Who to vote for…

Far be it from me to say who everyone should vote for in the election tomorrow – but at least Kent Online have posted short interviews with the candidates so you can see what the options are.

For the interviews please click here.

In terms of tactical voting, the Guardian tactical voting guide and Gina Miller’s Best for Britain suggests those disaffected with the Tories should vote Labour. But In facts, the site designed to stop a destructive Brexit, suggests Liberal or Green.

So that doesn’t leave the progressive parties much further forward. But all sites say that Damian Green will win convincingly anyway so not much reason to fret.

At the beginning of the campaign I suggested that Damian Green would be returned with a reduced majority. I’m sticking by that. Green with a majority of about 10,000.

Posted in Governance, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Coming Second is Fine

Why does Jeremy Corbyn look so relaxed?

His supporters may be knocking on doors, kissing babies, saying hello to people to whom they wouldn’t usually give a second glance, but Jeremy Corbyn at times looks like he’s just been on holiday. At other times like he’s just woken from an afternoon nap. Why, he’s so relaxed that he even forgot those figures on Woman’s Hour.

Could it be that, for this election at least, he sees second best as absolutely fine?

The Brexit negotiations start ten days after polling day. Corbyn must know that he and his party would be totally under-prepared for such a challenge. And what would they have to gain? The difficulty of weighing up the pros and cons of an incredibly complex deal, selling this deal to a sceptical British population, the fury of the Tory press that the deal is inadequate (because it has been worked out by Labour politicians)? All the while perhaps inwardly resentful that this split with Europe was something that was initiated by the party opposite?

Contrast this mayhem with the a relative calm of watching Theresa May as she embarks on the most significant negotiation of her lifetime – barking from the sidelines as she weighs up bad deal or no deal. Every single policy area will have to be redefined in the wake of Brexit. The scope for mistakes and u-turns is monumental.

And to what end? Whatever the actual deal, Theresa May will claim that she has achieved a “good deal”. But what will this mean? It might be OK in some policy areas but in others it will look decidedly ropey. Most commentators agree that Brexit in any form is unlikely to translate into immediate prosperity for the poor working class in the UK – or for the rest of us for that matter. So there will be plenty of meat for an opposition to feed off.

Corbyn didn’t make this election about Brexit, preferring to focus on education and the health service – issues which in the long term will matter more to the ‘ordinary voter’. None of us therefore have much idea how the Labour Party would negotiate. They have neither talked much about the process nor what they would prioritise in the negotiations. And they haven’t needed to – because Theresa May herself has been so guarded, saying little more than no deal is better than a bad deal. This is playing into Corbyn’s hands. It is only after the election when the Tories will have to say what they’re doing that Corbyn will get his teeth out.

So long term, I’d say that things are looking fairly buoyant for the Labour Party. Debate at this election has swung significantly to the left. And Corbyn looks like he’ll avoid negotiating Brexit – the most significant poisoned chalice in my lifetime.

No wonder he looks so relaxed.

Posted in Governance | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Meritocracy versus social cohesion

My three children are currently studying feverishly for AS and A levels at local grammar schools. They are all predicted to do well. But, like Michael Rosen, I still cannot understand the government’s policy on grammar schools.

Writing in the Guardian, Rosen explains how he himself went to grammar schools (two) but cannot support the policy because there is no evidence that it actually does improve the prospects of children from hard working families, and because testing at age 11 is traumatic and inadequate in judging a child’s potential. Children develop at different times. Some might be great at Maths but poor at English and this is not allowed for in the test.

Most educational experts agree with him. Yet still Theresa May and her education secretary Justine Greening plough on regardless, calling for a Great Meritocracy and possibly even a quota system in favour of poorer children in the new grammars.

Yet how does this square with another Theresa May policy: on social cohesion. As Home Secretary in 2015 she addressed the Tory Party conference with a speech about how immigration harms social cohesion and her manifesto pledge to reduce migration to the tens of thousands would indicate that she still believes this to be the case.

But how about grammar schools?

In my experience, on leaving primary school here in Kent, children lose touch with their classmates – despite the fact that they live just up the road. Grammar school children (posh, bright) and secondary school children (poorer, not bright) queue at different bus stops in this community, seldom exchanging a word.  The 11-plus promotes a sort of educational apartheid. The twain seldom meet.

What does that do to social cohesion Mrs May?

Posted in Children and Leisure, Education, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Broadband scam

Long silence…

Slightly ropey line. Long distance call. “Hello.. are you there?”

“Hmmmmm…”

“The reason I’m contacting you today is because we’ve been doing some work on broadband in your neighbourhood for BT and we’ve noticed that your line isn’t performing as well as it should.”

“Hmmmmm…”

“We would like to do some work on your line… are you sitting at your computer now?”

“Ah.. thanks very much. I’ll contact BT directly thanks.”

I hung up.

This was a call from an obvious scammer so thought I would share. If in doubt google “broadband scam” and see what you come up with. This is what I found.

It’s been going since 2010. Shows that some people must fall for it.

Posted in Care, Connectivity | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Election Prediction Ashford

  • Since writing this piece I’ve discovered that Brendan Chilton and Debbie Enever aren’t standing in Ashford… for full list of candidates please click here.

Despite the seeming foregone conclusion of the election result in Ashford, it’s nevertheless interesting to take a look at the figures.

