Dancing and shouting

Politicians have been running around today.  I have bumped into several Liberal Democrat peers.  Several broadcasters are still stationed on Abingdon Green – just across the road from the Palace of Westminster – tracking events and interviewing the band of academics, politicians and commentators that form the usual suspects, myself included.  Whether we add much, if anything, to the sum of human knowledge is another matter.

The day has not been without its public events, some at times slightly surreal.   I heard loud noises this morning and thought there may be a demonstration.  When I looked out the window, there was a troupe of Morris Dancers performing in front of the Lords.  They formed a somewhat noisy backdrop to the broadcasters across the road before moving on and performing again in Victoria Tower Gardens.  Later in the day, there was another loud group, this time several hundred protesters who wanted to argue the case for electoral reform.  They had banners saying ‘fair votes’ but I am fairly sure they were campaiging for a new electoral system.  They kept chanting, very loudly, and although chanting in unison I could not make out a word they were saying (apart from one, ‘Clegg’).  They marched down to Smith Square, where Nick Clegg was holding his discussions with colleagues.  I saw Simon Hughes’ yellow taxi parked on the corner.  They blocked the square while they held their demonstration.

Later in the afternoon, a lone demonstrator appeared on Abingdon Green, held up a placard and started shouting – he clearly had a gripe about a particular television presenter.  I wouldn’t have minded so much had he not started his shouting just as I was being interviewed.  I gamely ploughed on, not least on the basis that the directional microphones would pick up easily what I was saying but not what he was shouting.  My only concern was that what he was shouting may have been more interesting than my profound words of wisdom.   He certainly kept some passing tourists entertained.

Over the past couple of days, I have done several interviews on Abingdon Green.  While I have been waiting, it has not been unusual for someone to come up to chat, either a member of the television crew or someone from the security team.  Today, while waiting for one interview, someone walked up and started chatting about the political situation.  I assumed he was from the security team.  He chatted and then picked up the newspapers at the bottom of the television platform, had  a quick look through and then said ‘bye.  I watched him as he left, walking up the road and disappearing in the distance.  No one had any idea who he was.


About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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19 Responses to Dancing and shouting

  1. Senex says:

    LN: As you know the Republic of the Philippines will go to the polls Monday 10, May. The population of the Philippines is some 90 million spread over a very large geographical area and of these, 50 millions are registered to vote. There are currently more than 85,000 candidates for only 17,000 national and local election places.


    This is democracy big time. One of the challenges for their electoral commission is just how to count such a large number of votes in any sensible time scale. Automation is the answer but this is presenting problems:


    Back to our own elections. What amazes me is just how complex democracy really is given the choice of voting systems available.


    The Tories have endorsed FPtP for over 150 years and see no reason to change. However, I am struck by the irony that it is still based upon the assumption of illiteracy in that all you have to do is place your mark, an X on a ballot paper when trillions have been poured into our education systems over that same period of time. Other systems all require some degree of literacy (and intelligence) in the marking of ballot papers.

    What is also regrettable about our present turn of events is that the NLP chose not to perform a spending review before the GE. It seems not dissimilar to the employer that is making some staff redundant and Christmas is looming. Do you tell your staff they are going before Christmas or after?

    I have always favoured letting people know before Christmas so that its up to them if they run up large debts and subsequently find themselves in trouble. This is the dilemma the Treasury faces and being amoral it advocates letting people run up those debts as sacrifices to the greater good and growth in the economy. Tough call!

    So now we have both the TP and LDP choosing to cosy up to each other in the absence of the Treasuries books when both need to see them in order to make a convincing financial statement to the markets.

    What is also very odd is that the LDP having advocated a PR system finds them in a situation that might have resulted from a PR based GE and they have no action plan in place to accommodate negotiations or so it seems.

    To compound matters the LDP leader goes on camera stating his priorities and the national debt does not head up the list. I think he needs to wake up and smell the coffee after all those heady days of electioneering. Perhaps a sight of the books might bring everybody around?

  2. Carl.H says:

    “No one had any idea who he was.”

    Must`ve been a Liberal Democrat then !

    My monitor was on this blog when a client called today and he stated he had just watched you on the TV, so you had at least one viewer.

