Posts Tagged ‘election’

West Yorkshire Humanists 2017 AGM

Monday, June 26th, 2017 | Humanism

Earlier this month saw the 2017 AGM of West Yorkshire Humanists. It was a changing of the guard as Moz, our chair for almost the past decade, stepped down to let the younger dynamic young go-getters take over.

Laurence and Chris H were elected as joint chairs.

We then followed this with a group discussion on “should Humanism be political”. It seemed very apt given the same day was the General Election. Finally, we headed over to The George for some drinks.

I feel like an idiot for voting, and you should too

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017 | Religion & Politics

Tomorrow is the general election. Will you be voting? If you answer is anything other than “no”, you’re making bad choices with your life.

I usually vote. But I feel like an idiot for doing so.

Why? Because pretty much every economic model shows that voting is not worthwhile. Think about it: your vote is worth basically nothing. The British electorate is 45,000,000 people. You are just one of them. You don’t make any difference on the outcome.

And, presumably, you put some kind of value on your time.

An example: Leeds Central

I’m based in Leeds Central. It’s Hilary Benn’s Labour safe seat. Last time, we received 24,000 votes. His nearest competitor received 7,000 votes. That is a majority of 17,000. He has a 55% share of the vote.

This never changes. The last time Leeds Central elected anyone other than a Labour candidate was in 1923. 94 years ago. Before I was born. Before my parents were born. Before my grandparents were born.

So, no matter what I do, Hilary Benn will be re-elected as the MP for Leeds Central tomorrow.

Okay, so that established, I now have a choice. It’s polling day and I am sitting in my house. Regardless of whether I cast my vote, Hilary Benn will be re-elected. I can choose to spend 30 minutes going to the polling station. Or I can choose to spend the 30 minutes with my daughter.

What’s the rational choice here?

Voting costs time

Voting is a time-consuming business. You have to go to the polling station and get back. You might have to queue. I have had to queue for 40 minutes in a previous election.

That’s a big time-suck. How much is your time worth?

Probably valuable, right? I could be spending that time with my family or my friends. Or relaxing. Or cooking. Or getting some work done. Or learning something new. There are loads of valuable things you could do with that time.

And if your time is worthless, maybe you need to spend that time sorting your life out.

The rational action is not to vote

If you live in one of the 80% of safe seats, your vote is completely worthless. Nothing is going to change there.

If you live in one of the 20% of marginal seats, you vote is still worth practically nothing. Why? Because elections rarely ever come down to one vote.

We have a general election every 4-5 years, have done for around 200 years and currently have 650 constituencies. That is tens of thousands of constituency elections. Just once. In 1886. Seems unlikely you will be that one vote, then.

But voting is a right, and an honour

Which is the kind of thing we tell young men when we need them to go off and get themselves killed in a pointless war. “It’s an honour to service in the British military, and your duty to defend the Queen. I’d probably get some insurance for those legs of yours, though. And maybe freeze some sperm.”

When people tell me I have to vote, nobody can explain to me what that means. Or why. Why do I have to vote? It literally doesn’t make a difference to the outcome of the election. It doesn’t change anything. It is a waste of my time.

Those are concrete facts. The 30 minutes I lose spending time with Venla is a concrete outcome. “You’ll be participating in the great democratic process” is a nebulous concept with no clear value.

Yes, but if nobody voted…

People say to me “well, if everyone who wanted Bremain had gone out and voted, we would have won”. This is true. But they won’t. You don’t have control over them. You only control yourself and your one single vote.

It’s essentially the tragedy of the commons.

And if everyone thought like me and stopped voting, I would start voting, because my vote would suddenly become incredibly valuable. But until that happens, it isn’t.

If you don’t vote, you can’t complain

Of course you can. Not voting doesn’t somehow disqualify you from having an opinion when your human rights start getting stripped away or the government starts murdering disabled people.

Not voting merely shows that you have some grasp of basic probability. In short, that you’re not an idiot.

If anything, voting should disqualify you from having an opinion because you fail to grasp how the whole system works (or doesn’t work).

But Chris, you said you vote

It’s true. I’m not better than you. I’m saying that we’re all idiots together.

But young people don’t vote

You could argue “that’s fine, I am happy being an idiot, let’s all be idiots together and be proud of it.”

Fine. But young people don’t vote.

Most people say that they are disenfranchised and ill-informed. But is there any evidence for this? A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that young people should be more informed. They have more access to news, access to the internet, higher levels of education than ever before and a higher IQ (which moves up 3 points every decade). They should be the most switched on.

And I think they are. What if, rather than being ill-informed fools, young people are just smarter than us? They realise how pointless voting in a first-past-the-post system is and have realised that their time is too valuable to waste on such an endeavour?

