Tag Archives: UKIP

My New Model of Left-Right Politics

Because (I like to think) I’m human, I make models of the world around me. Because I’m a computer scientist/a bit weird, I write them down or draw pictures of them. Since I got interested in why some intelligent people have different political views to me, a couple of years ago, I’ve been trying to model the values which underlie people’s belief systems, which I believe determine their political views.

My working model for the values of Left-Right politics (I’m a fluffy compromise near the middle of this scale but I have other scales, upon which I weigh myself a dangerous radical) has been that The Left believe in Equality and The Right in Selfishness. As a radical liberal, I obviously think both extremes are the preserve of drivelling idiots – compromise is all. The flies in my ointment have been the selfishness of the Far Left and the suicidal economic tendencies of working class nationalists in wanting to #Brexit. My model clearly had flaws.

This morning I was amusing myself with a #UKIP fan who countered being told by a woman that it was best to have O type blood (presumably because it is the universal donor) by saying it was best to be AB, so he could receive any blood (a universal recipient.) On the surface this seems to confirm the selfishness theory but I made an intuitive leap that he thought he was too special to lose, which was far from the conclusion I’d arrived at, during our discussion.

My new, modified theory is that the Left think ‘no-one should get special treatment’ and the Right think ‘My DNA is special. I deserve more’. This belief that “I am/am not special” has almost no correlation with the evidence, or even with class. I have no evidence of whether the characteristic is inherited or learned but Michael Gove and members of the BNP clearly  decided that they were special and deserve to be treated better than other people. Tony Benn, on the other hand, argued himself out of believing that he had a God-given right to a place in the House of Lords. Please let me know why I’m wrong.

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Politics is Broken

Politics is often discussed in terms of a left-right scale:
http://www.dailyinfographic.com/right-vs-left-infographic

The political compass https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_compass adds a second axis that ranges from libertarian to authoritarian. Recent developments have also made Nationalism, coupled with concerns about immigration and environmentalism, adding important third and fourth axes of political identity but making the graph very hard to draw.

Throughout human history, we have learned to balance our self-interest as individuals against the interests of the group that we are a part of: our family, tribe, or nation; to maximise the chance of survival of our DNA overall.

In general, thinking primarily about self leads to a belief that people close to us are also more deserving of rewards than other people. These ‘better’ people, families and countries should be allowed to rise up to take their natural place at the top, from where they can distribute excess wealth to the less deserving, poorer people. This is the thinking of the economic Right Wing. Along with that goes property protection and inheritance rights, low taxation for wealth creators, national pride and the belief that the indivdual is entitled to exploit the environment for personal gain. If you don’t, someone else will. Along with this ‘self’-focussed attitude goes a similar pride about groups you feel a part of. If you becoming wealthy requires an irreplaceable mineral being extracted from under someone’s house then it will probably happen. This is Right-Wing thinking and may be coupled with a religious justification for the apparently selfish actions being undertaken.

Left-Wing alternatives prioritise the interests of the group above the individual. People are treated as though they are equal. The less fortunate are helped, by redirection of resources from those who have more. Socalist thinking leads towards break-down of nation states into a single world order, which must necessarily be authoritarian to keep everyone (outside the control structure) equal. Left thinking can be applied over time, so that resources must also be shared with people of the future. Traditional socialism promotes the idea of common ownership of property and the ‘means of production’.

In most parts of England we have:

UKIP – Economically Right-Wing but pretending to be the party of the common worker while  supporting inheritance rights and low taxation for the very rich. Simultaneously arguing for the nationalist interests of the UK but against the nationalist interests of Scotland. Not strictly ‘racist’ but do think that people born in Britain deserve better lives than foreigners. They believe in liberty for people already in this country, as long as immigrants give up their own cultures and adopt ours (still to be defined.)

Conservatives – Economically, now extremely Right-WIng but increasingly restricting the rights of individuals so clearly authoritarian. Want a small state but are increasingly determined to impose a ‘city-state with major’ model on regions that have already voted against it. Risked the Union in a failed attempt to block Scottish Nationalism but have promoted an EU referendum that risks English nationalists provoking the Scots to break up the UK and the UK withdrawing from the EU with completely unkown results, given that the Conservatives have a very poor record of gamesmanship in international diplomacy.

