Friday, May 7, 2010

Uncommon Sense

The electorate in the Witney constituency numbers 78,766, of whom 62 were far-sighted enough to cast their vote yesterday for Colin Bex. For the rest, as our society plunges from bad to worse, it will be a case of ‘we told you so’, and sooner rather than later.

Colin reported a busy day’s campaigning in Burford but clear signs that the turnout for David Cameron was already looking decisive. The Leader of the Opposition, with Sam Cam in tow, wafted around the count, exuding the arrogance of those for whom power is a birthright. The Cameron the media presents is scripted; from the actual man what you get is the sneer of cold command. Colin tackled him on his voting record over Iraq. He dismissed the question. All that was over and done with. History now. Justice could go hang.

The declaration of the result was a chilling reminder of the charade that is now British democracy. Cameron gave his acceptance speech, then he and his minders, along with the other major party candidates, were gone. No handshakes offered to the defeated (Colin would have so relished the opportunity to decline). No waiting to hear what others might have to say in the way of gracious congratulations. In fact, all the manners of a mobster.

It used to be traditional – and in some areas still is – for losing candidates to add their own thoughts about the election, especially to thank the Acting Returning Officer and all those members of staff involved in administering the poll and the count. As Independent candidate Paul Wesson stepped up to the mike, the power was cut off. West Oxfordshire District Council’s patience with democracy had abruptly run out.

Undeterred by discourtesy, he made his statement, condemning the media focus on Cameron that had denied the voters of Witney any chance to come to a balanced judgment on the merits of each candidate. As a long-term observer at elections in other countries struggling to understand democracy, he was now determined to seek international censure for the way British elections are run.

Colin followed, warning of the bleak future ahead, with taxes rising and services vanishing. He ended with the reminder that Cameron is a war conspirator, sharing equal responsibility with Blair and Brown for the vast numbers killed, maimed or displaced in Iraq and Afghanistan. A small band of a dozen or so gathered before the rostrum and applauded both speakers, one of the audience shouting that no-one in politics now represented the working class of the country. A man from Southampton reminded everyone that Winchester had been our capital. It was a more benign thought than anything now likely to come from London.

We posed with the Wyvern standard for press photos and Colin gave yet another interview to BBC Oxford. As we left, Nick Xylas was asked to give an interview to a Japanese radio station. You just couldn’t make it up.

The national results, denying the power of diktat to any one party, are the best any democrat could reasonably have hoped for. All small parties will take comfort from the victory of Caroline Lucas – a one-time resident of the Witney constituency – as Britain’s only Green MP. Her success – coming from far beyond the bounds of possibility not so long ago – was the well-earned result of sustained targeting in her Brighton seat. We shall be studying carefully how it was done.

Judged by our standards, the Greens are a centralist party. We take rather more comfort from the progress of Celtic nationalists, with Alex Salmond hailing the SNP’s results as the best in over 30 years and Dick Cole polling Mebyon Kernow’s highest result, 2,007 votes at St Austell & Newquay, on a swing of 4%.

The lesson is clear. Don’t moan. Organise!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Voting for a Change?

Polling day ought to be a day of celebration. Complete with flags and bunting, brass bands and beer. 'Party' politics should mean just that. Tomorrow therefore ought to be an occasion when voters proudly step out to exercise the right of self-determination which past generations died to secure. Not the apologetic, furtive act that so many will be performing, if they can persuade themselves to do something so uncool, so unmarketised, so egalitarian as vote. So of what crime is it that they feel so ashamed?

Throughout the length and breadth of this septic isle, voters will be handing over their quality of life to be ripped to shreds by the London parties. The lie that there is no alternative to cuts has been repeated over and over by all three of the leading charlatans who have strutted their hour upon the screen. Though millions believe the lie, Britain is not ‘broke’; it is fact one of the richest societies in the world and its rich are getting richer by the day.

Lord Turner, Chairman of the Financial Services Authority, stated last year that much of what the banking sector does is “socially useless activity”. The voters, of course, will be the judge of that. And they will disagree. They will be telling the parties to cut – cut hospitals, cut schools, cut care for the elderly, just don’t cut bankers’ bonuses – because those are the priorities they truly want the parties to enact. Meanwhile, all three identikit leaders continue to support the waste of young lives in an unwinnable war of choice.

Voters in the Witney constituency have another option tomorrow. By voting Wessex Regionalist they can signal their dissent from the madness engulfing our world. In the coming months, when social unrest boils onto the streets, when perhaps the City of London itself is burning, when Brown, Cameron or Clegg goes down in history as the most hated prime minister ever, those who do will have the satisfaction of knowing that they did what they could to prevent it.

And having placed your ‘X for BEX’, why not then make your very own lapel badge to tell the world, ‘Don’t blame me – I voted Wessex’?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Busy, Busy, Busy

All three Party officers – President, Secretary-General and Treasurer – were in Witney today canvassing in the run-up to polling day. With good weather for once, residents were willing to stop and talk and their reactions were very positive, especially among the young. Some of the latter proved to be just a fraction too young to vote this time – but next time maybe? Maybe next time indeed they could even be standing for the Party as well as voting for it. If the banker-owned parties have their way, these are people who will be paying for their parents’ mistakes for the rest of their lives and more.

