Saturday, June 12, 2004

IWCA Gain Three Seats In Oxford

The Independent Working Class Association, the only left party which believes that crime and fear of crime is an objective reality, with an existence outside a Daily Mail columnists mind, have won three seats on Oxford Council. As I blogged last year, they've been doing good deeds for the people of Blackbird Leys (Oxford council estate or 'project' for you Statesiders, 'scheme' for Scots) for a few years now.

Tragically they've been so busy tackling crack dealers and anti-social behaviour that they haven't updated their Oxford site since April. But the IWCA national site has the details.

Over at urban75, the forum of the radical squatterati, the news has sent a teensy frissonette through the various 'left' posters, who have names like 'Rebel Warrior' which I don't think are meant to be ironic.

Reflections On Elections

There's confusion amongst them.

Labour's vote collapse isn't really reflected in their loss of seats or councils. The Tories actually dropped a percentage of the vote (39 to 38) from the Hague days. And the Lib Dems improved, but not markedly.

There seem at first glance to be few national trends, except perhaps that Labour are being punished, not by the remnants of the working class but by middle class liberal voters. British Spin has an interesting comments section in which the Cynical Archivist suggests that Labour actually gained support in towns with large working class populations (Stoke, Hartlepool, Rhondda, Cynon Taff, Redditch, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Merthyr) but were punished in towns where there were local scandals (Cardiff, Oxford, Swansea, Doncaster) or where there were commuter villages or large yuppie populations (Newcastle, Oxford, Ipswich, Hastings, Bridgend).

Spin thinks that "It looks like we're seeing three distinct battles. A Labour-Tory battle in parts of the midlands and the south, with the Tories gaining a slight edge, a Labour/ Lib-Dem battle in the North, with significant gains for the Lib-Dems and a Lib-Dem/Tory battle in the South, with real progress for the Tories".

Meanwhile at the ends of the spectrum (although given that they both think Iraq is 'all about oil' and that the world is run by Jewish neocons, they may meet soon), both the BNP and Respect are chucking the toys out of the pram, Respect because the Independent didn't print their letters, the BNP because of alleged theft of votes.

The news on electoral fraud in Birmingham was worrying. And elsewhere it is not beyond the bounds of possibilities that the students who threw rocks at the National Front in the 1970s (I was one) may as respectable members of society consider stealing votes to be acceptable. It it were true, it would be more worrying than a hatful of BNP or Respect councillors. Democracy would not potentially be at risk -it would actually have been destroyed in some areas of Britain. I think it may already have happened in Bordesley Green and Sparkbrook, if not in Oldham.

Matthew Parris in the Times makes the point :

“A bad night for democracy.” A bad night, that is, if in an election held by secret ballot on a universal adult suffrage, a small party advancing opinions held by many but with which the major parties disagreed, were to gather votes? A bad night for immigrants, certainly; a bad night for liberal values, too; but a bad night for democracy?

What then would be a good night for democracy? How are Labour, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats using the word “democracy” if when they see the number of voters holding an opinion translated into the election of candidates who share that opinion, they think democracy is under threat?"

To hear some of my friends in politics and political journalism talk, you would think that democracy is a kind of jolly charabanc on to which all reasonable citizens have clambered, even if we may argue about the route.

No, my friends, democracy is more than the bus. Democracy is also the ditch, the pothole, the rock in the road.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Ray Charles 1930-2004

Gone. Hit The Road Jack. What'd I Say ?

The Labour Guide To Postal Vote Scams

"An investigation by The Times has discovered that Labour’s General Secretary is urging activists to set up bogus ballot boxes today outside traditional polling stations in all-postal voting areas.

A document issued by Matt Carter, which has been seen by The Times, suggests that the activists should wear red rosettes to maximise the number of last-minute Labour votes collected in the bogus boxes, and to deter supporters of other parties from handing over completed voting slips.

The 30-page document, sent out to all party workers, also deliberately defies advice by the Electoral Commission by suggesting that “if asked” campaigners should collect completed ballot papers at the doorstep."

"Among the tips imparted to activists, the booklet suggests nurturing a close relationship with electoral registration officers, delivering completed ballot papers on behalf of voters and carrying a mobile ballot box on polling day, the contents of which are then delivered by activists themselves.

