A bad week for democracy

30 Apr

Having read the investigation in The Sunday Times about alleged voter fraud in Leeds, I’m torn between disenchantment and mild scepticism.

I think one should be sceptical of newspaper articles. But this is not the first time Labour’s tactics have been called into question. We all know the sort of tricks the Lib Dems get up to, so it’s only right that Labour supporters take allegations against their own party seriously.

The question I ask those who look to cheat the system is: why are you in politics?

If Graham Hyde and Keith Wakefield are guilty of perverting the course of democracy, to ensure Labour success next month, what is their wider political motivation?

Are these people so tribal that they’d happily win through fraudulent means? Clearly, as we have seen in the States, many people are indeed happy to win through deception. This is very dangerous.

The Loans for Peerages scandal, which is yet to be taken to the prosecution stage, is a perfect example of how the political establishment are undermining the very system that gives them power. Can Labour actually, physically contemplate defeat?

Last year Labour was delivered a bloody nose in the local elections, but it was not a knockout punch. This year, another big right-hander – possibly including losing control of Holyrood, would mean Labour is in serious electoral meltdown. Mind you, even by considering such a defeat, Labour is indicating the extent of its woes.

Personally, I’d rather Labour lose than know we won by perverting the democratic system. Maybe I’m a naïve idealist, but for me, politics is about representation, not power for power’s sake.

Another article that has been brought to my attention (hat-tip anticant) is this post on Craig Murray’s blog. Murray accuses party apparatchiks, placed within Dundee University, of not only politicising the mechanics of the university governance, but of also allowing Scottish First Minister, Jack McConell, to make political capital from a proposed tie-up between the Uni and The V&A Museum. Murray explains: –

That really is too much. This has nothing to do with New Labour – the discussions have been between the University and the V&A. To try to use this University initiative to New Labour advantage is completely illegitimate. The University of course sits in Dundee West, a key Labour/SNP marginal. I therefore said at Court that the University needed to be careful to avoid identification with any political party.

For all the talk of Gordon Brown’s Stalinist approach at the Treasury, it appears that wider New Labour machine needs no advice on how to politicise every facet of public life. Are all our universities infiltrated by scores of happy apparatchiks? It makes you wonder.

Stories such as Murray’s make me very concerned about democracy. Britain’s dire electoral turnout already tells you everything you need to know about the public perception of politics and politicians.

Ask half-a-dozen people in the street and I’ll guarantee you’ll get a couple that say “they’re all the same – only in it for themselves” (or some variation on this sentiment). It’s been said a thousand times – and is becoming yet another tired media cliché, but many people genuinely care more about reality TV than reality in Westminster.

And how do politicians respond to massive disillusionment among the electorate? Do they rediscover their ideology, apply it to today’s specific challenges, and look to sell it to a new generation, or do they pervert both the message and the system in a desperate attempt to cling to power?

We now have our answer.

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18 Responses to “A bad week for democracy”

  1. jamesrjw@btinternet.com April 30, 2007 at 3:04 pm #

    The words of a High Court judge, following a finding of electoral fraud perpetrated by Labour in postal votes (from Akhtar and others v Jahan and others Iqbal and others v Islam and others, Election Court, Commissioner Mawrey QC, 4 April 2005): “In this judgment I have set out at length what has clearly been shown to be the weakness of the current law relating to postal votes. As some parts of this judgment may be seen as critical of the Government, I wish to make it clear that the responsibility for the present unsatisfactory situation must be shared. All political parties welcomed and supported postal voting on demand. Until very recently, none has treated electoral fraud as representing a problem. Apart from the Electoral Commission, whose rôle I have described above, the only voices raised against the laxity of the system have been in the media, in particular The Times newspaper, and the tendency of politicians of all Parties has been to dismiss these warnings as scaremongering. 715. In the course of preparing my judgment, my attention was drawn to what I am told is an official Government statement about postal voting which I hope I quote correctly:There are no proposals to change the rules governing election procedures for the next election, including those for postal voting. The systems already in place to deal with the allegations of electoral fraud are clearly working.716. Anybody who has sat through the case I have just tried and listened to evidence of electoral fraud that would disgrace a banana republic would find this statement surprising. To assert that “The systems already in place to deal with the allegations of electoral fraud are clearly working” indicates a state not simply of complacency but of denial.717. The systems to deal with fraud are not working well. They are not working badly. The fact is that there are no systems to deal realistically with fraud and there never have been. Until there are, fraud will continue unabated.”

  2. jamesrjw@btinternet.com April 30, 2007 at 3:04 pm #

    The words of a High Court judge, following a finding of electoral fraud perpetrated by Labour in postal votes (from Akhtar and others v Jahan and others Iqbal and others v Islam and others, Election Court, Commissioner Mawrey QC, 4 April 2005): “In this judgment I have set out at length what has clearly been shown to be the weakness of the current law relating to postal votes. As some parts of this judgment may be seen as critical of the Government, I wish to make it clear that the responsibility for the present unsatisfactory situation must be shared. All political parties welcomed and supported postal voting on demand. Until very recently, none has treated electoral fraud as representing a problem. Apart from the Electoral Commission, whose rôle I have described above, the only voices raised against the laxity of the system have been in the media, in particular The Times newspaper, and the tendency of politicians of all Parties has been to dismiss these warnings as scaremongering. 715. In the course of preparing my judgment, my attention was drawn to what I am told is an official Government statement about postal voting which I hope I quote correctly:There are no proposals to change the rules governing election procedures for the next election, including those for postal voting. The systems already in place to deal with the allegations of electoral fraud are clearly working.716. Anybody who has sat through the case I have just tried and listened to evidence of electoral fraud that would disgrace a banana republic would find this statement surprising. To assert that “The systems already in place to deal with the allegations of electoral fraud are clearly working” indicates a state not simply of complacency but of denial.717. The systems to deal with fraud are not working well. They are not working badly. The fact is that there are no systems to deal realistically with fraud and there never have been. Until there are, fraud will continue unabated.”

