Wednesday, 7 June 2017

UK Election 2017 - Why we need Corbyn's Labour (but won't get it)


Blog Post Contexts Index:

➤ Setting the Scene

...WHY CORBYN'S LABOUR NEEDS TO WIN:
➤ Inequality
➤ Xenophobia
➤ Economic stimulus
➤ Housing
➤ Shift focus towards environmental issues
➤ Stabilising financial markets
➤ Towards a Universal Basic Income (UBI)
➤ Positive Money (creation)
➤ Brexit
➤ Voting Conservative doesn't even benefit *anyone's* financial self interest
➤ Ill gotten gains
➤ Ironic hypocrisy
➤ The UK's Sanders
➤ Gentler kinder politics
➤ Think of the children
➤ Life or death (or exacerbated disability)
➤ Terrorist Attacks
➤ "1984" isn't an instruction manual!

WHY CORBYN WON'T WIN:
➤ Not enough time!
➤ Biased press (the right wing legacy filter bubble)
➤ Memetics
➤ Thought free
➤ Personal appearances
➤ Lies and dirty tricks
➤ Censorship
➤ Gagging
➤ Gerrymandering
➤ Voter suppression
➤ Non-voters (in general)
➤ Party funding
➤ Dark money
➤ Dark ads and big data (I.e. the Facebook factor)
➤ Polls
➤ Committed to the big lie
➤ Terrorism
➤ Rained off
➤ Not mentioned, but not overlooked

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT (SPECULATION):
➤ Tory majority
➤ Hung parliament

➤ Setting the Scene:

I've never voted Labour. Historically I have decried the traditional right vs left (Conservative vs Socialist) tug of war, in UK politics. It has ignored the liberal axis of debate - the need to protect the individual, our liberties (which have been ignored or actively trampled) and democracy itself. Hence railing for the Liberal Democrats in many previous elections (including back in 2010). But our politics has drifted so dangerously far to the right, now, that I feel a sizeable socialist swing is currently what's most desperately needed.

Also, the national Lib Dem party currently still resembles a smoking crater in the ground, having (unfairly) received all the blame and none of the credit for 5 years of relatively stable, but austere, government in coalition with  the dominant Tories. While the Greens (for whom I voted in 2015), are in no position to swing things (due to our hopeless electoral system), resorting to valiant tactical efforts, stepping aside to support other progressive parties, regardless.

Condensed summary of the Labour manifesto (by @LabourEoin, also here). 

Under Ed Miliband's lukewarm leadership in the 2015 election, the Labour manifesto promised an uninspiring flavour of austerity-lite, having been painted into a corner by our right-wing press and their pet government's dominant (though bogus) 'paying off the national credit card' narrative.

Thankfully, this time, there's a very stark difference between team red and blue. Labour finally crawling out from the shadow of Thatcherism, after the pleasantly surprising result of their internal leadership election of Jeremy Corbyn in 2015. It was pretty miraculous, given the many interventions from high profile 'Blairite' party members (and the media), branding him as unelectable. Who were bizarrely proposing that the party failed to prevent David Cameron's Tories gaining a full majority due to Labour not being 'centrist' enough.

The 2 years since has seen almost non-stop infighting, with the legacy 'New Labour' guard, refusing to back their new leader, attempting a coop and forcing a second leadership election that Corbyn subsequently won, again, with a large majority of votes. This, despite internal manoeuvres aiming to shut out his ground swell of supports from voting (by banning new members from recent months and, perversely, levying a new fee).

This mirrored the frustratingly outrageous shenanigans in the run up to the 2016 US presidential election, within the democratic party, when Bernie Sanders was stupidly shut out of the running by the party establishment in favour Hillary Clinton. Despite him polling far better against Trump. Of course this lead to the death of real hope (for me anyway) and, of course, the disastrous result.

So anyway, we're very lucky to have a candidate, here, who seems prepared to genuinely push back against some of the worst excesses of the neo-liberal consensus. Although, years of devastating press bias against him, fuelled by suicidal party infighting, means he has started from a massive disadvantage. But with Labour having shrunk the Tory's 25 percentage point head-start, in the polls, down to (perhaps) as little as 3%, there is now arguably hope for change. And this is...

