Wednesday, 18 May 2011

A political elite

Having seen US politics and British politics, there seems to be a  obvious and crucial difference, which currently appears to be benefiting America’s political system – the reputation of politicians.
As many of you may agree, I prefer the British political system, but I do not prefer the British politicians. It seems obvious that the US politicians are far more tribal and less compromising  (US debt crisis) – I’m not sure you will ever get a coalition style of government in the US, like we have seen in the UK. Similarly, I don’t think that you would ever get a gridlock of government in the UK, as seen in the US. The British system works and possibly the USA system does not always work. However the American politicians have a far better reputation, but why?
In my view,the answer lies the British politicians being politicians. Looking across the Atlantic, there seems to be a situations where being a politician isn’t as demeaning as it is in Britain. From what I understand, the status quo in the US is that the congressmen are often already familiar with their constituents by the time they become congressman. They almost certainly will have worked in that geographical area for years, becoming aware of the needs of that constituency. It must be noted though, that this is partly made possible though, because of the weakness of the US parties. The election system which involves primaries, means elections particularly candidate centered, and therefore they need to win votes from their constituency – how do they do that? Well they listen and do what’s requested of them, or they wont get reelected, even if they are popular within the party
So, return back to Britain, and these important differences become obvious. A common phrase used to describe the problem is a “political elite”. This has come around, because people genuinely feel like politicians are out of touch with the public, which evidently isn't the case in the USA. Maybe the more important question though, is why are politicians so out of touch? Well sadly, in this country, politics is now a career choice. MP’s, in particular will have entered politics early and not worked in their constituency, they are unaware of the real needs of the community until their election campaign. The MP’s aren’t local business men and women and have not been based in this area for years, and so the people begin to feel they don’t really know their representatives. Now it must be said that, contrary to the US, the British political parties are strong in Britain.The parties have far more control over candidates, they are placed in constituents where parties want them to be, they may have never been to this location before and they are whipped to vote along party lines – occasionally against their constituency wishes.

Sadly, its a "no to change" not a "no to AV"

As anyone who is remotely aware of the news, the country overwhelmingly voted “no to AV” yesterday. I however, beg to differ, in the majority of cases, you haven’t seen “no to AV” but the electorate, saying “You haven’t bloody told me what AV is, how can I vote for it?”. 
Now you may be thinking, well actually I do know what I want, and this just isn’t it. Well, I don’t buy that argument either.
Lets go back a year/year and a half, as you will all remember, this was the age of “the expenses scandal”. The public had just found out that the vast sum of tax they pay, was being spent of adult films or duck houses. As predicted, anger swept across the country, we had been let down by the people we trusted most - our mandaated representatives.
Closer to my point, following this came one of the most over used cliché’s of the last year and one which clearly isn’t true after the rejection of another voting system - “disillusioned with politics”. Now, I may be reading into this wrong, but when i think of people being so unhappy about something, that they have become “disillusioned”, I think its fairly safe to assume they might just want a change from the status quo. In fact people were demanding changes to politics as well - evidently reflected in the rather unpredictable 2010 election result.
So why does all of this matter, well yesterday’s referendum result shows one of two things, people either dont want change (i strongly doubt this),or more likely,they just didn’t understand the significance of the referendum. 
You don’t have to know an awful lot about politics, to know that yes the vote was about changing the voting system to a relatively knew, slightly altered version of the current system - which does have its flaws. But this is besides the point. People just didn’t understand the implications of a  ”yes to AV” result yesterday.
As explained, we would have a different system, but this was the biggest chance to change and influence the future of politics, in at least one generation, more likely 3 or 4 (the Lib Dem’s wont regain people’s trust for a rather long while - doesn’t require an expert to see that). This may appear to be only a mere change in the voting system, but actually, by political standards, this would have been a hell of a change. And as with any institution, if you change the system, the people in the system (politicians) have to change and adapt to survive. Now when people ranting and begging about disillusionment and needing to change politics, when an opportunity actually comes around, (for example;should we change the whole political system?) we should say yes. But we didn’t we said no, and a resounding no at that.
Why did people say no to this opportunity for change. Its actually simple, people saw the negative ramifications of AV -partly due to the fact there wasn’t really much of a yes campaign (surprising given this was the Lib Dems only thing they could keep in the coalition) - but not the positive consequences. Mainly, within the foreseeable future, we probably would have voted for a fully PR system and replace AV anyway, so no need to worry about how rubbish AV is. However, the result yesterday means this is unlikely to happen for a long time, due to the fact that the Lib Dems are the only ones who are pushing for electoral reform, and they probably wont have this much power again for a very long time. Most importantly, the electorate didn’t understand that this the biggest and only chance for change, for the next 50 years at least. And, isn’t it change we wanted in the first place?

