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The Scottish Political Singularity, Act Two

The UK is heading for a general election next Thursday, and for once I'm on the edge of my seat because, per Hunter S. Thompson, the going got weird.

The overall electoral picture based on polling UK-wide is ambiguous. South of Scotland—meaning, in England and Wales—the classic two-party duopoly that collapsed during the 1970s, admitting the Liberal Democrats as a third minority force, has eroded further. We are seeing the Labour and Conservative parties polling in the low 30s. It is a racing certainty that neither party will be able to form a working majority, which requires 326 seats in the 650 seat House of Commons. The Liberal Democrats lost a lot of support from their soft-left base by going into coalition with the Conservatives, but their electoral heartlands—notably the south-west—are firm enough that while they will lose seats, they will still be a factor after the election; they're unlikely to return fewer than 15 MPs, although at the last election they peaked around 50.

Getting away from the traditional big three parties, the picture gets more interesting. The homophobic, racist, bigoted scumbags of UKIP (hey, I'm not going to hide my opinions here!) have picked up support haemorrhaging from the right wing of the Conservative party; polling has put them on up to 20%, but they're unlikely to return more than 2-6 MPs because their base is scattered across England. (Outside England they're polling as low as 2-4%, suggesting that they're very much an English nationalist party.) On the opposite pole, the Green party is polling in the 5-10% range, and might pick up an extra MP, taking them to 2 seats. In Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionist Party (who are just as barkingly xenophobic as UKIP) are also set to return a handful of MPs.

And then there's Scotland.

On September 18th last year, we were offered a simple ballot: "should Scotland become an independent country?" 45% of the electorate voted "yes", 55% voted "no", and the turn-out was an eye-popping 87%, so you might think the issue was settled. Indeed, some folks apparently did so—notably Prime Minister David Cameron, who walked back the Scotophillic rhetoric on September 19th with his English Votes for English Laws speech and thereby poured gasoline on the embers of the previous day's fire. Well, the issue clearly isn't settled—and the vote on May 7th is going to up-end the Parliamentary apple cart in a manner that hasn't happened since the Irish Parliamentary Party's showing in 1885. The Labour party was traditionally the party of government in Scotland; so much so that the SNP's victories in forming a minority government in 2008 and a majority one in 2011 were epochal upsets. But worse is happening now. In the past six months, Labour support has collapsed in opinion polls asking about electoral intentions. The SNP are now leading the polls by 34 points with a possible 54% share of the vote—enough in this FPTP electoral system to give them every seat in Scotland.

Nobody's quite sure why this is happening, but one possibility is simply that the voters who were terrorized by the "project fear" anti-independence campaign are now punishing Labour for campaigning hand-in-hand with the hated Conservatives. Polling suggests a very high turnout for the 2015 election—up to 80% of those polled say they intend to vote—and if the "yes" voters who were previously Labour supporters simply switch sides and vote SNP this would account for most of the huge swing.

Even if the most recent polling is wrong and we apply traditional weightings to the Scottish poll results, the SNP aren't going to win fewer than 40 seats in Westminster—almost certainly making them the third largest party and, traditionally, the most plausible coalition partner for one of the major parties. If the most extreme outcome happens, the SNP could have 57 seats, effectively blocking any other party configuration from forming a government except for a Conservative/Labour coalition.

A Conservative/Labour coalition just isn't conceivable.

While such a hypothetical chimera would deliver a stonking great parliamentary majority, it would be fundamentally unstable. The Conservatives are seeing their base eroded from the right, by UKIP (who are also cannibalizing the traditional hard-right/neofascist base of the BNP). And on the left, the Green Party is positioning itself as a modern social democratic grouping with a strong emphasis on human rights and environmental conservation. (Full disclosure: I am a member of, and voted by post for, the Scottish Green Party. This is a separate party from the English/Welsh Greens, with distinct policy differences in some areas—for one thing, it's also pro-independence.) I believe that a Lab/Con coalition would rapidly haemorrhage MPs from both parties, either joining the smaller fringe parties or sitting as separate party rumps. It would also devastate both parties' prospects in the next election as large numbers of their core voters are motivated by tribal loyalty defined in opposition to the other side's voters.

On the other hand ...

For the past few weeks we've seen the Conservatives use the SNP as a stick to beat Labour with in England ("if you vote Labour, you're letting Alex Salmond run England!"), and the Labour party use the SNP as a stick to beat the Conservatives with in Scotland ("if you vote SNP you're letting the Tories run Scotland!"). Both UK-wide parties are committed to the Union of Kingdoms, and have announced that they will not enter a coalition with the SNP under any circumstances. However, their scaremongering tactics are profoundly corrosive to the idea of a parlaimentary union of formerly independent states—it's worth noting that Scotland and England merged their parliaments voluntarily rather than as the result of war and conquest (although to be fair the Scottish government's alternative was to declare bankruptcy). By setting up a false polarization between Scottish and English interests within the UK, both major parties are guilty of weakening the glue that holds the nations together. The 45% turn-out for independence last September is a sign of how dangerously brittle the glue has become: and the EVEL backlash among Conservatives post-September weakened it further.

Let's look at the underlying picture in Scotland.

To understand the roots of the England/Scotland argument, you need to realize that it's all about money. Or rather, about how the money is divided up. The Barnett Formula "is a mechanism used by the Treasury in the United Kingdom to automatically adjust the amounts of public expenditure allocated to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to reflect changes in spending levels allocated to public services in England, England and Wales or Great Britain, as appropriate." It's basically a short-term kluge from 1978 ... that has persisted for nearly 40 years.

English partisan voters resent it because it allocates a little bit more money per capita to Scotland than to England. (Scotland has a lower population density than England, so faces higher infrastructure costs in providing services in outlying regions such as the highlands and islands.) Scottish partisan voters resent it because it allocates a lot less money per capita to Scotland than to England if you take into account the amount of gross revenue raised in Scotland from taxation—Scotland has an oil industry and England doesn't.

So nobody likes the arrangement, but like democracy in general, it's better than the alternatives. But we have, since 2010, had a government in Westminster that is in some ways the most politically radical since Thatcher. The outgoing coalition was noteworthy for its support of austerity policies in pursuit of deficit reduction long after everybody else realized that this was nuts. Then they flipped to stimulus spending—on private sector crony projects seemingly intended to funnel tax revenue to rentier corporations. They finished selling off the Air Traffic Control system, privatised the Post Office, outsourced the Coast Guard search and rescue helicopters, are working on the Highways Agency, and have been kite-flying about selling off the Fire Service under George Osborne.)

Scotland, with inherently higher infrastructure operating costs than England, is going to feel the pain disproportionately in this scenario. So there's strong resistance to public spending cuts in Scotland, and this points to an intrinsically higher level of support for social services than is electorally popular in England. Hence the trivial political observation that Scottish voters lean to the left relative to English voters: it's self-interest at work.

We also see differences in the Scottish attitude to immigrants. A large minority of English voters (egged on by their media) are fantastically xenophobic this decade—expressions of anti-immigrant sentiment that were the preserve of neo-Nazis in the 1970s are common currency among English voters and media pundits today. However, in Scotland there's a general consensus that the shutdown on immigration is harming the nation—Scotland has different demographic issues from England, and actually needs the inputs of skilled immigrant labour that the English are rejecting.

Finally, there's a touchstone of the 1980s left in the UK—nuclear disarmament—that has somehow become a raw political issue in Scotland. The UK's Trident force submarines operate out of Faslane, about 25 miles from the centre of Glasgow—Scotland's largest city. There's considerable ill-will about this, because it's perceived as making Glasgow a strategic nuclear target and putting it at risk of a nuclear accident, all on the Scottish taxpayer's tab. Viewed as an independent country Scotland would have no need for a nuclear deterrent and no more desire for a strategic global military reach than Ireland or Norway. Moreover, Trident is a potent reminder of the undead spectre of Margaret Thatcher, who is somewhere between rabies and HIV in the popularity stakes in Scotland.

These are the wedges threatening to split the union apart. It appears inevitable that Scotland's voters will not willingly accommodate a conservative policy platform dictated by voters in England—and a Labour party that has triangulated on the centre-right since Tony Blair severed it from its previous socialist roots in 1994 is increasingly oriented towards the interests of English voters.

What happens On May 8th?

I honestly have no idea, and anyone who tells you they know what's going to happen is lying.

However, in broad terms there are two paths that a government—whether a minority administration supported by outsiders on a confidence-and-supply basis, or a formal coalition with a working majority—can take.

They can attempt to save the union. To do this, they will need to address the fundamental need for constitutional reform before tackling the Barnett formula. The best outcome would be wholesale root-and-branch reform—abolition of the House of Lords, reconstitution of the House of Commons as a federal government with a new electoral system, establishment of a fully devolved English Parliament (sitting separately), and full devolution—Devo Max—for Scotland. This would leave the UK as a federal state similar to Germany, with semi-independent states and the central government handling only overall defense, foreign, and macro-scale fiscal issues.

Unfortunately any such solution will require the House of Commons to voluntarily relinquish a shitpile of centralized power that they have collectively hoarded as jealously as any dragon. And I don't see the existing Westminster establishment agreeing to do that until they find themselves teetering on the edge of a constitutional abyss—and maybe not even then.

The alternative is that the festering resentment caused by EVEL and revanchist Scottish nationalism will continue to build. Prognosis if this happens: an SNP landslide in the Holyrood parliament in 2016, and another independence referendum with a clear mandate for independence some time before 2020. If we don't see constitutional reform on the agenda within the lifetime of the next parliament, the UK as an entity will not make it to 2025.

361 Comments

1:

Quick, possibly stupid question, since I'm not from the UK: I've heard some people put the number needed for a majority lower, because of the expected election of a half-dozen or so Sinn Fein MPs who won't actually show up to Westminster - is this true, or does a government still need a majority of the 650 to pass a confidence vote?

2:

Excellent post. One thing you didn't mention: The recent collapse in the price of oil makes Scottish independence look less financially viable than it did a year ago. At this time, I'm not sure the SNP leadership want full independence or a referendum on same.

IMO, the main reason Sturgeon et al are keeping their options open on a second referendum is because the Tories, or a Tory-led alliance, might take the UK out of the EU. If that happens, then oil or no oil, they would have a strong argument that Scotland would be better off as an independent state remaining within the EU.

@RPF: Correct. The Speaker of the House of Commons also doesn't vote. So IIRC, 326 votes out of 650 are needed for a working majority.

3:
They can attempt to save the union. To do this, they will need to address the fundamental need for constitutional reform before tackling the Barnett formula. The best outcome would be wholesale root-and-branch reform

This is what happened in Canada, with regard to the nationalist movement in Quebec. Constitutional reform played out over a period of about 20 years -- roughly, from the late 1970s to the late 1990s. It worked, and now the Quebec nationalist parties are largely dead in the water -- but it required patience and flexibility which are in short supply among the British political classes.

4:

The Shinners will stick to their abstentionist policy for now, and probably for a long time to come (a united Ireland will probably come sooner, which is saying something).

So it's not impossible that after 8th May next the balance of power at Westminster might be held by the unreconstructed Democratic Unionist Party of the late and unlamented Dr. Paisley. . . "In the meantime, in between time, ain't we got fun".

5:

Hmm, to my mind lumping all of England together (eg "England is fantastically xenophobic this decade") is about as fair as lumping all of Britain together in the same way.
Here in a large city in the south west I've seen lots of Green propaganda, quite a bit of Lib Dem, a few Labour and once a Tory poster (in a field), so far the kippers haven't even attempted to advertise.
Right now it looks too close to call, even too close to guess which party will be in charge this time next week. That said, the idea of Labour and the SNP allying makes more sense now than the idea that the Lib Dems would for a coalition with the Conservatives of all parties five years ago.

Whatever happens, I suspect I won't be getting much sleep on thursday night.

6:

As a Yank, I'm jealous. Our political singularity isn't the "change so quick that nothing is predictable" kind, we have the "endless collapse with no hope of escape" kind.

7:

Regarding xenophobia - there's a lot of it about (and not just in UK), and it is heavily represented in UKIP. But. . . I can just about remember when the repatriation (voluntary or otherwise) of immigrants from the former Empire was a hot issue in British politics.

And apart from the odd looney-tunes UKIPper, it's not something you ever hear anymore.

8:

In the likely event that either Tory or Labour need to team up with bit players to form a majority, I imagine that the smaller partners would negotiate non-negotiable terms (having seen how LibDem's principles got surrendered and rolled over). So what non-negotiable terms would UKIP insist on?

Tory has promised an EU referendum anyway. Aside from that, I can't imagine that they would get anything on immigration, if only for the reason that the UK is bound by European agreements; as CMDave presumably discovered, the hands are tied. UKIP does have some other policies, so presumably they'd insist on something from that selection. Insisting that visitors have full medical insurance before being allowed in (is that even permitted under EU regs)? Their policy about guaranteeing ex-servicemen jobs in the emergency services or prisons is loopy but perhaps small-scale enough that it could be swallowed. What else do they have that a bigger partner in a coalition might be willing to countenance?

9:

Why am I reminded so much of the US in the second quarter of the nineteenth century by all of this? Even the origins of "union" bear an uncomfortable resemblance to the UK in many respects... including, if one actually looks at underlying data instead of the propaganda in popular histories on both sides of the Pond, imminent bankruptcy (in this case of Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas) absent "union" in the 1760s through 1780s.

Here's hoping that what happened next in the US doesn't have an analog in the UK. It very well might, though: It's not that hard to imagine an outside-the-EU-immigrant-based Dred Scott based not on "ownership" but upon other economic and civil rights as the proxy. Fortunately, I think the judiciary is smart enough to avoid anything that overt this time around; I have much less confidence, however, in büroismus (and it's the same Over Here; this is a disease of Western legal doctrine, not of any particular nation or structure).

10:

Whoops, yes: I forgot Sinn Fein.

Although it's really interesting to speculate on what they might do if a coalition was on the table with a remit for root-and-branch constitutional reform -- up to and including the Oath to the Queen -- and their presence would make or break it.

11:

See update for intended nuance.

12:

I think OGH was mostly referring to the media and political classes. Things which once would have been considered unacceptable bigotry are now being said openly. It does filter down to less exalted levels though.

I'm a white English-speaking Canadian. As such I'm not very high on the UKIP hate list, but even I have been verbally abused a few times for being one of those nasty immigrants. I lived for some years in Scotland and later moved to England, and FWIW the problem does seem to be worse down south.

[Correction to my earlier post: There are likely to be 643 voting MPs (650 - 1 Speaker - 6 Sinn Fein), so 322 (instead of 326) would be enough for a majority.]

13:

"A Conservative/Labour coalition just isn't conceivable."

Except in the Laundry Files universe, where an alignment of the stars would lead to CASE NIGHTMARE BLUE RED, which would undoubtedly be as unpleasant as whatever Apocalypse OGH is going to serve up in the next couple of LF books.

British party politics has long needed a shake up as both the Conservatives and Labour aren't coherent parties, but conglomerates of sub-parties, mostly keeping a lid on the internal strife, but sometimes suffering openly vicious rats in a sack infighting.

We haven't had the shake up because of the the FPTP system which means schismatic new parties don't stand a hope at the Westminster level - see the SDP in the 80s as an example. In the best of all possible worlds May 7th would lead to a major realignment, where both main parties split into centrist and fundamentalist versions, and maybe even a federal solution might get talked about. In reality, there's a horrible possibility Scotland will, with full justification, go its own way, the Welsh follow, and the majority of us left in England get stuck with a semi-permanent Tory government.

To mangle Orwell, if you want a vision of the future, imagine George Osborne smirking in your face, forever.

14:

I wonder how much influence the festering resentment pile that is the 20% of UKIP and the sidelined but optimistic 10% that is the Greens will have on inducing some form of constitutional reform soon. After all, while they are fairly opposite in outlook, between them they do represent roughly a third of voters, and get roughly 1.5% of seats.

Labour and the Conservatives will give up power when it gets clawed from their cold dead hands, but with 2/3 of the country hating each of them, and the prospect of hung parliaments for the foreseeable future ... some type of representative reform of the commons is inevitable.

Whether you'd have any traction on the Lords is another issue, and honestly without harsh term limits and sensible selection criteria, any form of electoral system there will be a terrible slide to American style paralysis.

15:

The Little England scenario wouldn't be pleasant, but predictions of a permanent Tory majority in England are a bit exaggerated. The Conservatives evolved to counterbalance a Labour party which had large Scottish/Welsh contingents. If Scotland and Wales leave, there would be serious upheaval in the English party system.

Very likely a major party of the left would emerge, perhaps encompassing LibDems, Greens, and disaffected Tories of the Ken Clarke variety as well as Labour. Sooner or later, voters would get fed up with the Conservatives, and give this leftish party (the Whigs?) a turn in power. The political centre of gravity would shift to the right, but it wouldn't be an Eternal Tory Nightmare.

As a resident of England, this is my attempt to be optimistic...

16:

To answer your question directly, you're right. Sinn Fein are likely to get about 4-6 seats and then not actually send any MPs to take up their place. You can therefore have a functional majority with about 3 fewer MPs than the magic number.

Although there are lots of variations in the various prediction sites (and one poll that picks out 'undecided' voters has them as large as the big two are polling among the rest of the population in the other polls give or take a point or two) none of these sites is saying any single party is going to get 300 seats, let alone the 320-something (depending on how well Sinn Fein do) to get a working majority government.

Mind you, that 33% undecided a week out could really put the cat among the pigeons. If they ALL voted Green (or Scottish Green since that's a slightly different thing) then according to the predictor on Electoral calculus you'd get a comfortable Green majority government. They're not going to of course but that's how big an unknown we've got to remember there is in all these predictions.

17:

Further note on Barnett - Some of us hate it because it only considers those areas of spending that it suits Whitehall to define as "geographically attributable". So for example, the fact that 90% of MoD procurement expenditure is spent South of the Severn-Wash line doesn't figure in the total.

18:

Well I live in the South Thanet constituency where at least one poll* has Nigel Farage at 38%. There's an awful lot of people saying "I'm not keen on Europe and immigration, but I don't think UKIP can actually do anything about it so we'd be better off concentrating on the economy**/public services***". And without stereotyping too much, I don't live in one of the struggling areas; these are pleasant, polite, educated and often middle-class folk.

UKIP has both revealed the latent low-level xenophobia that many people have, and encouraged a blatant xenophobia to flourish in a small number of people.

Anyway, yes, constitutional reform would be good. But me, I'm annoyed because I'm going to have to vote for the Eurosceptic Tory who might actually do something for the constituency rather than Farage who would use it as a platform to snipe at everyone else.

* "The poll they don't want you to see!" Source: Daily Express. Well, that's an excellent way to hide it from me
** Tories
*** Labour

19:

Not necessarily germain to the discussion of Scottish independence and UK consitutional reform, but the DUP are practically frothing at the mouth with excitement over the prospect of wielding bargaining power in Westminster. I predict an unpleasantly high chance of interesting times for my home province, for Northern Ireland values of "interesting times" (and that should scare anyone).

(Also wondering how NI pols will react should Scottish devolution actually happen -- they were terrified and elated in equal measure last September.)

20:

One thing to be wary of where oil revenues are concerned is that the only people who know how much oil is in a particular reservoir, and what percentage of the oil in the reservoir can be extracted and at what cost, are the oil companies. As even a Tory government has shown no inhibitions whatsoever in applying retrospective taxation to oil company profits (and if anything the Labour lot are even worse in this respect), oil companies now tend to be extremely wary of running their extraction systems at full capacity.

This can be seen in the announcement of a huge oil reserve under the south of England a few weeks ago; an initially optimistic press release was very, very quickly rubbished and withdrawn (the press officer responsible presumably got a good kicking for the story) and dire prophecies of how hard the oil would be to extract were repeated ad nauseam.

If the SNP are expecting to finance themselves using oil, they can expect a lot of resistance from the oil companies.

21:

The fun bit is wondering what would happen if England had its own branch of the SNP. I suspect a fair number of Northerners would vote for it.

22:

"The Little England scenario wouldn't be pleasant, but predictions of a permanent Tory majority in England are a bit exaggerated."

Which is why I put semi- in front of permanent. It was a toss up though, I'm that pessimistic.

"Very likely a major party of the left would emerge ...

The political centre of gravity would shift to the right, but it wouldn't be an Eternal Tory Nightmare.

As a resident of England, this is my attempt to be optimistic..."

That's my hope as well, if the country does split. However, given that my age and health suggest I'll be lucky to see three more (full term) elections after this one, even if the NHS isn't dismantled, I seriously wonder if I'll get to see the New Utopia(™).

23:

I probably wouldn't, but as someone currently living in Northern England in a very safe Labour seat it would have made my choice a lot harder.

24:

Re: Scotland's oil...

The oil revenues will be there in the future as long as oil is a finite resource and there's still some left.

The current low price hence the glut of oil is a geopolitical ploy of Saudis trying to bankrupt the American frackers. It's a matter of whose money is going to run out first: Fracking is significantly more expensive and inefficient and Saudis can only afford to waste so much.

Also I'm seriously worried about a Tory government, even in minority, with this morning's Today Programme's Farage interview. Having that toad anywhere near a policy document makes me worry.

25:

Lest we forget, Labour started as a northern regional aingle-interest party (a political voice for the unions).

If the SNP top brass conclude that pure independence isn't going to be viable for the next few years, then in the wake of a Lab-Con deal they could plausibly pivot, rename themselves something like the Federalist Party, and go UK-wide on a platform of Devo Max for all with a side-order of center-left policies.

This would then allow them to bootstrap into the political vacuum on the left created by Labour's withdrawl into centrist/right-wing territory under Blair and Brown.

Yes, the Greens would be competing for that segment -- but the Green brand is unpopular for all sorts of reasons (a prehistory of hair-shirt woo and car-hatred takes a long time to shed), and the SNP has the huge advantage of being a no-shit Party Of Government (they have their own toy parliament and all in Edinburgh) with close to 100,000 grass-roots members -- they're an order of magnitude larger per capita in Scotland than any of the other parties. This means they've got the organizational chops and base of experienced campaigners and parliamentary candidates that they could set up a viable UK-wide party within a couple of years.

(Personally I think this isn't particularly likely ... but if Labour and the Conservatives self-destruct in a manner that doesn't cause a BrExit scenario followed rapidly by a ScotExit one, it might happen.)

26:

Have any of you seen Charles Vasey's '2010 Election' game? See here: >.

He's updated it for the 2015 election. :-)

27:

Jay - Major changes in American society and politics follow a similar pattern - long builld up followed by an amazingly rapid completion when a tipping point is reached. This was true of women's sufferage, prohibition, repeal of prohibition, interracial marriage, abortion, gay marriage and (soon) legal cannabis:

http://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2015-pace-of-social-change/

Fascinating article.

28:

Any Scotish/UK parallels with Red/Blue AMerica?

29:

I would; and I'm not a northerner (Milton Keynes, so both south and fairly marginal). I can see that a central policy of 'scrap the Union' is tricky to combine with 'please elect us to run the Union' - but Labour has gone so far right that anything viable in that area of the political spectrum gets many plus points.

30:

As an outsider ....

What are the job numbers like, employment vs. rate of job creation, vs. retirees/old age pensioners? Which industries are getting more tax relief, investment, or saw an increase in central government spending on their goods/services? People employed or newly unemployed in such industries/sectors would probably be more sway-able, be less likely to be fence-sitters. For example, if the oil industry is laying off workers, but all of the employees know for a fact that the oil companies are sitting on huge reserves, the freshly laid off workers could be persuaded to vote for whichever party is likely to take a swing at the oil companies. The employees have already lost their jobs ... so there's very little trust/kinship left for their old employer. (Question becomes: Who should voters punish?)


31:

I think both Labour and the Conservatives are privately expecting a second referendum in the summer after it becomes clear there are no stable solutions from this electoral round. As OGH pointed out both Labour and the Conservatives have switched to telling everyone that unless you vote for them you let SNP in to run the country in the hope that they can swing enough seats to have a shot at a coalition without having to make too many concessions themselves. It _might_ work, there are a lot of undecided voters this time, but if it fails it is interesting to speculate whether a second referendum would drive voters towards or away from Labour and the Conservatives.

The smaller parties have often been defined within public discourse as representing opposition to either Labour or the Conservatives on a single or limited set of platform items. Support for them is seen as a protest vote, usually about a single issue. There is a possible transition to a party where the entire manifesto is seen as a potential vote winner; the closest we have come to that in recent history was the SDP/Liberal attempt in the 80s which spawned the LibDem party we see now. The potential big change here is whether the SNP can make that shift. It’s unfair to paint SNP historically as a single issue party, they have been serious players in Holyrood for a long time, but in the years before the Scottish Independence vote a lot of public discourse from them was on the single issue of independence. The Scottish Independence vote forced SNP to come up with a full plan of how Scotland would work as an independent country, and that now becomes the main part of the manifesto for a general election. The Scottish voters are also very aware of what the current SNP manifesto is since they had to consider it in detail in the recent past. I think that transition to broad reach party has occurred sometime during the past two years and the vote next week will confirm it. That is the current outcome of the Scottish singularity.

32:

Easiest way to win an election is to re-brand the party, which means elect a new party leader ... preferably someone bland and completely unknown outside the party (a media virgin).

33:

I have to say, with the current poll arithmetics, I don't trust any of the party leaders. Come the 8th, they will face a different reality and will happily turn back on election promises. Labour-SNP coalition can still happen and even though it might be toxic in the short run, if it works, it might win them a second election in 5 years time. As long as UKIP keeps stealing votes mainly from Tories and still stay below the FPTP tipping point, they will be the loudly yapping annoying dogs of the parties.

Things change daily, The Grauniad poll today gives the Tories 2% in the lead. I haven't checked any other recent polls but the numbers look like we will definitely have a minority government.

Luckily, this might kill Cameron's promise of an EU exit referendum.

34:

I'm struggling to see your set up conditions come to pass, but if the SNP moved to become a UK-wide devo-max party it would certainly attract some seriously consideration for my vote. I'm not sure how we get there from here. If Labour's vote collapses in England as well as Scotland and there's an ENP that's left leaning to ally with the SNP and Plaid and stands on the devo max platform (it maybe takes a big Tory -> UKIP swing too) seems more likely to me.

The Greens will be interesting. They're being called on not standing on their core issues any longer, and having a fully formed manifesto. It probably won't get them a load of votes this time, but if there's a five year government that emerges somehow, come 2020 those hair-shirt memories are getting dim and distant. "A week is a long time in politics" so how long is five years?

35:

That was meant to be in reply to Charlie's comment #24.

36:

Here's hoping that what happened next in the US doesn't have an analog in the UK. It very well might, though: It's not that hard to imagine an outside-the-EU-immigrant-based Dred Scott based not on "ownership" but upon other economic and civil rights as the proxy.

