Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Turned away voters

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

Polling stations open from 0700 until 2200, yet a lot of people were not allowed to cast their votes on Thursday because the time ran out. I’ve been hearing a lot of commentary about this since Friday: I’ve been listening to people on BBC radio, I heard two people talking about it on the bus, and I read an article in The Guardian. I also saw Shami Chakrabarti on BBC Breakfast this morning talking about the subject in terms of human rights, and saying that legal action is a possibility.

Something that people have been pointing out is that there are 15 hours in which to vote. It says the opening times of the polling stations on the polling card, and the polling cards were sent out well before the election. The woman on the bus was saying to her friend that even if a person works twleve hour shifts there is still time for them to vote; if somebody does work awkward hours, a postal vote could have been arranged. A man on BBC Oxford radio said nobody would turn up to a supermarket at 2145 if they knew it was closing at 2200 and expect to be able to finish their shopping and pay. He did say it’s slightly different, but I think it is pretty much the same thing—the closing time is the closing time, and an effort should be made to get there in good time if it really matters to you that much.

I went to the polling station at around 0900. There were no queues, and I didn’t expect there to be. The idea that there could be huge queues didn’t occur to me, and maybe that is true of other people.

A number of faults have been highlighted with the how the polling is handled. Should it be that the queue is cut off at 2200, and the people already in the queue are allowed to vote? Is it a possibility to move elections to a weekend or to make the day a national holiday, effectively allowing people more time to vote and avoiding a morning and late evening rush? Should the Electoral Commission, rather than the local authority, handle voting matters to ensure that no polling station can run out of ballots, that each station is sufficiently staffed and everybody running the station is aware of the rule concerning people voting after 2200 if they are in the queue or inside the building, or whatever the rule is?

I read an article and some comments on about possible ways to transform voting. About visiting polling stations, I wonder if things should just be kept to casting a vote. Don’t worry about giving me somewhere comfortable to sit and browse the internet; it’s not a lounge. Maybe just make sure everybody is absolutely clear about when the last vote can be cast, and make sure everybody is able to cast their vote on time.

There is a review being carried out by the Electoral Commission of what happened on Thursday. It’ll be interesting to know what they have to say about it all, particularly about people under 18 being sent a polling card. Once they review the problems and take measures to ensure they don’t happen again, surely that is all that’s needed (or is there any chance of having a re-run of the election to include the missed out votes?).

Vote for Policies survey

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

I just did the Vote for Policies survey, based on six issues: education, welfare, immigration, health/NHS, environment and economy. The result, unsurprisingly, was that I mostly prefer Green’s policies (prefering Liberal Democrat’s policies on education).

This survey is meant to be helpful. It is certainly a fantastic idea. I wonder, though, if people will follow through with their results. Of course, it is not telling people who to vote for, but it does indicate which party a person shares beliefs with. Therefore, really, there isn’t any reason for me to not vote Green on Thursday. The only thing I can think of that would stop people following through with their results is tactical voting.

Of course, manifestos are made up of much more than the nine issues included in this survey and the few brief statements made on each one (the other three issues are crime, Europe and democracy), and not everybody would have done the survey with all nine issues, but the survey can be used to give somebody like me an idea of where each party stands on key issues.

I see that 103 people in Oxford East have done the survey so far. Both in Oxford East and overall, Green has a bigger percentage than anybody else. I wonder how all of this will translate.

An introduction to British politics

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

My introduction, that is.

My introduction to British politics has really been the general election this year. Despite posting a link on this blog to the collaborative work of a photographer and the public about the election, despite having a conversation weeks ago with somebody about tactical voting, despite eating breakfast whilst watching BBC Breakfast talk about Motorway Man, it is in the last seven or eight days that I have found myself rapidly gaining interest in politics.

It is something that I have never understood; I still don’t understand it. Often, big or important things enter my consciousness and I give no thought to them until their importance is spoken of more frequently or with more urgency. One example of this is when the volcano in Iceland erupted. I remember hearing about it, but it wasn’t until the scale of the problem was revealed to be a lot of delays for a lot of people that I realised how big an event the eruption was. With the prime ministerial debates, I had heard that, if it happens, it’ll be the first time it has happened. I thought nothing more of it until the night of the first one when I heard somebody mention it and I decided to record it. That first one was 19 days ago, and I still haven’t watched it.

Six days later, I went to the Oxford East Ask The Climate Question and, as described in my previous post, it was pivotal for me because I started to have doubts about who I would vote for. I have been so unaware of politics that I can’t even remember my voting history, except that I voted in the last elections for Green all round. I assumed I would do the same in this election, but the Ask The Climate Question kicked off my interest in politics, I would say. I started thinking about reasons for keeping Labour in (to keep things as they are) and reasons for not voting Green (I doubt the motivations behind their solutions), and I resolved to check out the manifestos of the four main parties.

So, in the last 12 days, I have not looked at manifestos. What I did was join Twitter six days ago. I had been thinking about it for a few weeks; I really disliked the idea of “social networking”, yet I liked how effective it can be when used strategically. In the end, I thought it’d be good to try to get some traffic over here via Twitter, so I joined and I started playing the game. I followed some organisations of interest to me and found that there was a lot of talk about the elections. A lot of links to articles and websites about the elections appeared, I saved shortcuts to them on my desktop with the intention of going back later. I haven’t. I planned to review everything to be able to make an informed decision on Thursday morning. I probably won’t.