The booklet, entitled The Labour Party Postal Vote Handbook 2004 bears the legend “making life easier, vote by post”. "

It is likely that Labour will consider electoral fraud a price well worth paying for an increased turnout. Which means that future elections where the result is tight will be decided by fraud and/or intimidation. Bad will drive out good as the losers decide 'they're doing it, so we'll have to'. The ruling party will be able to tilt the process, as the police ignore fraud by some parties but prosecute frauds by others. A whole new breed of lawyers specialising in electoral law will exist.

The future ? Soviet levels of turnout and Third World levels of fairness.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Your Vote Fraud Riots Tonight

Imagine some country where people rioted at election time amid allegations of electoral fraud, corruption and voter intimidation.

Would the BBC report it ? Of course they would - unless it's England, in which case you'll search BBC News in vain for this story.

"The pitched battle between Labour and People's Justice Party supporters was ignited by the appearance of a postman with a bag.

“Some people tried to get the votes off him and were pinching them out of letterboxes – then all hell broke loose,” said an eyewitness.

“People were rushing out of their homes to join in the fight. Thugs and gangsters are targeting the postmen every day. Everything is getting out of control.”

Police today called for calm in the Bordesley Green ward which has chalked up a city record with the highest number of postal votes ever recorded – 8,500 out of a voting population of around 18,000."

Birmingham Council's Liberal Democrats are furious, with leader John Hemming complaining that in many inner city wards Thursday's city council elections would be decided by people who were intimidating residents and stealing thousands of postal votes.

Even the postmen are at risk.

"West Midlands Police confirmed today they were investigating cases of mailmen being threatened with violence if they didn't hand over bags.

A postman in Bordesley Green was offered a £500 bribe to give up his sack of postal votes before they were delivered.

A friend told the Evening Mail: "He was shocked and very distressed because he believes his life could be in danger. He refused the bribe and got somebody to take him by car to the nearest police station.""

More than 70,000 blank votes are to be delivered before the June 10 polling day for city council and European Parliament seats, compared with 24,000 last year.

The incidence is highest in inner city wards, particularly Bordesley Green where 8,600 postal votes are being delivered.

The number of registered voters in the ward is only 18,000.

Other hot-spots are Washwood Heath, with 5,600 postal votes, Aston, with 5,257, and Spark-brook with 4,510.

In the outer suburbs Kingstanding has only 670, with Oscott, Selly Oak, and Perry Barr each having less than 800.

City leader Sir Albert Bore, who faces the end of 20 years' Labour control of Birmingham, said: "There is a lot going on in this election - particularly in the inner cities."

It looks as if along with the glories of multicultural Birmingham such as the kuthlama (A fantastic plate-sized slab of heavily spiced burger-like meat covered with pastry. Never seen them outside Brum. Get them at the Ambala in Small Heath. For strong men only) are the voting practices of the subcontinent.

Those Evil Racist Flags

Dumb Jon and Expat Yank carry the torch of righteousness.

"Andrew Houseley, director of the Commission for Racial Equality Midlands, said he was concerned that some people felt threatened by the increase in flags on display in public."

Some people feel threatened by a Black guy walking within ten foot of them. We call these people bigots. What's the diff exactly ?

(from House of Dumb)

"But are these patriotic displays just an indication of support for the England squad in Euro 2004 or do they represent something else? . . ."

On a story like this one KNOWS immediately, which way the BBC is leaning:

". . . BBC News Online tracked down some flag bearers and non-flag bearers in Birmingham to see what they thought about the trend.

Geoff Marlow, owner of Kings Heath Photo Centre, said he will be hoisting a huge flag above his shop in the build up to Euro 2004.

"I'm all for it, it's our flag so why shouldn't we be entitled to fly it, you wouldn't go up to Scotland or Wales and tell them not to fly theirs. . ."

Ah, yes, we've been waiting for this:

". . .Non flag-bearers Tina Chauhan, 22, an administration clerk from Moseley, and Ali Azam, 22, a security worker from Moor Green, said they feared it could be used by some to incite racism."

(from Expat Yank)

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Brilliant New Feminist Initiative

Give the girls counselling - and lock up all the punters !

A Reader Writes ...

"Guns are evil, guns are bad, guns don't solve anything - except, of course, when it's the BBC's ass that needs protecting !!" says reader Susan Cole.

She might say that - I couldn't possibly comment.

Amateur Astronomy

Venus in transit across the Sun, 07.50 BST. It's the dot at the top !