For fuck's sake, are you insane?

1. Slavery: nope, just don't go there. Really, don't. Here is a hint: if you're saying continued membership of the EU is in any way shape or form equivalent to tolerating Chattel Slavery, you are so far out of your tree that the squirrels are sending out search parties looking for their nuts.

2. Civil war: again, nope: not going to happen in any short-term conceivable future. For one thing, the UK has just had a low-level insurgency within living memory -- nobody wants to see something equivalent to the NI Troubles break out on the mainland, where it'd be much harder to contain and among the Scottish population (which is about 4 times the size of the NI population). Also, we have long memories and a history of real civil wars (multiple ones) that dwarf anything that happened in North America circa 1860-65. Nobody wants to go there, either.

Seriously, you're looking in the wrong place for analogies. Not everything is about Amurrica. Nor is there anything admirable to be found in the losing side of the Slaveowner's Treasonous Rebellion. (Here's a hint: the War Nerd is Not Wrong here.)

Finally, using the keyword büroismus suggests that you've got a specific political agenda. Kindly take it away with you; we don't want it here.

37:

This brings an other singularity in to mind: If Tories and UKIP have a magical landslide and get England out of EU by the next election, will Wales and Scotland accept that willingly?

AFAIK, Scotland is significantly more pro-EU than the rest of the UK.

I am seriously wondering if I'm having starting to lose my memory - can someone remind me in which Scottish writer's novel the Scotland had tried to separate from UK and join EU but was invaded by the Hannoverian monarchy forces... I'm sure it was one of Ken MacLeod's but I would be morbidly ashamed if it was OGH...

38:

Nope.

This was your latest entry in short answers to easy questions!

Seriously, no.

39:

in which Scottish writer's novel the Scotland had tried to separate from UK and join EU but was invaded by the Hannoverian monarchy forces

"The Star Fraction" -- Ken MacLeod's first novel, published circa 1994. Curiously dated these days, but still interesting.

40:

Curiously, a google search finds only 3 instances of the word "büroismus", one of them being on this blog, the other 2 on a blog called Scrivener's error, so I can only conclude that it is a made up word.

41:

It's obscure, certainly. (As for "Scrivener's Error", I happen to be familiar with the owner of that blog ...)

42:

I do wonder if Scottish independence, and the breaking up of the Union that comes with it, will end up a bit like the last time the Union broke up - controversial at the time, but in retrospect sort of obvious, with a hopefully lower value of 'controversial'. I of course mean the time that Ireland, one of the three Kingdoms of the United Kingdom, left after a several decade political campaign and a 3 year conflict (5 years, if you count it from the Easter Rising). Does anyone in Westminister seek to retake the Republic as part of the UK? Certainly not in public.

43:

Dapper@41, I presume your look at history is different than mine. Having one side of my extended family in NI, my take is the conflict has never ended since the Easter Rising. These things can take a significantly long time until a sufficiently strong and ruthless force decides to have a bit of stomping & ethnic cleansing.

The other side of my extended family is still talking about the forced migration from our homelands in 1840s and that conflict is still raging too.

44:

In that case starting at the Easter Rising is a century too late.

45:

Indeed, recently I was listening to the BBC Radio 4 series A Short History of Ireland - a stark reminder of humanity's depressing tendencies, full of blood and misery, 120 episodes of invasions, betrayals, murders and massacres.

46:

I would like to echo this. As an English person, currently in the south west, I would get the hell out of the "UK" or change sides before going to war.

I would be disappointed to see Scotland leave, but there is *no way* I am going to fight people I see as my friends to try and prevent it.

P.S. I don't recognise that word either.

47:

Well, speaking as someone from over the pond, thanks at least for giving me something politically interesting to think about.

I don't have a clue what will happen, but it will get interesting if things like solar get so cheap that Scotland can no longer base its budget on North Sea crude (probability low). Things get rather more interesting if the Chinese economy implodes, the Saudi economy implodes, the Nigerian economy implodes, the American economy implodes again, Lockheed Martin comes up with a working fusion reactor, or Cumbre Vieja does the electric slide. At this point, I'm not sure which of these is the most improbable.

Anyway, thanks for keeping it interesting. Shame that we can't do the same over here, at least on the national level.

48:

As I've said before, Solar is a non-starter for Scotland.

(Wind and tidal are a whole different ball game, and Scotland is due to be (a) net zero-carbon and (b) a non-fossil energy exporter by 2020, mostly due to wind power.)

The other sources of "interesting" are mostly too damn interesting to contemplate, and all in the wrong kind of way.

49:

My money is on low level drilling carrying on even if renewables match the price of oil. It makes awesome chemical feedstock and you need a lot of power if you want to synthesise long chain hydrocarbons.

50:

What would happen if North Sea Oil became an essentially stranded asset due to demands to keep fossil fuels buried in response to AGW? How would this affect Scottish opinion?

51:

Scotland is perfect for wind power.

Note to self: Get into your Tardis and go back to February and tell yourself this: "Do not plan for a motorbike trip to Skye in early March. You won't make it, there will be snow, it will be very windy and you better take the car."

52:

Depends when -- not if -- it happens. My money is on renewables being the main energy source in Scotland in the very short term (within the next parliament); Scotland's likely to stay an energy exporter for the foreseeable long term future, because we're windy and we've got the best tidal energy sites on the planet.

53:

Well the outcome of this years' election could be very intresting. Or it could be nothing at all. Let me explain.

This is only my opinion, so I could be wrong but back in 2010 the UK was pretty much ready for political change. Both labour and conservative were unpopular and most had enough of them. But then here's this libdem party and its leader Nick Clegg who is doing well (for example in the TV debates).

But then the outcome of those elections? Nobody gets an overall majority, a coalition is formed and the lib dems tag along with the tories. I don't wish to paint myself as some sort of political expert here (I'm not!) but pretty much I guessed as soon as the lib dems signed up and partnered with the tories, they were a dead party walking. They'd just end up as the tory 'fig leaf'. For a lot of younger people the libdems shot themselves in the foot over tuition fees. And then there's all the subsequent agreeing/voting *with* the tories in the HOC...

How does this relate to 2015? Well this election could lead to one of three possible outcomes IHMO, with the possibility of change on the cards. Or nothing at all. It seems likely we're either in for another coalition or a minority govt unless something really bizarre/radical happens (e.g. david cameron dies). But those three possibilities at least for change in 2015 are --

Change occurs: All kinds of weird and wonderful parties/coalitions/agreements are formed since nobody gets enough seats because of FPTP. Indeed, 2015 *could* be the year with which we look back in the future at and say "That's the year everything changed". Though weather or not it is for the better or for worse - only time will tell. Possible outcomes? Voting system change due to people voting for party X but always gets Y. Increasing unpopularity of labour/conservative leading to either the death of one or both of those parties, or they change or split apart. The same force (possible death of lab/con, i.e. they realise they're staring extinction in the face) could also be a force to drive voting change.

Change deferred: All kinds of weird and wonderful parties/coalitions/agreements are formed, but nothing much changes. The usual spin and shouting in the HOC continues much as it already does, and along roughly similar party lines. No change to the voting system; the same policies are followed and tweaked but anger and pressure builds up as once again, people have voted for party X and they get party Y. Maybe at some point 'tween then and now a "change the voting system" party is formed, or some sort of pressure group. No electoral system change until (say) for example the 2030s.

No change: All kinds of weird and wonderful parties/coalitions/agreements are formed, but nothing changes at all. Larger parties just use smaller ones even if they have to be in a coalition as a fig leaf. The "next goverment" follows the same old policies of the "previous goverment" while denying they do, a la standard politics these days. The votes when counted show the smaller parties didn't get more votes - but less, so people back track and everything just goes back to the same old same old; people return to the labour/conservative setup. In addition the polls were in error; predictions of (for example) UKIP doing well in the local elections are just assumed to be the same as national elections, but it's wrong.

Note that if we have any sort of minority govt there's the possibility that it'll be weak and short lived. If that's the case - expect us all to be trotting back to the polling booths in a couple of years' time. A la early(ish) 1970s.

I have also heard it said on more than one occasion BTW that people are enclined to vote differnetly in local and national elections; they're not the same. So someone might vote libdem in a local election, but conservative in a national election. If, and it's a big if - if that's correct the smaller parties might not do anywhere near so well. So all the talk of a "UKIP Surge" might be so much hot air. So maybe we're in for zero change?

It could just be however that whatever the outcome, be it change, some change or nothing it might be the case that it sets the president for elections for maybe a decade or two to come.

Mind you I could be completely wrong!

54:

I'll permit myself a Brief weary sigh at the re-emergence of The American Civil War - aka The War Between The States? - As being an ever so Vicious and Tragic as well as... Exceptional? Event.

The US of Americans isn’t all that used to Warfare in their Homeland and as a consequence are ever so insecure since a couple of iconic buildings were bombed in New York a while ago. Despite their having an ever so 'effective ' Dept of Homeland Security these days they still seem to have trouble adjusting to the principle of continual civil wars that support the principle of Aristocratic rule.

Now here in the UK we have had a "Department” of Homeland security that has been ever so insecure for the best part of a thousand years. We are used to it.

The principle purpose of the Department/Establishment of Aristocratic security aka ..." My People Came over with the Conqueror "... is to secure the British Ruling Classes continuation through the various Social Upheavals that we get from time to time.

Up until now the basic ground rule for the survival of your aristocratic Clan is that you should have Sons on Both/All sides of any given conflict so that whoever loses YOU win. Simples really.

Of course the principle of having sons of your family and clan on both sides in any given conflict does break down from time to time - Women have been known to get in the way ! - And some Aristocratic families do disappear but others can be absorbed if they are Worthy and capable of Marriage into the Establishment.

The important thing, The REALLY Important Thing, is that the Principle of Aristocracy should remain and that your Family should Triumph in the Game of Things.


http://www.standard.co.uk/home/who-owns-london-6308427.html

The Game of Things is rather less prone to Bloodshed at Sword point and Edge in the UK than it was a couple of hundred years ago - unless you were to count the various European Wars as being really Civil Wars which is a perfectly reasonable point of view given the way that the Euro Aristocrats are inter related and tend to play through proxies - but it is still there. The Game is still in play.

Just lately, in the British GAME of Elections, the supposed Aristocratic Family /Party has declared that the Middle Classes will, under Conservative /Tory Rule be permitted to inherit an estate...Well Blah Blah and ever so well known in the UK...

" In an upbeat speech in Cheltenham, Cameron said that raising the threshold would support the “most basic, human and natural instinct” of parents to provide for their children. "

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/apr/12/tory-inheritance-tax-plan-human-instinct-george-osborne


This echoes the sheer desperate longing that the British Middle Classes have that, if only they are found worthy, and WORK hard enough; their children can join the Aristocracy.


And this is not entirely impossible even for, say, US of Americans. Though you if US Ian you really should have started out from Here...


http://www.edwardianpromenade.com/women/the-american-heiress/


All very Steam Punk eh Wet?

The US of A s Ruling Class will get used to the Game real soon now ..They haven’t been playing it for very long and have barely had time to get used to the idea of a hereditary ruling class that transcends all ephemeral political theories such as 'Democracy '.

Ah, BLESS! They are so sweet and innocent. Give them time?

In the mean time over here in the UK? Hum...Maybe Social Democracy as a ruling political system can only work if the population level is at about the level of, oh, shall we say, the nation of Scotland? And that nation can bring itself to confiscate hereditary family fortunes beyond a very modest inheritance to spouse or partner and maybe children? All trust funds and such like financial instruments to be banned without exception?

Wouldn't bet on it happening though...Politicians do have ever so worthy Grand-Children after all.

55:

Charlie, in #47, you said that Scotland was on track to be a net exporter of non-fossil energy. What is the scope/range of those exports? I ask because the current fossil-based exports can be moved globally, and I wonder whether a restriction in "sales territory" would have significant financial impact.

I ask forgiveness in advance if this a) a naïve question; or b) has been covered before. I'm recently arrived in the UK after a sojourn in the US (like Iain Roberts above, I am an English-manglingspeaking colonial, but of the antipodean variety)

56:

Solar in Scotland is a non-starter; solar elsewhere affecting world oil prices might still have a big effect there.

57:

Nate Silver's 538 elections prediction group is calling for about 49 seats for SNP, 280 Tories, 268 Labor, 27 LibDem. (That's with fairly wide error bars on the two big parties, smaller for the others, and their recent tweets have been waffling by 1-2 votes on each of the big parties.) Their methodology is to do weighted averages of the various polls based on lots of factors they dredge up; it's worked quite well for US elections, plus they also do lots of sports-score geeking.

(Link to their frequently updated polling results.)

Replying to another comment, the US does occasionally have elections that bring about significant change, like the 2000 elections where the Democrats failed to steal enough votes from the Greens to overcome the Republican election cheating in Florida and control of the Supreme Court.

58:

R.e. Scotland and energy, this website has a nice roundup:
http://www.scottishrenewables.com/scottish-renewable-energy-statistics-glance/

I'd agree that renewables would make up the biggest % of electricity for Scotland within the lifetime of the next parliament, but I think the issue will be, can we sell the excess abroad or to England when there is plenty of wind, and import that which is required when there is minimal wind?
At least Longannet is closing, woohoo.

59:

I thought the sarcasm would be apparent, but it obviously wasn't apparent enough, for which I apologize. I was trying, with some particularly insane analogies that nonetheless have some factual foundation — just nowhere near enough — to imply reasoning from analogy about something that's intensely culturally bound can be treacherous. I should have had more caffeine and taken more time to reflect.

60:

" .. but I think the issue will be, can we sell the excess abroad or to England when there is plenty of wind, and import that which is required when there is minimal wind? "

Indeed? And which part of England will take this windy Scotish power? ..

" North-east of England could become wind power 'capital city' ... Wind turbines: The north-east is where most of the offshore wind farms will be sited "


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/earthnews/3353583/North-east-of-England-could-become-wind-power-capital-city.html

61:

Note to moderator: If this is sufficiently off-topic feel free to delete

I would be interested to hear opinions on why English votes for English Laws (EVEL) is being seen as corrosive, particularly in Scotland.

It was clear that there was a conservative backlash to the Scottish Independence vote, and the sudden appearance of EVEL in the run up to the Scottish Indy vote was handled badly.

However, if we are proposing devolution and a federal system for UK government, I might naively assume EVEL would be a step in that direction as long as there are Scottish, Welsh and NI equivalents in place. I guess what I'm asking is why is this corrosive in principle, as opposed to the reality of the version we are seeing now

62:

I know about solar in Scotland. However, if people in more sunburned parts of the world are no longer interested in buying your oil, that's an economic problem for Scotland, I think.

As for the others, it's always interesting times somewhere in the world.

63:

As an non-Scot living in England, I see it as corrosive here because it's clearly NOT a step to a federal UK or any sort of devolved power solution.

The problem with it is, we have this really odd system where Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales have their own parliaments and assemblies with their own powers to control various things to different degrees and, in Scotland, a very limited power to vary tax rates from the rest of the UK as well.

But the funding for all those things comes from a unified pot, the HMRC tax pot, whether it be via Income Tax, National Insurance, VAT, Corporation Tax or whatever else.

If there is vote on running, say, NHS England, that is purely procedural, with NO budgetary implications then letting only the English MPs vote on it wouldn't annoy me too badly. The problem is, there is never such a debate, because those sorts of issues are handled in-house by the Department of Health. As soon as there are budgetary issues involved, then the MPs from all the other nations need to have a say because although they get to divide their pot up how they see fit, if money from the total government budget is shifted from somewhere they have full or partial control (like Health) to somewhere they don't (like defence) or vice versa, it affects their budget for next year.

So while I'm sure somewhere in the list of proposals the disingenuous Mr. Hague put forward you can find bills that genuinely don't affect the other parts of the union, as soon as money is in the debate, then EVEL as currently proposed means English MPs get to veto bills affecting the rest of the country.

Fun, fun. And guaranteed to make friends.

64:

For your fond reminiscences about "A Colder War"--it looks like someone in the US spy community was thinking along similar lines: http://phasezero.gawker.com/the-secret-mountain-our-spies-will-hide-in-when-washing-1701044312


Or perhaps, they know what's coming for Scotland...

65:

El @62

Thank you, that makes a lot of sense, and puts EVEL in context for me.

66:

OK, prognostication time.

I'd have said this outcome was fairly likely the moment the SNP managed to finagle a 45% yes vote. With their demonstrated inability to come up with a plan that made any sense that number should have been much lower (say 20%) if the electorate were paying attention. The figure demonstrated that hatred of the english, together with misplaced pride, was playing out to stop logical thought and was a significant factor. But seeing as how they hadn't hoodwinked all of the people, the rolling over of that vote into a vote for the SNP and a more corrosive type of attack on Britain was always likely - helped by the FPTP nature of UK voting. Kill it from the inside out, in short.

You may remember, back when the secession vote was in play, that I thought it might well be a long term play by Cameron to get rid of the scots and so get himself back into power permanently. I contended he wanted the union side to lose, but with some plausible deniability. I think where we are now makes that scenario more obviously likely.

So what happens?

Well we must be fairly certain of where the seats will end up, polls haven't moved significantly over the entire campaign, which means a hung parliament. We would also expect that any rerun would create the same result. Therefore we can expect a whole lot of holding of noses and doing deals (including ones that they promised they wouldn't do).

Practically, either Lab or the Tories will have to do a deal with the SNP.

The risk, and it's a big one, is that I'm right and Cameron wants shot of scotland. I can see him offering the SNP another independence vote, tied to the EU in/out vote in 2017. If the UK voted to leave the EU, and the scots voted for independence, then he would gift them the EU successor status (which would fix one of the BIG holes in the SNP lack of plan).

Labour would just be looking for confidence and supply, with the usual Labourish policies, and no independence.

Remembering that the SNP are the reason we got Maggie in the first place - I can see the SNP taking the Tory offer and joining in a loose coalition - using the new independence vote/terms as a way of muffling the sound of their supporters cries of anguish.

We only have a short time to see if I'm right or not - and if Labour can head it off by giving the SNP enough, but as it stands, to me, it seems the most likely outcome from the motivations and the general untrustworthiness of politicians.

Cat>pigeon time.

67:

Re the chance of Federalism:

Ask not what is good for the House of Commons.

Ask what is good for an MP in that house.

What career path and prospects do you give them? What role do they see for themselves? Would would cause them to be happy as a fish in a small pond?

Groups are convenient abstractions: to know what's really going on, drop one level of abstraction to the underlying implementation and consider what the individuals within the group want.

68:

Here's a naive question: If a person (say a UKIP scumbag) says: "I don't believe every human being on the planet has an equal right to live in lands that my ancestors have inhabited for centuries; for the preservation of our distict culture, security and peace of mind, there must be barriors to entry", is she a flaming xenophobe? How can you have distinct nations and not accept xenophobia as a necessary condition for the preservation of said nations? Or is the goal to abolish all nations and borders completely and create a total free-for-all?

69:

for the preservation of our distict culture, security and peace of mind, there must be barriors to entry

This is only true if you start from the premise that all immigrants are out to destroy the native culture, are potential criminals and terrorists, and want to steal your jobs and daughters. I think you have it back to front: These premises are not rationales for xenophobia; xenophobia gives rise to these conclusions.

70:

'The Star Fraction' (curiously dated indeed, but soon to be a small part of a seminar on the blog Crooked Timber, stay tuned) isn't about a Scottish secession stopped by a Hanoverian invasion.

In the back-story, sometime about now (!) the UK elects a radical reforming government and becomes the United Republic. Federal and secular, with Scottish, Welsh and English states as 'three nations, individual, with liberty and justice for all'. Ireland becomes a united, federal, secular republic soon after.

The invasion comes from the US/UN, and is supported internally by restorationist forces (the Hanoverians) after Britain sits out a German-led 'War of European Integration' and subsequent US/UN intervention.

Yikes.

But I'd still like to see the United Republic of Britain.

71:

Right, you can call it whatever you want; you can diagnose it as a mental disorder if you like. I'm just saying these are some possible causes for the phenomenon denoted by the word "xenophobia".

But my guess is it's simpler than that; xenophobia is probably as old and instinctive in human beings as sexuality. Which is why trying to shame people over their xenophobic feelings is like trying to shame someone for their sexual urges -- and just as futile, if not counter-productive.

As I've said before, most political debates are reducible to debates over which psychological states and traits are acceptable in a civilized society. Treat xenophobia as a psychological issue rather than a political, quasi-religious or moral one, and you might begin to make some real progress.

72:

This assumes the reason for nations in general and for barriers to immigration in particular is preservation of distinct cultures.

This clearly only works with the nations in question having one uniform and distinct culture. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland differ quite strongly in political, religious and linguistic culture(to use an example closer to home, try Bavaria, Hamburg and Sachen-Anhalt), else you try to speak some Welsh. So there is hardly a point for restricting immigration to an area compromising said cultural areas. Hell, even London vs. the rest of England is sufficiently different to make said argument moot.

Of course, we could divide Great Britain into sufficiently distinct and uniform cultures and institute barriers of entry between, say, England and Scotland(or Sachsen-Anhalt, Bavaria and the rest of Germany). You can start immediately.

Mind you, being a nerd and not that found of soccer taught me a few things about people talking about "preservation of our culture" and other funny ways of phrasing the good old "in-group out-group" coupled with territorial instincts...

73:

Err, I thought we were talking about preservation of distinct culture. If you want to discuss in-group out-group behaviour, intraspecific aggression in certain primates and ev(il|ol)utionary psychology in general, say so.

Mind if I ask what your ideas about the two natures of Christ are, putative heretic? After all, religious intolerance is just another form of said instincts we need not be ashamed of...

74:

So your argument is that if a nation already has more than one culture within its borders, it must admit all cultures from anywhere, no matter how wildly different they are from the ones that are already there? It seems a bit abstract and impractical to me.

75:

The two natures of Christ? It sounds like an interesting question (if straying off-topic), can you clarify what you mean?

76:

I didn't say so. I just said that your justification doesn't work. Look up reductio ad absurdum. Of course, there might be other justifications that ake more sense, like keeping your resources for yourself. I wouldn't mind, a dog wants his bone, it's just not that lofty.

Else you should invite Frisians to England, but keep English from Wales and Welsh from England etc.

Oh, and you started the abstractions, I hope to get a more level look and not to mud the water about your intentions.

77:

IF UKIP are what you say Charlie ( & a few of them are) then why ...
Down on our allotments ( approx 70-80 people ) where, although the majority are pinkoes like me, we also have people from/descended from: ..
W Indes, Bangla Desh, India, Tamil/Sri Lankan couple, Mauritius (I think) & Nepal, plus at least one (USiAn) homosexual couple + at least one lesbian pair ...
Any hint of racial or social phobia would last about a nanosecond there.
So why is there is strong support for UKIP?
Um.
I think I know why - it's the corporate corruption & squashing of the "little man" that the EU commission engages in that's got up their noses ....

A Conservative/Labour coalition just isn't conceivable.
Really?
Was called the "National Government" the last time it happened. And it IS conceivable, if only to keep the ( I'm not going to hide my opinions, either) mean, narrow, spying "Presbyterian" SNP out of any power at all ...
NOTE:
The Green party in Scotland & the same-name party in England are very different.
In England they are "watermelons" & really nasty & spiteful with it.

What we NEED is a united Federation of the Isles.
But it seem no-one is offering this much-desired scenario

As a last, on PARTIES
I will vote
NONE of the ABOVE
Actually, I will vote for the local Labour candidate - because she is a very good MP - & nice to talk to (As is her mum, but that's another story )

78:

If the SNP top brass conclude that pure independence isn't going to be viable for the next few years, then in the wake of a Lab-Con deal they could plausibly pivot, rename themselves something like the Federalist Party, and go UK-wide on a platform of Devo Max for all with a side-order of center-left policies.
Wouldn't that be nice!
I would support that.
One problem,
Ain't going to happen.
The SNP's entire policy is based on xenophobic hatred of the English in general & Londoners in paricular + a desire to "make the walls of all the houses in Geneva Glasgow of glass"
Their control-freakery makes the unlamented Blair look like a nice man to know.

79:

Tidal energy sites
Err ... anywhere along the Cornish coast, Severn Estuary, Morecombe Bay, the Wash, the Humber ... errr ...

80:

Yes, it's complicated. A friend of mine gets a bacon sandwich from a van in Ramsgate most Friday mornings. As it happens one of the owners is Thai and was described by a UKIP MEP (in that infamous TV program) as "a ting tong from somewhere". Now, of course, the van is the first stop for UKIP campaigners on a Friday morning to get their bacon sandwiches. Because that was not acceptable to them. Much to the annoyance of my friend who has wait in a queue.

UKIP like all political parties are coalitions; in this case the two main factions are firstly the anti-EU, anti-regulation, pro-small business, and secondly the anti-immigration Little Englander group*. The antics of the fringes of the second group get all the bad press, and also stir up and encourage the minority of hardcore xenophobes. That doesn't turn off people who are strongly anti-EU because they don't have anywhere else to go.

* Noting of course that there is an overlap.

81:

My first thought on reading this was it was flame bait. But you seem somewhat willing to enter a rational debate.

I'm not sure I agree saying there should be some limits on immigration is xenophobia - I'd quite like to be able to exclude people who want to come here and set up criminal gangs for example, and while I'm pretty much in favour of getting rid of the whole bunch of muppets that sit in the Palace of Westminster I won't deny that excluding people who want to move here as immigrants with the express intention of recruiting people to blow it seems pretty reasonable. So there is a starting point that doesn't have to be xenophobic.

Then there's a middle ground where I'm less sure and you start getting into semantics. You can slice and dice what the role of a government is, but if it takes taxes from the citizens and residents of a country it should act to serve their interests with the money it takes from them. There should be big debates about exactly what that means but the truth is for most of the UK we aren't having that - there's fiddling around the edges of deficit reduction and austerity. Saying "We're going to try and limit immigrants, except refugees, to those we hope will contribute and those we think we need" is not clearly xenophobic - it could be construed as prudent management of resources. And the oft-overlooked fact by the flaming xenophobes and others is that immigrants are usually young, usually work and as a group are clearly net contributors to the UK economy. As a group they work, they pay tax, they pay NI and the like. They may also have children that go to school etc. and they undoubtedly have illnesses and the like, but they're generally young so they have cheap, acute conditions in the main. There may be elements of xenophobia in the mix as well but I don't think it's clear cut.

Then you have another step up. It's so easy to do, and I don't know if Nigel Farage is a flaming xenophobe or not but he makes statements that make him appear to be one. He essentially blames every ill in this country on either the EU or immigrants or both. One of his more infamous - he was late to a UKIP reception and blamed immigration for the amount of traffic on the M4. He'd have struggled to make it the EU's fault, and he couldn't just say "I'm sorry, the traffic was really bad." No, he had to blame it on immigration making the traffic bad.