...WHY CORBYN'S LABOUR NEEDS TO WIN:

➤ Inequality:

Despite the global 'occupy' protests of 2011 being a distant memory, wealth inequality has only worsened here since. Ongoing cuts and pay freezes have held the majority back, while quantitative easing (QE) has pumped huge amounts of money upwards, inflating the assets of the already wealthy. (In addition to the usual factors still ticking along.)

In 2015 Greece's radical left alliance, the 'Syriza' government, bravely attempted to battle the brutally crushing austerity handed down to them by the EU (ultimately capitulating), as their central banks effectively laundered the Eurozone debts through the country. I blogged at length about this, siting the writings of Yanis Varoufakis, and tying in many other aspects of global macro-economics, finance, debt, etc.

Must of the Western world seems to have, in fact, exacerbated inequality, rather than redressing it. Obama's initially hopeful stimulus went some distance, but he was thoroughly shut down by endless dirty tricks by the Republican dominated congress for the rest of his 6 years.


➤ Xenophobia:

I think the rise of right-wing, anti-immigration sentiment (that fuelled Brexit, for example) is a direct result of this economic squeeze on the population's living standards. At risk of being overly reductive, I imagine this link stemming from an evolutionary instinct for tribes of hunter-gathers to disperse into smaller groups when the pickings are lean (ensuring that at least some survive).

This issue goes far beyond abstract ethics or distaste, given that it's part of a political vista where we've seen the rise of bonafide demagogues in the richest nations, Farage, Trump, Le-Penn. (Quite aside from the seemingly domino-ing revolutions and wars in the Middle-East.) There has been populist talk of ethnically targeted measures that begin to echo those that created WW2 internment camps - Hitler's Nazis having taken advantage of the unrest and anger in a broken Germany, saddled with debt at the hands of WW1's victors.

It's a fool who thinks such horrendous distortions of society could not happen again, under any circumstances; I don't think there are any magic sauce ingredients for mass evil, other than nativity and bad economic conditions. So reversing (relative) poverty (and decline) should be a high priority.


➤ Economic stimulus:

Ironically, the political instinct following a economic downturns tends to be electing government intent upon 'belt tightening'. This is worst than bolting the door after the horse has bolted, since having such a big actor as the government reducing spending actually causes a further reduction in economic output, deepening recessions.

In other words, basic Keynesian economics. Economics on the 'macro' (whole country) scale work almost backwards to the more familiar 'micro-economic' of personal/household finance.

E.g. Contracting the US money supply in 1920s exacerbated the Great Depression, with a reverse in policy (the 'New Deal') helping lift the country out of it's decade long slump. Governments are best off borrowing and spending to buffer a country through (temporary) downturns, since they are generally able to borrow at such low rates, using currency they control, and via debt that tends to eventually inflate away.

In fact, our old New-Labour and Conservative/Lib-Dem governments did create a whole lot of money for this purpose (aside from buying huge, stabilising, shares of banks) - the aforementioned Q.E. But as a stimulus this could barely have been designed more badly. For every £1 of the £375Bn put into the financial markets by the Bank of England, an estimated 8p eventually 'trickled down', making it into the 'real' economy [Positive Money (video)]. It mostly just pumped share prices back up (by ~20%), and re-inflated the house price bubble.

By contrast, investment in useful infrastructure (e.g. train improvements) might see a 200-300% boost to the economy, as those paid to do the works re-spend their money and then new opportunities and revenues are created too. HS2 being, again, a terribly inefficient stimulus (probably about 1:1) compared to more pressing upgrades to existing lines, known to be needed. (Note - unnecessary, expensive infrastructure, with no real benefit, is one way tin-pot dictators have have put their countries on the hook for un-payable international debt payments.)


➤ Housing:

Supply in the UK has long been in crisis, with prices and rents pushed affordably high, crippling personal finances and being out of reach to all but the most successful young adults. The 'spare bedroom tax' stemming partly from this pressure too.

Of course, the Thatcher government created a lasting legacy with their 'right to buy' scheme that sold most of the publicly own housing stock, ensuring that the majority of citizens had a lot invested in housing value. This has continued to stifle political calls to boost much needed supply, with fears that doing so will reduce most citizen's nest-eggs. Perversely, housing is almost seen as more important as a store of wealth, than a place to live (especially in the inner-London, where foreign wealth funds often treat fancy, empty, apartments as just another financial vehicle).

