Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Labour Fringe: Excitement as Neal Spart Stands and Shouts

STOP PRESS: John Harris has finally posted his, slightly, somethingly calmed down disgust etc as LP betrayal etc. That's HERE.

LOL have just been at a very packed Labour Party fringe meeting come rally themed on Electoral Reform and hosted by Fabians, Progress, of and Compass under the banner Vote For a Change.

Basic runners and riders were John Denham MP - there to defend the government and/or party line - plus Dave Rowntree ex Blur PPC, Oona King ex MP, Billy Hayes CWU firebrand, Neal Lawson of Compass, and Mehdi Hasan in the chair. From the floor Stephen Twigg, John Harris of The Guardian, Sunder Katwala of the Fabians, some chap who claimed he was leaving Labour over the issue, and also various rather brave comrades and colleagues who were willing and able to support Gordon Brown's decision that a referendum on AV, or whatever, would not take place on election day.

There was an illusion come delusion in some quarters, personified by Neal Spart Lawson so fired up he believed he could fly believed he could manage without a microphone. Neal suggested at one point that the huge fury and pain we could feel from him was as nothing compared to the fury and pain we would be feeling in the broad population as of tomorrow morning.

Though it's just possible that schisms over AV, AV+, STV, EMTV, and so on would in fact see the protests in every estate and 'burb in the land on this one dissipate? But do watch out for angry mobs where you live.

John Harris also made a bit of a cock of himself I thought. Yes, of course people - particularly political anoraks and our groupies - have strong views on all this. But no babies were eaten. No wars were started on anyone's asses. The planet won't burn to a crisp any quicker as a result. Tory cuts won't become less savage as First Past The Post gets a few more months without a referendum challenge.

He'll amplify and emote in writing in tomorrow morning's Guardian. Will be kinda interesting to see what he writes. So Now Who We Going To Vote For Mark Two?

It seems to me that the calculation from the government's and the party's strategists is that :

  • (a) the country really, really ain't ready to make an informed choice on this;
  • (b) there are other issues we'd be better off fighting on such as Save The NHS and Bin Bankers' Bonuses;
  • (c) Cam and GOO are shallow clowns and/or nasty Tories in sheep's clothing, nearly said cheap suits there, but they don't really do cheap suits do they? It's the BNP you want for that these days;
  • (d) Gordon Brown is World Statesman of the Year and Sarah Brown is a national and international treasure;
  • (e) Despite Neal Spart Lawson's religious beliefs this is actually not a burning issue outside some, nay a few, chatterers who do not hold the keys to Number Ten in their hands this time;
  • (f) Whether the referendum is on Election Day or reasonably shortly after we win office again the introduction of a more proportional system, and indeed other reforms, will likely be on the same date; and
  • (g) Even factoring in every permutation of hung parliaments and referendum results this one is not close to a win-win or even a 50-50 call. The referendum after all will be on a single question and fairly likely by FPTP.

    To simply: We could lose office and lose the referendum; We could lose office and win the referendum at which point the Tories who will have been jeering at the question etc etc will not be bound by it; We could win office and lose the referendum; We could win and win.

    Only the last of these four and certain hung parliament scenarios which are close surrogates will do. The first option is pretty horrible. The second option may look like an opportunity but this is not the big issue these campaigners are assuming. The third option might even be the worst of the lot.

    Neal Spart Lawson stated that he didn't want the person with the biggest grin on his face over this to be Dave Cameron. Seems to me that even if Gordon and Mandy and Co are persuaded to U-Turn and hold the referendum on the same day, which I doubt, the arithmetic may leave Cam and FPTP'ers of all stripes smiling anyway.

    MEANWHILE: The Sun are very wrong. They have apparently endorsed the very wrong Tories with their very wrong lack of care for all but their few. As Adam Beinkov has pointed out this is in fact their Second Annual Endorsement.


    benchilltory said...

    i dont really understand the subtle differences in the various forms of PR.
    i dont have any fixed views on the subject.
    however i would not want a system that
    1/ allows looney tunes who get 8% to win seats.
    2/ allows partys to rank candidates in order so that you never have any realistic chance to remove the person ranked one on the list.
    3/ a system that will allow the lib dems to play the king makers.

    Madasafish said...

    My neighbours are of course completely agog at the prospect of a change in voting systems.

    When I explained it did not mean that they could fire their MP for stealing our money (Charlotte Atkins spend £tens of thousands on her house - all legitimately of course), they said they would rather worry about food and gas and electricity prices going up.

    Any body in the real world does not care much about PR when the people proposing it are evident cheats. Baroness Scotland anyone?

    As Labour are associated with any referendum, it will be lost.

    Tough. Chance gone.

    Matthew Stiles said...

    Good post Chris. I had quite a regard for John Harris till I saw his tears over PR.

    Chris Paul said...

    Thanks Matthew. I like John Harris a lot actually. But he may be the Toynbee of the Rock and Roll generation. Still relatively consistent as she was at his age and is not now, but unable to be proportionate on his own high or dead horses. This may be an opportunity missed or not. But if truth be told layering this referendum onto what will be an extraordinary General Election would perhaps have been a mistake out facing to the electorate and also very divisive for the party.

    There are a lot of self-styled "agnostics" on this issue within the LP and hospitals, banks and UB40s are far more important themes to fight on. IMO.

    Chris Paul said...

    Good post from BHT!

    i dont really understand the subtle differences in the various forms of PR.

    You're not alone. You might need several anoraks to complete the journey to enlightenment without hypothermia, it is so rarefied.

    i dont have any fixed views on the subject.

    In Manchester you might be for AV+ as there'd be a chance of a Tory MP in the "plus" part of the calculation. But socialists would take seats on the same basis in Tory heartlands.

    however i would not want a system that
    1/ allows looney tunes who get 8% to win seats.

    This is unlikely under most realistic systems. The De Hondt (?) system is particularly liable to this. AV+ wouldn't be and plain AV would militate against this.

    2/ allows partys to rank candidates in order so that you never have any realistic chance to remove the person ranked one on the list.

    This might be the case. Although if Open Primaries without excessive protection for incumbents kick in and Recall click in there would be some scope to tip even these out.

    3/ a system that will allow the lib dems to play the king makers.

    Also the Greens and perhaps some electable left of Labour and right of Tory options e.g Der Links and UKIP. My view is that the Lib Dems (and indeed the Labour liberati) may runaway with their thoughts and not factor in a change in tactics by voters to suit whatever system is in play.