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[P]
UK Elections - a guide for non-Ukaninians

By Jon Katzuroshin in Op-Ed
Wed May 09, 2001 at 10:11:28 AM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, called the UK General election today which is going to be held on June 7th. He asked the Queen to 'dissolve' parliament, the Ukanian equivalent of the US Congress, which is the traditional way of announcing the election. Unlike a lot of other countries, the Prime Minister has complete discretion over the timings of national elections.

All 651 seats in the lower house (equivalent to the US House Of Representatives), the Commons, are up for election. The Government is formed from the party or parties who command an absolute majority there. Blair's Labour Party holds a majority of 177 seats over all the other parties currently.


A Quick Overview Of The UK Political System

The Ukanian constitutional system is quite unusual and seems archiac in many respects. This is due to the fact that there has been no major revolutions in recent history so reform has been piecemeal and built upon quasi-mediavel foundations. There are two houses in the legislature, the Commons and the Lords. The Commons is democratically elected via the first past the post system. The Lords (weak UK equivalent of the Senate) is unelected and consists of Prime Ministerial appointed peers, heriditary peers, bishops of the Church Of England and senior judges or 'Law Lords'. As you can imagine the undemocratic nature of the Lords means that governments are formed from the majority party in the Commons but this is a custom, not a an actual law!

The formal powers of state rest with the Queen and she appoints the Prime Minister. She bestows upon him the Royal Perogative which gives him executive powers which are much broader than that of a US President. Again it's a custom not a law that the Prime Minister comes from the majority party in the Commons. The more centralist nature of the UK means that the Prime Minister has a lot more power over a Ukanian citizen than a president or prime minister of a Federal State such as the USA or Germany as there are no equivalents of state governments apart from Scotland and Northern Ireland (more anomalies!).

The prime ministerial candidates normally come from the leaders of the two major parties, the Labour Party and the Conservative Party. The party leaders themselves are elected by party members not in an open primary like the US. The Labour Party is on the centre left of the political spectrum and the Conservative Party is on the centre right. Similar to the Democrats and Republicans although the centre ground in British politics is further to the left than in the US and futher to the right in European terms. To make matters more confusing there is strong national third party called the Liberal Democrats who claim the absolute centre ground between the two main parties. And in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland there are strong regional parties.

Unlike other countries there is no state funding of political parties and no adverts are allowed to be run on TV. Instead broadcasters alot five minutes slots free of charge to the main political parties. This means that British national election campaigns are fairly cheap at around USD 100m in total for all parties.

Leaders and policies

The Labour Party led by Tony Blair is the favourite to win this election. It has a commanding lead in the polls of around 20% over the Conservatives. The Labour Party is standing on its fairly competent record in government and its commitment to improve public services. It is definitely in favour of big government and has a slighly authoritarian approach to social issues. Media obsessed, it will run a slick campaign. It is well funded through its links to the trade unions and certain businesses. A lot of businesses support Labour because it is more pro-European than the Conservatives and because it has managed economy reasonably.

Tony Blair has high approval ratings and has been a fairly strong prime minister. He seems to be trusted by 'Middle England' more than other Labour politicians as he is viewed as not being a socialist. His weaknesses are a tendency to dither on important political decisions and being overworried by short term media squalls. He also not a very spontaneous debater in parliament and gets regularly beaten on points by William Hague.

The Conservatives are a shadow of themselves compared to their heyday under Magaret Thatcher. They are split between pro Europeans and anti Europeans and between social permissives and social authoritarianists. They are campaigning on a xenophobic platform of against joining the Euro ("Save Our Pound") and against bogus assylum seekers (a not so subtle anti-immigration message). The free market economic policies which once united them have been stolen by Labour and in terms of government spending they are more or less keeping to what Labour has proposed.

Wiliam Hague, the leader, has many good qualities including intelligence, wit and good public speaking skills. However due to the divided nature of the Conservative Party, he comes accross as a weak leader. Also the fact that he is baby faced and balding doesn't help. He has to improve on the Conservative's crap performance in 1997 election or else he's out of the job after the election. Noone is expecting him to win though.

So how does this election affect Britain's relations with the rest of the world

If Labour wins again then expect a referendum on joining the Euro in the next couple of years. Relations between Britain and the US will be not as close as in recent years due to the differences in ideology betwen the two governments. They will reluctantly go ahead with supporting the US on the Missile Defense system but will try and delay it as much as possible. The UK will be a big supporter of UN peace keeping due to the 'idealistic' nature of the leadership of the Labour Party (ex ANC supporters etc).

If the Conservatives win then George Bush will have a great ideological soulmate as an ally. Expect visits to the US by the more mad elements of the Conservative Party to see if the UK can join Nafta. Missilew Defense, no problems. In Europe expect massive great rows with everyone and a lot of paralysis of decision making. Less likely to intervene miliarily unless Britain's commercial and strategic interest are at stake.

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Poll
UK Politics...
o Weird 9%
o Boring 12%
o Weird and Boring 23%
o Better Than the US 22%
o Better Than Europe 8%
o Interesting 23%

Votes: 85
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o UK General election
o Labour Party
o Conservati ve Party
o Liberal Democrats
o Tony Blair
o Wiliam Hague
o Also by Jon Katzuroshin


Display: Sort:
UK Elections - a guide for non-Ukaninians | 91 comments (59 topical, 32 editorial, 0 hidden)
i thought that said Ukranians (4.25 / 8) (#1)
by rebelcool on Tue May 08, 2001 at 06:55:03 PM EST

Imagine my confusement at reading about a ukranian tony blair...

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

Trying to be even handed (3.50 / 4) (#3)
by Jon Katzuroshin on Tue May 08, 2001 at 07:01:52 PM EST

Usians = US Citizens

Ukanians = UK Citizens

Mispelled the title though....

[ Parent ]
UKians? (4.00 / 4) (#5)
by J'raxis on Tue May 08, 2001 at 07:08:19 PM EST

If US = USians, should UK be UKians? (Not UKanians.)