Conclusion

Voting is an irrational act. Your vote will have no impact on the outcome of the election. It does, however, cost you valuable time. The sensible thing to do is not to vote.

That is why young people don’t vote. They’ve realised this ahead of the rest of us. Sure, if they all block voted they could change the election. But they won’t, and they understand that they won’t because they each individually only control one vote, and so they do the thing that makes sense and use their time more productively.

The rest of us have been brainwashed by words like duty or feel that it would somehow be offensive towards the ghost of Emmeline Pankhurst if we choose to spend the time with our family instead.

Maybe I’m wrong. The truth is, I would like to be proven so. I would like to think I am not acting irrationally. But your argument better be well-thought-out and articulate because nobody has been successful yet.

And you say “well, I’m happy to act irrationality”. But that in itself is not a badge to be proud of. We often chastise the electorate for failing to vote in their own self-interest. But what right to do we have to make these claims when we ourselves cannot rationalise our actions? None whatsoever.

Footnotes

Image courtesy of Man vyi via Wikimedia Commons.

Why you hate the idea of voting Lib Dem (but should anyway)

Thursday, April 20th, 2017 | Religion & Politics

Let me give it to you straight. This is why you hate the idea of voting Liberal Democrats, and why you should do it anyway.

Ever spend a bunch of time trashing something, only to realise that you were wrong. But then you can’t change your mind because everyone what point at you and call you a hypocrite. So you persist in a clearly irrational belief, that you don’t even believe yourself, to save face.

That’s what’s going on here.

You’ve spent the last decade shitting all over the Liberal Democrats. They voted for university tuition fees and you were angry. I get it. You have a right to be angry. They broke one promise, just one, but it was a big one. You’re used to the Tories breaking promises because they’re bastards, and Labour breaking promises because they are incompetent. But you thought Nick Clegg’s honest face was different. And it was. Except for that one time.

But now it’s seven years later and we’re two years into a Tory majority. Now we’ve seen what that looks like: your European citizenship is being taken away from you. The human rights act is due to be scrapped. Taxes for small businesses are going up, in favour of breaks for corporations. Grammar schools are back. And Trump is getting a golden carriage for his visit to London.

And you haven’t come up with any fresh and clever vibes. So, like a broken clock, you parrot out the same line about tuition fees. And, behind your back, everyone is talking about what a petty and ill informed idiot you are. Hey, don’t shoot the messenger, I’m just telling you how it is.

In many ways, we’re impressed that you are brazen enough to say it. If I had been backing a party that sold off large chunks of the NHS, introduced divisive faith schools, and invaded Iraq, I would be too full of shame and humiliation to criticise another party when all I could find was one broken election promise.

But surely the opposition are stopping all of this?

Ah yes, the gallant knights of the official opposition. What are they up to? A Helping Ms May out, of course. When Jeremy Corbyn isn’t fending of mass resignations and votes of no confidence from his own MPs, he is busy giving speeches about how Brexit will upgrade Britain’s economy and issuing three-line whips to favour for Brexit.

Meanwhile, Tim Farron continues his singular mission: to shout as loud as he possibly can from the rooftops that he will do everything in his power to stop a hard Brexit. He had a blog post up before Theresa May had even announced the general election.

So now you’re in that shitty situation. Do you eat your words and vote to keep Britain a tolerant and open place where you stand some chance of maintaining your European and human rights or save face by slashing deep into with a large knife until your nose is no longer attached. I joke, but that’s a killer decision. Nobody wants to face that. It’s hard and uncomfortable. But it’s also happening in six weeks.

But the Lib Dems will never win anything!

Other than the 62 seats they used to hold, of course.

But times are a-changing. We never thought Brexit would happen. We never thought Trump would happen. We never thought the Lib Dems could overturn Zac Goldsmith’s majority in Richmond Park. But they did. With a 30.41% vote increase. 30.41%.

But the whole Jeremy Corbyn thing has been highly amusing to many of us anyway. “I like Corbyn, but he’s unelectable”. Watching Labour voters tear themselves apart as they try to choose between what they believe in and what will win votes. Why not just be a Tory if principles are that expendable?

Grow some balls and vote for the people you agree with. How fragile is your ego?

Voting Lib Dems, even in a safe seat for someone else, sends a message. Because this is an election about Brexit. And the Tories are on one side, and the Lib Dems are on the other.

Time to choose a side, Dr Watson

So, what’s it going to be, our kid?

Will it be the red corner? And I do mean red. Locked in the control of a man who never liked Europe and is now doing everything in his power to easy Theresa May’s passage to hard Brexit.

Or, the yellow corner. Lead by a man who voted against tuition fees, and is now the only voice speaking out against hard Brexit?

The choice is yours. Just remember that if you do choose to shit in your bed, you still have to sleep in it.

