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Day: March 4, 2011

How might the 2010 General Election have looked had the UK been a Republic and not a Monarchy?

Well I’ve written two blog posts today why not make it a third before I go off to the Indian to grab a curry?

There are many people across all political parties who want to remove the Monarchy and become a Republic. If we were to do that then for arguments sake lets adopt the US system where we would have a President instead of a Prime Minister and people would vote directly for them as well as voting for a local MP. Let’s say we have an Electoral College system using counties and give more votes to the higher populated counties like in America. This is all just hypothetical but might be fun to look at.

This would mean in 2010 we would have three main runners and riders. The Labour Party would put forward Gordon Brown, the Tories would put forward David Cameron and the Lib Dems would put forward Nick Clegg. I suspect the other fringe parties would do rather better than they do under our current system but I can’t see any of them realistically winning so let’s ignore them just for sake of this post.

Gordon Brown would be the incumbent having taken over after President Blair stood down. Brown was only ever elected as Vice-President on the Tony Blair ticket so would have to battle that stigma once again. Brown was leader overseeing a real downturn in the economy which is never a good thing in any voting system. However in a Presidential race would he have had the charisma to engage with the electorate and excite them to the point of electing him as President?

Maybe-maybe not but like the Republican Party over in the States you could chalk up significant victories for Labour under this system in weighty northern counties. Labour would only have to take a few counties in other areas of the UK to win. This would not be easy.

Brown would have had to pick a charismatic running mate on the ticket and the obvious man would have been David Miliband. The problem with this is that would Brown have trusted Miliband and put him on the ticket or would he have gone with one of his inner-circle – Ed Balls perhaps? I suspect it would have been a Brown-Balls ticket. Both strong but also both at the centre of a deeply unpopular government.

Next up we look at David Cameron. He had Middle England sown up and to win would have had to make inroads into the north and steal a Lancashire or a Warwickshire to make it an easy ride to the finish. Unlike Brown, Cameron’s main problem was no-one believed him to be a man of the people and the working classes could not stand the man. He would have needed a running mate who would have connected with that population to grab one or two of the big northern counties.

Looking around this is a major problem for the Tories under this scenario. The best appointment on the ticket would have been Mayor of London Boris Johnson and he ticks none of the boxes but has public appeal. He would be the foil and the public opposite to Cameron’s straight-lacedness (is that a word? MS Word says no – damn).

The Cameron-Johnson ticket would clean up the Home Counties and takes most of the London area and South-East. Probably not reaching a bump until we get to the South West.

Then the last big name ticket would be the upstart Nick Clegg-Vince Cable ticket. They would be before this election the most popular amongst the floating voters. A clean-cut Westminster student coupled with an old school Liberal who had the public’s trust. It was the dream ticket but would it have been popular enough to ride on the tidal-wave of public support to a victory?

This is probably not happening but it would have been very interesting had they taken the Electoral College votes for counties such as Devon & Cornwall – both of whom would have been serious targets and legitimate possibilities for the duo. They were widely seen to have the most popular policies except on two major issues – the nuclear deterrent and immigration. The latter being a killer.

So the end result is no-one wins more than 50% of the Electoral College votes with the nationalist parties in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland doing enough to mean that a winner would have had less than 50%.

If it ended there David Cameron would have been elected president but may not have had a majority in the newly-refigured House of Commons or House of Lords. If however an AV system was in place then Gordon Brown most likely is declared the winner and becomes President thanks in main to the AV votes of nationalist parties and Lib Dems.

Neither Brown nor Cameron would likely have a majority in either house and pushing through legislation at a time of economic instability would have been extremely tricky – whoever had won.

Of course one of them could still have done a policy deal with the Lib Dems to allow legislation to slide through easier as it would be likely the Lib Dems would still have MPs at local level.

It would have been very interesting had we been a Republic in 2010. When electing a President often charisma trumps all and a campaign it squarely focused on personalities with policies often relegated to second place in the mud-slinging and in the media.

