Who Won The Week (16 February 2020)

I have Fandango to thank for this title – he has been posting regularly on this subject from his west-coast-USA vantage point. I am interested in current affairs too, and normally have some nonsense or other to spout about one of the UK’s topical news stories. So, I like to join in. Maybe there’s something in your world that you’d like to post about?

I follow some Irish feeds, so I had my eyes set on the Irish General Election last weekend, and was pleasantly surprised that Sinn Féin did so well. Because of this, Sinn Féin are my winners.

Ireland has been carved up between two centre-right parties, ever since independence a hundred years ago. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. Sinn Féin grew out of the old Irish Republican Army, which fought for independence, and grew in prominence during the conflict in Northern Ireland. At the start, they had a simple policy of wanting a united, independent Ireland, but as they have become a bigger political force, they have developed policies in every area – things like housing, education, healthcare – with a broadly left-wing slant. The type of political party which everybody else of us takes for granted. So I welcome them, as a breath of fresh air to the process.

I talked about a month ago about Irish politics, the intricacies of Northern Ireland. As you might imagine being an all-Ireland party, Sinn Féin have a presence there too. In fact, during the recent UK General Election they won 7 seats. So you have this kinda perverse situation where a bunch of people who want nothing to do with the UK … are sitting in the UK’s parliament.

Except that … they don’t! They don’t take their seats.

The reason? Well, in order to take their seat in the UK Parliament, every MP had to swear an oath of allegiance to the UK’s queen. As a party whose whole ethos is to be independent from the UK, Sinn Féin’s MPs won’t do it. So they elect not to take their seats at all.

I must admitthat if I voted for somebody to represent me, I would at the very least expect them to … represent me! But I can see Sinn Féin’s point. Other MPs have, in the past, paid lip service to this oath, by crossing their fingers or some other such childishness, but I can see why Sinn Féin won’t go there, on a point of principle.

But it does raise an interesting question. Should an MPs allegiance be to our queeen, or should it be to their constituents, the taxpayers who pay their wages?

Fortunately they face no such constraints in Ireland, and last week they became the largest party, in terms of the popular vote. So my winner, this week, is Mary Lou McDonald and her party. They received 24½%, the largest share of the many Irish parties.

[I don’t fully understand the Irish system, but this “only” translates to 37 seats in Ireland’s 160-seat parliament, the same number of seats as the second-placed Fianna Fáil party (even though they received more votes). Mathematically speaking, that doesn’t quite add up. But as I see political systems around the world, it is not uncommon to see a country’s popular vote getting stitched up by its political system, which was generally been built to suit the main parties. So, even when those main parties lose popularity, it is hard for anybody else to join the party.]

The election result is resonates in the UK too, where some people are prone just to dismiss Sinn Féin as terrorists, because of its role opposing the UK’s occupation of Northern Ireland. A quarter of Irish voters, not only do they not see Sinn Féin as terrorists, but they see them as the party most fit to govern their country.

The three “big” parties, between them, received around 70% of the popular vote. Fourth were the Greens, at about 10%. There then followed a host of smaller parties – I think I counted twelve of them, some who won seats, others who didn’t. Lastly there were twenty successful independent candidates, so the independent voice still has a role in Irish politics.

Although Sinn Féin came first overall, the numbers mean that they probably won’t get a chance to form a government. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael both said, pre-election, that they would not enter a coalition with Sinn Féin. That’s not really surprising, because they are at different ends of the spectrum. And if they join forces, they can keep Sinn Féin out. But who knows? They might change their minds, now that the results are in and they have a whiff of power? Some horses to be traded!

Mary Lou McDonald

Who Won The Week (9 February 2020)

I have Fandango to thank for this title – he has been posting regularly on this subject from his west-coast-USA vantage point. I am interested in current affairs too, and normally have some nonsense or other to spout about one of the UK’s topical news stories. So, I like to join in. Maybe there’s something in your world that you’d like to post about?

Just over a week ago, the UK left the EU – I wanted to let the dust settle a bit before I commented. I have previously expressed that I wanted to leave, just because their level of “democracy” was not good enough, in my book. Frankly, if the EU is happy to let its commissioners and officials be appointed, then I wish them well, but their system is not for me. As far as I am concerned, though, what we have just done is to solve half of the problem, in that we have just one government instead of two. But we still have half of the job still to do, so our leaving was no more than a waypoint toward reforming the UK political landscape as well.

I always accepted that my view was unusual. Other people voted for Brexit for all sorts of different reasons – to control immigration, or to gain some illusion of sovreignty, but not me. I actually support immigration (I was once an immigrant myself in the USA) and we’ll see exactly how much sovreignty we have when we start negotiating agreements with other countries. So, I am used to being the only guy in the room to hold the views I hold. You guys probably already worked that one out 🙂.

Even in our recent election, our winner takes all voting system means that quite a low number of voters’ views are actually represented in Parliament. Where I live (Salisbury) the vote share of the winning candidate was 56%. Which eagle-eyed readers will realise, means that 44% of voters picked someone else, and if you happened to be one of those 44%, tough. Your views don’t count.

