Saturday, 30 May 2009

North West Euro-election Stakes - Runners and Riders

In the interests of information and fairness, I present to you below the full list of Parties (+ 1 Independent candidate) standing in the North West for the European elections. It's a long blog post, as its a long ballot paper. Presented here as they appear on the ballot, I will try to be fair in my comments...

- BNP - forget fairness, if this bunch of racists get a seat it will bring shame on Britain and the North West in particular and damage community relations for years. To greatly reduce their chances see Stop Nick Griffin website listed to the right. Nuff said

- Christian Party - a subtitle 'Proclaiming Christ's Lordship' probably tells you all you need to know for now

- Conservative Party - well known 'major' Party

- English Democrats Party - another anti-EU Party (one of many) with an added touch of also being anti-Scottish; may get some votes after the Rangers fans antics in Manchester last year

- Jury Team - this election's novelty act perhaps (but lacking the wackyness of the Natural Law Party - remember them?); probably well meaning but a Party list of candidates all with independent views is hard to swallow. And how Independent are you when you've been set up by a millionaire, who also donates to the Tories?

- Liberal Democrats - well known 'major' Party; I do notice however that their recent literature pushes Chris Davies MEP (understandably) but makes no mention of their number 2 candidate, which suggests they've given up on getting a second seat.
- No2EU: Yes to Democracy - My Manchester Green colleague Gayle O'Donovan has done a good analysis of them here. Suffice to say they are Socialism with a National streak; history suggests that's not a good combination.

- Pro - another novelty act contender. Will be fun in the North West if they get a seat, their lead candidate is dumping them and coming over to the Greens! see here.

- Socialist Labour Party (Leader Arthur Scargill) - the left splinter group that even other left splinter groups forget about.

- The Green Party - 10th on the ballot paper and 10% in the polls right now; plenty more on them on this blog now and in the future; for now a couple of facts which might otherwise go unnoticed:
We are the only Party in the North West with more women than men on the list (5 women, 3 men - most other lists are overwhelmingly male)
We are the only party in serious consideration for seats in the North West, where all the candidates have addresses in the North West

- The Labour Party - well known 'major' Party

- UKIP - surprisingly popular after their shambolic history since the last Euros. That really doesn't flatter British politics.

- Francis Apaloo (Independent) don't know anything about him, but may pick up more votes than independents in previous Euros in these peculiar times.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Drama in (Greater) Manchester's Second City

The second city in question is of course Salford. Salford is often neglected and probably deserves a blog post of its own, but it's a place that’s been in the news recently as the stamping ground of Hazel Blears MP, arguably one of the 2 most famous women in Britain over the last few days.

The drama I refer to (such as it was) was the count following a council bye-election in Ms Blears constituency, and therefore something of a litmus test on the effect of the expenses scandal on voters. There is no doubting the woman’s public profile; the counting room was full of TV cameras. In a crowded room the diminutive frame was difficult to find, until one realised that you could always tell where Hazel Blears was by seeing which way the cameras were pointing. At the risk of name-dropping, I once shared a platform with Hazel Blears, in the 1992 general election when she was a rising Labour star working her way up through the seats. How times change. But enough of celebrity politics for now.

I am a long-standing attender at Manchester counts so it was interesting to see how Salford did it - and they did it very efficiently I have to say. I also have to say that the turnout was so low (17.5%), it would have been hard to do it inefficiently! In the end, the drama was muted as Labour held the seat, albeit with a reduced majority, and the BNP threat amounted to nothing more than a slight increase in votes and third place. The atmosphere was surprisingly good-natured, marred only by BNP yobs thrusting kitkats and expense forms in Ms Blears face. For full result and Green Party comment see here.

If this result can be said to be any indication for the European elections, there is everything to play for. The BNP vote here rose by 18% from the last election, in the last Euros the BNP got 6.4% - an 18% rise on 6.4 - that gives about 7.6%.
The Green Party in this bye-election got 7.8%; hmmmmm...

Back to the 2 most famous women, (and back to celebrity politics?). The other is the redoubtable Joanna Lumley, with her succesful campaign on behalf of the Ghurkas. Now there's a formidable woman - I wonder which Party she's backing?
Who else but the Green Party, or more specifically Caroline Lucas MEP as seen here.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Shades of 1989 ?

I referred in my last blog to the time I was a European election candidate in 1989 and the spectacular (but seatless) result the Green Party achieved that year. This weekend just gone, opinion polls for European election intentions reminded me of that year as well! Of course circumstances are very different this time round, and much can happen between now and polling day, but given the sleaze and scandal surrounding other Parties it is hardly surprising.