  3. aaronsheath@gmail.com April 30, 2007 at 3:53 pm #

    Hi PU – thanks for commenting…tendency of politicians of all Parties has been to dismiss these warnings as scaremongering.Clearly it’s not just Labour, which is probaly why the other parties are not breaking their necks to run with the story. They know it’s a sticky wicket. I think the Tory bloggers know this too (only the clever ones, though, obviously).

  4. aaronsheath@gmail.com April 30, 2007 at 3:53 pm #

    Hi PU – thanks for commenting…tendency of politicians of all Parties has been to dismiss these warnings as scaremongering.Clearly it’s not just Labour, which is probaly why the other parties are not breaking their necks to run with the story. They know it’s a sticky wicket. I think the Tory bloggers know this too (only the clever ones, though, obviously).

  5. jamesjrw@btinternet.com April 30, 2007 at 4:43 pm #

    I happen to know a chap who ran for office in the last election. The worst of the parties in terms of dirty tricks … Liberal Democrats, funnily enough. Aside from some uncricketing behaviour regarding electoral leaflets, their achievements included trying to discredit the Tory candidate with his own party by putting it about that he was gay (he was, but it isn’t consistent with the Lib Dem manifesto to slur people on that basis).

  6. jamesjrw@btinternet.com April 30, 2007 at 4:43 pm #

    I happen to know a chap who ran for office in the last election. The worst of the parties in terms of dirty tricks … Liberal Democrats, funnily enough. Aside from some uncricketing behaviour regarding electoral leaflets, their achievements included trying to discredit the Tory candidate with his own party by putting it about that he was gay (he was, but it isn’t consistent with the Lib Dem manifesto to slur people on that basis).

  7. aaronsheath@gmail.com April 30, 2007 at 7:18 pm #

    Yes it’s ironic that the Lib Dems – supposedly the most ‘liberal’ of the parties – would pander to the latent homophobic tendencies within much of the electorate. It’s just not cricket, is it?

  8. aaronsheath@gmail.com April 30, 2007 at 7:18 pm #

    Yes it’s ironic that the Lib Dems – supposedly the most ‘liberal’ of the parties – would pander to the latent homophobic tendencies within much of the electorate. It’s just not cricket, is it?

  9. nhpud@hotmail.com April 30, 2007 at 7:53 pm #

    “Personally, I’d rather Labour lose than know we won by perverting the democratic system.”So you agree with proportional representation?Surely 35% of the vote and 22% of the electorate is not a mandate to govern?

  10. nhpud@hotmail.com April 30, 2007 at 7:53 pm #

    “Personally, I’d rather Labour lose than know we won by perverting the democratic system.”So you agree with proportional representation?Surely 35% of the vote and 22% of the electorate is not a mandate to govern?

  11. aaronsheath@gmail.com April 30, 2007 at 7:59 pm #

    Actually, rather like Labour circa 1997, I do support PR, yes.

  12. aaronsheath@gmail.com April 30, 2007 at 7:59 pm #

    Actually, rather like Labour circa 1997, I do support PR, yes.

  13. jamesjrw@btinternet.com April 30, 2007 at 8:45 pm #

    Which would mean the Tories ruling England after the next election, the Scots having gone their own way …

  14. jamesjrw@btinternet.com April 30, 2007 at 8:45 pm #

    Which would mean the Tories ruling England after the next election, the Scots having gone their own way …

  15. jamesjrw@btinternet.com April 30, 2007 at 8:47 pm #

    Incidentally remember Simon Hughes campaigning as the ‘straight choice’ in the 80s:- he was gay himself, or bi or at least ‘experimental’ …- he now belongs to the Lib Dems …But then again Tessa Jowell’s not going to admit to financial impropriety either …

  16. jamesjrw@btinternet.com April 30, 2007 at 8:47 pm #

    Incidentally remember Simon Hughes campaigning as the ‘straight choice’ in the 80s:- he was gay himself, or bi or at least ‘experimental’ …- he now belongs to the Lib Dems …But then again Tessa Jowell’s not going to admit to financial impropriety either …

  17. aaronsheath@gmail.com April 30, 2007 at 8:58 pm #

    PU – 7But that’s the point. Representation. They’d probably have to rule in coalition anyway.PU – 8Hughes did indeed campaign as the ‘straight choice;’ hilarious when you think about it…

  18. aaronsheath@gmail.com April 30, 2007 at 8:58 pm #

    PU – 7But that’s the point. Representation. They’d probably have to rule in coalition anyway.PU – 8Hughes did indeed campaign as the ‘straight choice;’ hilarious when you think about it…

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