Liberal-Democrats – apparantly consistent with their balanced, centrist values. They broke a promise about tuition fees while reaching a coalition deal with the Conservatives to ensure stable government during the banking crisis.

Labour – A supposedly Left-WIng party that only supports equality for people who have a job and as a reaction to UKIP became increasingly against immigration. During the 2015 Election it was exremely difficult to detect what they believed in but their time in office saw them not nationalise failing banks or railway services or engage in building of publically funded social housing. They instead supported the private funding of state services and encouraged free market economics but failed to enable adequate investment in renewable energy like our European competitors did.

Greens – A very Left-Wing party that puts the environment ahead of everything. Some policies do not appear to be completely worked out but it is early days. Working with their direct opposites UKIP on the single issue of voting fairness, after both parties faired very badly under the FPTP system, so can clearly be very pragmatic to get a result that takes them in the right direction.

Election 2015 – Keeping Things in Proportion

When you hear the heads of three political party leaders hit the floor on the same day, you know it’s been an eventful election. Green Party leader Natalie Bennett said before the results were announced that the most likely victim was to be the First Past The Post electoral system. Many of us are waiting for this fourth head to drop.

There are experts at the Electoral Reform Society who could explain the different alternative systems and their respective advantages and disadvantages, if politicians wanted to know but of course the winner is rarely keen to change a system under which they have just achieved victory. On this occasion, we may have to insist. This election was too chaotic to count as democracy. Poorly coordinated tactical voting based upon opinion poles that are now known to have been wrong, is a very risky way to make an important decision.

  • Majority

Out of the people who voted, the winner is the option that gets more than 50% of the votes. There can be a draw and with more than 2 options, there won’t necessarily be a winner.

  • First-Past-The-Post (FPTP)

The winner is the option that gets most votes. When there are more than 2 options and the spit is fairly equal, there can be arguments over ‘legitimacy’, as there were at this election.

UK elections are run under a combination of these 2 systems, FPTP to decide which party’s leader tries to form a government but if there is no majority then further horse trading and agreements with other parties to work together to achieve a majority.

Does FPTP ever work? It can, if there are only 2 choices (and no-one is hiding a third option that many people would have preferred, as happened in the Scottish Independence referendum) and there is no dispute over the borders of the appropriate constituency or who should be entitled to vote (another pair of hurdles the ‘Scottish question’ did not clear cleanly.)

Until last night, the Conservatives seemed likely to get the most votes but not to have a majority. We heard the SNP argue that an ‘alliance of the Left’ would have a greater share of the vote that would have more legitimacy. The unexpected Conservative majority saved us from that entertainment.

What do we want from our elections? There has been a lot of talk of “PR”,

  • Proportional Representation

A set of systems that would select MPs from a group of candidates, in proportion to the number of votes they receive. At first sight, this seems fair but what if there are candidates that have some support from a small section of the population but are extremely unpopular with another part of the community, possibly everyone else? Systems that allow ‘NOT preferences’ to be expressed exist.A

  • Transferable Votes system

is used in Australia. You put a “1” against your first choice, a “2” against your second etc. After voting, if your first choice has not won then it is transferred to your second choice. It is designed to maximise the satisfaction, or at least minimise the dissatisfaction, across the population.

Would an example help? Imagine there is an election in Israel. An election is held to choose 2 councillors from 4 candidates. You might get 1 PLO candidate, 1 from a Zionist group that wanted to build on Palestinian land and two moderates who want to respect the traditions of the two communities but to build shared first schools so that kids get to know each other before they learn to hate.

Under Proportional Representation, it is not inconceivable that the Palestinians would vote for the PLO candidate first and the Israelis would vote for the Zionist.

Under a Transferable Votes system, they might choose 2 moderates who are no-ones first choice. Is this compromise, social engineering or satisfaction optimisation? Is it better to make a few people very happy and a few people  very unhappy with each choice?

An exercise to the reader: UKIP seem likely to favour PR but they are very worried about immigration by Muslims and the possibility of Islamist extremism within those communities. Under PR, might there ever be enough fundamentalist Muslims spread around the UK to elect there own MP?

Remember when we had a FPTP referendum and chose not to move the only bad PR system we were offered, in case we got coalition governments? What about when most Scots probably wanted greater devolved power within the UK but were offered an In/Out referrendum?

Democracy is not simple. Decisions have consequences. We should not change voting systems in a rush. I think Natalie Bennett knows this, so we should listen to what she says.