What would have happened had we been a Republic in 2010 using a system extremely similar to the US style electoral college? Who knows but it would have been a very different campaign but probably a very similar result with one or two counties being the swing giving either Brown or Cameron the keys to #10.

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Barnsley Central and 6th place for the Lib Dems. Ugly but it was only a one-night stand type of ugly.

So in one of the biggest stunners in recent political history, Labour managed to defy all the odds and re-gain Barnsley Central from an Independent last night. Oh I’m just hearing through the voices in my head that I may have over-egged that opening sentence a wee bit.

Labour winning (oh Charlie Sheen – whenever I see the word winning now I chuckle) in what is about as safe a seat as you get was never going to be the story. If the Lib Dem vote collapsed then it would surely signal panic and the end of the world as we knew it. The coalition would fall and David Cameron would be seeing the Queen today to dissolve parliament and set a General Election that would sweep Ed Miliband into #10 and Labour back into power.

Well the Lib Dem vote collapsed beyond what anyone really thought. It was on the face of it a shockingly awful result for the party and shows clearly that people are not happy with the party. Placing them behind an independent though as well as UKIP and BNP will have created waves that will have rocked the boat internally. However look a bit deeper into the result and the history of by-elections and you’ll see that these are times for the protest vote and the Lib Dems on this occasion were the obvious protest vote party – but not in the right way.

The party were never going to win here and they knew it. The Conservatives knew they weren’t going to win either. So did either party really put up any sort of realistic campaign? No they quite simply left it to Labour and the fringe parties to battle it out on the doorstep and in the local media.

Can you look too deeply into a result where no fight was put up? I’m not sure you can. The result on the face of it is only good for UKIP. They rose from 4.7% and a distant 5th last May to a 12.2% vote share and a pretty solid 2nd place just ten months later. That isn’t too shabby at all.

Yet again though can you really look too deeply at this and extrapolate these results over the country and what might happen in 2015? No you can’t whatever anyone tries to tell you. General Elections are fought on both a national and local level but by-elections are fought solely on the local level. No real TV time is given in a by-election certainly when it happens to be in an extremely safe seat.

In summary this was not a pretty night for the Lib Dems at all. It was about as pretty as a pavement outside a kebab joint in the early hours of a Sunday morning. It will look bad for today but when next week rolls around this result will be forgotten and not brought up by anyone again as it has no relevance (well except for Nigel Farage – he’ll prattle on about it for years but still – he’s an idiot). It must be said that long-term the result in Barnsley Central will have very little to no effect on the future of the party or the coalition government.

To say anything different would be inaccurate and even worse than that – it would be lazy.

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David Starkey on Question Time sounded like a paranoid art student on a pretty nasty LSD trip

I really do like long headlines don’t I?

Last night I switched up the laptop at around 10ish as I had a giant energy gap and went to bed. I had no plans to watch BBC Question Time but turns out I was still awake for it (and subsequently still awake til gone 2) so I stuck it on and tried to fall asleep. As I wasn’t on twitter last night I have no idea what everyone els thought of him and whether or not I’m alone on this island with my PoV but as Kel would say to Kenan ‘awwww here goes…’

Every week I think someone is an idiot and this week it was David Starkey. Now I’ll put this out there right now – he is easily superior to me in education and is without a shadow of a doubt far more intelligent than I ever will be but despite Jon Heyman’s belief that you cannot say anything bad about a person you’ve never met I’m happy to say that I thought he was nuts (Starkey not Heyman…).

The first question was about Libya and what we as a country should do. His thoughts were essentially that we can’t do anything as people can only get freedom by doing it themselves so if Gaddafi wants to mass-genocide his own people then we should stand aside and let that happen because that is the only way they will learn. He obviously didn’t say that out right because that would’ve been all over the news but he got no applause for what he said which was basically ‘We can’t help them win freedom so we shouldn’t try and protect them with military force’. I think that is certainly a fair representation of what he said.

