The EU Referendum and Scottish Independence @vote_leave #TakeControl #Brexit #EUReferendum #indyref2 #indyref

indyref2

There has been much talk in the EU referendum that a vote for leave would trigger a second Scottish independence referendum. Why? The logic is that support for the EU is highest in Scotland (leave is currently polling at a mere 17%). Indeed, the idea of a second Scottish independence referendum makes sense; if the majority of the UK, and a majority of the other constituent nations, voted for leave, but a clear majority in Scotland voted remain, this would indeed legitimately raise the question of whether the UK still worked for Scotland (if indeed it ever did). Certainly, Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the SNP, is fond of raising this point.

As a unionist, yet someone who is strongly for leave, this worries me.

However, two points are worth making.

  1. The SNP’s position is incoherent. On one hand, they persist in calling for independence from the UK (actually, methinks, from England; I reckon the SNP would be happy for Scotland to carry on alongside the other Celtic nations). They say Westminster is too far away and removed from the affairs of Scots, and that being an independent nation would enable politicians in Scotland to much better represent the people of Scotland. Their logic: how could a population of a mere five million make its voice heard in a larger nation of some 65 million? Yet at the same time, the SNP equally firmly persists in the notion that being integrated within the EU, a far larger polity with some 508 million people!, would lead to better representation for the Scottish people. I simply cannot get my head round this, and I have never heard a truly convincing argument for how this makes any sense.
  2. What if a majority of England votes for leave, but the UK as a whole votes remain? Does England then get an independence referendum to leave the UK? I suspect, from anecdotal evidence, that the percentage of Englishmen wanting to leave the UK is higher than the number of Scots who do!

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jan/14/brexit-golden-opportunity-nicola-sturgeon-nightmare

Boris Johnson, The EU, Hitler @vote_leave @LeaveEUOfficial

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The EU debate just gets sillier and sillier. Last week, Boris Johnson said that the EU shared Nazi Germany’s goal for a final solution, seeking the total and ultimate destruction of Jewry.

Or not.

Johnson, by even mentioning Hitler, erred; as a journalist and a very intelligent man, he should realise that any mention of Hitler and the Third Reich would backfire. As a journalist, he should know that facts don’t matter; the headline does! Therefore, he made a mistake mentioning Hitler. Of course it was going to be used against him and the whole Brexit campaign! Indeed, someone on LBC radio even suggesed that BoJo might be the Bremainers secret, fifth columnist weapon! However, what Johnson actually said was quite reasonable.

Two decades on, Johnson has broken the glass and pressed the big red button marked “Hitler comparison – only to be used in an emergency”. In his interview, he declared that Hitler, among others, had aspired to entrench European unity, “and it ends tragically … The EU is an attempt to do this by different methods.”

The Guardian‘s savaging of Boris Johnson doesn’t feature a quote worse than that — because it doesn’t exist. It really is a fact that since the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the idea of a bygone heyday in the form of Rome has haunted the minds of many Europeans. Be it Charlemagne, the Holy Roman Empire, the Hapsburgs, Napolean, and yes, Hitler’s Third Reich, there have been many attempts to unite the continent, in some ways always hearkening back to the glory days of Rome. Just look at Nazi plans for a rebuilt Berlin complete with Triumphal Arc, a direct echo of Roman imperial glory.

So, Boris Johnson spoke accurately, albeit stupidly; of course such comments would get him into trouble. And yes, he was right to say that these enforced unions of peoples have always led to tragic consequences; war and discord. But this controversy is really a minor point in the debate. The key point has to be an argument over the vision of Britain in the time to come: do we have an independent nation making its own decisions, or do we become a state within a United States of Europe with no more independence than Massachusetts or Maine? Both are respectable views; I, however, am firmly of the opinion that the right to self-determination of all peoples is key to the healthy functioning of liberal democracy and, therefore, to the continuing relevance and influence of our values in the wider world. Therefore, I will be voting to leave.

Boris Johnson’s accurate but ill-advised comments, or rather the headlines around them, are the mud that may stick. If even 1% are influenced to vote remain because of this furore, then Team Brexit will have been done a great disservice. Hopefully this is just a storm in a teacup.

