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posted by [personal profile] emperor at 07:15pm on 29/06/2017 under , ,
Ian Hislop is doing history on the TV again, this time "Who Should We Let In?" [available on iPlayer until 27 July], where he looks at how our attitude to immigration changed from the Victorian period where our open door policy was a point of national pride.

It's a disturbingly contemporary account, beginning with antisemitism in London's East End. Early on the press realise that lies about foreigners sell papers (the "Yellow Peril" stories about Liverpool resulted in the city council conducting an inquiry that concluded that the Chinese were in fact model citizens), and it is politically expedient to blame the woes of the poor on aliens.

It's not all depressing - the British took in a quarter of a million Belgians during the first world war, and people put them up in their own homes, rather as some people are now doing with refugees from Syria and other parts of the world. But, as the women who is hosting a Syrian refugee points out, we're a very rich nation and we are taking far fewer refugees than far smaller and poorer countries are.
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posted by [personal profile] emperor at 10:08am on 08/06/2017 under
It's polling day. If you can, do please go and vote (I'm expecting a parcel, and will vote once it's arrived). When the GE was called, I wrote thus on facebook:

So we're going to have a general election as a proxy for a referendum on support for the Conservatives' ultra-hard Brexit strategy. When the main opposition party has not been meaningfully opposing hard Brexit, and I live in a safe Conservative seat (whose MP has not meaningfully opposed hard Brexit, despite saying she opposes hard Brexit).

The result of which is that we'll now be told that the Conservatives have a mandate for their hard Brexit, and there will be no opportunity to try and vote down whatever deal we end up with. And there's nothing I can usefully do to change this outcome - South Cambs isn't going to go non-Tory.

Great. :'(


It's fair to say the campaign hasn't really altered my feelings. I have done some leafletting for the Lib Dems in South Cambs, and I'm hopeful we can at least make the seat look like a winnable marginal for the next GE. I've so far been resisting efforts by the Cambridge LD party to go and help in the campaign there (I may weaken and put an hour or two in after work); it's still frustrating to see so much effort expended on fighting between two anti-Brexit candidates.

It's notable how little Brexit has featured in the campaign, but I guarantee "support for our Brexit plans" (which have still to be described meaningfully) will be one of the things Theresa May says in her victory speech tomorrow, and I'm sure it's going to make getting a vote on the final basically impossible.

I predict that the BBC's exit poll will be very close to the right answer, and that the Torys will get a minority of votes cast but end up with a majority of around 50 (substantially bigger than before, but not a landslide).
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posted by [personal profile] emperor at 10:28pm on 12/09/2016 under
Inevitably, I've heard nothing in response to my email to the two teams, despite a gentle poke on twitter. With a week to go before the deadline, I still need to work out who to vote for.

It's a rather unappealing choice; Jeremy Corbyn has made no sign of thinking he needs to work more effectively with the PLP and is now clearly quite happy for us to leave the EU. Owen Smith strikes me as politically thin (in the sense that I'm not sure he has strongly-held political beliefs), I have little confidence that he's as left-wing as he's trying to appear right now, he keeps being a sexist pig, I don't see him strongly opposing blaming immigrants for society's woes.

So, Corbyn who is generally closer to me politically or Smith who is clearly closer to me on what is my currently number 1 issue, the EU?

I think the most pressing issue at the moment politically is trying to ensure we remain in the EU; if we do actually leave it'll be very very hard to un-do. Which I think means I am reluctantly moving towards voting for Owen Smith. I'm definitely still persuadable either way, though, particularly if either candidate says or does something that addresses my concerns.
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posted by [personal profile] emperor at 06:18pm on 04/09/2016 under ,
I have a vote in the Labour leadership election (as a registered supporter). I'm still not sure who to vote for, so I figured I'd email the candidates to see if they wanted to address my concerns...text of letter ) I'll let you know if I hear anything...
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posted by [personal profile] emperor at 11:40am on 22/06/2016 under
I'm pretty worried about the outcome of the EU Referendum - the polls are really close, and the weather forecast is terrible (which tends to depress turnout, which is likely to help the Leave side). I've taken tomorrow off work to help the local Remain team get the vote out - I don't know how much difference it'll make, but I wanted to try and help. I've never done anything like this before, and am a bit nervous!

If you're eligible to vote (and haven't already done so), do please make sure you know when & where you will vote tomorrow (despite the rain!) - your vote is likely to count much more tomorrow than it does at general elections.

