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Posts Tagged ‘vote’

The last few days have seen lots of political activity. Brown the Bully. A future fair for all (complete with carousel??). Give labour a second chance. James Purnell standing down. It may well be a couple of months until the election – but the campaigns are all up and running, posters are being parodied, and the political machine is running in top gear.

But what of substance is happening? There have been the efforts of labour and the lib dems to solve the problems of social care for the elderly – hampered by the conservatives and their castigation of the ‘death tax’ – but very little else. Is this election going to be driven by personalities? I hope not, as neither Nick Clegg, David Cameron or Gordon Brown have much personality!

I want to know who is going to stop meddling in schools. Who is going to pull us out of Afghanistan. Who is going to stop funding homeopathy on the NHS. Who is going to increase funding in higher education. Who is going to improve the lot of my family, and who is going to tax us to the high heavens.

So enough of the posturing, the tears, the softly softly interviews, the accusations. Can we have something of substance to debate please?

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I know that if I had been born 100 years earlier that I would have been a suffragette, out chaining myself to railings, smashing windows and going on hunger strike. I feel so strongly about the fight for our right to vote that I would never, ever, ever, contemplate not voting. I’m not really a party political animal and have voted many different ways in the past including once writing a brief essay on the inadequacy of the first past the post voting system on the back of my polling card, but I voted for this Labour government with great excitement and optimism back in 1997 and have done since, though with somewhat less excitement and optimism as the years went by. I’ll never forget the sheer joy of staying up all night to see them win in ’97 and float, bleary-eyed, into work, buoyed up on euphoria. And of course no political party, no matter how much their policies march with what you want or expect of the government of your country can sustain that level of love and devotion. Unpopular decisions will have to be made (you hope…nothing good can possibly come of decision-making by vote-chasing!).

So, as we approach a General Election, my belief that you must vote holds strong, but God, it is hard to see what the point of it is. For one thing, I have a general feeling of mistrust and unease about politicians as a group because of the expenses issue…not so much that people claimed for such ridiculous things but because of the lack of shame or acknowledgement that they have been abusing both the public purse and public trust. They are public servants, after all, there to serve the people of Great Britain, not to feather their own nests (or should that be duck houses???) . As it happens the MP who will be elected in my constituency whether I vote for him or not (I won’t) comes out of the expenses affair very well, ranking 620-something in a list of how much MPs have claimed which suggests legitimate usage. So that’s something…he doesn’t represent my views (fair enough…clearly he represents the views of a LOT of people in the area, more than 10,000 majority), he doesn’t answer my letters (a point of contention) but I am satisfied that he isn’t lining his pockets at our expense!

But I will not vote for this Labour party again in its current incarnation. State intrusion into and micromanagement of the private life of families who are doing nothing wrong is something I cannot tolerate. Perhaps not that surprising when many of the current Labour party were much less centre-bland than they appear to be now, and once had political leanings that merited MI5 investigation. I could perhaps understand it better if it was in pursuit of a particular ideology, but it doesn’t seem to be. In fact they strike me as particularly soulless. If they want to take control of our lives and thoughts and expression of those thoughts for any reason other than control itself, I remain open to be convinced of it.

Of course I am particularly referring to the “licensing” of home educating families. It’s not just the immediate effect this will have on my family. In all honesty it could be virtually non-existent. I am already in the system because my daughter was briefly at school; I have survived one visit from the LA and I know that I can say and show the right things to get them off my back. But I do very vehemently oppose the right of the state to dictate how I chose to raise my child. I mistrust the very process by which this law is being brought about, based on false claims, flawed statistics and downright lies, witness Mr Ed Balls stating at the committee stage of this bill that a majority of home educators are in favour of the proposed changes to the law. There were over 5000 responses to the consultation document and almost all the questions were between 75 and 97% *against* them. So to make 97% against into a majority in favour is a rather large leap, but apparently that’s okay. If the law they want to pass, passes then any and all means are justified, including lies, slander and public vilification of a minority group.

