politics

Britain Votes ‘Maybe’

On Thursday the UK turned out in their droves to cast their votes on the UK’s membership of the EuropeanUnion and  unanimously said in one voice, “we’re still not really sure about any of this.”

The historic referendum has returned an overwhelming ‘maybe’ vote, with 52% in favour of leaving and 48% against.

With both sides of the debate populated by compulsive liars who are amongst the least trustworthy in the country, it’s little wonder the population at large had no real idea which way to turn.

Confused Brexit voter Steve Anderson said, “with the remain side championed by a public schoolboy whose mum still cuts his hair and a slimy delinquent who does unspeakable things with farm animals, I’m afraid I had to take the Leave side.

“I mean, I don’t really understand a lot of what Boris Johnson says, but he’s such a lovable oaf you can’t help but side with him.”

On the flip side, Remain voter Jonathan Bradley said, “as I don’t really know which side’s specious arguments to trust, it was sensible to vote to leave things as they are until we actually figure out what’s going to happen. That just seems like the really obvious thing to do.”

Despite the closeness of the result, expert David Mango said the UK will run ahead and leave the EU anyway.

“Ruining the lives of the majority of the population based on the poor decision making of fifty-two percent of voters is one of the fundamental tenets our democracy is based on,” he said.

Leaving the EU is still not a certainty however. Government sources have suggested that due to the closeness of the vote other options are being considered, including splitting the country in two along the 52nd parallel, near Birmingham, giving Remain voters the southern half and allowing the Brexiters to inhabit the northern half as far from Europe as possible.

“The problem with that,” said our source, “is that Scotland will probably be an independent country and part of the EU by the end of the decade, so the anti-Europe population will find themselves sandwiched between two European countries they want no part of.

“Really, if they want to leave Europe, they should just go live somewhere that isn’t in Europe.

“I hear the property values in Venezuela are particularly favourable.”

Our source was keen to stress that the main thing to remember is that for now, we technically remain part of the Euopean Union, so there is absolutely no need to panic, even as the stock markets and the value of the pound crashes down around us.

Positives were taken however in the 72% turnout. Laura Kuenssberg, BBC political editor, said, “it just goes to show that if people consider one of the options on the ballot paper as palatable they’ll actually turn up and vote.”

Democracy Doesn't Work

I often find myself at this time of year proclaiming that democracy doesn’t work. In fact, my very first post on this blog was almost exactly a year a go, when I looked at the voting breakdown of the general election with a similar sentiment. In case you’re wondering where it came from, it’s actually a Simpsons quote.

Unfortunately, with each passing year I think I’m beginning to believe it more and more.

For a start, for the last year we’ve had a government that nobody voted for. Of course, the Americans had that for eight years, but then we mocked them for it. Incessantly. They tried to make up for it by electing a black man as their next president, but that only led to even more political division among the populace and the forming of a large group of people who still chose to believe that their president isn’t even eligible for the post because they don’t think he was born in their country (and why would he have been, seeing as how he looks so different). So then, it turns out that although America isn’t as racist as we used to think, it’s still pretty fuckin’ racist.

In this country, after twelve months of a government that nobody voted for, or even actually wanted at all, we had the choice to vote to remove the voting system that was partly responsible for the situation (that and the fact that very few of the parties were worth voting for which helped expose the holes in the system). What did we do? Aside from the fact that only a little over a third of us actually bothered to go out and participate in the vote, most of those that did decided that they liked the old system well enough, thanks.

Now, I admit, the main thing that swayed me into voting in favour of the alternative vote system (apart from working in another form of ‘AV’) was in fact the ‘No’ advertising campaign, who used a tactic almost on par with saying “see this kitten? This cute, loving kitten? Vote how we say or we’ll kill the kitten.” That and the fact that none of their arguments held up to scrutiny (in a race, isn’t the winner the one who comes first, they said. Yes, except this is a vote, not a fucking race). Oh yes, and they never actually denied the claim from the yes camp that AV was actually fairer.

