Hustings Ahoy! / Petition: Have You Signed? / Voting Smart

The Leader Debates are now done and – to a great sigh of relief from the PM – over. Bizarre that they held these before manifesto launches, but hey. Miliband seems to have ridden out of them well, the SNP even more so. Cameron, who looks like a man peeved that he’s having to do unpaid overtime, tried to hide behind his podium. All rather disappointing, which I suppose was the point Cameron wanted: knowing full well most viewers would switch off when they heard that Cameron, on live TV, would be mass debating.

The ad-hominem attacks on Milliband continue from the right-wing press and their chums in the Tory party; the Anti-Kinnock playbook being wielded out by that scummy racist Lynton Crosby. Attack the leader as being weak, and then paradoxically then accuse him of being too driven. Quite wonderfully, however, the British public have seen through this. Blame social media, blame the lack of love the public have for politicians using dirty tactics; blame the fact that the Tories just cannot help themselves being the Nasty Party. the more they attack Miliband, the stronger he seems to get. Crivens! Will we have to discuss actual policy now???

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Debates come to Beeston this Monday (13th). The Parish Church is hosting a hustings with all the parties (though Frank Dunne of UKIP can’t make it). That’ll be Soubry, Palmer, Heptinstall, Kirwan and the guy from Justice For Men and Boys Party. It’s open to all, free to go in, and should be interesting.

The previous sets of hustings in 2010 were notable for how little Soubry knew about policy; or indeed, where Broxtowe was; the Lib Dems David Watts in boisterous mood with his claims that the Lib Dems were the second horse in the two-horse race (the actual results on the day suggesting they more closely resembled a retired Skeggy donkey); the Greens confusing the hell out of seasoned husting-watchers by being honest and saying ‘we’re not going to win. I know that, you know that. But read our manifesto, it might give you some ideas for the future’; Chris Cobb out of UKIP being disappointingly polite; and the BNP’s candidate failing to turn up after failing to find anyone to read the invite to him.

This year will be much different: Soubry now with the polls against her, defending a poor record, and fighting for her seat rather than drifting in on an ‘Anyone But Brown’ swing; Palmer’s mild intellectualism against her blustery temper; Stan Heptinstall’s mild intellectualism also against Soubry’s blustery temper; Kirwan (Greens) putting in a much slicker, but perhaps not as admirable performance than his predecessor; and the guy from the party whose name takes an age to type out and won’t get more than a fraction of a percentage point annoying any journalists there who have to go back to their offices and type out his parties incredibly long and convoluted name just to point out the fact that he’ll take a mere fraction of a percentage point and if at the next election he could choose a party which doesn’t have such a long and convoluted name then everyone would be much happier.

Hopefully, the event will be filmed and put on-line. If not, I’ll try and blog live from there, possibly over Twitter. Hope to see you there.

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The petition that’s been set up to demand our next MP vigorously renegotiates the recent Local Government Settlement that left Broxtowe with the worst deal in the whole UK ( https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/renegotiate-broxtowe-s-local-government-settlement-1 )  is coming along well, gathering steam. Already, we’ve had several candidates endorse it: Nick Palmer; Stan Heptinstall and David Kirwan.

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Independent Stapleford candidate and tireless campaigner Richard Macrae has put his name to it. UKIP acknowledged awareness of it, and I think they signed: if they’d like to drop an email to confirm I’ll get that mentioned. No response from any Tories, who are probably be put off by me being the ‘enemy’ (on the left of the political spectrum). i’d like to assure them all that this isn’t a party political issue. It’s the future of Beeston (and Broxtowe as a whole) being able to maintain services, keep paying council staff a Living Wage and have money to spend making the town look fit for purpose when the tram rolls in. Put party politics aside, for the sake of Broxtowe, and lets work together, in a civic and civil manner.

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If you haven’t signed: do so. While many petitions sometimes seem somewhat ineffective due to being easily ignored, this one is directly demanding something in a marginal seat. If you have signed it, thank you. Now tell your family, your friends, random people who you pass in the street. Candidates from all parties will be knocking on your door like amphetamine-addled Jehovah Witnesses until polling day: ask if they have signed it, and if not, why not?

Put it out on Facebook. Tweet it on Twitter. Share it on other social media sites I’m too old to bother working out how to use. Print out copies and sellotape them to your clothing. Lets get this big.

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A dilemma among many voters on the political left is who to vote for. Many feel that Labour aren’t rejecting austerity and showing it for what it really is: a transference of public ownership assets into private hands; or have various other reasons why they’re uncomfortable. The leaders debate had one bizarre consequence: Sturgeon put in such a solid performance that should she field candidates across the whole UK, not just Scotland, she’d do better than the Lib Dems.

The dilemma deepens due to our antiquated first-past-the-post voting system. Broxtowe is a ‘crucial marginal’; where a swing of less than 200 people can change the national score on who runs the country. As the polls show an incredibly tight race, this is a weirdly distortion of power. In 2001, I was working in Tunbridge Wells at the time fo election. A hugely safe Tory seat, a vote there is effectively useless: I was working at the BBC at the time and had booked our radio interviews in with the winners (including a very bad-tempered Anne Widdecombe) well before the votes had been counted.

Such power puts those who want to show support to anyone but the only two real contenders in a pickle. How can they vote for, say, Green, without inadvertently ushering in another five years of brutal austerity and Soubry ruling the roost?

That’s why this ingenious idea comes in: http://voteswap.org/seat/i65849 . It’s a tool where you simply find someone in a seat like Tunbridge Wells, whose vote will be a waste at a constituency level, who is willing to swop with you and therefore ensure your support for your chosen party still gets included in the national vote share, but doesn’t accidentally usher in the Tories, or worse. It’s a ridiculously simple and elegant idea: and until we see sense and bring in proportional representation, the best solution to the dilemma.