A Corbyn government might actually be bold enough to begin breaking this deadlock, wading into the private monopoly on bulk house building. Which would also hopefully ease part of the anti-immigration sentiment, with more living space opening up. Although we have been hundreds of thousands of houses short of demand, year on year, for a couple decades; the millions of abodes are going to take many years to catch up on, even if the building industry can be spooled up in relatively short order (and planning and other concerns dealt with).


➤ Shift focus towards environmental issues:

Despite borrowing some policies from the Green party, Labour hasn't been trumpeting it's environmental credentials (nor has anyone). But it's manifesto is pledging to ban fracking, introduce stronger clean air legislation, meet existing climate and invest in clean energy. Sensible, though moderate measure, but far better than Tory polices, which appear to be bent by fossil fuel lobbying, much like Trump's.

The proposals would be a fair solid foundation, but the major breakthroughs in tackling our climate destroying practises would hopefully come once social tensions over inequality have subsided, and the population is more receptive to causes perceived as outside their own back yard.


➤ Stabilising financial markets:

Since the global financial crash of 2007-2009 there have been a few modest changes to rein in some of the worst excesses of leveraging, etc, but there are now calls to relax even these, and at any rate the same underlying problems never went away. Former Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Berdanke, warned in 2005 of excess savings and a 'Global Savings Glut' is an acclaimed way to look at why the crash happened - too much money chasing too few real investment opportunities. Hence stock market and housing bubbles, putting valuations way above the real utility of assets, and sub-prime mortgage lending, as financial institutions desperately tried to create ways to continue returning ever more unrealistic profits and continue increasing debt/money creation.

The Labour manifesto doesn't go nearly so far as trying to decrease the parked savings of the rich, with some sort of wealth tax, but by targeting evasion, loopholes and restoring corporate rates, etc, they would hold off the rate of increase somewhat. Also, help to move the debate to more progressive measures thereafter.

They've also included a type of financial transaction tax (by extending the Stamp Duty Reserve Tax), like the FTT that the EU has been trying to implement since 2012 against protests and blocking manoeuvres by the UK (i.e. Osborne). It's expected to: greatly reduce (the problematic, speculative) derivatives trade, greatly curb high frequency trading (that's caused 'flash crashes' and jacks up commodity prices, skimming profits to most powerful institutions, with the best tech), transfer money from volatile financial markets to the 'real' economy, via government investment, only cause a very modest (~0.3%) hit to national GDPs, if any (after investment stimulus).

I've been following the 'Robin Hood Tax' campaign since (at least) 2011, with it having slowly gain momentum and mainstream political approval (in the Eu). It's not perfect, but new policies rarely are anything more than a less-wrong kludge; it only needs to be good enough
.
 https://www.robinhoodtax.org.uk/


➤ Towards a Universal Basic Income (UBI):

This idea, of UBI, or citizens income/dividend, has been kicking around for some time, with more and more little trials in various cities and small state around the world [BIEN | Reddit]. It's been broached a few times by Elon Musk, then recently by Mark Zuckerberg (when receiving an honorary Harvard degree). This seems to have prompted even Ray Kurzweil to venture tentatively into this political issue, in a change from his usual evasions on the issue of tackling inequality. Given his major focus and efforts towards anticipating the correct timings (for launching technologies), this seems like a good indication that it's day in the mainstream has come.

Bill Gates is more tepid on this, agreeing in principle with the unpopular notion of governments redressing inequality, but thinks sticking to more modest systems like 'negative income tax' is necessary, for now. Also proposing a notional tax on robot workers, as they replace human labour, to fund this kind of thing. I find this idea dubious, that it would be too hard to define the number of bots involved, particularly as more informational work is done by them, or equating work done to human equivalents. Right now, taxing accumulated wealth, rather than productive capital, feels more sensible and equitable.

Anyway, I am utterly amendment that humanity needs to implement a properly decent safety net for everyone, to reach place of abundance, rather than a dead end, Blade Runner style distopia, as bots increasing replace people and the rate of technological change increase to the point where humans can't keep retraining fast enough. It will set a good, ethical precedent, for our super intelligent AI overlords, such that they might think of us as treasured pets, to dote upon, rather than treacherous vermin. In the short term it makes sense, to support retraining, and maximise everyone's potential, by lifting people above poverty traps.

While the Greens already have this as a policy, Labour haven't committed as yet, but have a working group looking into it, with John McDonnell describing Labour government's introduction of assessment free child benefit as a first step towards this.

