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Doing referendums differently so the oiks don’t win again

The Electoral Reform Society has released a report about the conduct of the EU referendum called “It’s good to talk: Doing referendums differently after the EU vote”.

The title “It’s good to talk” suggests a conversation, a dialogue. Unlike some commentary by prominent Remain supporters, it does not seek to rule that some people are not qualified to take part in the dialogue at all and their votes should be disregarded. In fact if I chose to use this particular document in order to criticise a paternalist tendency in British politics, it is because it shows this tendency at its most well-meaning. But however reasonably expressed, the purpose of the measures suggested by the Electoral Reform Society is to stop the wild voters ever getting loose again.

So it’s time for a root and branch review of referendums, learning the lessons of the EU campaign to make sure the mistakes that were made in terms of regulation, tone and conduct are never repeated.

“Regulation, tone and conduct.” How very British, how very Sir Humphrey! Yet the people who wrote this probably object to being called “The Establishment”. The report assumes that the referendum was ill-regulated and that the referendum was something that should be regulated. By people like them.

We’ve made nine key recommendations to improve the conduct of future referendums. They are:

Laying the groundwork

1. Mandatory pre-legislative scrutiny for any Bill on a referendum, lasting at least three months, with citizens’ involvement

2. A minimum six-month regulated campaigning period to ensure time for a proper public discussion

3. A definitive ‘rulebook’ to be published, setting out technical aspects of the vote, as soon as possible after the passing of any referendum Bill

Better information

1. A ‘minimum data set’ or impartial information guide to be published at the start of the regulated campaigning period

Written by their sort of people, containing the information that their sort of people think is relevant, impartial in the sense of being in the middle of the spread of opinion that is socially acceptable for their sort of people.

2. An official body should be given the task of intervening when misleading claims are made by the campaigns, as in New Zealand

“An official body” means a body with power. “Given the task of intervening” means given the power to silence. And, of course, the official body will be staffed by suitably qualified people. So some more of their sort of people will have new powers to censor the unenlightened.

3. Citizenship education to be extended in schools

I don’t really need to say it, do I?

alongside UK-wide extension of votes at 16

With the result that those who have only known a life where the majority of their waking hours were spent under the control of the clerisy will mostly vote as directed. There is another point, too. The extension of the franchise to children is no longer an anomaly if all the voters are treated as children. Like children, all the information they receive will be censored and filtered by their wise teachers, who get to decide what claims are misleading.

More deliberation

1. The government should fund a resource for stimulating deliberative discussion/debate about referendum

2. An official body should be tasked with providing a toolkit for members of the public to host own debates/deliberative events on the referendum

“Providing the toolkit” for debates is an example of the agenda-setting power.

3. Ofcom should conduct a review into an appropriate role for broadcasters to play in referendums, with aim of making coverage/formats more deliberative rather than combative/binary

It’s a referendum, for goodness sake. How can it be other than binary? Ah, I think I know. I came across many comments by Remainers saying that the simple option “Leave the EU” was too easy and the question in the corrective referendum should be broken up into multiple different flavours of Leave plus one flavour of Remain. This would have the happy effect of splitting the Leave vote.

We think our new report, ‘It’s Good to Talk: Doing Referendums Differently After the EU Vote’, will be a useful resource in tackling the big questions about where we go from here when it comes to referendums. We hope you agree.

I do not agree. The report suggests various measures that would reduce the chance that polite conversation will be interrupted by shouting. Another way of putting that is that the report puts forward measures to make it harder for angry, inarticulate people to be heard, harder for them to sense that they are not alone, harder for referendums to fulfil their function of yanking the people’s representatives back into contact with what the people actually want.

More than that though, we hope the recommendations we suggest lead to some genuine change so that the public get the referendum debates they deserve in the future.

The wording is revealing. Although the mention of the public getting what they deserve is meant politely rather than literally, debate is seen as something the public get given to them, not as something they do themselves, however raw and “combative” and “binary” it may be.

Monsters from the American Id

Justin Webb writes in the Times:

Bomb is a sign of hatred in American hearts (£)

Amazing what these Americans can do just by thinking about it. Webb, or whatever sub-editor wrote that headline, has finally acknowledged the truth first revealed in dramatic form sixty years ago:

Commander John J. Adams: In return, that ultimate machine would instantaneously project solid matter to any point on the planet, In any shape or color they might imagine. For *any* purpose, Morbius! Creation by mere thought.

Dr. Edward Morbius: Why haven’t I seen this all along?

Commander John J. Adams: But like you, the Americans forgot one deadly danger – their own subconscious hate and lust for destruction.