Is there really class in "El Clasico" ?

Laugh if you will, but after watching the latest edition of El Clasico, I just couldn’t help but show my disappointment. Let me explain…
El Classico then, well  you only have to go to its very own wiki page(first result on google) to find that it is the most followed football match in the world. It is obvious to see why; a fantastic rivalry between two parts of the country, that goes far beyond football (supposedly as representing political viewpoints). And the quality of the teams and football probably has a part to play as well. 
So, given the matches are so symbolic, the matches must be an exemplary performance of what a football match should be. WRONG.
Having seen both Barca and Real play each other a fair few times, i am saddened as both a sportsman and football fan. The art of gamesmanship (asking for other players to be booked) seems to have gone way too far. Now I am the first to accept that this too happens in the premier league - but no way near this scale. At the max, 1 or 2 players may ask for a card to be brandished, and this may happen once or twice. But in El Clasico, this art goes much much further - it seems the role of the team to complain to the ref, mostly on a rota, but occasionally (tonight) all at the same time (not to mention, what the hell is the ref supposed to do? ( either book them all, or knock them all out (all 22)). When the whole team becomes involved, it rather turns into a  pub brawl, with inevitable dismissals - rather resembling a playground fight.
Now I don't know about you, but I dont think that a pub brawl deserves the title of greatest and most followed match on earth -  El Clasico

Rudyard Kipling’s “If” Poem

If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same

Libya, A dangerous precedent?

Libya then, well as with any conflict, there are many questions that need to be answered - but I think the most important, is the same question arising from any situation; what happens next?
What do I mean by this, well we all have opinions as to whether or not we should even be there in the first place? We all have differing opinions about what exactly are we there for? Although we are there to officially to protect civilians, it could be argued we are therefor “regime change” again. 
The fact is though, we are there now and we are there for good with missiles, ships and planes etc. The biggest concern for the allied forces though, is what precedent does this set? If we are there to protect civilians from being slaughtered by Qadafi, then I fully support our presence, but what message exactly are we sending to these dictators and their respective countries.There is already the beginnings of another uprising in Bahrain and it is definitely possible that Yemen or Saudi Arabia may follow suit. By invading Libya, are we saying that we will support any protesters who wish to rid an evil dictator? Are we only going to intervene if protesters are campaigning for the western model of democracy? Are we saying that we are no longer willing to support dictators who give us oil? Maybe you can answer more accurately than me?
The current situation in Libya is intriguing, but what happens when Qadafi is inevitably defeated, will be particularly unpredictable? Will the allied forces pull out of the middle east completely or will they remain there and help other revolutions in Yemen or Bahrain?
And who knows, if these types of revolution spread as far as the repressive regimes in the far East like China and Burma for example, do the west support the protesters again? Do we risk damaging our valuable relationship with China? (almost certainly the next big global superpower)

The 2011 election and 2012, The Year of Obama (again)

The title of this post may appear wrong or totally peculiar to anyone knowing anything about American politics. Let me explain - I think the excitement, regarding the next presidential election will be this year (2011), 2012 will be a victory parade for Obama, in my opinion.
It  now  looks like one of the GOP candidates, has finally started the race - Gingrich has set up an exploratory fund raising committee - the other candidates should follow suit. And given the first GOP presidential debates are in May, the candidates should declare their intentions soon.  
The fact that all that there are so many GOP candidates who all seem to lack at least one for a presidential quality and the fact there is no clear front runner, the battle for the GOP nomination should be exciting. You do get the feeling though, that the winner may be the “best of the worst” - in other words a negative result. 
The GOP primaries are bound to be tense and close (exciting); but as long as Obama doesn’t invade an undeserving and innocent Asian country (like Bush junior), find himself in a sex scandal (Clinton) or bring the federal government to a standstill - the general election should be a walkover. In fact, there is no guarantee that which ever candidate does win the GOP nomination will win all of the GOP grass roots support; as the party is so fragmented currently due to the Tea Party. If they cant ensure they have the full support of their own party, do they really stand a chance of winning the many independents, who will probably decide the election. I doubt it!

The Magic of the FA cup?