    I would imagine you are going to be much in demand as the evil bad guy in the coming weeks/months as electoral reform bares it`s ugly head. Being right isn`t alway`s popular and being popular isn`t alway`s right…Ask Nick !

    ” there was a troupe of Morris Dancers ”

    No they were the new Lords practising their routine for the TV so they get voted in…”And for Lord Solely phone 0899- 258-258″

    Next week find out who got through to play PM, was it the heartless Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion or the brainless Scarecrow ?

    Calls cost £1 per minute and any expenses participants can dream up. Remember your votes are important to us, so please wait in the queue. If we haven`t got to you by 10 when the polls close, please check you`re not in Iraq, Iran or other 3rd World countries before complaining. Failure to check may result in death or serious injury though if you are in the UK you may be likely to get compensation of upto £750 which we`ll add to the deficit.

  3. James Walker says:

    First, thanks for informing me of the winning the election prediction!

    That man was protesting about the treatment of a protestor on Sky News. In my opinion Kay Burley did come across as aggressive. See this clip

    Also having read your earlier post on PR http://lordsoftheblog.net/2010/02/03/arguments-against-pr/ I’d be interested to know if you are going to do a follow up, seeing as voters have not clearly kicked out and chosen a government.

    A problem with the strong goverment argument from FPTP, is that duverger’s law means we are more likely to see a two party system. Not only does this result in the two parties becoming closer over time, but this can push voters out into the cold, as seen by the decreasing turn out both here and in the USA.

    I wonder if this is due to people feeling that neither party represents their core issue, and their party is v. unlikely to get in under the current system, so they don’t vote.

    Finally, you mention it is important for voters to kick out a goverment they don’t like, but with just two parties, won’t this lead to a cycle of disenchantment with both of them – picking the least worst?

    • ladytizzy says:

      What I watched on Sky News was Kay Burley effectively demolishing a chap who said the protesters were protesting for “something” and added “for a change to politics, a fair vote”. Since all parties had a manifesto with an element of a change in politics and none indicated that voting procedures were unfair, what was the point of the protest ?

      And now a campaign to sack Ms Burley? Seriously?

      • James Walker says:

        On reflection the campaign to sack Kay Burley is a bit silly, as she is a member of an independent company.

        @ladytizzy the voters are protesting against FPTP, and presumably for PR, the point of the protest was to keep electoral reform in the mins of the electorate. http://www.takebackparliament.com/

      • ladytizzy says:

        James,I can accept that the protesters were mainly influenced by the as usual ebullient Billy Bragg.

        However, the website you linked to advertises a fantastic array in its coalition but does not include the group that this chap represents. Not once did he mention PR.

        Take Back Parliament state on their site they have two demands:
        1.No more broken elections.
        2.Fair votes now.

        Nothing, zero, about PR.

      • “Effectively demolishing”? She resorted to shouting at him and only letting him actually speak if he said something she wanted to hear! Whether or not you agree with 38Degrees aims and methods, or whether or not the protest in question was worthwhile her ‘interview’ was a disgraceful blast of bullying. If the protest and the gentleman from 38 Degrees were that pointless and weren’t being listened to by politicians, why was she doing the interview in the first place?

        “You must be protesting against something”, engaging positively in politics is not allowed then? Why don’t you just not bother and go home, Kay Burley.

  4. Chris K says:

    I am absolutely disgusted at what is happening.

    The responsible thing for the Lib Dems to have done, if they genuinely put the country above party advantage, was to say to the Tories “form a government, we won’t vote down your Queen’s Speech/budget/confidence issues – just sort the economy out. Other issues we’ll deal with as they come along.”

    Instead they are looking to stitch up electoral reform, putting themselves first. And it looks as though they are so desperate for it that they would even form a grand coalition of losers with the Labour Party to get it through.

    All the while the economy is going down the pan. If our political masters don’t sort themselves out by early next (this) week we are going to be in a terrible mess.

    • ladytizzy says:

      Chris, there is no way Mr Clegg will be part of a losing rainbow coalition that, by implication, has at least two thirds of the electorate wanting to see Mr Brown out of office, and by the close of business on Monday.

