Sunday, April 11, 2010

Brighton Pavilion: an encounter with Charlotte Vere, the Conservative Candidate

< Conservative Candidate CharlotteV crossing things out

I went to Brighton yesterday, nine and a half hours on the train, but all worth it. In Brighton I had the pleasure of meeting the Conservative candidate, Charlotte Vere, at her street stall. Business was quiet for the Tories, so I introduced myself as DocRichard (we have been having an interchange of tweets), and we had a nice chat for four or five minutes, covering social breakdown, economic divergence, the philosophy of science, the question of human existence, and the ideology of individualism. I regret that we did not have an opportunity to discuss the iniquity of FPTP, though i may have mentioned it in passing.  usually do.  

I opened with the questions that I had been putting to her (@CharlotteV) on Twitter about greater social equality. Was she familiar with the Spirit Level?  No, she had not read it. Which, coming from a would-be MP in 2010, is rather like a would-be surgeon admitting that he had not looked at Gray's Anatomy. I explained that it showed on the basis of epidemiological science that the Rich Poor Gap was the root cause of all the social problems encapsulated in the phrase "Broken Britain". David Cameron on R4Today had got the direction of causality totally back to front. She countered that she doubted that there was "scientific proof". I explained that science does not do proof,  but that the Equality Trust's data, just like climate science, is well beyond reasonable denial.

Charlotte scorns the idea of stooping to using money to address poverty, which is slightly counter-intuitive. I think she thinks that Citizen's Income is just throwing money at people who would not have the faintest idea of knowing  how to invest it on the Stock Market. I explained that the basic problem is the inherent divergence implicit in the debt-interest method of creating money.

She was a little taken aback when I pointed out that Citizen's Income was already being implemented in Namibia, Alaska and Brazil, and that some Conservative thinkers (including Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman) had endorsed CI.  "What", she asked, "is the rationale for CI?" I explained that each human being alive on the planet required an area of land in order to exist, that we see this as a basic human right, and that the CI is a proxy for the product of this land. Time did not permit me to develop points regarding the administrative costs of the present dysfunctional welfare system that she supports, nor its role in locking people into poverty and unemployment.

It is regrettable that the Green Wage Subsidy approach to Basic income was rejected by the conservative tendency within the Green Party, because Charlotte will doubtless persist in using the something-for-nothing canard that emboggers the discussion of CI. In fact, CI in this election is presented in our manifesto as just an aspiration, and so the GWS, far from being a diversion, is a way of bringing CI forward more quickly.
We touched on the philosophy of individualism, but I had no time to expand on its totally unscientific nature.

Charlotte is all right really (everyone is all right really). I would not say she was sanctimonious because I dislike personal attacks in politics, but she certainly is an old-style Tory, reminding me of every Tory councillor that I shared Woodspring District Council with - exuding from every pore the self-arrogated absolute conviction of their hereditary right to rule, instantly dismissive of any thought or view of the world apart from her own individual standpoint. In debate she relies heavily on the Straw Man fallacy, representing Greens as green on the outside, reds on the inside.  Sadly, she did not use the "watermelon" phrase that encapsulates this idea, as  I like to respond that I would rather be a watermelon than a baboon's bottom.

For the people of Brighton Pavilion, the crucial choice is between Caroline Lucas and Charlotte Vere. Labour, like the LibDems, are also-rans, although every LibLab vote carries with it the risk of letting the Tory in. It is a no-brainer: Charlotte would be just another faceless face on the Tory back-benches; Caroline will be a mould-destroying blast of fresh air in the corridors of Parliament, sweeping away the cobwebs of political decadence and old-fashioned, decrepit political ideologies by her sheer presence.

The officers on Woodspring told me that as soon as I was elected, the Tories were begging them to advise on green measures to bring in.  There is a deep ambivalence about Greens, on the part of the old LibLabCon parties; publicly, they are disdainful of us. Privately, they are terrified of us.

I met up with the local Greens, who are in good heart and fizzing with energy, leafletted Stamford Avenue, had a lovely time canvassing good people on the streets, and went home again, which was stupid, I should have stayed on for Sunday canvassing too, but I was missing my trees and my Humanure toilet construction project, and I don't like cities much even such an excellent one as Brighton.


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading this blog and I agree with you about Charlotte, although I think I take a more negative view of her. What I do not agree with is your assertion that Labour are out of this contest - Brighton Pavilion has been held by Labour since '97, and a poll in January (a more credible one than the previous Green party poll) put Labour ahead, the Conservatives second and the Greens third. Caroline Lucas would be an excellent MP, but so would Nancy Platts, and to claim that a vote for Labour is likely to let in the Tories is dangerous because in reality it is a vote for the Greens which may unfortunately have that effect.

DocRichard said...

The info I have is that the January poll was deeply flawed, methodologically; admittedly our December poll, though more credible, happened soon after a leaflet drop.

Whatever. The real poll is on May 6th. And the real clash here is between Green and Tory. One more Labour MP - what would that mean? Just one more bit of lobby-fodder for Gordon. Whereas the First Green MP would be a real bit of history, and would have an profound effect on Westminster politics.

The tragedy is that Greens, LibDems and even Labour have far more in common with each other than with the Tories - just look at our slogan of "Fairness" - but we split the vote between ourselves. Like divided British tribes fighting the Romans.

If the Tories do win this election (pray to all the gods that they do not) then the best thing that we progressives can do in the five dark years that will follow is how to learn to cooperate electorally while maintaining our distinctive identities.