Posts Tagged ‘democracy’

Standing for election

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015 | Religion & Politics

I wanted to document some of the challenges I had had registering myself as a candidate. It’s not impossible, but if you haven’t done it before, there are definitely some things you need to be aware of.

You do not have much time between the election starting and getting your forms in. Leeds City Council opened submissions on 1 April and closed them on the 9th. However, this was over the Easter weekend, so you actually only had 5 working days to submit them.

I downloaded the forms from their website and then went to the town hall to hand them in. The man on the front desk said I could give them to him and he would pass them on. However, the next day the elections office phoned me back saying that I had filled out the wrong forms and I had to submit them in person.

This was on the 2nd, and on the 3rd they closed for Easter, so I had to go down on the 7th and get the forms back and make an appointment for the 8th to submit them. This left me only the evening on the 8th to get them all filled out.

This is all doable, though it is very difficult if you have a job. They are only open 10am to 4pm and because they are busy during elections, you have to go down and speak to them if you want a response. When I tried to phone them back on the number they had called me on I got an automated message saying that the number was Leeds City Council, but you had to phone the “published number” and then hung up on me. The problem is they do not publish any numbers. I had to go onto their live chat to get their number, and then the number said it was going to be over 20 minutes before they answered it.

Again, none of this is impossible. However, it is difficult if you have a job. I am quite lucky that I work in Leeds and my current client is fairly flexible. However, there is clearly a lot more that could be done to make the democratic process open to ordinary working class people.


A Very British Election

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014 | Religion & Politics

“Hello, welcome to the polling station. Are you voting fraudulently?” “No” “Okay, wonderful. Go right ahead then”.

Sounds ridiculous of course. However, in the UK, that is pretty much what we do. Without bothering to ask the question explicitly. In some parts of the country they were apparently turning EU citizens away saying they had not completed a UC1 form whatever that is.

That certainly was not the case in Leeds. The two non-British EU citizens I spoke to said they had the same experience. No one asked to see their polling card. No one asked to see their ID. They didn’t even need to know their own name.

When Elina went down to the polling station she was armed with her polling card and password. However, she didn’t need either. They just asked for her address. She could have given any. After she did that, they read out her name and asked if that was her. She said it was, and was given a ballot paper.

I’ve never tried electoral fraud, so I am not an expert in it. However, I can see a few ways in which this system would be undermined. For example, I could have given my neighbours address. Very easy when you live in sequentially numbered flats. Even if they had then asked me to confirm my name, I could have just read it upside down while they were looking for the address and given it back to them. And all of that is only based on a scenario where I don’t know the name of my neighbour.

Luckily, because everyone in Britain is totally honest, this isn’t a problem.

Can you vote to end democracy?

Thursday, April 18th, 2013 | Religion & Politics, Thoughts

Being the Imperial Western states that we are, we have a habit of going into countries, taking out the dictators (mostly the ones that we originally installed and have been propping up for the past few decades) and forcing democracy on the people.

It has been suggested that this has unfortunately come back to bite us on the ass a few times. Particularly when it comes to Islamic states. After all, what happens if you give democracy to a people and they democratically decide that they want to be enslaved and live under a dictatorship? This might sound like a philosophical thought experiment, but is actually the reality we face – with huge amounts of people brainwashed by the evils of religion, mainly Islam in this case, there is a every chance people might opt for this.

Should we allow it? If we’re ever going to remove democracy from the world and appoint me as the benevolent dictator, we’re going to have to eventually. But on a more serious note, it doesn’t seem right to allow such a thing to happen. Yet, it would seem undemocratic to stop it, if that is what the electorate have chosen.

However, there are possibly some arguments to support an intervention against it.

Firstly, you might be able to argue that it doesn’t make sense logically. It’s the same basic defence to “can god make a rock so big he can’t pick it up” argument – you can’t vote to end democracy because then you wouldn’t have a democracy. Of course you could say well you had one at the time but now it’s gone, but then you could also argue that you never really lived in a democracy if it was contingent on you acting a certain way.

You could argue in a democracy everyone eligible has to be able to have their say. You can argue that if everyone voted for it, then it is the wish of everyone, so it’s fine, but of course not everyone would, but more importantly, the younger generations that were ineligible to vote but would be eligible in the future, should not have that choice taken away from them.

You could also argue that anyone who would vote such a way would be either under duress of mental incapacitation, and therefore ineligible to vote – a state religion that is enforced as strictly as it is in Islamic states would seem to fit both those boxes.

There are some badly put forward points – now I’m hoping my philosopher friends will put forward some coherent and well thought out arguments, as I would be interested to read them.

Cameron’s speech

Friday, October 12th, 2012 | Religion & Politics, Thoughts

David Cameron recently addressed the Conservatives at their party conference, which has never been his strong point, but he make some points that really hit the zeitgeist.

The two phrases I think are notable are that he wanted to “get behind people who want to get on in life” and that he did not have a “hard luck story” but said that “I am not here to defend privilege, I’m here to spread it”.