Dr. Edward Morbius: The beast. The mindless primitive! Even the Americans must have evolved from that beginning.

Donald Trump must have an especially American id. He is always calling violence upon himself by the sinister power of his subconscious.

By the way, monsters from the Dallas branch of the id also killed Kennedy: “The city of hate had, in fact, killed the President.”

Update: Evidently Dallas is a sort of wi-fi hotspot of the id. The fabric of reality wears thin in Texas. (Oklahoma isn’t so bad, being protected by Rodgers & Hammerstein. And New Mexico votes Democrat.) Getting back to Dallas, no individual can be blamed for the recent murders of policemen there. In Texas such things are inevitable.

Discussion point: is there any good reason why Momentum shouldn’t have a children’s wing?

From the Guardian:

Momentum to start children’s wing to boost ‘involvement in labour movement’

Momentum, the social movement set up to support Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, is launching a children’s wing called Momentum Kids.

Momentum is organising a fringe festival, The World Transformed, alongside next week’s Labour party conference in Liverpool and Momentum Kids will launch with a creche for parents attending the event.

Momentum claims it will then spread nationwide, aiming to provide cooperatively run childcare, including breakfast clubs, for parents who want to get involved in political activity but find it hard to fit around their caring responsibilities.

The new group is also aimed at “increasing children’s involvement in Momentum and the labour movement by promoting political activity that is fun, engaging and child-friendly”.

Mr McDonnell, are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?

A perfectly justified question to put to John McDonnell in the light of this report from the Telegraph:

John McDonnell welcomed the financial crash and called himself a Marxist, newly found footage shows

John McDonnell, Labour’s shadow chancellor, welcomed the financial crash that wrecked Britain’s economy and insisted he was a Marxist, newly uncovered footage shows.

Mr McDonnell, who is Jeremy Corbyn’s closest political ally, is seen in the 2013 video saying that the economic upheaval proves the faults with modern capitalism.

At one point Mr McDonnell, who was a backbencher at the time, says of the crisis: “I’ve been waiting for this for a generation!”

The comments are documented in a YouTube video viewed less than 60 times which was posted on the website on March 16, 2013.

Here is that video: John McDonnell MP Speaking at communities against the cuts meeting 16-3-13. The relevant extract is between 07:10 and 07:35.

In a video entitled “John McDonnell MP Speaking at communities against the cuts meeting”, the man now in charge of Labour’s economic policy is seen discussing the crisis.

“We’ve got to demand systemic change. Look, I’m straight, I’m honest with people: I’m a Marxist,” Mr McDonnell is seen saying at one point.

“This is a classic crisis of the economy – a classic capitalist crisis. I’ve been waiting for this for a generation!

“For Christ’s sake don’t waste it, you know; let’s use this to explain to people this system based on greed and profit does not work.”

Most of the comments I have read seem to think that his “welcoming” the financial crash of 2008 is the main story. I don’t see it that way. He could reasonably claim (added later: he has claimed) that it was said as a self-mocking joke about the way Marxists have been predicting the imminent demise of capitalism for years and only now, it seems, has it finally happened. No, I think the damning part is “I’m honest with people: I’m a Marxist.”

My title for this post was also intended as a historical joke. There is no doubt about what party Mr McDonnell belongs to, the Labour Party. The doubt that arises in many people’s minds is whether under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership this is still a party normal people can vote for without going the full Venezuela. We know he is now and has long been a member of the Labour party, but someone will inevitably now ask Mr McDonnell, “Are you a Marxist?”

In 2013 his straight and honest answer was “Yes”. If he answers “No” three years later, will people believe him? When did he change and why?

If he answers “Yes”… this man is Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer.

*

Update: Mr McDonnell appeared on Question Time last night. He was asked by David Dimbelbly if he was a Marxist, in the light of that video. Watch the first half minute of this clip to see how he responds. At 15 seconds in we have:

Dimbelby: “Are you a Marxist?”

McDonnell: “No, I’m a socialist.”

Dimbelby: “Well, why say, ‘I’m a Marxist'”?

McDonnell: “Because actually I was trying to, I was demonstrating, a prediction of the capitalist crisis at the time.”

Anna Soubry’s lengthy attack on him afterwards becomes tedious, but she got a solid round of applause for her initial indignant restatement of fact in the face of this farrago: “You said, ‘I’m a Marxist'”.

Maybe there is no tradeoff

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

It has been fifteen years. Throughout that time most people, however much or little they valued liberty, have talked as if a loss of liberty were the price of increased security. Even Benjamin Franklin’s famous words quoted above assume this tradeoff.