Five reasons why a Trump presidency is not that bad

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016 | Religion & Politics

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If you were to read my Facebook feed, you would probably thing the apocalypse has genuinely happened. It may be easy to think so from the snow that appeared over night. However, I note that we are now a whole day later and all still alive. The reality is that a Trump presidency is not that bad. Here is why.

This is Brexit times 0.1

Brexit times ten? It might be for Trump? But for us this is nothing. Brexit has probably cost us a lot of money in the collapse of the pound and a weakened economy, and might lose us our European citizenship.

In comparison, this does not directly affect us. It will probably indirectly affect us, but that is no where near as bad as Brexit. The only person who has genuinely almost-died because of Brexit is the UKIP MEP Steven Woolfe.

Brexit is also forever. Trump will be gone in eight years. Probably four. Maybe less.

The president is not that powerful

The president of the United States is heavily constrained in what he can do. Powers are divided between the executive, judicial and legislative branches of government. All the president really does is set the direction.

You could argue that Trump has a bigger influence than normal given that the Republicans control both the House and the Senate as well. But you are forgetting that Republicans hate Trump just as much as anyone else does. He has about as much chance of getting his own people to enact his crazy policies as Jeremy Corbyn does.

Being a alleged rapist was never a blocker

People have said they have been appalled that someone like Trump could be elected given he is accused of sexual misconduct. They are right that this is disappointing, and I wish the world did not work this way.

However, unfortunately, Clinton’s own husband proves that you can be (re)elected president even after claims of sexual misconduct have been made against you. The world has not suddenly got worse; it was always this way.

Not has intelligence ever been a barrier to the White House. Remember this guy. The one who served for two terms.

george-bush-chimp

People have always voted for their own interests

Similarly, people have said they are shocked that someone who says racist and sexist things, like Trump does, could be elected. But people have always voted for their own interests.

When you make people feel guilty about the way they are voting, they do not stop voting that way. It is a secret ballot. The only thing you change is that they lie to pollsters when asked about it.

That is how we end up with Conservative governments, and Nigel Farage, and Brexit. People are selfish and vote on their selfish interests. They are not bad people, that is just what normal people do.

Trump won the election because he ran a better campaign. I saw the adverts they were using while watching an American stream of the NFL. Clinton’s adverts were awful. They were simply a character assassination of Trump.

Trump’s adverts are a million times better. They speak of “our movement” hook into people’s genuine fears about jobs, and a rich elite, and mass immigration, and presents a positive message of how to fix it.

People did not vote for Trump over Clinton because there is something wrong with humanity. They voted for him because he spoke to their interests and Clinton did not.

Trump is already showing signs of reconciliation

Trump’s polices are not that crazy. For example, he talks about banning all of the immigrants and building a wall, but that is actually a plagiarised British policy. Remember how we refused everyone in the Calais Jungle and actually started building a wall?

In fact Trump was a leftie liberal until he decided to run for the Republican party nomination.

But even so, his early speeches have already shown signs of wanting to reconcile differences and work together: it’s all part of making the deal.

The trouble with Corbyn voters

Saturday, October 1st, 2016 | Religion & Politics

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Last month, Jeremy Corbyn won another significant victory in winning the Labour Party leadership election. He increased his share of the vote to 61.8%. This is especially notable because Labour banned any member who had joined in the past 9 months from voting. Therefore, his share of the vote is going to continue to increase for the next nine months as well.

The question still remains as to whether he can win a General Election. Clearly he is electable in almost every other situation. However, Labour trail in the General Election polls by a significant amount. How much of this is due to Corbyn and how much to the attitude of the rest of the Labour party is unclear, but it is difficult to extricate a party leader from responsibility.

Here is the problem though: I think people chose to vote Jeremy Corbyn because they wanted someone who was genuinely different. They were given the choice between electable business-as-usual candidates, and Corbyn, and they chose the latter. This is not unusual. Those of us who vote for the Liberal Democrats, Greens, or any of the minor parties, know the feeling of deciding to stick with your principles rather than compromising them for electoral glory. We would rather stand up for what we believe in than take a distant second best to have our candidate in Number 10.

My guess is that Corbyn has been elected a on a tide of this feeling. Many Corbyn voters believe he can win (his record in elections is now 11 for 11 undefeated), but perhaps many of them simply do not care whether he is electable or not. They are making a stand for working-class people, for the NHS and for traditional Labour values.

If this is the case, then there is no point putting up candidates like Owen Smith to try and win back the voters. They are not interested in whether Owen Smith has a more expensive suit or more-neatly trimmed beard. They are not in the market for a more-mainstream looking candidate. You cannot win them over with talk about election polls, because it is values they are interested in.

