Posts Tagged ‘general election’

Oh, there’s so much about this election that needs serious, sensible, rational commentary.

It’s a pity there’s so little of that present in the punditry and commentary we do get, though.

And though I’ve commented previously about elections, including this one, and was even foolish enough to make some predictions, and will no doubt write some more before 12th December… something a bit lighter today while not completely leaving the subject alone.

This post was occasioned by the news that the Tories have today suspended a prospective parliamentary candidate for previously made antisemitic remarks.

They suspended him, and won’t be spending any more money on the campaign, and various people have rightly praised the Tories for doing both.

However, others have read far more into those actions that the actions themselves warrant.

From that reportage and those social media posts, you’d think that the Tories had “dumped’ the candidate, that the candidate will no longer be standing in the general election. Maybe that either another candidate will be selected in a hurry to stand for the party in that constituency, or even that no candidate was standing in that constituency representing the party.

Problem is, that none of that is true.

The final date for candidates to be formally – legally – nominated to stand for parliament was last Thursday, 14th November. From the moment nominations closed, no additional candidates can be added to the election for that constituency, nor can the ballot paper contain additional names.

What’s often missed, or less well appreciated anyway, is that from the moment nominations closed, no amendments at all can be made to the ballot paper.

Whoever were the nominees the moment nominations closed, their names are on the ballot when voters vote.

So, let’s take an example.

The constituency of Somewhere in the county of AnyWhere.

Mr Jones, Ms Smith and Mr Whatdjamacallit are, respectively, the nominated candidates from The Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems.

Mr Jones? The day after nominations close, he’s found to have worn blackface and dressed up as a nazi. The party suspend him.

Yeah, he’s still on the ballot paper on 12th December, with the words “Conservative party” next to his name.

Ms Smith? Oh, turns out she claimed all jews have hooked noses and only love money, oh and they’re all paid by israel to fiddle with kids. She’s duly suspended from the Labour Party.

Yep, she’s still on the ballot paper on 12th December, with the words “Labour party” next to her name.

Mr Whatdjamacallit, on the other hand, get caught with his hand in the till, ripping off the small charity she helps run. Police are called, he’s suspended from the party.

You guessed; he’s still on the ballot paper come 12th December, with the words “Liberal Democrats party” next to his name.

Ludicrous? Possibly, but that’s how elections run in the UK.

Oh, by the way, if any of them had died, ah, that might be different. Because then sometimes the election for that constituency is suspended… until a new candidate can be selected, after the general election. Most recently… Thirsk and Malton in 2010, where the election was suspended after the UKIP candidate died.

But no suspension if the party has just picked a racist, say.

Now I can understand there being a cut-off to the period for nominations; of course there needs to be one. I can certainly understand there being a cut-off before the election to allow ballot papers to be printed correctly, checked and verified.

I can’t understand, however, why those two dates are absolutely the same date, four weeks before the election.

Apart from anything else, it tells the parties,

“yeah, sure, suspend them formally, but you know in safe seats that the candidate will be elected no matter what. You and we both know it doesn’t matter; a [suspended] Tory candidate will still be elected in a safe Tory seat, a [suspended] Labour candidate will still be elected in a safe Labour seat.”

And I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if, after they’ve won, the suspension is quietly lifted.

(And, literally, while I was typing this, it happened again; this time an antisemitic Lib Dem candidate. the Lib Dems have said they’ve removed him from election material and won’t campaign for him… But as above, he’ll be on the ballot paper come 12th December, with the words “Liberal Democrats party” next to his name.)

OK, so given the above, and that most people don’t know about the ‘no amendments from the day nominations close’ rule, I wondered what other arguably things, what other odd facts and figures about British elections, that people might not know.

Here’s a baker’s dozen:

Largest winning vote share in any constituency:
George Currie, Ulster Unionist, North Down, 1959: 98.0%

Lowest winning share of the vote:
Alasdair McDonnell, SDLP, Belfast South, 2015, 24.5%

Smallest Majorities (since 1945):
2 votes:
Stephen Gethins, SNP, North East Fife, 2017
Mark Oaten, Liberal Democrat, Winchester, 1997

Most recounts:
7: for both Brighton Kemptown in 1964 and Peterborough in 1966

Highest Turnout %:
Fermanagh and South Tyrone, 1951: 93.4%

Lowest Turnout %:
Lambeth Kennington 1918: 29.7%

Most candidates:
15: Sedgefield in 2005 (PM Tony Blair’s constituency)

Fewest candidates:
The last four seats to be uncontested at a general election were Armagh, Londonderry, North Antrim and South Antrim, at the 1951 general election. The last seats in Great Britain to be uncontested were Liverpool Scotland and Rhondda West, at the 1945 general election.

Three seats were contested only by Labour and Conservative candidates at the 1979 general election: Birmingham Handsworth, Dudley West and Salford East.

Most unsuccessful attempts to get back into The House of Commons:
Robert McIntyre, 1950, 1951, 1955, 1959, 1964, 1966, 1970, Feb 1974 and Oct 1974

Longest break from the Commons:
A contender for the longest gap prior to returning at a general election was possibly Henry Drummond (1786-1860), who returned to the House of Commons in the 1847 general election as member for West Surrey, after a near 35-year absence, though aged only 60. He was previously MP for Plympton Erle from 1810-12.

Shortest period between general elections:
7 months: November 1806 – June 1807
7 months: November/December 1885 – July 1886

Longest period without a change in government:
The longest continuous Conservative government was in office for eighteen years, between May 1979 and May 1997.

The longest continuous Labour government was in office for thirteen years, between May 1997 and May 2010.

