Jonathan May-Bowles is, as far as I'm aware, no relative of mine. This is good, because while I and my family have done some daft things in our time, directly attacking Parliament isn't something I'd particularly like to be associated with. 'Jonnie Marbles' jailed
Sentencing May-Bowles, district judge Daphne Wickham said the aim of the attack was to disrupt proceedings, which were of "of huge importance" ... "This is a parliamentary process, which as you know conducts itself with dignity and in a civilised fashion. Everybody else in the room expected that, with one exception - you.

"You attended those proceedings with only one intention, to disrupt them."
That the subject of his attack was a noxious git who I dislike intensely is irrelevent. A witness giving evidence to Parliament during a parliamentary enquiry was attacked in a clear attempt to disrupt the enquiry.

I believe, fundamentally, in the principles of Parliamentary democracy. I believe that in this country Parliament is not strong enough and needs trengthening signiificantly in many ways--it's the stated objective of this Government to do some of these things, I don't think they're going far enough.

Jonathan May-Bowles "was ordered to serve three weeks in prison and pay a £15 victim surcharge and £250 costs." He got off lightly.

Addendums:This Tweet is also relevent though:
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]:
BBC flash embed of the audio of the interview. I can listen to this again and again and again, it makes me happy ) 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:
A summary list of some of the more egregious idiocies he's managed )

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?

Footnotes )
Jack Straw has decided not to appeal a decision and instead the Cabinet has voted, using the power allowed it by law the law, to prevent the release of documents, for the first time since the FOI Act was passed. Y'know what? I disagree with Jennie and most Lib Dems on this. He's right to do so. We can, and should, be attacking this, but not because Cabinet minutes aren't going to be released. Cabinet minutes should not be released, it's one of the basic principles of our Parliamentary democracy. Here's how it's supposed to work:
  • The House of Commons is elected as a representative cross section of British interests and opinions
  • A Cabinet is formed representing the views of enough members of the House to command a majority
    • Appointments are made based on support within the house and talent
  • The Cabinet discusses all major aspects of policy and agrees major decisions
    • The Cabinet is bound by Collective Responsibility and do not disagree in public
    • Ministers that cannot agree to a decision at all should resign
    • If the Cabinet no longer commands the support of the House, then the government should fall
In order for this system of government to work correctly, ministers have to be able to have free, open and frank discussions within Cabinet. If after discussion is over they come to a decision that a minister personally dislikes, the minister chooses whether this is a resigning issue or not. Robin Cook chose to resign before the Iraq War started. Clare Short was given assurances by the PM and had those assurances broken, so resigned after the war.  That's the way it's supposed to work. That the Government didn't fall is not the fault of the Cabinet/Parliamentary system of government.

The problem lies not with the way this individual decision was made. The problem lies with the corrupted system that our Parliamentary democracy has become.  This is the way it actually works:
  • The House of Commons is elected using a gerrymandered system created in 1947 that encourages:
    • an unrepresentative House with a two-party duopoly
    • A predominance of white middle class men in suits
    • Safe seats allocated by party fiat in which the rebellious are penalised
    • Party loyalty over individual thinking
  • A Cabinet is formed by the party leader, made up mostly of his/her friends or political allies
    • Appointments are made based on presentational ability and sucking up
  • The Prime Minister makes most major decisions and reveals them to Cabinet
    • Groupthink is both likely and encouraged
    • Discussion and debate is discouraged
    • Ministers who disagree with the PM are aware that challenging is a threat to their career
    • Super majorities from one party mean the Majority is rarely threatened
If a precedent is set for Cabinet minutes to be revealed during a period in office, then full and frank discussion within Cabinet is threatened. That it currently doesn't happen enough is part of the problem. If we are to retain the good aspects of the British system of Goverment, we need to get rid of the corruption and the parts that aren't working. Not attack the chances of the bits that sometimes do from happening.

British politics has allowed, over the last 60 years, to become increasingly corrupt and partisan. This is a fault of the electoral system, and specifically the introduction of uniform single member constituencies and the abolition of alternative voting methods made by the Representation of the Peoples Act 1948. We need to remake and revitalise the Parliamentary system of government. For that to happen, we also need to examine how and why the Cabinet system works.

