Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Make me a cake or I'll call the Police

Before I start, for the avoidance of doubt, let's get three things clear:

1. I'm not a Christian, and I find some elements of Christianity to be not only irrational but also immoral.

2. I'm not gay.

3. I fully support two people of the same sex being able to get married, just like two of the opposite sex, and I find fear or hatred of people because they are homosexual/lesbian/bisexual to be both irrational and immoral.

So from a libertarian perspective, the Asher's Bakery case in Northern Ireland is an interesting one.

The long and the short of it is that a gay rights activist in Northern Ireland asked a bakery to bake a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan on it, and the bakery objected because the owners oppose gay marriage, because of their religious beliefs.

The court has ruled that refusing to bake the cake is illegal "discrimination".  What this ruling represents is a fundamental infringement on two rights:

1. Freedom of trade;
2. Freedom of speech.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Losers in the UK election

Well before I pontificate about the reasons to fear the new Conservative Government (and David Cameron has already given us one having said:
 "For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone".

Yep, just contemplate that one, alongside:

It's often meant we have stood neutral between different values. And that's helped foster a narrative of extremism and grievance...Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Democracy. The rule of law. Equal rights regardless of race, gender or sexuality. "We must say to our citizens: this is what defines us as a society. To belong here is to believe in these things"

However, isn't rule of law about the point that if you obey the law, the state WILL leave you alone?

More on that later, but what of the losers of the election?

Labour: 256 seats in 2010 to 232 in 2015.  When you remove the 40 lost in Scotland, Labour gained 16 seats in England and Wales, mostly from Liberal Democrats. To hell with them.  An atrocious result, losing seats in England and Scotland, with gains really only seen in London (albeit fewer than hoped).  Labour did not win the bulk of the Liberal Democrat voters it sought, it lost some voters to UKIP and a lot to the SNP in Scotland.  It was too leftwing for England, and although some say it wasn't leftwing enough for Scotland, what it actually lost on, was not being nationalist enough.  Nationalism taps into deeply held prejudices and fears, and the SNP milked that in a way Labour couldn't.  Labour now faces inexplicably trying to move away from class war in England, but tackling fears of globalisation and immigration in the north, whilst outflanking the SNP in Scotland.  If it can't take on the SNP successfully, then every single general election will see the Tories saying "Labour = SNP" as it is difficult to see Labour getting a majority without it, especially after the long delayed boundary changes that will remove the demographic bias that has emerged in Labour's favour.  Add the infighting over leadership in the coming months, and it's easy to see Labour looking rather forlorn.  Rising from 29% to 30.4% in the popular vote is not a reason to celebrate.

Liberal Democrats:  56 seats in 2010, 8 in 2015, the worst result since the Liberal Party merged with the SDP, and before that since 1970.  In popular vote it is a cull from 23% to 7.9%. The contradictions of a party that was once of the centre, that swung left, then propped up the Conservatives in government have come to swallow it up.  Those who swung left went to Labour.  The environmentalist misanthrope vote, went Green.  The residue of genuine small government liberals, went various places (or stayed home), and the Liberal Democrats who won, did so because the alternatives were thought of as much worse.  Good. There should be space in British politics for a party that is both socially liberal and economically liberal, and defends civil liberties. However, none of the main three parties are socially liberal when it comes to confronting Islamism, the Conservatives are mildly economically liberal, and the Liberal Democrats mildly defend civil liberties.  Either the Liberal Democrats drop the "Democrats" become the Liberal Party of old, shed the Green anti-scientific anti-reason authoritarianism and the corporatist/welfarist instincts, or it's time to bury the party.   However, there is little reason to think that the rump of the Liberal Democrats has the instincts to move that way, rather it seems like, once again, being the non-union party of the left.   Meanwhile, Nick Clegg is political history and likely doomed to limp on as the MP for Sheffield Hallam, for the fear that if he resigned causing a by-election, the Liberal Democrats would likely lose, culling the total from 8 to 7 seats.  Expect not a lot out of Liberal Democrats for a while.  

UKIP: 2 seats entering the election, 1 after. The "People's Army" voted and came second in over 100 seats, the majority of which are Conservative held ones.  With one MP, it was not a triumph as it would appear that in the three other most likely winnable seats, voters rallied behind the Conservative candidate to defeat the UKIP one. That polarisation, largely driven by the rhetoric around immigration, means it is difficult to see how UKIP can break through when Labour supporters would rather back a Conservative over UKIP. Clearly, campaigning from the Conservatives, supported by Conservative backing newspapers, saw UKIP sympathising voters switching Conservative to stop Ed Miliband.  Such is how First Past the Post works.  As an aside, Nigel Farage resigned as leader because he didn't win South Thanet, he apparently is now leader again from acclamation by the party Executive.  It clearly believe he is the party's greatest asset.  He may well be, but he is also its greatest polariser.  The single MP, Douglas Carswell, may find his own, admirable, libertarian credentials stretched to breaking point, as he battles the egos behind the scenes buoyed up by UKIP coming third in the popular vote with 12.6%.