There's various reasons why paying everyone a modest living wage wouldn't be as expensive as you might imagine (massive administrative savings from simplification, increased tax revenues and economic growth from all the extra spending in affords, etc). But if it comes to it, there are equitable ways to help finance it, like...


➤Positive Money (creation):

The Tories have been repeatedly slinging about a patronising (and totally disingenuous) line about there being 'no magic money tree' [Rudd, May]. Again using people's day-to-day expressions and experience of cash to mislead people about the counter-intuitive realities of macro-economics and government finance. (This atop the more obvious deceit of needing austerity for the poor, while giving tax breaks to corporations and the rich.)

Even the Torygraph Telegraph puts some truth to this lie - "If the will exists, the central bank can issue unlimited amounts of currency.". Certainly this route has been tapped to an enormous extent, with the £375Bn of quantitative easing created by the Bank of England, out of nothing, at no direct cost to the government (but having re-inflated house prices and hurt savers with low rates).

Of course, money itself is actually debt (as I discovered in 2009), with 97% created arbitrarily, out of nothing, by private banks who effectively own a our money supply and charge us for it's use. The 'Positive Money' campaign proposes totally overhauling the nature of our money system, by taking it's creation away from private hands, into a public institution, controlling it's supply without the need for the creation of debt, thus circumventing our huge problems with debt bubbles [as talked about by Niall Ferguson, Yanis Varoufakis, etc], asset speculation and the inequality that naturally arises from a rentier economy.

Postive Money writes here about The truth behind the “magic money tree”. More generally, a good little read from an academic: The myths about money that British voters should reject by Ha-Joon Chang (1. balancing government books is not always virtuous, 2. we don't spend a lot on welfare compared to other nations, 3. tax isn't a burden since it buys a lot of good for those paying).


➤ Brexit:

Given that the referendum vote greatly exceeded (what I thought was) it's initial goal, of providing political cover for the ongoing 'nasty party' cuts a power grabs, running rampant into a full on disaster (providing even more cover and opportunities to abuse)...

It would be massively less bad for a Labour government to be in control of legislation gets retained (and created) to fill the huge vacuum left by EU directives and EC rulings. Specifically, it seems highly likely that the Tories would take the opportunity, after the 2 year negotiation, to slash, burn and rejig workers rights, civil liberties, environmental and safety protections, picking and choosing to meet the demands of the most moneyed corporate lobbyists. Conversely, a more socialist/liberal government might be empowered to push even further towards enhancing welfare for citizens (and hence long term national prosperity).

In terms of getting a 'good deal' from the negotiations, Corbyn seems more likely to look for common ground with EU countries to build consensus (while prioritising UK employment and rights). His delegated negotiating team headed up by Keir Starmer (a Barrister and former head of the Crown Prosecution Service). While May has already insisted she will be a "bloody difficult woman".

Also, with the Tory's UKIP/hard-right wing now dominant, their core policy promise is slash immigration to impossibly low levels, in the tens of thousands, and will be judging how 'good' an EU deal is purely on how much they can restrict freedom of movement. Ignoring the fact that such moves will cripple our work force (in key areas like nursing and agriculture) just as we're dealing with an old age population bomb. The EU leaders have repeatedly been adamant that freedom of movement is non-negotiable for single market access. So, "no deal" is already a virtual certainty from a re-elected government, which is assuredly not "better than a bad deal", since it would be the worst possible situation in terms of actual prosperity and economics (just as the nations stuck outside the EU stuck with import tariffs, for a start).
"The World Bank believes that if Britain switches from single market membership to trading with the EU on World Trade Organisation terms – the “no deal” option – then British trade in goods with the EU will halve and trade in services will fall by 60% as these effects work through... To keep exports of goods and services flowing to the rest of the world on the same terms as now, even before negotiating new deals, Britain will have to renegotiate 759 agreements with 168 countries that are now held by the EU, as the Financial Times disclosed last week." - Guardian (via scientists for EU).
Labour have been painted into a difficult corner on Brexit (and migration), given half their base voted either way, but Corbyn seems be doing a reasonable job of reconciling the sides by sticking to the referendum result, while emphasising the need to protect jobs and economic prospects, with no arbitrary cap on inward movement.


➤ Voting Conservative doesn't even benefit anyone's financial self interest:

Labour have pledged not to raise taxes on income below £80k, and then only modestly, above that point, in line with most other similar countries. I believe them, because I know this is possible, despite the 'book balancing' mis-directions from the other side. So even most of you successful, up and coming, middle-management types (I know) shouldn't be much effected, directly.