What if it were not true? In what ways could more liberty bring about more safety?

“Climate change is a racist crisis: that’s why Black Lives Matter closed an airport”

Alexandra Wanjiku-Kelbert, who will help train you as a socialist campaigner for three thousand quid, has done a beautiful thing. Not only has she caused the left to lie down with right on the Guardian comments pages, she has made the left to lie down with the left. Verily, the Corbynite and the Blairite shall dwell together and jointly speak trash of Ms Spellcheck-Kelbert.

Here is the article that gave rise to such wonders:

Climate change is a racist crisis: that’s why Black Lives Matter closed an airport

Today we are saying that the climate crisis is a racist crisis. On the one hand Britain is the biggest contributor per capita to global temperature change.

Those who closely follow the carbon dioxide emissions league tables (app available on Android and iOS) will have been surprised by this sudden promotion of Britain to the top spot. All will be explained if you click on the link. You will see that the figure she quotes for each nation is calculated over all time. Seriously, they are blaming Britain for having been first with the industrial revolution.

It is also one of the least vulnerable to the effects of climate change. On the other hand, seven of the 10 countries most vulnerable to climate change are in sub-Saharan Africa.

We’re not saying that climate change affects only black people. However, it is communities in the global south that bear the brunt of the consequences of climate change, whether physical – floods, desertification, increased water scarcity and tornadoes – or political: conflict and racist borders. While a tiny elite can fly to and from London City airport, sometimes as a daily commute, this year alone 3,176 migrants have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean, trying to reach safety on the shores of Europe.

Got all that? Climate change causes racist borders.

We are coming under fire for the fact that the protesters on the runway today were all white. That is not an accident.

True enough. The SWP (for it is they) can’t be fussing with their lineup of professional protesters every time there’s a black theme month.

Ironies abound

The BBC reports:

Bolton transgender councillor comment treated as hate incident

A comment in which a transgender Tory councillor was called “he” by a Labour rival is being treated as a hate incident by police.
Zoe Kirk-Robinson, 35, said Guy Harkin, 69, referred to her twice as a man in a debate at a Bolton Council meeting.
The hate crime ambassador, who transitioned 10 years ago, said the comments on 24 August “hurt a lot” and she reported them to police.
Mr Harkin has apologised. Police said “hate incidents are not tolerated”.

[…]

Mr Harkin said: “I inadvertently referred to her as a he during a heated debate.
“As soon as I was made aware of it, I apologised… It is something and nothing.”
A GMP spokeswoman said: “Hate incidents will not be tolerated in Greater Manchester.”

Metro takes the story further:

Councillor refuses to take punishment for calling transgender woman ‘he’ instead of ‘she’

After reporting Cllr Harkin to Greater Manchester Police, officers downgraded it to a ‘hate incident’ rather than a ‘hate crime’ and advised the pair to talk it out through a restorative justice programme.
But the former Labour mayor has refused his punishment, maintaining that his comments were just a ‘slip of the tongue.’

The political affiliations of the parties add spice to this story, don’t you think? When Tony Blair’s Labour government introduced a purely subjective definition of a racist incident following the MacPherson Report, and then in 2006 added new provisions to the Public Order Act 1986 to cover “hatred” based on sexual orientation in the same way that racial hatred had been covered before, I doubt the legislators envisaged the roles of denouncer and denouncee falling this way round. Perhaps, too, they did not envisage that things would go so far that a misspoken word would bring the police to the council chamber. I expect they were quite sure that these laws would never be used against people like them.

“Green ownership is about having a stake in what matters, because how else are people supposed to care?”

“Green ownership is about having a stake in what matters, because how else are people supposed to care?”

– Caroline Lucas, usually described as Britain’s First but never Britain First’s Green MP, and recently elected along with A Bloke to be Green party co-leader.

You may ask what this means.

“It means democratising the economy, with banks to serve the people not the other way round.

Corporate taxation back under control, and financial structures that answer to you, not to the City of London and its shareholders.

We need an economy of, by and for the people.”

You see now? We need an economy by the people. Because how else are people supposed to matter?

Hillary Clinton has said, and I quote, “I believe in white supremacy”

I have proof! Here she is saying exactly those words on video!

Do you think that might possibly be unfair? Do you think that quotation might possibly have been taken out of context by some malicious person?