I’m getting off the point a little bit here. I’m actually meaning to talk about democracy, and why it doesn’t work, rather than bemoaning our voting habits, although the two are obviously linked.

For a start, democracy is built on the simple tenet that every person gets a vote, and are free to do with it what they please (including not using it, but limited to not giving it to someone else). Unfortunately this premise overlooks two other very important tenets which I think need to be considered:

  1. People are lazy.
  2. People are stupid.

You should never underestimate the power of stupid people in large numbers (oh look, another Siimpsons quote). The fact that the The Sun is the most read newspaper and the X Factor is the most watched TV show in the UK goes to show that we have a significant number of – how can I put this politely? I can’t. Anyway they’re there, and there’s plenty of them, and they all have a vote each.

Fair enough, you might say, everyone’s equal so they all get a vote. Except, as I’ve noted before, everyone isn’t equal. Douglas Adams said it best: “All opinions are not equal. Some are a very great deal more robust, sophisticated and well supported in logic and argument than others.” Some people, because of age, experience or teaching, are in a position to make a far better and well-informed judgement than others.

So what do we do? Well, we could do what we should be doing with drivers’ licenses and gun ownership and impose a minimum IQ requirement. Or, we could not open polling stations in Woking since living there is a sign that you are not of sound mind and judgement (did I say Woking? Sorry, I meant places like Woking, only without a fair chunk of my readers living there).

These are all potentially viable ideas, but all still battling with the overriding principle of trying to be democratic, or at least something approaching it.

Nope, I think we need a far more drastic change to our political system. Democracy doesn’t work, but dictatorships get shit done. I read somewhere that empires like Rome simply could not have stuck together as long as they did without a single person able to make the difficult decisions when it mattered. I don’t remember where I read that but I’m reasonably sure that one’s not a Simpsons quote.

The only tricky part is finding the right kind of person to be the sole ruler. Too soft, and chaos will reign; too hard and we’ll be too restricted to get anything done; too stupid and the whole thing will fall apart like a woman attempting to assemble flatpack furniture (did I just say that? Sorry that was horribly mean and sexist of me. Let me come up with another one: like, I dunno, something quite likely to fall apart).

Don’t worry though, I have the perfect person in mind (no, not me, I’m too hard, too soft and too stupid). There’s only one person who can be smart enough to know the right path, strong enough to tread that path, and yet still gentle enough to have the support of his people. And that person is (hang on, I just want to return to the ‘falling apart’ joke. Did you notice how the ‘falling apart’ but referred to both the mental state of the woman and also the physical state of the furniture she was building? It’s clever, it’s not my fault it’s sexist).

Where was I? Oh right, our ruler. Well, it just has to be Stephen Fry, doesn’t it?

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We praise you, oh mighty benevolent ruler

Back to Speed Cameras

This morning BBC news (or at least, BBC Breakfast) returned to the subject of speed cameras. More are being switched off as a cost cutting scheme; this time due to the austerity measures and less a statement by individual councils.

Breakfast, as they often do, asked for peoples’ thoughts, and since very little has changed since I made this post last summer, I basically copy and pasted it wholesale into their Facebook comments page and left it at that (I probably should’ve proofread it first, but hey-ho).

I actually received quite a positive response; it is (at time of writing) the most liked comment on the subject, and someone actually agreed with me enough to send me a message saying how much he agreed with me.

I guess that means I’ve reached the first important milestone for a blog: people actually care about what I write… now, the next step, which is… um…

With a little less Gatso

I really hate the way that people who exceed the speed limit are vilified so much. Speed limits are an antiquated way of controlling traffic, fundamentally flawed as they are based on the misguided tenet that speed kills. Speed doesn’t kill; bad driving kills. It is perfectly possible to drive at speed safely. Where it all falls down is when people, bad drivers, drive too fast for the conditions of the road or without consideration for potential hazards such as school children, or swerving in and out of lanes on the motorway. The problem comes with the fact that you can set up a camera easily to measure speed, but it is not so easy to measure bad driving, without putting policemen on patrol.