Listening to 606 last night; with the legendary Robbie Savage, and another bloke who’s sole purpose seemed to be winding up every caller, brought to my attention that the hot topic at the moment, is the question of seeding the FA cup.
There are strong cases either way. In the case for keeping the FA cup format the same, and not changing to a seeded cup, is simple - the smaller clubs, like Crawley for example, deserve a chance to get to the final. If the tournament were seeded, they would undoubtedly have to beat a top premier league side. This is unlikely to happen, and so the chance of a magical FA cup final, is substantially diminished. But would this system take away the magic of the FA cup?
Well in my opinion, its a no. To me, the FA cup is all about the smaller teams getting a one time only only day out to a big ground - Old Trafford, the Emirates etc. I think that if the smaller clubs win the early rounds, then come the 5th or 6th round, they deserve to have a money making day and fixture against a big team. The seeding would ensure this happens, as well as ensuring that the premier league teams don’t play each other, ridiculously early. 
To this, you may say that this gives smaller teams no chance of getting to the final and winning, which is what makes the cup special. Well, to me, the smaller teams know they wont get to the final; they just want the experience and money making opportunity of playing a big team. Lets face it, a premier league team wins the competition 9/10 times anyway, so would we actually be losing out ? I know the smaller clubs wouldn’t be.
Feedback would be much appreciated!!

Irony in the search for Democracy in the Middle East

As you will know, the past 20 years has been littered with American attempts to force democracy among the so called “failed states” or “rogue states” - Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Syria etc.
Obviously these American attempts seem to have failed so far, proving that countries really must find democracy for themselves - which funnily enough is exactly what’s happening. 
It will in the short term have negative effects in the form of destabilising the region (and probably Americans supply of oil, but i cant say im sad about that - that much destruction in a region deserves punishment).
In my opinion, the long term positives far outweigh these negatives. They should end up with some form of democracy, at least more representative than the systems in place now. 
So where is the irony - well Americans have been pushing for this so called gem of a political system (democracy) to be instated in the middle east for decades (with no success), but the power of the people seems to be the mechanism for change, not pre-emptive wars - which i feel is how it should be.

French proverb

One meets their destiny often in the road he takes to avoid it

Sarah Palin - out of this world ?

Sarah Palin, definitely the talking point of American Politics currently - may i just say that in almost any other democratic country she wouldn’t have a chance at the presidency, far too extreme - but in the land of opportunity, well anything is possible.
Much has been written of the middle aged wonderwoman from Alaska, but none more accurate than an article a couple weeks ago. Someone clearly against the rise of Palin described her arrival as that of a meteorite, and on reflection I would have to agree.
Firstly, for an American, she seems to be rather clueless about American history and heritage - naming the founding fathers is like potty training, but no one seems to care she gets it wrong. Secondly, she seems to have hit political scene rather quickly, somewhat clumsily and as if unnoticed previously. She has very little political experience - governor of Alaska - not really the qualifications for presidency. And finally, she seems to be someone that nobody can seem to judge quite where she is going or what she is going to do next - either dangerous or refreshing for a politician.
In my opinion, if history is anything to go by,then she is a bad sign. For the only time a meteorite has successfully collided with earth, it wiped out all living species. If Mrs Palin becomes president of the most powerful country and economy in the world, somewhere down the line, someone may ask - why is America the only country with people in it?  To which we reply, the meteorite hit and wiped out everything.

Wikileaks - with great power comes great responsibility!!

Watching an bog standard piece of investigative journalism (panorama) has brought to my attention the idea that Wikileaks may have gone too far, or has it just been getting bad press.
My issue is not with Julian Assinge, make what you will of him, for yourself, but how he and Wikileaks have acted in their powerful position.
I like most other humans aware of the concept of democracy, treasure it and know that good government is crucial to any nation hoping for a democracy. For a long time, government have kept secrets from us, involving wars, killings or arrests - Abu Grahib for example - no one would have known was it not for transparency and freedom of information. On this level, we owe a huge debt to Wikileaks - we now know about Americans killing innocent Iraqi civilians with helicopters.
Wikileaks has had  particularly bad press, but for me, its because Wikileaks has gone too far - beyond reasonable limits, if you will. To be publishing any documents revealing informants identities or details of anyone working for the allied forces - well that’s just a death wish.
I support what they are doing, but anyone with that amount of information and power, has to act responsibly. It could be argued that government’s haven’t set a good example of how to deal with information - America invaded Iraq based on false information- Wikileaks now has its chance to show how to deal with information and power responsibly. Can they prove that this much transparency is a good thing?