Sadly for political discourse in the UK, just as Thatcherite neoLiberal economics has essentially stifled political economic debate for the last 30+ years, the rise of UKIP is very much threatening to increase the general level of xenophobia in our immigration policy with the same legacy.

82:

''The SNP's entire policy is based on xenophobic hatred of the
English in general & Londoners in paricular + a desire to "make
the walls of all the houses in Geneva Glasgow of glass"''

You shouldn't believe anything you read in the rabid sections of
the press - unfortunately, the majority. Quite a lot of non-Scots
in the south would support a SNP government for the UK - which is
a little unlikely.

An amusing argument to use with the extreme Kippers and Little
Englanders is to agree that all immigrants should be deported,
especially those damn Anglo-Saxons. We Celts were here first.
Actually, the few remaining Picts might have something to say
about that :-)

83:

I don't live in the UK, but just looking at the numbers, your island is surely overpopulated and doesn't need to be importing any more people.

It's fascinating to me how the UK, USA and a few other Western Capitalist countries still operate as global imperialist powers, but instead of just blatantly stealing resources from other countries, they siphon off their most ambitious people, while pitting them against their native populations and pocketing the profits. I suspect these elite capitalists have made a tactical alliance with many elite progressives and cultural Marxists, in order to vilify the natives who object as vile "xenophobes" and "racists". It's a diabolically brilliant scheme, and surely the work of some kind of inhuman lizard people!

84:

"After all, religious intolerance is just another form of said instincts we need not be ashamed of..."

Depends who you think should be doing the tolerating. Should nice secular liberals tolerate religions and religious preaching that advocated death to homosexuals, murder of unbelievers, second class status for women, death for adultery, death for apostasy, destruction of democracy etc etc?

Or should the hectoring about tolerance be directed at the above religions? Some instincts are 100% spot on.

85:

"I suspect these elite capitalists have made a tactical alliance with many elite progressives and cultural Marxists, in order to vilify the natives who object as vile "xenophobes" and "racists"."

No conspiracy is necessary, just a group of investors acting in their own self interest to maximize profitability. One of the reasons America is relatively good at assimilating immigrants - unlike Europeans - is that hard working, entrepreneurial immigrants are good for business. And this emphasis on profit over culture is starting to split the Republican party in two between the money/investor wing of the GOP and the evangelical/conservative wing. Unlike the conservative wing, nobody in the money wing cares if someone is Hispanic or even Gay.

The recent uproar in Indiana over it "Religious Freedom" bill which would have allowed commercial discrimination against Gays was the Ft. Sumter of the coming GOP Civil War. It wasn't gay protesters or even hippie liberals that killed that law. It was major corporations like Wal-Mart that got it killed because such discrimination would be bad for business. Indianapolis is actually a very big convention town and scores of organizations and companies refused to come if that law was passed.

And so watch as the Tea Party more or less splits from the GOP to form something unique in American political history - a right wing conservative populist movement. The closest parallel in American history would be William Jennings Bryan's rural populism of the late 19th and early 20th century. A Trust buster, he fought to protect small towns and farmers from railroad and banking interests - AND he defended Creationism at the Scopes Monkey Trial.

86:

But aggression against outsiders and domination of certain group members is common to nearly all human groups and thus only natural, so who are you to condemn said people stoning adulterous women to death? Err, in case somebody wonders about the ventilation, this is me waving my irony tag.

There's a hint: What's natural is quite often a piss-poor indicator about what's right. Sexuality might be an inborn drive for humans, but last I looked, kidnapping and raping underage girls was still illegal.

And quite a few people might defend xenophobia as only natural, but judge me as a benighted bigot if I insist on "no monophysites in my hood". Which, come to think about it, was totally acceptable and natural behaviour in quite some parts of Late Ancient Byzanz and just another incarnation of said human instincts.

87:

I was going to ask you what "overpopulation" was, and what a sensible number for the UK or Germany[1] would be, and if you insisted on using the term to do your part, but then you started to mention "cultural marxism"...

Overdone it a little, haven't we? And even Poe's law has its limits...


As for brain drain, first of, in thist scenario the alternative is for said human potential to keep sitting in their countries of origin and get exploited there by the very same capitalist countries you decried, too, but get paid less. Also, it's not all one way, since immigrants might return or send back money etc.

Damn it, why you try to use the reasons against immigration that are bullocks? El mentioned quite a few sensible ones, and then you have to bring in lizard people to keep the parody going. And as we all know, the lizard people hate immigration, they want to uphold food standards. Just ask the Royals[2].

[1] Please note that I'm more than willing to apply said argumentation to Germany, too.

[2] If you're wondering about the hurricane, that is still me waving my irony tag.

88:

You shouldn't believe anything you read in the rabid sections of the press - unfortunately, the majority.

Greg is disinclined to listen in person to those of us who live in SNP-land and know it ain't so. I'd save my breath if I were you.

Peanut gallery: you can safely ignore anything Greg Tingey tells you about the SNP. (You can safely pay attention to him when he's talking about beer and allotment gardening.)

89:

I don't know about overpopulated. I mean, sure, it's pretty dense in the South East, but there's lots of room in North Wales and the Highlands of Scotland.

90:

I don't live in the UK, but just looking at the numbers, your island is surely overpopulated and doesn't need to be importing any more people.

I can see why you might think that, but it's important to note that the UK as a whole underwent demographic transition a generation or two ago. The population is now ageing, with only some immigrant communities reproducing at a TFR over 2.1, and we're facing a diminishing workforce-to-dependent ratio and consequent savage deflation (and drop in housing costs, long term, as the old folks like me die off) within another 20-30 years. Imagine, if you will, Japan's economic stagnation from 1990 onwards dropped on top of the current ailing British economy.

We're also about to see various pigeons come home to roost, including spiralling demand for labour in the health and care sectors due to the ageing population (sectors which are prone to Baumol's cost disease), and the results of the de-academization/commercialization of our higher education sector over the past two decades. Our research spending has dropped like a stone under the tories, our universities are now diploma mills for educational credentials, and they're largely funded by foreign students paying for the decent education our own kids can't afford -- students who are classified as immigrants, so that cutting "immigration" is code for bankrupting our higher education sector.

91:

YELLOW CARD

This is a thread for discussion of the forthcoming BRITISH general election.

Further discussions of US domestic politics are derailing, hence banned.

92:

Something slightly peculiar about the election, which doesn't appear (I'm English, living in the south-east) to be widely appreciated.

Nicola Sturgeon, as leader of the SNP, is getting the airtime and coverage, which is fair enough.

She isn't standing for election to Westminster.

One of the party's six(?) current Westminster MPs is the SNP's deputy leader, Stewart Hosie. Alex Salmond, the previous party leader is standing in Gordon, where the Liberal Democrat MP is retiring, having held the seat since 1983.

Assuming that the SNP do end up with 40+ MPs next week, and that both Hosie and Salmond are amongst them, then it's highly likely there will be negotiations about forming a government. Presumably, Sturgeon would not take part directly as she isn't an MP. Hosie as deputy leader would, but media attention is likely to focus on Salmond.

So how good is the SNPs' party discipline? At a guess, 40+ MPs at Westminster, and 64 MSPs at Holyrood could cause a fair amount of internal stress.

93:

So how good is the SNPs' party discipline?

Very good question.

Short answer: I suspect if Salmond wants to be leader in Westminster, nobody's going to have the balls to say "naw" to him. However, he might not want to be leader -- especially if it's tactically difficult (e.g. if Milliband can do a deal with Hosie but would have trouble dealing with Salmond).

Longer answer:

One of the long term structural reasons for the SNPs ascendency in Scotland and the Labour/Conservative/LibDem decline there is that bright, ambitious Lab/Con/LDP politicians are all under great pressure to head for Westminster -- as far as their parties are concerned, Scotland is a side-show. But to the SNP, Hollyrood is the big deal, and Westminster is the side-show. So the SNP's heavy hitters stay home in Scotland, but any Lab/Con/LDP heavy-hitters from Scotland head for London -- Blair, Brown, and so on.

Given the relative size of the talent pool (Scotland has a tenth the population of England) there are a tenth as many front-rank Scottish politicians as English ones, and a lot of second-rank placeholders who look OK on the small stage but would be eaten alive in the Westminster shark tank. So I suspect a bunch of the newbie SNP MPs are going to be very inexperienced and not terribly forward at first while they're learning the ropes.

Salmond, in contrast, is one of the big beasts of British politics: he would have been cabinet or PM material if he'd joined one of the unionist parties, and he's head and shoulders more experienced in Westminster terms than anyone else the SNP will have down south after next week. He has more experience of leading a government than the current Prime Minister. The reason the southern right wing press don't like him is because they've correctly identified him as an existential threat -- an experienced heavyweight on the other bench.

94:

There are a surprising number of us darn sarf who would happily
vote for an SNP candidate if one were standing, not particularly
just the expatriate Scots. Dammit, we might even join, oppose
simple independence, and propose a properly thought-out federal
system (rather that the historical mish-mash we have today), with
its social aspects taken from Scottish tradition.

Yes, we are mostly effete intellectuals, yellow-bellied liberals
and pinko commie-lovers :-)

95:

What's a good population level for England? I would say about 10 million. And after the Japanese demographic transition finally runs its course Japan is going to be a rather nice uncrowded place populated by ethnic Japanese. That is not something true of England.

96:

Ok, Dirk, YELLOW CARD. Reason: racism.

Go and stand in the corner.

97:

"Salmond, in contrast, is one of the big beasts of British
politics: ..."

He's one of the few capable of taking on Boris Johnson, to choose
just one plausible example for the next Conservative leader. Yes,
he's an outrageous snake oil salesman, but that's to be expected.
Well, so's Boris, not to say Nigel ....

98:

Since there's people veering toward the CARD system, a short primer for non-UK people who might be thinking that it's all snarling to-the-death matches.

The Monster Raving Loony Party, although having lost their leader (tragic), are still contesting 15 seats. If you want to see a thrilling by-election video where Howling Laud Hope almost gets as many votes as the Lib dems,
here you go (I'm also linking there because it was UKIP's first actual non-MEP seat).

FUKP, lead by Pub Landlord Al Murray is running in the same seat as Nigel Farange, and active on
twitter.

There are also a load of 'white' runners (no, not that, independents) who will probably actually get seats. (Notably - certain a Labour MP who got done for fraud).


99:

I understand why they want to sell off vital government services like they have, it makes gobs of money for their friends. I've never understood why the opposition doesn't try to force them in to doing a trial experiment in a specific county or region as a pilot program. I think the fire service would be an ideal one to apply a regional test to.

I think it's insane to sell off things like this, but I don't rule the world. Here they semi-privatized the U.S. Postal Service and required them to pre-fund their retirement liabilities to an insane degree, much further than any other agency, which has left the post in a precarious position for ages.

At least your crazy season will be over, or at least shift gears, in a week. Ours has just begun and will last another 16 months.

100:

From outside of Scotland looking in, the SNP's party discipline seems better than most on the right but not as impressive as Blair's first term. OTOH they've been in power in Scotland for more than 5 years and in his second and third term that "newly in power" discipline slipped so perhaps that's why.

But I think we have to remember Salmond was First Minister of Scotland for seven years and leader of the SNP from basically nowhere to having a referendum for 20 of the last 25 years, as well as having a Scottish Parliament set up and all the rest of it under his watch. Not all the credit (or blame depending on your POV) for that is his but he was certainly a mover and shaker in the process. He led a bruising referendum campaign. It ultimately failed but he was very much there. He's now 60 and while that's not necessarily old it's not young either, particular in today's politics.

Like Charlie said, I'm sure if he said he wanted to be the leader of the SNP in Westminster, none of them would say no, in any accent. But by stepping down as an MSP and clearing the way for Nicola Sturgeon it suggests it's possible he will say he wants a quieter life. He'll be the elder statesman and happy to give advice to whoever is the leader of the SNP in Westminster but not actually be the leader. He gets a quieter life, he gets to advise the SNP's leader in London without getting out of bed at stupid o'clock regularly AND he strengthens the SNP's position because he knows he's not an easy sell to political faces (be they MPs or newspaper editors) in England. As long as he isn't missing crisis phone calls and he doesn't want to be a major PITA to the Sassenachs it doesn't sound like a hard sell.

101:

Your original premise is mistaken. "Everyone on the planet" does not have the right to live in the UK and no one is seriously proposing they should. I can say from personal experience that it is NOT easy or cheap for a non EU citizen to get a visa to live and work in the UK.

EU citizens are another matter. But (a) IIRC there are a couple of million Brits working elsewhere in the EU, and (b) the Poles and Romanians are not arriving in such great numbers as to somehow threaten indigenous British culture.

102:

Au contraire - I welcome the millions of East Europeans coming here. I see them as the saviours of Britain.

103:

"Everyone on the planet" does not have the right to live in the UK and no one is seriously proposing they should. .... Poles and Romanians are not arriving in such great numbers as to somehow threaten indigenous British culture.

I want to consider the bigger picture for a moment. To the extent that there are genetic races as opposed to political "races", it's because the world population used to be split up and could not mix. Partly the ice ages, partly just the difficulty of traveling long distances and raising families with people you meet there.

And to the extent that we have actual different cultures, it's partly because people were separated and could not learn from each other much. For a very long time, most people married somebody who grew up less than half a mile from them, and didn't meet many strangers unless they joined an army or something -- which for a very long time, most people did not do.

So if the genes get mixed a whole lot now, should that be an issue? if the individual people involved want to do it? I can imagine it might get us horrible genetic problems in the future as various meiotic drive stuff surfaces, but we don't have the organization to do anything about problems on that level.

And if the cultures get mixed together? To the extent they developed because people had no alternative, why should we support them? If there's valuable stuff that people want to keep, as opposed to stuff that evolved by accident because they were isolated, they will in fact keep it.

So maybe we can play that stuff by ear?

104:

Look ahead five years, or ten: discipline within the SNP is going to be the dominant political issue in Scotland, because a system with a single dominant party has failure modes arising from resentment in the governed population.

Complacency and arrogance in power are the obvious source of that resentment: and even if the dominant party governs well, the general tendency to resentment of authority and a desire for change erodes support, and the media are going to portray everything - especially the successes! - as failures and unpopular mistakes.

That gets sharper, very quickly, if and when corruption sets in: discipline isn't just about unity.

Becoming 'stale' and 'lacking ideas' are a second-order disciplinary failure, arising from an entrenched and unresponsive leadership that has an authoritarian response to all initiatives and views arising outside the leadership caucus. Dissent emerges anyway; the question is whether it is managed so as not to engender the resentment that eventually turns a faction into a schism.

I can totally see Salmond failing that way - Nicola Sturgeon's leadership is their best hope of avoiding that - but Salmond's presence as the Westminster leader may well lead to problems with resentful young MP's.

Longer term, the SNP is large enough for something like a 'Labour Party' to become a cohesive faction representing working people, and eventually split away from the whiggish Liberal parent and become a party in its own right.

I wonder, also, where the Conservative and Labour 'natural supporters' and ambitious activists will go, in a system where a single dominant party shuts them out? Entryism is a thing, and the SNP will have to deal with some repellent boarders. That's a disciplinary issue to watch - especially if we see defections from elected politicians into the SNP.

How do people closer to the parties look at this?

105:

And for a couple of centuries the British asserted their right to live anywhere on the planet at the point of a gun, so a little reciprocity might not go amiss.

106:

There is also a huge problem concerning participation. Fifty years ago almost 10% of the adult population were members of a political party. That number now approximates one percent.

http://www.libdemvoice.org/lib-dem-party-membership-figures-2011-29703.html

One consequence is the rise in the necessity of having big party donors, because membership only brings in one tenth of what it used to. Which alienates even more people and the cycle continues. One can envisage an endpoint where party membership is negligible and carries no weight compared to the special interests financing the political scene.

107:

And the locals asserted their right to try and stop us, at the point of a gun. See "Zulu Wars" etc. And let's not forget how the USA came into existence.

108:
I can totally see Salmond failing that way - Nicola Sturgeon's leadership is their best hope of avoiding that - but Salmond's presence as the Westminster leader may well lead to problems with resentful young MP's.
Let's hope it ends better than the last time the leader of a UK independence party sent someone that scared the British establishment to negotiate with them and it split the party. (There's an awful lot of rhyming between current and 1920's UK politics.)
109:

I don't want to get too lovey-dovey with any Irish political party, but despite the hatred, they eventually made a deal that has held to an uneasy peace. Whether Dr. Paisley was your enemy or Gerry Adams, those men had the courage to talk and negotiate, that same prickly personal honour that may have plagued both sides led them to hold to it.

They deserve credit for that.

Does that balance out the rest they did, or might have done? Dr. Paisley, we may assume, has found out by now. Peace may be worth an answer such as that. Toast what each man did for peace, and leave the rest to whatever passes for a deity.


What does this have to do with what happens next? Not much, other than that the visible hatred this week might vanish in a puff of smoke. What Ireland shows us is that nobody will want to look willing before the votes are in, and enemies can make a deal.

110:

"...and enemies can make a deal."

Which makes me wonder about Miliband, and his "absolutely no deal" speech. Seems he has been forced to paint himself into a corner over that.

111:

Milliband's "no deal" stance is a non-issue. Senior Labour figures are already saying publicly it's a bad idea. So for now Milliband can pose as a man of stern principle, but if push comes to shove after the election he can walk it back, announce that he's listened to his wise counsellors and moderated his stance, and pose as a flexible pragmatist.

This is politics, remember.

112:

It's not the DUP's unionism that makes me afraid of them holding the balance of power; it's things like Northern Ireland not having marriage equality or abortion after rape being illegal due to their policies.

(I'm aware of the irony of someone living in the South saying this, yes.)

113:

I think going back on his "no deal" would finish his career. He would forever be labelled an outright liar, with multiple videos to prove it. If Labour does not secure a majority it will be the end for him as party leader. Cameron will probably also go, but for different reasons.

114:

A quick point on minor party victories: a party polling 20-25% nationally, and nowhere over 35%, will lose everywhere and get no seats at all, if every constituency is a two-way fight between the 'real' contenders.

But three- and four-way splits in enough constituencies make it certain that a minor party will get someone into Parliament.

Constituencies where the minor party can get 35% are winnable if they can get that extra 2% ahead in a near-as-dammit even three-way split - it's all about the even split between the other two. That requires a lot of luck, and it's a rarity: but with a good candidate and (say) a fringe party splitting off 5 or 10% of one or other party's voters, there's a winnable seat or two.

Or several, for Lib Dem candidates in every election up to and including 2010. Note that the UKIP split in the Conservative electorate is larger than the Lib Dem margin in the majority of seats where they beat the Conservatives into second place.

Close-to-even four-way splits are interesting, because they let a party win with 25% (or less, if there are fifth- and sixth-place parties chipping single-digit vote shares off the serious contenders).

A party polling 22% nationally will very likely win a quarter of the four-way seats, if it can pull an extra 5% of voters in a targeted constituency - you can't say which ones, and arguably these split constituencies are a crapshoot that replace the democratic will with random chance* - but you can take the four-way splits, divide by four, and get a pretty good baseline estimate for UKIP, Green, and Liberal Democrat MPs in the 2015 election.

Add effective and popular incumbents to the baseline - Caroline Lucas and a handful of Lib Dem MP's - and you have a forecast worth a bet or two.


.
.


* I cannot call it 'democratic' if or when the predominately-socialist polity of Wales elects a UKIP candidate to Parliament. But there's a realistic probability that the three-way split constituencies that are winnable for Plaid Cymru will turn into four-way 'crapshoot' contests, in which one in four of them returns a Kipper by a margin that is arguably statistical 'noise'.

115:

On genetic mixing: A couple of generations back, some of my relatives (Ukrainian Jewish) looked distinctly Asian. Not uncommon among Eastern Europeans; that area might have been designed for ease of invasion by horse nomads.

Many "pure Germans" have Slavic ancestors.

116:

Last time I looked (2014 headlines), Japan was holding firm against broadening its immigration policy. Also, Japan looks at country of origin (nationality) rather than racial ethnicity: someone of Japanese ethnic/racial background who was born elsewhere is considered as much of a non-Japanese as say a Parisian whose family have been living on the same street for 500 years who wants to immigrate to Tokyo. We've discussed this before ... e.g., OMAN. A couple of people that I worked with a few years ago had been born there, and when I mentioned that I had never met an Omani before, both immediately corrected me: birth does not equal nationality/ citizenship in that particular country. I'm unaware of any studies on this, but from my POV/experience immigration policy is more closely tied to economic gain/loss than outright fear of the stranger (xenophobia).

What about emigration policy ... are there any barriers to leaving the U.K./Scotland? From some headlines I've read it's very pricey to emigrate from some western countries because of tax implications ... as in you'd be leaving behind a large chunk of your wealth.

117:

Most politicians aren't trained in the scientific method. They tend to be former lawyers. Winning for your side, regardless of if you are right is more important than testing if the premise is wrong.

In addition, admitting you are wrong in politics is career suicide. U-turn is almost the worst thing you can be accused of. Even if a trial shows that the policy is flawed they will often roll it out regardless. The poll tax was introduced in Scotland first and was resisted with widespread boycotts. It didn't slow, let alone stop them introducing it in the rest of the UK a year later.

Normally civil service advice might be a check on this, as they have to deal with the consequences once the minister, or government is gone. With privatisation I think the senior civil servants are also looking to cash out with senior management, directorship and consulting roles in the newly privatised entity. Not just the politicians.

118:

"What Ireland shows us is that nobody will want to look willing
before the votes are in, and enemies can make a deal."

No, they didn't make a deal - they were forced into one at
gunpoint (in one case literally). There's no such external
pressure (or power) in this case. There's more that I could say
(and you could check up on), but it would derail this thread.

119:

" I don't want to get too lovey-dovey with any Irish political party, but despite the hatred, they eventually made a deal that has held to an uneasy peace. Whether Dr. Paisley was your enemy or Gerry Adams, those men had the courage to talk and negotiate, that same prickly personal honour that may have plagued both sides led them to hold to it.

They deserve credit for that. "


Depends on the value upon which you place that ‘credit’


" Half of all top IRA men 'worked for security services'"

http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/half-of-all-top-ira-men-worked-for-security-services-28694353.html

Just web search ..." ira British secret intelligence penetration”

Or ? .. “It’s our Friends who kill us”


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APUCkaDyX0g

120:

What OGH said, mostly ...

When push comes to shove the DUP have laid down with Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland, so I wouldn't put them in quite the same class as UKIP. In the unlikely event that the Tories manage to stitch together a majority in the Commons after the election, it would almost certainly have to include the DUP as well as the LibDems.

There are obvious tactical reasons for the Tories to talk up the probability of Labour and the SNP making some sort of a deal, and equally obvious reasons for Labour to do the opposite. After the election, arithmetic will have its day ...

Labour and the SNP are locked in an existential struggle for support in Scotland, which makes it difficult to reach an accomodation. Or at least they have been up to now. If Labour really is wiped out north of the border, that may eventually change. There is also the small matter that the Labour is fundamentally opposed to the SNP's raison d'etre of the break up of the UK . I find it hard to believe that Milliband would prefer a Tory government, but what do I know.

At one end of the fecal-blade interface scale, the Tories get back, hold an EU referendum, triggering Brexit, closely followed by another Scottish referendum and the end of the UK. At the other end, a Labour minority government has both the motivation and the parliamentary support to construct a new constitutional settlement. And we all get ponies.

Peter

121:

I'm going to do the non sensible thing and comment on the immigration question. I am unsure if this is a derail. If so, I apologize.

My understanding is as follows. Outside of war refugees and Eastern Europeans, large scale emigration from countries happens when countries hit stage 2 and early stage 3 in the demographic transition. I have lived in the US most of my life. I will point out what I learned in history class. One of the advantages of the Americas and Australia for Europeans was as a pressure valve. Without the immigration to the Americas in the late 19th century, Scandinavia would have experienced a famine which might have knocked its development back significantly. Likewise Ireland might have experienced a second famine. On the other hand, too large a brain drain would set those countries back. Good news and bad news on this front. Most of the world is now in Stage 3, and developing rapidly compared to Europe in its time, including Africa. The bad news is that it will still take about a decade more for the effects to fully trickle down. Whether it is the responsibility of Europe to act as a pressure valve is open to debate. The same holds true for other countries such as in Southeast Asia, N. America, and Australia

122:

Anecdote: I'm Canadian and 26 years old. Moved to the UK 13 months ago. 40% of my net worth is in a retirement account back in Canada (not sure how much I have in Canadian government pension, though), and I think it's a 50/50 chance that the money isn't recognized by any UK pension plans so I would have to pay 15% or 25% witholding tax to bring it here. Luckily the pension fund I've got going here is transferable so I can bring it back to Canada with me if necessary without penalties.

YMMV, but it depends on the tax treaties between the UK and your country and what kind of assets and vehicles your net work is locked up in.

123:

Milliband and his no deal doesn't rule out what his advisors have said, a case by case, vote by vote negotiation. No formal deal with the SNP but a loose progressive alliance propping up a Labour minority government and on some things like Trident where the Lab-Con unholy alliance has more in common, they'll get things through.

There are certainly questions about how stable this would be, but the fixed term parliament act or whatever it's called changed the rules for votes of no confidence to try and ensure no backstabbing so while some votes will doubtless be lost, as the coalition did, there's a pretty decent chance it could be a moderately unstable five year minority government without a coalition, without a confidence and supply pact and so on.

Although drifting away from the SNP's involvement the level of undecided voters in the polls is still so high this could all be nonsense and we might have a Tory majority. Or a Tory-LibDem coalition might return. Or, even scarier, Nigel might be right about how right wing the public are and a loose Tory-UKIP alliance does what I've described for the Labour-progressive loose alliance for the next five years.

124:

Charlie: "...notably Prime Minister David Cameron, who walked back the Scotophillic rhetoric on September 19th with his English Votes for English Laws speech and thereby poured gasoline on the embers of the previous day's fire. .."

Forgive me for possibly skipping over what's been answered in comments, but this is what I kept asking about. Commenters were talking about how the Government could not renege on promises made during the vote. As an ignorant American I was asking about why and how, because US politicians have little which would bind them to their word.

125:

"Re the chance of Federalism:

Ask not what is good for the House of Commons.

Ask what is good for an MP in that house.

What career path and prospects do you give them? What role do they see for themselves? Would would cause them to be happy as a fish in a small pond?

Groups are convenient abstractions: to know what's really going on, drop one level of abstraction to the underlying implementation and consider what the individuals within the group want."


