Friday, 17 September 2010


Yes people, its that time of the year, when journalists travel around the country, and spend lots of their company's money on chatting to and viewing various parties in action, its CONFERENCE SEASON!

First up of the big UK parties, its the Lib Dems. Now for those of you who know me well, and know what I am like, Conference to me, is a culmination of all of the eccentric aspects of Matt King, rolled into one, at once place and at one time. BARGAIN!

First, however I am going to start off with the negative, cost. Now sadly these things cost. Cost of entry, accommodation and transportation. My personal best on transportation was Brighton 07. Door to door, return I spent less than £13! My rail ticket was a disgustingly cheap £10.60 each way. Young-person's discount of course, and then there was the connecting bus on the way bk from Temple Meads, as I was not gonna hang around for over an hr for a connecting train to Sea Mills, a journey that takes 20mins once the train is leaving BTM. This year, its a little bit further to go, and because I only realised i could just about afford it, I thought, what the hey, I'll treat myself, as I haven't been to a single Lib Dem Conference in over a year and half. So through virtues of the internet, I worked out that it was cheaper to go by public transport, and that going on a MegaBus to manchester, and then grab a connecting train from Piccadilly, would get me there for a reasonable price, around the £13 mark. On the way back, its train all the way, changing at Birmingham. Now if i had booked this as a single ticket, it would cost me £30-61, booking at two tickets cost a little less than £17. That my friends is what they call a bobby dazzler!
The next cost is conference itself. Now, the early bird booking is before the 28th July. I didn't know then if I was going to be employed at that stage, and so couldn't book as I couldn't know if i could be classed as a claimant or not. Since I did not get the Derby Job, and York have not corresponded with me at all, I know that do qualify to be a claiment, so that cost is £34. For that, I get, well you'll see.

So, moving onto the positives. WO! Hold your horses Matt, what about accommodation? What is that gonna cost you this year? Well dear readers, this year it will cost me £0, zilch, zip, nowt, nothing. How come? Well, I have a family friend who lives in Liverpool, who other than being a brainy Dr, good looking, charming, and just as much of a chatterbox as I am, is also a saint for offering me this virtue. So there's the first positive of the week.
The second one is, its conference. It a collection of several thousand lib dems all in one place. I shall say no more on that.
The third, all the food and drinks at all the fringe meetings, is, well quite frankly, complimentary. BARGAIN! I am a man who is known for loving food, is known for loving drinks, and is known for loving free stuff. Here I have three for the price of, well, none! I am what is known as a proud fringe-troffer! (See for details. NB: if the link is not clickable, just copy and paste into the address bar of your browser)
the fourth and final positive, conference for the Lib Dems is where we make our policy, where we outline who we are and what we stand for, and while for the first time in years, I shan't be a voting rep, I shall still be letting my representatives know how I feel on each of the policies up for debate, and I shall probably put in the odd speakers card for things too.

My fifth and final reason for loving conference is, its a break from all mundane aspects of normal life, its like a holiday that you do important stuff on, and hopefully, and although i don't like the its not what you know... philosophy, I will hopefully find someone who is in need of someone like me for a job!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Elections and their consequences

Now we all know how we felt about the 2010 election 6 months ago. The UK was entering into new territory and unfamiliar ground. All the polls were predicting it was going to be a close race, and the extra publicity the election received and the, shall we say, interesting tactics used by some candidates displayed both fear and hope about what they thought was to come. In this blog, I am going to touch upon my views about the different aspects this election brought us, and taught us about UK political life, and to finish off, I will ponder about what I think is in store for the future of UK politics.