If it's decided that the Cabinet should have disagreements in public, that Collective Responsibility can be abolished, etc, then so be it. I can see arguments favouring that, especially in the new information age.

But to call for the abolishing of a fundamental feature of the British system, that has been working effectively for over 300 years, over a single, specific issue in which an abominable decision was made, is to throw out the baby with the rather murky bathwater.

Parliament voted for the Iraq war. The nation almost certainly opposed it. That is the real problem. In defending the principles of our democracy, for once in his life, Jack Straw is right.

And if you think I liked typing that last sentence you really don't know me.
I guess an advantage of moving to a new area is not knowing exactly how your MP will react. My old one was Adrian, who I trusted before I got to know him and I got involved in party politics again, but my new one? She's one of the Labour "awkward squad", but I never know on what issue she's going to rebel. Problem of course being that Gordon Brown is to order Labour MPs to back a controversial plan to exempt details of MPs' expenses from the Freedom of Information Act. And she's been absent for most previous votes on this issue.

She first was elected in 1997, and the Freedom of Information Act was, to me, a crucial part of the Labour 1997 manifesto. While there is a lot of overblown hype about MPs expense claims, there has been some corruption, and there are some stupidities; I agree completely with Jennie when she says stuff like You pay peanuts, and you get Hazel Blears. And Derek Conway, frantically defrauding the expenses system. Lets at least pay bananas and get apes ;) or:
I am one of those rare people who thinks that MPs should be paid a lot more than they currently are for basic salary - on the grounds that if we want the best people to represent us, we should pay the sort of wages that will attract the best - but I also think that people HUGELY resent the fact that MPs get to claim expenses for the sort of things that normal people have to buy from their own wage.
ETA: Brown has backed down. Good. [ profile] caramel_betty thinks Whips tell Brown rebellion will be BIG. No, bigger than BIG. HUGEMONGANTIC. Still worth writing to them, they'll try and do something else. Rest of original entry below:

Letter to my MP about the vote in Parliament tomorrow )

If you live in the UK, take 5 minutes of your time

Use the easy tool with links and info that MySociety have created and contact your MP asking them to vote against this measure.
You don't need to know anything at all about the farce that is the Torbay mayoralty to get this one:
Closure will actually breathe life into Eastphalia.'

The master plan would be for one developer to link the Woolies building, Victoria car park, Crossways and Station Lane sites and merge them into one massive regeneration project, including such things as a multiplex cinema, indoor bowling centre, new shops and homes, and with each financing the other. 'Ahmad Hatter explained: 'It's a brilliant plan, especially the way each thing will finance the other in the middle of the deepest recession in living memory. In fact we will probably end up knocking Woolies down to make way for the new 'porcine runway' - at busy times there will be pigs taking off and landing every five minutes
For the uninitiated, Westphalia=Torquay, Eastphalia=Paignton Brixham Fishhole=Brixham, Ahmad Hatter=some bloke even the local Tory Cllrs thought incompetent and got rid of, and Mayor Nick Bye=a useless waste of space that's achieved nothing except prove what a bad idea the Govts elected executive mayors system really was (and how awful the implementation legislation). The blog's syndicated at [ profile] thisiswestphali.

Oh, also, they've revamped the news section of the UK Parliament website. Using Wordpress. No idea how much they were overcharged, but the feed is: [ profile] parliament_uk

ETA: The MP for Torbay points out in the comments that Eastphalia is Paignton, not Brixham. Which makes more sense as Victoria Park and Crossways are both in Paignton. Um, about 5 minutes walk from the hospital where I was born. Oops. Thanks Adrian.
matgb: Artwork of 19th century upper class anarchist, text: MatGB (Default)

British Liberal, house husband, school play leader and stepdad. Campaigner, atheistic feminist, amateur baker. Male.

Known to post items of interest on occasions. More likely to link to interesting stuff. Sometimes talks about stuff he's done. Occasionally posts recipes for good food. Planning to get married, at some point. Enjoying life in Yorkshire.

Likes comments. Especially likes links. Loves to know where people came from and what they were looking for. Mostly posts everything publicly. Sometimes doesn't. Hi.

Mat Bowles

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October 2015


Stuff and nonsense

I'm the Chair of the Brighouse branch of the Liberal Democrats.

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