matgb: (Politics)
[personal profile] matgb
Ever thought about the influence geography has on the way you vote? You probably ought to, it's had a massive effect on me. Y'see, I grew up in the 80s and did my GCSEs and A Levels in the 90s. that's under Thatcher and Major. But that's not the main reason I distrust the Conservative party, nor the main reason I hate the Tories[1]. That can be explained by a very simple statement.

Anthony Steen was my MP. He's still the MP for my parents, both surviving grandparents, two aunts and four cousins. Yes, that Anthony Steen. For a very very simple reason to hate the git[2], have a listen to this[3]:

I've met him. He visited my school a few times when I was a kid, and I met him subsequently. He really is like that. That interview has effectively ended his fairly undistinguished career. The great shame is that he's been forced out, because despite him representing one of the safest Conservative seats in the country, his behaviour since re-election in 2005 has been, well, interesting, and I reckon he'd have lost without the most recent revelations. Here are some highlights:

In February 2007, he said that people have to accept post offices should close as they weren't providing a service that's wanted. Bear in mind that he represents a very rural constituency, one of the largest English seats geographically, and that a lot of services post offices used to provide were withdrawn by the Govt. He sort of had a point, but made it so badly it was funny.

In June 2007, Mr Steen was fined for leaving his car in a disabled bay at Newton Abbot railway station. The Totnes MP said there was an "absurd number of handicapped spaces" and national regulations should be changed. I had a fairly thorough look through Hansard on this. Number of times I can find Steen raising this as an issue before he was caught? ZERO. Specifically, he was parked at Newton Abbot train station, where I happen to know there is lots of on street parking available within an easy walking distance of the station. He was of course "rushing" to get to Westminster, because it's oh so important to be in attendance at the House of Commons during recess week. Best bit? He was reported to the local media by a concerned citizen, his response?
Mr Steen also accused the person who tipped off a local newspaper of being "very sneaky". "There are too many busybodies in this world running around complaining," he said. "There are too many whiners and whingers."

In February 2008, during the last MPs expenses row, it was revealed that Anthony Steen pays his daughter £5,000 a year for doing half a day’s work a week. Half a day a week? For £5K a year? Nice work if you can get it.

In October 2008, he won £10,000 damages over expenses story from his local newspaper after they slightly misreported his comments regarding expense claims he thought were perfectly legitimate. To be 100% fair to him, under the rules, they were legit expenses. Under the rules. That he'd voted for. Note, the local paper? Owned by the same people that own the Daily Mail. Notably Tory leaning...

In April 2009 (and this is one of my favourites), a school in Paignton was closed as one of the pupils contracted swine flu on the flight home from a holiday in Mexico. Paignton is a town split between two constituencies, his Totnes seat and Adrian's Torbay seat. Have a look at this exchange in the House of Commons. Martin (correctly) calls Adrian first, as he's the constituency MP. There are some interruptions, so Martin says he'll be calling Steen in a bit anyway. After Adrian some Labourite is called, and then Steen, who opens with:
The Paignton community college happens to be in my constituency
See? He's annoyed because the girl attends school in his seat and he wanted to be called first, like a petulent schoolboy. Small problem. Ricky Younger-Ross, MP for neighbouring Teignbridge, is called a few minutes later:
If there is any doubt, the upper school is, I believe, in the constituency of Mr. Steen and the lower school in the constituency of my hon. Friend Mr. Sanders, and the child concerned— [Interruption.] The child concerned is in the school in my hon. Friend's constituency.
Steen is whinging, but doesn't know the borders of his own constituency. Useless tosser[4] (for the record, the sites are fairly close, the boundary is a bit daft, but an MP is supposed to know his own borders, for him to be corrected by the neighbouring MP unaffected by the spat is a sign of his competence).

So, there you go. Due to the nature of the first-past-the-post electoral system, if you have a git like that as your MP, if you want to get rid of him, you have to vote for the candidate most likely to beat him. If you get used to voting for that party time and time again because they're the best chance of beating the incumbent git, many people begin to consider themselves supporters specifically of that party.

In 1997, I voted in my first General Election, and specifically voted against Steen. It was a vote for the Lib Dem candidate, but also broadly a vote to get the bastard Tories out and replace them with Blair. I often wonder what, if any, my partisan allegiance would be if I grew up in a part of the world where the Lib Dems were a distant third and Labour were challenging the Tories. Let alone if I'd grown up in a safe Labour area where the Tories had no chance.

One of the stupidities of the UK system is that where you live matters a lot more than who you support. I think it's about time we changed that, how about you?