It is fair by Hillary Clinton’s own standards. Here is another video of Hillary Clinton talking about Nigel Farage yesterday. At 0:25 seconds, she says that he has

“… said women are, and I quote, ‘worth less’ than men”

What Farage actually said can be seen on this video from Sky News. He said,

“In many, many cases women make different choices in life to the ones men make, simply for biological reasons. A woman who has a client base, has a child and takes two or three years off – she is worth far less to her employer when she comes back than when she went away because that client base won’t be stuck as rigidly to her portfolio.”

Insofar as what Farage said does include the words “women”, “worth” and “less”, Clinton’s quote is accurate.

Because I aspire to higher standards than Ms Clinton, here are her “white supremacy” remarks in context. The relevant part starts at 0:30 seconds. She is arguing against school vouchers and in the course of that imagines a situation where a parent comes and says, “I want to send my child to the school of the church of the white supremacy” (or possibly “supremacists”).

While on the subject of words in context, take a look at this report from the Guardian that gives a reasonably full account of what Mr Farage actually said that became Mrs Clinton’s

“Farage has called for a bar on the children of legal immigrants from public schools and services”

The Guardian is disapproving but makes clear that the proposed bar was temporary and excluded emergency medical care:

Farage said it was a “difficult” issue and that it was not a manifesto pledge. But he said his personal view was that immigrants would only bring their dependants after a period of time and after that he would not envisage their children being allowed to go straight into state schools.

The What We Stand For section of Ukip’s website says: “Immigrants must financially support themselves and their dependants for five years. This means private health insurance (except emergency medical care), education and housing – they should pay into the pot before they take out of it.”

I might have saved myself all this sniping and simply said that Hillary Clinton was under fire for lying again.

“Don’t mourn, organize!”

Such were the last words attributed to doomed American labor activist Joe Hill.

The British Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn decided to refresh his message for the new century. Rather than refraining from mourning and going into organization it refrained from organizing and went into mourning.

Labour left humiliated after G4S turns down last ditch plea to provide conference security despite boycott

Labour has been left humiliated after being forced to ask a security company it had pledged to boycott to help police its annual conference – only to be rejected.

G4S, which has provided security at the event for 20 years, is understood to be concerned about staff safety after Labour voted for a boycott over its prison contracts and links to Israel.

It follows a warning from Len McCluskey, the Unite boss, that the conference could be cancelled unless a provider is found urgently.

Sources close to the company warned that the short notice it was given and previous incidents at the event, including staff being spat at and verbally abused, made it impossible for G4S to accept the offer.

Security strip

“History,” wrote Edward Gibbon “is indeed little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind.” One can well believe that his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire contains many lamentable tales wherein, for instance, after a barbarian attack the citizenry would take some random woman of the same tribe and humiliate her in a misdirected act of revenge.

French police make woman remove clothing on Nice beach following burkini ban

Photographs have emerged of armed French police confronting a woman on a beach and making her remove some of her clothing as part of a controversial ban on the burkini.

Authorities in several French towns have implemented bans on the Burkini, which covers the body and head, citing concerns about religious clothing in the wake of recent terrorist killings in the country.

The images of police confronting the woman in Nice on Tuesday show at least four police officers standing over a woman who was resting on the shore at the town’s Promenade des Anglais, the scene of last month’s Bastille Day lorry attack.

France, like the rest of the liberal West, gets this exactly and lethally wrong. First we forbid individuals their natural right to set the rules within their own property, to exclude and admit who they choose, to demand the burkini or to ban it. Then we set the law on people for the crime of wearing too much cloth on the public beach. A photograph is reproduced worldwide showing three armed male policemen standing over a Muslim woman and making her remove the clothes she considers necessary for modesty. Whatever your opinion of Islam and its clothing taboos, does anyone in the world believe that this makes the next jihadist attack less likely? To call it “security theatre” would be a compliment. The popular entertainment it calls to mind is that of the mob stripping and parading une femme tondue.

Jeremy Corbyn floored!

The Guardian, 16th August:

Corbyn joins seatless commuters on floor for three-hour train journey

Labour leader is filmed during trip from London to Newcastle, on his way to meet Owen Smith for leadership hustings

[…]

Later, Corbyn said: “Is it fair that I should upgrade my ticket whilst others who might not be able to afford such a luxury should have to sit on the floor? It’s their money I would be spending after all.”

The Guardian, 23rd August:

Virgin Trains disputes Jeremy Corbyn claim over lack of seats

Film of Labour leader sitting on floor of ‘ram-packed’ train countered by CCTV footage of him walking past empty seats

Guido Fawkes’ blog, 23rd August:

Owen Smith tweets a nice kick to a man when he is on the floor (unnecessarily):

“My campaign remains on track. Proud to be genuinely standing up for ordinary people.”