House value wise (a big asset for most adults), I'd also say Labour is a better bet, despite making sounds to build much more housing (even public stock). There's been such massive under-supply in this country, for so many decades, that I really can't see our best (realistic) building efforts diminishing demand any time soon. Additionally, measures that act to stem, or even deflate, financial markets (transaction taxes, increased revenue taken from the richest 5%) will hopefully reduce house price bubbles and the huge disruption, negative equity, etc, caused when they burst and drop valuations by large margins.

But far bigger than these considerations. Even if you are in the 1% (or 0.1%), or still think you'd take a substantial lifestyle hit, somewhere (as self employed, business owner, or something). Any costs are really investment in averting widespread social collapse. Insurance.  Also against damaging unrest, say, like the London riots of 2011 on a bigger scale, or the Arab spring, or the French revolution. Anti-pitch-fork insurance. The rich should pay far more, since they have far more to loose and benefit far more from a well structured, law abiding society.

Tory promises for a lower tax 'burden' for the wealthy are naive in assuming that the status quo will not substantially change, in exactly the same way that financial market models that re-packaged debt products, analysing their risk, entirely failed to account for the possibility of a systemic failure, right into the enormous global financial crash of 2007-08.

Government can't keep making service cuts indefinitely, and continue to extract ever more money from the masses via privatisations and relaxing regulations on industry. Those cost are already stifling our country, our great, complex machine, made of working people, to the point of crises, in several areas, that are bad on more than an abstract ethical level. They are functional problems that are knocking out the bricks of social fabric supporting those at the top.

Also, for those who've posted up the (terribly flawed) beer club analogy, thinking it means that the wealthy already pay more than their fair share and should be left alone (else they'll flee abroad):
"...most rich Swedes don’t go into tax exile because of their 60% top income tax rate, because they get a good welfare state and excellent education in return. Japanese and German companies don’t move out of their countries in droves despite some of the highest corporate income tax rates in the world (31% and 30% respectively) because they get good infrastructure, well-educated workers, strong public support for research and development, and well-functioning administrative and legal systems." - Ha-Joon Chang, Cambridge university economic, in the Guardian.

➤ Ill gotten gains:

Tories scraped their narrow majority in 2015 with a campaign that was later fined for failing to declare local election expenses that would have exceeded the legal limits in over a dozen marginal seats (the scandal explained in the Guardian). Although the numbers involved were deceptively small, it was funding a team of crack volunteers, bussed in to target key marginal swing voters who had been carefully identified by big data analysis.

Several MPs were still under active police investigation for this when the snap election was called, which conveniently made the problem disappear into irrelevancy. A manoeuvre that circumvented the escalating scandal which might potentially have forced parliamentary dissolution, upon the Tories loosing a majority. And a handy distraction.

May has been able to use her position as incumbent PM to grand stand, despite hanging questions about how it was achieved. (And despite becoming PM via the back door of an internal party, MPs only, vote.) During the election, CPS dropped the charges on all but 1 of the 30 individuals, with the MP in question (who ousted Nigel Farage) continuing to campaign for election, regardless.


➤ Ironic hypocrisy:

Every criticism levelled against Corbyn by the Tory election campaign seems more valid when applied to May or them instead. Every virtue more applicable to him: 'Strong and Stable' - a man who's withstood 2 leadership elections over 2 years of bitter smears from our media and has been campaigning for fundamentally the same important issues for 30 years, while May has revised manifesto policies mid-election and switched sides on the main (only?) issue they are emphasising.


➤ The UK's Sanders:

Actually having a candidate with a mandate for substantial change to the system is rare. The (so-called) Democrat party robbed the US (and the world) of the possibility for great, positive change, when they conspired to push Sanders out of the running (in March 2016), in favour of Hillary. The hope in their election died that day, for me, and indeed the worst happen thereafter.


From the Guardian, linked below.
Corbyn's supporters managed to pull their candidate through the internal efforts at suppression. It's been such a long battle just to get to the point where his (and supporters) ideals are actually being heard. That there might actually be a chance that he could form the next government is an intensely exciting turn around (from my initial dismay at the calling of the election).

Anyway, here's Sander's himself, unofficially endorsing Corbyn, comparing their similarities favourably. And a piece comparing the grassroots movements of both (where Sanders massive populist surge eventually overtook Clinton, but with too many nominations already in the bag for her).


