Author Archives: Matthew Campbell

Electoral reform, Donald Trump … and Theresa May

 

For years, it was said that there was a threat to western democracies from far-right parties with extremist or populist opinions. The BNP were, in the 2000s, supposed to be ‘our’ version of this phenomenon, before they collapsed and – arguably – their vote went elsewhere.

But, still, the possibility of a small extremist nationalist party gaining undue influence was held to be a convincing argument against electoral reform. I think it may now be possible to say with great certainty that this was either a fallacy or a lie.

Why? Because there are two countries where, this year, populist/nationalist agendas have upset the existing political order: Firstly, the USA (in the person of Mr Trump); and secondly, this country (in the shape of Brexit). That is to say, two countries with plurality voting, who have historically rejected voting reform and proportionality as alien to their political culture.

And why might this have come to pass?

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A new Union of Democratic Control?

It may be a mistake, but in my idiosyncratic way, I tend to approach the present – and the future – through the past.

So I feel the need to point out at this time, that in 1914 during the earliest days of the First World War, there arose within the British Left a movement called the ‘Union of Democratic Control’, one of whose prime movers was a Liberal Radical journalist called ED Morel. (He had already led a very interesting life, and went to have a short but even more interesting life subsequently, including both imprisonment and beating Winston Churchill as a candidate in a General Election).

The UDC initially had three aims: to subject to scrutiny in the House of Commons the secret pacts and war aims agreed between the UK and its allies as pan-European war broke out; to push for a negotiated settlement to prevent conflict escalating into mass loss of life, and to investigate the influence of the arms trade upon UK politicians.

Needless to say, in the short term, their campaign was not successful and was regarded with suspicion and official opposition.
But their guiding principle – that the nation had a right to have its foreign policy and strategy debated by its democratic parliament for its moral and ethical worth – was fundamentally right.

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Who’s defending liberal values – the Department of Education or the Evangelical Alliance?

John Wesley teaching at Sunday schoolA recent press release from the Christian body the Evangelical Alliance  seeks to draw attention to a current government consultation about extensions to the UK-wide ‘counter-extremism strategy’. In particular, it highlights a new system for regulation of ‘out-of-school education’. Many readers may be aware of a number of recent news items regarding poor-quality and harmful teaching and premises at informal and unregulated schools. To some extent, this is being linked in the public mind with so-called ‘Islamism’– but the implications go much further.

Three factors seem to have triggered the EA’s interest:

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In praise of…New Zealand’s referenda culture

This summer, the global news media was not at all rocked to its foundations by news of New Zealand’s forthcoming referendum on a national flag.  The centre-right National Party led by John Key is in the middle of a (possibly misjudged) bid for centre-ground opinion by pursuing a symbolic rebranding of the nation. In a country with a complex colonial legacy, this is arguably opening a can of worms – but maybe a necessary one.

I’m in no position to assess the relative merits of the many flag proposals, but I am intrigued by the process. A long-list will be …

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Opinion: Election debates must be based on clear criteria

In among much more important events this past week, David Cameron’s statement that the Conservative Party will not participate in UK-wide election TV debates without a Green presence is … interesting. Also stirring the pot are Ofcom, who have announced they do not consider the Greens a ‘major’ party in UK terms.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 30 Comments

Opinion: The aftermath – from a seaside cottage…

Liberal Democrat badge - Some rights reserved by Paul Walter, Newbury, UKI may have been rash.

The Friday of the Council elections results saw me make a decision. Finally – after wrestling with mixed feelings whilst rejecting the electoral blandishments of other parties – I would join the LibDems. So I did. Then I went on a family holiday (it was half term).

Why did I join the party at what many have proclaimed was its lowest ebb?

For me, it’s about a longterm aim to reshape the governmental structures of our country where power is held nearer to the individual citizen, where political and commercial interests are held to account by the communities they impact upon. I don’t see another party which can bring this about. The Conservatives have never been serious about it; Labour won’t do it without pressure; it’s certainly not central to UKIP’s project; the Greens have limited power to act effectively.

Posted in Op-eds | 17 Comments
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