[1] I try to make a distinction when I can between actual Tories and mere members of the Conservative and Unionist Party of Great Britain, which is after all a broad church coalition between headbanging Cornerstone Tories, patrician One Nation Tories, Liberal Unionists, National Liberals, Whigs, Constitutionalists and Conservatives. Currently led, as far as can be told, by a Constitutionalist Whig with liberal pretensions.

[2] I typed then deleted the word 'bastard' there. Calling him that would be an insult to bastards everywhere. My father was born out of wedlock (technically making me also a bastard but my parents were married), and associating him with Steen any more'n is necessary isn't really fair.

[3] Non-UK based readers might not be able to listen to the embed or hear it on the site, blame some rather silly licensing agreements the BBC has with various employee/producer organisations.

[4] To be completely fair to him, the point he made during his intervention was a good one, but he palpably wanted to make the point Adrian had made and switched to a back up question.

Date: 2009-05-23 12:12 am (UTC)
gominokouhai: (Default)
From: [personal profile] gominokouhai
> My father was born out of wedlock (technically making me also a bastard but my parents were married)

I believe that technically that makes you a git. A git is a second-generation bastard.

Date: 2009-05-23 03:08 am (UTC)
theweaselking: (Default)
From: [personal profile] theweaselking
It is REALLY annoying to not be able to comment on livejournal using an account I use and am already logged into, in a style I like without white-on-gray-on-black text. I'm just saying.

That being said:

Half a day a week? For £5K a year? Nice work if you can get it.

Paying me, at my standard rate, for 4 hours a week, and you'd come out to more than $12,000 a year. Which is *more* than five thousand pounds a year.

If his daughter is a professional and is contracting to him, that's an entirely reasonable rate. If she's a lawyer, she's giving him a pretty damn big *discount*.

I'll note that the Times makes no attempt to say *what* she does or what her qualifications are. And given that the rate is entirely reasonable for some professions, undercharges for others, and grossly overcharges for some, it's really hard to tell if this is graft or a daughter *taking a pay cut* to do her father a favour.

Sorry, man, he might be a dick for a million other reasons, but that one doesn't hold water without a LOT more detail.

Date: 2009-05-23 08:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
She's a freelance journalist, seems to be doing his PR work. Sounds like a reasonable rate to me too.

Date: 2009-05-23 12:54 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] publicansdecoy
£50k/year, pro-rata. Really?!


Date: 2009-05-23 12:08 pm (UTC)
theweaselking: (Default)
From: [personal profile] theweaselking
Turning your style off would require that my style on Dreamwidth be better. All the dreamwidth styles are *ugly* and barely usable.

And my complaint is mostly about the need to realise the regular comment link isn't there, click the crosspost link, look up my password, and log in, all before I can pop up a comment.

Date: 2009-05-23 06:33 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] rho
MPs that I've been "represented" by in my lifetime include Den "currently under investigation by the European Anti-Fraud Office" Dover and Julian "I managed to kill someone by driving on the wrong side of the road" Brazier. The former was from before I was old enough to vote, and the latter was in a constituency that has returned only Conservative MPs since 1874.

I don't do tactical voting. Never have, and I doubt I ever will. In 2001 I voted Lib Dem, even though the Labour candidate had a better chance of unseating Brazier. I totally agree that we need a better system, though.

Date: 2009-05-23 07:18 am (UTC)
rhythmaning: (Default)
From: [personal profile] rhythmaning
This is an excellent post.

To be honest, I think some of Steen's recent comments on the expenses scandal might bear up - I do believe there is a lot jealousy in the finger-pointing, for instance - but the way he made his points has damned him completely. Why are the public interested? Because he is paid with public money...

Date: 2009-05-23 03:09 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] missedith01
But when you've trodden on someone's foot, you apologise. You don't have a go at them for having their foot in the aisle.

I think the jealousy comment is a really clumsy way of making the argument that the system is wrong. Who wouldn't want to be covered by an expenses system that allowed this kind of generosity towards applicants?

Except that there's two difficulties - reasonably principled people would have worries about how the system was paid for and might not be so happy if they knew it was being paid for by general taxation since a lot of taxes come from people who are less well off, and OK if it's the system that's wrong let's not blame the claimants, let's blame the people who created the system. Oh, wait a minute ...

And Nadine Dorries is a twit. I just wanted to make that point.


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Mat Bowles

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I'm the Chair of the Brighouse branch of the Liberal Democrats & the membership secretary for Calderdale Lib Dems and run the web campaign for the local candidates. I have a job, a stepdaughter and a life.

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