➤ Gentler kinder politics:

From Corbyn's first day as leader of the opposition, he made a concerted effort to calm the appalling raucous, jeering and baying of the house of commons. He's managed to continue through the election campaign without resorting to hitting back with the kind of rabid insults, or even personal criticisms thrown at him by members of the other side. Even calling for others to hold back from attacking members of the media who've given him a hard time.

While the opposition leader is, quite clearly male, his front bench team is actually achieves gender equality. Hopefully helping to foster a clearer, less pointlessly macho debating style, in the commons.

His more honest, straight talking approach certainly seems to work with younger voters too, who flocked to Labour party membership and en-mass during the election. In our online, social media age, I think it's going to be a strong strategy, when the truth is so often in flux anyway, all the usual spin, hyperbole and empty sound bites will (hopefully) be lost in the general noise. Certainly politics, world wide, is in need of increased sanity, authenticity and accountability.


➤ Think of the children:

Labour is an even more wildly popular preference with young voters that Conservatives are for the old. But, of course, the will of the young is over-ridden. With the baby boomer demographic skewing our nation's population unusually old. Various factors conspiring to factors disenfranchise (the much maligned) 'millennials' (see also 'voter suppression' below). Vote split hopelessly between distinct flavours of liberal/progressive parties (by our FPTP system).
Composite graphic, multiple sources 1, 2.
Wouldn't it be swell if (unlike in the Brexit vote), parents, grandparents and oldies in general bent a little more to accommodate the preferences of those with the biggest stake in the future, with most to loose (or gain), going forwards. With the voting demographic being very different by the end of this parliament (presuming, naively, it goes full length).


➤ Life or death (or exacerbated disability):

There are tens of thousands of citizens for whom business as usual is not survivable. It should go without saying that cuts to the NHS have kill tens of thousands, already. 30'000 in 2015 alone, dwarfing the death toll from domestic terrorism (by a factor of 1000, so far this year). That will only get worst as the Tory's cause further crisis by deliberately defunding it to facilitate privatisation. continues. But also, tens of thousands have been pushed to the grave by cuts and heartless changes to disability/support allowances. A UN report in 2016 found "grave or systematic violations of the rights of persons with disabilities" committed by our state, the UK. This disabled campaigner recounts her experience of the atrocious situation:

The worst part is that the DWP 'reforms' (initially under Ian Duncan Smith) failed to actually say the taxpayer any money, with the reduction of payments eaten entirely by the administration costs of 'capability assessments' (by private contractors) and processing the additional appeals and tribunals.

Also, for those with a little, callous, 'pragmatic' part of their brain that's perhaps thinking: well, at least those pushed to suicide have reduced the burden on society... For every death there are a dozen more clinging on, in deteriorated conditions, with long term health worsened by the stress and neglect, who will be even more of a burden in future. Or those who could have been outright productive, but for a little more support, or even returned to work.

Full disclosure: I, myself, am on employment support allowance (ESA), currently in the 'support' group (as I have ME/CFS). With an invisible illness neglected by the NHS funding cuts (as many illnesses have been, particularly mental health), I've struggled with getting correctly assessed. But am very lucky to have found a rare, supportive GP (willing to stick his neck out) and other resource, including great family to fall back on and my own intelligence and experiences (on days when my brain works).

I still found very stressful, for the 9 months last year, when I was suddenly, without warning, forced to attend weekly check ins with a (bemused, overworked but sympathetic) 'work program' adviser (via the private contractor - SERCO), while I waited for a reassessment decision to come though. The detriment to my average daily capabilities, from this relatively minor demand, was notable. (Stress is a universal compounding factor worsening CFS, also causing increased mental health incidence and shortening lives in general.) And most aren't nearly as privileged as I am, put through far worst pain, suffering and hopelessness.

This HuffPost UK piece briefly explores how badly flawed research (e.g. the PACE trial), using inappropriate 'biopsychosocial' models for the treatment of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, has helped to justifying harsh, counterproductive cuts as reforms, scapegoating the individuals (as if ill people just need a kick up the arse).


➤ Terrorist Attacks:

It's often dubious to blame the politician who happens to be in charge of a wing of government when the shit hits the fan, given the long incubation times and inertia in markets and society, it's general an accumulated issue from previous personnel.