SNP:  From 6 seats in 2010 to 56 today, only one MP lasts from Labour, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to stop the SNP from making Scotland a one-party state.  Its nationalist socialist agenda wont go far though, as it has little power in the absence of backing up a Labour government, although it will be consulted on further devolution (which it has a strong interest in).  Expect the SNP to use its seats as a platform to moan about the "hated Tories" not representing the will of the Scottish people, even though again First Past the Post delivered so many MPs (56 out of 59) due to plurality, given 50% of the popular vote in Scotland was not for the SNP.   The SNP will see the next five years as feeding its campaign for another referendum, which it dishonestly says is "up to the Scottish people", code for "if they vote for us in the Scottish elections, we will say they have chosen one".   My expectation is that within these 56 MPs are some right lunatics or rent-seekers, who will prove themselves to be embarrassing and thus temper the overall support.  Bear in mind, with the third largest group of MPs in the House of Commons, they appear formidable, yet only gained 4.7% of the popular vote (up from 1.7% in 2010), reflecting its decision, of course, to only stand candidates in Scotland (where it got 50% of the popular vote).

Greens: 1 MP in 2010 and 1 MP now, the Green surge was seen in membership (over 50,000), and its vote went up from 1% to 3.8% of the popular vote.  The true anti-capitalist, misanthropic lunatic left continue to have a voice, although the Green leader, Natalie Bennett came a distant third in the seat she contested (Holborn & St Pancras) and the sole MP, Caroline Lucas increased her majority.  Of course, this doesn't stop the misanthropic enviro-left from polluting the policies of Labour or the Conservatives.  Both supported a law that binds the government to emissions targets (who is going to enforce this?).  Both embrace raising the cost of energy to meet such goals.  

Of the others, the Welsh nationalists Plaid Cymru won the same number of seats as it did in 2010, despite record television coverage for its leader, Leanne Wood (who touted the same lunatic nationalist socialism as the SNP, with a bit less hysterical passion).  The same proportion of vote was obtained.  In Northern Ireland, unionists/protestants gained a seat at the expense of the Marxist nationalist/catholic Sinn Fein, and the secularist/liberal Alliance.  However, Northern Irish MPs will still have little influence at Westminster.   George Galloway's RESPECT Marxist/Islamist party finally got defeated as he was unseated by a large margin.  Whilst the once feared white supremacist BNP collapsed as it went from around 564,000 votes in 2010 (5th largest popular vote) to less than 1,700 votes, Monster Raving Loony Party gained more than twice that.  One guess where the BNP vote largely ended up.

So the UK voted against socialism, but it hardly voted for much less government.  Labour fondly told the public that "extreme Tory cuts" would see state spending shrink to around 35% of GDP, as if people should fear that.  Hopefully this will come to pass as a bare minimum, but it's not that which I fear from the Conservatives.

It's the approach to  national security, law and order and free speech - which, by the way, would have been worse under Labour...

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

It wasn't a jump to the left

Hell yeah. 

What a relief.  All but one of the opinion polls indicated a dead heat between the two main parties. The bookies saw a Labour minority government (propped up by the SNP and Liberal Democrats) as most likely.  The broadcasters were convinced that the odds of the Conservatives forming a government, a minority government, with the Liberal Democrats and maybe UKIP and the DUP, were not good.

Meanwhile, the hated Lynton Crosby had kept David Cameron on one message, and Cameron kept saying that the Tories only needed to win 23 more seats to govern alone.   Yet, with all of Labour's rhetoric about how awful the economic recovery had been for so many, and calling itself the "party of the many not the privileged few", it seemed inconceivable that with the sinking lid of spending cuts, that the government wouldn't lose seats.   325 seats is a majority, and it was thought that if the Conservatives got 290 seats it would be a good night for them.

Then it came at 10.02pm on Thursday night.  Exit polls predicted not only that the Conservatives would be the largest party, but would be two seats short of a majority.  So it was to be that this was too "conservative", and an overall majority would be won with 331 seats.  Why?

1. Ed Miliband, even those his net negative poll ratings improved in recent weeks, never remotely came close to David Cameron as preferred Prime Minister.   Cameron may be a professional spin doctor, he may have no strong philosophy, he may be (as Labour didn't tire of pointing out) a posh boy who went to Eton and belonged to the Bullingdon Club, but then Miliband was not so different. With the exception of a short guest lectureship at Harvard, his entire career had been to work for the Labour Party or be an MP.  He is a millionaire, who inherited an expensive home in one of the most upmarket parts of London (Primrose Hill), and was a Marxist academic.   Any accusations of Cameron not being "in touch" were easily redirected onto Miliband.