This. From what I understand from this side of the Atlantic, the leadership of the Lib-Dems backstabbed their supporters quite thoroughly, empowering the Tories to do as they pleased.

How are the leaders of the L-D's doing? How are their MP's faring - particularly with post-office, uh, 'sweeteners'.

126:

"Commenters were talking about how the Government could not renege
on promises made during the vote. As an ignorant American I was
asking about why and how, because US politicians have little which
would bind them to their word."

UK ones have less. The only reason is the amount of slagging off
they would get in the press - if they are happy to ignore that,
no problem. They usually do, after all, and few of the electorate
are surprised.

127:

"How are the leaders of the L-D's doing? How are their MP's faring
- particularly with post-office, uh, 'sweeteners'."

Even if Clegg keeps his seat, I don't give him an earthly of
staying on as leader, because the (30%?) of Liberal Democrat MPs
who do keep their seats will blame him for the meltdown in the
Liberal Democrat vote (with reason).

129:

My, probably unrealistic, fantasy is that this is the election where the Green's begin to lose their woo-anti-science-hippy image and become something closer to the Scottish Green's. They won't win a lot of seats, but neither did UKIP last time and look how much they've dragged UK politics along over the last few years.

This is the first election I've seen a lot of folk I know on the "left" abandon Labour after their pro-austerity, anti-immigration stance. This is the first election I've seen where we have multiple Green candidates in Toryshire where I live. They're gonna lose, but just having them stand is a huge change.

This election is when the libdems collapse. Could next time, another five years down the demographic shift, be when Labour does?

130:

And for a couple of centuries the British asserted their right to live anywhere on the planet at the point of a gun, so a little reciprocity might not go amiss.

No doubt; the British elites (or lizard people) are the most diabolical imperialists in history. But that isn't the fault of modern British natives.

The consistent position is no imperialism anywhere, either abroad or in your own countries -- to have some respect for the indigenous cultures, economies, security and peace of mind of people everywhere, rather than spreading neoliberal cultural and economic chaos globally. But in the far West we have a pathological elite that values money over culture, sustainability or any other values, which creates unstable entities like the UK, USA, etc. Eventually, this elite will probably be swept into the sea, but not until things have fallen apart considerably more.

My preference is inverse neoliberalism: anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist and anti-multiculturalist. Is North Korea really so bad? What about Albania under Enver Hoxha? What's wrong with the Juche Idea anyway? ;)

131:

This was Private Eyes view of the election outcome.


http://www.private-eye.co.uk/covers/cover-1389

132:

My bet is one a Labour-Tory coalition. The financial elites and media elites will be behind that 100%.

133:

Concerning the Greens. I live outside Norwich and for the last two elections the area of the city which is mainly "young professional" was bristling with Liberal Democrat posters with a reasonable number of Labour posters and a few Conservative. This election in the same area I have only seen two Liberal Democrat posters, about the same number of Labour Posters and lots of Green Party. No Conservative no UKIP. I drove through a Conservative area just to look for posters and found only four (two each at either end of the large garens of two houses).
My guess is that many people who are going to vote Conservative are ashamed (as in the Thatcher years) and Liberal Democrats have switched to the Greens.

134:

(Trying to avoid derailing, so keeping it brief.)

The reasons for an agreement between old enemies in Northern Ireland are many and complex, and the circumstances that made such an agreement possible are entirely different to the background to an coalition Westminster government.

There are also reasons to be concerned about the DUP holding any serious bargaining power at UK government level. The current peace in Northern Ireland belies the continued existence of old animosities, and while not highly probable, the potential for things to spiral out of control once more remains.

135:

Sorry Ken, it has been such a long time! I must find time to re-read that, I had enjoyed it immensely.

136:

Spot on target.
I have given up on UKIP, since they went Anti-GW-"propaganda".
But
The EU is a corrupt, lobbyers' dream.
It desperatrely needs reform _ I would much rather have a reformed EU than have to leave... but there are too many snouts in the trough to expect reform.
Oh shit

137:

You obviously didn't spot my reference to the ever-so-nice Mr Jean Calvin there .....
I suugest you re-check y our history of relgious/political spying & police states

138:

My SNP-information comes direct from an Edinburgh-resident who is a native Welshman.
Who really does not love the SNP - it is also to be noted that even Paid Cymru are starting to distance themselves from the SNP.
Errr .....

139:

Yeah
Like I said...
Can we have an Union of the Isles
( Federated )
PLEASE?

140:

Complacency and arrogance in power are the obvious source of that resentment
And the SNP are already in that position.
IIRC ( coorect me if wrong) the SNP are nastier than the tories to people in awkward positions in areas where they have the spending power.
The NHS in Scotland being the prime example (?)
But they would much rather you didn't notice this, & will try to bleame "the tories" - which translates as = "the English"
Errr ....

141:

I want a hung Parliament that is powerless to inflict more of the same shit we have had to put up with for years. No more wars just because the barking psycho god bothering PM says so, no more banker bailouts and no cuts to welfare.

142:

Good. This was the most confusing thing I had seen (spectating from the US, where I *don't* yet get a vote despite paying taxes for 20 years... ok, getting off the derailed high horse now).

But: still not convinced that it will happen. Could the SNP form a pact that gave up on an independent Scotland? That seems unlikely as it sacrifices their raison d'être. In which case, would Labour be willing to form such a pact knowing it would lead to a likely Conservative majority in England/Wales/NI most of the time? Also unlikely.

This is where OGH came in: what the heck happens then? If *neither* Conservative nor Labour parties can form a viable government, we probably end up with a Labour minority setup, vulnerable at any time to a Tory-SNP momentary alliance to vote them out.

I would *speculate* that once that situation exists, the barrier to voting for smaller parties decreases markedly, and we head towards something Knesset-like... but with luck not quite that fragmented. And maybe we'll have a left-wing party again, which would be a thing of joy.

OK, off to naturalize so that I can vote for Bernie Sanders..

143:

1. Who gets to be junior partner? There can only be one PM. The idea that Prime Minister is first amongst equals in the cabinet has been a fiction for over a century. Even the bizarre possibility of a genuine co-government split down the middle would appear to have one in control, with all the blame and credit to accrue there.

2. This would be a short term solution. By the next election, voters would be looking for alternatives. Look for Eurosceptic Tory MPs to join UKIP, Left Wing Labour MPs to splinter into a social democrat party (or take over, shedding right wing Labour MPs into... I don't know?), even the possibility of resurgent Lib Dems. A few more Greens, maybe a handful for a party that's currently not on the horizon*... Think this one and the last look crazy? The election after a Con/Lab coalition would be bonkers.

* Got a leaflet through the door from the Al-Zebabist Nation of OOOG whose prophet is standing in my constituency. They're more imaginative than Al Murray and the FUKP that's for sure.

144:

"Who gets to be junior partner? There can only be one PM. The idea that Prime Minister is first amongst equals in the cabinet has been a fiction for over a century. Even the bizarre possibility of a genuine co-government split down the middle would appear to have one in control, with all the blame and credit to accrue there."

I don't know; I'm an idea guy only :0
I'm sure that that would lead to some bitter infighting.
I'm not saying that this monstrosity would be happy, for anybody not a banker or media mogul.

"2. This would be a short term solution. By the next election, voters would be looking for alternatives. Look for Eurosceptic Tory MPs to join UKIP, Left Wing Labour MPs to splinter into a social democrat party (or take over, shedding right wing Labour MPs into... I don't know?), even the possibility of resurgent Lib Dems. A few more Greens, maybe a handful for a party that's currently not on the horizon*... Think this one and the last look crazy? The election after a Con/Lab coalition would be bonkers."

As I understand it, the Lib Dem leadership trashed their party with the current government, and is going to lose many seats. They still did it.

145:

"As an ignorant American I was asking about why and how, because US politicians have little which would bind them to their word."

Actually US politicians are fairly good at keeping their campaign promises. There's mental selection bias, we remember the cases where they don't, because those piss us off.

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/january_february_2012/features/campaign_promises034471.php?page=all

Well, is mostly about presidents, but I suspect the result generalizes.

146:

Peter@119: "And we all get ponies."
They'd better be Shetland ponies, or the Isles are going to exit en masse and go rejoin their Viking forbears in Scandinavia. Maybe even offer to take Dublin with them.

Ok, seriousness aside, what's up with the difference between the Scottish Greens and UK Greens? Are they two separate parties, with potentially competing candidates for the same seats, or at least the possibility that there might be one or two UK Green MPs and (unlikely) one or two Scottish Greens (if some ex-Labor seat's voters don't want to vote SNP)? Or are they one organization, with just much different interests north and south of the border?

147:

1) ok, so what does "büroismus" mean? Is this another "Dark Enlightenment" made up word, or is google just not doing its job in finding it's definition?

2) No comment on his political positions, acumen, or future, but Ed Miliband is one goofy looking bastard

148:

Are they two separate parties, with potentially competing candidates for the same seats, or at least the possibility that there might be one or two UK Green MPs and (unlikely) one or two Scottish Greens (if some ex-Labor seat's voters don't want to vote SNP)? Or are they one organization, with just much different interests north and south of the border?

They're neither. There is no "UK Green party": it split 25 years ago into separate parties for Scotland, Northern Ireland, and England&Wales. So they're separate (allied) parties, but they don't compete for seats.

(and the Scottish Green Party, alas, is not going to get any seats)

149:

UKIP are taking votes off Labour too.

I live in one of Labour's safest seats, somewhere in Sheffield, so have a good idea what a lot of their traditional voters are like, and it isn't pretty.

Quite simply a substantial chunk of the Labour vote round here is deeply racist, and socially conservative. Many of them feel Labour has lost touch with its roots, seduced by soft southern living and that it's taking their loyalty for granted. The recent sex scandal in Rotherham doesn't help either.

A lot of these disgruntled Labour voters will just stay at home, but some have decided UKIP is closer to their beliefs.

Because of all this, UKIP won three seats in the 2014 Sheffield council elections, and ten in Rotherham.

UKIP aren't going to win any seats in Yorkshire, but they will eat into the Labour vote here, especially if Labour assumes they're only a threat to the Tories.

This will reduce Labour's share of the national vote. Legally, that doesn't matter - all that matters is who has the most MPs - but if Labour end up with less votes than the Tories much of the public will feel they lost the election.

150:

You are going to get it.
And I think "good" too ...
Currently it seems that the tories will be the largest party (just - by probably no more than 2 or 3 seats over liebour)
Which means the meanouvering, come Friday-Monday is going to be *interesting*

151:

The system essentially doesn't allow a hung parliament. If there's not a majority, there will be scrabbling to make some form of loose or tight alliance to make a moderately workable majority so someone can go visit Liz OR there will be another election (fortunately with a much shorter campaign).

The numbers along with political preferences will determine which parties are involved and what forms of alliance or alliances we end up with. For example a Con+LD tight deal + UKIP loose alliance is one possibility. Labour + PC + Green in a C&S + SNP lease by case is another.

Going to war is, technically, in the PM's right but typically he (or she but it won't be a she for the next five years) seeks a cross-party consensus. Blair got one remember, and Cameron didn't over Syria, went for the vote anyway and lost it. A minority government, loose alliance etc. won't necessarily stop a war. Say it's 2018 and Daesh-2 strikes at Spain on the grounds it used to be Moorish. Not random bombing, but a full-scale invasion. I can't see it happening but if something like that did I can certainly see the HoC voting to send in the UK's armed forces to support Spain no matter what the outcome of the election and the makeup of the government.

152:

No, no, no, what you need is not one but two referenda to decide on a New Flag! This will help distract your thoughts from how miserable the lives of 99% of you are going to be in the future, as if they weren't miserable enough now.

I too would like to know what a "büroismus" is, and how to cook one properly. Is it a German word for something like "a bureaucracy-gone-mad-with-power"?

153:

Actually, I doubt it. Friday to Monday will mostly behind closed
doors and off the record, and will be followed by at least some of
the culprits lying their heads off about who knifed who in the
back. A lot will depend on whether Clegg keeps his seat: if so,
Cameron will attempt to trick him a second time; if not, the LD
MPs will need another leader, and will either be in chaos or he
will tell Cameron to sod off.

One good prediction I saw is that Cameron is likely to refuse to
concede, and prevaricate until Parliament reopens and beyond if
he can manage it. What will be REALLY interesting is if he
won't schedule a State Opening or narrowly loses the vote on the
Queen's speech and still refuses to concede, while trying to
bully, bribe and blackmail a few more MPs into backing him. I
should dearly like to see the Queen then summoning Miliband and
ordering the army (she is, after all, CiC) to assist Miliband in
expelling Cameron :-)

So it's actually the rest of May that is the interesting period.

154:

Err, an attack on Spain would be a special case since Spain is a member state of NATO, and thus an attack would constitute a casus foederis:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Atlantic_Treaty#Article_5

I'm sufficiently cynical to see ways around that one, but I still guess it would have some repercussions.

155:

I have never seen it in use in Germany either, can't talk that much about Austria and Switzerland.

My personal take is it's a try at gratuitous German, contracting "Büro", which translates as something like bureau or office, and the usual "-ismus", or "ism".

The English term "bureauism" give slightly more hits with google, some of those are articles about Mexico, so maybe the original word was Spanish.

As for the meaning, I guess you have to ask the user, maybe it should indicate a kind of EU bureaucracy dominated by Germany, which is quite funny when you know arguing against Bruxelles is one of the common pastimes of Germans. Or it's an allusion to the stereotype of German bureaucratical thinking, where we could argue about the applicability; I know some Eastern Europeans who argue about German bureaucracy, but I think it's not that much worse than some other European countries.

As for German terms for bureaucracy, that would be "Bürokratie", where arguing against it is another one of this typical German pastimes. Just like arguing about the trains being late in Italy. Where, incidentally, the trains in Italy usually were more on time than in Germany during my stays there.

Oh, and sidestepping office hierarchies is called "kleiner Dienstweg" or "kurzer Dienstweg", which roughly translates to "small official channel/chain of command" or "short official channel/chain of command".

156:

Surely a reference to New Zealand's "I don't want to talk about my policies so let's debate what our flag should look like" referendums is flirting with a Yellow Card?

Especially since you're not mentioning that NZ has done ok with Minority governments twice recently (though not really now). You don't need the government to have a majority in the house.

Constitutionally unexpected, but it worked. All you need to buy/bribe from the party that holds the balance of power is a promise to abstain on votes of confidence and supply.. Yes: *abstain*. After that, the governing party has to actually win debates in the chamber to pass anything else. Which means that all those boring House committees suddenly start being places where real political compromises and solutions get worked out, instead of window-dressing for political grand-standing.

157:

I'd forgotten Spain was part of NATO when I was groping for a vaguely plausible target. But there'd still be a vote and a minority government would almost certainly get it through, no?

158:

Thankee Trottelreiner! You might be right. Maybe something to do with the way bureaucracies behave a-la http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerry_Pournelle#Iron_Law_of_Bureaucracy ?

Welllll, Icehawk, I guess where I was really going with that is that I fully expect English politics to be constantly derailed by "exciting non-priorities" as ours has been in NZ, with the result that the public have little or nothing to do with any decisions that would really make a difference.

The rich will get ri- OOH! Look! Islamic Lesbian Lemurs Getting Married!!1!eleventybbq!

159:

Well, both of these questions might depend somewhat on the circumstances; Spain has some exclaves in Northern Africa

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plazas_de_soberanía

which have a complicated history, there is the issue of immigration and human rights, and the usual suspects might ask questions about Gibraltar:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disputed_status_of_Gibraltar

As for the vote, my guess is yes, though I'd have to look up the one precedent of the casus foederati, the US after 9/11.

160:

There are certainly questions about how stable this would be, but the fixed term parliament act or whatever it's called changed the rules for votes of no confidence

Not true, and was never true. A vote of no confidence that passes (well, technically, a vote of confidence that fails, since the government always inverts the motion) removes the government and forces elections. [Fixed Term Parliament Act 2011 Provision 2 Section (3)] It also takes place early if 2/3rds of Parliament votes to do so early. [FTPA Provision 2 Section (1)] Unlike before 2011, it no longer takes place when the PM decides "We will hold elections six weeks from NOW."

What the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011 did is removed the power of the Prime Minster to drop the Writ of Elections at any time. This, BTW, was *not* insisted on by David Cameron. This was insisted on by Nick Clegg. Why?

If you're the minority party in a coalition without this, what happens if the majority party gets popular is simple, they drop the writ, win a straight majority, and tell you to fuck off. So, the FTPA 2011 was part of the coalition agreement, to make sure the LibDems stayed in the coalition for the entire term of Parliament.

And remember, under a Westminster style parliamentary government, Parliament cannot bind a future Parliament. You can bet that if a party were to gain a pure majority, the first act they'd repeal is the FTPA 2011. It's possible that the SNP would even be good with Labour repealing it, figuring they would be safe from Labour dropping the writ, but that's guessing.

But as long as the UK is looking at coalition governments, the minority partners in the coalition are not going to accept the PM being from the majority party and having the power to call elections whenever the polls look good for their party.

The interesting side effect of the FTPA 2011 is Provision 4, where they realized "Oops. We kinda forgot about that" and moved (provided the elections weren't held earlier) the Scottish elections to 2016, because otherwise, the UK and Scottish Parliamentary elections would have been held on the same day. This gave the MSPs an extra year this term.

161:

The one's not a vaguely plausible target. Spain is an industrialized nation, a NATO member, and has a navy and air force (including its own STOVL carrier); meanwhile, the Straits of Gibraltar are a little bit narrower than the English Channel, but not by much. Basically you're asking for Da'esh -- a bunch of fanatical hillbillies in Iraq and Syria, with friends in Libya -- to grow up in three years flat to the kind of threat capable of launching a modern-day Operation Overlord in the face of NATO opposition.

Not gonna happen. Even if they took over Egypt (for the population) and Saudi Arabia (for the money) they'd fall way short in the population base it takes to support the logistics for an empire. And Long before that happened you'd see the US Navy providing top cover for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard ...

... probably with a UK naval contingent, again regardless of whoever was in power unless there's an utterly unexpected Green landslide on Thursday, or a Tory landslide resulting in yet more [predicted] defense cuts.

162:

Whether Dr. Paisley was your enemy or Gerry Adams, those men had the courage to talk and negotiate,

Careful with that, and note which two Northern Irish politicians shared the Nobel Peace Prize (it was David Trimble and John Hume).

Paisley kept saying "no" and wrecking things, right up until he held the prime seat in Unionist politics - at which point he said "yes", and immediately became First Minister. Determined, yes; and ruthless with it. Very definitely a man who wanted power.

That's not to say that he wasn't a good MP who worked hard for all of his constituents (whatever religion) - but remember also his behaviour in the European Parliament (declaring the Pope to be the Antichrist), or the fact that he did much to both start (opposing Catholic civil rights) and then prolong (wrecking Sunningdale) the Troubles.

163:

Wonder how much impact digital media has on voters' info-gathering and perception of candidates given the on-going lack of trust/confidence in traditional media. And sometimes just lack of interest by media in covering certain types of news.

Last local election I browsed all of the candidates' FB entries just before voting. (Figured - what the hay ... I don't really know them and who's got time to attend all of those rallies/debates). After visiting their official campaign web sites I also ran separate searches looking for complaints, issues, etc. Bad news: one of the candidates was facing a number of charges re: fake investment opportunities. Good news: he did not get re-elected. The electorate in my locality generally re-elects local politicians, so to not get re-elected is very unusual. This suggests that a considerable proportion of voters in my area are also using the net to vet candidates because this candidate's troubles did not get that much traditional media coverage. (I included their residential/business street addresses ... because the name alone wasn't enough, esp. when that person used more than one form of their name, etc.)


One of the posters above mentioned driving around some neighborhoods to see who's got what party's lawn signs. While 'election lawn signs' will probably have more presence on digital at some point, real lawn signs will probably stick around for as long as electoral areas are described geographically. (Yea --- I'm still going on about how 100% geographic-based elections are so last millennium. 'Larger issues' are called so because they are, frankly, 'larger' ... affect everyone and almost similarly.)

164:

After reading all the above - whatever happens on election day the "fun" might not be about who does (or dosen't) get elected on the day in question.

The "fun" might all come *after* the election. Different parties agreeing or disagreeing and soforth - I can't see a lab+con coalition for example; the claim of the right to be PM between milliband and cameron is pretty much unresolvable.

But here's a thought. What if a coalition can't be formed quickly and a minority dosen't work or can't be formed either? What if this all goes on not for days or weeks but months?

165:

Just realized that I haven't read anything that clearly costs out 'digital lawn signs'.

The issue:

Where I live, the electorate reacts quite harshly to campaign over-spending, the idea that candidates/parties are buying votes.

Formal digital ad campaigns costs are easy enough to calculate but what is the appropriate cost that should be applied to a 'lawn sign' on someone's FB page? Also, physical lawn signs are signed-off on and kept track of by local campaign managers on behalf of the candidate. How does a candidate control the distribution of digital FB 'lawn signs'? (How does the auditor for elections verify this?)

166:

But here's a thought. What if a coalition can't be formed quickly and a minority dosen't work or can't be formed either? What if this all goes on not for days or weeks but months?

Welcome to Belgium :)

167:

What if a coalition can't be formed quickly and a minority doesn't work or can't be formed either? What if this all goes on not for days or weeks but months?

From http://www.parliament.uk/about/how/elections-and-voting/general/

"However, there are two provisions that trigger an election other than at five year intervals:

a motion of no confidence is passed in Her Majesty's Government by a simple majority and 14 days elapses without the House passing a confidence motion in any new Government formed"

So we'd be looking at another election roughly two months after a no-confidence vote.

168:

"So we'd be looking at another election roughly two months after
a no-confidence vote."

Perhaps. But I am not entirely sure how much leeway the sitting
Prime Minister has to manoeuvre that, and I suspect quite lot (if
he is prepared to risk the constitutional crisis). Inspecting the
Act shows one possible loophole, and there may be others.

169:

The monarch can sack the prime minister. While none have attempted to do so since William IV sacked Melbourne the legal power still exists and a PM refusing to resign after losing a vote on the Queen's speech is one where it would be acceptable to use it. There have been a few occasions when a PM has lost an election but refused to resign until defeated. Baldwin in 1924 and Salisbury in 1892. Both had the largest number of seats but had insufficient support to form a government. The second largest party was then successful in forming a government.

170:

Yes, precisely, but she would do so only if Davey Boy forces a
constitutional crisis, which he might just be both arrogant and
stupid enough to do. I doubt it, but ....

171:

Even if they took over Egypt (for the population) and Saudi Arabia (for the money) they'd fall way short in the population base it takes to support the logistics for an empire.

Wait a minute, Egypt has what, 80 million people? What was the population of the UK at the height of its empire? They also draw Muslims from around the world, so the population base is potentially huge. And don't forget that unlike modern Westerners, these guys know how to breed, and to raise young Spartan generations for war. If ISIS takes Saudi Arabia, with all its oil, military hardware, and the holy places of Islam, you're looking at a pretty potent threat to the old, tired nations of Europe.

ISIS might be like the Germanic barbarians of late Rome: a vital, war-like culture that gradually expands as the tired old Empire crumbles. But more likely, it will be an apocalyptic cult like Nazi Germany, that shoots for the world and causes a lot of damage before being crushed.

172:

Or they could go the way of the Circumcellions.

173:

Maybe, except it says "the Circumcellions piously avoided bladed weapons and instead opted for the use of blunt clubs". I don't think ISIS has any such religious qualms about its weaponry. Supposedly they're actually led by former Baathists, who are using Islam as an ideological tool, and we know Baathists aren't much like Circumcellions.

174:

Never met a Circumcellion in the real, never met a Baathist[1], so I can't talk that much about the differences. Thing is, sociopolitical wingnuttery with religious overtones was very common in those days. And I'm not just talking about a certain offshoot of Second Temple Judaism here. And the Circumcellions, the Nika rising etc. are IMHO a much better model for Daesch than some Barbarians. BTW, I guess I have to start reading Flavius Josephus one of these days...

Martyrdom is a tricky issue, I second the War Nerd when he says Patton had it somewhat wrong, but too much of it, and you have a serious sustainability problem. And then, it quite depends on the audience. I get it, maybe my brother doesn't, though maybe that as something to do with me being the history nerd. Or me being the older one, though Sulloway seems to be somewhat discredited those day.

[1] Though I am a proud member of the Bart (err, German for "beard") party. Yes, that was necessary to get out.

175:

That's an impressive list of nonsense right wing talking points you have there. Shame if anything happened to it.

176:

Wait a minute, Egypt has what, 80 million people?

I can't help thinking that this would be somewhere between fleas taking over a dog and riding a tiger. It's hard enough for Egyptians to control Egypt at the moment, foreigners would find it even more difficult.

But let's assume that a majority of Egyptian Arabs pay more than lip service to the idea of Muslim Brotherhood/Arab Nationalism (here's a brief overview of a previous time this idea was put into practice http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Arab_Republic). Egypt has one particular vulnerable spot, the Aswan dam. In the event of this kind of apocalyptic war with NATO I strongly suspect it would be a high priority target, followed by the destruction of a large portion of the country's agriculture.

As for breeding and raising Spartans, that's at a minimum a ten year project outside the concerns of the Scottish/UK/EU political singularity this thread is nominally about.

177:

You know that Syria and Iraq were both ruled by Ba'ath parties right?
And that Ba'athism is a social movement for Arab socialism vs Arab Nationalism, not a religion per se.

Assad is effectively in charge of the neo-Ba'ath party in what is left of his Syria, and 2/3 of the inhabitants of both countries were followers of Ba'ath movement.

So saying ISIS has former Ba'athists is kind of obvious - when almost everyone is a member, anyone rebelling will be a former member.

The big change between the Ba'ath movements in Syria and Iraq was that while both supported Arab socialism, each changed to a more religious dogma supporting the Leader and state Nationalism instead of pan-Arab Nationalism especially after the death of Michel Aflaq in 1989, and for Iraq during the Iran/Iraq war.

Also ref: The Baby and the Baath water for some of the background on how Syria got to where it is now.

178:

The 1979 motion was explicitly one of No-Confidence it was an opposition motion laid by the conservatives superseding a similar motion laid by the SNP following the decision not to implement devolution in Scotland after a narrow yes vote on a low turnout. The only other occasion when a specific motion of no-confidence passed was 1841 against Melbourne.

See

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motions_of_no_confidence_in_the_United_Kingdom

For details of all government defeats treated as matters of confidence.

179:

It's hard enough for Egyptians to control Egypt at the moment, foreigners would find it even more difficult.

Nothing like a good war to paper over internal issues/fights.

Can the moderators kill of that previous comment. Bad copy paste.

[[ done ]]

180:

So are the SNP going to be like the Italian communists?

Not the first analogy that sprung to your mind, I'm sure.

