So, I once again find myself in despair at what is being said by people on the side of the brexit debate that I occupy. It turns out that when a Lib-Dem MP stands in a by-election, on a campaign about objecting to brexit, in a constituency that largely voted remain, against an independent, who was pro-brexit and taking a single issue stance, that the Lib-Dem candidate also held, the Lib-Dem candidate might win. Now this is being touted as a major upset, as it was a Conservative strong hold before, and the independent candidate held that seat as a conservative, but in respect of his position (or more likely because they couldn't find a suitable replacement in time) the conservatives did not field a candidate against him. What annoys me isn't the crowing from those who are holding this as a major victory for remain (it isn't) but the response I am seeing along the lines of "you lost, so put up with the result and shut up" coming from the pro-brexit side of things. Yes the campaign to leave the EU won the referendum, but, by a rather small margin, and the leave side isn't a single group with one single goal, so to say "We won" rather misses a very important point, which is whatever "We" you may belong too may not be bigger than the "they" you want to shut up. And democracy has never been about "majority rule above all else" (we wouldn't have first past the post as our electoral system if it was) it is a compromise, we all have ideas and thoughts on where we want to go, and we must as a society move in the direction that is closest to the greatest number of people's desires. The most vocal that I am seeing in this debate from Brexit are calling for the extreme option for brexit, and the 48% of people who voted remain are rightly pissed off by this, telling them to "get over it" is neither helpful or much of a compromise. Personally I voted leave, I still believe that the EU is not what we need from a combined European Government, and I still cannot see the incentives to reform it to what I believe would work being there for those who run the show. I therefore still think we should Leave the EU, and from their maybe we can start to build a new European Government that is better suited to the needs of the European people, and is better equipped to represent their needs, and change with them as they change. So I am galled at the arguments that "Leave the EU" (which was what we were asked if we wanted) is being used to leave not only the EU, but the EEA (a common interest in trade being the best way to unite countries) the ECHR (which the UK was instrumental in forming, and is one of the best things about Europe in terms of doing what is right for the people in my opinion) and just about everything else Europe has to offer (some times I think the nutters crying "We won! respect us" want to stick a massive out-board motor on dover and sail us into the atlantic ocean). As someone who voted Leave I feel I have far more in common with those now shouting to remain than those trying to shut them up, so as a negotiating stance the Leave camp are only weakening their stance by not listening to the complaints of those who wish to remain. Also I fear we have got more important things to deal with in the UK than if we should remain a member of the EU or not, like getting rid of the tory government.
So the government have passed the Investigatory Powers Act, which is pretty terrible, but it turns out it is worse than I realised! So perhaps it is not a good time to work in IT in the UK?
So, there was this vote last Thursday. Apparently we voted to have Armageddon! Or at least if my social media feed is anything to go by that's what we did. What annoys me about the wailing and gnashing of teeth coming from those who voted to remain (or at least the most vocal of them) is that they claim to be liberal, and that those that voted Leave are as illiberal, as stupid, and as racist as it is possible to be. And yet, look at what they are saying "the leave camp are wrong, we should not listen to them". Last I checked liberalism was about allowing personal freedoms, not about refusing to acknowledge a view point that diverges somewhat from your own.
So, we have another bill in Parliament to allow the government to spy on us. This one tries to ban end to end encryption, so that should the police or security services need to access your private communications they can do so with out you, or the person you are communicating with knowing about it. Aside from this defeating the point of encryption, it's a lovely side step around the criticism that the government wants to ban strong encryption, the encryption can be as strong as you like as long as it has a hole in the middle where the government can read it. Now as a technical person this riles me, but I am not an encryption expert, so rather than rant about something other people can tell you about far better than I, I'm going to wander off on a different tack.
So a number of concepts and ideas and comments have been floating around my head of late, and none of them have been significant enough, or have I formulated my thoughts enough, to want to pass comment on them on my blog. But it has occurred to me that they have a common thread, and that is that there is a price to pay, and we, as a society, must choose the price we are willing to pay!
So, we've had local and European elections recently, and as has become increasingly common with these things (elections that is) that has got me thinking about politics in the UK.
The abysmal turnout in the European elections is indicative of a lack of engagement between politicians and the populace. Occasionally you hear a politician say something along the lines of "we must engage the population more" but rarely do they actually do anything useful about it. The problem, as I see it, is that there is no viable way to express dissent. The electoral system is geared to showing who the people assent to having as a representative. Sure you could abstain, but that is dismissed by the establishment as not caring. You could spoil your ballot, but that appears to be dismissed by the establishment as being too stupid to vote properly. On top of this the system assumes that the winner of the election has the public's approval, so even with the lack of engagement there is no real incentive for the established parties to change the system. Sure UKIP and other fringe parties have eroded some of their power, but not much, and not quickly.
So what can be done? What should be done?
Personally I think we need to add a viable way to show dissent. A "None of the Above" option on the ballot paper. Of course just adding "None of the Above" to the ballot is worthless if it is not given some form of power. It needs to be counted, and it needs to have very real consequences for the candidates who get fewer votes than it. The consequences also need to be sufficient that the big parties can't just buy their way out of it. So financial consequences are out. The only other viable alternative is to bar the candidate from standing at the next election. Or possibly longer. Politicians would then be forced to engage with the people for fear of losing all their power in government.
This does raise an interesting problem however. What happens if "None of the Above" wins? Do we hold a by-election? How would the candidates be chosen? Do we hold a free vote (all registered voters are free to nominate any other registered voters in that ward)? Do we lay down voting rules for the ward for the next term?
Unfortunately these are not easy questions to answer. I would suggest that laying down voting rules such that the particular seat in question votes to oppose any and all changes in the law, but I doubt that would be practical, or free from manipulation.
I don't have all the answers, but then if I did I suspect I'd be much better off, and not ranting about politics on the internet.