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://cdns.yournewswire.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/59701-eu_swastika-800×350.jpg

Pax Europa? @vote_leave @LeaveEUOfficial @BetterOffOut @voteleave #Brexit #EUReferendum @hilarybennmp

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Hilary Benn MP, son of the late great Tony Benn, today said the following on BBC News:

The EU’s biggest achievement has been keeping the peace for seventy years.

This is getting things backwards. Europeans have not slaughtered each other (Yugoslavia and Ukraine aside) for seventy years because they do not want to, and not for the reason that Benn gives: that the EU has prevented it. The EU is a symptom of the desire for peace in Europe, not a cause.

Of course, from the very beginning — despite what British politicians have traditionally claimed and often still do claim — the “European Project” had as an explicit aim the dismantling of the independent infrastructure of the sovereign states and their consequent incorporation and integration into a new Federal United States of Europe. One reason for this was to prevent war in Europe again.

DETERMINED to establish the foundations of an ever closer union among the European peoples
From the first sentence of the Preamble of the Treaty Establishing the European Economic Community (EEC) “Treaty of Rome” 1957 [1]

Any war between France and Germany [would become] not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible.
Robert Schuman, French Foreign Minister, 1950, in the declaration which launched the project [2]

I find it very hard for a man of Benn’s cleverness and standing to truly believe what he says. Either he lacks basic knowledge of history and thus condemns himself as unfit to be an MP or public figure, like so many others who repeat the same statement. Or he is misleading the public. Either way, he is wrong.

Please, dear reader, do not believe the hype. Frechmen and Germans would not be slaughtering each other today had the model been intergovernmental dialogue as opposed to centralised European Unionism. The idea that the EU has been a cause of the peace in Europe is as inaccurate and almost as ridiculous as David Cameron’s recent claim that we would be risking World War Three or a new European War if the UK were to leave the EU.

Repeating something ad nauseum doesn’t make it true. But unfortunately, modern psychology shows us that it does end up convincing a few people. And “a few” might be enough to swing the referendum. Therefore, I will keep repeating the opposite, the truth:

The EU has not caused or kept the peace in Europe; the EU is merely one symptom of the desire for peace in Europe. The EU did not cause peace; peace helped cause the EU.

Indeed, the EU’s dogged following of an outmoded model of a United States of Europe is itself counter to the will of the people, counter to democracy, and therefore is ironically more likely to cause conflict than the alternative inter-governmental model of a brotherhood of sovereign states working together in close alliance.

Love Europe, Hate the EU. Let’s take back our democracy! Let’s fight for the truth! The EU doesn’t keep and hasn’t kept the peace in Europe; a free association and close alliance of likeminded sovereign nation states does (see NATO). Vote Leave on Thursday 23rd of June.

[1] http://ec.europa.eu/archives/emu_history/documents/treaties/rometreaty2.pdf

[2] The European Union: A very short introduction (2013, 3rd Ed.) John Pinder and Simon Usherwood. OUP, p.1

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-tQSywSKXWzg/UBrfWKIn7iI/AAAAAAAAAyQ/k2KZQ5biF0s/s1600/crosses.jpg

EU Referendum and Bullying @BarackObama @LeaveEUOfficial #Brexit #LoveEuropeHateEU #ProjectFear

U.S President Barack Obama, right, and Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron walk from 10 Downing Street, London after a meeting Friday, April, 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Nobody likes to be told what to do. Indeed, when you’re told you have to do something, very often it galvanises a kind of resistance. This starts in childhood. If you leave a child alone in a room with a biscuit for five minutes, they may eat it, they may not. But if you tell the child, “Do not eat this biscuit; if you do, all your hair will fall out!” then they will almost certainly have eaten it by the time you come back.

Childish? Maybe. But it’s also basic human psychology.

Therefore, the “Bremain” side of the EU Referendum are playing a dangerous game. Even if I wasn’t a Brexiter, the very fact that all the main political parties, many of the corporate interests, and individuals like Barack Obama are in favour of Bremain, would make me very suspicious indeed. Just why are the rich and powerful so against Brexit…? What are they trying to hide from us, hmm…? And to be honest, I’ve found the wheeling out of Obama to be a little offensive. I don’t need foreign leaders to tell me what to think, even if they’re so sexy and smooth they make me question my own heterosexuality.