Devolution, Federalism and … Oh Grow Up!

Scotland, Wales and, in my alternate universe, the country of Midland want “independence”; like a 14-year old asking for more pocket-money. UKIP wants to leave Europe because, “Sir, they keep picking on me and making me eat straight bananas and human rights!” But UKIP also think Scotland needs to know its place in ‘the union’ because they don’t feel the need to have logically consistent opinions. Scots have told me I can’t have Midland independence because only Scotland is a real country. Well, so was Mercia.  How far do we want to go back? Maybe we favour tribal groups, fighting for land (now with added AK-47s)?

‘The grown-ups’ are discussing an English parliament to make things fairer. What does that mean?
I worry about child poverty alongside an ever more wealthy ‘Rich List’ not whether I have fair voting rights. I know I don’t. How many English people feel they have an English identity that is different from their British or UK identity? If we don’t know then clearly we have imposed our English identity on Wales and Scotland, so no wonder they are upset. Well, do you know what? I identify more strongly with Scottish people than I do with the London parliament. I’m angry at injustice too. I think people in the North West, North East, Midlands, East, South West, South East  and London have more differences than similarities, compared to our Britishness.

“England” was a union to stop wars and gang up on outsiders, just like the European Union and the UK. Like the Euro Zone it cannot continue to function while there are huge economic disparities between regions. If the Euro Zone wants to survive then the rich countries of the North have to support the poor countries of the South while they are on completely different economic cycles. National interests seem unlikely to allow this. The same is true of London and the rest of the country. ‘England’ is barely holding together in the face of the greed which festers in the rich areas of London.

These unions will only survive if the poor look after the rich; if they devolve wealth as well as power. If the UK is to be split up then it should be into regions about the size of Wales and Scotland, coming together as the United Kingdom because we share an island. Similarly, these British isles instinctively rebel against greater integration with EU but that doesn’t mean we want to leave it. I don’t think anyone who has really thought about that possibility understand the repercussions.

“Small pieces, loosely joined” is a philosophy I believe in for software. I don’t see any reason it wouldn’t be the best way to run world politics – the WHOLE world, not just the rich bits like Europe.

Why I Didn’t Vote For UKIP (Then)

Nigel Farage appeared to be a racist. Even if he wasn’t, it was clear that he was courting the votes of racists and that disgusts me. I listened to the media and got the impression of a party probably full of other people also harbouring feelings of xenophobic hatred. I thought Farage being the only face of UKIP suggested that those hiding behind the scenes must be even worse.

I watched the debate with Nick Clegg. I came away from it furious at some of the things Farage had said but well aware that someone who was thinking of voting for UKIP would have considered him to have won. It was clear to me that Nick Clegg was also incensed by some of the things  said but his politeness and his care not to say the wrong thing, left him looking weak and ineffective, by comparison. What I saw as Farage’s rudeness would be seen as honesty and forthright expression of the views of ‘ordinary hard working people’ by those who wanted wanted to “blame the immigrants” for all our woes, and as a far Right-Wing, anti-Europe international Free Market extension of the Conservative Party by those who are better informed and found it refreshing to see the Working Classes coming to their senses at last.

After the election, when Farage said that UKIP had done less well in London because people were younger, educated and cultured, it was clear that UKIP’s offering was indeed  aimed at the old, ignorant and uncouth and that he, as a  Londoner and ex-City trader had considered an explanation of UKIP’s position on Europe to be above them. Instead, he’d agreed that it was obvious we were better off before we joined Europe (irrelevant), supped beer in pubs and been dismissive of the Con-Dem Eton old-boys club that had let them down. I thought he’d betrayed that he was only a temporary traitor to The Establishment, when he appeared in the floods donning a wax jacket and green wellies from the high seat of his Land Rover but the euphoria of having someone new in the game who was talking such obvious sense provided sufficiently rosy goggles to obscure that. Maybe that ‘country weekend’ uniform was a nod to the crusty majors not to take anything he said for the benefit of the oiks too seriously.

Like most people, I suspect, I voted against parties rather than for one but the party I was most against was UKIP. My vote was designed to hurt them because I thought they were dangerous. I failed and I was  disappointed in many of the people I share a country with and the media for failing to allow us to make an informed decision .

