31 May 2009

Four Consequences of Third Place Labour

The Sunday Telegraph/ICM poll today show the Lib Dems 3 points ahead of Labour in both the national and European voting intention surveys. So what will the consequences be for Labour? Yes this is only one poll, but if accurate, Labour could have even more problems:
  1. The party of government has never fallen to third place before. This will add extra pressure for a general election.
  2. The itch in the feet of some of the more liberal-minded Labour MPs may become unbearable. There were rumours earlier this month of potential defectors meeting with Lord Ashdown. I suspect they will wait until after the Euro elections, but the week after next could see Labour's Commons majority reduce if this poll's implications transfer into results.
  3. No-one in Labour has been talking up First Past The Post elections recently; indeed cabinet ministers have been openly raising speculation about moving towards a more proportional voting system. Electoral reform has never looked more likely. But turkeys don't vote for Christmas. If Labour look likely to be beaten into third, they may think again.
  4. Conversely, looking further ahead, if these poll figures transferred into votes at the next general election, UK Polling Report's handy uniform swing calculator shows Labour winning 178 seats, and the Lib Dems winning 74. If the Lib Dems won more votes but Labour won more seats, the pressure to change to a more proportional voting system would be raised a few more pascals.
Update: Changed post title to Four rather than three. Arse.

21 May 2009

Drug Dealers Given More Power

Criminals in the illegal drug trade were rubbing their hands with glee today after it was announced they were to be handed control of yet more dangerous drugs. Criminals gangs will soon be in control of the supply of GBL and BZP.

The Home Secretary Jacqui Smith proclaimed:

"I am determined that we respond to the dangers of these drugs and that is why I have committed to [criminals] controlling them.

"This is the next step in tackling the unregulated market of so-called 'legal highs'." ...By creating an unregulated market of illegal highs.

Meanwhile, people who enjoy taking GBL and BZP will continue to do so. The only difference is that users will now line the pockets of gangsters, risk being stigmatised for behaviour that harms no-one but themselves, and be exposed to more risk due to random variaton in the quality and quantity of what they are consuming.

I do agree that legal highs need regulating. A licencing system should be introduced for vendors, and age restrictions applied. Potential sers should be made aware of the dangers of the drug so they can make an informed decision via health warnings on packets. I doubt the criminal drug dealers will voluntarily do this.

12 May 2009

Lib Dems: Soft on Furnishings

We are yet to hear any significant details on what the Telegraph has unearthed on Lib Dem MPs' expenses, but this picture slideshow gives us a clue. Scatter cushions and a lambswool rug. Do soft furnishings make us look soft on benefits?

8 May 2009

Immigration is Not About Economics

Foreword: This is the second time of writing, and in my head it is crap compared to my first go. Note to all: Do not use iGoogle's Blogger gadget to write posts. Grrrrrr. Now how the fuck did I start?!

So the government is now forced to back down over the right for Gurkhas to settle in the UK. People of all political colours meant the government were always onto a loser. Nick Clegg's catchphrase "people who were prepared to die for this country should be allowed to live in this country" summed up the moral position that was taken by the pro-Gurkha-immigrants. The argument about cost lost. So why doesn't this happen over the wider debate over immigration?

The debate over immigration is usually framed in terms of economics. How much will a person benefit the UK? What skills will they bring? How much may it cost the taxpayer? It allows the discussion to be objective, so in these terms a conclusion can always be drawn about an amount that immigration needs to be limited. The debate often sounds like a board meeting about the number of widgets that are needed to ensure the optimum running of a business. Human beings are not widgets.

Lets widgetise the debate over the Gurkhas. The government's proposals allowed for 4,300 widgets, but the Widget Justice Campaign argued it would only allow for 100. But the government said up to 100,000 widgets would need to be allocated for if they had their way, costing £1.5bn, a figure disputed by Joanna Lumley (who I have more than forgiven for her appalling Scottish accent in Lewis on Easter Sunday).

If this wasn't about human beings, the government's case sounds quite reasonable. But it is the moral case that has won the day. Now in this case the campaign was supported by nationalists who felt Gurkhas had earned their right to live in this ONCE PROUD NATION! But again when you start talking about earning the right, the gate is left wide open for inhumane quantifying.

So whenever a big fuss is kicked off about how much immigration can be allowed, can we please remember we are talking about the lives of human beings. Please thankyou cheers.