And this is not just a home ed. issue. What the government is basically saying to us is “prove you are not abusing your children.” Once that fundamental principle of British justice, that you are innocent until proven guilty and the burden of proof lies with the accuser, is eroded in application to one section of society, don’t think it won’t and can’t apply to each and every one of us.

Now if only I actually trusted any of the other parties not to do the same.

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Listening to David Cameron, so you don’t have to. Yes, gentle reader I have fallen on my sword and listened to David Cameron being interviewed on Woman’s Hour in a follow up to my comments on Nick Clegg’s appearance (is it an appearance on radio?!) here. Its worse than that actually, since I lost the Word document I used to make notes the first time and had to listen to him a second time. Does anyone feel my pain?

Joking aside, I did try (honestly!) to keep an open mind about the whole thing and weigh what he said with an impartial eye. As impartial as it is possible to be with being anti-Tory that is. General summary: he came across to me as a pompous slime and said hardly anything of substance. Contrast with Nick Clegg who talked quite precisely about specific Lib Dem policies. Cameron was all for the sound bite and waffle which sounds ‘good’ but when you concentrate a bit harder you realise he isn’t saying anything at all.

For example, Jenni Murray probed him on his policy of reintroducing tax breaks for married couples. All he managed in response was to reiterate the phrase that he intended to ‘recognise marriage in the tax system’. What does that *mean* exactly?! He was so sincere about it, he said it twice. I still didn’t know what it means. He did make the slightly interesting point that it was better than ‘rewarding’ couples for breaking up by increasing their benefits as happens under Labour (is that true? I dont know), but as I touched on in my previous blither about this here, I am not sure financial considerations are really uppermost in peoples minds when they are considering marriage.  When challenged with the notion that endorsing marriage might make single mothers and cohabitees feel like ‘second class citizens’ he started blithering on about how fantastic single mothers are and how the Tories will help them by increasing money spent on Health Visitors. Hmmm, thats not really the point.

The most interesting part of it for me was the talk about increasing the number of women MPs in the Tory party. It currently stands at 18 (9%) and Cameron hopes this will increase to 60 after the next election. He no longer rules out all women short lists to achieve his aim of making the parliamentary Tories look more like the general population demographically. He then moved seamlessly into talking about minority candidates, which suggested to me that its more about appearances and the Tory ‘brand’ than anything else.

Still, it the Conservative party were truly gender and colour blind, as they claim, they wouldn’t have to try so hard to get a mix of candidates [see also the Joanne Cash debacle on how all this is going down with the local constituency party]. I am all for equal opportunity representation of course but I wonder how much of it is just another cynical move to win women’s votes. It wont wash with me though; we all know though that just because an MP is a woman, it doesn’t mean she has women’s best interests at heart (Margaret Thatcher, anyone?).

Other points of interest:
1.    Cameron denied running a nasty election campaign, reminding us that the first run of Tory ad posters featured himself (which hilariously brought to mind all the airbrushing satire at http://www.mydavidcameron.com).
2.    He denied pandering to demographics. Apparently he had just come from an interview with some lads mag (or similar) and had described himself as liking darts, Guinness and something else laddish I cant remember (and no, I am not listening a third time). Contrast with his pitch to us mums as a good old family man. Jenni Murray said ‘chameleon’, I say ‘opportunist slimeball’.

So, yes, not impressed. I am feeling slightly sheepish at my unashamedly partisan view though, since I did intend to be even handed, I really did. I left a ton of stuff out too, about the so called Labour ‘death tax’, about the proposal for an ‘internet forum’ for parents to complain about inappropriate sexualisation of children and about the expenses scandal. I would love to hear from those with a view different from mine, or from anyone who wants to comment on something I missed. If you can stand it, you can listen to it from the link here.