Italy and Germany had very similar political systems post WW2. But they worked very differently. In Italy a large minority of those elected were Communist, and no-one could/would form a coalition with the Communists. So with 15% of the parliament 'out of bounds', you needed a large majority of the remaining vote to govern. But no party had such.

Hence, unstable govts that fell often because they were always cobbled-together slightly illogical coalitions.

Now that the Israeli arabs are voting together we may start to see a similar pattern there, too.
(I hope so: the alternatives in Israel appear rather worse)

181:

If ISIS takes Saudi Arabia, with all its oil, military hardware, and the holy places of Islam, you're looking at a pretty potent threat to the old, tired nations of Europe.

Nope.

Firstly, look at who makes both the equipment and the ordnance. And who provides much of the second and third-line support to same.

Now, count the number of shipyards and factories. This is rather important, because there is this little thing called the "Mediterranean Sea" between the Middle East, and the "old tired nations of Europe". For added demonstration of the daftness of your statement, check out the number of tanker and AEW aircraft in the region.

The "old tired Europe" meme might play well with the Tea Party, but take a look at how the French are operating largely solo in Mali (with Dutch SF assistance). Hardly tired. Or the British, generally up for a fight. Or the Italians (the Folgore are never to be sniffed at). The Balkans is on the way - if you want recent history written in haemoglobin, there's your prime example.

Oh, and it also ignores Turkey. Taking on the Turks at home is right up there with "march on Moscow" as an act of military hubris.

182:

The going got weirder. Millibrain seems to have gone out of his
way to piss off the SNP. At current predictions, he could get a
Queen's Speech through if he signs up the LDs and Plaid Cymru,
and the SNP and SDPL at least abstain. But the signs are that
Davey Boy still can't count - his sworn enemies (Labour and the
SNP) will almost certainly constitute a majority of the House.

183:

But Davey boy wouldn't be in with a chance if Labour hadn't messed up in Scotland and totally lost it..

If they hadn't lost Scotland Labour would be able to legitimately claim to be the biggest party and hence should be in Government. The fact they can't means no one has a clue what is going to happen as a disliked Conservative party is going to have more seats than any other combination...

The UK hasn't been in this situation above and whatever the result is others are not going to be happy...

184:

The fact they can't means no one has a clue what is going to happen as a disliked Conservative party is going to have more seats than any other combination...

No, they'll simply have marginally more seats than any rival party. Doesn't mean they'll be able to form a government with confidence.

Some of the commentary I'm seeing now suggests that if no coalition emerges with 2 weeks, the elections act calls for a new election six weeks later. In which case the smart move would be for Labour to run on a platform of full-on constitutional and electoral reform. (I don't think the Tories can do a U-turn on electoral reform fast enough to make that a viable winning strategy for them.)

185:

The Middle East v the EU?
Apart from raw manufacturing capacity and the fact we have 500 million citizens consider the "weak" military capacity of the EU (as the USians like to believe)

1.5 million military personnel
7600 main battle tanks
18,800 other armored fighting vehicles
9800 artillery pieces
900 attack helicopters
2000 combat aircraft
400 refuelling and transport aircraft
540 warships including 3 carriers
58 submarines (21 nuclear powered)
... and a few hundred nuclear weapons

186:

The strange death of Labour Scotland has been years if not decades in the making. Wee Ed may be faulted for not handling the decline effectively, but it all started long before he became leader. I remember back in the '90s, a supervisor of mine complaining bitterly to me about the "Tammany Hall politics" of Scottish Labour at local level.

And the poorest areas of cities like Glasgow and Edinburgh today were the poorest areas of those cities a hundred years ago, when Labour was just being formed.

Maybe if Labour at the UK level still played lip service to some sort of socialist values, then maybe it could have held on to at least some of the votes of people in those areas of Scotland. . . but it followed the Blairite path instead. And as the man said, "withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy".

187:

Lest anyone get over-excited in the next few days, polls always have a margin of error, even when the media never mention it. On the Scots referendum, the margin of error in the last polls was less than the margin between yes and no.

And the "poll of polls" technique can reduce the error, but not by much.

But it all gets complicated by the constituency system.

In Scotland it was too close to call, and some rather wild promises were made by the Tories and Labour, which seem to have been forgotten, which makes and SNP whitewash rather likely.

The family statistician tells me that the polling companies are keeping too secret too much of how they translate from the voting percentage to the number of seats. The only time you can trust them is when you're a paying customer getting bad news.

188:

No, that's not quite right. It says that if the government loses
a confidence vote and no other government can win one within a
fortnight afterwards, an election must be called; both motions
must be of a specified form. But the Act simply says that the
Sovereign chooses an election date on the recommendation of the
Prime Minister - such as May 2020 :-) I am sure that there is
some other law or precedent disallowing that, though we have seen
some pretty peculiar shenanigans in the past few decades. And
the Act specifically leaves the Sovereign's powers to prorogue
Parliament untouched (whatever they are!)

I am expecting something to happen that even an elderly cynic
such as myself does not expect ....

189:

A point that seems to elude a lot of Americans when they think about the military:

Sure, you out-spend the rest of the planet combined on war-fighting capability.

But if you subtract the USA from the rest of the planet, there's another entity that outspends the rest of the planet combined: the EU.

We probably get a lot less bang for our buck than we should because we have about 25 defense ministries and mini-Pentagons, but we nevertheless account for over 30% of planetary defense spending. If we truly were the unitary federal superpower that UKIPpers and their allies dread, then we'd be at least as much of a global superpower as the former USSR -- at it's peak.

This is why Da'esh being a military threat to the EU is just plain silly. Any conceivable threat posture would take them years to work up to -- years during which the ramp-up would be noticed (see also German rearmament, 1933-38) and produce a response from an entity with five times the population, fifty times the GDP, and an overall higher-skilled/better-educated work force. It's about as realistic as Mexico being a military threat to the USA.

190:


"What was the population of the UK at the height of its empire?"

At it's peak in the 1920's, the population of the British Empire was roughly 450 million people, approximately one quarter of which were in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The rest of the place, Canada, Australia, South Africa even, was simply empty compared to today.

At partition in 1947, India's population was roughly 150-160 million, not including Pakistan and present day Bangladesh, the population of the middle east was a line item by contrast, where we cannot know the value for sure because it was A: Small, and B: Fluid due to open borders and loyalties. No one bothered to guess at the black population in Africa for obvious contemporary reasons.

The scale of the demographic disaster that the middle east will undergo once oil revenues end should be obvious.

"...don't forget that unlike modern Westerners, these guys know how to breed, and to raise young Spartan generations for war."

Middle eastern countries use public sector employment as a welfare scheme, and one such is their armies. For an insight into the result of what that does to their military capabilities, read here:

http://www.meforum.org/441/why-arabs-lose-wars

191:

It's about as realistic as Mexico being a military threat to the USA.

That's a throwaway remark with some really interesting sidetracks. Interesting, as in: 'May you live in intersting times'.

Mexico vs the USA in conventional warfare isn't even funny, although some authors have penned wet-dream stomp-em stories of the US Army going south of the Rio Grande. That isn't interesting.

But Mexico vs the USA in asymmetric warfare: nobody's ever going to publish something that scary.

Mexican drug gangs can and do get drugs and people everywhere in the USA; they're well-organised, very well-funded, and well-armed. If it moved from 'war-on-drugs' - a low-intensity war against the civic rights and economic life of nonwhite citizens, which the USA is losing already - to an actual insurgency, the drug cartels are better organised than Daesh and Al-Queda, already, right now.

A prediction: Americans gun dealers would continue selling them weapons, retail and wholesale, even if that transition to insurgency occurred.

Put the resources of a stomped and scattered nation-state, with an Army trained by USA advisors, into that mess, and see what you get; and consider what happened in Iraq, a country which doesn't have a land border with the USA.


...Arguably, nothing with that idea *should* be published, period. It progresses to a civil war against a substantial fraction of American citizens, explicitly conducted on racial grounds, and Norteamericanos really don't need encouragement to think along those lines.

Nor do we: I fear that this will derail discussion on the Scottish Singularity.


192:

Well, if we're going off topic on ISIS:

Turkey is a member of NATO. Nnaaaatoooooo. It'd be the first time Article V of NATO was ever invoked - the "an attack on one is an attack on all" clause because in 60 years no-one's been dumb enough to try. 80% of the world's military budget, and a defence pact that people take bloody seriously. Against a ragtag group of loons with scavenged military equipment who (seriously!) are largely funded by looting cities and asking overseas supporters for charitable donations.

It'd be like a war between a bug and a windscreen.

Maybe a caliphate with coherent internal politics that ruled the Muslim world would be powerful. But there's more chance of the Scots conquering France than ISIS becoming that caliphate. Most Muslims really, really hate it. Because they're bastards who set off sujcide bombs in mosques, massacre innocents, and almost all their victims are Muslim.

193:

Not just Sheffield: take a look at Wales, and polling in the Rhondda.

Kippers are polling ahead of Plaid Cymru: they won't be the majority party in any constituency in Wales, but they may well win a seat in the kind of 'crapshoot' constituencies where the vote is split four ways and a 2% margin gets one of the four elected in a result that owes more to random noise than democratic process.

On a national scale, the most significant electoral effect of UKIP is splitting the right-wing vote which, in a first-past-the-post system, causes disproportionate damage to the mainstream Conservative party in marginal (and not-so-marginal) constituencies.

If UKIP chip votes off Labour and split the left-wing electorate, there's an absurd possibility that they will actually get mainstream Conservatives elected in Wales - and, if I read what you're saying correctly, in the suburbs of Sheffield.

I could express this in less arid and academic terms, but the most significant political effect of UKIP is, of course, the 'Overton Window' shift in median expectations of mainstream political acceptibility. However, my language would cross an important threshold in reasonable and rational political conversation.

194:

It'd be the first time Article V of NATO was ever invoked - the "an attack on one is an attack on all" clause because in 60 years no-one's been dumb enough to try.

Wrong.

It has been invoked once ... on September 12th, 2001.

The problem here is that Da'esh is a side-effect of that Clause V exercise, namely the mostly-US-but-NATO-in-tow invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, which led to a hideous natural selection process breeding the most virulent and psychotic bunch of fanatics by repeatedly stimulating the host population then withdrawing the stimulus after a brief "surge" or similar attempt at suppression. I really hate plague/contagion metaphors when discussing human societies, but Da'esh is the equivalent of MRSA -- that which doesn't totally annihilate an insurgency merely provides the environment for survival of the fittest.

((Personally I blame Tony Blair and George W. Bush for the glib megalomania and will to power that drove the invasion of Iraq, and then Don Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and the other idiot neoconservatives for drinking the Fukuyama cool-aid and assuming "they'll greet us with roses" rather than taking Colin Powell's detailed plans for postwar governance in Iraq seriously. (Because, hey, every invading foreign army in history has always been greeted with flowers and kisses, right?) Moral of the story: don't believe your own propaganda, or you've lost before you begin. And I'm sure Sun Tzu had something pithy to say along those lines ...))

But your point stands. IS have about as much chance of conquering Europe as Scotland does of conquering France. It's so wrong it's barely worth joking about, and the only reason anyone could take it seriously is because they've been watching too much Fox News.

195:

the most significant political effect of UKIP is, of course, the 'Overton Window' shift in median expectations of mainstream political acceptibility.

Yes, absolutely.

The typical UKIP drum-beat of Daily Mail ranting about political correctness gone mad, immigrants taking over, and so on, has served to carve out a niche for expressions of the sort of casual racism and sexism that were not previously acceptable in public at any time since the early 1970s. (Example, for Americans -- note that she doesn't even bother to use the kind of dog-whistle a white racist in Mississippi would have to resort to these days.)

Among the side-effects: war refugees are drowning in the Mediterranean because the toxic discourse made it really easy for the current government, in a misplaced get-tough-on-immigration PR move, to cut support for the Med patrol. Which is now, belatedly, being restored -- but only after thousands of lives have been needlessly lost.

196:

There was one case of a government losing a motion of confidence and the election being held several months later. On 8th June 1885 Gladstone was defeated on the budget and resigned. Salisbury then became PM de3pite a large Liberal majority however the third reform act (Representation of the People Act 1884) had passed so bothy parties agreed to wait for it to come into force so the election was called in November.

197:

No.

I don't want to sidetrack the conversation, so I'll provide no details. Let me engage however in a bit of credentialism and state that I follow those organizations for a living, down to having access to 2009 financial data from the Zetas organization.

My short response, then, is that you're writing about a bogeyman that does not resemble any actual Mexican crime organization. Those organizations are in fact unable to operate inside the United States as anything other than drug wholesalers and the occasional extortion racket aimed at undocumented migrants. They can't stand up to the El Paso P.D., for God's sake.

And the idea of an insurgency among Mexican-Americans is up there in fantasyland.

If you really want to have that discussion, you can move it over to my blog. This thread is about the U.K.

198:

What, I wonder, is the Overton Window for Scottish Nationalism?

What are the things on the outside edge of Nationalist politics that were once unthinkable, or considered Dundee Fruitcake?

What's come inside the boundary, that arguably shouldn't have?

What are the offensive and unacceptable attitudes, well out of order five or ten years in the past, that you (or someone quite unlike you) can now get away with, with a little bit of circumlution?

Even the nicest strain of nationalism is still, well, Nationalism.

199:

You need to drink something a lot stronger than Fukuyama cool-aid
to associate Iraq with September 12th, 2001, but I agree that
those, er, persons were doing so. On that matter, I don't see any
of the parties except (to a limited extent) the SNP proposing to
even limit the way that the UK is becoming a vassal state of the
USA military-industrial machine, rather like India under John
Company. God alone knows what will happen with the next military
adventurism, given the demolition of our armed forces, but I am
damn sure that we will follow marching orders.

201:

What's come inside the boundary, that arguably shouldn't have?

I'm honestly not sure.

Disclaimer: I'm privileged; I live in the Edinburgh New Town and although I'm an English incomer I don't experience any anti-immigrant feeling. (I'm pretty sure things might be different if I was in a deprived scheme in Glasgow, but ...)

There are some SNP policies I don't like. They've picked up New Labour's mantle of nanny-ism in some areas (minimum alcohol retail prices, trying to extend the NHS ID number scheme into a back-door national identity register, trying to assign a trusted non-parental contact for all children rather than just those considered "at risk"), but I'm unsure how much of that is organic to the existence of a centre-left political party in the 21st century UK, and how much emerges from internal Civil Service dynamics -- the desire to monitor and control emerges organically within any bureaucracy, and a party that isn't committed to "cutting red tape" is vulnerable to well-intentioned initiatives with bad second-order side effects.

But I'm not seeing guys in brown shirts and jackboots marching in the streets, no.

202:

God alone knows what will happen with the next military adventurism, given the demolition of our armed forces, but I am damn sure that we will follow marching orders.

David Cameron's government has had all the foreign policy initiative of a turnip.

They've also imposed defense spending cuts, so that rather than rebuilding and rearming after the Afghanistan and Iraq missions the armed services aren't currently fit for purpose.

If there's another Conservative-led coalition, with the likelihood of ongoing cuts (aggravated by the need to divert funds to replace the Trident white elephant), then there won't be further any military adventures because there won't be anyone to deploy on them.

203:

I know this might be a little off topic, but it's been alleged that the "5000 businesses" letter the tories published in the telegraph might have been forged;

http://boingboing.net/2015/04/28/uk-tories-forged-letter-of-sup.html

204:


My short response, then, is that you're writing about a bogeyman that does not resemble any actual Mexican crime organization.

Thank you, I am reassured to hear that - and an assessment of the Sinaloa Cartel's capabilities - from someone in a position to know.

My problem, of course, is that we get very little undistorted news at such a distance from the people on the ground.

Your problem - or rather, your countrymen's - is that there are people embedded in profitable niches in the security establishment who have every incentive to 'talk up' the capabilities of the drug gangs. Such people have media resources and a willing audience in Washington: that's why they are the loudest voice audible from this side of the Atlantic.

the idea of an insurgency among Mexican-Americans is up there in fantasyland

That would inevitably follow the absurd and improbable insanity of a military adventure against Mexico. Fortunately, that's very, very improbable indeed.

It might arise as an idea or a public perception - not as a fact! - from a media campaign of fear directed against the Hispanic minority in right-of-centre media. However, I think the fear campaign against American citizens attending mosques has got the traction (and the attention among the receptive segment of the population) and Hispanic citizens and denizens are economically and politically too powerful for that to be targeted against them.

The reason that I'm expending ink (or electrons) on such improbabilities is that there are people outside the mainstream of politics who need very little encouragement to indulge such fantasies.

In the USA, people like that are given access to firearms: the inexorable progress of the Overton Window may well give them access to Fox News and, eventually, to politicians with a budget. Hopefully that idea will be shot down, nailed down, staked through the heart and buried, whenever the first elected politician so unwise to float it in a public forum finds that such excursions into fruitloopery can terminate political careers.

But... There's money, media attention, and Homeland Security funding on the table for anyone prepared to stoke the fears of an increasingly fearful polity and population.

205:

"David Cameron's government has had all the foreign policy
initiative of a turnip."

Make it a cassava - what they HAVE done has been toxic, and
has needed subsequent detoxification.

"If there's another Conservative-led coalition, ..., then there
won't be further any military adventures because there won't be
anyone to deploy on them."

Optimist! Given the way that they sent improperly-equipped
troops to Iraq, I am horribly afraid that they would sign up to
the next USA-led lunacy, and simply send people to their deaths.
Yes, our troops would be limited to street patrols, and our ship
(ships?) to search and sieze patrols, but those are exactly the
tasks which are the easiest targets for irregular forces.

206:

"According to the latest report from the Institute for Economics and Peace, the global economic cost of violence in 2012 was US$9.46 trillion, which represents 11% of Gross World Product."

So 1-in-9 dollars/pounds/euros worldwide is being used to waste someone or something ... truly throwing taxpayer's money away. Further, according to this group's latest reports, the total violence index worldwide has been increasing in the past couple of years. IMO, bigger, more expensive guns is a knee-jerk response which just escalates this problem. We could use an injection of creative thinking here to come up with some non-violent strategies. Consider that the next time taxes go up, it's not because more seniors and/or immigrants are using social services but because the military needs to replenish its cupboard.

I'm not anti-military, but seriously there's got to be a better way to get this planet in shape.

207:

Certainly based on what was going on from 1989 to 1991, I think this overall assessment is probably right... but that it inverts who had control by 2001-04. Even in the Bush the Elder administration, there was an awful lot of deference on policy rationales to various unelected advisors (Wolfowitz is merely a particularly well-known example). A decade later, there was certainly direct complicity by Blair and Bush the Younger, but if anyone was willingly and enthusiastically drinking Kool-Aid it was them; Fukuyama and the neocon "public intellectuals" were considered to be too conciliatory by Rove, and Cheney, and Wolfowitz (again), to name just the well-known ones. For them, it wasn't about ideology any more: It was about a particularly unenlightened variety of self-interest masquerading as a policy initiative In Defense of the Realm (with all of the implied primogeniture and divine-right-of-kings nonsense not just included, but emphasized), with all of the attendant rhetorical flourishes.

208:

What I can confidently say won't happen: Reactivation of the British written constitution.

Yes, there was one: The Instrument of Government.

Why it's obscure: Cromwell had less than no use for it.

209:

Clearly, Scotland needs a greater tax base. Might I recommend pursuing colonial ambitions in Panama?

On another note, the mere possibility of Francis Urquhart^W^W Boris Johnson, as PM for a Conservative-led coalition, has enough amusement potential in it that it could jumpstart Punch back into existence, eh?

210:

IS have about as much chance of conquering Europe as Scotland does of conquering France. It's so wrong it's barely worth joking about, and the only reason anyone could take it seriously is because they've been watching too much Fox News.

Maybe. On the other hand, the 20 year plan for 2000-20 that top jihadist strategists are supposedly following has been quite accurate so far, including the founding of an Islamic Caliphate in 2013-16. 2016-20 is expected to be a period of “total confrontation”, followed by the “final victory” phase after 2020.

I know, it sounds absurd, but they’ve been more accurate than most Western analysts up to now. Don’t underestimate the wild turns history can take when you have Allah(thoth) on your side ;)
(Read about the 20 year plan here: http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/18437 )
(For the record, I haven’t owned a television in years – I get my propaganda elsewhere, thank you very much.)

As far as Scotland not being able to conquer France – well, with that attitude, of course not! But a can’t-do attitude isn’t one of Islamic State’s major flaws. And again, don’t underestimate the Allah factor – having the creator of the universe in your corner tends to be a major force-multiplier ;)

211:

At the risk of going down that one particular rabbit hole even further...

As I already mentioned, Spain is not just European Continental Spain and some islands, but also the exclaves on the African coast, namely Ceuta and Melilla. Where there is both a history of intermittent military confrontation between Morocco and Spain about those and lately, a history of illegal immigration, culminating in the construction of fences around both cities. Both of those have been the site of immigrants trying to break through lately, sometimes unbloody, sometimes not so.

Please note that in both of these cases, it's not in the interest of Morocco for the conflict to become too virulent, but that might change with certain political changes in Morocco, e.g. a rise of Morocco nationalism, Islamic fundamentalism, or further destabilization with wide-scale immigration to Morocco, e.g. if African immigrants are stuck there on the way to Europe. We are likely to see first mainly peaceful protest, but that might not stay so. BTW, the words that somewhat come to mind are "First Intifada" (and the second one) and "Jordanian Civil War".

And it miht be interesting how a British gouvernment might act in such a case, especially since some people might see parallels to the situation about Gibraltar, whough of course the Spanish say this is a totally different situation. We know what that means... ;)

Thing is, I guess even UKIP supporters here can agree UKIP has a certain whacko element to it, like most parties with a protest element. Heck, you think someone with sympathies for the German Pirates is surprised by that? The problem is, just how much power has the whacko faction with the kippers? Since the special brand of whackos with UKIP are likely to be the same brand of Whackos who are going to loudly demand some declaration of status for Gibraltar from Spain over military help. Not that I think there wouldn't be some quiet demands and even some official paperwork form the other parties, e.g. "Spain recognizes British interest in Gibraltar", though of course it's not saying Spanish ones in Gibraltar are smaller. ;)

212:

The text the article is referring to is from 2005. Really impressing to forecast 9/11 and the 2003 Iraq invasion in 2005, I have to say.

213:

OK, a few minor problems.

1. Let's start with that Roman Empire bit. The problem wasn't that the Western Roman Empire was old and tired. The big problem was the WRE was institutionally dysfunctional. Anyone with an army and a dream could make himself Emperor which led to pissing away a lot of resources in civil wars. It also meant every emperor had to be a little paranoid and rule with an eye to personal safety first and the good of the Empire later. Europe/US can have dysfunctional politics but nothing on this scale.

(For the science fiction version see the Foundation Trilogy, especially "The General.")

2. The British Empire had the nontrivial advantage of being the most advanced technological power on the planet - "We have the Maxim Gun and they have not." On top of that, the nations they conquered were generally disunited enough for the Brits to play divide and conquer. None of that applies to Daesh. And no, Saudi Arabia is not a technological power. It just owns a lot of toys.

(Science fiction version of how the British Empire conquered is Pournelle's "King David's Spaceship." Also like half the space opera written in the 1950s.)

3. Funny thing about babies - they take a lot of work to turn into adults. And if you want to turn them into functioning adults in an industrialized society you need a whole lot more labor intensive work leading to a fall in fertility. If anything, your hard core patriarchal societies experience a sharper drop. Compare Japan to Sweden. Alternately, notice how France now has a higher fertility rate than Iran. If you don't put in the extra labor to educate your kids - well see "Maxim Gun."

(For the science fiction version - um, Bujold has touched on this a few times.)

Basically, Daesh and the rest of these fundamentalist terrorists depend on petrodollars and when that runs out, so do they. Let's not panic about a short term threat. There's longer term threats we could panic about.

214:

Charlie, if electoral reform is on the cards do you think there'll be another push for a change in the voting system in the UK similar to 2011? as an Australia familiar ith preferential voting I don't quite understand why people wanted to stick with first past the post.

215:

"I don't quite understand why people wanted to stick with first
past the post."

Because they were told to. It's more complicated than that, but
the naive LDs were knifed in the back by their coalition partners,
and the electorate were saturated by anti-change falsehoods. The
actual issues were simply buried under the mountain of deceit.
No, I am not holding a candle for the proposal.

216:

On the alternative vote the Conservatives are now reaping the consequences of their rejection. Under alternative voting they would have had the second preferences of most UKIP voters and a good fraction of Liberal Democrat voters. The lack of AV could lose them enough seats to make a difference.

217:

Do you mean "Scottish DevoMax"? Scottish devolution is so last century.

218:

I know someone who voted against the alternative vote because they thought proportional representation wouldn't work well. He genuinely did not know what he was voting against, and he wasn't the only one.

219:

The numbers you are looking at are very unevenly distributed.
Greater London is roughly 20 miles in radius for 1200 miles^2 area, and contains some 7E6 people. That's more than the entire population of Scotland (5.3E6 in 39_400 miles^2). In some parts of the Scottish Highlands "a soul can walk all day, and never see a reekin' house" (In practice this means you could walk the equivalent of half-way across London and never see a habitable dwelling).

220:

This is not meant personally.

Greg, your accounts of your informant make it sound to me like he is guilty of "being English at people" and complaining that they don't like him as a result. Having met you, I think you'd find "being English at people" difficult to do yourself, but I promise you that this is a thing, and one that most Scots react negatively to.

221:

1. Yes, there'll probably be another push towards electoral reform.

2. It failed in 2011 because neither Labour nor the Conservatives wanted it, because both major parties were still convinced they could achieve actual working majorities under FPTP, and the Tories in particular disliked it, seeing it as a self-serving Liberal Democrat policy born out of desperation (the LibDems were getting close to 30% of the vote but under 10% of the seats: they'd have been the chief beneficiaries if the 2010 election had been held under AV or PR or virtually anything except FPTP).

The long-term demographic trends are for the Conservative base to age and shrink; they haven't won a majority since 1992. Meanwhile, Labour have just imploded in Scotland, so spectacularly that there are rumours that Scottish Labour plans to sever its ties from the main UK Labour party after the election in an attempt to make themselves relevant again (as a necessary precondition for rebuilding). Scotland used to supply the Parliamentary Labour Party with on the order of 20% of its MPs, so losing them puts Labour in the same unable-to-form-a-majority-under-FPTP place as the Conservatives.

So after Thursday, neither of the largest parties will have a clear reason to oppose electoral reform, and indeed may begin to see good reasons for switching to support it.

222:

Also may relate to #215 and #216

Here in Scotland, the FPTP system only relates to Westminster elections.