Nor will votes of no confidence, nor continued party scheming and in-fighting do any good. All of this is based on the idea that once Corbyn voters see the pragmatic option is a new leader, they will abandon their hero. But this premise could be entirely misleading. Instead, perhaps it is the case that after 20 years of New Labour, the membership has finally found the balls to stick up for traditional Labour values.

If so, campaigning against Corbyn is futile. Setting your own house on fire does not work when everyone else is willing to burn.

Unelectable: A History of Jeremy Corbyn at the Polls

Thursday, August 25th, 2016 | Religion & Politics

jeremy-corbyn

You won’t hear any protests from me when you call Jeremy Corbyn unelectable. What a joke the man is. He can’t afford a nice suit, and didn’t even have the decency to look flustered when asked to publish his tax return. What kind of politician is that?

That said, being skeptics, we like all that evidence and stuff. So I thought I would see if there is any evidence as to whether Jeremy is electable or not.

Year Election Result
1982 Islington North Labour Party candidate selection[1] Jeremy wins with 54% vote share
1983 General election[2] Jeremy wins with 40% vote share
1987 General election Jeremy wins with 50% vote share
1992 General election Jeremy wins with 57% vote share
1997 General election Jeremy wins with 69% vote share
2001 General election Jeremy wins with 62% vote share
2005 General election Jeremy wins with 51% vote share
2010 General election Jeremy wins with 55% vote share
2015 General election Jeremy wins with 60% vote share
2015 Labour Party leadership election[3] Jeremy wins with 60% vote share, in the first round of alternative voting

It probably comes down to personal opinion as to whether you think Jeremy Corbyn is electable or not. After all, it is all in the interpretation of the data. It’s just that, so far, he has won every single election he has ever contested in his entire political career, which started well before I was born.

Loony Party Welsh Assembly elections

Sunday, May 8th, 2016 | Religion & Politics

Loony_Header_5

Well done to all the Loony candidates that stood in the Welsh Assembly elections. The party received 5,743 votes over all, representing 0.6% of the votes. This is a 300% increase compared to 0.2% last time. Extrapolating that trend out…

Election year Percentage of votes
2016 0.6%
2021 1.8%
2026 5.4%
2031 16.2%
2036 48.6%
2041 145.8%

We should have enough for a majority by 2036 (Labour were just short with 35% this time) and by 2041, which is only 25 years away, the party should have captured over 100% of Welsh voters.

2015 Local election results

Monday, May 11th, 2015 | News, Religion & Politics

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We fought a hard campaign and did our best. Well, I say “we”, I mean “I”. And by “fought hard” I mean I answered a couple of questions for South Leeds Life and did not really do anything else.

But I was there, to provide people with a true alternative. In the end Patrick Davey took a comfortable victory for Labour. However, at 104 votes I was close behind him, and the other four candidates in my ward.

I also met Green Party candidate Ed Carlisle at the count. He is a really nice guy and genuinely did fight a hard campaign, so it was a shame to see him finish so far behind Labour. Though at least he did push the Tories down into third! He also actually lives in the ward, unlike Davey, who lives in Bramhope.

The count was pretty funny. One of the tables counting our ward had too old ladies on it constantly joking to each other any time they got a Loony vote “oh look, another one that’s been smoking the wacky backy!” They were quite embarrassed when Ed pointed out I was stood right in front of them, though I found it absolutely hilarious.

I was a little disappointed that I didn’t pick up the booby prize for the least number of votes, but some of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidates got down to single figures. As Trevor pointed out, it’s not a good time to have the word “coalition” in your party name.

Elsewhere in the country Loonies did well. We fielded 16 Parliamentary candidates. Our glorious leader Howling Laud Hope smashed rival candidate Lord Toby Jug (who has formed a splinter party) with 72 votes to 50. We have won at least four local government elections too, as four of our candidates were running unopposed.

I was pretty fired up afterwards, indeed, I’m already planning my 2020 campaign. Next stop, Parliament!

2015 General Election

Sunday, May 10th, 2015 | Religion & Politics, Thoughts

Well, that was unexpected.

Red Ed stood up for working-class people, promising to tax the rich and break big businesses strangle hold on the media. And the people of England said “no thanks”.

I eventually came down on the side of no for the Scottish independence referendum, mostly because without Scotland Labour would be crippled and we would end up with a Tory majority government. What a waste of time that turned out to be.

It’s a shame to see not a single independent won a seat on the British mainland.

On the plus side though, my buffet went quite well. Freshly baked bread, crisps, twice-baked potatoes, Sniff’s favourite meatballs (a Moomin recipe), chicken wings and Devil’s food cake meant that we were able to eat solidly from 10pm to 4am and still have plenty for breakfast.

2015-general-election

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.

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