2. The economy, stupid:  With a drop in unemployment of 2 million, inflation at around zero, average wages growing above inflation, and the economy having grown faster than any economy in Europe in the past five years, the story the Conservatives could sell was positive.  By contrast, Labour had remained far behind in credibility on the economy.  Yes, the crash was a banking crash, but when Ed Miliband said that Labour hadn't spent too much when it was last in government, on BBC Question Time, the audience laughed at and ridiculed him.   If Labour couldn't show contrition for wasting money before, how could it be trusted now?  By contrast, the Conservatives had cut spending, albeit modestly, and the economy grew, rather than flatlined (as Labour said it would).  The state had shrunk from 45% of GDP to 40%, and Conservative plans to cut further, which Labour scaremongered over, didn't scare many voters.  

3. Classwar? No thanks:  Labour went on about a recovery that worked only for the wealthy, but for the 2 million who got jobs that wouldn't ring true.  Labour's rhetoric was constantly a refrain that was against wealth-producers, that rarely talked positively about business, that claimed the Tories were supporting the "privileged" few, unlike Labour, didn't wash.  After all, if the Tories were only for the rich, how could they attract support of at least a third of voters.

4. SNP: Polling for months had increasingly indicated Labour was going to lose a lot of its seats in Scotland, as a result a key plank of the Tory campaign was "vote Labour get SNP" given it was difficult to envisage Labour winning enough seats elsewhere in the UK to make up for the Scottish losses AND gain a majority.  As the SNP's policies were so clearly Scottish focused, and to the left of even leftwing Labour.  Even though Ed Miliband said "no deals" with the SNP, and at one point said he'd prefer a Tory government to doing a deal with it (which didn't help him in Scotland), nobody believed him that if the numbers stacked up, he'd do it and English voters saw a vision of a government beholden to handing Scotland more money, or another independence referendum.  The pro-Tory press (Sun, Mail, Telegraph and Times) all supported this.  Of course, with Labour losing all but one of its seats in Scotland to the SNP (and the Conservatives keeping their sole MP), it helped, but Labour + SNP is still only 288 seats.

5. End of the Liberal Democrats:  While the Liberal Democrats lost a significant number of its voters to Labour and the Greens (Labour had counted on winning the majority of them), the Conservatives hoovered up a fair share of the Liberal Democrat seats as well, including all of those in the southwest. Whilst the Liberal Democrats argued they would give the Tories a heart and Labour a brain, voters who leaned one way or the other simply decided to vote for one of the main parties.  Whilst Labour did gain from this, it lost due to...

6.  UKIP took from Labour.  The conventional view of Labour (and the Conservatives) was that UKIP would largely hurt the Conservatives, being, by and large, a mix of old fashioned Conservative resistance to the EU and immigration, and a scepticism of nanny state type solutions.  However, in the final weeks, the Conservatives successfully campaigned in their heartland to convince many UKIP voters to vote Conservative to keep Labour out.  This is what cost UKIP Rochester and Strood (which it had won in a by election), and stopped Nigel Farage winning South Thanet. This didn't work on UKIP supporters who had come from Labour in the north, who saw a party that talked to them in the way the Conservatives never could.  Labour lost seats due to UKIP, because its class war "metropolitan elite" rhetoric and narrative seemed fake, unlike the gaffe prone but straightforward talk of UKIP.

7. The polls worked for the Tories:  With almost all polls showing a very close race, there was genuine fear of a Labour government (not really a genuine fear of a Tory government) causing economic disruption.  Turnout was higher this time than in 2010.

8.  The shy-right:  One theory is that a reason polling looked low for the Conservatives compared to the actual result, was that many who hold "right wing" views keep them to themselves.  They are not activists, and those who are leftwing activists make it very clear how much they hate those who may support the Conservatives or UKIP, and are willing to vandalise, occupy or otherwise do violence or threaten those who disagree with them.  People are more hesitant to publicly support the right, than support the left, understating the views of the right.

So, a sigh of relief?  Yes.  Joy? Not really, except for the schadenfreude of the demise of multiple politicians, which is ALWAYS a joy.

To see Ed Miliband discover his party is more of the few than the many.  To see Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer (and former right hand man of Gordon Brown when in government), Ed Balls removed from office, after his predictions of a flatlining economy, and that the Conservatives cut "too far and too fast", was glorious.  To see the odious felcher of dictatorships, George Galloway, ousted by a large margin, was delicious, as was removal of the anti-Jewish Liberal Democrat David Ward in the neighbouring seat in Bradford East.  To see oodles of green religion worshipping Liberal Democrats disappear, especially the arch-interventionist "Business Secretary" Vince Cable and subsidised renewables fanatic, Ed Davey, was wonderful.