Speed limits, then, can be seen as another example of the nanny state, telling people what to do because they’re not smart enough to figure it out for themselves. Static speed limits are silly anyway since they do not take into account the conditions of the road.

Take, for example, the national speed limits on the motorways. Even today it is 70mph, a limit introduced when cars were little more than boxes on wheels and vehicle safety was not even thought of. Today’s cars are far safer, capable of safely achieving higher speeds, and decelerating far quicker. Unless there are police about, the only people going 70mph are the people in the slow lane, whilst those in the fast lane are usually hitting 90 or 100mph, and doing it safely. Why? Because they’re driving courteously, sensibly, and in line with the traffic flow and the road conditions.

What makes me bring this up, of course, are reports today that the few councils in the country brave enough to turn off their speed cameras have seen an increase in speeding at some of the camera locations. The emphasis is added because there doesn’t actually seem to be any reports of an increase in accidents at those locations, just an increase in people driving faster. People who, if the camera was switched on, would drive past it either paying more attention to their speedo than the road, or slamming on their brakes glancing around for a speed limit not noticing they’re about to be rear-ended by someone else.

Don’t get me wrong, I approve of the idea of speed cameras in certain locations, mainly outside schools or, more importantly, at sections of road with unexpected hazards such as deceptively tight bends or sudden dips in the road. But these cameras should be clearly signposted, highly visible with flashing lights and dedicated warning signs (not just the signs we have now, which effectively say ‘there’s a camera somewhere, but we won’t say where’), with the speed limit marked clearly on the actual camera so there can be no confusion. Maybe then road users will believe it when ‘they’ say that speed cameras are there for our safety, not to make money out of us.

On Majorities and Interpretations

David Cameron outside No. 10It seems that it has come to pass. David Cameron is the new Prime Minister of these isles.

I’m not ashamed to say, I’m not particularly pleased with this turn of events. I voted Liberal Democrat in order to stop this very thing happening. That said, I’m quite pleased that the LibDems have gotten somewhere and that Nick Clegg is Deputy PM. Time will tell how well this little coalition will last.

It did however get me thinking. Yes, I feel that my vote has been somewhat wasted because the very thing I voted against has come to pass. But surely, the vast majority of people who voted either Labour or LibDem were voting against Cameron, weren’t they? Labour and the Liberals have always had more in common either of them have with the Conservatives, so in many constituencies people would usually quite readily vote for either one or the other in order to keep what my dad describes as “the Tory toe rags” out. This is something Nick Clegg appears to have sadly forgotten.

Now if that’s the case, surely the sums can be looked at this way: Labour and the Liberals between them had 315 seats, the Tories 306. In my book, that’s 315 constituencies voting to not have David Cameron as PM, compared to 306 voting for him. Or, in the slightly fairer way of looking at raw voting figures, 10,706,647 people voted for the Conservatives, whilst 15,432,296 people voted against them. Surely that should be taken into account?

But of course, that is not the way of things. For a start, our voting system – unlike the Americans’ – means you vote for your local representative, and that then goes on to decide who gets the big job. The only people who voted for or against David Cameron in a real sense were the people of Witby, his constituency. In America you have separate votes, you chose your President, and your local representative, in different polls.

We also vote for, rather than against, in polls, making the simple case of more is more decide the election.

Oh well. Not much can be done now. Time will tell if this coalition will last a full term or if it will all fall apart in a matter of months. I just hope the public have the sense to protest when the Tories inevitably start trying to do things they shouldn’t.

I leave you with a simple, paraphrased quote from Douglas Adams: anyone capable of getting themselves elected as Prime Minister should on no account be allowed to do the job.