Listening to David Cameron, so you don’t have to. Yes, gentle reader I have fallen on my sword and listened to David Cameron being interviewed on Woman’s Hour yesterday in a follow up to my comments on Nick Clegg’s appearance (is it an appearance on radio?!) here. Its worse than that actually, since I lost the Word document I used to make notes the first time and had to listen to him a second time. Does anyone feel my pain?

Joking aside, I did try (honestly!) to keep an open mind about the whole thing and weigh what he said with an impartial eye. As impartial as it is possible to be with being anti-Tory that is. General summary: he came across to me as a pompous slime and said hardly anything of substance. Contrast with Nick Clegg who talked quite precisely about specific Lib Dem policies. Cameron was all for the sound bite and waffle which sounds ‘good’ but when you concentrate a bit harder you realise he isn’t saying anything of substance at all. For example, Jenni Murray probed him on his policy of reintroducing tax breaks for married couples. All he managed in response was to reiterate the somewhat meaningless phrase that he intended to ‘recognise marriage in the tax system’. What does that *mean* exactly?! He was so sincere about it, he said it twice! I still didn’t know what it means. He did make the slightly interesting point that it was better than ‘rewarding’ couples for breaking up by increasing their benefits as happens under Labour (is that true? I dont know), but as I touched on in my previous blither about this here, I am not sure financial considerations are really uppermost in peoples minds when they are considering about marriage. When challenged with the notion that endorsing marriage might make single mothers and cohabitees feel like ‘second class citizens’ he started blithering on about how fantastic single mothers are and how the Tories will help them by increasing money spent on Health Visitors. Hmmm, thats not really the point.

The most interesting part of it for me was the talk about increasing the number of women MPs in the Tory party. It currently stands at 18 (9%) and Cameron hopes this will increase to 60 after the next election . He no longer rules out all women short lists to achieve his aim of making the parliamentary Tories look more like the general population demographically. He then moved seamlessly into talking about minority candidates, which suggested to me that its more about appearances and the Tory ‘brand’ than anything else. If the Conservative party were truly gender and colour blind, as they claim, they wouldn’t have to try so hard to get a mix of candidates [see also the Joanne Cash debacle on how all this is going down with the local constituency party]. I am all for equal opportunity representation of course but I wonder how much of it is just another cynical move to win women’s votes. It wont wash with me though; we all know though that just because an MP is a woman, it doesn’t mean she has women’s best interests at heart (Margaret Thatcher, anyone?).

Other points of interest.
1. Cameron denied running a nasty election campaign, reminding us that the first run of Tory ad posters featured himself (which hilariously brought to mind all the airbrushing satire at www.mydavidcameron.com).
2. He denied pandering to demographics. Apparently he had just come from an interview with some lads mag (or similar) and had described himself as liking darts, Guinness and something else laddish I cant remember (and no, I am not listening a third time). Contrast with his pitch to us mums as a good old family man. Jenni Murray said ‘chameleon’, I say ‘opportunist slimeball’.

So, yes, not impressed. I am feeling slightly sheepish at my unashamedly partisan view though, and I did intend to be even handed, I really did. I left a ton of stuff out too, about the so called Labour ‘death tax’, about the proposal for an ‘internet forum’ for parents to complain about inappropriate sexualisation of children and about the expenses scandal. I would love to hear from those with a view different from mine, or from anyone who wants to comment on something I missed. If you can stand it, you can listen to it from the link here. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/womanshour/01/2010_07_thu.shtml)

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Janet Street Porter doesn’t like mumsnet, apparently (‘The daily discussions are usually pretty childish, and there’s a fair amount of bullying. There seems to be a received way of thinking, and woe betide anyone who disagrees.’ ) She hates Boden too. She’s a bit of a misery isn’t she? But alongside the usual bile she makes some valid points. Well documented by laptopmums and elsewhere are the political parties’ efforts to target the ‘Mum vote’ by advertising on, and generally engaging with, the mumsnet community. But as JSP points out ‘Mumsnet … represents a very narrow group of women.’ She suggests that single over 40s ‘hold the key to the election, not a bunch of middle-class, Boden-wearing yummy mummies.’ I think she mischaracterises mumsnet users, which I imagine to be a pretty diverse bunch (I don’t know for sure, I haven’t looked), but I take her point that there are many female voters out there who have no interest in so called ‘mummy issues’ (urgh!).

