. For me, it’s not just the questions about the currency, but everything else about the new Scotland that hasn’t been answered that makes a Yes vote a jump into the dark, so my vote would have been a reluctant No.

But, I’m glad I didn’t get a vote, because this is Scotland’s decision not mine. Hearing people who don’t live there demand their right to a say scares me in some way because it makes me wonder about their understanding and regard for consent in other situations. It’s only a massive sense of English privilege that gives people the feeling that someone else shouldn’t be making a decision without their input, and that they should somehow have a veto over someone else’s decision. The idea that people somehow defined as Scottish but not living in Scotland should have a vote seems odd to me as well, for where do you draw the line? Should I have had a say because my grandfather was born in Scotland (it’d be enough for FIFA, I believe)? Should it just be limited to people within the UK or could people like David McAllister have a say too? The governance and government of a country should be a civic matter, not an ethnic one, and once you start complicating things with nationalism, everything gets a lot more complex.

Tonight, I’m going to sit back and watch the results come in and know whatever happens, it’s the people of Scotland who’ve decided. Quite what they’ve decided, we won’t know for a while – I think a Yes vote will lead to lots of negotiations and calls for another vote on the actual deal, while a No will lead to some people suddenly finding things much more important than devo max to talk about. Whatever the result, there’s a window of opportunity to talk about making a different and better government for a different and better UK, and we need to make sure they don’t close it.

, ,

And neither of them is the old ‘is the plural referendums or referenda?’

1) Various people push the ‘we need a referendum on Europe because the people haven’t had their say on it since 1975′ argument. If that is the case, shouldn’t we also be having referendums on our membership of NATO, the UN, the Commonwealth and who knows what else? The people have never been given a say on those, and if you’re really concerned with the popular will, then surely those questions should come first?

2) For the sake of this argument, let’s assume that the referendum on Scottish independence is won by the No/pro-Union side and Scotland stays in the UK. Let’s also assume that there’s a UK-wide referendum on EU membership in the not too distant future. The result of that referendum is a UK-wide majority in favour of leaving the EU, but in Scotland (and possibly Wales and Northern Ireland too) there’s a clear majority in favour of remaining in the EU. Politically, what happens next?

,

Yes, the burning issue here is the old one – is the plural referendums or referenda?

First up, interesting news from Wales where there’ll be a referendum at the start of March on granting new powers to the Welsh Assembly. The interesting part comes from the news that there may be no official referendum campaigns as it seems no one’s that interested in being the official No campaign. This would mean that there would be no official Yes campaign either, but as that’s supported by all four of the parties that sit in the Welsh Assembly, it’s not going to be short of support.

There does appear to be an attempt at a No campaign but – and this may be due to the fact I haven’t had much contact with Welsh politics for almost fifteen years – it doesn’t seem to make much sense, and seems to consist mainly of criticising the politicians rather than the policy.

Meanwhile, back in London, Labour peers in the House of Lords are trying to delay the referendum on AV, which presents the rather bizarre spectacle of them working to delay the implementation of something that was in their manifesto at the last election. I wonder what the Salisbury Convention would have to say about that?

But if anyone wants to see just why negotiations between the Liberal Democrats and Labour in May broke down, this is why. Given the number of Labour dinosaurs opposed to any reform in the voting system – and a Government that spent thirteen years kicking the issue into the long grass – it was obvious that Gordon Brown couldn’t deliver any promises on electoral reform, even before other issues were looked at.

, ,

The website for the yes campaign in the AV referendum is finally up and running, so you can now get along there and sign up to support and help out in whatever way you wish. There’s also the Take Back Parliament campaign – at the moment, I’m not sure how much overlap there is between the two – and there’ll be another meeting of the Essex TBP group at the beginning of October. More details of that soon.

, , , ,

Just a brief note to say that I’ve been informed of a Take Back Parliament (the organisation campaigning for a Yes vote in the referendum on the voting system next year) meeting for Essex that’s happening next Tuesday. It’s at 7.30pm in the Charles Peters Lounge of Chelmsford YMCA. I’ll be going along with at least one other person from Colchester, and if you want to know more about it, see the website here.

, ,