Some facts now, not fear.

The UK is the world’s fifth largest economy. Plenty of countries trade with the EU and with other blocs and nations without having to accept the laws and a constant erosion of sovereignty. There is no “safe” status quo option in this referendum: the choices are ever closer integration (remain), or independence (leave). The EU was founded on the principal of creating a “kind of United States of Europe” — those are Winston Churchill’s words! (The European Union: A Very Short Introduction is a good short pro-EU primer on the EU including its founding principles)

So, thank you for your intervention, Mr Obama, but I have to tell you: YES WE CAN. Yes we can be free, yes we can be independent. We are a major player, and freedom will do nothing to hurt us. And YES YOU CAN: please stand with the chorus of elites who are trying to bully the British people. Hopefully we are so irked we vote for freedom, vote to leave.

In other news, so good to see Obama agree to give up the Dollar, pool sovereignty with South America, and have United States policy in all areas be dictated by non-US citizens.

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2016/04/22/article-urn:publicid:ap.org:86a16f269734497ba5d7e288ab971169-2OYR8x2FaP50a802cebb41be018f-638_634x450.jpg

The EU Has NOT Kept the Peace in Europe #LoveEuropeHateEU @vote_leave @LeaveEUOfficial

aftermath-of-the-yugoslav-war

Contrary to the propaganda, the EU has not kept the peace in Europe. Look at the break-up of Yugoslavia and the tragic wars that followed. Rather, the EU is partly a product of the desire for the great European nations to not go to war with each other again. The desire to not go to war has prevented wars.

Yes, Europeans not wanting to slaughter each other yet again has kept the peace in Europe — when indeed it has been kept!. Not the EU. The EU is a symptom of that desire for peace, not a cause.

No more propaganda, please. Only facts.

#LoveEuropeHateEU

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://jerusalemstateofmind.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/aftermath-of-the-yugoslav-war.jpg

EU Referendum: Jeremy Corbyn @jeremycorbyn @LeaveEUOfficial #Brexit #LoveEuropeHateEU

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I’m not a socialist, but I was over-the-moon when Jeremy Corbyn was elected as leader of the Labour Party. An outsider, an independent mind, a long-time principled campaigner, a kind of British Bernie Sanders. He was the sort of guy we needed to shake our politics up. I’m tired of these career politician clones; I have a lot of time for principled folk of all political stripes.

How disappointed I now am.

The past week has seen Corbyn throw away much of his respectability.

First there was the biggest non-issue in history: David Cameron’s finances. The guy is a wealthy plonkstain, for sure, but he didn’t do anything illegal. The headlines should be: MIDDLE CLASS MAN MAKES SOUND INVESTMENTS AND MODERATE GAINS. Corbyn demanding that Cameron should publish all of his records and be subject to a parliamentary official probe was the worst kind of political opportunism and wholly unbefitting a so-called man of principle. And no, I’m not even a Tory!

And now he’s chucked his credibility in the bin. The man is a lifetime opponent of the EU (here’s a great article outlining his consistent opposition to the EU). Yet since becoming Labour leader he has had a magical change of mind. This is the lowest and most see-through political opportunism ever. To save his own skin, he has sold out a core principle which he has always fought for. At a time when our nation’s future hangs in the balance, he has chosen career politics over the nation’s welfare and over his own principles.

The man has lost my respect. Not because he is now in favour of us staying in the EU, whereas I am a Brexiter. But because he has jettisoned his principles for political expediency.

His statement about the EU was full of non-sequiturs. Take the following.

EU membership has guaranteed working people vital employment rights including four weeks paid holiday, paternity and maternity leave, protection for agency workers, health and safety in the workplace. Being in the EU has raised our environmental standards… and protected consumers from rip-off charges.[1]

I won’t take the time to rip his argument to shreds in this post as it would turn into a lengthy screed. But it suffices to say that a lot has changed since we joined the European Community in 1973, 43 years ago! Y’know, two years after decimalisation, and six years before Margaret Thatcher even became PM! The implicit point in Corbyn’s statement is that we wouldn’t have developed equivalent or better standards in the last almost half century without being a member of the EU — otherwise, his statement makes no sense. However, he is quite wrong. That we have been a member of the EU means that, like other members, we have developed these standards within the framework of the EU. Correlation is not causation. The UK would very likely not be stuck in a 1973 timewarp had we not joined the European Economic Community — or had we left it in 1975 as Jeremy Corbyn himself campaigned for! We would have developed our own, likely very similar, standards.