-- The Raxian Raxis

[ J’raxis·Com | Liberty in your lifetime ]
[ Parent ]

That UKanians and USians crap is the reason (5.00 / 5) (#6)
by ZanThrax on Tue May 08, 2001 at 07:14:08 PM EST

I voted against this. It was funny when people used in a sacarstic manner to answer the complaints about the use of 'American' to indicate citizens of the United State of America. Now that people are using it seriously, it is simply irritating. Americans are American, and Britons are British.

When you don't feel like thinking, quote!


[ Parent ]
Note (5.00 / 3) (#12)
by slaytanic killer on Tue May 08, 2001 at 08:07:27 PM EST

I wonder if we gain utility by having a stable language, and lose artistry. Shakespeare did not even have a stable spelling for his own name.

I have no interest in convincing anyone either way about USian vs. the alternatives. There are more important battles to fight, and I will not respond to anyone's disagreement. Just wondering if we lose the true artists, once rules have taken over, when it almost hurts people to hear major deviations.

As for UKian, there is no need for that except to be cute. I am only talking about USian.

[ Parent ]
Must have sucked at the bank (5.00 / 4) (#47)
by georgeha on Wed May 09, 2001 at 10:29:48 AM EST

Shakespeare did not even have a stable spelling for his own name.

'ere now, this check from the Globe Theater is made out to a William Shaekspearre, and you endorsed it as William Shakespeare. Off with you before I call a copper.

[ Parent ]

"UKians" is a necessary term (5.00 / 1) (#30)
by BigStink on Wed May 09, 2001 at 06:15:04 AM EST

The term "Briton" excludes a significant part of the UKian population - the people of Northern Ireland. "Great Britain" refers only to England, Scotland and Wales.

In contrast, the UK or "The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" to use its full name, encompasses all of the regions under the benign rule of Her Majesty. "UKian" is really the only term which includes the English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish who will be affected by the general election. UKian isn't a pointless term - it's the only term that precisely covers the subjects of the UK.

[ Parent ]

Her Maj, the British Empire and the United Kingdom (5.00 / 1) (#40)
by Mabb on Wed May 09, 2001 at 09:03:22 AM EST

"In contrast, the UK or "The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" to use its full name, encompasses all of the regions under the benign rule of Her Majesty"

Except, of course those countries that are NOT part of the United Kingdom such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc. etc. but are still blessed with Our Lizzie as head of state.

Wales and Scotland are countries, not mere "regions" with their very own parliaments now. They also have their own language and for a very long time, their own royal families. The term "region" is not appropriate.

I am guessing the same applies for Northern Ireland, but I don't know that history at all, so I leave that for someone who does.



Cadw'r Ddysgl yn Wastad -- keep the dish level
[ Parent ]
One, not the other.... (5.00 / 1) (#46)
by Elkor on Wed May 09, 2001 at 10:28:27 AM EST

Yep, I will agree that "Ukian" is a valid expression covering citizens of the United Kingdoms.

However, the author used the phrase "Ukainian" which is just silly. Like someone else, I kept putting in the missing "r" to make them all citizens of the Ukraine.

Can't we just call them Espwdotwsotrs? (English Speaking People Who Drive On The Wrong Side Of The Road)

Makes as much sense....
Regards,
Elkor
"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
[ Parent ]
on the wrong side... (5.00 / 1) (#70)
by odaiwai on Thu May 10, 2001 at 04:08:57 AM EST

> Can't we just call them Espwdotwsotrs? (English Speaking People Who Drive On The Wrong
> Side Of The Road)

No, because that would include Australia, Ireland, Hong Kong, Cyprus, and a few other places where driving on the left is the proper thing to do.
(And you don't want to accuse Irish and Aussies of being British.)
dave
-- "They're chefs! Chefs with chainsaws!"
[ Parent ]
Linguistic Categorization (none / 0) (#88)
by Elkor on Fri May 11, 2001 at 11:48:43 AM EST

Good point.
I made the comment in an attempt to be humorous, not really thinking about all the situations in which it could be applied.

I also didn't know that Cyprus drove on the left side of the road.

How strange...

Regards,
Elkor
"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
[ Parent ]
UKian ? *snigger* (5.00 / 1) (#65)
by vrai on Wed May 09, 2001 at 03:43:59 PM EST

British is the recognised term for the citizens of the UK. A quick check with a friend in Northern Ireland confirmed that he, like me, has the nationality "British Citizen" in his passport. UKian is not only silly, it is utterly without need and seems to have confused a number of people.

Incidentally Northern Ireland has a population of 1.7 million out of a UK total of 59 million, about 2.8%, hardly a 'significant part' (especially when you consider that about 60% of the Northern Irish population are very keen on being British).

[ Parent ]

Bollocks. It's *not* necessary. (5.00 / 1) (#67)
by static on Wed May 09, 2001 at 07:50:27 PM EST

It's a condescending term that smacks of trite invention. I kept reading it as "Ukranians" which is why I didn't look at in the story queue. Otherwise I would have voted it down for this silly-ism. "British" is what the Rest Of The World normally uses when they refer to residents and citizens of the UK. You don't need a new term.

Wade.

[ Parent ]

s/due to the fact that/because/g; (2.14 / 7) (#17)
by Apuleius on Tue May 08, 2001 at 08:58:50 PM EST

Never use that dreadful phrase.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
Other parties (5.00 / 3) (#39)
by imperium on Wed May 09, 2001 at 08:53:41 AM EST

This article is a good summary of the antiquated "constitution" enjoyed by the British (or UKanians, if you prefer). However, it does focus pretty exclusively on the main parties, so this is for anyone wanting more details about other serious parties running on the mainland, starting with Scotland (Ulster politics is a minefield, no pun intended, and I do not intend to go into it).

