Saturday, June 25, 2016

Next, electoral reform

Some are trying to get up a petition to invalidate the 2016 EU Referendum and set minimum thresholds of 75% voter turnout and 60% of votes cast.

This would have invalidated the original (EC) 1975 Referendum, where only 67.23% of eligible voters took part. If the proposed principle is to hold, we should already have been out of the EC/EU for over 40 years.

Requiring that level of turnout would also have invalidated the last 5 General Elections:


But there is one vote that we might reconsider: the 2011 Alternative Vote Referendum. The turnout in this was 42.2%, the lowest in national votes by a long way. The media campaign leading up to it was heavily biased and the two largest political parties solidly against AV.

Let's look at the implications for parties and MPs.

52% of EU Referendum voters have just chosen "Leave" but the BBC says:

- 80% of the ruling Conservative Cabinet are "Remain"
- Of those MPs who declared their position (537 out of 650), 71% (379) are "Remain"

As with the EU, the democratic deficit is structural: in the last two General Elections, two-thirds of MPs got their seats on the basis of a minority of votes cast. The way we elect our Members of Parliament is so skewed that no-one should be surprised at how badly Westminster is disconnected from the people.

There is no point in freeing ourselves from EU control if Parliament remains unreformed. If we're going to re-run a referendum, let it be the one on AV.

More here:

http://theylaughedatnoah.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/voting-reform-av-first-past-post.html


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Friday, June 24, 2016

Friday Night Is Music Night - Macaronic Musical Styles

JD writes:

Music 'fans' can be somewhat tribal in their loyalties and often react badly when one of their 'heroes' tries something new - Bob Dylan being jeered and booed at the Newport Folk Festival when he used an electric guitar is the most obvious example of it.

Musicians, on the other hand, will listen to all kinds of music and love good music wherever it comes from. Willie Nelson in the fourth video here explains it well.

And when different genres meet the results are sometimes alarming and sometimes charming but there are no boundaries in music.

Pavarotti meets the Godfather of Soul-

Jimmy Page collides with Chopin
 

Two sisters-
 

a Highwayman meets a crooner
 

Menuhin and Grapelli

Hope you enjoy these, selected from countless examples.


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ESSAY COMPETITION

You are a speechwriter for Prime Minister David Cameron. Write a TV broadcast to the nation in which you explain that the EU referendum vote was so close that you can't justify disconnecting from the EU.

You will remind the viewers that referendums are merely advisory and that the PM has a duty to represent not the wishes of the people, but their best long-term interests.

You will reassure them that they are not losing their national identity, but weaving it into the great fabric of a united Europe.

References to cricket and warm beer are optional, to ladies cycling to Evensong inadvisable, and kittens strictly forbidden.


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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Forty years on

Haven't the time to watch the whole thing today, but the clip I've seen of Peter Shore is most impressive. In comparison our modern politicians on both sides seem so lightweight, such charlatans and rabble-rousers.



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Sunday, June 19, 2016

An apology

Some weeks ago, looking at the Mail on Sunday, I wondered what had happened to editor Paul Dacre - its Referendum coverage was on full Project Fear.

Fool me, the editor of the MoS is Geordie Greig - sorry, Mr Dacre. According to Private Eye the two deeply dislike one another. Today the MoS charges full tilt at Brexit - something like the first dozen pages! - using the dreadful murder of Jo Cox by a madman as its battering ram.

The name may be a clue. Mr Greig is, as Polly Vernon's 2005 Guardian article about him stresses, "very kind and supportive and Scottish." There are some among Scottish nationalists who desire not only their liberty, but anything that may be to the detriment of their southern neighbours. Even it it means remaining in the EU, which will by degrees leach away what is left of Scottish freedom. [Dacre's paper campaigned for Scotland to stay in the UK.]

The vote looks to be very close. Will the outcome of the most important political decision in forty years be swayed by an emotional spasm heavily triggered by a Sunday paper and its editor's personal animosities?

Only Peter Hitchens talks any sense on the subject today.


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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Referendum: 3 for 3?

The Establishment's general strategy is to offer you an opportunity and then do their damnedest to make sure you don't take it.

2011 - Labour and Conservative parties unite to oppose the LibDems' push for the Alternative Vote, which if introduced would have meant that all MPs would have to be validated at a General Election by at least half of the votes cast in their constituency. As it is, in the last two GEs two-thirds of MPs got their seats in Parliament on the basis of a minority vote.