That’s where I live. Actually, as far as the UK goes, my situation is quite clear-cut. In the constituency of North East Fife (Scotland), in 2017, their representative was elected with just 33% of the vote share (there were several candidates who split the rest of the vote), just 2 votes clear of the second-place candidate.

The bottom line here is that I am dissatisfied with our system – to have a situation where more than two-thirds of people, their view is just discarded – it needs to be better. I’m quite open on what system we should use, but to my thinking it should be one which represents as close to 100% of voters as possible. I don’t think representing just 33%, or even 56%, comes anywhere close. People defend our system by saying that it gives decisive politics. Well, if you exclude more and more people from the process, sooner or later what you’re left with will be decisive, won’t it?

Anyway, at the risk of digressing, my winner of the week, this week, is … well … me! Because I read a report this week which told me that I am not as alone as I first thought. Enter the Centre for the Future of Democracy, from the University of Cambridge.

Data has been collected in various of the big “democracies” since the early 1970s, regarding people’s satisfaction with their system. And organisations like the Centre for the Future of Democracy came along to collate this data.

Okay, after the headline grabbed my attention, my very first question was how do you measure when someone’s satisfied or not? Apparently these guys have collated several surveys spanning the world’s foremost democracies, based ultimately on YouGov polling. In all, four million people took part over 25 countries. Globally, I don’t think 4 million is a whole lot of people but it gives a sense of how people – a cross-section, at least – are feeling.

The UK is one of those places where data exists going back all that time. Satisfaction with the system was quite low by the end of the Seventies (Winter of Discontent), but grew steadily throughut the Eighties and Nineties, to a peak in 2005, immediately before the crash. Since then, we just can’t get no satisfaction. It has all been downhill, and 2019 was the lowest yet. In 2019, 60% of UK respondents said that they were dissatisfied with the current system.

But this isn’t just the UK. The same trend is being seen in other large democracies such as the USA, Mexico, Brazil and Australia. All also at their lowest points yet. Two-thirds of voters were satisfied with US-flavoured democracy in 1995, but that too is now less that half. Other countries not doing so well include Spain and Japan.

It’s not all bad, though. There is a sweet spot in central Europe – countries singled out included Denmark, Switzerland, Norway and the Netherlands – where the political systems appear to be working for their voters. Same in parts of Asia, to a lesser extent.

You want better politics? You want to feel like your voice makes a difference? You’re not alone! As for so-called democracies, the report uses the word malaise. It’s maybe not the word I’d have chosen, but these are Cambridge academics, after all. So, call me big-headed if you like, but I won the week because I learned that there are lots of people who, like me, want better systems of government.

https://www.bennettinstitute.cam.ac.uk/news/global-dissatisfaction-democracy-record-high-new-c/

Who Won The Week (2 February 2020)

I have Fandango to thank for this title – he has been posting regularly on this subject from his west-coast-USA vantage point. I am interested in current affairs too, and normally have some nonsense or other to spout about one of the UK’s topical news stories. So, I like to join in. Maybe there’s something in your world that you’d like to post about?

Well, over the last two weeks the Australian Open tennis tournament has been happening, so I must first extend my congratulations to Sofia Kenin and Novak Djokovic, who won the women’s and men’s singles titles respectively. And, not a bad result it is at all, with the winners cashing cheques for over AUD 4 million (that’s about GBP 2.25 million, EUR 2.6 million, or not far short of USD 3 million). The runners-up didn’t do too badly either – receiving AUD 2 million. Somebody who “just” won the doubles competition walked away with AUD 750,000, while even someone who didn’t win at all (knocked out in the first round of qualifying) received AUD 20,000. Not a bad day at the office, eh? The total prize pot for the tournament was a staggering AUD 71 million.

But none of the players was my winner of the week.

The Australian Open is run by Tennis Australia, and because of that, they are my winners this week. The Open brings in a decent amount of cash for them, at least AUD 71 million, just to cover the prize money alone. In fact, Tennis Australia published an income of almost AUD350 million in their latest accounts – most of which, fair enough, is spent promoting tennis in Australia. They are a good bet – only last year development started on a new tennis stadium at the Melbourne Park venue, at a total cost of AUD 270 million. So you might say that they are doing well for themselves and for their sport.

It’s great to see the tennis community enjoying itself, and presumably the sport is flourishing there as a result. In any case, there was not much other news this week, except maybe that Friday, the Canberra region declared a State of Emergency because of the bushfires. Canberra to Melbourne is about 450 miles (650km).

Now, please, don’t get me wrong. I’m not passing judgement on the sport of tennis, in fact in years gone by I have enjoyed watching it myself. Plus, Tennis Australia have pledged to help people affected by bushfires to the tune of a very generous AUD 6 million. I just wanted to highlight how such splendour can exist, just a stone’s throw from such devastation, and just leave it to you to draw your conclusions. And to judge for your$elve$ whether the world ha$ it$ prioritie$ $et right.