Taken using Boots binoculars and one of the children's hardbacks.

Monday, June 07, 2004

A New Liberal Myth And Two Neat Sites

This one is long overdue. The Neighbours from Hell site.

And the other is just a wonderful blog, discovered while looking for stuff on the Ottoman Empire (like the Hackney Empire, but full of towels). A Guardian leader, drawing on the work of historian Jerry Brotton, contended that because Queen Elizabeth's spy chief Francis Walsingham had wanted the Turks to harass the Spanish in the Eastern Mediterranean prior to the 1588 Armada, that we should therefore be easy about Turkish accession to the EU today.

Queen Elizabeth I's Turkish diplomacy helped Sir Francis Drake beat the Armada by drawing some of Spain's fleet into defensive operations in the Mediterranean ... Still, if Turkey could be an ally of Good Queen Bess, the secular EU should more easily swallow its doubts 400 years on.

Two things here. One is that what happened 400 years ago shouldn't necessarily influence foreign policy today. Does the Guardian believe that if we'd been at war with the Grande Porte in 1588 we should veto accession now ?
The other is that the Guardian may not be aware of it, but Britain, along with the USA, France, Germany, Spain and one or two other countries, is currently allied to Turkey via the little-known NATO organisation. Turkey has been a member since 1952, three years after NATO was formed.

Of course what we're seeing here is a liberal myth in embryo - that the Turks rather than Drake and Effingham beat the Armada.

Britain was never allied to the Ottoman Empire (which it finally got round to destroying in 1918. In the process the Turks inflicted damage on us which included the premature death of my grandfather, seriously wounded in Palestine). Just as in today's world, we (and other European countries) were capable of accepting aid from the unlikeliest of sources if they were against our main enemy. Francis I of France (you know the guy who beat Henry VIII at wrestling at the Field Of The Cloth Of Gold. Henry was so humiliated he never forgave him) actually was allied to the Turks, seeing his main enemy as the Hapsburgs.

England's main enemy was Catholic Spain. Yet when the Turks besieged Malta, a Spanish dependency, in 1565, Elizabeth wrote "If the Turks should prevail against the Isle of Malta, it is uncertain what peril might follow to the rest of Christendom."

When the Maltese, lead by the Knights Of St John, saw off the infidels, Elizabeth's Archbishop Matthew Parker, no doubt after consultatation with his Queen, ordered prayers of Thanksgiving to be said thrice weekly for six weeks in all English Churches.

And does this sound as if the Turks were allies ?

"Forasmuch as the Isle of Malta (in old time called Melite, where S Paul arrived when he was sent to Rome) lying near unto Sicily and Italy, and being as it were the key of that part of Christendom, is presently invaded with a great Army and navy of Turks, infidels and sworn enemies of Christian religion, not only to the extreme danger and peril of those Christians that are besieged, and daily assaulted in the holds and forts of the said Island, but also of all the rest of the countries of Christendom adjoining; it is our parts, which for distance of place cannot succour them with temporal relief, to assist them with spiritual aid: that is to say, the earnest, hearty, and fervent prayer ......"

Or this ?

"Better it is for us to fall into thy hands, than into the hands of men, and especially into the hands of Turks and Infidels thy professed enemies, who now invade thine inheritance. Against thee, O Lord, have we sinned, and transgressed thy commandments: against Turks, Infidels, and other enemies of the Gospel of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, have we not offended, but only in this, that we acknowledge thee, the eternal Father, and thy only Son our Redeemer, with the Holy Ghost, the comforter, to be the only true Almighty and everliving God. For if we would deny and blaspheme thy most holy name, forsake the Gospel of thy dear Son, embrace false religion, commit horrible Idolatries, and give ourselves to all impure, wicked, and abominable life, as they do; the devil, the world, the Turk, and all other thine enemies would be at peace with us, according to the saying of thy Son Christ: If you were of the world, the world would love his own. But therefore hate they us, because we love thee: therefore persecute they us, because we acknowledge thee, God the Father, and Jesus Christ thy Son, whom thou hast sent. The Turk goeth about to set up, to extol, and to magnify that wicked monster and dammed soul Mohumet above thy dearly beloved Son Jesus Christ, whom we in heart believe, and with mouth confess, to be our only Saviour and redeemer. Wherefore awake, O Lord our God and heavenly Father, look upon us thy children, and all such Christians as now be besieged and afflicted, with thy fatherly and merciful countenance: and overthrow and destroy thine and our enemies, sanctify thy blessed name emonges us, which they blapheme, establish thy kingdom, which they labour to overthrow: suffer not thine enemies to prevail against those, that now call upon thy name, and put their trust in thee ..."