In Scotland, the main opposition to the Labour Party is not the Conservative Party as it is in England. It is the Scottish National Party, a liberal "internationalist nationalist" party. They are serious contenders to run the Scottish Executive and be the largest party at the next Scottish Parliamentary elections in 2003.

Two other smaller parties currently with elected members in that parliament are also running, the Scottish Green Party and the Scottish Socialist Party. Both are what you would expect, and both, like the Scottish National Party, favour an independent left-wing Scotland.

The Scottish Socialist Party has a sister party in England, the Socialist Alliance. (I was unable to find a specific page for them, so this is the BBC profile). Likewise, there is a separate Green Party of England and Wales.

Finally, in Wales there is also a separate version of the socialist list, and the Welsh Nationalist Party, Plaid Cymru. They, like their Scots counterparts, form the opposition in the devolved Welsh assembly.

Of these parties, only the two nationalist ones currently hold seats at Westminster, but the effect of left and green parties cannot be dismissed, especially as the Labour Party has drifted away from representing the workers and become just another businessman's party. Ralph Nader might recognise the scenario, but the chance of Bush being joined by Conservative leader William Hague is next to nothing, partly because all our votes marks on pieces of paper and are counted by hand.

x.
imperium

Not to forget (4.50 / 2) (#55)
by BobaFatt on Wed May 09, 2001 at 11:25:48 AM EST

the UK Independance Party (anti europe)
the British National Party (anti foriegners)
the Natural Law Party (want to build a missile defence system by strategic placement of transandental meditators, who will project an inpenetrable energy field around the country to protect us)
the Monster Raving Looy Party (I Kid ye not)
MArtin Bell (currently our only independant MP, ex BC war reporter, anti corruption, largely pointless)
and may others. Not to forget Northern Ireland, which has its own set of parties; Sinn Fein, SDLP, DUP, UUP, UDP, UFF, UVF, UPS, USB, MFI, CBI, NSA, CIA, FBI, DVD, KGB, JCB, CPC PCB, PCA, PGA, LGB, LED, CRT, TFT, ISB, ISA, IMF, IRC, ICQ, AIM, GPF, BSD, BBC, NBC, ABC, TSB and Bob, The Incredible Flying Chicken
The Management apologise for any convenience caused.
[ Parent ]
Not quite (4.00 / 1) (#56)
by keyeto on Wed May 09, 2001 at 11:59:39 AM EST

I think it's an exaggeration to say that the major opposition to the Labour party in Scotland is the Scottish Nationalist party. They are certainly much more of an opposition than the Tories, who failed to win any seats in Scotland at all in the previous general election. I think a by-election of so in the interim might have let a couple in by now, but I'm not sure, it could still be a Tory free zone.

However, since there is a degree of proportional representation in the Scottish elections, power is pretty evenly divided between the Labour and the Liberal Democrats. So it makes more sense to say that the Scots Nats are the most important opposition to that pairing of other parties.

I choose to live in Scotland, even though I come from England. Much of the political power is still in Westminster, but I really appreciate the existence of the Scottish Assemby, since the Scottish political climate is very different to that of England and Wales. The major thing to recognise is that there is still a large amount of old fashioned socialism, and this is not seen as something to be ashamed of. The Scottish Socialists, who hold several seats in the assembly, are the clearest indication of this. But it should also be noted that even the Scots Nats have been prepared to be open about calling themselves "essentially socialist".


--
"This is the Space Age, and we are Here To Go"
William S. Burroughs
[ Parent ]
Yes and no (3.00 / 1) (#63)
by imperium on Wed May 09, 2001 at 01:26:08 PM EST

I agree that the SNP should be seen as the main opposition to the Labour/Lib Dem coalition, and you're right about the different left-right balance.

However, there is only one Scottish Socialist member of the Scottish Parliament, and that's Tommy!

x.
imperium
[ Parent ]

+1, but strong PM? Please! (4.50 / 2) (#41)
by Builder on Wed May 09, 2001 at 09:05:19 AM EST

Tony Blair has high approval ratings and has been a fairly strong prime minister.

I'm voting +1, but I take exception to the above statement.

Labour won the last election in a landslide. Tony Blair is possibly on of the most supported prime ministers in the UK's recent history. But everytime someone goes 'boo', he jumps. If it's not bombing bagdad without consulting parlaiment because Bush said to, it's bowing to Brussels.

To top it off, Labour have given us the RIP bill, and now they are bringing us a fun new law that may require me to register myself as a sysadmin to be able to continue to do my job. Register story on this matter

I can't say I'm a big labour fan, but then, what other choices do I have? I've not seen an original idea from the Tories, and I hardly ever hear from the lib-dems :(
--
Be nice to your daemons
Libdems (4.00 / 1) (#48)
by jahs on Wed May 09, 2001 at 10:36:27 AM EST

We hear less from the Liberal Democrats because the media has a bias towards the main two parties. If you have limited reporting time, naturally producers just air the "majority" views. Hence the Green Party is *never* heard of on TV.
Remeber, the LibDems were the only party to strongly oppose the RIP bill. They get my support for this alone. Of course, they are also the only party committed to true public investment.

[ Parent ]
Same here (3.00 / 1) (#50)
by spiralx on Wed May 09, 2001 at 10:46:39 AM EST

And they're the only party committed to opening up where your tax money goes, so you can actually tell how things are financed in this country. And unlike the other two parties, they've been open about the fact that the amount of investment we require in the public sector will require additional money in the form of an extra penny on the pound of income tax.

You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey
[ Parent ]

True to an extent but... (3.00 / 1) (#52)
by nobbystyles on Wed May 09, 2001 at 10:59:44 AM EST

I doubt a penny on income tax which raises about GBP 2.6bn per year is going to make a huge impact on public services considering the total Governemnt spending is around GBP 380bn per year.

I will vote Lib Dem though as I can't bring myself to vote Tory and Labour's too authoritarian..