I strongly think that you should vote Remain - I think our future is brighter in the EU, and that we can make a positive difference to the EU (and, via the EU, to the world) by Remaining in the EU. If you're unsure, then vote Remain - we can better attempt to reform the EU from inside the EU, and be reassured that economists are almost universally agreed that we're better off economically inside the EU.

In the EU we can work together to make the world a better place - on the environment, on workers' rights and animal rights, in advancing peace and democracy, and in many other ways. We can enjoy the free movement of people - many of my friends and colleagues are from the EU, and some of my friends work in other parts of the EU. Fundamentally, I think the EU is a good thing; while it needs improving (what doesn't!), the way to improve it is not to turn our back on it.
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posted by [personal profile] emperor at 10:27pm on 21/04/2016 under , ,
I quite enjoy Ian Hislop's programmes (mostly HIGNFY), although I suspect he probably annoys Proper Historians. Currently (until 6th May), you can see Workeer or Shirkeys? Ian Hislop's Victorian Benefits on iplayer (publicity piece on the programme).

It's about how the Victorians tried to deal with poverty, and how many of the same arguments and behaviours crop up now; there's some unforgiving segues between a Victorian and some Tory MPs. But the arguments we're familiar with now were all there: is poverty the result of individual misbehaviour or a failure of society? can we make sure people in work are better off than those out of work without punishing the latter? Who should suffer in a time of austerity? And can middle-class journalists report on the experiences of the poor without othering them?

Given how IDS was reviled for his policies, the interview with him suggests he really did think he was trying to improve the lot of the less well-off.

Ian Hislop handles a serious issue with a mixture of insight and wit, concluding that you might divide people into workers and shirkers - those who think poverty is something we can and should fix, and those who think it's inevitable and there's nothing we can do about it...
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posted by [personal profile] emperor at 03:06pm on 08/05/2015 under
Well, that was depressing, wasn't it? The opinion polls got things very wrong, and the exit poll (that seemed really unlikely at 10pm) was not far off. So all the early-evening talk about legitimacy and what parties might want what for coalitions was all moot.

Labour didn't lose because of the SNP (even if they'd beaten the SNP in every seat they contested, the Tories would still have a majority); they lost because they didn't make any impact on the Tories in England & Wales. The Libdems have been punished badly for the coalition; their votes have mostly gone to UKIP (!) although they were unable to turn those votes into seats, instead the Labour and Conservatives roughly split the LD casualties.

It's odd to paint this as a vote of confidence in the government (as some people have been doing) - while the Tories have gained, the previous government (Tory & LD) have lost heavily. Sadly, I suspect the SNP bloc will struggle to achieve much of note in the Commons - David Cameron seems more likely to move Right to keep his backbenchers happy rather than try and reach across the House for support.

I wonder if the SNP will consider another independence referendum if they do similarly well at the next Holyrood elections? If the new government pushes through "English votes for English laws" and appears to disenfranchise the SNP bloc even more, that might stir up the independence argument in Scotland. I would be sad to see Scotland go.

The other referendum is going to be on the EU. I'm really worried that we'll vote "out", which I think would be terrible. So I will be hoping to get involved in the pro-EU campaign in some form (I've heard some early noises in this direction already - get in touch if you want to hear about that). I wonder if an independent Scotland would try and retain the UK's EU membership if we voted "out" down South?

I'm also really worried about a lot of the Tories proposals around benefits, immigration, human rights, housing, etc. Hopefully the opposition can work together to try and ameliorate at least some of these. I hope that Labour will decide that they should move Left rather than trying to out-Tory the Tories, but only time will tell...
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posted by [personal profile] emperor at 03:13pm on 28/03/2015 under ,
I saw votematch.org online, and thought it sounded interesting - and the setup looks like it's trying hard to be neutral.

You can see my results page here, but the short version is:

Green 95%
LibDem 74%
Labour 68%
Conservative 28%

[I said there was no chance I'd vote UKIP, so it didn't list them]. The site gets you to prioritise 9 areas, and then asks you 20 questions based on those priorities (i.e. things you say you think are important you get more questions about), where you agree/are neutral/disagree with a question (and can express the strength of that opinion). My questions were:

* There should be a limit on the amount landlords can increase rent each year
Me: agree (Green, Labour), LD neutral, Tory disagree

* The government's top priority should be cutting the budget deficit
Me: disagree (Green), LD/Lab neutral, Tory agree

* Public spending should be maintained at at least current levels
Me: agree (Green), LD neutral, Tory/Lab disagree

* The government should set targets for carbon emission reduction
Me: agree (Tory,Lab,LD,Green)