The only part of the UKIP offering I might have supported was if they could have explained why we should leave Europe but they didn’t bother trying. Why give people facts that might be disproved when you can rely on prejudice? What I didn’t realise is that the media also gave a false impression of UKIP and my decision was based on some significantly misleading information  but more on that next time.

My Personal Values and Political Beliefs

Last night I voted in the European Elections. I found it hard to find anyone I thought deserved a vote but I wanted to do whatever I could to minimise the chance of UKIP wasting seats. I woke to a Labour spokesperson (Ed?) on the wireless telling me why I hadn’t voted for them. He was really badly wrong, so I decided to say why I considered them unelectable and ineffective as opposition. Then I thought that, to be fair to the other major parties, I should tell them why I didn’t vote for them too as they all seem completely clueless about why we all find them so unappealing. I felt I needed a draft list of criteria to evaluate the candidates against because, unlike them apparently, I thought I had consistent set of values I believe in and am not ashamed to admit to. If anyone wants to argue with me, I’m willing to try to justify my beliefs or change them.

It was an interesting exercise. I recommmend it. Some of the items are contradictory. Here’s my list but please tell me if you think I’ve missed any important criteria.

My Personal Beliefs and Values:

Society
There is such a thing as society. We are not a bunch of individuals, fighting to win and take all. Taxes are the shared costs of living in a society

Fairness

Responsibility
We all have a responsibility to contribute our share to the welfare of all other members of our society who need it. Under normal conditions, we don’t leave anyone behind.

Equality
Everyone should be given equal opportunities to do whatever makes their life satisfying, without significant damage to others, despite the fact that they clearly are not all equal and may not have had equal starts in life.
Everyone wants to be treated fairly (or better) but we have very different ideas of what fair means.
I don’t think a child should be punished for the sins or failures of a parent or that a school class should be kept in because one member was noisy or assumptions should be made because an older sibling was trouble. This translates in adult life to thinking that a child should not go hungry because a parent drinks, smokes, bets or makes other poor investment decisions.
Successful people should be willing to share their rewards with those less fortunate.
I dislike boastfulness, showing off and displays of status, wealth or generosity.
Charity
I would prefer to live in a society where a tax on generosity was not necessary because general taxation met essential needs.
Inheritence
I don’t see any reason that a child should inherit wealth from parents. They probably already had a better start in life without having done anything to deserve it. I think inheriting vast wealth is bad for children’s sense of self-purpose and self-value.

I hugely admire family businesses and beautiful stately homes that have been in a family for hundreds of years and the selfless duty of people who preserve such a legacy. I don’t see how this could have happened without inheritance. I’m not pro- or anti-Royalty. I don’t see an elected politician making a better head of state but I feel a bit sorry for the Royals, as I do all celebrities who haven’t earned it.

Tribes
We are a social animal and we do best as members of a successful tribe.
We should be allowed to change tribe or to be in many tribes are once as long as we are honest and open and the interests of the tribes do not conflict in irreconcilable ways.
Immigration
Ideally: I’d like foreigners to be allowed to come here freely. They have as much right as I do. I’d also like them to be able to make a living wherever they come come from, so they didn’t need to be economic migrants.
Realistically: the tide needs to be slowed or the flood will sink our society, so we should have rules that are fair and favour those who are in danger. But the incomers must live by the important rules of the society they have chosen to enter, as a guest, be given adequate time to learn to fit in and then be either accepted or asked to leave.
Overseas aid
If we want to encourage people to stay at home, we may need to help to make the places they are running away from more hospitable. If we can bomb people to stop them coming here as terrorists, I don’t see why we can’t help them, so they become our friends.

Religion
I see no evidence for the existence of any god.
I do not object to anyone believing anything, as long as they protect other members of society from any negative effects and are tolerant of legal criticism. I would like laws on blasphemy to be changed, so any idea, like Evolution or quantum mechanics is given the same protection as a religious text but can be respectfully debated.
Major religions and non-believers have developed many of the same moral standards because they are the best way for humans to live together. Most of the differences don’t matter or can and should be tolerated. Britain is about compromise. If there is a conflict that cannot be resolved, the ‘native’ culture must take precedence.
The state should operate independently of religion, in accordance with generally agreed morals and values acceptable to most citizens. Agreeing what these are is the only time I feel it might be appropriate to consider starting before recent immigration. The rules could be adjusted by negotiation over time, as incoming customs are accepted into our shared culture. As an example, I think the British are ready to accept Islamic  headscarves but not The Veil. We put high value on seeing people’s faces and particularly eyes. In return, I will not drink alcohol if I travel to an Islamic nation or demand to eat rare steak in a vegetarian restaurant. It would be rude.