[ Parent ]
Same here too (none / 0) (#77)
by priestess on Thu May 10, 2001 at 08:20:30 AM EST

And they're the only major party to want to even TALK about a sensible solution to the failed war on drugs.

And they're the only major party who seem to think something OTHER than economics is important to our society.

And they don't stand a chance of getting power because they don't stand a chance of getting power so nobody takes 'em seriously.

Have to vote for the Lizards, otherwise the wrong lizard might get in

Then people wonder why nobody bothers to vote anymore. PR is the answer, and guess which is the only major party to want real electoral reform?
----
My Mobile Phone Comic-books business
Robots!
[ Parent ]
PR (none / 0) (#89)
by Bob Ince on Sat May 12, 2001 at 03:32:00 AM EST

I agree that the current FPTP system has problems, but don't believe PR would be a great solution. It has real problems for local representation, for one.

What I'd prefer is a traditional constituency-based vote, but with a system like Single Transferable Vote. This would alleviate the tactical voting against-the-'wrong lizard' problem.

Of course, people would probably still simply vote for the side they thought was going to win, as if they were betting on the horses or something. But then people are morons, eh folks?

(Have to disagree with the OP's analysis of the Lib Dems too - their current positions on issues of personal liberty and/vs financial responsibility put them much further toward what is traditionally considered the Left than Labour, which upon coming into power has developed an extremely unattractive Authoritarian streak. But maybe that's the case for all parties when they finally achieve power...)


-- This posting was brought to you by And Clover. (Sorry.)
[ Parent ]
Voting systems (none / 0) (#91)
by spiralx on Mon May 14, 2001 at 05:14:02 AM EST

These concerns about pure PR have been noted before, and organisations like Charter 88 have come up with solutions that attempt to address them whilst still being fairer than FPTP.

You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey
[ Parent ]

Ukanian? (4.50 / 2) (#42)
by slambo on Wed May 09, 2001 at 09:07:54 AM EST

When did Ukanian enter the language? I kept misparsing it in the article as Ukranian, which has an entirely different meaning.
--
Sean Lamb
"A day without laughter is a day wasted." -- Groucho Marx
UK != Britian (1.00 / 1) (#90)
by malcohol on Sun May 13, 2001 at 11:35:56 AM EST

I've never seen the term "Ukanian" before, but it seems like a good idea
to me. The United Kingdom is actually the "United Kingdom of Britain and
Northern Ireland". Britain in this sense is the big island. Thus "British"
doesn't cover everyone, as there are some people in Northern Ireland who
consider themselves British, and there are some who don't.

Malcohol (Irish).


[ Parent ]
Foot and Mouth Disease Derails Labour?? (4.00 / 1) (#44)
by Komodo321 on Wed May 09, 2001 at 10:25:37 AM EST

Usually when combining the words foot, mouth, and politician, it is a case of the politician saying something stupid or embarassing. But this is different (I think) - the foot and mouth disease outbreak wasn't caused by Labour, but they got lots of heat for the way they responded to it. I am curious to see if our Ukie friends think that the way that Labour handled the recent agricultural/economic crisis will cost them at the voting booth.

No. (4.00 / 1) (#49)
by pallex on Wed May 09, 2001 at 10:40:07 AM EST

Most people in the uk werent affected by Foot and Mouth. It actually affected a tiny proportion of the UK, concentrated mostly in Cumbria (though with small outbreaks all over the place). This issue will not adversely affect the election, as few people have much sympathy for farmers, who they believe - rightly or wrongly - that they caused the problem in the first place with factory farming, cramming animals together, driving them all over the country to get the highest price regardless of the problems this causes. Left wing people (typical Labour voters) have less sympathy for farmers than the right, as farmers traditionally vote for the right-wing parties. -"These people are the salt of the earth, sons of the soil - you know, morons."

[ Parent ]
Having said that (3.00 / 2) (#53)
by BobaFatt on Wed May 09, 2001 at 10:59:58 AM EST

regardless of what people think of farmers, Labour may well take a hit for being publicly incompetant when it comes to actually solving anything.
The Management apologise for any convenience caused.
[ Parent ]
Yeah! (none / 0) (#61)
by pallex on Wed May 09, 2001 at 01:04:28 PM EST

Actually, i just saw this headline at the BBC news site: TB alerts at nursery and hospital Mentally i substituted TB for `Tony Blair`! Topical, given the amusing way he announced the election date! :) Yes, Labour are pretty incompetant, but at least they mean well - unlike the Conservatives. They mean evil, but thanks to their own incompetence, they dont really pull it off either!

[ Parent ]
Yeah! (3.00 / 1) (#62)
by pallex on Wed May 09, 2001 at 01:05:27 PM EST

Actually, i just saw this headline at the BBC news site:

TB alerts at nursery and hospital

Mentally i substituted TB for `Tony Blair`! Topical, given the amusing way he announced the election date! :)

Yes, Labour are pretty incompetant, but at least they mean well - unlike the Conservatives. They mean evil, but thanks to their own incompetence, they dont really pull it off either!

(notice that this post has spaces and stuff in it. i`ve never posted a html comment - why the hell would i want to bother with that - yet it always helpfully defaults to that mode!)

[ Parent ]
Disagree with your Reasoning (4.00 / 1) (#71)
by Morn on Thu May 10, 2001 at 04:35:29 AM EST

I agree that foot and mouth probably won't affect the selection, but I'm not so sure that it's for the reasons you suggest.

I think people generally are wull of sympathy for farmers, and recognise foot and mouth fot the disaster that it is. However, despite a perhaps slow-off-the-mark start to tackling the disease, they don't really think the other parties could have done any better. In my opinion, this is backed by the stance of the Conservatives - behind Labour at the beginning, when they were being slow, they broke consensus just when things were speeding up, and seem to be pretending that they were urging the government to hurry up and take more action all along...