I will start with the newest of election features, The Prime Ministerial Debates.
Now, whoever you supported, even if you were undecided, right til election day, the UK has been waiting a long time for our system to catch up with the US, and have these as part of our election season. While they were a good move I am going to address the main contentious issue regarding the debates that was especially relevant to the seat I was voting in, Ceredigion, and that is who should be allowed to have a platform at the debates?
My response is this: any leader of any party that theoretically can form government based on the number of candidates that stand across the UK. It is my view that any party who can field a majority of candidates in the 4 constituent nations across the UK (ie half +1 of all the seats in England, half +1 of all the seats in Wales, and half +1 of all the seats in Scotland, and for NI, have an NI party in alliance to field half +1 there, or themselves) should be allowed to have their party leader at the debates. Why, not have just half +1 across the UK? Because that neglects the devolution rules of the UK where powers are separately held for these regions, and you would have English only parties debating over NI, Wales and Scotland, which would not be right or fair to the people of those lands. It is also why I back the decision by the BBC not to allow the SNP or Plaid in on their debates. Why? Because they will never have a leader who will be PM of the UK, until they stand in seats outside Scotland or Wales.
Now this many mean having a leader from the BNP or UKIP, or the English Democrats, or the Christian Alliance, etc etc, or all of the above. While those parties in all realistic terms have no chance of forming government any time soon, it is not right to shut them out in the manner we did, because it firms up the belief of the wider UK population that UK politics is only for a political elite, and not for the whole nation. Its about being democratic and open to the people, and defeating people like the BNP on the basis of argument, logic and reasoning, and not because you don't like them. The best way to defeat a weaker argument is to do it in the debating arena.

Now the trouble with the national debates, is the differing laws of the devolution settlements. I believe it is right for the parliamentary debates not to debate on laws they cannot change in those areas, but equally not to debate on how such areas of law will effect England by their own policies. They are setting out to be PM of the UK, and so in all such debates, there should only be policies debated that are relevant to the entire of the UK. This is where I think there should be a fourth debate over England only issues. What about NI Wales and Scotland? They should have 1 debate with members of the devolved assemblies reflecting on how each of the leaders' policies in the UK PM debates would reflect them, and how it would work, also what is best for the people of their area.

I see the theme of the whole debate structure should be about equal treatment to parties, and fair representation of what will effect the voters, being shown to them. I also think that at the beginning of each debate, the voting system should be explained, so that voters know how this relates to what they will do on polling day. I also feel that sky should have shown their debate on freeview.

The fear of a Hung Parliament
A hung parliament on the type of scale that we were expecting has not been seen since the emergence of the Labour Party as a strong political force almost 100 years ago. The last time the UK had a coalition government, was during the years of the great depression and WWII when Labour and the Tories worked together. The last time a general election produced any form of a Hung Parliament was February 1974 when Harold Wilson formed a loose Alliance with the Liberals and the Lib-Lab Pact was signed. Wilson then called an election for October 1974, and Labour gained a very slim majority. This was at the time when Labour was labour, and defended the working classes. It just so happened that they needed the Liberals throughout the 5 year term as 3-day weeks occurred, there was an Oil Crisis, the speed limit was reduced to 50mph to conserve fuel, and the party lost enough by-elections to make it a minority Government once again.
My prediction was that the Tories and Labour were going to be closer than they were, and that if they were both shy of 300 seats, a coalition was going to have to be formed. The day after the election, when it was clear that the Tories got more, and the Lib Dems actually lost seats, I thought anything could happened, that is except for a Labour led government, because it would simply be too weak. Labour had 258 Seats, Lib Dems had 57 seats. Add the two together and you get 315, which is 6 seats shy of a working majority, and 11 seats shy of an actual majority. This government would require the support of the SNP and Plaid Cymru, but still leaving it requiring 2 of the following: Green (1), SDLP (3), DUP (8), Alliance (1), Independent (1), to form a government with an actual majority. Well, DUP, traditionally ally with the Tories, so that leaves a government with Labour, Lib Dems, Plaid, and the SNP, with a maximum majority of 5 seats, and needing to satisfy the needs of a minimum of 5 parties, and a maximum of 9. A cabinet usually has 25 members max. While I really love the idea of all of those parties working together, If any one of them decided to join the opposition, it weakens the whole thing dramatically, or if that government had lost 5 by-elections in that term, which is highly possible. In fact, by-elections would be highly volatile, especially if it was for a former minister's seat.
As we saw, Labour had no enthusiasm to form any sort of agreement with the Lib Dems, which threw the whole option of a rainbow coalition out of the water.
The options left were either a Tory minority government, or a Tory led Coalition. The first political move to happen on May 7th was for Cameron to offer a full Coalition with the Lib Dems. After a few days of talks, there was progress, but the natural party allies of the Lib Dems, are Labour, so the Lib Dems opened up negotiations with Labour. As I said earlier, Labour seemed disinterested, and the Tories offered further to add the agreement electoral and political reform, a huge part of Lib Dem goals for the party. This was agreed, not to the full extent that the Lib Dems wanted but it was agreed.
What was offered, was a shared legislative agenda, the Lib Dems, had made in-rodes to moving the point of entering tax £1000 closer to their target of £10k, they had got reform of the house of lords to be elected proportionally, they had got fixed term parliaments, and a Referendum on the AV-system. There was more, but also, the Lib Dems were to have 5 Cabinet Ministers, and 15 additional junior ministerial roles in Government. The MPs and Federal Executive met and voted upon it. The result was clear, a coalition it was. When the Lib Dems had their Special Conference, I was there, and this time, I voted for coalition. Why? Because I felt that for a party who wants to move the country to a voting system where one party government is not the rule but the exception, the party would have effectively shot itself in the foot, in not forming some sort of agreement with one of the parties. I felt it was an agenda that reflected a fair share of both parties' policy based on the results of the election. Yes this means I disagreed with most of it, as it wasn't what I had wanted out of a governmental agenda for the election, but it was the closest the Lib Dems were going to get of their manifesto as governmental policy as possible considering the situation. Also considering how uneasy the markets were at a Hung Parliament, it was better for the markets that stable government be formed, to which this was the only option. Those of you who know, will know that I went to Welsh Special Conference in 2007 on the formation of a Coalition with Plaid and the Tories. My view speaking, (despite heckles), and my vote was no, because I did not believe the moral authority was there for the Lib Dems to be part of such a Coalition. I felt that for the Assembly consensus politics, was and still is a viable option, as the SNP have shown in Hollyrood.

