Some Bizarre Things about the UK

The UK is a great place to live, but there are some truly bizarre things about it. If you delicately suggest to a Brit that maybe these ought to be changed, and, you know, made a little more sensible, coherent and fair, they will look at you in shock and horror. “It’s the Mother of Parliaments, you know?” Yes, that might be true. But the Mother of Parliaments is looking rather tired and haggard. Three particularly bizarre things are hard to explain to a bewildered foreigner:

  1. First Past the Post

If there was a prize for the most cack-handed way of allocating seats at elections, you wouldn’t have to look much further than First Past the Post (FPTP). It’s a hard thing to explain to anyone who is not from the UK (unless you are from the US, Canada, India or many of the Commonwealth countries to which this hapless export has been received).

Whatever you may think of UKIP, and who doesn’t, it is patently absurd that a party can get 12.6% of the vote at an election, and still only get one lonesome MP. If the philososloth’s maths serves him rightly, that amounts to 0.15% of the seats in parliament. For 12.6% of the vote! Equally, another right wing party can receive 4.7% of the national vote and still get 56 seats in Parliament (8.62%). In all seriousness, Britain, it’s time to make the seats match the votes.

  1. House of Lords

Another thing that is patently absurd is that the UK has an overfilled and unwieldy second chamber. It might be an idea to have an unelected second chamber, if it comprised of a small group of policy expert technocrats, who know a particular policy field in and out. But as it stands, it is the depository for MPs who failed to get reelected or gave enough financial support to their party when they were young and spritely. Don’t get me wrong, there are doubtless some extremely competent peers, but we don’t need 790 of them. We don’t need to support the large numbers who don’t even turn up to vote. It has become bloated beyond all usefulness.

  1. Power

Scotland has its Parliament, Wales and Northern Ireland have their Assembly, but England does not have a Parliament or an Assembly apart from the UK Parliament which represents the whole of the UK. Politicians are ringing their hands at what should be done. There is little appetite for an English Parliament as it would incur added expense and another layer of distrusted politicians. Part of the solution is at the moment to devolve power within England, but there is no synchronised process as some places want more power and others less. Here, as in many other areas, the Brits will just have to muddle along with an imperfect system.

It’s clear that FPTP, the House of Lords and the centralised-decentralised patchwork quilt of power in the UK would not be the model of choice for any sensible country. Rather these oddities are the result of being a country that is too stuck in the past to make wideranging reform. Now these issues are not likely to quicken the pulse of a normal person, and I’m sure that the old adage “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” will come to the fore as ever, but at some point a root and branch approach must be taken with the UK constitution.

A New Case for Britain to Stay In the EU

thephilososloth

If Cameron intends to make the product of his renegotiation the centre-point of the campaign to remain in the EU, the Brits could very well end up voting to leave. Even if he manages to get the concessions he’s asking for, the reaction of the British people is bound to vacillate between boredom, bemusement and indignation.

  • The sterling will be protected from being integrated with the Euro (yawn).
  • Welfare tourism will be combated (yawn- and it won’t satisfy anyone concerned about free movement within the EU)
  • Make Brussels pledge that the UK will not become part of a European super-state (Wait, what? Is that even a possibility? What are we doing in this crazy organisation?)

The fact is that the concessions Cameron gets will be meagre and they should play a very minor role in the campaign to keep Britain inside the EU. Centre-stage should be a positive account of…

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An Update on Norwegian Affairs

I realise that for that very niche group of aficionados interested in my analysis of Norwegian politics, I have been woefully absent in recent months. A most unforgivable oversight as a lot has been happening in Norse politics this past while. As is my want, I will tell the fascinating tale through the medium of an opinion poll. (A good start to any tale)

Socialists (SV) 4.9%: A good showing for the Socialists this time around. Their leader recently made the bold, but wise statement that his party will not necesarrily join a Labour-led government after the election next year. Bold because Labour are the only people interested in governing with the Socialists. Wise because it helps voters distinguish one bunch of lefties from another bunch of more moderate lefties.

Labour (AP) 33,2%: Considering they were in dizzying heights of 40% in the polls last year this result will be merely adequate. It is better than their election result in 2013 (30.6%). The party has recently come under great pressure for being indecisive on key issues, such as the refugee crisis and municipality reform. There is a campaing, cleverly orchastrated by the Conservatives to paint everything Labour says as vague and unclear. These accusations are made all the harder for Labour to swallow because they are supposed to be that natural party of government. All the worse, they’re also true.

Farmers (SP) 5.1%: Other than making an awful row about any government attempts to make our ineffective municipality structure better, the Farmers haven’t been too vocal recently. Their result is slightly down from normal, but nothing to get the pitchforks out for.

Greens (MDG) 2.9%:  The biggest loser of this opinion poll is surely the Greens, who fall by 1.9%. The Greens have been teetering on a pedestal about as thick as their policy booklet recently and this opinion poll could suggest they have lost their freshness factor.

Christians (KrF) 5.1%: The Christians are growing more and more upset at the company of the swivel-eyed loons on the populist benches. The Labour party is looking ever more attractive to them, especially as one can choose to support whichever of the contradictory policies they’ve been suggesting. The Socialists jumping out of bed with Labour makes it easier for the Christians to jump into bed with Labour. After all the Christians’ self-righteous talk about loving all equally can’t really be expected to extend to socialists.

Liberals (V) 4.8%: In an increasingly desperate attempt to justify their existence, the Liberals last month refused to support any of the government’s restrictive policy package on refugees. If only they had decided to do this before the Christmas break and saved a whole lot of hassle for the bureaucrats who will now have to write up the whole thing again.

Conservatives (H) 23.8%:  Loathe them or loathe them, you’ve got to be impressed with how the Conservatives manage to keep the government together. Mrs Prime Minister is agonisingly compotent and seems to have read everything; she is also extremely adept at talking down the influence of the rabid nut-jobs she is currently in government with. Last year this sloth would have reported that the there is no chance of Mrs PM being reelected, but now I’m not so sure. The road to a government is looking about as hard for Labour as it is for the Conservatives.

Populists (FrP) 17.0%: An alarmingly high polling for the populists, not surprising really seeing as they are the true hardliners when it comes to being hard on refugees and immigrants. Why bother voting for xenophobe light (Labour and Conservative) when you can vote for full fat xenophobe?

That’s all for this update. I hope to keep more coming as we weave and duck different political constellations before next year’s general election.