Wednesday, March 10, 2010

First Past the Post : a system that smells worse than well-rotten fish

It's been a funny old week. Up and down like a Weston donkey Parliamentary candidate who has withdrawn from the race.

Yesterday morning I fell on the hill (walking the dog, icy mud, feet shot away). Crunched shoulder, hope I get away without a rotator cuff syndrome.

Yesterday evening - meeting of North Somerset Green Party. I apologised for my unilateral action in withdrawing, explained had a virus, felt v empty, hacked around with text for national leaflet, submitted it right up against deadline, worried about inadequacy of text for much of the night, phoned in morning to pull the text, and pulled my candidacy at the same time. I should have pulled the text with a view to making our own leaflet, or discussing things with local party. The party was hurt, but forgiving. I explained my need to continue blogging and publicly explaining why I withdrew, which is why I cannot submit to a gagging order. The party accepted that I was going to go on the SW Politics Show as an individual, speaking only for myself, not for the party.

Not much sleep, thinking, and then up at 5.30 to take Nicky and Laurie to the station, London-bound for an interview. At 8.30am, called in on the Hedge-laying Competition in Regil. They were just setting up, with a fine long hedge to deal with. I was unable to participate because of bad shoulder (see above). There were many totally authentic horny handed sons of toil there, laying into the hedge, but unfortunately about 1/4 of them had chainsaws, so the air was bluer than Bangalore, and you couldn't hear yourself think.  Vegger the dog disgraced himself by dumping right in the middle of the competition area. Luckily I had today's Guardian to hand, so I will never know now what was originally on the centre page. I know full well what is on it now. Decided to take dog up the hill and try to find out where I was. Beautiful Somerset vales and undulations, all ready to dress itself up in the bridal garments of Spring. Biting cold wind. Mobile phone goes - Paul Bartrop from the Politics Show, and we arrange to meet at 12. On way down, Vegger starts to roll in something. Probably a cow pat. No, its a bit of rabbit. No it's not, it's a bit of rotten fish. Not just any old bit of rotten fish, but a rotten fish's rotten fish. No wonder he was rolling so ecstatically.  ("Smelling like this, I can creep up on a deer no problem, they'll never know").

So I withdrew from the chainsaw-contaminated hedging event, and went home to tidy up before the BBC came. But first I had to wash the dog. It was bitter outside, so I had mercy and used warm water and a bottle of Moroccan Idyll shampoo (£150 per 100 ml) to clean him. But he still honked, so I had to take him for a walk to dry off. Got back, an hour to go, to clean the house. Flying around, bringing order out of disorder, but then the phone rang and it was someone from a Green Party pleading with me not to speak to BBC about why I stood down. I said the story is out, it is going to go on the Politics Show anyway, I want to try to explain why I did it first hand, sorry. She really thinks that the LibDems are going to use it against the Green Party everywhere, and it will undermine all Green efforts. I said we can use the "your turn" argument: "No, it's your turn, you stand down in Brighton Pavilion, for exactly the same reason Richard stood down in Weston. Let's work together to get MPs in who support Proportional Representation".

Having lost some tidying up time, the house was only 95% tidy when Paul came. We chatted, then went up the hill to do a piece to camera. As usual, my powers of fluent expression disappeared as soon as the camera was on, but I hope I said words to the effect that FPTP is a travesty of an electoral system that routinely forces tactical voting on people, and now has induced this tactical withdrawal. That FPTP has got to go, and that the rational thing is that parties who hate FPTP should co-operate. And that a hung Parliament (leading to PR) is the best outcome, because 5 years of undiluted Brown or Cameron would be preferable only to being forced to roll in rotten fish on a daily basis and then lick yourself clean. Words to that effect. Anyway, it is in the lap of the editors now. [update : No it's not. After a stream of pained telephone calls from mainly women Green Party activists, I phoned Paul and he very kindly agreed to pull my bit out of the programme, although he is going to mention my withdrawal].

What I am getting from all and sundry is that there is a real animosity towards the LibDems in places where they dominate. In Weston, Tories dominate, and when I was on the Council, I co-operated a lot with the LibDems. 

For all their faults, greens and LibDems do share a common interest in Proportional Representation, albeit different kinds.

Overall, if we get PR, we are going to have to co-operate with other parties in Government, because that's how PR works. If we want to get PR, we also have to co-operate with other parties that want PR.

My name in the Green Party now smells considerably less sweet than Vegger the dog after rolling in the rotten fish. I hope that what I have done will stimulate a real attack on the iniquitous FPTP system. I am not convinced of the argument that I have brought about the end of the Green Party as we know it.

We'll have to see what happens.

Best outcome:  Politics Show starts a serious public discussion about the inadequacies of FPTP,  and the LibDems stand down reciprocally in Brighton Pavilion, ensuring Caroline Lucas' entry into a Hung Parliament, where we get PR and radical political and economic reform.
Worst outcome: LibDems everywhere urge Greens to stand down, Greens do not use the "Your Turn" argument, so Greens do marginally worse in marginal seats, though there is a massive increase in the Green vote in Safe Seats due to deployment of the Safe Seat argument.
Probable Outcome: something in between.

Anyway. I need to get out and take Mr Smelly for a walk, to take my mind off the fact that I am now the least favorite person in the whole Green Party, and my chance of getting Conference to accept the Dealing With Dictators policy or the Green Wage Subsidy are now zero. Which is a pity.


Adrian Windisch said...

Its not so bad Richard, by conference time we will probably have something else to worry about. Your motions do often get through.

My local LD also play dirty, bar charts that proove 'cant win here', misquoting us etc. Just as they say they are against airport expansion, then comes Exeter.

This is good

DocRichard said...

Thanks for kind words Adrian

Anonymous said...

Canadian Greens and Liberals have had limited co-operation to counter the FPTP system. Agreeing not to run candidates in each other's target seats. In fact in Canada it was the Liberals that stood down first.

Adrian, the Jenny Jones article isn’t very good if you’re a Canadian Green. She says of the Liberal Democrats’ Green Tax Switch, “No serious Greens would contemplate this.” It seems in her rush to attack the Liberal Democrats, she overlooked the fact that the British Liberals borrowed the policy from the Canadian Green Party and the NZ Green Party has very similar green tax switch policies.

Anonymous said...

Hope the shoulder gets better soon Richard.

Just one point: the Lib Dems official policy is to support STV in large multi-member constituencies, but in reality they've made it clear they'll accept AV instead, which in many cases is a less proportional that FPTP and is actually a step backwards (though of course it would lead to a massive increase in Lib Dem seats).

DocRichard said...

I know. But look on the bright side: AV can be converted to AV+.

The shoulder seems to be improving thanks. Close call.

Anonymous said...

‘Then comes Exeter’ Adrian the Liberal Democrats are guilty of many things, but arguing they could have legally stopped Exeter Airport expansion, is stretching the credulity of anyone with an IQ higher than their shoe size. Look at the report of the Task Group on Environmental impacts of Exeter International Airport