[ Parent ]
Disagree with your disagreement! (4.00 / 1) (#72)
by pallex on Thu May 10, 2001 at 05:11:54 AM EST

"I think people generally are wull of sympathy for farmers, and recognise foot and mouth fot the disaster that it is."

Well, i just dont think this is true. Many people professed to converting to vegetarianism over the demonstration, once again (and if any demonstration were needed), of just how badly animals are treated.

Foot and mouth hasnt been a disaster for the meat-eating public, as they just get their meat from abroad. A slight increase in the price of pork - so what?

Farmers didnt suffer as much as people in the tourist industry - its just they have had more practice at complaining whenever something threatens their subsidies, and their `job for life` mentality.

Where were the farmers when the miners were on strike a few years ago? What did they do to help their fellow labourers? Fuck all is the answer, and Labour supporters more than anybody rememeber this.



[ Parent ]
Disagree with your disagreement of my disagreement (none / 0) (#74)
by Morn on Thu May 10, 2001 at 07:23:15 AM EST

"I think people generally are wull of sympathy for farmers, and recognise foot and mouth fot the disaster that it is."

Well, i just dont think this is true. Many people professed to converting to vegetarianism over the demonstration, once again (and if any demonstration were needed), of just how badly animals are treated.

Foot and mouth hasnt been a disaster for the meat-eating public, as they just get their meat from abroad. A slight increase in the price of pork - so what?

Many (probably most) other countries have much less stringent controls on disease and animal welfare than the UK, so these two points are rather incongruent (though I acknowledge that you're probably talking about two different groups of people, not one which holds both views).
Farmers didnt suffer as much as people in the tourist industry - its just they have had more practice at complaining whenever something threatens their subsidies, and their `job for life` mentality.
Perhaps not, but we then come to the old argument - farmers, 'managers' of the countryside, are necessary to the UK tourist industry in it's current form.
Where were the farmers when the miners were on strike a few years ago? What did they do to help their fellow labourers? Fuck all is the answer, and Labour supporters more than anybody rememeber this.
That's a fair point, though comparing an almost uncontrolable diseaese with a systematic governmental closure of an industry is a little melodramatic.

Indeed, all your arguments (except, to my view, the wellfare one, but that's probably not something two people conversing on a weblog will converge about, so I'll agree to disagree on that) are potentially valid ones, but I don't think they detract from the sympathetic view that is held by the public.

Perhaps the majority view differs by region?

[ Parent ]

Oh, i dont know! (none / 0) (#79)
by pallex on Thu May 10, 2001 at 09:11:39 AM EST

I feel that i`m arguing for the sake of it now!

Taking your last point first ("Perhaps the majority view differs by region?"), i`d say you are right. People in London have (i`d say) forgotten all about it already, whereas people in Cumbria are probably upset that the government claim that its `all under control`.

I`d have to disagree with "an almost uncontrolable diseaese". This disease occurs all over the world, all the time, and there are plenty of things which can be done about it. Its not even a very serious disease - its just highly contagious (more so apparantly that the 1967 outbreak).

Millions (or at least, hundreds of thousands) of animals were slaughtered prematurely to save money. Thats what this was about. We didnt inject animals with vaccines as this limits our ability to `shift units` abroad. We didnt even test animals before killing them, as this would have cost money (and time). It was the usual unholy union of money and being seen to do the right thing - same as with a lot of other issues.

"Indeed, all your arguments (except, to my view, the wellfare one, but that's probably not something two people conversing on a weblog will converge about, so I'll agree to disagree on that)"

Farmers are very comfortably paid to NOT grow things. Prices are artificially held high. I`m a vegetarian, and i avoid all diary products, but yet my tax money is spent (in part) on promoting diary products at school, promoting `english meat` as if its any less harmful than meat from anywhere else, subsidising uk farmers/meat prices etc. (I dont have links and footnotes here i`m afraid. Surely you havent forgotten about milk lakes, butter mountains etc?) I`d be perfectly happy to remove ALL such subsidies, and let people pay the true cost of what they are eating.



[ Parent ]
Farming subsidies (none / 0) (#80)
by spiralx on Thu May 10, 2001 at 10:08:50 AM EST

Farmers are very comfortably paid to NOT grow things. Prices are artificially held high. I`m a vegetarian, and i avoid all diary products, but yet my tax money is spent (in part) on promoting diary products at school, promoting `english meat` as if its any less harmful than meat from anywhere else, subsidising uk farmers/meat prices etc. (I dont have links and footnotes here i`m afraid. Surely you havent forgotten about milk lakes, butter mountains etc?) I`d be perfectly happy to remove ALL such subsidies, and let people pay the true cost of what they are eating.

Yeah, I think that's the issue a lot of people have with the farming industry in the UK. Despite only accounting for a small and ever-decreasing fraction of our total industry, it sucks in a hell of a lot of money to ensure that farmers can survive. And since we import a hell of a lot of our food nowadays, people are seeing farming as less and less important to our national interest.

You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey
[ Parent ]

No (none / 0) (#73)
by Ceebs on Thu May 10, 2001 at 06:31:55 AM EST

I don't think there's any possibility of Labour losing out that badly on this issue. If the Conservative party Tries to bring it up It will only remind the Voting public of the way in Which they managed to absolutely screw up in the case of BSE. Compared to which Labour's Foot and mouth Panic seems relatively small beer.

[ Parent ]
Generally good but some factual errors (4.00 / 1) (#45)
by jeep on Wed May 09, 2001 at 10:27:02 AM EST

Hi,

I think this article is useful for non-UK citizens (and that's the term that should be used instead of you-know-what).

However some errors that really should be fixed:

The House of Lords used to have only clergy (Rabbis, bishops etc), heriditary Lords, Law Lords and honorary (Life) Peers. However this were not only chosen by the Prime Minister but by leaders of all Political Parties in relation to their size.

This has changed, the Lords is in transition to a more democratic structure and currently Lords are chosen by an indepedent comittee.