It is said that a week is a long time in politics. Indeed it is. The days when Corbyn seemed like (read: was) a man of unwavering principle, above the muck and grime of day-to-day politics, are long gone.

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-36039925

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://cdn.images.express.co.uk/img/dynamic/139/590x/corbyn-641780.jpg

Voting Reform

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The results of the General Election have thrown up some intriguing uncertainties. For example, will the SNP’s unprecedented success precipitate the break up of the UK?

But one thing is certain from the results: the voting system needs to be changed in time for the next General Election.

Consider this. The UK Independence Party received almost four million votes. That’s the third highest and a total 12.6% share of the vote. Yet the party only received one seat in Parliament. Yet 12.6% of the 650 House of Commons is 82 seats!

Whatever you may think of UKIP, this is a travesty and makes a mockery of any notion of British “democracy”.

But it’s not just UKIP who were done over by our voting system.

The LibDems got two and a half million votes, a 7.9% share. Yet they received 1% of the seats.

The Greens gained 1.15 million votes, a 3.8% share. They only received a single seat.

On the other hand, the SNP got 50% of the vote in Scotland, yet a whopping 95% of all seats! Not quite as dramatic, but the Conservatives won 51% of the seats on a mere 36.9% of the vote.

And bear in mind that 33.9% of the eligible population didn’t even vote! That means the Conservatives were only supported by 24% of the voting age population, yet got more than half the seats.

Our system really is winner takes all.

A lot of people I’ve been speaking to have been really quite confused. So I’ll explain our system.

The country is divided into voting areas (constituencies). Whichever candidate gets the most votes in any area wins that seat. Everyone else gets nothing. This was UKIP’s problem: they came second in 120 seats nationwide! But first in one seat is better than second in a hundred under our system.

Perhaps in the era of two party politics, our current system worked well (for example, in the 1950 General Election, the Conservatives and Labour respectively gained 40% and 46.1% of the vote and 35.2% and 46.1% of the seats). But we no longer exist in that era, and never will again. So it’s time to change.

The only arguments in favour our system are that it’s easy to understand and produces stable government. Well, I think the idea our politics is stable is now laughable. And easy to understand? How can anyone understand a party receiving 12.6% of the vote getting a mere 0.15% of the seats?

The system needs to change. That is clear. But change to what? There are so many alternatives that the mind boggles.

Luckily for us, however, the UK has been engaged in numerous pilot schemes trialling different voting systems for a while now.

  • In the London Assembly, Welsh Assembly, and Scottish Parliament, the Additional Member System is used. It is semi-proportional; winners are chosen as in the General Election, but there are extra seats for each area which are awarded proportionally.
  • The London Mayor is selected by the Supplementary Vote system. Everyone picks their first choice and second choice. If no one candidate receives 50% of the vote, then all candidates except the top two are eliminated, and all second preference votes are redistributed. The candidate with most votes after these supplementary votes are added is the winner.
  • European Parliament elections are done according to the d’Hondt method which, more-or-less accurately, gives a proportional share of seats based on share of vote. For example, in the 2014 European Parliament Elections, the percentage of votes/seats won was: UKIP 26.6/32.88, Labour 24.43/27.40, Conservative 23.05/26.03, Green 6.91/4.11, SNP 2.37/2.74, and so on.
  • In London council elections, each ward elects up to three representatives.
  • There are many other systems in use in the UK. See here for all the details.

Clearly, no voting system is perfect (this is actually scientific fact: just see New Scientist‘s article if you don’t believe me), but we need to make votes count. Some ways include more even-sized constituencies so each vote is equally valuable, instant easy right to sack any MP / call a by-election, direct voting by the population, easily triggerable referenda, and so on. But changing the electoral system is key.

