Monday, 22 August 2011

Electoral Reform Society

In the Electoral Reform Society's election for its own council, which in these post-referendum circumstances is a dramatic one with 53 candidates and a fight of reformers versus STV purists, there are 2 candidates who have a writing involvement in some political media and who have ignored the court change. Jonathan Bartley and James Gray.

This is not to say that the other candidates all support the court change. These 2 had significant media connections to prompt telling them about it, and asking them:

"So as an indication of your standards towards democracy, are you in favour of the following "court change" being made publicly known and the media silence on it stopped and overturned?"

and "Remember of direct ERS relevance, that your position on the court change is your position on any legal issue around an election's fair conduct too." Which means the potentially difficult position they put the ERS in if they get elected and continue not to take any position on the court change.

The ERS's own election is hardly a good experience of its favourite system STV either. There are 53 candidates for 15 places, so that in any fair system you would have 15 votes, and there is one organised slate of reformers standing consisting of 15 names, while another more radical slate of 2 also endorse the 15. In STV, slates or parties are not distinguished into separate lists on the ballot paper, you are just wading through all these 53 names. But the worst feature of STV is it only gives you one vote, that's what "single" means, in electing multiple winners. A big voter disempowerment, you don't get your whole say over the result. It's absurd that such a mean system is the trendy favourite for fashionable reform groupies who don't actually study systems' merits. It means allies, including the majority of the names in the 15 name slate, are fighting each other by each appealing for your first pref vote for themself instead of their colleagues. They know they can't say it will be okay so long they are in your top 15 votes. In fact, all the prefs you cast beyond the first 3 or so are unlikely ever to be counted, all the way down to 53. Only very high prefs, much higher than the number of winners, are any use to any candidate.

ERS is clangingly showing why the faction moving an amendment at its AGM to change away from its long standing fixity on supporting only STV, are right.

Monday, 8 August 2011

media snobbery

The media should be treading warily of disgusting us, lately. How much deeper disgust can there be than when a columnist, with a public platform herself, uses it to write blatantly against public platforms for everyone, for you. Rarely as they as blatant as Joan Smith was in the Independent yesterday, in what is supposed to be a progressive paper, in directly arguing that free speech is bad for us and leaving all the thinking to a nasty elite is better.

The new e-petitions site at British government level catches up with a modernity we already have years of experience of at Scottish level as part of the reform push that came with devolution. Smith paints both the whole e-petition idea, and blogging and all political debate online, as actual perpetrations of bullying and prejudice. She openly blatantly suggests, using her own free speech and public platform, that it proves free speech in a public arena is not good for us and only our nobly responsible political class should be trusted with public voices. Knowing this gagging will not happen to herself, and knowing she already has more platform to attack our liberties than we have to defend them.

Her point comes from how much oppressive and far right sympathy there is among the e-petitions, reminding more intellectual readers of Independent columns miserably what the barbarians at the gate believe in and are petitioning for. Capital punishment, bread and water in prison, anti-immigration, repealing the Human Rights Act. Even leaving the EU is naughtily listed and made to sound as bad as those other items are. I'm pro-EU but that was a mischievous spin to constrict what her readers can feel allowed to think.

It should be agreed that it would be dangerous to have a system where just public support for a measure actually enforced its passing into law, the uncurbed form of "citizen's initiative and referendum", INIREF, as in Switzerland. The government should be entitled to give as human rights defence against enacting any measure that violates human rights, no matter how majority supported it is. But that is the safeguard needed, concerning what is actually enacted - not to suppress what is debated. INIREF should be used to guarantee the claims to enact any issue a hearing on their merits. so that things are aired and not hidden, but with a human rights safeguard to block the actual enactment of evil measures, alike whether it is people or government who want them.

What Miss Nursemaid here is not explaining, is how a petitioning system that gives ideas a hearing can result in having to implement them. There is a total difference between folks saying they want racist and far right measures, and having the means to make them happen. Also she is reading actual social persecution into the presence of any bad ideas among the petitions at all, despite the presence of at least as many and more petitions that are progressive. As other media have identified, a petition against capital punishment has more signatures than the for. She is reacting to the existence of any petitions like that at all, not to the absence of any more decent ones. She says not a word about where the folks behind the nicer petitions are supposed to get noticed instead.

So what is this threat Smith asks us to feel? She is just expressing snobbery that voice for real people is so uncouth don't you know, and so beneath our natural leaders' noses. Bloggers and online debaters are all knee-jerk anger, journalists reflect more on what they write than bloggers, she ludicrously writes right in the face of all the recent events. If any perspective is knee-jerk oppressive from lack of reflection, that is. Who is her own writing accountable to for its reflectiveness? Does this Edenic picture include the tabloids, Joan?

She gives us a lesson she did not intend, that to have politics's content kept limited and filtered by an elite is indeed a squashing of free speech, knowingly, calculatedly. She thinks that is good, despite all the history that unfree societies do exactly the things in the petitions she dislikes !! A clanging contradiction.

The same elite filtering of thought is what Salmond and the SNP have done by selective refusing to issue in public some of their national conversation's responses, hiding what they like from us. Hiding the court change which abolishes judges' power to take wilfully bent decisions and call them final, and hiding the issue of the state being racist to returners to Scotland from the diaspora. Hiding those makes us all safer, does it Joan?