On another issue, there IS state funding for political parties. They get money for their running, all MPs get salaries and the leader of the opposition gets an extra salary. There is also some money for campaigning.

Also not all leaders of the parties are picked in the same way. One of the innovations of Tony Blair's "New Labour" was a more democratic selection process... but still the Unions are very powerful in Labour elections as is the National Executive Comittee. The Tory party isn't very democratic at all in its selection of leader while the Liberal Democrats have a completely open, democratic and proportional leadership election.

The final point others may find interesting is that this is the first UK General Election with sitting assemblies in Northern Ireland, Wales and a sitting Parliament in Scotland. I don't know about NI, but Wales and Scotland used more proporitional systems for their regional elections so many predict lower turnout in those areas in this election.



--
The FREE e-democracy Project
Promoting Free Software in Government

Money Trees (none / 0) (#51)
by Vulch on Wed May 09, 2001 at 10:56:08 AM EST

On another issue, there IS state funding for political parties. They get money for their running, all MPs get salaries and the leader of the opposition gets an extra salary. There is also some money for campaigning.

Nope. Parties have to fund themselves. There is no state money for them. MPs do get paid, and they also can claim various allowances for secretarial work, but they get that by right as MPs, it has nothing to do with the parties. The Leader of the Opposition and leaders of some of the other minority parties are paid extra in their capacity as members of the Privy Council or honorary government posts, not as party members.

No money is available for campaigning. It is up to individual candidates to raise and account for the strictly limited sums they need for their deposits and campaign.

Things are different for Euro-elections, but so far no two elections to the European Parliament have been held in the same way so it's tricky drawing comparisons.

[ Parent ]

Short (none / 0) (#81)
by strumco on Thu May 10, 2001 at 10:27:33 AM EST

Parties have to fund themselves. There is no state money for them.
Not so. The parties get so-called "short money" - which is supposed to fund their day-to-day offices. It is not intended for campaigning.

DC
http://www.strum.co.uk
[ Parent ]

Some points (none / 0) (#54)
by BobaFatt on Wed May 09, 2001 at 11:12:09 AM EST

The House of Lords used to have only clergy(Rabbis, bishops etc), heriditary Lords, Law Lords and honorary (Life) Peers. However this were not only chosen by the Prime Minister but by leaders of all Political Parties in relation to their size.

This has changed, the Lords is in transition to a more democratic structure and currently Lords are chosen by an indepedent comittee.

The lords now consists of teh clergy, the Life Peers, 100 ex Hireditary Peers, who were made Life Peers as well in the transition, and the Law Lords. New Peers are chosen much as they were before, by the leaders suggesting people to the so-called independant comittee. Labour promises that at some point, it will make the thing democratic, but it currently sits in a half-way bodge state, which isn't democratic, and doesn't provide an independant check on the government either.

Also not all leaders of the parties are picked in the same way. One of the innovations of Tony Blair's "New Labour" was a more democratic selection process... but still the Unions are very powerful in Labour elections as is the National Executive Comittee. The Tory party isn't very democratic at all in its selection of leader while the Liberal Democrats have a completely open, democratic and proportional leadership election.

The Tory party used to split the voting power roughly equally between the MPs, local parties, and individual members, IIRC, but, recently, they have made all of their party-wide votes by an OMOV system. I don't know if it is now the official method of leader selection at the moment.
The Management apologise for any convenience caused.
[ Parent ]

Stupid Question Time! (3.00 / 3) (#57)
by _Quinn on Wed May 09, 2001 at 12:02:04 PM EST

   (I know, it's everyone's favorite time, but...)

   What does `first past the post' mean? Whoever gets N votes first wins?

-_Quinn
Reality Maintenance Group, Silver City Construction Co., Ltd.
First past the post (4.00 / 1) (#58)
by spiralx on Wed May 09, 2001 at 12:11:41 PM EST

No, it means whoever gets the most votes wins. Simple as that :)

See here for a guide to various proposed alternatives and how they compare to FPTP.

You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey
[ Parent ]

First Past The Post (4.50 / 2) (#59)
by BobaFatt on Wed May 09, 2001 at 12:21:49 PM EST

Under FPTP, within ach constituency, voters get one vote, to cast for their choice of candidate. After the polls close, the votes are counted, and whoever got the most votes wins the seat. This is as opposed to a Proportional Representation (PR) system, where we would have everyone in the country vote for the party of their choice, and MPs would be allocated according to the proportion of votes cast. For example, if we have 10 seats, and in each one, Alice polls 60%, and Bob polls 40%, under PR, Alice would get 6 seats, and Bob would get 4. Under FPTP, Alice would win all 10 seats. Personally, I am a fan of the FPTP system, as it reduces the chances of a coalition situation, preserves the local link with MPs, and reduces the power of the Party. In the UK, of the thre main parties, the Lib Dems are very pro PR, and would pick up a lot of seats from it. the Conservative party are firmly pro FPTP, but at the last election would actually have profited from PR. Labour expresses no particularly strong opinions, but would probably welcome PR (which they have instituted in whole or part for the regional and european elections), as it gives the party greater control, and they have a reputation for "control-freakery".
The Management apologise for any convenience caused.
[ Parent ]
OK, thanks. (2.00 / 1) (#64)
by _Quinn on Wed May 09, 2001 at 03:00:33 PM EST

   FPTP == winner-takes-all, then. :)

-_Quinn
Reality Maintenance Group, Silver City Construction Co., Ltd.
[ Parent ]
PR (none / 0) (#78)
by Merekat on Thu May 10, 2001 at 08:33:45 AM EST

This is as opposed to a Proportional Representation (PR) system, where we would have everyone in the country vote for the party of their choice, and MPs would be allocated according to the proportion of votes cast.

We have a PR-type system in ireland that doesn't operate that way. You are still voting for candidates, not parties (in theory anyway). You receive a ballot sheet with about 10 or so candidates in it and vote for them in order of preference. You do not have to rank them all. Candidates with the lowest number of votes in each consitiuency are eliminated and their second preferences are distributed and so on until the leading candidates pass the necessary threshold which I do not know how to calculate.