The media are still very much focused on Westminster politics and barely acknowledge that a European election is just around the corner. In the light of that, as I left our North West Euro-launch I was pleased to see a set of stalls in Albert Square informing the public of the work of the European Parliament. I was also pleased at the response of one of the organisers whom I spoke to who informed me that 'lots of people I know are voting Green'. Whilst they weren't getting much response, they seemed to be getting more than the forlorn looking 'No2EU' stall in the corner of the Square.

One area which needs more public information about the European election is the voting system. The emphasis on Westminster-style first-past-the-post means that there is hardly any understanding of how seats are allocated, or even that people vote for a region-wide Party list. To fill the gap here are links to
- a vote calculator (NB this time round the North West has 8 seats, not 9 so adjust accordingly),
- a simple graphic, illustrating the importance for us to beat the BNP see here
(Incidentally, adding in UKIP to the mix doesn't change the principle - try it)

Voters thinking of voting UKIP or BNP as a protest against sleaze should consider the following:
- That UKIP' MEPs also have a bad record on expenses and sleaze, for an example see here
- The record of the BNP's local councillors (they have only about 60, half as many as the Green Party) can be found on the Lancaster Unity site (in list on the right) - look for 'Crap councillors' - its a long list

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Drop the Definite Article!

It was twenty years ago today - give or take a few days - that a man stood in the Elections Office at Manchester Town Hall, brandishing a set of nomination papers and a bag containing £1000 in pound coins. That was me, standing for the Green party in the 1989 European elections, for what was then the Greater Manchester Central Euro-Constituency. That year the Greens polled 2.3 million votes, an average of around 15% and won how many seats? Zero, nil, nada, diddly-squat. That's first-past-the post for you.

I was at the very same place a few days ago to submit the nominations for this years European election candidates. We now have a proportional system for European elections, but that still doesn't make it easy for us. The system seems to have been designed to give proportional representation a bad name, combining large regions with no local element and a high threshold for victory.

It seems that this year the Electoral Commission have made our task even harder. Parties are listed on the ballot paper alphabetically so where would you expect to find the Green Party? Under 'G' for Green? sadly not - I have been informed that our officially registered name is 'The Green Party' and so we will be positioned under 'T' for 'The'. Actually, even this is wrong - our name as recorded on the Electoral Commission website is 'Green Party [The]'; so 'G' is where we should be even with this ruling.

The ballot paper will therefore start with an outfit who shall be nameless but begin with a 'B'. Your eyes will then move on past more conventional Parties like the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, and this years fly-by-nights like 'Jury Team', 'Libertas' and 'No2EU', and if you persevere, will eventually reach 'The Green Party' and 'The Labour Party' (who are similarly afflicted), with UKIP bringing up the rear. Whilst there may be some benefit in coming higher up the paper anyway, the biggest risk I fear is that voters who aren't sure if we're standing or not (in areas where we usually haven't the resources to stand)will look for us under 'G', think we're not standing, and vote for someone else. This is less of a problem for the Labour Party - their supporters will be sure they're there and search till they find them.

Both logic and fairness should dictate that the definite article in a Party Name is not relevant, and that a Party should be positioned where electors would expect to see it. I hope this will be overturned but we are dealing with bureaucracy here.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

One in a Million

The population of Mexico is currently about 111 million (according to the CIA who may or may not be telling the truth). The number of deaths from so-called ‘swine flu’ in Mexico has now been revised downwards to 109. Hence the 1 in a million statistic. And that is in by far the worst affected country. You wouldn’t think this was the case from the reaction; our media has been full of it – how they love a good health scare. It’s not just the media who are obsessed, the Egyptian Government is slaughtering the country’s entire pig population as a precaution (and worsening relations with the Christian minority there in the process).

It’s true that we are due a serious flu pandemic, and they can be very lethal, but the degree of coverage has been out of all proportion to the evidence so far. After Sars and bird flu, I think there is a danger of crying wolf.

Also this means that far more serious world events are being ignored, as well-expressed by Simon Tisdall in the Guardian last week. The serious and ongoing threat of climate change also slips under the radar; recent items on that front include the loss of the Antarctic ice bridge, a devastating heat-wave in India, and the city of Adelaide potentially running out of water.

Still gives me an opportunity for a joke: - Thanks to Dave Hampton 'The Carbon Coach' for this:
What did the Climate Change Activist say about the Frequent Flyer?
'The Swine Flew'.

‘Green Party Woman Is a Nightclub tart’
About time we clean-living Greens had a sex scandal, you might think, but this is fiction, a line (see here) from our new Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, who lectures at our very own Manchester Metropolitan University. As well as being the first woman laureate, Carol is openly gay, and probably the first laureate to mention the Green Party in a poem. We congratulate her.