This has been a topic of much debate in recent times, given the rise of the victim mentality that plagues increasingly more people as they define themselves by the disadvantages that we demand should automatically entitle their opinion to credence.

This is a strange concept – the idea that you can solve privilege by granting yourself the privilege to hold opinion while refusing to grant others such a privilege, but it never the less one that has been widely adopted and as a result, caused a strong backlash.

It also potentially opens up an avenue for the Tories to try and position themselves as the new workers party. With Labour being a sad joke and the Lib Dems being the sniveling sell-outs that we currently are, I don’t think we should rule out the possibility that people will be sold on this message (I also grow tired of fellow Lib Dems constantly tweeting about what the Tories are doing – it’s our fault their in government!).

Cameron knows his audience, and it isn’t us, so he isn’t trying to appeal to us. He knows who he can win votes from and he is going after them aggressively. So maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t a particularly bad speech after all.

Democracy in action

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009 | Religion & Politics

I’ve seen a lot of posts, comments, tweets etc, about the results from Sunday night.

I’m sure you’re aware of what has happened but in case some of you aren’t, the results for the European parliament were announced with Labour getting trashed and losing Wales for the first time since 1918 and more importantly the British National Party won two seats.

UKIP managed to come second, beating Labour and nobody really seems to be concerned about this. I can’t imagine why, UKIP are a ridicious one policy party and that is putting it nicely. Why we would want these people in power I cannot imagine. UKIP leader Nigel Farage also worries me, I didn’t think it was possible for anyone to be more smug than Mr. O’Shea but apparently it is possible 😉 .

The real backlash though has been against the BNP getting elected – in no less than two regions.

Personally I am sick and tired of people saying “oh this is awful, we shouldn’t have a system which allows people like that to get elected.” Of course you expect these stupid comments from Islamic extremists but they are coming from people I considered smart, educated people.

Of course the BNP should be allowed to run, we live in a free expression democracy and if we’re going to tolerate the Muslims we are going to tolerate the fascists, that’s just being fair. It isn’t a problem because if you’re saying really wacky far out there things nobody is going to vote for you.

What people are actually worried about therefore is that people are actually voting for the BNP and in large numbers – almost a million people voted for them in the recent elections. A million people!

No wonder given that nobody is even really discussing the issue. Everyone says “oh, how terrible, it’s the BNP” but most people don’t even know what the BNP policies are. Most people think they know BNP policy on immigration (you probably don’t though, it’s a bit different to what you think) but do you know their policy on the environment for example?

Probably not because it never comes up for discussion. The BNP are banned from campus at Leeds and if anyone else was watching the unbiased BBC coverage on Sunday night you will note that despite speaking to most of the party heads they never spoke to Nick Griffin or anyone from the BNP. How are we supposed to make informed choices if we can’t even discuss these issues?

The discussions that are going on are about how people could vote for the BNP. A protest vote? They just really hate Labour? What nobody seems to have suggested is that people actually like the BNP policies.

Maybe some people want safer streets. A stronger NHS. Less bureaucracy in the civil service. A cleaner environment. Maybe people like the fact the BNP are campaigning on local issues that actually mean something to people. Maybe people want a party that isn’t using our money to pay for duck islands or moat cleaning.

So rather than going off on one about how awful it is that the BNP got in and criticising everyone else for being such a weak opposition, I would like to congratulate the BNP on a hard earned success. If you don’t like it, go out and campaign for someone else.

I voted Labour, by the way.

Democracy in action

Friday, November 7th, 2008 | Religion & Politics

Last night was the union council meeting to look at what motions should make it to the referendum or not. Myself, Norm, Nicola, Moz and Gijsbert turned up to support motion 4 and while it’s probably a good job we did, it didn’t do us much good.

I have written a more in depth article for Leeds Student (and anyone else who wants to run it) which we’ll be sending in along with all our other articles in the hope some of it will make it to the next issue, but I will briefly summarise things here.

First of all, amendment 4 passed which removed “this union resolves” part 1, which was to stop stocking Halal and Kosher meat. From a motion to remove Halal and Kosher meat from the union. There is no way that is constitutional! The union council rules state they cannot pass amendments that “significantly alter the nature of the motion.” How could you ever, ever come up with a less appropriate amendment? How could you change it’s nature any more than that?

The amount of open descrimination against the atheist community was also quite clear. It didn’t seem to matter how many times union council members had gone on and on about how this is about whether motions should go forward to referendum, not about the politics of each issue, union council members repeatedly voiced their own opinions and yet hardly any of them mentioned the core issue here – animal welfare.

Finally it would seem important in what is aiming to be a democractic process that union council members are free to vote how they wish. It is interesting then that when Barry abstained from voting on the motion (not even voted for it but simply abstained) he was ridiculed by the chair and asked to give reasons for his decisions.

All of this amounts to showing the clear descrimination that goes on, on campus against the atheist community.