The Scots parliament uses a mixture of TPTP and Additional Member (and still returned a single party absolute majority, something that is supposed to be more than a bit difficult).

We also elect members to the European Parliament using a Party List System, and to local authorities using Single Transferrable Vote (with the note that we can decide that we only wish to vote for, say, 3 of 7 candidates and leave the other 4 blank).

223:

Anecdata: having in my youth lived and worked in Scotland (the fair city of Dundee), I never once felt any hostility from the locals. It's possible that the country has changed since then, and it's also possible the relatively small part of it that I encountered was atypical, but I suspect the anti-English stereotype is one mostly propagated by people who either haven't lived there or who have managed to put everyone's backs up.

Disclaimer: I wasn't a Londoner. Dundee was the first city I ever lived in.

224:

Wrong.

It has been invoked once ... on September 12th, 2001.

I stand corrected. NATO invoked Article V, and supported the war in Afghanistan.

10 points, Stross.

The problem here is that Da'esh is a side-effect of that Clause V exercise, namely the mostly-US-but-NATO-in-tow invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq,

No.

NATO most definitely did not invade Iraq. France, Germany and Belgium opposed the Iraq war. France's president called it "foolish". In response the US congress proved they aren't foolish by having their cafeteria menu rename French Fries and French Toast to Freedom Fries and Freedom Toast.

And Da'esh is not a result of the Afghanistan war. Your geography is better than that.

Minus 10 points for Hufflep..., er, Stross.

225:

[Glaswegian bar]
Me: Stand aside Scottish sheep shaggers and let your English overlord get to the bar.
Later: Fiona, I think I might have said something down the pub!...

226:

They've also imposed defence spending cuts, so that rather than rebuilding and rearming after the Afghanistan and Iraq missions the armed services aren't currently fit for purpose.

IMHO, not really. The Armed Forces are still world-class, in equipment terms (less MBT) and training. The question is merely "fit for what purpose"? That said, the RAF and RN appear to have managed the transition much better than the Army, which still seems to have its head stuck in the sand.

As for cuts, note that once you've ringfenced the NHS, Social Security, Foreign Aid, and Education budgets (for political necessity) but need to cut spending (for economic necessity) then the unfashionable departments of state get a hammering. Every party has and will do it, at the moment it's Defence.

Elderly Cynic's comment @205 about troop limitations are wide of the mark; the current First Sea Lord is determined to stick with first-class vessels (Type 45 and Astute are world-class, Type 26 probably will be, and the QE class are a very big stick), the RAF are doing well apart from the MPA gap, it's just the Army's appalling project management (see: FRES, CR2 update) and insistence on career planning that have left it looking lead-footed.

I used to think that Afghanistan was a case of Brown and Blair under-equipping an expeditionary force; I'm more cynical now, and tend to look on it as bad generalship, insisting on a "can-do / crack-on" attitudes even when the task is so obviously well beyond the resources available. If a politician asks a General "can you do this", and the General insists that they can, whose fault is it? See Jim Storr, Frank Ledwidge.

There are active debates on the Army Rumour Service on this very subject.... :)

227:

Bullshit. Most of the muslim world has "soft" borders and weak states, making for migratory networks of jihadists. Not to mention funding by Saudi Arabia to keep their troublesome remittance men away from home (mostly cut off recently, when it became more obviously problematic). A chunk of the CIA-funded good ole boys from Saudi Arabia by way of Afghanistan -- folks like Osama Bin Laden -- worked their way back west -- ObL was atypical in that he headed east (Pakistan) for shelter when things got too hot.

We then saw the Al Qaida franchise set up shop in Iraq, drawing on disaffected Sunnis in the wake of the invasion, and metastasize across the region via splinter groups all trying to out-bid one another in the murder stakes -- but if you're going to try and tell me that there isn't a causal link between the original training of the AQ cadre in Afghanistan during the war against the Soviet Occupation and events currently unfolding 25-30 years later in Syria and Iraq I'm going to point and laugh.

NB: Sure Germany didn't want to send troops into Iraq. Germany didn't want to send troops to Serbia, which is just down the road. Germany has a serious cringe reflex towards any proposal for military deployment overseas: this is arguably a good thing, given their history (going back to 1868). Belgium barely counts; and as for France, President Chirac had personal experiences of occupying an unwilling Arab state -- he was in Morocco during the Battle of Algiers -- and knew better than Blair or Bush where their brilliant little adventure was going to end up. But the rest of NATO? Quite a lot of it ended up getting sucked along in the undertow, to the extent that they were able to deploy out of area.

228:

And your country wouldn't even have to be a NATO member to be sucked along in said undertow.

Supposedly "neutral" Ireland allowed itself to be used as a staging post for troop movements and logistics, and I wouldn't be surprised if hapless prisoners were ferried through Shannon on their way to the CIA's torture rooms.

Have to keep that inward investment coming, you see.

229:

Ah, now. We know no prisoners were moved through Shannon; the US told us they wouldn't, and if that was good enough for the Irish government, surely it's good enough for us? (/sarcasm, just in case.) We were just a stopover for the rendition planes on the way out, which is a totally different thing. (/sarcasm, for real this time. There's a lot of opportunities for sarcasm around Irish Government policy in this area.)

Also there are Irish troops (*7* Irish troops, but nonetheless) currently deployed in Afghanistan.

230:

Yep .... " ... - but if you're going to try and tell me that there isn't a causal link between the original training of the AQ cadre in Afghanistan during the war against the Soviet Occupation and events currently unfolding 25-30 years later in Syria and Iraq I'm going to point and laugh."

The soft-soap version of the story is called Charlie Wilson's War.

[Excerpt from Wikipedia:]

"Charlie Wilson's War is a 2007 American biographical comedy-drama film, recounting the true story of U.S. Congressman Charlie Wilson who partnered with CIA operative Gust Avrakotos to launch Operation Cyclone, a program to organize and support the Afghan mujahideen during the Soviet war in Afghanistan."

231:

Charlie Wilson's War is a 2007 American biographical comedy-drama film

Which, I am told, whitewashes US responsibility for tens of thousands of civilian deaths and needlessly escallating a really nasty occupation[*] into a scorched-earth grudge match like unto the Vietnam War, all in the name of bleeding the Soviet Union, because nothing could be as bad as Godless Communism.

For an added grim belly-laugh go re-watch the Bond movie The Living Daylights, from 1987, for a reminder of how the official western line on brave Islamic jihadi freedom fighters has changed since 1989.


[*] I'm not going to defend the USSR's unpleasant habit of invading client states and shooting anyone who didn't salute the hammer and sickle.

232:

The Mujahideen were the stout allies of none other than John Rambo - the all-american hero - in Rambo III, which the 1990 Guinness book of World Records called the most violent film ever made. The film even used to be dedicated to "the brave Mujahideen fighters of Afghanistan".

233:

"Elderly Cynic's comment about troop limitations are wide of the
mark; ..."

I wasn't talking about the quality, but the numbers (especially
of consumables and support facilities). There were pretty solid
reports of being short of body armour, armoured personnel
carriers, bomb disposal robots, and even medical supplies, some
types of ammunition, and spare parts for aircraft and vehicles.
I have also heard that the navy has very few minesweepers,
assault craft and supply ships - not just aircraft carriers!

And one senior military person said that stockpiles are not
being rebuilt to save money, so we would need months of
restocking before we could fight for more than a week or so!


234:

Oops. I meant to say that I was talking more about Iraq than
Afghanistan. The cockup in Afghanistan was simple. All the
experts said "You have 6 months to win and start rebuilding, and
12 months to get out in toto, or the locals will see you as an
occupying force. And they have some experience of dislodging
those - as Britain should remember from TWO previous occasions!"
But the experts were ignored.

235:

Trite, but true (and also wrong):


"One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter".

236:

That's pretty much exactly what I meant; if you don't get in our faces about "where you're from is great and here isn't" most people won't be bothered.

237:

Gonnie no do that, just gonnie no?

Seriously, there are pubs in the east end of Glasgow where saying that is likely to shorten your life expectancy to a few hours.

238:

There are similar things you can say everywhere.

And variations on calling the locals sheep-shaggers and declaring yourself to be their foreign overlord is a pretty good starting point.

239:

I thought that was the point, the latter part of it being phoned in from A&E.

240:

" ... all in the name of bleeding the Soviet Union,"

Yes - this same strategy is now being effectively used against the U.S./West. Not sure where to find reliable military spending/budgets for the U.S. vs. other nations, specifically equipment, training, supplies, types of munitions, personnel, etc. Would be a very interesting analysis although it's unlikely that ISIL has budgeted service pay (for its recruits), pension plans, veteran college tuition, etc.


Looked up trade agreements and found a 2010 analysis showing that Afghanistan's largest trading partners were (are): Pakistan, China, Iran, Uzbekistan, Japan. An overview of the Afghanistan-Pakistan trade agreement is here:

http://moci.gov.af/en/page/8604

Considering how much of the U.S. military budget was probably used up during their Afghanistan campaign, you'd think that the U.S. would want to establish some ties which would assure Afghanis that the U.S. wants peace in that region (as in the U.S. would be less likely to shell US-ian property/assets), give the local economy a stimulus, improve overall quality of life, etc. Below is the only US-Afghanistan trade agreement I found. Nothing substantive ... tone rather than action.

https://ustr.gov/sites/default/files/uploads/agreements/tifa/asset_upload_file642_9850.pdf

"The government of Afghanistan claims that the country holds up to $3 trillion in proven untapped mineral deposits, which could make it one of the richest mining regions on earth". (It doesn't identify the specific minerals.) At present though, about 87% of all employed Afghanis work in agriculture. Opium, wheat, fruits, nuts, wool, mutton, sheepskins, lambskins are the top agricultural products. (Sources: Wikipedia & CIA Factbook)

Based on the similarity of geography and importance of mining (in rocky, barren deserts), Australia would probably be a good fit for a trade agreement. At least help the Afghanis set up their mining industry.

241:

Just returning to the question above and points people have made about FPTP I cannot see FPTP vanishing any time soon.

The reason why? Well, firstly FPTP worked better back in the days when we had only two parties that stood any real chance of getting votes, namely labour and conservative. FPTP would either deliver a victory for one or the other, even if it was slim.

Granted today FPTP or since 2010 it hasn't been performing (for want of a better word) very well and isn't delivering a majority any more. But it is still very efficient at keeping smaller parties out. After all labour/conservative can have few votes and many seats, but for the smaller parties the reality is the opposite - they might get more votes, but have few seats. They stand no chance of becoming the next government.

Yes there are coalitions that can allow smaller parties to "get in" - sort of in a weak-role coalition, but I still suspect a smaller party + larger party = larger party eventually takes over.

Witness the lib dem+conservative coalition. Remember when nick clegg and david cameron stood together at the start (2010)? Then recall the last few years of the coalition. When did you last see a lib dem MP or even nick clegg on TV? You only ever saw conservative politicians - the coalition had turned into a conservative government. The lib dems aren't entirely without guilt - they did mess up a lot of things (eg tuition fees) but they were eventually used as a fig leaf by the conservatives. I'm no political expert but this is what I figured would happen back in 2010 - come the next election, the conservatives would try to take credit for all the positive things the government had done, and blame the lib dems for all the bad things. Fig-leafing.

So I'm still guessing that FPTP won't be going anywhere any time soon because a) it keeps small parties out (or at the very least they don't get a 'crack at the reigns') and b) it lets larger parties use smaller ones as a fig leaf.

Asking labour or conservative to get rid of FPTP would be like asking turkeys to suddenly become pro-christmas. Not going to happen and it's not even at the bottom of their list of things to do.

I'm thinking the only way FPTP would go is if enough people put enough pressure on the parties (eg by having so few votes for lab/con it becomes noticable or maybe even start a new no-FPTP party) so FPTP has to go in the end.

242:

I'm unsure what is going to happen, but if the story on Labour Uncut is true then Postal voting is going very badly for Labour and was the reason for Millibands late night to Russell Brands to gain access to his you tube followers in a desparate get the vote out pitch to the young.

It seems that the Tories SNP scare stories are being repeated unprompted on the doorstep.

I sometime wonder if Mr Salmond has been playing into that too boost Tory chances (his best hope for promoting Scottish Independence).

While certain sections of the Tory party are Unionist most of the party has long since given up on that romantic attachment. You can only stand so many years of people saying you are evil scum who deserve to die etc before you might decide that it might be better if they wnet their own way. I suspect the SNP would be offered a much sweeter deal than Labour would ever offer.

Speaking of Labour I still don't think they have faced up to the coming apoclypse in Scotland. They still think of Scotland as theirs. It will leave the Labour party even more domniated by London labour and it's metroploitan navel gazing. Currently 43% of Labour party members live in London, party membership is a husk outside London, probably why when the conditions were right Scotland fell in a couple of years.

Some form of EVEL needs to be brought in or the Union is finished.

243:

I wasn't talking about the quality, but the numbers (especially of consumables and support facilities). There were pretty solid reports of being short of body armour, armoured personnel carriers, bomb disposal robots...

Regarding Iraq, you're correct. But it wasn't so much a reflection of a lack of consumables, as them being in the wrong place. Because Britain was insisting that no decision had been made, and that a vote in the House was necessary, there was no prepositioning of supplies - you can't just fly this stuff out, it has to go by sea (which takes weeks). Allegedly, even the limited moves were only possible because a bright spark at HQ LAND decided to book a Division's scale of shipping containers for the upcoming Brigade exercise he was planning in Poland...

Politicians find it easy to cut maintenance, cut budgets, and insist that the new way is "cheaper" and "better" - which (as you correctly point out) is only true in peacetime. Militaries operate on a "Just in Case" logistics basis, because war isn't predictable; political pressure to increase efficiency by using "Just in Time" logistics are an act of lunacy, although I'm not going to defend some of the worst examples.

However; for all that FRES wasted nearly a billion pounds to achieve nothing, the armoured personnel carriers are there (and there's an upgrade programme for Warrior, and SCOUT SV has finally been signed). Unless you're talking about Snatch landrovers, but every Army was having problems with protected mobility; look up "Humvee with Rhino" if you don't believe me... (short version, put a thermal source in a tin on a pole in front of the unarmoured 4x4, so as to defeat the fuze timing of off-road mines)

244:

The film is a whitewash, but the book is both very good and very nuanced. It also, without directly calling attention to it, points out how little the Intelligence Services of the world get right, and how little comes of most of their attempts to influence events. And, of course, in the titular 'successful' case, how much of what happened as a result was unintentional and unwanted.

245:

" Currently 43% of Labour party members live in London, party membership is a husk outside London, probably why when the conditions were right Scotland fell in a couple of years. "

Political Party Membership has been a husk not just for labour but for all political parties in the UK...mind you membership of both the Green Parties and the Scot Nats does appear to have picked up in the past couple of years and the Scots do seem to be...This JUST CANT BE TRUE can it?? ..Actively interested in Politics??

" The SNP is now the UK’s third largest political party, but overall party membership in the UK remains tiny when compared to other countries in Europe. Several parties in the EU have more members than Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems combined”

http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2014/sep/29/labour-conservatvies-uk-party-membership-is-tiny

Mind you what counts is not party membership of the sheer number of party political activists but rather the electorate.

Here in the North of England in we have Solidly Safe Seat Labour Majorities with a few spots of Wealth that are Safely in the hands of the Tories.

Why So? Well it’s more complicated than you might think.

Here after is an interesting explanation of Why We Northerners have a Visceral Hatred of The Tories and won’t vote for the evil cruel bastards...though Peter Kellner puts it a teeny bit more subtly than I did.

" YouGov President Peter Kellner on why the Conservative party's trouble with northerners may have less than to do with economic, ideological or social factors than one might expect

Karl Marx was wrong; or, at any rate, unfair. He complained that philosophers “only interpreted the world” when the point was to change it. The trouble is, change is likely to work only when we understand what is wrong. The Conservatives badly want to change the voting habits in the north of England; but to do so, they must first answer the fundamental question: why don’t northerners vote Tory? "

https://yougov.co.uk/news/2013/10/21/why-northerners-dont-vote-tory/

246:

Regarding #222: what is TPTP?

Additionally, wouldn't it be more accurate to call it 'Closest to the post' instead of 'First past the post'? Wherever that post is, with enough candidates, you needn't get anywhere near it to win, let alone past it.

247:

"Regarding Iraq, you're correct. ... Because Britain was insisting
that no decision had been made, ..., there was no prepositioning
of supplies ..."

That was over a decade ago, and was simple incompetence, as you
say. I am referring to events during the occupations.

248:

I'm not in the UK, and get my information about the place partially from this blog, and partially from the BBC and the Guardian (the BBC provides better news outside of the US than most papers here, and I discovered the Guardian due to Edward Snowden).

However, if this statement that party platform is a shell outside of London (and the South, according to Arnold's article). If that's true, doesn't this create the potential for a SNP like party in Northern England?

Now for the question. To what extent does N. English nationalism (for lack of a better word) exist? Is there a possibility for N. England to try for independence? If SNP is successful?

249:

Not Northern Nationalism, no. But Yorkshire? Sure. And some sort of Geordieland. In the North-West, there's the Manchester-Liverpool conflict. Yorkshire is a deep enough identity to subsume Leeds v Sheffield v Hull and to accept York as the capital. Lancashire isn't, but neither Manchester nor Liverpool would ever accept being governed from the other, and there's a lot of the NW that would be content as part of an NW region, but not being attached to just one of the two cities.

Osborne, one of the few Northern Tory MPs (he represents what Americans would call a Manchester exurb) has been pushing both devolution to Manchester ("DevoManc") and a combined Liverpool-Manchester-Yorkshire-Newcastle thing called the "Northern Powerhouse" for a couple of years. It's partly an effort to get the Tories a hearing again in the North outside their residual rural and exurban strongholds, and partly a way of separating Labour in local government from national Labour.

I could see at least major fiscal autonomy for some "Norths", if not quite the full Scotland DevoMax / full fiscal separation. How that impacts the non-London South, I don't know and am not qualified to say.

250:

Nothern nationalism, as an identification of say everywhere north of Sheffield- Manchester as THE NORTH doesn't exist. Richard Gadsden describes a decent anmount of localism, which is not conducive to having a full on region.
Besides it is important to remember that new labour staged a referendum on having a Northern Assembly, and people, seeing another layer of politicians as unnecessary and a waste of money, voted against it.
So it has been tried, and failed.

251:

You can only stand so many years of people saying you are evil scum who deserve to die etc before you might decide that it might be better if they wnet their own way.

That certainly makes sense.

I suspect the SNP would be offered a much sweeter deal than Labour would ever offer.

I'm not so sure about that part. They call you evil scum who deserve to die, so instead of saying good riddance you try to help them be more viable?

252:

Considering how much of the U.S. military budget was probably used up during their Afghanistan campaign, you'd think that the U.S. would want to establish some ties which would assure Afghanis that the U.S. wants peace in that region (as in the U.S. would be less likely to shell US-ian property/assets), give the local economy a stimulus, improve overall quality of life, etc.

The US military spends something upward of $1 million/year on each soldier in Afghanistan. Some fraction of that stays there. Used cartridges, all sorts of junk the US military doesn't need any more, whatever the soldiers buy locally, etc.

Last time I checked (several years ago) the US military spend considerably more money on Afghanistan than the Afghan GDP. Not unlikely a lot of the real Afghan economy depends on the US military being there. Which may be one of the big reasons they haven't asked us to go away yet.

253:

NB: Sure Germany didn't want to send troops into Iraq. Germany didn't want to send troops to Serbia, which is just down the road. Germany has a serious cringe reflex towards any proposal for military deployment overseas

...but Germany sent troops to Afghanistan. And into Kosovo, as you pointed out (in fact, the German Brigade was in Macedonia before the US formation arrived), where they were reassuringly robust in their handling of random Serbian gunmen. They also support the Baltic and Icelandic Air Policing missions, so if Putin decides to push hybrid warfare northwest he may come up against a few Luftwaffe aircraft. They've recently also taken some tanks out of storage to reform a couple of tank battalions.

There was some kerfuffle when the German KSK troops in Afghanistan were discovered to have painted the palm tree logo of the DAK on their vehicles; and others were allegedly wearing T-shirts with the logo "Opa, kann nicht so weit nach Osten!" (Hey Grandad, I made it further east than you)...

254:

Yes it is more than possible for the Tories to offer the SNP a sweeter deal than Labour. Until Labour are convinced they can never make a comeback in Scotland, they will never let Scotland go, if they can help it. Scotland is a Labour heartland, it needs it to help form a government and has been a refuge at times of Tory dominance.

The Tories cling to Scotland for sentimental reasons, but for many it no longer runs deep. And if a chap has given it his best go of keeping the marriage going , but in the end it does not work, well at least we showed willing etc.

I remember an Econimist magazine interview with Salmond, I think, and the interviewer knew of many Tory activists and politicians who a sick of Scottish special pleading etc and would be quite willing to let Scotland go and yet Salmond refused to believe this . The interviewer felt he viewed all Tories as arch Unionists and were permanent enemies. This was a few years ago though so maybe he no longer thinks that.

The thing is how much would the Tories have to offer. Do the SNP even want to risk another referendum in the next 5 years. They might want to wait till the deficit is down to much lower levels and hopefully a rise in oil prices.

Also how much fiscal independance do they want. The English electorate might not ware large fiscal transfers to Scotland.

Separating out financial flows between countries could prove some surprising jolts to the Scottish electorate. For example the British Rail network requires £4 billion a year in subsidies. Currently £2 billion of that goes to Scotland, come independence there might be some big reapprasial of priorities.

255:

Yes it is more than possible for the Tories to offer the SNP a sweeter deal than Labour.

True; but if the SNP took it, it would be electoral suicide in Scotland -- unless it came with a referendum-free committment to independence (or, at an absolute minimum, Devo Max plus some sweeteners on top).

Note that the Barnett formula obscures how much money is raised/spent in Scotland -- e.g. defense spending isn't part of the formula, but 90% of it is disbursed down south. Turns out that Scotland has a higher average per-capita GDP than England as a whole, although lower than London (with its hypertrophied financial sector).

(On the subject of rail subsidies, that mostly goes on keeping tracks servicable. Scotland is as big, geographically, as England, albeit for lower population density. On the other hand, the rail subsidies consist of roughly 50% pork to grease the palms of private company shareholders. So it's conceivable that an independent Scotland could re-nationalize the railways and cut expenditure there by a large margin while maintain service levels.)

256:

Oh yes, the German army and its traditions. Though usually they are expected to show their appreciation for Rommel somewhat more decently.

Might have something to do with the BW being a conscription army at the time, and there being a positive correlation between having a higher education and becoming a conscientious objecter[1].

As for the text, at the risk of becoming the local Language Nazi[2], it would be "Opa kam nicht so weit nach Osten!" ("Grandpa didn't come that far east"), the German text you mentioned translates to "Opa, can't come so far east!", while the English text'd be "Hi Opa, I kam weiter nach Osten als du."

Where quite a few of my father's generation would object; quite a bit of Siberia is further to the East than Afghanistan.

[1] Though some of us usual suspects joked it'd be good to learn how to operate weapons, you know, in case the Big Revolution finally comes. Oh, those were the days...

[2] Which, err, would be somewhat ironic for a variety of reasons...

257:

Hurray! Someone else has finally picked up on the possibility of the coalition that dare not speak it's name that I talked about in @66.

I wish there was some bookie taking odds on a CON-SNP tie up - it would be worth a flutter given the lack of consideration it's been given.

As I said above, the EU successor status would be the main olive branch to the SNP (along with another vote in 2017). Couple that with a 'we'll shield you from the nasty policies we will be inflicting on the rest of the UK' and despite what OGH suggests, I think the SNP could sell the idea to their scottish voters. Particularly since nobody seems to have noticed the North Sea is dying in the low oil prices.

Only one day to go, with it being obvious that the SNP are the only King-makers in play.

258:

Rail subsidies are a bit weird. Most of them go to Network Rail, which is state-owned, so that's only greasing managers' pay packets, not shareholders. The train operating companies (the ones you've heard of) don't make massive profits - a decent rate of return, and very safe, but they're not a license to print money any more, which is why Virgin have mostly got out; they just license their name to Stagecoach.

The companies that make crazy profits are the train leasing companies. Angel Trains made more than all the train operators combined over the last few years. Porterbrook and HSBC Leasing aren't far behind.

They don't officially get any subsidy. But the subsidised train operators have to pay the leasing companies' monopoly prices.

259:

Charlie Wilson's War is a 2007 American biographical comedy-drama film

Which, I am told, whitewashes US responsibility for tens of thousands of civilian deaths and needlessly escallating a really nasty occupation[*] into a scorched-earth grudge match like unto the Vietnam War

It is actually even worse than that. The then Secretary of State Zbigniew Brezinski has stated publicly (and proudly) many times that the US started aiding the rural misogynist killers the summer BEFORE the Soviet invasion for the express purpose of provoking the Soviets into invading.

260:

The then Secretary of State Zbigniew Brezinski has stated publicly (and proudly) many times that the US started aiding the rural misogynist killers the summer BEFORE the Soviet invasion for the express purpose of provoking the Soviets into invading.

If you're going to play a dirty trick, doesn't it make sense to do one you know works?

The USA got Three Mile Island. The USSR got Chernobyl.

The USA got Vietnam. The USSR got Afghanistan.

What doesn't make sense is the USA falling into Afghanistan themselves afterward. It's like Brehr Fox punching the same tarbaby he made to trap Brehr Rabbit.

261:

150% agree.
Sorry, Charlie, but you are talking cobblers about the railways & where the subsidies go.
Yes, the ROSCO's make a lot of money, but that's because successive tory & liebour guvmints wanted it that way - & now complain, but do nothing about it ....
DsfT are now fully in-charge of the railways, but would much rather that we didn't realise this uncomfortable fact, because all the cock-ups & expensive gold-plating of projects is ther fault...

Your take on "London's hypertrophied financial sector" is taken straight from "Marxism Today" as was, & although there are some corrupt crooks in there, it is actually nowhere near as bad as non-Londoners seem to imagine.

WHich reminds me semi-on-topic ...
In this constituency in NE London, the sitting, personally very popular female Labour MP will be re-elected.
There are the usual others & ..
at least THREE variations on the Judean People's Front/People's Front for Judea ultra-left splinter/splitter groups that I can't tell from each other, except that they are all madder than the (English) Greens.
Why?

[ Note: OTHER subjects I am competent in are: Railways - generally, Victorian steam engineering, some botany & ecology .... quite good on some aspects of history, too ...
Politics in London - but my impressions of Scottish politics are coloured by reporting which is probably about as accurate as the views Charlie is getting on London's finances, oops, always exepting my other contact. ]

262:

It is fanciful thinking that Nationalisation will suddenly make the railways cheaper to run and that there are vast sums to be saved.