2014 - Labour, Conservative and Liberal parties unite to oppose Scottish independence. [Oddly, freedom-loving Scots seem both to oppose Brexit and to desire for themselves some strange version of independence that is - how? - consistent with membership of Monnet's "ever-closer union".]

2016 - Labour and Liberal parties, together with the Conservatives ex John Major's "bastards", unite to oppose British exit from the EU supranational government.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Institutions_of_the_European_Union#/media/File:Political_System_of_the_European_Union.svg

I keep saying it (and recently I have been seeing others saying something similar), we are seeing the construction of a new Habsburg empire. It suits politicians and businesspeople at a high level...

... plus much of the Fourth Estate (some for idealistic alle-menschen-werden-brueder aspirations) that is prepared to wear their livery. [I'll never forget how Jon Snow allowed Alastair Campbell to march in and take over his news programme.]

They wine, dine and recline with each other. They will intermarry until they begin to look different from the rest of us; perhaps not the Habsburg chin, but the opaque blue eyes of a Blair?

Yet the new European empire is ruinously undermined from the start, because the multinational corporations are even bigger. The status quo is rolling downhill out of control, without brakes or steering. There is no keeping things as they are; the question is whether anyone will try to get a grip.

If - and it's very iffy - this Referendum decides for Leave, and if - and it's very iffy - Parliament then decides to approve the decision, we will have taken only the first step in a long march.

The alternative is to watch matters progress to the point where the much of the world's social and economic system simply breaks down altogether and the wealthy Modern Mayans discover that even their own existence depended on a functioning society.

Seeing much of the writing and comments on social media, I'm not in favour of direct democracy - many people look as though they're not fit to be allowed out on their own, let alone vote - but if the national government of the day goes too far then under the present system the people can collectively vote them out. The EU structure above is an oligarch's dream and represents a final rolling-back of 200 years of widening enfranchisement.

Two centuries ago, most people in Britain couldn't vote, but they could riot. In bad times, they broke windows in Whitehall; in good, they unhitched the Prime Minister's horses and pulled his coach themselves.

Now, exhaustively spied upon and with super-powerful police and military to corral them, the people may commit only such disorder as the Establishment thinks fit to permit in order to justify oppressing them even more severely afterwards.

This vote matters, and it could be the last one that does.


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Friday, June 17, 2016

Friday Night Is Music Night - Tango

JD presents a selection of tango... in we go!





This is an excerpt from the film "Tango" by the Spanish film director, Carlos Saura. The whole film is a visual and musical delight and well worth seeing:



"Gotan is, as you will have guessed, just tango with the last syllable placed at the front of the word. It is a style of 'argot' in the Boca district of Buenos Aires.

"I first came across it years ago when I was listening to a girl yakking away over the dinner table and she kept saying Tabogo and the penny dropped eventually when I realised she was talking about Bogota!"

- More to come in the weeks ahead.


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Thursday, June 16, 2016

They are different

Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different.

F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Rich Boy (1926)

There is much that one could say about this quote. Few of us would turn down the chance to be rich if there were no insuperable caveats, but few of us would use it well. The rich are still different today and there are more of them, but not only the rich. Celebrities are different too, and as far as one can tell they are often different in much the same way because they think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are.

It is something we do to people via money or status, including political status. The problem affects both left and right political classes in that they think they know what is best for us. Those who don't tend to be corrupt in one way or another, apart from a modest few who actually try to leave political life in a better state than they found it.

In Wikipedia there is an interesting quote from Matthew Bruccoli about Fitzgerald's story.

"'The Rich Boy' is a key document for understanding Fitzgerald's much-discussed and much-misunderstood attitudes toward the rich. He was not an envious admirer of the rich, who believed they possessed a special quality. In 1938 he observed: 'That was always my experience—a poor boy in a rich town; a poor boy in a rich boy's school; a poor boy in a rich man's club at Princeton...I have never been able to forgive the rich for being rich, and it has colored my entire life and works.' He knew the lives of the rich had great possibilities, but he recognized that they mostly failed to use those possibilities fully. He also perceived that money corrupts the will to excellence. Believing that work is the only dignity, he condemned the self-indulgent rich for wasting their freedom."

Money corrupts the will to excellence, but not money alone. When the political classes become too secure in their status, their generous salary and allowances, their opportunities to mix with the rich and powerful, then they too seem to ape the self-indulgent rich. They too waste the freedom they have been given to make the world a better place. The will to excellence is easily corrupted.

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