      • Chris K says:

        What has he got to lose? Even if he loses the half of his party’s voters who dislike Brown/Labour, he’ll still get more seats under PR than under our current, proper, electoral system.

        If he was confident that Labour would give him PR, he’d go for it.

      • Carl.H says:

        I`ll gamble on his ethic and his statement the “party” with the most votes should Govern. I don`t think he`d want to start out as a liar.

        I think they`ll be a statement mid Monday morning but that`s just speculation. Both of them know how important it is at present to form a Government as soon as possible.

      • Croft says:

        Chris: The supposed rainbow coalition wouldn’t last long enough to do anything. The first issue is the economy and that means cuts which the nationalist parties oppose. As they can immediately bring the government down by withdrawing their support the coalition either can’t tackle the economy or can’t last.

        Surprised to see LN seeming so cheery. I would have thought listing to various foolish journalists parrot back that the public had ‘voted for electoral reform’ or ‘voted for a coalition’ would have tested his patience! (How hard is it to grasp that you can’t simply add the percentages together and say that every voter backed everything in a parties manifesto) Seemingly Cameron is negotiating on either a referendum on ‘electoral reform’ or perhaps an agreement to have a PR elected HoL as a condition for the continued FPTP HoC. All such options which seem unwelcome!

        Has Cameron met the tory peers yet? I see Clegg has met both MPs/peers but Cameron only MPs?

      • Chris K says:

        I agree and I hope you’re right, Croft!

        But I still think that if the LibDems really were putting the economy first, then Dave would already be in No. 10 and Mr Darling wouldn’t have been in charge of Britain’s credit card in Europe yesterday.

        That we’re now in the 4th day of talks says it all – they’ve not been talking about the urgent need to sort the economy out all this time!

    • Lord Norton says:

      Croft: I try to remain cheery, however testing the circumstances. There is a meeting later today of Conservative MPs. It is not a meeting of the 1922 Committee, despite some press reports to that effect. I gather it was called primarily to brief new MPs, but existing MPs will also be attending. The current discussions are likely to be covered but that, I gather, has not been the primary reason for summoning the meeting.

      • Croft says:

        LN: While I’m not entirely in favour of the LDs internal party locks – which can seem like a parody of Monty Python’s ‘People’s Front of Judea’ it does seem the Tory MPs are somewhat sidelined in this process let alone the peers. Has no one every proposed a HoL equivalent of the ’22

      • Lord Norton says:

        Croft: There is the equivalent of the 1922 in the form of the Association of Conservative Peers (ACP). Peers may also attend meetings of the 1922 Committee.

      • Croft says:

        Thanks for clarity, I’d heard of the ACP but not seen it as the same as the ’22. I suppose the name gives a different impression.

  5. Senex says:

    LN: One of the ways that both the CP and LDP might accept electoral reform is to give both what they want. Let Local Elections use a form other than FPtP whilst leaving any GE with FPtP.

    Bismarck first coined the phrase ‘Politics is the art of the possible’. Is electoral reform realistic in any GE without some first hand experience of that system to reassure voters? There is simply too much at stake. Let Returning Officers have some experience of a differing way of doing things before running a similar process at national level.

    I understand the CP wanting to keep FPtP but I seriously question the ability of backbenchers of any persuasion to represent their communities as effectively as Local Councillors represent theirs.

    We elect MPs to form a government and it is the government that has its way irrespective of MPs wishes or desires on the part of their constituents. Better to enact political reform to give backbenchers more say.

    One political commentator said why couldn’t elections be held on a Sunday? What happened when people could not vote is shameful and if it were down to me I would insist that the whole GE was rerun until everybody was able to vote? Again it demonstrates a disconnect between bureaucrats and the electorate.

    Voting is the art of the possible. If you cannot get to a polling station because loyalty to your employer and putting bread on the table comes first then the political process will have to change to accommodate it.

    • ladytizzy says:

      On your last para, postal voting is available to all. If they can sort out its few remaining problems of potential fraud then the door is ajar for internet voting. That said, there’s something special about making the effort to visit the polling station in person.

      On your suggestion of PR for local elections, we already have it for the European ones which has a history of horrendously low turnout.

      But I like the idea of another GE.

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