Of course there is the claim that the Conservatives didn't win because the proportion of the vote won was far short of 50%.  This is true, but then had the UK had a form of proportional representation (noting voters rejected 3-2 a shift to a moderately more proportional system in 2011, by referendum) much would have been different.  Parties would have campaigned everywhere, not just the marginals. The SNP would have become much less relevant a factor.  More voters might have gone for smaller parties, and who knows how many voters it would wake up in "safe seats" who finally thought their votes would matter.  Regardless, adding the Conservative and UKIP vote would reach around 50% of seats, and adding a few Ulster unionists of both stripes would create a majority.   The left can't claim a majority.

In NZ the great fear of the "right" (I use the word liberally) was that MMP would mean permanent leftwing government.  In fact it has, but not by leftwing parties, rather the National Party moving towards the statist centre to occupy the majority ground.

So yes, there is a Conservative majority, it was won by a mix of sheer economic results, and fear of the left spending too much, interfering too much and wanting to take from some to give to others. There is reason to have some hope for the UK, but what of the parties that lost?

Friday, May 08, 2015

UK General Election 2015

Well I did what one has to do in the UK, I stayed up till 10pm for the exit polls and have just woken up four hours later, because by now there are few results, just maintenance of the exit polls that predict a result the polls did not - a poor result for Labour, a massive wipeout for the Liberal Democrats, a huge gain for the Scottish National Party and the Conservatives coming much closer to an overall majority.

However....

that may yet change.

To follow my thoughts, I'll be live blogging on my largely quiescent UK blog http://libertyscottuk.blogspot.com and on Twitter @libertyscottuk for the rest of the night

All I can say for now, is that it is looking like the UK, once again, shows it wont elect a solidly leftwing Labour government.


Thursday, May 07, 2015

Socialism for the UK: Ed Miliband will do it for his dad

Yes, Ed Miliband is trying to lead an elected socialist revolution in the UK because he didn't think his elder brother was being true to their communist dad, Ralph Miliband.  So said BBC Newsnight last night.

Their communist dad who had supported the USSR, who turned a blind eye to the executions, the slavery, the lies, the cold dark grey oppression of the Soviet system, who Ed adored.

Ralph Miliband died in 1994 when Ed was only in his mid 20s, an event which deeply affected him. He read his dad's books, looked up to him, admired and adored him, and missed him.  I understand that: the pain, the loss, the emptiness.  Ed Miliband's mission is not so much about a sober assessment of what objectively will work for the UK, but an emotional grab at ensuring his father's legacy lives on.  Ed is no communist, but he carried and directly expresses the principles and philosophy of his father.  As the younger brother of the more successful (academically and politically) David, he saw in David's more centrist Blairite approach to both economics and foreign policy, as a sell-out, a betrayal of the socialism and anti-Western anti-imperialism his father so forthrightly promoted.

Ed Miliband is seeking to be Prime Minister so he can get over grieving his father.

He's attacking capitalism in the form of banks, energy companies and the private media companies that don't support him, for his dad.  He's supporting socialism in the form of trade unions, the world's largest civilian bureaucracy (NHS), state sector schools, with a tinge of his own green evangelism, for his dad.  He's increasing taxes, for his dad, and he opposed using force to stop the socialist Ba'athist totalitarian dictatorship of Assad barrel bombing and using chemical weapons against civilians, for his dad.

Ed is trying to live up to his dad's distress that the post-war Labour Party wasn't radical enough.  You know, the one that nationalised railways, coal mines, airlines, broadcasting, healthcare, steelmaking, and bus services.  Unfortunately, it allied itself with the United States and NATO in opposing Stalin's rolling of the iron curtain over Europe.  

So today, millions of Britons will vote for a party that has (well through its union affiliates) decided Ed Miliband is its candidate for Prime Minister.

He isn't approaching politics with a consistent philosophy gained through critical thinking and debate, but through familial admiration and adoration of his father.

He isn't approaching politics with a pragmatism considering competing evidence and analysis from multiple sources, but with ideology blinkers that "must be right" because his beloved father told him so.

Of course we know Ed is not seeking to implement communism, but what he is promoting is class war, containing and controlling the free market, and with the philosophy of his father, he's more than willing to introduce new taxes and laws to fix perceived problems (obesity, offended Muslims, newspapers that disagree with him).

Should the government of the UK be left in the hands of a man who's mission is, in essence, to prove to his deceased father that he is a better, more loyal son than his elder brother?