My proposal

Whilst I don’t want to break the link between MP and constituency, nor introduce two kinds of MP, I think the best solution is either a proportional system based on voting regions, e.g., the four nations or sub-regions thereof, or a London-style Additional member system with the current system supplemented by proportional elected regional MPs.

The 2015 General Election results were a travesty and a miscarriage of justice. Indeed, they were a farce. Let’s move into the twenty-first century.

© 2015 Bryan A. J. Parry

References
Full results: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election/2015/results

Scottish Parliament Electoral System: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/visitandlearn/Education/16285.aspx
European Parliament Electoral System: http://www.europarl.org.uk/en/your_meps/european_elections/the_voting_system.html
Other voting systems used in the UK: http://www.parliament.uk/about/how/elections-and-voting/voting-systems/
European Parliament Election Results 2014: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Parliament_election,_2014_(United_Kingdom)
New Scientist on the impossibility of fair elections: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20627581.400-electoral-dysfunction-why-democracy-is-always-unfair.html#.VVYou2dFCM8

Featured image from http://www.silverbearcafe.com/private/06.11/images/vote-toss.jpg

 

General Election 2015 Predictions: Aftermath

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The 2015 General Election is almost done, with less than a dozen seats left to declare. David Cameron has won, and with an outright majority.

Huw Edwards on the BBC said, “Nobody predicted this”.

Well, not quite nobody, Huw:

https://doggerelizer.wordpress.com/2015/05/06/general-election-2015-predictions/

As you can see, a nobody predicted this. If everybody wants to come to this nobody’s house and offer me a top boffin job and / or fat wodges of cash in return for my god-like insights, I will consider your offer.

But how did I get this right when top bods around the country didn’t? Was it luck? Was it insider knowledge? Was it a time machine or a cellophane-sealed batch of NZT-48?

Actually, it was simply a matter of being realistic, objective, and following the ebb and flow both on the streets (as a political activist, myself; I’m not a drug dealer) and in the media.

But my supernatural gift of foresight comes as a small crumb of relief because the party I voted for did not win. Also, I didn’t put a damn bet on!

© 2015 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://www.link2portal.com

General Election 2015 Predictions

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I’ve been saying this for weeks, but I’ll say it here so there’s proof of how prescient and insightful I am, so all will flock hither to worship at my feet. Unless I’m wrong, of course, in which case I’ll promptly delete this post and deny ever having written it!

  • Everyone’s talking about coalition. Will it be Conservative-LibDem? Or Labour-SNP? Or Labour-LibDem? Or a “progressive” coalition of  Labour, SNP, LibDem, and Green? I personally think one party will win outright; no coalition will happen.
  • Despite the polls and the poll of polls saying for a while now that Labour will win most seats (if not an outright majority), I think that the Conservatives will win an outright, albeit narrow, majority. P.S. This is not wishful thinking: I’m not a Tory!
  • UKIP MPs Douglas Carwell and Mark Reckless will both lose their seats. UKIP will win a grand total of 1 or 0 seats.

Friday will tell whether I am a genius, or this post never happened.

featured image from http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/624/media/images/81891000/jpg/_81891191_f40ce8ec-ccb8-4108-892b-50ae511a42d8.jpg

© 2015 Bryan A. J. Parry

Vote Hope, Not Fear

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Tomorrow, you will vote in a General Election.

All of the main parties are trying to scare you into voting for them.

The Conservatives tell you about the horror of a Labour-SNP coalition.

Labour tell you about the horror of a Conservative government which will cut, cut, cut.

The LibDems tell you about the horror of a hung parliament.

But I say:

VOTE HOPE, NOT FEAR.

Don’t vote to keep the other guy out.

Don’t vote for the lesser of two evils.

Vote for who you want to win. Even if it’s the Greens or UKIP and they won’t win anyway.

Be brave. Vote for your favourite candidate or party. Don’t vote for who you   wouldn’t hate the most to win: only by being brave like this, will we eventually change politics in this country.

featured image from http://www.newstatesman.com/sites/default/files/images/Salmond%20Miliband%20Call%20The%20Tune%20(3).jpg

© 2015 Bryan A. J. Parry