Despite the Department of transport being convinced that the leasing companies were making a mint and that they were getting ripped off, that the DFt unleashed the monopolies and mergers commision on them. OOPs it turned out the higher prices were entirely due the departments own policies and refusal to commit to long term leases etc or illlogical procurement procedures.

Witness the latest Saga that the civil servants at DFT have both Labour and now the Tories, the ever more ridiclous IEP train. A story so complicated, but essentially a new design of high speed trains chosen by DFT and fiercly ressisted by the rail companies (to no avail) for trains that are going to end up costing twice the cost to lease than off the shelf units.

One of the big drivers of increasing costs on the railway is that assets (infrastructure) were included in the accounts and the effects of depreciation taken into account. It has meant a massive expansion of maintenence and renewal on the railways. You should not be surprised to learn that the railways had pretty much been running on minimum investment since nationlisation. There is a reason that so many Stations look so spiffy these days, the railways are also busier than since the 1920's. All that extra money spent has actually produced results.

In other words you can't go back to British Rail spending levels without ending up with, well, British Rail.

It'a also pretty much clear that Scotlands rail system currently requires £2 billion more spending than ticket sales. That will come into sharp relief if any form of true fiscal separation comes about, no matter how fiscally well off Scotland is. Which ever way you look at it, it is a big part of Scotlands budget, which ever way you look at it the Highlands are about to be subsidised by the Lowland Scots and not the rest of the UK. I would be surprised if there were no arguments or changed spending priorities.

263:

Some form of EVEL needs to be brought in

I await your plans for how this can be implemented fairly (which requires allowing non-English MPs to vote on matters that affect budgets for devolved services) with considerable interest.

264:

the interviewer knew of many Tory activists and politicians who are sick of Scottish special pleading etc and would be quite willing to let Scotland go and yet Salmond refused to believe this . The interviewer felt he viewed all Tories as arch Unionists and were permanent enemies.

And yet you never see these "many activists and politicians" being reported on Tv, only the "the Union is sacrosanct for all time" ones.

You are aware that what you call "Tories" are actually members of an organisation calling itself the "Conservative and Unionist Party"? If it looks like a duck, acts like a duck and is named $thing duck, then I feel justified in presuming that it is a duck.

265:

How much of this spending has gone on stupid ideas like replacing asphalt concourse floors with polished terrazzo skating rinks?

266:

Maybe someone needed a war to boost their election chances? (The boost probably comes from the backing you get from arms manufacturers when you suddenly need to hand them gazillions in weapons orders)

It is, militarily, inexplicable. Genghis, Alexander, the Poms, the Russians, pretty much everyone who's ever been to Afghanistan has had their ass handed to them on a plate, which means the point was to start a war that (probably) could not be won, and hence would last a nice loooong time and involve handing lots more of the citizens' money to your friends before it petered out.

No sense in doing something quick, easy and beneficial, like say annexing the Cayman Islands and cleaning out the secret bank accounts of the rich and corrupt. You want duration! More distractions while you loot your home country, and more fat contracts for Hell-i-burton.

267:

And Charlie & others:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b05sz83j/nick-and-margaret-the-trouble-with-our-trains

Some of us have know this for some time.
See also the web/blog site:
"London Reconnections"

268:

@Paw4thot.

But some form of answer needs to be thought of, because I might guess one party dedicated to the break up of the Union holding the whip hand is not going to last. The SNP is only interested in whats good for Scotland not the rest of the UK, infact it wants to rip it apart.

It's not going to play politically well in England at all well.

If no solution can be found to EVEL, then break up of the Union is inevitable.

You are wrong about the Tories, some may cling to the idea of Britian as it is, but they may be sentimental to the idea of Scotland, but that is not the same as Labours attachment.

The Tories will defend the Status Quo until it no longer holds and then ruthlessly dump it and pivot to a new Status Quo.

The Tories are supposedly commited to majority Parliamentary rule, but proved much more flexible in producing a Coalition government. They not only read the tea leaves last election better than Labour, they were much more mentally flexible when it came to negotiations.

As to the railways, In the 15 years or so have we seen the old soot cleaned from the stations and new glass roof's and in many cases repairing world war 2 bomb damage. The renovations are now spreading beyond the major terminuses now. Not to mention money on new tracks and signalling.

269:

"Bullshit... if you're going to try and tell me that there isn't a causal link between the original training of the AQ cadre in Afghanistan during the war against the Soviet Occupation and events currently unfolding 25-30 years later"

That's not what I said. What I said was that the war NATO fought - the article V involvement - which was the US-led invasion of Afghanistan - didn't cause ISIS to come about.

Because the Iraq war that was both necessary and sufficient cause of that - without the US-led Afghan invasion it still would have come about.

Necessary, because you wouldn't have this Sunni insurgency if Saddam was still in charge. Sufficient, because it created the power vacuum, and was quite enough to cause to radicalize enough muslims to create a "bunch of fanatical hillbillies in Iraq and Syria". Yes, international fighters, but more locals who ally with them and join them. (I hope neither of us is now considering arguing about just what "cause" means, not to mention "necessary" or "sufficient" cause. Life's too short.)

You're upset at my cheap shot about geography. Fair enough. But while ideas move and fighters move, the geography still matters a lot - those borders are important, even if they are porous.

As for several of the members of NATO getting sucked into the undertow of the invasion of Iraq (oh, it's nice to argue with an author, he describes things so well...) - yes, but NATO wasn't. That's not just pedantry, it matters if we're discussing that NATO has and hasn't done, which was the off-topic topic at hand and which matters if you're considering what would trigger an article V intervention.

My country was also dragged along in that undertow, and we're not members of NATO - really, it was anyone that Bush could beat with an Ego-attack, and he'd maxed his disadvantages to boost Ego crazy-high.

270:

"The long-term demographic trends are for the Conservative base to age and shrink;"

Has that always seemed true?

I don't know UK recent history, but was there a time in the last half-century when the Conservative voters were not the blue-rinse set?

Or is the idea that voters become more conservative (and Conservative) with age just a myth?

271:

"I don't know UK recent history, but was there a time in the
last half-century when the Conservative voters were not the
blue-rinse set?"

Yes. I am not saying that they weren't, on average, older than
those in other parties, nor that people, in general, get more
conservative as they age, but the effect is much more extreme
than it was. Of course, a few of us get more radical as we age!

272:

It has seemed true for at least the 40 years I have been politically active. I have never voted Labour, but Green or Liberals.
The Conservatives always appeal to the same kind of people - the upwardly mobile, ambitious and those not quite so well off that they are insulated from Labour tax rises.

273:

There's a workable single solution to EVEL and the SNP:

It's root-and-branch constitutional reform.

1. Abolish the House of Lords (as it currently exists.)

2. Give Wales and England separate parliaments with powers to match the Scottish one. Bolster the Northern Irish assembly to match. (Better still, give England four -- one for the south-east, one for the midlands, one for the north, and one for Cornwall/the south-west. They're on divergent economic tracks anyway, and this'll work best if the UK devolves into roughly similarly-sized groups, in the 2-10 million person range rather than 50 million plus fragments an order of magnitude smaller.)

3. Cut back the House of Commons to handle only currency, diplomacy, and defence. Everything else gets delegated to the regions -- it's Devo Max for all.

4. Edge cases: VAT is managed centrally, but it's part of an EU-wide tax regime (so needs negotiating at the highest level). Income tax, company tax, industrial policy, healthcare, social security -- delegate the lot.

5. When central government proposes a budget with defense and diplomatic spending, the regions get to negotiate over their respective shares. So bolt together a Senate to replace the House of Lords. It's job is to handle the current legislative revision work of the HoL and to act as a clearing house for inter-regional policy and budget wrangling.

6. Electoral system: the House of Commons and the Senate should probably run on different systems to ensure that no one member state and no one political umbrella/faction can get control of both houses without a stonkingly huge public consensus across the isles.

274:

And for my next trick, all the problems with the euro and different economies moving at different paces, but tied to the same currency so they can't devalue - just in one country.

There might be a case for reform, there might even be a case for some tailoring of policies to individual regions - but whole scale balkanisation isn't it.

275:

Today's cartoon at WWW.XKCD.COM has some commentary on the current issue. :)

276:

Well the rail freight sector is state run. Just not our state.

This was driven home with some force one day on Oxford station when I looked up to see a bright orange Deutsche Bahn diesel locomotive, causing a brief internal review of which country I was standing in.

277:

"There's a workable single solution to EVEL and the SNP:
It's root-and-branch constitutional reform."

While I agree with that, there are some significant flaws in
the details of your proposal - e.g. the south-east issue. But
what Millibrain should have done is to rule out any further
devolution for the life of this Parliament, and say that he
would create a Royal Commission to investigate the long-term
constitutional issues, and to produce a summary of possibilities
and conssequences (NOT a proposal) for consideration by the
parties and public.

278:

While there would be problems with simply federalising the UK, with England four times the size of the rest put together, there's no obvious demand for devolution to English regions. The Labour government tried that in 2004, and it expired at the first hurdle in the North East, with not quite 50 percent bothering to vote, and three quarters of them opposed.

Now maybe the moral is that you don't want John Prescott constructing your constitutional settlements, but maybe there just aren't any pleasingly symmetrical arrangements to be had.

Maybe the best we can do is start a constitutional conference running and see where it leads. English parliament? Metropolitan governments? PR for General elections? Throw it into the mix and see what comes out.

279:

You haven't addressed my concern with EVEL; that it creates a 2-tier Commons, with some MPs being excluded from the right to vote on matters that affect budgetary matters in their constituency.

My comment about the Con party reflects on the way those of them I hear talk. How the others feel is, at best, anecdote, and may be plain wrong since they don't seem to act to remove spokespersons who don't reflect their views.

In the area where I mostly travel by train, I can think of one (possibly 3) stations that have had significant roof cleaning works. I can think of at least a dozen that have lost platform structures.

280:

That seems to work; certainly it addresses most of my concerns, and I'm coming at this as a frustrated federalist who sees independence as the next best option.

281:

I'll accept your statements, but it would be helpful if you could point us to some information as to what was on offer in 2004 rather than saying "The North didn't want that so they want the status quo".

After all, since about 1970 I've had conversations with Geordies that summarise as "When Scotland gets independence, take us with you". I'd interpret that as an appetite for change but maybe not a specific change.

282:

Manchester got as far as a flag, and having Anthony H. Wilson using Situationist ideas as part of his campaigning as part of his organisation "The Necessary Group."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proposed_Flag_of_North_West_England

There really wasn't much to the proposal beyond that, as one of the campaigners was basically an appointee of Tony Blair, who made it clear to Blair he'd lose any vote and so they dropped the matter.

283:

Thanks; that does explain a lot, since Manchester is not part of "The North" to Scots.

284:

The problem with such extreme federalism is that creates little to construct a sound monetary system. A central bank is as strong as the tax payers behind it and the ability to control the amount of public debt. Complete freedom on local debt is possible as long as it's clear that they can go bankrupt without rescue from central government.

There are few natural areas for England to be divided up into, it would all come down to political diktat which ould not be popular and subject to much fighting.

The other problem is that you won't be able separate London from the Home counties, they operate as one economic unit. London with the South East and Eastern region are about 20odd million people. Big chunks of the South West are closer to London then and the same goes for parts of the South Midlands.


Before you'd know it you'd have a super Metropolitan England consisting of the richest half of the country. I suppose some would be happy with two Englands then, one permanently Tory and the Other permanentally Labour.

Greater federalism will create greater tensions about tax flows between regions.

285:

I don't know what is going to happen in your election, but for a ray of hope you could look at last night's election in Alberta (Canada).

The Tories have had a stranglehold on power for 44 years without pause. The province has been the very heartland of the neoconservative insanity that has gripped many of our countries over the past couple of decades. The current federal governing Conservatives (who call themselves Tories but don't deserve even that) get their base of power in Alberta.

And last night the province, the Texas of Canada (is there a UK equivalent), elected the NDP (outspoken social democrats) to a majority government. On a probability scale this is something like Hibernian winning the gold in Olympic ice hockey. It was never going to happen, not ever, and then it did (with a significant plurality of the vote).

Which is only relevant to the situation in the UK to the point that there seems to be some significant tectonic shifting underway in the so-called 'Western World'. The parties that have traditionally been in power have started being hoist on their petards, casualties of the Beige Dictatorship.

That doesn't mean you will see an upset this week. I honestly have no idea. But you are likely to see some change and upheaval as at least a precursor to some kind of massive change in the near future.

286:

>There's a workable single solution to EVEL and the SNP:
>
>It's root-and-branch constitutional reform.

It's a good idea. Just a pity that it stands about as much chance of happening in the short term at least as the monster raving loony party have of forming the next government.

If any government were to do this I think I know what they would do. It would go like this;

- sit around and wait for six months;
- twiddle your thumbs a bit;
- quietly make the smallest possible tweak to some part of the system;
- rename it, i.e. give it a fancy name;
- claim "it's what we've always wanted to do" and deny what was said before;
- leave it and do nothing, by which time you're already >50% to the next election.
- nothing changes, same old same old....

Really I can't see any sort of constitutional reform occuring any time soon. The existing setup still overall works "too well" for the two major parties.

287:

Re: It is, militarily, inexplicable. Genghis, Alexander, the Poms, the Russians, pretty much everyone who's ever been to Afghanistan has had their ass handed to them on a plate, ...


A Sikh colleague once told me that the Sikhs are the only people to ever win a war against the Afghanis. Unfortunately I don't recall which general or war this was.

288:

There is a More Better Solution to the British Political Reform than that advocated by Charlie...sorry Charlie but there really is you know. The thing is that; well consider the North East of England as a discrete State within a State?

Someone up stream @ 249 mentioned, " Not Northern Nationalism, no. But Yorkshire? Sure. And some sort of Geordieland."

GOOD GRIEF! ".. some sort of Geordieland."

“Geordieland " I do earnestly advise that you don’t use that term in public in, say, a pub in Sunderland at closing time! Seriously? I live about 10 minutes walk away from a pub outside of which a former - Mature - student of mine was killed in the car park ..classic challenge to the thugs that was met by a fist in the face as he was bouncing about in classic Marques of Queensbury stance after he had made his remark as he returned home from Newcastle Upon Tyne to his home in Sunderland. His assailant was charged with manslaughter and tried for the same and was acquitted. His victim is still dead. Well that is fairly usual if your skull meets the curb with extreme impact.

Do not use the term "Geordie” to describe anyone who lives anywhere outside of Newcastle upon Tyne. Outside of that area people do not think of themselves as being 'Geordies. ‘That is one of the reasons why a Great North Nation State within the State of the U.K. just won’t work.

The North East of England hasn't been a Nation State for ever such a long time and the Denizens of Sunderland would deeply resent any political machinations that attempted to make them subservient to Newcastle Upon Tyne...which was once held for The King...Charles that was... whilst Sunderland was held for Parliment with the help of a Scotish Army..

http://1644-siegeofnewcastle.8k.com/Campaign.htm


So, say, a federal system? Sunderland accepts Newcastle upon Tyne as Regional Capital? Or vice versa Sunderland or Middlesbourgh or Gateshead as Capital City? Hollow Laughter Time.

The traditional antipathies betwixt the cities of the North East have lost a bit of their edge in the past couple of decades but I agree with...
peteratjet@ 278:

" While there would be problems with simply federalising the UK, with England four times the size of the rest put together, there's no obvious demand for devolution to English regions. The Labour government tried that in 2004, and it expired at the first hurdle in the North East, with not quite 50 percent bothering to vote, and three quarters of them opposed."

Actually, getting people to vote is quite a problem hereabouts, so those voting figures aren't all that exceptional even for a normal election.


But, DO NOT DESPAIR! I have a solution that evidently has not occurred to Our Gracious Host...and am I Smug because I've been able to drege this masterpiece of Political Theatre from my Age and Illness ravaged Brain?


Behold the Great Thoughts of One of The GRATE Political Thinkers of OUR Times...Forget about Marx - of the Marx brothers fame - and contemplate the wisdom of Peter Cook.


" Peter Cook - World Domination League "

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abqZn6SFiWs

289:

The war between the Durrani and Sikh Empires?
It must be noted the Sikh Empire held the Khyber Pass, but didn't venture beyond it.

290:

That's a widely held myth but it is definitely a myth. Afghanistan has been defeated quite a lot. If anything it has been part of someone else's empire more than it has been independent. It has been mostly independent since about 1709. Under the Hotak (1709-1738) Durrani (1747-1826) and Barakzai (1826-1973) dynasties.

The most recent entirely successful invasion was the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1877-78) Britain gained full control over Afghan foreign affairs. This was given up in 1920 following British victory in the Third Anglo-Afghan war (1919).

291:

Thought you might be interested in seeing this poll-analysis / prediction site of the UK election, sponsored by Nate Silver and co.: http://fivethirtyeight.com/interactives/uk-general-election-predictions/

Though American, I've been viewing this with some obsession.

Hope you all are able to figure it out... and that we learn something from you. We have our own oddities, however...

292:

I get the impression that the problem with Afghanistan is opium. Specifically, there's little an empire can do that's profitable in Afghanistan other than growing opium or extracting minerals like lapis lazuli. As a landlocked country, it's relatively hard to get to from any direction, and anything that comes out of it has to be relatively valuable and easy to transport.

Note that this isn't to say that the Afghanis are evil or anything. It's just that they don't have a huge amount of good farmland, and most of the country is quite dry. Opium poppies take less water than does wheat, so if you're going to force Afghani farmers to grow a cash crop, unfortunately opium is by far the most profitable by weight.

IIRC, Afghanistan opium led, at least in part, to the Opium Wars in China, wherein Britain forced China to open its markets to British opium. IIRC, this was to pay off the debt the British were racking up paying for tea and other Chinese goods. That part's worth remembering, because trade deficits with China are far from a new thing.

293:

Far far too sensible for it ever to be implemented, I'm afraid!
[ Though I note that BoJo was calling, yesterday for a serious debate about a Federated UK ... ]

Ah well, I'll walk across the road to the polling station (Literally less than 60 seconds from my front door) - normally it's an infant's school.
Then I'll be off to do something useful - plant some peas ....

Not one of the major political parties { LIST } is free of policies which are some combination of: stupid, economically regressive, spiteful, treasonous or otherwise counter-productive.
What a disaster.
{ LIST: Con, Lem-0-Crat, Liebour, SNP, Plaid, DUP, SF, Green, UKIP. }
The really best we can hope for is some form of coalition, again, where the really worst/most insane "ideas" ( Which is NOT a joke) of the larger partner are held back by the minority members.

294:

"The really best we can hope for is some form of coalition, again, where the really worst/most insane "ideas" of the larger partner are held back by the minority members."

That's what I was hoping for when the ConLib coalition formed. Instead, they each doubled down on the partner's craziest ideas. Maybe this time it'll be different...

295:

"Not one of the major political parties { LIST } is free of
policies which are some combination of: stupid, economically
regressive, spiteful, treasonous or otherwise counter-productive."

That is why we should abandon our so-called representative
democracy as a failed experiment and go back to government by
the Sovereign in Council. It would be at least as democratic,
no more insane, far cheaper to run (especially in terms of tax
cuts to foreign, mainly USA, corporations), and FAR more amusing!
And, to those who cannot stand the idea of King Charles III, at
least his heart is in the right place even if not his brain, which
puts him one relevant organ up on Blair and Cameron/Osborne/May.

I deserve to be yellow carded for introducing fantasy into this
thread! But I stand by it, which is a pretty damning indictment
of our current system.

296:

Caveat: Nate Silver really doesn't understand the British electorate. Look back at what he predicted in 2010 and how it correlated with the final outcome if you don't believe me -- he was well off, compared to his eerie precision in US presidential races.

297:

Actually, no: the LibDems do appear to have been a moderating influence on the Tories' more insane authoritarianism, while the Tories spiked the LibDem's desire for electoral reform.

Alas, it looks to me as if the entire machinery of government has, over the past 30 years, been co-opted and turned into a privatization/sell-of off assets to rent-seeking multinationals machine. It's very easy for any elected party to end up running on rails installed under Thatcher, including Labour and the LibDems (not that the Orange Book libertarians were terribly anti-privatization in the first place).

298:

Pray that the DUP do not wind up as a minor partner in government, if they do I would expect exactly the opposite effect to what you hope for -- they will support whatever policies the heavyweight partner suggests, so long as the heavyweight accedes to the DUP policy/legislative demands to satisfy their (perceived) base in NI.

Ugly for everyone.

299:

"the LibDems do appear to have been a moderating influence on the Tories' more insane authoritarianism"

Really? I probably don't pay enough attention to this sort of thing, but off the top of my head, I can't think of any examples of them holding the tories back. My impression of the LibDems was of a party that backed the tories to the hilt on every horrible thing they tried to do, in return for a shot at electoral reform, which they proceeded to totally screw up.

The best thing the coalition did this parliament was legalise gay marriage, and my understanding is that that was driven by the Tories (not that the LibDems were against it).

My, rather optimistic/naive take on the coalition when it was announced was that if you could graft LibDem social policies onto Tory defence, energy and economic policies, you might not get too bad a parliament. Obviously, back then I was drinking the austerity koolaid, and I wasn't expecting the tories to handle defence even worse than Labour did. Energy policy could have been better, but seems to have come through not too badly, at least compared to the LibDem manifesto (Nooklear = evul!!11Eleventy!)

I guess my big mistake was actually paying attention to the manifestos. Haven't bothered with that this year, since I've finally twigged that they won't put stuff like "privatize/sell-of off assets to rent-seeking multinationals" on there...

300:

The DUP make only one major demand: money, money, money!
Northern Ireland is subsidised to the tune of 10 billion a
year (both directly and by employment being 40% public sector),
and it is the only thing keeping the unemployment below
southern European proportions and the province from going into
political meltdown. If the Conservative fanatics can govern
without the DUP, they will pull the plug on that, and Sinn
Fein will go into overdrive about the evils of the British.
Expect Trouble.

302:

Oh, yes, but that's merely a matter of them dragging their
heels, compared with their real demand. The fact that they
have got such a massive subsidy for the past decade is solely
down to the fact that even Whitehall knows what will happen
if they don't get it. But would that stop Osborne in full
hatchet mode? I doubt it.

303:

I was really hoping that the Liberal Democrats would be able to provide political cover so the Tories could abandon their dreadful and counterproductive economic policy. The Tories wanted to do exactly what had failed in the 1930s in for example Germany. Keynesian economists accurately predicted the effect that would have. Labour had been running a deficit that was a little bit larger than in should have been. Before the crisis the debt had crept up from 29% GDP in 2001 to 37% of GDP in 2008. However the low initial level meant Britain still had a small debt and plenty of scope to engage in aggressive stimulus. Brown had done so and the economy was growing at about 1% annualised by 2010. Labour's economic policy was exactly what mainstream economics recommended in a liquidity trap; and it was working. Austerity then did exactly what it did in the 1930s and plunged Britain back into recession. Only when it was quietly abandoned in 2013 did the economy begin to recover, it's now growing about 0.3% annualised. About all that can be said for the coalition economic policy is that the Eurozone was even worse. Its member were shackled into what is functionally a Gold Standard.

Labour is planning on an excessively tight economic policy. However it's better than the Tories. Labour's economic policy is only slightly more right wing than mainstream economics. The party with the economic policy most in line with economic theory is the SNP.

The economy is recovering a bit but it is actually difficult to avoid premature tightening such as the USA did in 1936. We keep undershooting the inflation target, the inflation target is if anything too low, currently 2% nominal interest rates are 0.5% and real interest rates are too low. QE helps but as the money goes to bond holders who mostly save it is rather inefficient at generating demand fiscal stimulus would be better as it can be targeted at those with a high marginal propensity to spend such as the unemployed and those on low incomes. Increasing the personal allowance is a lot more efficient than cutting the top rate.

304:

I think pulling the plug on NI subsidies completely is unlikely -- any UK government following that path is heading deep into "terror incognito" (mispelling intended), and the knock-on effects are going to be hard to predict, but predictably bloody.

Sad to say, but the gay rights and abortion stuff is a side show to most of the NI electorate (inside the bounds of Belfast -- and only some districts thereof -- its a Big Thing, most of the rest of the country is (at best) unrescontructed on these issues). While there are plenty upset about the knuckle-draggers in the DUP (and other local parties), gay rights and abortion politics don't matter much to the pyschopaths with guns (and whatever else they've still got squirreled away).

The DUP (and supporters) have already made noises about some of the demands that might be brought to the table should they have the opportunity, the one that really caught my attention and worried me significantly being to do with parading (lost the link, dammit!) If they wring concessions on this, then its light the blue touch paper and stand back time (this is not a metaphor!).

305:

In defence of Nate Silver, he knows he got it wrong last time, so (in his own words):

this time we’re partnering with Chris Hanretty, Benjamin Lauderdale and Nick Vivyan, three professors who together run the site electionforecast.co.uk. They’ve developed a model that’s very much in the spirit of FiveThirtyEight’s U.S. election forecasts — it’s empirical, it’s probabilistic, it emphasizes uncertainty. But they’ve had much more time to study these questions thoroughly instead of taking the (let’s be honest) half-assed approach we did in 2010.

The best aggregator is May2015, who have a table showing a few different forecasts on this page. They're run by the New Statesman, and the editor is Miliband's godson (source: Private Eye), but they seem to have a reasonable level of impartiality when it comes to the data.

Amusing note: May2015's crazy-what-if-scenario from the start of the campaign, "what if the SNP polled at 50% in Scotland", actually results in fewer SNP MPs than the actual polls.

306:

Oh Jesus, if they defang the Parades Commission there'll be street battles. At best!

307:

off the top of my head, I can't think of any examples of them holding the tories back.

That's because of the way news reporting puts a spin on events: we see what happens, not what would have happened. Look at Francis Maude's battier proposals for what gov.uk should be doing if you want an idea of what the last term would have been like as a conservative majority, and shudder. (The term "night watchman state" springs to mind -- defense and police only, everything else privatized/outsourced/destroyed.)

308:

Let us hope! I agree with your description.

309:

Just barely related to the topic - I don't know if you've seen the latest xkcd: http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/sword_in_the_stone.png

Enjoy!

310:

Actually the history of Opium in Afghanistan is considerably more recent than you think, and mostly caused by Western meddling in the water table.

Here is Adam Curtis putting together a nice annotated history of the US involvement in Helmand that caused Afghanistan to develop land suitable for the cultivation in the first place. It was partially the spread of opium in the north that influenced the conditions that lead to the Soviet invasion.

The opium for China came from East India Company plantations in northeastern India, which were mostly former cotton growing areas with the right soil types. Some of the results of that product may have been transplanted to Afghanistan a century later.