Leader or Deputy party leader losing seat:
Always an event when it happens; most recent occasion was the constituent of Moray in 2017, when the SNP’s deputy leader, Angus Robertson… lost his seat.

 
 
Something else, tomorrow.

Not sure how long this will be; I want to write something on this, but I don’t honestly know how much there is to say.

There’s plenty to ask, though, so let’s start with a question.

I’m only going to ask one question today. More, perhaps on another occasion. I’m not expecting [m]any answers to this questions… for several reasons, including that the days of people responding to this blog seem to have passed.

However, that question:

What does it take to change your mind?

I’m not using ‘your’ here as a shorthand for people in general, but specifically you, who’s reading this blog.

What does it take to change your mind?

One answer might reasonably be to respond with your own questions: “About what? About what subject are you asking me to change my mind?”

Alistair Cooke, quoting a friend of his, suggested that while you can be educated as to the merits of art, or music, there are three subjects on which you should never attempt to change someone’s mind:

  • whether something is funny
  • whether something tastes nice
  • whether someone else is attractive

But even leaving aside those matters, (I’d also add these days ‘whether a movie or tv show is enjoyable‘) there are plenty of things where the reasons that you might change my mind depends on the circumstances, i.e. it’s different for each.

A matter of fact? Show me, in the words of my old audit tutor, independent, arms length, third party, verifiable information.

If I’m convinced that, say, ‘defenestrate’ is a synonym for ‘eviscerate’ (which I shamefully did for too many years), point me at a dictionary.

If I assert that Luton Town Football Club play at Anfield, show me where they do play, not from their website – ‘Independent’, remember? ‘Third party’, remember?- but from a newspaper report, or website, or from the Football League themselves.

A matter of opinion? This is where the ‘independent third party arms length’ bit falls on its arse. Because too often, when it comes to matters of opinion, especially in politics, the commonly held view is ‘no one’s independent’.

It often, but doesn’t always, comes down to ‘if they agree with me, they’re right; if they disagree, they’re not only wrong but obviously biased.’

Or what’s worse ‘prejudiced’ which implies, suggests, bad faith on the part of the person with whom they disagree.

More on this in a moment.

But going back to the original question: What does it take to change your mind?

If someone makes a statement, a matter of opinion, mind, about the merits of a candidate, or the demerits, with which I disagree, how do you change my mind?

I’m not sure, to be honest.

I don’t think I make up my mind quickly. I consider and balance and make a decision. And yes, once that decision is made, as far as I’m concerned, the decision has been made. And for me to change my mind thereafter, there better be a damn good reason to do so.

Before I’ve made up my mind, the burden is on everyone, defending or decrying each ‘side’ of the matter. Once I’ve made up my mind, the burden of proof is on someone wanting to change my mind.

So it’s not prejudice, but conclusion based upon my knowledge (which could be lacking), experience (which can only be personal, subjective) and – the crucial bit – other information which informs not my prejudice but my post-judice, my judgement.

But let’s go back to politics for a moment.

take just four things in this current election that people have to decide upon when casting their vote, things which will inform their vote. (I’m specifically referring to those who’ve already made their mind up.)

  1. whether the Tories can’t wait to are going to ‘sell off the NHS’
  2. whether, now, the best we can hope for is a Brexit Deal or whether we should revoke the whole damn thing
  3. whether Jeremy Corbyn is an antisemite, and Labour now, sadly, institutionally antisemitic
  4. whether the Lib Dems should do one or more of the following:
      – stand down parliamentary candidates in Tory/Lab marginal seats even if Labour won’t reciprocate in Tory/LD marginals, and
      – despite election pledges, get Jeremy Corbyn into Number 10 if the only alternative is to let Johnson back in.

Now, whichever side of the line you find yourself on any or all of the above, what would it take for you to change your mind on the matter?

I suspect, to be brutally honest, that nothing would, with the possible exception of 2 above.

If you currently believe that the NHS is going to up for grabs to the highest bidder if Boris Johnson gets his way, then I genuinely doubt that anything, any evidence, any promises, any pledges, from anyone, will change your mind on that.

And if you disagree with that conclusion, ask yourself the question: what would it take to change your mind on that?

Because likely as not, if anything could change your mind, whichever ‘side’ you’re on, then it would probably already have done so. It’s not like we’re short of the arguments right now, or as if they’re not they’re, and regularly offered to you.

If you’ve concluded, say, that for whatever reasons, that Jeremy Corbyn is an antisemite and the party he leads is institutionally, or indeed that he isn’t antisemitic and neither is the party… what would it take to change your mind on that?

Right now? Again, I doubt any minds can be changed on the matters.

Me? I’ve said previously that I didn’t think he was personally antisemitic, but that I had changed my mind on that as time passed and I saw more, learned more, as more was revealed.

But my mind was changed on his motivations and character, not his actions. I always thought that he was – at best – supremely indifferent as to the antisemitism of his friends’, supporters, and those he campaigned for. So I switched some time ago to believing he shared their antisemitism.

(What could change my mind on that? Lots of things… that could and would never happen, including a genuine repudiation of his previous behaviour and actions, and his taking full responsibility for the antisemitic actions he’s taken, and the antisemitic tropes he’s promoted. Failing that, nothing.)

So, what could change your mind on any of those four above?

One final point, on the assertion that the Lib Dems should, reluctantly or otherwise, support Jeremy Corbyn to prevent Boris Johnson… My only observation is that it’s both striking and bemusing just how many Labour supporters, who’ve spent almost a decade utterly and genuinely, furious with the Lib Dems for breaking 2010 election pledges… now advocate a position that the only moral thing for the Lib Dems to do is… break their election pledge.
 
 
Something else, tomorrow…