However, why should one group of women hold more sway than any others? I would suggest that politicians who want to court the female vote should understand that women are as diverse a bunch as men with as many facets and opinions. Not all female voters are mums and yes, amazing though it may seem, not all mums think the same either. Mumsrock wrote an interesting blog post this morning on attempts to pigeonhole mums: ‘Nobody should have to belong to a gang to have a voice, and no matter how well-intentioned Mumsnet is in it’s urge to politicise it’s members (and actually it’s sort of a good idea isn’t it?), having a herd mentality is never a good thing.’ Exactly. Just because we are all mums, doesn’t mean we share a brain or a conscience. I am starting to get really miffed at the media and politicians treating mums like an amorphous blob. We are individuals, just like men! Imagine that ;)

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Floating

Many women are still undecided who they will vote for in the up coming General Election, an army of floating voters who could determine the outcome. Apparently, up to 40% of mumsnet users have yet to decide to whom they would give their vote. A straw poll of 19 Laptop Mums showed that over 40% of us have to make our minds up too.

Sarah Crompton writing in The Telegraph about Gordon Brown’s interview with Piers Morgan suggests that women want policies not personalities and will not be hoodwinked into voting for a politician simply because he has laid his soul bare. If indeed this is an election strategy targeted at women it is insulting and demeaning to suggest that they may be seduced into voting for a particular party because they portray themselves as ‘nice’. Equally no-one wants a European-type affair of a Premier with bags of charisma but leaving more than a faint whiff of corruption in his wake. Knowing what Cameron had for breakfast or how many times Clegg tended his baby during the night will not influence who will get my vote but I don’t think we can entirely separate person from policy. The leader of this country is more than a sum of their policies and when difficult decisions have to be made we want the reassurance of knowing that it is made by someone with humanity and integrity. In reality, politics is often crisis management and the character of the politician is fundamental in navigating the turbulence in the national and international arenas

Inevitably, some undecided voters will never be influenced by campaigning and will remain unsure where to cast their vote right up until Election Day. This group might be more inclined to consider the character of the man (or woman) to make their decision and if large enough could determine our political landscape for years to come.

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Being Human

Thanks a lot Gordon Brown, you made me sit through an hour of Piers Morgan. That’s one black mark against you for a start! Still, I felt that I should probably watch in case I felt the need to comment. After all the hype, I found the whole thing a bit of a let down. His talking about his children was moving (although rumours that he openly wept were unfounded it turned out) but at times I found Morgan’s slimy insistence that GB reveal more than he clearly felt comfortable doing unsettling. I kept thinking ‘leave him alone you moron!’ Yes, our PM seemed more ‘human’ than we have been led to believe, but does it really matter? Do we want to know what is in his head or his heart?

Back when I lived in the USA I remember eagerly sitting down to watch the Olympics on NBC in 1996. During the early going, I sat stunned as the coverage of the gymnastics was interrupted (I mean actually during routines) with ‘human interest stories’ on Romanian orphanages and as cameras cut away during track races to show a face to face interview with the athletes. I was even more horrified, not to say insulted, when I found out that this kind of approach was a deliberate attempt to attract female viewers. Yes, apparently NBC believed that women don’t actually want to watch a complete uninterrupted sporting event (even if it lasts only a few minutes) unless it is punctuated by sob stories about the participants.

I kind of felt the same way watching PM and PM last night. We know politicians are all drooling over the prospect of bagging the women’s vote, but I hope they don’t think that this is all it takes.

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