But you are correct that there are few high value products suitable for Afghanistan to export outside of drugs. Possibly converting them to being legal suppliers of opiate analgesics to the west would help ... and drop prices, but there is a limited market for painkillers that strong, and it wouldn't be as lucrative as the illicit trade.

311:

entire machinery of government has, over the past 30 years, been co-opted and turned into a privatization/sell-of off assets to rent-seeking multinationals machine

That appears to be the case in a depressingly large amount of the western world. The few countries that aren't either on that path or surging towards it were places like Switzerland who are democratic but only because they are militant in maintaining their own culture and social demographics, or Norway, which was propped up by lots of north sea oil.

Sigh.

312:

Thanks for the correction, Mayhem. Speaking from another book (Scott's The Art of Not Being Governed, one of my favorite shibboleths), it looks like opium was a popular crop among hill tribes possibly pretty much throughout, from the current golden triangle west. It has two advantages: the product has high value for weight, it takes less water than just about any other crop, and it likes cool conditions, which is important if you're living 2-3,000 meters up in the hills. This all made it an important trade crop for those who farmed at higher elevations.

As for growing it in former cotton growing areas, I'm not surprised. When you get hit by a drought, you switch progressively to more drought tolerant crops, from cotton or corn to wheat (if the weather's right) to poppy. If the US wasn't doing its war on drugs, I suspect we'd have a huge crop of opium poppies growing in California the last few years, with all the secondary misery that would inevitably cause. Heck, our state flower is a poppy, although reportedly it's a much milder sedative than opium. Hmmmm....

313:

As for the present political situation, Randall Munroe has this comment:

http://xkcd.com/1521/

314:

Actually, smoking opium isn't that bad as narcotics go -- roughly on a par with some of the stronger cultivars of cannabis (aka skunk). Yes, it causes constipation and it's physiologically addictive in a way that cannabis isn't (but less so than tobacco or Valium™). It's also not a good idea to mix it with alcohol or respiratory illnesses. But if you're not purifying it, acetylating it, and sticking into your circulatory system with a syringe, it's largely self-controlling and it's rather hard to o/d on. The real problem as with all anxiolytics is a social one -- it makes people apathetic to the point of putting up with a really shitty human environment which is inherently damaging to their health. But if you frame it in these terms I'm not sure why the US right wing has such a down on it ...

315:

Loved the book. it was a refreshing change to the, umm, more libertarian politics in most Science Fiction.

316:

In my case, the smell. I live in an apartment building where is is sometimes a challenge to go get my post without inhaling vast amounts of the stuff. It smells like gas passed by a goat after having eaten lots of garlic and onions. Aside from that I can't see it's any worse than alcohol. The advantage over alcohol is that pot smokers are nowhere near as aggressive. Of course, living in Edinburgh you won't have witnessed the effects of alcohol, Glasgow perhaps!

317:

I keep thinking about writing to the SNP and asking if they'd send a few senior organisers down here on secondment to help me set up a Midlands Nationalist Party.

318:

Hmm, looks like an interesting book to track down.

I wonder if the difference is between small level cultivation in the hill tribes and widespread commercial cultivation. Certainly there looks to have been a very old opium trading route through the mountains. But that was all heavily centered in the north and east in the mountains. Helmand is in the deep south, and never a traditional cultivation area. Apparently Helmand alone now cultivates 40% of the world's supply.

I did a bunch of reading this evening, and it looks like most commercial cultivation in India historically centered around the heartland of the Mughal empire, particularly the Yamuna river valley in Uttar Pradesh, which is where it is still legally grown now. Must be the right soil & weather conditions, combined with political control. Water usage does not seem to have been a factor.

The interesting bit for me was the history of legal cultivation in Pakistan. Formerly all of its opium came from Uttar Pradesh and Bengal, which became East Pakistan/Bangladesh.

But following partition, they experimented a lot with different regions internally, eventually settling on the Northwest Frontier Provice in the mid 50s after cultivation in the south was unsuccessful.
I wonder if that was one of the sources for the rapid spread of poppy in Afghanistan - the NW frontier is extremely porous.

Pakistan article here
And the Indian history

319:

Fascinating, and I'll have to read more myself, although I've reacted so badly to opioids in the past that it's not something on my list to try.

Getting back to Charlie's post, I tripped across a Burmese ethnography (Spirits of the Yellow Leaves*) that talks about a Burmese trader paying some of the men from a tribe of Moken sea nomads in opium, to force them to work in his mine. The Moken couldn't care less for money, so the trader got them to work by getting some of them hooked, then feeding their addiction to keep them working when they didn't want to.

Given how ancient opium is, I wonder how old this particular trap (work for your dose) is. For all I know, it might date back to the the neolithic. Makes you wonder if whether civilization was originally based on opiates for the masses.

*It's an interesting book, mostly because you get to see how patronizing whites could be in colonial days. It's the kind of thing where the author goes on tiger hunts and talks about how exotic and child-like the savages are if they're not willing to work for eight hours a day for a few pence. That sort of thing.

320:

Papaver somniferum is a funny plant - grows quite well in the UK _ I have lot of them & I'm trying to select for Purple-colour &/or double or "parrot" flower-type.
BUT
To get decent opium, you need UV in much larger quantities than you get here.
However, growing it on the "plains" of Afghanistan, UV is in plentiful supply, since the air-blanket is considerably thinner.
Bumblebees LURVE it ....

321:

I hope I'm not spamming here and I guess everyone knows, but the beeb's 'exit poll' returns the following;

con 316
lab 239
snp 58
libdem 10
green 2
ukip 2

ljones

322:

First poll in:

UKIP: 7k
Con: 8k

Lab: 21k

Green: 1k+
Lib Dem: 780ish

Expect to see more of this outside of Scotland.

If Greens could get their shit together and embrace modernity, they might have a chance at some proper gains next time. (They won't, but hey).

323:

It ain't over 'til it's over.

But if that exit poll accurately reflects the final result? Then the UK as currently consituted won't exist by 2025.

(Reasoning: Cameron won't fix the underlying constitutional rot, will bring in EVEL as a way of sticking it to the SNP and Labour, and will rule triumphantly. Which will result in an SNP landslide next summer, and a manifesto committment to IndyRef 2.0. Under a second Tory government the SNP can plausibly gain further traction -- and if Cameron gets his in/out EU membership referendum as well, it'll add urgency to Scotland voting to leave the UK. (Current polling has the EU significantly more popular in Scotland than in England.) So the prognosis is for a plurality for independence in 2018 or 2019 and ScotExit around 2021. Note 1: Opposition to independence was strongest among the elderly, support was strongest among the young -- add 5 years of demographic change and that's a 4-6% swing towards indy, absent any other factors. Note 2: Cameron isn't notably visionary on long-term matters, and by the time ScotExit happens it'll be Someone Else's Problem -- his position in the history books as a two term PM will be secure by then.)

324:

The post-election voter turnout analysis should be interesting.

325:

Of course, living in Edinburgh you won't have witnessed the effects of alcohol, Glasgow perhaps!

Hardly. Lothian Road at kicking-out time on a Saturday certainly used to be the source of much alcohol-fuelled violence... and Leith, Niddrie, and Pilton all have their place in the great waste of lives.

A slightly-more-pragmatic (and less Prohibition-driven) approach to the licensing laws meant that Edinburgh seems to have had less issues over the years than Glasgow - but it's far from zero.

326:

The actual poll numbers seem to be backing the exit poll - and it seems as if it's the Lib Dem voters that are turning to the Tories rather than Labour at the last minute.

This could mean the Tories in government alone and unchecked - which is bad news with that EU vote on the horizon.

327:

As for the age of the "work for buzz", there was a story in Baxter's "Evolution" about some late hunter-gatherers being shoed in by early farmers for beer, another thing is it implicated Baxter bought into the Anatolia hypothesis of PIE dispersal and though blonde hair was an Western European hunter-gatherer trait, both of which seem somewhat debatable. From the last few articles on WHG genomes, it seems they were somewhat dark in hair and skin. And had light eyes. Personal nickname: "Brazilian Pornstars".

For opium itself, one problem might be the different routes have a different risk of addiction, with oral the lowest and smoking or injecting somewhat higher, AFAIR injection was somewhat higher than smoking, though I'm not sure how much. And making opium smokable AFAIK is a somewhat late development, which involves some fermentation. Google for "chandu" for the process.

Still, Afghanistan might have a somewhat longer history as a producer of psychoactive drugs; AFAIR the Rig-Veda mentions early Indo-Aryans had to buy their soma from the mountain tribes, and it's likely they were in Western India/Pakistan at the time. Which would indicate some area in Afghanistan as the source of soma, e.g. most likely some Ephedra species. Hm, heroin or crystal meth...

Apart from drugs, mountain tribes were also good sources for cattle products and belligerent soldiers of fortune. Which were exactly the things the Swiss were famous for during quite a lot of European history. Hm, maybe Afghanistan should try some banking...

As for Eschscholzia californica, though Papaveraceae usually play around with a limited molecular playset, said set is quite versatile; even in Papaver somniferum, you have not just classical mu, delta and kappa agonists, but also thebaine, which AFAIR was a glycine antagonist, just like strychnine.

Some related molecules go for dopamine and serotonin receptors, e.g. apomorphine, aporphine or bulbocapnine. Personal nickname: "Nature's Own Neuroleptic". So any sedative effects need not be related to classical opioid activity.

As for Eschscholzia itself, seems like some ingredients inhibit serotonin reuptake, meaning California's state flower contains "Nature's Own Prozac". Hm...

328:

But if that exit poll accurately reflects the final result? Then the UK as currently constituted won't exist by 2025.

Maybe the man to watch here will be Boris Johnson, not David Cameron.

Or maybe I'm just biased, because the City of London is the only part of the U.K. that I deal with regularly.

329:

I was wondering if it means anything that the SNP got up the youngest MP since 1667, just in terms of how well the SNP will do in opposition. Charlie mentioned that the SNP keeps its best politicians in Holyrood, which seems to imply they'll send their greenest politicians to Westminster. Is that likely to make the SNP look bad, if a few rookie mistakes are made, and therefore create a swing back to Labour in the next UK general election?

330:

Agreed for the first sentance ...

We need SOME form of federalism - if Camoron dosn't deliver it, then BoJo will.
It is to be sincertely hoped that "EVEL" will translate into some form of federalism - after all his most likely "partners" (IF he decides not to go for being a minority guvmint (At time of typing it looks like he will be only ONE or TWO short of a full majority on his own ) are the DUP - who will want maore devolution for NI.
That gives DC a graceful exit from that trap, by conceding similar powers to Wales & NI as Scotland gets.
We can hope.

In the meantime, C did NOT "win" this election ...
Pathetic little Mr Milibean threw it away
[ "It's the economy, stupid" ]
And, I will now revert to my other hat of being a dangerous leftie crypto-communist, because C will sign up to TTIP & continue to downgrade our defences.

331:

Edinburgh and the rest of Scotland are well aware of alcohol fuelled violence. A lot of it is and was segregated by class, so you don't hear about it unless it hits the city centre. And yes, Lothian road was very bad for a while back in the 80's- 90's. Rose street could be bad too, but I think that's improved.

My dad, with 30 years policing experience, was for legalising cannabis, because of what you say, people doped up are not much hassle to deal with. Whereas he had plenty of fights with drunk people.

332:

I wonder what the English turnout was versus the Scottish turnout?

333:

Of course, another question is whether UK democracy in its current form is worth saving.

Current guesses of % of vote vs seats are something like:

Conservatives with 36%:   around 325 seats.
Labour with 30%:   around 260 seats.
UKIP with 12.4%:   1 seat
LD with 7.9%:   8 seats
SNP with 5.1%:   56 seats
Greens with 3.7%:   1 seat

We all know FPP has problems. But this is ridiculous.

334:

If those Tory lunatics behave as expected, they will use their
majority to piss on everything the SNP stands for - and I don't
mean just independence. If they are REALLY lunatic, they will use
their referendum dirty tricks to get a vote for us to leave the EU,
which will bankrupt the UK. This is a political war between
England and Scotland.

And I am still not convinced that they won't pull the plug on
Northern Ireland.

I am seriously thinking of emigrating - to Scotland, that is!

335:

Yes - it's been this way for over 30 years now ... but it suits the main parties to keep it so.

Snouts in the trough has some influence, of course ....

And, of course, something like a 62% (?) turn-out, which doesn't help, either.

OK, IF we are to change - what system is "best"?
MUST NOT be "Party List" as that encourages even more bottom-licking & there should be some connection between the local constituency & the representative(s) therein.

E.G. Here, ny MP increased her vote to a majority of over 28 000 ( an increase of 17% ) but that is very much a personal, not party-political endorsement.
I suspect there are lot like me, who dilke her party & it's policy, who nonethelss voted for HER.
This is the sort of thing we want to keep, whatever other voting sysem we use.

Suggestions, please?

336:

Yep, won the battle, lost the war.

My personal guess after Cameron's acceptance speech is they will create a federated structure - with a parliament each for scotland, wales and northern ireland; and 4-6 for the UK (as befitting the population). And then they will say each raises it's own income tax to fund it's own services, plus a levy for the centralised functions.

That alone is enough for him to win.

And nobody is going to stop him now.

337:

Note that the turn-out in pars of Scotland was estimated at 81.2%.

If England has voted in a majority Tory government with a 62% turn-out while Scotland voted over 80% for the SNP, that's about the worst imaginable outcome for the UK that doesn't involve flying saucers, tinfoil hats, and a UKIP/DUP coalition.

Ian S: I don't think Cameron is that far-sighted. I think he'll look at this election, find that current system is Good because it delivered for him, and decide to keep it. Five more years of the same, without the LibDems clinging to the Tories' ankles as a drag brake.

This is about as good an outcome for the UK as the 2004 presidential election was for the USA.

338:

Current guesses of % of vote vs seats are something like:

Conservatives with 36%: around 325 seats.
Labour with 30%: around 260 seats.
UKIP with 12.4%: 1 seat
LD with 7.9%: 8 seats
SNP with 5.1%: 56 seats
Greens with 3.7%: 1 seat

We all know FPP has problems. But this is ridiculous.

For context, the SNP only stood candidates in 59 seats; to have won 56 (with maybe 3 still to declare) is most unexpected and may only represent 5.1% of the UK electorate, but if we say that the Scottish electorate is 1/12 of the UK electorate that figure indicates that the SNP took 60 (SIXTY) per cent of the votes cast in the seats they stood candidates in.

339:

I don't undersatnd why the tories did so well, given many (Yes, not all) ukip voters are tory voters. Lets say it's half, yet that still means more people voted tory, despite their bonkers economic policy and harassing of the poor and ill and continued NHS privatisation.
My hypotheis right now is that turnout will be the key point.

340:

Incidentally, for those of you who don't get it about the voter turn-out:

In Australia, voting is compulsory: failing to do so carries a financial penalty. Elections take place on a Sunday (i.e. a nominally non-business day.) Turnout there is around 94-95%.

In the UK, voting is not compulsory, and takes place on a Thursday (a workday). Turnout in 2005 for the UK was 61.4%; for Scotland it was 60.8%.

In 2010, these figures rose to 65.1% and 63.8% respectively.

In 2015, we're looking at around 62-63% in England ... and over 80% in Scotland, getting towards the level of engagement seen in the Independence Referendum (over 87%) which for a system where failing to vote isn't a crime is bloody high.

We've got no way of telling how the silent 37% would have voted, but I'll note that as a bloc of voters they exceed the total of Conservative voters who just elected our next government. (I can mutter gloomily about voter suppression, and indeed the way voter registration was re-jigged a year or so ago made a complete hash of things, but: special pleading, etc., and I'm not cynical enough to think it was a deliberate attempt at suppressing the poor.) However, the turn-out in Scotland points to a level of political engagement that suggests the electorate up here are awake, alert, and engaged in a way that just hasn't been a feature of broader British politics for several decades.

If Cameron pushes ahead with EVEL there will be a bumpy ride ahead. However it's possible his majority will be big enough that he doesn't feel the need to do so. Be a shame if the price of keeping the Union partly intact was throwing the English NHS under the bus, though ...

341:

The last few days I've been listening to radio Scotland, and the phone ins have given me the impression that people are generally more turned on, interested and intelligent than the MP's and professional politicians!

On the other hand I think the people going "Yes, the SNP will represent scotland properly! we have a voice" are wrong, because a majority tory government will just ignore them.

342:

One thing I particularly noticed was the extremely anti-labour and particularly anti-miliband rhetoric coming from almost the entire media establishment for the last two weeks.

Yes, Miliband was a muppet, and didn't sound even remotely like a prime minister. But he definitely didn't deserve the level of public condemnation he got.

I wonder if the swing voters just went "oh I guess Labour will destroy us" instead of "my life is terrible now".

I also suspect at least half of the Anything But Labour vote that went heavily Lib Dem last election has now gone Tory, while UKIP didn't manage to steal much of the tory vote at all.

343:

Yes. And, being ignored, the turned on/interested voters will draw the logical conclusion, and when Nicola gets her now-inevitable landslide next May and pushes through another referendum ...

344:

Yes, Miliband was a muppet, and didn't sound even remotely like a prime minister. But he definitely didn't deserve the level of public condemnation he got.

Miliband made two fatal errors:

1. He announced he was going to abolish the non-dom tax loophole. Bear in mind that 90% of the British press is owned by 9 media tycoons, some of whom (the Rothermere dynasty, the Barclay twins) are non-doms, and others of whom (Alexander Lebedev) are foreign tax exiles.

2. He promised to bring in the full press regulation body proposed by Lord Leveson in his report on press invasions of privacy.

Note to Americans: that sort of thing may sound alien and weird compared to your first amendment culture, but the reality is that the British newspapers are currently much less regulated and much more partisan than their US counterparts.

Upshot: their owners pointed them at Labour and pulled the trigger. They were under marching orders -- in fact, the day before the election the Daily Telegraph spammed their entire subscriber email list with a "vote Conservative" propaganda mail signed by the editor in chief.

We now know what happens when a campaigning party leader takes on the press barons, and it ain't pretty.

345:

Ok, I don't know how old you are, but at 52.75 I'm old enough to remember the 1970s, when with 20 seats of 720ish the SNP got a devolution referendum and the Barnett formula. I wouldn't argue that Scamoron is stupid enough to ignore that given that the SNP now have something like 56 of 650.

346:

And I am a decade older. Back in those days, the Conservatives
were far more considerate of the whole population than Blair was,
let alone the current bunch.

347:

Via George Monbiot, here's a prescient essay about how Labour lost its roots (from 2014) which pretty much predicted what was going to happen.

348:

Charlie,

Australian elections are actually on a Saturday. They are also instant runoff/single transferable vote. The fine for not voting is only $20 and easy to avoid so doesn't actually explain why so many people vote. Rather I think it's a combination of the ability to vote for who you want and still have it count, the more fun aspects of the voting places (sausage sizzle is near obligatory, they turn into mini-fetes) and the sense of "you're supposed to".

It's not because Australians think any better of their pollies - far from it. Nor that they are more politically engaged.

And as for Cameron not being that smart - well he's just managed to pull an absolute majority out of a situation where everyone thought he was going to be replace by Labour. Give him the benefit of the doubt and assume it was more than just blind luck...

I think it was the threat of an SNP bloc pushing UK policy that he successfully used to push Lib Dem voters to vote for him. As such I can't see him giving in to the SNP and giving them what they want - they are the bogeyman to be defended against. The threat at the door at least as much as the EU and ISIS.

As I said, for the SNP it looks very like winning the battle and losing the war.

349:

(I can mutter gloomily about voter suppression, and indeed the way voter registration was re-jigged a year or so ago made a complete hash of things, but: special pleading, etc., and I'm not cynical enough to think it was a deliberate attempt at suppressing the poor.)

Just a side comment, as I don't live in the UK, but we in Finland had our parliamentary elections about three weeks ago, and mainly the winner was the Centre Party (and the Greens, but they are small), and the leftist side lost. The polls before the election predicted more votes for the left parties (The Leftist Alliance and the Social Democratic Party). We don't have voter registration as such, everybody who can vote gets their information on voting locations and such in the mail, but an ID card is all that is needed to vote.

Anyway, the point was that it seems that many poor people just didn't vote at all, even when it's been made pretty easy. This has been an on-going thing for about as long as I've been following any elections. I have some wild ideas about why this is, and one of them is that when your life seems to be out of your control, in some measure or another, voting feels just unnecessary and probably it's not going to change anything.

So, it really does not need to be any real voter suppression. Just controlling the media and making people feel down does the trick.

350:

I'm 66 and I dont remember this Conservative party from the 1970s and 80s. They did as little as possible to ensure votes in marginal seats. Most of the population was ignored and the economy was manipulated cynically to win elections. The Edward Heath government put up unemployment to over a million and then engineered the "Barber Boom" which was a short-term boost in the economy designed to try and win an election. Places like the West Midland were pandered to try and gain a working class Conservative vote. In the 80's there are the examples of Bradford where the Conservative council received blatant subsidies. At the time poll tax Westminster payer received a subsidy which would have given poll tax payers and income rather than a charge in some northern English councils. I could go on but I think you are seeing the past through rose tinted glasses.

351:

You are talking about different topics and a different era.
Before Thatcher, there was some conventions that governments did
not simply reverse changes made by their predecessors, and that
even Conservative governments had responsibilities to give more
funding for deprived areas. We no longer have either.

352:

No I'm talking about the Heath government as well. At the start of the Heath government Iived on a council estate. After a year or so a pleasant estate became run down and neglected because of government and Tory council cuts and was well on the way to despair with the only growth being is specially opened dole offices.
Barber was Heath's chancellor.

353:

Small correction: elections in Australia take place on Saturdays, which were traditionally a business half-day (up until about the mid to late 1980s - my home state was one of the last ones to legalise all-day trading on Saturdays, and that happened within my working lifetime in my first job, around 1987).

Sundays after election day are generally occupied by loud sighs of relief, along the lines of "thank gods the campaign is OVER".

354:
So, it really does not need to be any real voter suppression. Just controlling the media and making people feel down does the trick.
A factor not totally to be discounted; that the thought of voting for the party you "should" vote for makes your stomach turn. In the early days of this campaign there were lots of people claiming they wouldn't vote Labour - what with their last time's massive authoritarianism, enabling NHS privatisation etc. How many of these took a long hard look at their options and stayed home?
355:

STV in multi-member constituencies formed of cities and counties, with fixed boundaries (change the number of MPs in a seat as population moves, not the boundaries). Edinburgh would be one constituency with however-many MPs, for instance.

Then add a small national top-up list to ensure the parties are in the right order when the vote is close and to enable small parties to get adequate representation (STV under-represents parties with less than about 8%). Set a threshold of thee or four percent to get any MPs at all.

System is used in Malta almost exactly as described - they added the top-up when a national election went to one party by one seat but another won by a fraction of a percent on votes.

356:

If you're going to take on the press barons, you knife them in the back, not announce you're going to do it in advance.

357:

I'm not going to describe STV in detail, but you vote for people (not parties), preferentially (ie 1,2,3,etc), which means the independents are fine and don't have to cobble together a list, it also means that you can choose between multiple candidates from the major parties, so you can still vote for your party of choice and against someone you dislike.

For Australians on the thread, it's the Senate system, except no above the line voting, and you don't have to number every candidate for your vote to count, just the ones you care about.

358:

Just because this hobby-horse is stabled in my yard, so to speak ...

I have tried several times to imagine what "pulling the plug" on Northern Ireland would really mean.

Despite the constitutional statements to the contrary, the Republic of Ireland do not want NI -- there are no benefits other than historical nostalgia, and initially (and probably for the foreseeable future) it will be a huge financial drain; so simply handing the place over isn't going to happen. (Also: The Troubles in reverse -- not a completely unlikely scenario.)

Either spinning it off into complete independence, or simply stopping the subsidies are likely to have the same outcome: Sudden mass-migration attempt to mainland UK (ten years ago it might have been to Eire, not so likely now).

In summary: As things stand NI is neither viable as a completely independent state, nor is it a particularly desirable lump of real-estate to either of it's neighbours.

There is the option of "pulling the plug" as a synonym for slowing squeezing the subsidies over a multi-year timescale. There's is anecdotal evidence that this might already be policy, but long term this is going to create an ecomnomic and political climate in which anger, resentment and violence will brew easily. Given the 20th Century history of this part of the world, any Westminster polcy maker who ignores this does so at their peril.

My conclusion always swings back to this: That subsidy bill that Westminster ploughs into NI every year, may be the cheapest and least troublesome option available. (Of course, I wouldn't entirely rule out a chancellor with a "full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes" attitude from just axing the whole thing -- but I sincerely hope not.)

359:

Yes & No
The "non-Doms" also include a large number of NHS workers ....
As for Press Barons, well, Murdoch is just scum, backing two opposing camps & people noticing ....
As for "press restrictions" re Leveson ... I'm not so sure.
all the really vile stuff WAS ALREADY ILLEGAL ... the problem was you had (probably still have) corrupt journos & corrupt cops co-operating.
The Jefferies scandal in Bristol was a classic.
I note no "Bristol" police have even been cautioned over their grossly illegal behaviour in that case ....

360:

Because Thursday was the day before pay-day ... so people were more likely to vote.
And we haven't got round to changing to Sat or Sunday, yet.
"EVEL"
Cameron is indicating a general degree of devolution.
IF he sticks to that, then - phew! - well & good.
However, he will have some really serious opposition, who are real shits to shift if they really don't like it ... (whatever "it" is)
The "Civil Service".
Errr ....

361:

I've long heard the fine for not voting if you aren't one of the (not too difficult to get) exclusion groups is $50.

It's not because Australians think any better of their pollies - far from it. Nor that they are more politically engaged.

We surely do not think well of our pollies in general or most of the big 2 party front bench in particular.

And as for Cameron not being that smart - well he's just managed to pull an absolute majority out of a situation where everyone thought he was going to be replace by Labour. Give him the benefit of the doubt and assume it was more than just blind luck...

I'm clearly not British, nor am I especially up to date with their national politics other than what I've read here/heard form assorted ex-pat friends.

That said: Given our current PM, I would have thought that a politically aware Aussie would have noticed that it is entirely possible for the media to put even the worst person in power if they are willing to spend enough time and money on sledging the other side. It took Rupert Murdoch* two elections/6 years to buy an Aussie election, but he managed to install a PM so blatantly and repeatedly, publicly stupid(/lying) that it's a wonder he can breathe and walk at the same time, let alone run a country.

As OGH noted in post #344, something similar happened to Labour and Miliband with this UK election, though it seems that Miliband was helping them out somewhat/being an easy target.

Fortunately, it looks like TAbbott et al are sufficiently incompetent that even Rupert's support won't save them next time. Assuming he still wants them by that point.

(*) See also Gina Rinehart, Twiggy Forrest etc.

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