Nationhood & National Pride
I don’t feel pride in being English, British, European or a babtised Christian as I had no part in those things. I may as well be proud of being tall or having white skin and that would clearly be ridiculous.
I feel very fortunate to have grown up in semi-rural England, close to Birmingham, capital of the Midlands, to stable, married parents who wanted me. My Mum was advised not to have any more children so I got all their attention and love. That is no reason to look down on anyone less fortunate. As it is pure chance, in some senses, that I was born here, I have the similar responsibilities to the rest of the human race as I do to someone living next door

Economic Systems
The various communist versions of socialism do not appear to be able to operate alongside capitalism.
Capitalism is inherently flawed as it depends on growth and consumes raw materials, leading to ecological disaster, well ahead of the heat death of the universe. This would be foolish and may be preventable, if we act fast.
I do not have any solution but I’m looking. I hope you are too.

Democracy
The least bad system Churchill could think of. Me too, but I think thereis room for improvement.
We have universal suffrage and parliamentary representative democracy – because anyone who is excluded gets exploited and mobs make bad decisions. Politics are complicated and 50% of people are below average intelligence. They do mad things like believing in the death penalty.

Political Allegiance
I don’t have any. My maternal grandfather was a miner who died down the pit (I recently discovered via @BrownhillsBob, from tuberculosis) leaving a widow, 10 children and no pension. My Uncle became a Labour councillor. My Grandad was a steel foundry supervisor then a shop-keeper. His three sons went to Grammar School. My mother contracted polio and spent most of her childhood in hospital then went to commercial college and became a secretary. My parents voted Conservative and had The Daily Mail delivered. I experienced The Miner’s Strike as an attack by Lefties on the Coal Board’s attempt to introduce necessary efficiencies. At Aston University in Birmingham I experienced ‘the Maggie effect’ at first hand, from the resentment of Rastas on the streets and in the faces of desperate people in the queues of the DHSS. My Dad was made redundant by a company he’d worked for all his life. I discovered for the first time that he was a union member. He didn’t hate unions as much as I’d assumed and they helped to get him re-employed at a sister company. I lean slightly towards LibDems, as a compromise but I’m a classic floating voter.

Ambition
I am not particularly competitive but I recognise that some people only strive to do well in order to better themselves and earn the right to lead the tribe. I think I inherited my lack of ambition from my Dad. Like him, I work hard to learn how to do everything I care about to the best of my ability. I seem to care less than most people if anyone else notices. I was always encouraged to do MY best, rather than measure myself against others. I have experienced people who, for no obvious reason, believe they are better than others and deserve more, without bothering to develop skills in anything other than networking and self-promotion. I believe these people are a danger to society. Public schools seem particularly good at producing them.

Greed
I think large companies should pay taxes and be prevented from exploiting any monopoly power their size gives them.
I think there need to be limits on the range between the benefits of the highest and lowest workers in an organisation.
Competition & Nationalisation
I accept that having a competitor can make an organisation try harder to win. I am unconvinced that this advantage outweighs the inefficiencies introduced by splitting an organisation into components. Therefore I do not believe that the NHS or British Rail will or have benefited from privatisation.

Education
Children from poor families need good education more than children of the same ability from rich families, so access to the best education should not be dependent on money.
If children of the powerful had to go to the worst schools, they would soon be sorted out.
People should never be divided up, permanently, into successes and failures, at any age, least of all as children.
Children learn some subjects best in groups of similar ability.
Girls are disadvantaged in some subjects by being taught in mixed sex groups.
Boys are disadvantaged socially by growing up in a single sex environment.
Children from different backgounds and religions need to get to know each other.

Capability
I think that talented people need to be given more reward to give some people the incentive they need to excel.
I think hard work needs to be rewarded, mainly to encourage those who don’t work hard to try harder but I have never seen a fair rewards scheme.
Benefits
If someone is unable to work due to illness or disability, they should be looked after by society in case it ever happens to the rest of us; and out of gratitude that it is not us.
Some people are healthy but don’t have talent & avoid making a contribution to society. They should be provided with their basic  needs but not encouraged by the state to reproduce.