I have recorded, in addition to the first debate, three programmes about what is going on in the election race. I haven’t watched them. I will probably watch them after Thursday because I feel scared that it will make my decision more difficult. Yesterday, for some reason, I started downloading some political podcasts. Podcasts, television programmes, web content—all of this has come together, along with general news coverage, to really excite me about politics for the first time ever. Of course, I still don’t know anything about it, so…

My plan is to get through tonight and tomorrow, reading manifestos and thinking about who to vote for as much as I can, vote on Thursday morning, then get some books on how politics works. I find it all fascinating, including the responses that the media have to it all. I will listen to podcasts, read some of the Guardian editorial, watch those programmes and continue to follow responses to the election’s outcome.

Beyond the election, though, I want to become somebody who knows about what’s going on and how it all works, and knows what’s happening right now and the implications of what politicians say, as well as the impact on me.

Perhaps I also have to figure out what I care about, what I want politicians to care about. So far, the only thing I have responded to is David Cameron speaking with Andrew Marr on Sunday. He spoke of a plan to incrementally reduce the benefit of people who can work but refuse to. I shall not be voting for his party. How would he deal with recent graduates who want to take time to get a decent job rather than take the first job that comes along but, at the same time, could do with the benefit money to live on?

This general election has been my introduction to British politics. It’s exciting.

Oxford East Ask The Climate Question

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

On Wednesday April 21, I went to the Oxford East Ask The Climate Question. Ask The Climate question is a series of political hustings specifically about climate change. The candidates for Oxford East fielded questions from the public in attendance about what their views on certain things related to the environment. It was meant to be the Conservative, Green, Labour and Liberal Democrat candidates, but it ended up including the Socialist Equality Party and UKIP candidates.

There were questions about tar sands, cycling… and some other things that I can’t remember. I had my notebook with me, but chose not to make notes.

It was an event that both highlighted some things for me, and made my decision on who to vote for harder. I thought I was clearly going to vote for Green Party, but each of the candidates (except the UKIP candidate, unfortunately) said things that made a lot of sense. I suppose nobody in that position would say they love flying, haven’t heard of climate change, and would like to see all oil reserves expolited. Still, Andrew Smith (of Labour)  in particular sounded to me like he truly believes in doing as much as possible. He spoke of his history of voting against his party (in a good way) on certain matters and, though he obviously isn’t the most knowledgeable person on so-called green issues, he certainly seemed genuine, and I started to wonder if I should vote for him.

There was something about Edward Argar, the Conservative candidate, that I didn’t like. He didn’t seem very passionate about what he was saying, unlike everybody else. Steve Goddard, the Liberal Democrat, had no effect on me, either.

I thought that Julia Gasper, the UKIP candidate, was treated unfairly. She did say some things that didn’t allow me to take her seriously, regardless of the point being valid or not. For instance, she said that sooner or later somebody would break an energy saving lightbulb and “suck it and die” because of the mercury. Her point alludes to the fact that these lightbulbs are better than the incandescent lamps, but ultimately the materials used in them are questionable. What she said made her look even more like somebody who can’t be taken seriously (even though it was funny).

Yelling things out at her, however, I thought was unpleasant. There seemed to be a concensus amongst a lot of people there that evening that she is not somebody worth listening to. Like the Labour candidate, she made me doubt what I thought I knew. She made me very briefly doubt if climate change is happening. It doesn’t really matter to me, though, if it is or not. I simply think that this is an excellent opportunity to completely change the way we live our lives. Admittedly, though, a couple of times people called out that she didn’t answer the question; it seemed that in every answer she gave she managed to get in something about the EU, going off on an EU-hating tangent and forgetting that she had to answer a specific question.

The hecklers also made me realise something new—it seemed like there is a “you and us” feeling amongst socially responsible people, and I wonder if doing something for the environment is no longer just about doing something positive for the environment. It is as though some people have completely forgotten about the reasons for what we do, as though the doing is enough. It feels like it is a game of who is the most hardcore in their “responsible” actions, when it should be about tackling causes of issues. I understand that this is not explained very well. Put very, very simply, it is like the person who shops in Planet Organic, recycles and receives a weekly fruit and vegetable box not because these things matter to them, but because what matters to them is what other people see them doing, and these things afford them a good image and allow them to feel better than people who don’t do as much as they do.

The Socialist Equality Party candidate, David O’Sullivan, said some things I agree with. He spoke of the combustion engine, that the technology is the problem because it is outdated. If a clean alternative is invented, then, that means we can continue to fly and drive, and relieve oil dependency. A lot of his answers to questions mentioned that the root of many of our problems is capitalism, that there are some things that cannot work as well as they could whilst we still have such a culture, where people are motivated by money.

I don’t know who I am going to vote for, but I wonder if it might be Labour. I plan to look at the manifestos of the four main parties, if only really quickly, to try to understand more about what each is saying.

One final thought to come from the hustings is this: why do we have to have one party in power? Why can’t the best bits be taken from each party and used to govern? Why doesn’t somebody who doesn’t care for the history of politics form a new party that takes the best ideas from all of the political parties?