The day got off to a flying start with a full-page article in the London Guardian (formerly of Manchester and not to be confused with the real thing). It could have been better – journalists always want to assess our policies for attractiveness before they’ve studied the threads that make them cohere – but attempts by other London papers have turned out worse. They know by now that all their tired favourites to ruin the country have lost the public’s trust but can’t quite bring themselves yet to look for real alternatives.

That was the start of a media frenzy, Colin giving interviews today to BBC Oxford (first television and later radio), CNN and even a radio station from the Netherlands. Administrative matters relating to the count needed to be sorted, then in the evening we dropped in on a talk organised by the Green Party and given by Danny Dorling, author of Injustice – Why Social Inequality Persists. The Greens have been model opponents throughout the campaign, recognising that different candidates appeal to different targets and displaying none of that back-stabbing doing-down that we have come to expect from the slashers, burners and grubbers. Nick Camerown is all the same and from the point of view of defeating it, the bigger the fourth parties’ vote the better.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Read All About It?

Candidates' leaflets for the Witney constituency are now viewable here. As of today, two candidates - Aaron Barschak (Independent) and Howling Laud Hope (Monster Raving Loony) - seem not to have distributed any so how they plan to get votes is a mystery.

These two, along with Joe Goldberg (Labour) and Nikolai Tolstoy (UKIP), are also shy of telling us their addresses, hiding behind new rules that allow actual and prospective elected representatives to lock themselves away from the public gaze. Are they afraid of terrorists? Then why any of these four gentlemen should flatter themselves that they might be a target is another mystery. If the other six candidates have nothing to hide, why do they? At least a party candidate can be contacted via the party to seek information on his or her views. An Independent who won't declare his address might as well be on the moon.

We might ask what our society is coming to when those running for public office even have the right not to tell us any longer where they live, let alone exercise it. Transparency is a fundamental part of our democratic inheritance from the Victorians, an inheritance that is poorly understood and appreciated, with the result that electoral reforms since 1997 have arguably created more problems than they have solved. The failure to recognise that extending postal voting would magnify opportunities for fraud is one such example.

We understand New Labour's motivation for secrecy but we do not therefore respect it: politicians should be protected by the normal civil and criminal law and deserve no special protection simply because they are politicians. Those who are determined to find out where someone lives will do so anyway and such knowledge is not in itself objectionable. Rather than accepting the growth of a culture of intimidation and adapting to it, efforts should focus on deterring crime of all kinds, but especially that directed against the democratic process of free debate and decision.

If some of our politicians live in fear, they should examine their consciences. Thomas Jefferson observed that when the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty. When it comes to striking a balance, things are a whole lot safer under the second scenario than under the first.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Put Up - And Then Shut Up?

In days of yore, when fair play ruled, candidates for elected office were judged by the voters on polling day. Now they are judged by the managers of our 'democracy' well ahead of that event. The media and others select those whom they think we should listen to and discard those whom we simply shall not hear.

A disgraceful example of this took place last night at Witney, where the local Churches Together group held a hustings. The equivalent event in Woodstock was well-run, with no assumption that the parties who did best last time should hog the limelight.

Scandalously, the Witney event was something else. The Rev. Richard Donoghue, the Methodist minister who organised it, had decided that only parties with recent or actual representation at UK or EU level should be on the platform, thereby excluding 50% of the candidates from the democratic process. Colin Bex stated in an open letter:

“It is shameful that not one of the candidates accepting a place on the platform raised an objection against Donoghue's imperious decision to order none of us to speak, just one example of what in my own election address I rightly describe as the 'farce' of the British electoral system.

I did not accede to being gagged by Donoghue's incredible exhortation that, not only being banned from speaking, those of us candidates in the body of the hall were only allowed to clap - not to express their disapproval - when deemed appropriate (similar to the prompters of a captive audience in a live-broadcast studio or pupils in a kindergarten school).

I refused to clap the dinosaur party candidates, I stood up and told the assembled company to vote Wessex, and shouted 'shame' and 'disgraceful' on numerous occasions against the lies and worse being pedalled by the dinosaurs' representatives throughout the proceedings.”

Independent candidate Paul Wesson played a divisive and doomed game of sycophancy, arguing that his record as a local councillor and quangocrat should entitle him to a place on the platform, whereas validly nominated candidates from minor parties could be safely sidelined as ‘jokes’. Reportedly he made no effort to challenge the ruling on the night. Colin commented:

“Had the ambient atmosphere in the hall been less like the consistency of a blancmange, and had I for example had your support, I would have been willing to help bring the proceedings to a premature adjournment including having been carried out by the police if necessary, which on several occasions I have done in order to win campaigns on other matters elsewhere in the past.

At least this would have got the press into gear and to report some active expression of the simmering anger likely to burst into social unrest in the coming months on account of the incredible arrogance and presumption of whatever of the dinosaur parties seizes power.”

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