* The government should allow 'fracking'
Me: disagree (Green), Tory/LD/Lab agree

* The government should raise new taxes to fund the NHS
Me: agree (Green,Lab,LD), Tory disagree

* Private companies should be able to compete for all NHS contracts
Me: disagree (Green,Lab), LD neutral, Tory agree

* University tuition fees should be reduced
Me: neutral, Tory/LD disagree, Green/Lab agree

* All primary school children should get free school meals regardless of household income
Me: agree (LD,Green), Tory/Lab disagree

* The UK is better off in the EU
Me: agree (Green,LD,Lab), Tory neutral

* Rules for benefit claimants should be tougher
Me: disagree (LD,Green), Lab neutral, Tory agree

* The tax rate on personal income above £150k a year should be increased to 50%
Me: agree (Lab,Green), Tory/LD disagree

* The 'bedroom tax' should be scrapped
Me: agree (Lab,Green), Tory/LD disagree

* Winter fuel payments should only be available to pensioners on low incomes
Me: agree (LD), Lab neutral, Tory/Green disagree

* The government should cut UK foreign aid
Me: disagree (Tory,Lab,LD,Green)

* The government should cancel the High Speed 2 rail link
Me: neutral, Green agree, Tory/LD/Lab disagree

* The government should have the power to read anyone's digital communications
Me: disagree (LD,Green,Lab), Tory agree

* No one should be imprisoned for possession of drugs for personal use
Me: agree (Green,LD), Tory/Lab disagree

* Only skilled immigrants should be allowed to move to the UK
Me: disagree (Tory,Lab,LD,Green)

* Immigrants should have to wait at least 2 years before claiming unemployment benefits
Me: disagree (LD,Green), Tory/Lab agree

This is all a bit academic, because I live in a safe Tory seat, but I thought it was interesting to see how much or little I agree with the main parties.

[I wasn't sure whether to post this f'locked or public - if you feel strongly either way, please comment]
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posted by [personal profile] emperor at 02:47pm on 20/07/2013 under , , , ,
Meet the Landlords (available on iPlayer until the evening of Thursday 25th) is an interesting but depressing look at the private rental sector. Perhaps inevitably, it gives us stories of things going wrong, from the self-styled "HMO Daddy" with his £26M housing portfolio and army of unhappy tenants to the single mother with cancer who no-one will house (and her local council saying they won't house her until the baliffs have thrown her onto the street), and a couple of people who have rented out their own home to discover that eviction is a time-consuming and stressful business.

I was alerted to it by the housing law blog Nearly Legal, whose take on it is here. What struck me is how desperately we need a decent supply of social housing again. I concur with them, though, that it's worthwhile viewing.
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posted by [personal profile] emperor at 12:09pm on 09/08/2011 under
There were rumours of disturbances in Coventry, but thankfully they seem to have been just rumours. Violence in Birmingham is a bit alarming, though. I hope all my friends in London (and elsewhere) are OK!

There's always a danger in commenting on ongoing events, that your comments end up a hostage to fortune. Still, much of what I've seen written so far has been rather unsatisfactory. In particular, it seems to me that whilst just dismissing the rioters as mindless thugs and suggesting the army should be called in is unsatisfactory, it also won't do to tell someone terrified by the violence that this is all about the uprising of a repressed underclass. I don't claim to be able to manage anything much more sophisticated here, but I think we need (regardless of our political persuasion) to resist narratives of these riots that suggest the cause is straightforward to explain[0].

I think it's fair to say that the causes of the rioting include: the shooting by police of Mark Duggan; the recently-exposed corruption in MPs, journalists, and the police; a feeling that the rich (bankers) caused the current economic woe and yet are escaping the hardships that result; a feeling that the government is systematically undermining the support for the poor; the enormous inequality in British society; herd behaviour; the feeling that the police are powerless to stop one looting shops; warm summer evenings; boredom.

If I'm even remotely correct, then we need to be able to both condemn the violence, and consider how some of the proximate causes of it might be addressed. Politicians will want to do what Maggie Thatcher did in the 80s, and dismiss the rioters as "simply criminal" and avoid looking hard at where society might be going wrong. They must rise above the easy rhetoric, but so too must those who would assign political motives to the rioters and ignore the unpleasant criminality that has been seen on the streets recently.

[0] I found myself, while writing this, continually trying to frame a theory of my own. Like many people, I want to make sense of what has happened. I want to talk about gross economic inequality and how we should address that; but I think that's for another post.

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