Monday, May 09, 2011

UK and NZ roundup

So much has happened, and I've been so busy, I thought it would make the most sense to treat the political events in both countries as a series of vignettes:

UK

UK electoral referendum:  A stunning defeat for reform.  Those who supported AV (mostly on the left) will say it is because it didn't go far enough, those who opposed it (some who appallingly said it meant the end of "one man one vote") say the argument is over.   It is, for a while.  Making the House of Lords an elected chamber is still on the agenda, but there will be a few post-graduate politics theses to come from analysing why in the UK, when politicians are widely despised, at a time of economic stagnation, electoral reform is a dead duck, whereas in NZ, under not dissimilar conditions, it became a vent for frustration (ably hijacked by maverick politicians).

When you're in government, you disappoint us:  Liberal Democrat voters have for decades had the comfort of electing MPs and they doing nothing but criticise the government and the opposition.  Now they are in government, and can't dish out the loot its supporters yearn for, the voters have turned their backs in the 2011 local elections.   The local government elections in England, and Assembly elections in Wales and Scotland all saw the Liberal Democrats punished severely - because they are in government.  A third of Liberal Democrat councillors lost their seats and the number of councils controlled by the Liberal Democrats dropped from 19 to 10 (out of 279 councils to be fair).  Bear in mind this isn't ALL councils, and in half of those councils only one-third of seats are up for grabs.   Still it showed how voters connect local politics to central politics rather than concentrate on local issues.  It also showed how many Liberal Democrat voters are really socialists.

Scotland is for the socialist nationalists:  The Scottish Assembly elections saw the Liberal Democrats hammered from third to fourth place dropping from 17 to 5 seats in the Assembly.   The Conservatives also lost 5 seats from 20 to 15, but Labour also dropped from 44 to 37.  The winner was the Scottish National Party which has won an overall majority, the first time any party ever gained an overall majority in the Supplementary Member based Assembly since it was created under the Blair government.   The SNP's raison d'etre is Scottish independence, but that doesn't appear to have driven Scottish voters.  Rather they have rejected the Westminster based parties in favour of something different.  Cynically one can see the SNP as old Labour, as it promises ever increased spending and public sector growth, based on the inflated taxpayer based funding gained from Westminster.  Bear in mind also that SNP leader Alex Salmond once described Iceland and Ireland as models for Scotland to follow.  He doesn't like being reminded of that, or that two big Scottish banks were bailed out by Westminster as well.  Salmond wants a referendum on Scottish independence, but not for a few years - he knows he would lose one held now.    Meanwhile, the West Lothian question remains - the Scottish Assembly has many powers on issues like health and education, but Scottish MPs at Westminster can still vote on those matters for England.    I wouldn't mind if Scotland's silly socialism (which has contributed to a malaise and stagnation that is only too obvious) was self funded.

Wales is not for socialist nationalists:  By complete contrast, the winners in the Welsh Assembly were Labour and the Conservatives, both gaining seats at the expense of the Liberal Democrats and the nationalist Plaid Cymru. The Conservatives are now in second place in Wales.  The Welsh clearly don't have fantasies of being on their own.

A good election for the Conservatives and just good enough for Labour:   The Conservatives, bearing in mind that they lead the government, gained 81 council seats and gained control of 4 more councils.  Staggering given the publicity and the angst raised by public sector unions and the Labour Party about the modest spending cut programme.   Labour did gain 800 council seats and control of 26 more councils, but still the Conservatives have control of 157 councils over Labour's 57, the big change was around a 40% reduction in councils with no party having overall control.  Yet while Labour did ok in Wales, so did the Conservatives, and Labour was hit hard in Scotland.  Labour without Scotland is highly unlikely ever to govern, so Ed Miliband will be at best relieved it isn't worse, but not enough to really celebrate.  David Cameron will be very happy indeed.

Bye bye fascists:  The BNP had an appalling election, losing 11 of its 13 council seats, proving again that it is a party of incompetent malcontents who are limited entirely by their own personal failings in life.  However, it did come fifth in Wales, standing for the first time for the Welsh Assembly. Some votes no doubt went to the nationalist (but distinctly non-racist) English Democrats, which took 2 seats.  George Galloway's vile pro-communist/Islamist Respect Party lost both of its seats.  On the other side the Greens picked up 13 seats to go to 78 overall in England as the fourth biggest party.

NZ

ACT Mk 4: Mk. 1 of ACT was written up in Sir Roger Douglas's book "Unfinished Business".  It promised zero income tax in exchange for compulsory health insurance, pension plans and education accounts for those with children.  It would have meant a vast reform and improvement in outcomes, although not so much for individual freedom.  However, despite vast amounts spent on literature, it couldn't be sold effectively so along came ACT Mk. 2 - Richard Prebble had a book written called "I've Been Thinking" and offered flat tax, and less government.   That got him into Parliament initially as MP for Wellington Central, and gave ACT a reasonable run through till 2005.   Then came Rodney Hide and ACT Mk. 3, as he became MP for Epsom and ACT became even more diluted, although a smattering of social liberalism also appeared.   Now Dr. Don Brash is bailing him out, after a term of poor performance and being far too aligned with National's goals than ACT's one.   I'm wishing Dr. Brash success, as long as he doesn't bring on the populist old-Muldoonist John Banks along for the ride. For ACT to have any purpose it needs philosophical and policy consistency.  The party to abolish the deficit by cutting spending, the party for lower tax without offsetting tax increases, the party to advocate competition in public services and privatisation of government businesses, the party for less regulation and less government, including a belief in individual freedom.  A party that doesn't support any kind of state privilege for individual, members of groups or businesses.   Frankly, otherwise, ACT may as well wind up.

Nationalist socialist:  What more to say about Hone Harawira?  He treats taxpayers like a Mafia don treats protection money, he expresses his true feelings about Islamist terrorism and Western liberal democracy and capitalism, before backtracking to save some face.   His Mana Party (there was a radical Mana Maori Party for some years don't forget) is a party for race driven thugs who want to treat the state as their own gang to strong arm cash from taxpayers to pay for their families and their pet projects.   It is no wonder it is filled with hate-mongers like Matt McCarten, apologists for child abusers like John Minto, cheerleader for 9/11 Annette Sykes and refugees from the far too moderate Green Party, like Sue "Wow Mao" Bradford and Nandor Tanczos.   My great hope can be that it pulls enough votes from the Maori Party to get rid of the two seat overhang (these seats going to Labour, which is no net gain for Labour as they will be taken from list seats), takes enough votes from the Green Party to knock it a seat back as well.  Hone will probably win his seat alone, and will continue to provide an avenue for the racist, anti-semitic, pro-Marxist-Leninist, pro-violence for politics and anti-capitalist far left to vent its hatred of the human individual.

Bland vs bland:  Everything else is so tiresomely uninteresting as to be soporific.  The Key government does what National is good at, very little except spend other people's money.  Phil Goff proposes variations on this.  Quite why anyone could rouse themselves to get out of bed for either party is beyond me.

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