And what about this ?

First, the Turke with his sword, what landes, nations, and countreys, what empires, kingdomes, and provinces, with cities innumerable hath he wonne, not from us but from Thee! Where thy name was wont to be invocated, thy word preached, thy sacraments administered, there now reigneth barbarous Mahumet with his filthy Alcoran. The florishing churches in Asia, the learned churches of Grecia, the manifold churches in Africa, which were wont to serve thee now are gone from thee. The seven churches of Asia with their candlesticks, whom thou didest so well forewarne, are now removed. All the churches where thy diligent apostle S. Paul, thy apostle S. Peter and John, and other apostles, so laboriously travayled, preachyng and writying to plant thy Gospell, are now gone from thy Gospell. In all the kyngdome of Syria, Palestina, Arabia, Persia, in Armenia, and the empire of Cappadocia, through the whole compasse of Asia, with Egypt and with Africa also, unless among the farre Aethiopians some olde steppes of Christianity peradventure yet do remayne, either els in all Asia and Africa, thy church hath not one foot of free land, but all is turned either into infidelitie or to captivitie, whatsoever pertaineth to thee. And if Asia and Africa onely were decayed, the decay were great, but yet the defection were not universal. Now in Europa a great part also is shronke from thy Church. All Thracia with the empire of Constantinople, all Grecia, Epyrus, Illyricum, and now of late all the kyngdoms almost of Hungaria, with must of Austria, with lamentable slaughter of Christen bloud is wasted and all become Turkes.

Not exactly what you'd call a "deepening of understanding and of friendship". Can't we get rid of Rasputin and bring back Matthew Parker ? I rest my case.

But hist ! I near forgotte ! Ye otherre blogge ! Mirabilis ! A grande history blog which almost certainly knowes whether 'among the farre Aethiopians some olde steppes of Christianity peradventure yet do remayne'.

I like " is powered by Movable Type, Gregorian chant, and a very good Merlot".

Onne ye blogge-rolle mote it lie untille ye laste trumpet.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

You Cannot Be Serious

Nick Cohen is worried. While we've been looking at the BNP, we've missed the rise of UKIP.

"All that can be said with certainty this weekend, is that the BNP has failed to appear in the polls and any victories it scrapes will rely on a miserable turnout rather than a wave of enthusiastic support.

Its real success has been to distort the political vision. Until a few weeks ago few in the Westminster village noticed the far more significant right-wing phenomenon of the United Kingdom Independence Party."

Two things. One is that the BNP is still not a repectable party. If people are reluctant to admit in polls to voting Conservative, how much more must this apply to a potential BNP voter. It'll be interesting to see how the vote compares with the polls (my money is still on one or more seats).

The other is that until a few weeks ago, UKIP didn't exist on anyone's political radar. Its 3 Euro-MPs have made not a ripple on politics over the last 5 years. Only the massive 'NO' poster campaign, bigger then either of the main parties, has put it in the consciousness of voters.

Matthew D'Ancona in the Telegraph has it about right.

"They will doubtless have their day on Thursday, may well make electoral gains, and will certainly claim that the UKIP is now a serious political force. That claim will be utter, unmitigated, fully-fledged nonsense. Who now takes seriously the Green Party, which gained 14.9 per cent of the vote in the 1989 European elections?

The truth is that the electorate is sophisticated, and sees Thursday's polls as an opportunity to give Mr Blair and - in some areas - Mr Howard a kicking. The voters regard local government as more or less powerless, and the European Parliament as irrelevant: if these elections have any meaning, therefore, it will be as a protest vote, a collective act in mischief-making and a means of sticking two fingers up at the political establishment."

Though UKIP are not a serious organisation, and their vote is indeed a 'Not In My Name' vote, we're moving into the era where a pile of money and some celebrity endorsements make you a more serious political player than a national network of members, branches, meetings, leafletters - all the old stuff of politics. Today on the right with UKIP, tomorrow it could be on the left, if the rock and film aristocracy could put its money where its mouth is.

What IS scary is the political volatility and lack of attachment which the UKIP rise demonstrates. Interesting times.