Then, the party with the majority of TDs (MPs) is in power. If nobody has a clear majority, negotiations for coalition begin and the leader of the largest coalition party generally becomes Taoiseach (PM).
---
I've always had the greatest respect for other peoples crack-pot beliefs.
- Sam the Eagle, The Muppet Show
[ Parent ]

First Past The Post (none / 0) (#83)
by Bluejay42 on Thu May 10, 2001 at 02:49:46 PM EST

In Scotland, the new Scottish Parliament reps were voted in w/ a hybrid system. citizens voted for their local rep directly (FPTP) and then also a regional vote (PR). candidates could be in the running on both the FPTP vote and the PR vote. first, they calculated the FPTP vote. if a candidate wins, their name is taken off the PR list. if the candidate loses their FPTP vote, they can still get a seat if they are high on their party's PR list.

an interesting system but even though the seats are equal -- there is no formal hierarchy between a FPTP victory and a PR victory -- there still seemed to be an informal hierarchy that made the FPTP victoies seem more legit.



[ Parent ]
it works this way in Germany as well (none / 0) (#87)
by samth on Fri May 11, 2001 at 05:38:30 AM EST

Germany also elects people via districts, although it can't get you a greater percentage in parliment than your proportion. However, since there's a 5% cutoff for your proportional representaion to be counted at all, a minor party can get a few people in by winning individual elections. Finally, if you win 3 districts, you get your proportion, even if you didn't get 5%.

That might sound really complex, but it actually does matter. In the first two elections after the reunification, the PDS (the old Communist party, now just leftist) won 3 seats in the former East Berlin, and so got their proportion in parliment. Last election (1998), however, they got 5% (but just barely).

Finally, the Greens have never won a district, though they've been in parliment for 30 years. There's one candidate in Berlin who has a good chance (he gets like 35% of the vote), but it still hasn't happened.

Given a choice between Libertarianism and ravenous martian spores, I ask you, do I look good in this Bernaise sauce? -- eLuddite
[ Parent ]

which parties support FPTP (none / 0) (#84)
by Bluejay42 on Thu May 10, 2001 at 02:53:46 PM EST

really interesting to note the parties that support FPTP. in the scottish elections two years ago, the conservatives did not win a single FPTP vote. without proportional representation, the conservatives would not have a single seat in the scottish parliament.

the lib dems did very well on the FPTP vote in scotland. they really did not gain much at all from PR.

[ Parent ]
5 Years (4.00 / 2) (#60)
by jynx on Wed May 09, 2001 at 12:57:40 PM EST

Unlike a lot of other countries, the Prime Minister has complete discretion over the timings of national elections.

Not quite. He has to call one within 5 years of the previous one. (I know that you knew that, it's just not clear from you story.)

Apart from that, nice article Told me a thing or two I didn't know and I live in the UK. :-)

--

Give me a republic PLEASE!! (3.50 / 2) (#66)
by maz0r on Wed May 09, 2001 at 05:03:20 PM EST

Hi I'm a Canadian and I just want to vouch for the author when he says the parliamentary system hasn't evolved considerably due to there being no revolutions. Although there have been changes they have all been negative as there remove safeguards against the prime minister's power. (btw I'll be ranting more about the Canadian system than the British. ) The problem we have in Canada is that the right wing is split between three parties. This would not be such a great problem in the USA as you have a Senate and Executive branch. Technically we do too. The Queen (represented by the Governor General) is the equivalent of the Executive branch in the United States, and the Senate is appointed by the Prime Minister. As you can imagine, these branches obviously garner no real power any longer. Thus, we are left with only the House of Commons (ie. House of Representatives). Whoever has a majority has near absolute power. This makes for political campaigns run on fear. When in the United States, the different houses tend to maintain the balance of power and bring out a comprimise, we have a very unbalanced and non democratic system. The prime minister of Canada has been rated to have the most percentage power of any major posistion in the democratic world. He appoints heads of crown corporations, appoints senators, judges, etc.. All this and he isn't even elected directly. We elect local candidates and they elect an uncle fucker like Jean Chretien. The worst part of it all is that the liberals won only 41% of the vote but managed to come out with a commanding lead of 100? seats (unfortunatly I can't remember). You get the idea nonetheless. Things suck here. The system is built for parties. In conclusion I hate our system of government and am disgusted that it is a non- issue with the rest of Canadian citizens. In my opinion, nothing is more important than actually forming a system of democracy that allows for ideas that more closely resemble that public to reach the authority. We are -Self Governed- right? The American republic is the best system out there, no question in my mind. Iron Maiden RULES

Misinformed USian Rambling about Canadian Politics (3.00 / 1) (#68)
by Field Marshall Stack on Thu May 10, 2001 at 01:57:39 AM EST

(btw I'll be ranting more about the Canadian system than the British. ) The problem we have in Canada is that the right wing is split between three parties. This would not be such a great problem in the USA as you have a Senate and Executive branch.

Sorry, I don't keep up _that_ much on Canadian politics... what's the third right-wing political party? All I know of are the PCs and the Party Formerly Known As CRAP. Your other major parties are the Bloc and the NDP, right? I've never heard the Bloc described as right-wing, so I've got to assume you're talking about one of the minor parties.

According to the post-election coverage I saw, the Alliance/PC split cost both parties a few seats, but not nearly enough to break the Liberal majority. Plus, the Libs lost a few seats to Liberal/NDP vote splitting, didn't they? (Admittedly, this isn't as big a deal as the Alliance/PC split, because the ideological distance between the moderate Libs and the lefty NDPers is quite a bit larger than that between the centre-right PCs and the... well, I'll refrain from saying what I think about "Doris"'s party.)