The Election Online + Registration rules
Every party had witness Obama's revolutionising of engaging the internet through the medium of social media like never before. This election was also true with groups and pages springing up all over the place on different issues, partisan or otherwise. Combined with that the new Electoral registration rules that weren't in effect for 2005, allowed people to register up to 11 days before. This benefitted the youth vote more than any other age group, and the result was a massive upsurge in turnout for the 18-24 bracket. Engaging young people in Democracy is fundamental for their education about their future. Sadly we saw election officials impose illegal segregation in polling stations, lining up students in one line and other residents in another. This also led to some not being able to vote. I would like to applaud those Polling Station Officials who initiated lock ins, allowing those who had arrived before 10pm to vote; the time at which polling stations must close by law. It is no-one's fault if there is a queue at any time, least of all the voter's fault, and therefore the last thing that should occur is to deny the voter their democratic right.

The Future
Well, one thing is certain, the outcome of this week's election Court in Oldham East, is going to be one for the history books, regardless of which way the decision goes. It is a first in 99 years, and therefore the very first to take place when the entire nation of adults has been enfranchised. For those of you who know your history of Representation of the People Acts (I thought there would be a few of you), it was in 1918 that women over 30 got the vote, and all remaining men yet to be given the vote, to the age of 21 and over were granted this right. In 1928 all women to the age of 21 were granted the right to vote, and then in 1969, the voting age for both sexes was reduced to 18. I look forward to seeing where this court ruling will take us as a nation.
TV debates are here to stay I believe, and I think all parties in Westminster who have more than 1 MP should be following the Labour Party's example with televised debates. I hope to see at least 4 parties having platforms in both Scotland and Wales in 2011, and hopefully at least 5 in NI, providing there is no safety concerns of course.
I hope I have voted in my last Westminster election by the means of FPTP, and the country moves to AV come 2015. I also believe that unless you are pro FPTP, you should vote for AV, even if you would prefer something else like STV or AMS or pure PR. Why? Because the anti-reformers will say that if the AV vote is lost, then the nation clearly does not want electoral reform now, and the issue will be dead for 30 years, and no other progress will be made to make our system more open, accountable, and fairer to the people of this nation until the next referendum comes along.
Hung Parliaments, well, i prefer them to elective dictatorships, and in reforming the voting system i also hope we can reform the whip system as well to make an MP's constituents their main influence on how they vote on Bills and not their Party holding that power.

Thank-you for reading