As one of those liberal types that thinks we are all human and if someone is killing someone else and we have a chance to stop it then we should do so then obviously I was in my arms over this (metaphorically obviously – I was still trying to go to sleep). So I was already het up as it were.

Next question was about Prince Andrew’s links to Libya and most panellists basically said they didn’t know in great detail about the story so chose not to address it directly. Fair enough. Starkey though used the question to attack Tony Blair for doing deals with Gaddafi that led to him giving up his chemical weapon research and funding terrorism in exchange for oil. Yeah Tony Blair really was evil making sure an insane leader didn’t develop weapons that if he had them at this stage would have killed tens of thousands of his own people. Yeah, so evil…

Also as an aside he made a very sarcastic and nasty comment about Prince Andrew and intellectual corruption which was totally uncalled for. Whatever you think about the Duke of York this was a guy who went to war for Queen and Country and took enemy fire during the Falklands Conflict even though as the Queen’s son he could easily have been removed from front line duty. For that both he and Prince Harry should always have our respect. Whether he’s Mensa quality or not shouldn’t be sniggered at by anyone.

The next question was on Rupert Murdoch and the deal to him to take full control at BSkyB. Starkey used this opportunity in this question to attack…Tony Blair. It is like this is a pattern. Yet again talking about the deal in the desert with Gaddafi. He stated that Murdoch had always been a supporter of Blair and New Labour until recently implying that Blair and Murdoch are as evil as each other. We all know that Murdoch supports whoever will win. That is his way and his company’s way (although he still wanted to back Brown but his son and Rebecca Wade persuaded him that would be an unwise move in the long term influentially).

The disease of Blairism, Interventionalism, and Corruption runs deep in this government as well he says. Scary stuff. He goes on to point out that he doesn’t care one jot about who owns Sky but just hates Blairism and Blair and anything and everything he did.

Finally we come to the my tricky question of the Christian couple who cannot foster any more children after saying that if a kid in their care wanted to talk about being gay they would tell the child that it is morally wrong.

I will say this. This is not an easy case at all and both sides have very compelling arguments. I can see why the Courts had a hard time with this one. Starkey is openly gay and ended his opening gambit with this, ‘Speaking as someone who is gay and had a mother who is Christian and passionately hated and opposed it, the hatred and opposition made me what I am’.

So in essence he is happy he had a hard upbringing as that allowed him to be who he is today. He is therefore implying that kids should have the same trials and tribulations because if they get love and affection from their parents then they’ll not turn out to be as good in the long run.

Let me say this. What horse shit.

Liam Hallian who is an Economist and Columnist for the Sunday Telegraph said that the decision was insane. The couple were in line to foster kids between five and eight and kids that young don’t know anything about sexuality so this hypothetical situation would never turn up. I have to say that is not accurate. Kids of a very young age do have questions about this and they are even taught it at school at that age these days. Questions are going to crop up at school and in the playground. To think that it would never cross the minds of any kid in their care is quite frankly delusional.

Iain Duncan-Smith on the panel was the only one who clearly looked at the case in detail and made the key point that a foster parent is not a parent. The job of a foster carer is to bring up the foster child in a caring environment in a way dictated to by the state as they are in state care. Therefore if the state says that homosexuality is not wrong then no foster carer should enforce their personal views on the matter on to any foster child. That seems relatively straightforward to me.

To close I have seen some performances on Question Time in my life but last night I really wondered if I had seen a more cynical hatred of the world we live in and I don’t think I have. Everyone has to suffer and everyone needs to have as much pain as possible in their lives to make them a better person.

Forgive me for saying this but I do not believe a word of it. We are all wired differently and whilst some people will come through a bad upbringing with a better chance of success, many many more will fall by the wayside and have awful lives.

I just hope I never become as downbeat on society and the world as the historian as David Starkey is because if I do, I suspect I will not enjoy life one jot.

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