The problem, as I see it, isn't the parliamentary system, it's that addled first-past-the-post/plurality voting system that the U.S., the U.K., and Canada are all saddled with. The way I figure it, the painstaking attempts taken to balance power against power in the U.S. federal system causes that power to leak out into... less savory places. Places like the bureacracy, large corporations, etc.
--
Ben Allen, hiway@speakeasy.org
"Nobody ever lends money to a man with a sense of humor"
-Peter Tork
[ Parent ]

Spectrum is blurred (none / 0) (#82)
by maz0r on Thu May 10, 2001 at 02:26:22 PM EST

Fair enough I always thought of the Bloc as a right wing party because of their balance with the progressive conservatives in quebec and their tough stance on organized crime. On second thought however, their policies with the management of human resources and crime are a bit socialist. At any rate, the lines are blurred in politics. Look at any party (save the NDP) and you'll see policies that aren't consistant with their placement on the spectrum.

[ Parent ]
Try the Australian system (3.00 / 1) (#69)
by Pseudonym on Thu May 10, 2001 at 02:58:50 AM EST

You don't need to be a republic to have a better system than that. (Well, you might want to be a republic for other reasons!)

In Australia, we have a fairly typical Westminster-style parliament, pretty much exactly like the UK or Canada, except that our upper house (senate) is elected rather than appointed. We have an equal number of senators from each state (less for non-state territories), and they are elected by proportional representation IRV, which means that minor parties (well, a minor party, anyway) and independents actually get some influence.

It's not perfect by any means, but it's a huge improvement over an appointed upper house.



sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
I'll have to disagree with you (none / 0) (#75)
by 0xA on Thu May 10, 2001 at 07:38:45 AM EST

I'm Canadian as well and I really don't want to see our system change to model the USA's.

I think that for the most part Canada's version of the parlimentary system is pretty effective. I would like to see some changes made in the senate as outlined in Don Getty's EEE Senate (Elected, Effective and something else) proposal in the 80s. You can actually see some of the changes happening to to Senate's stucture now, as part of a gentelmen's agreement type thing, each province gets to recomend replacement senators to the PM when seats become vacant. The PM is supposed to appoint the province's choice and usually does.

Some lower house changes would be nice too, I really hate to see the Prime Minister be able to push all of his party's members into voting to support his legislation. It would be better if individual MPs could vote their concience (or prehaps the wishes of their constuients) without fearing punishment.

I can understand the frustration you have with our current system but I don't see the American system as being better at all. It really looks to me (from the outside) as being more prone to showboating by individual legislators. The tendency to promote comprimise to pass legislation can also be frought with danger as well, many bills seem to be eviserated by ammendments in order to get them passed.

Systems modeled after the British example are far more common in the world than the United States' model. I think for real change to happen in Candaian politics there needs to be some new blood come into the fray. As it stands now the west votes for the Aliance, Quebec either votes Bloc Quebecois or Liberal and Ontario votes Liberal. Considering that the far majority of the population is in Quebec and Ontario, the Liberals win. There needs to be someone that can get by this regional bickering and govern Canadians as a whole. Frankly I was pretty damn happy that the Liberals won the last election, those Aliance guys are wackos, they scare the piss out of me and I'm from Calgary. I can totaly understand people's tendency to support the Liberals, the devil you know is better than that lunatic from Red Deer.

[ Parent ]
Major election themes -UK Foreign Policy (5.00 / 2) (#76)
by treefrog on Thu May 10, 2001 at 08:06:21 AM EST

I would expect that this election will be interesting for the simple reason that it is likely to be dominated by questions of Foreign Policy. In particular
  • Europe The big one. In general the split is that the Liberal Democrats are strongly in favour of Europe, the Labour Party is in favour, if it seems like a good idea at the time, and the Conservative Party is strongly against. However, all of the parties are to a large extent divided on the issue. For example, Conservative ex prime minister Edward Heath is strongly in favour, and current Chancellor (Treasury Minister) Gordon Brown is thought to be reticent. Add to this the fact that the majority of the press is anti-Europe, and most opinion polls show that the public is generally anti-Europe, and you have a volatile mix. There is likely to be a referendum on entry into the European Single Currency (the Euro) if Labour win the Election.
  • Missile Defence George W Bush's NMD plan requires the use of a number of tracking stations in the UK (Fylingdales and Menwith Hill) in order to work. The UK government must give its permission in order for this to happen. The Conservative Party is strongly in favour, whereas the Labour Party has adopted a wait and see approach (although privately ministers concede that it will be hard to refuse such a request). However, the idea appears to be very unpolpular with general public, and would be likely to lead to mass civil unrest and demonstrations, along the lines of the 1980's CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) protests at Greenham Common and other US airbases. The binning of the Kyoto Treaty didn't go down very well here either - which has adversely affected public opinion towards US foreign policy.
  • Imigration As the original article mentioned, immigration is likely to be a major election theme - with both parties vying to be seen as harder than each other on this question. There has recently been some criticism in the press of the position of both main parties here. In particular, there has been general revulsion at the position espoused by a few MPs on the extreme right of the Conservative Party, and the failure of their leader, William Hague, to discipline these MPS quickly enough
Hope this is informative.

Regards, Treefrog
Twin fin swallowtail fish. You don't see many of those these days - rare as gold dust Customs officer to Treefrog

A party that tolerates... (none / 0) (#85)
by SIGFPE on Thu May 10, 2001 at 05:47:22 PM EST

...a racist MP raving about Britons becoming a 'mongrel race' and losing their 'Anglo-Saxon' heritage doesn't seem very 'centre right' to me. (Yes, they did get him to write an apology, but only after a sizeable reaction.)
SIGFPE
ukraine? (none / 0) (#86)
by fsck! on Thu May 10, 2001 at 11:21:18 PM EST

U.K. stands for United Kingdom.

UK Elections - a guide for non-Ukaninians | 91 comments (59 topical, 32 editorial, 0 hidden)
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