As referred to in previous posts, the majority in Ashford was monumental last time round with Damian Green way out in front.

But he might not have things quite his own way this time round.

Partly that will be because of his own slightly confused message on Brexit. His campaign to Remain put him at odds with his constituency which eventually voted 59% to 41% to leave. Like Theresa May he is now back-pedalling fast, eyes fixed on the crumbling UKIP vote, embracing Brexit with slightly unnerving gusto.

But in Brendan Chilton, it appears he has a formidable opponent – not that his Brexit story is any way more straightforward. Chilton announced at a hustings during the last election that it would be ‘ludicrous’ for Ashford to vote to leave the EU, but nevertheless went on to become one of the founder members of Labour Leave, and, it seems from this Spectator article, very much caught the national mood.

The third significant force are the Liberal Democrats who came second in Ashford in 2010 but whose vote disappeared in 2015. I don’t know anything about their candidate Debbie Enever but she has the advantage of her party’s strong and consistent line on the EU – so she, and Green candidate Mandy Rossi, could pick up plenty of disaffected Remainers who might have previously voted for Damian Green.

At the moment I predict Damian Green losing 6-7000 votes to the Lib Dems and the Greens but gaining 3000 from UKIP – let’s say 25000. Brendan Chilton will also make gains from UKIP to put him on about 15000. And the Lib Dem vote will recover but not sufficiently to bother either of the main parties. So Green will be elected with half the majority he had in 2015.

I might revise that prediction as we get closer to polling day.

Posted in Governance | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Voter in Ashford

image

Holes in the system

Hands in the sink as usual.

“Well son, I expect you’re excited about voting for the first time – your chance to tell the government what you think, to have a say in the running of the country?”

Teen2 was standing in the doorway looking at something on his phone, his thumb expertly tip-tapping the screen. He didn’t look up. I couldn’t be sure that he’d heard me.

“You’ve seen your polling card has been delivered – with your name and unique voting number?”

Whatever was on the screen was clearly a matter of some importance. The tip-tapping didn’t stop.

“And the candidates? You’ve noticed a few placards going up in people’s front gardens and in the windows of houses? And it won’t be long before they start canvassing door to door I expect. Less than a month to go!”

My voice rose at the end of the sentence in a slightly alarming manner – due to a particularly greasy pan that I was wrestling with in the sink, coupled with the madness induced by failing to connect to someone who was actually communicating energetically with someone else.

“In Ashford we have Mr Green who’s been our MP since..”

“1997 Dad. I know Dad.” He had looked up, taking me by surprise. “So what’s the point in voting? He has a majority of nearly 20,000?”

Signs of life after all. Teenagers have an alarming habit of sounding like they know it all. They can’t know it all can they? Not at their age. I mean can they??? I chose to stall. “Well.. You never can tell.”

“Oh I think you can Dad. Ashford has been a conservative constituency since 1929. The only other occasion when the election was anywhere near close was in 1906..”

The energy that had been directed through the thumb and the iPhone was now it seemed directed at me. Teen2 was tip-tapping at my brain. Stall. Stall. Stall. He cannot know all the answers. I gave the colander in the sink a bit of a loving flourish. “Well… You could perhaps give some encouragement to the other candidates, help one of them get back their deposit?

“What’s the point in that?”

image

Closer examination of holes

My eyes gazed down into the dirty washing up water. Somewhere in there I thought I could see a smiling Damian Green and people with blue rosettes clapping and cheering. At the bottom of the bowl, as always, there was a single teaspoon. I grabbed it. “Well… It sends out a message that you agree with those particular policies so that your chosen party will realise they have support and that they will keep plugging away…”

“Keep plugging away? What’s the use of that?”

Teen2 returned to his screen and was again tip tapping away. In his world. All resistance was indeed quite probably futile.

Time to run the taps again…

  • This is a work of fiction written to highlight the plight of those voting for the first time in constituencies where there isn’t really a contest. The character Teen2 is purely imaginary and any resemblance to people living or dead is merely accidental.
Posted in Children and Leisure, Education, Governance | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Manipulation old and new

Screen Shot 2017-05-08 at 18.00.38There doesn’t appear to have been much interest locally in last week’s county council election.

The only candidate who put a leaflet through my door was the conservative candidate Clair Bell.  She too was the only candidate to have any presence online. The others – from the Lib Dems, Labour, Ukip and the Greens – were very much paper candidates. Their behaviour suggests that they didn’t really believe they had a chance from the outset.

No surprise then that only 35% of us turned out to vote and that Clair Bell was elected with a thumping majority.

But in what sense is democracy being served by this sham? And can we really be surprised that everyone, young and old, is losing interest.

Please can we have an opposition in some form! And let’s make every vote count through proportional representation.

*

In the Guardian at the weekend there was a great article about the new manipulators – computer companies who mine data to target small groups of voters that have the ability to swing elections.

While it’s unlikely that they turned their attention to Ashford Rural East in last week’s County Council election… It’s thought that such companies have been influential both in the EU referendum and Trump’s election to the White House.

Perhaps this is another argument for proportional representation – because small groups of voters wouldn’t be so influential in any result.

Every vote would indeed count. So candidates might exist more than just on paper. Computer companies would be less powerful. And we the electorate might even go out and vote.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment