Problematising Boundary Review Is Just A Way Of Entrenching The Labour Party’s Structural Privilege

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There are many obvious reasons for delaying or scrapping the upcoming constituency boundary review changes – but no good ones

See what I did with the headline there? Right-wingers can adopt the wheedling, victimhood-soaked language of the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics too, if we think it is going to advance our cause or smite our enemies.

Left Foot Forward editor Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin is in high dudgeon because the coming boundary review and shrinkage of the House of Commons from 650 seats to a slightly more manageable 600 MPs apparently means that too many of those who are left will be on the government payroll.

Ní Mhaoileoin writes:

The government’s plan to cut the size of parliament will increase the proportion of MPs on the government payroll, the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) has flagged.

According to new research, in a 600-seat Commons some 23 per cent of MPs would be on the government payroll, the highest proportion ever. The ERS warns that this could have ‘deeply worrying’ effects on parliamentary scrutiny and is calling for a cap on the number of payroll MPs.

‘This research shows we risk a crisis of scrutiny if the cut in MPs goes ahead without a corresponding cap on the number of payroll MPs,’ ERS chief executive Katie Ghose commented.

Having nearly a quarter of all MPs in the pocket of the PM is not a healthy situation for our democracy.

I think we can all agree that a body tasked with holding the executive to account which itself includes government ministers, parliamentary private secretaries and other hangers-on is always going to struggle to do an effective job – which is why many of us who think and care about constitutional issues all the time (as opposed to only when the system throws up a result we don’t like or disfavours our own preferred party) favour the total separation of the executive and the legislature.

Conservatives and progressives could potentially work together on reducing the size and cost of government while improving oversight by reducing the number of unnecessary junior ministers and official bag carriers, were it not for the leftist desire to have a government minister for everything under the sun, from Culture, Media and Sport to “Children, Young People and Families”. When your political philosophy expects and demands that the state be involved in every aspect of our lives, it inevitably necessitates a large cohort of ministers to do the meddling.

A cap on government payroll MPs would nonetheless be a reasonable (if typically British) compromise, but of course this is not what Ní Mhaoileoin really wants. And what Ní Mhaoileoin really wants is to maintain the current structural privilege currently enjoyed by the Labour Party. As Labour tends to perform best in urban seats, which themselves tend to be smaller and less populated than the suburban and rural constituencies where the Conservatives do well, the net effect for many years has been that it takes far fewer votes to elect a Labour MP than a Conservative MP.

Think of the gross anomaly whereby the SNP won 56 seats in Parliament at the 2015 general election with just 1.5 million votes, while UKIP won just a single seat despite winning 3.9 million votes. In the case of Labour and the Conservatives, the disparity is less pronounced – but it still exists. Boundary reform seeks to equalise constituency sizes, thus addressing the problem (though sadly not helping UKIP, who do not boast the SNP’s narrow geographic concentration of support). And this equalisation will enforce a basic fairness, the value of which makes it worth suffering through any negative side effects, particularly where these can reasonably be mitigated.

The concerns about the upcoming boundary review are well-rehearsed and rapidly becoming tedious. One might take them more seriously if those who raise the concerns showed any interest in solving or overcoming the issues that they raise rather than cynically using them as an excuse to halt something which – despite its inherent merit – is likely to be detrimental to the Labour Party’s electoral fortunes.

In short, this overwrought leftist concern about a toothless Parliament in the pocket of Theresa May is merely an attempt to problematise the issue of boundary reform, throwing a spanner in the works to prevent electoral disadvantage to Labour. Ní Mhaoileoin is doubtless in favour of reducing the size of the Commons as an abstrat theory, and if she were pressed through a hypothetical example would likely object to the current distribution of voters among seats which favours one party over another. But because the currently-favoured party in our system is Labour, and because Labour stands to lose out in relation to the Tories through this particular boundary review, Niamh feels compelled to oppose it.

But how to oppose something that is so self-evidently worthwhile and logical? The only way is to go grasping for every last flaw or possible technical hurdle in the review, inflating them out of all proportion and presenting each one as a show-stopper (or at least as justifiable grounds for interminable delay). As with the British Left’s general approach to Brexit, Ní Mhaoileoin is desperately problematising the boundary review, hoping to scupper it without ever having to reveal her true, grubby, anti-democratic reasons for doing so.

Smart politics? Maybe. The principled, moral, liberal thing to do? Absolutely not. Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin’s position is actually profoundly conservative – and not in a good way.

But apparently any behaviour, no matter how tawdry and self-serving, becomes noble and virtuous when it is performed in the service of the Labour Party.

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Top Image: Wikimedia Commons

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NHS Heresy, Part 2

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It takes real courage to speak out against the Cult of the NHS, particularly for people on the political left who are expected to be the biggest cheerleaders of all

From a brave commenter at Left Foot Forward, reacting to the same piece of sentimentalist NHS idolatry which prompted my article here:

I am disabled and faced horrendous treatment on the NHS when I unfortunately required help, I never once criticised staff individually but still every time I tried to talk about what I faced I was shouted at, told I hate the NHS, that I want to copy the US… I’ve seen the same thing happen to NHS staff whistleblowers. At this point it seems protecting “our NHS” from any and all criticism (that is not crouched in “don’t get me wrong, I love the NHS”) is more important than the wellbeing of both the patients and the staff and the functioning of the healthcare system.

I have since moved elsewhere in Europe to my husband’s country where the PUBLIC healthcare system (health insurance and private doctors are not a common thing here either), though it has flaws as everywhere does, functions as a healthcare system much better. If you want to change the pressures the NHS is under then it needs to become socially acceptable to talk about the NHS without referring to it as the “envy of the world” constantly or being accused of hating it and the staff working for it.

Heretic! Heretic!

BURN THE WITCH!

This statement takes courage, perhaps particularly from somebody who is clearly on the political left herself, and so is expected to be a particularly enthusiastic priestess of the Cult of the NHS. I admire her bravery – I fear that she (and others like her) will continue to be demonised for daring to acknowledge glaring reality.

 

Postscript: An alternative vision for healthcare in Britain, penned back in 2008 by Professor Karol Sikora, former chief of the World Health Organisation Cancer Program.

 

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The Uber Wars: Will The Left Ever Fight For Consumers Over Special Interests?

London Black Cabs - Uber Taxi Protest

Whenever there is a battle between the interests of ordinary consumers and the tired, unimaginative producers who rip them off, the Left take the side of the special interests over the little guy every single time

Wherever there is technological innovation and the prospect of incremental or revolutionary improvements in the way we live, there is also inevitably a finger-wagging lefty standing by with ten good reasons why humanity should stay in the cave, be terrified of fire and reject the wheel because it will put professional floor-draggers out of work.

And so it is with Uber. Left Foot Forward have come up with a list of five things you didn’t know about Uber – the obvious nature of which is clearly based on the assumption that you are a credulous simpleton who has no curiosity or understanding about how the services you use every day come to be delivered. And unsurprisingly, this list of five scandalous “unknown” things just happens to support the case for regulating Uber to death and propping up the greedy, inefficient, snarlingly anti-competitive black taxi cartel.

Here are Left Foot Forward’s five reasons why Uber is actually evil, courtesy of Ruby Stockham:

  1. It asserts that its drivers are ‘partners’, meaning they are not entitled to normal worker’s rights.
  2. If a driver’s rating falls below 4.6 or 4.2 (there are varying accounts) they risk being sacked (or ‘deactivated’ to use the Uber euphemism.)
  3. Uber deducts a fifth of a driver’s income, which is already low.
  4. Uber’s tax arrangements are highly contested.
  5. There are no limits on the number of cars Uber can operate.

My God, it’s awful.

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The Great Left Wing Race Card Scam

George Osborne with despatch box

The cynical, virtue-signalling Left think nothing of abusing the term ‘racism’, using it as a blunt cudgel to bash right wing policies when reasoned debate is too much effort. In this hysterical universe, even the Chancellor’s Budget can be deemed ‘racist’

Just so we are all on the same page, here is the dictionary definition of racism:

  • the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.
  • prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.

There’s not too much ambiguity here, it should be fairly simple to understand. But not for Varinder Singh, Left Foot Forward pundit and secretary to an unnamed Member of Parliament.

Singh is possessed of a racism detector whose needle jerks from “Just about OK” to “Ku Klux Klan” if affirmative action isn’t baked into absolutely every government policy working its way through parliament. And the latest target of his ire is George Osborne’s 2015 summer Budget, which he casually labels “racist” for failing to sufficiently patronise and condescend to Britain’s ethnic minorities.

In order to arrive at this surprising conclusion, Singh relies on a report by The Runnymede Trust, which deduced that ethnic minorities will be disproportionately worse off as a result of George Osborne’s fiscal tinkering. And then he changes the definition of the word “racism” to mean “policies that fail to actively promote my own personal agenda”.

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EU Referendum: Don’t Trust The Party That Doesn’t Trust The People

 

What to do when the political party you support and spend every waking moment campaigning for adopts a stance which is not only breathtakingly arrogant, but which runs completely contrary to the fundamental principles of democracy and respecting the will of the people?

Well, if you’re the socialist website Left Foot Forward and the case in question is whether or not Britain should hold a referendum on leaving the European Union, you simply convince yourself that the public are dangerous idiots who can’t be trusted to know what’s best for themselves, thus justifying your benevolent left wing dictatorship.

The editors of Left Foot Forward, clearly feeling a little uneasy that their man Ed Miliband is actively campaigning on a platform of denying the British people a say on their future governance, decided to do some unofficial polling to make themselves feel better. And sure enough, it transpires that 63% of their readers are also opposed to letting the British people decide.

But the left need some reasons, however flimsy, to shore up their indefensible position, and Left Foot Forward staff writer Ruby Stockham comes armed with plenty of them:

EU-sceptic Conservatives say that the knife-edge balance of public opinion means it is undemocratic to block a referendum. There are several problems with this argument. The first is that it’s cherry picking: we do not hold referendums on most public issues. There has not been one, for example, on TTIP; there was not one on military intervention in Syria or Libya.

The reason for this is that most of the electorate do not have a deep understanding of the intricacies of these issues; to build up a full picture of the economic, social, or security benefits and disadvantages of both sides would be a full-time job. What the electorate are exposed to is the simplified bias of parties like UKIP or the Eurosceptic press, who present an easily digested one-sided argument. The government cannot decide whether or not something is democratic based on whether or not it suits their aims.

Actually, the reason that EU-sceptic conservatives want a referendum is nothing to do with the fact that the public opinion is on a “knife-edge”. It’s more to do with the fact that power has been continually given away from Westminster to Brussels, from democratic British institutions to their opaque and largely undemocratic EU counterparts, without the British people ever having granted their permission for this to happen.

The 1975 referendum doesn’t count – the British people voted to join what was then known as the European Economic Community because as its name suggested, it was presented as a matter of free trade. Since that time, “common” European policies have sprung up in all manner of areas which impact British life, and which are traditionally fall to the nation state to control. Therefore, to present the question of Britain’s continued membership of the EU as being the same as any run-of-the-mill government decision – like raising taxes or deploying the military – is an entirely misleading comparison.

Stockham then tries to suggest that the British people are too ill-informed to make an educated decision. But this would be the whole point of a referendum campaign – to educate the British people on the pros, cons and detailed implications before letting the people render their judgement. Of course it does not suit Stockham’s purpose for the British people to become more educated on the subject of Europe, because then they would realise the extent to which the common market is just a façade for the far more wide-reaching European political union which was always the end goal.

And it is certainly not the case that the public would be overtly swayed by the “simplified bias of parties like UKIP”, as Ruby Stockham so haughtily suggests. If anything, the simplified bias is all on the pro-EU side. The majority of big businesses (who are naturally risk averse) are for the status quo – funny how the opinion of big business matters to the left on the topic of Europe, but nowhere else – as are all of Britain’s political parties, besides UKIP. In terms of funding and finding suitable mouthpieces for their talking points, the pro-Europeans would have no problems whatsoever – but of course it suits Left Foot Forward’s aims to portray themselves as the underdog.

But Ruby Stockham saves her best argument against holding an EU referendum for last:

Fourthly, the European Union has over 500 million citizens. A UK exit would affect all of them. It is truly undemocratic to allow the UK minority to dictate the future for all EU citizens.

That’s right. According to Left Foot Forward, the British people are not entitled to determine their own future because to hold a referendum would infringe on the rights of people in Lisbon and Warsaw – nearly all of whom would be supremely indifferent in any case – to keep Britain tied up in an unwanted political union.

Truly, no argument is too desperate when it comes to the British political left trying to find excuses to override the will of the people.

To quote a much younger Tony Blair: Weak, weak, weak.

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