But Theresa May was one of the longest serving home secretaries, for 6 years, up until becoming PM a year ago. She alone has presided over big cuts to police numbers (down 20% - 19'000 officers) that are now widely acknowledged as a major problem. The army was drafted in to augment numbers on patrol after the Manchester attack. Police officers are now stretched ridiculously thin (all leave cancelled, 14-16 hour daily shifts, 7 days a week) after the (second) London attacks.

May was repeatedly warned by (senior) police personnel, at the times of the cuts, several years ago, that it would endanger the public. She labelled these concerns "crying wolf", but it appears they are now vindicated. Aside from being unable to properly cope with the immediate response, questions are raised about whether prevention might have been possible, without defunding. Talk of the streets being "lost", in some inner city areas, and a definite, direct decline in community outreach and information gathering on the ground.

One could normally expect a disaster like this to precipitate the ministers resignation, or sacking, if Parliament was sitting, and May not promoted. In a rare (though justified) attack, Corbyn has called for her to resign (a little unnecessary as that is, given that she's up for election anyway). So too a prominent former aide to David Cameron. Of course, current home secretary (and leadership debate tactical stand in) Amber Rudd had already claimed police numbers make no difference here, and counter-terrorism spending has been boosted (make of that what you will).

Looking beyond prevention at home, it seems likely that terrorist groups are sponsored by foreign states such as Saudi Arabia (I think mostly to fight by proxy in Middle East conflagrations). Yet our prime ministers (and the US's) continue to meet cordially with their leaders and agree big arms sales to them (in the name of balancing our trade deficit).

The Saudi rulers are most certainly very corrupt and clearly have too much influence on our government. It appears Prince Bandar pressured PM Blaire to suppress our Serious Fraud Office investigation, involving charges that (our) arms company BAE paid him a £1Bn bribe, by threatening to without intelligence information from us that would likely lead to another London 7/7 terror attack (and between the lines, probably provide direct funding support).

Currently, Farron and Corbyn have called for May not to suppress a long over-due report on terrorist funding (thought to point the finger at the Saudis). It was commissioned by Cameron, under pressure from Clegg, in return for Lib Dem coalition support for bombing Libya. Corbyn is more circumspect on military action and is calling for more careful inquiry into the underlying causes of terrorism (while backing use of lethal force, where necessary, by police). While May trumpet's empty phrases and, talking of "too much tolerance" and insinuating blame on Islam, in general.

Of course, it's not just evil regimes who have supported 'terrorists'. The US (and UK) have sponsored, armed and trained many foreign fighters, to wage war by proxy. With some of these then coming back to bite the hand that fed them. As Osama Bin Laden's Taliban did with the 9/11 Twin Towers attack, down the road from Operation Cyclone, holding the Soviets out of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

It seems highly likely that the back story of these recent terrorist attacks is more nuanced than 'extremist ideals' alone. With boots on the ground, in the Middle East, being politically non-viable for most Western countries, there has been brain-twistingly convoluted systems to support fighters of different factions, Russia fighting US/UK by proxy, and more different local interests. It seems entirely plausible that Manchester bomber, Salman Abedi, could been deliberately permitted to leave the country (by MI5/6), whilst being a person of interest, as with other 'assets' that had travelled to fight and depose "Mu’ammar Gadaffi in Libya, then to join al-Qaida affiliated groups in Syria" - Canary. Of course, May should have been privy to such practices, too.

Certainly the situation is complex, with the real conflicts being within and between different factions of Isamic faith, Isamic governments, Middle Eastern dictators and military groups (rather than the over-simplified narrative of Islamism vs Liberal West/Christian values): more on the context of Abedi's radicalisation in the Guardian. Also from Paul Mason on why May has failed on terrorism (facilitating, via MI5, travel of fighters, threatening EU with pulling out of intelligence sharing).

➤ "1984" isn't an instruction manual!

George Orwell's guide to our current reality...
May and Rudd's standard response to any terrorist attack is now to cry out that the "Internet provides a safe space for terrorists", hence Government need back-doors into every digital means of communication with secure encryption.

After the first London Bridge attack (in March this year), Rudd used the opportunity to attack popular instant messaging service WhatsApp. The attacker was said to have used Whatspp to send a message before hand (hardly surprising, given it's ubiquity), but was not believed to have coordinated with anyone else.

Selectively breaking encrypted systems (for government backdoors) is a fallacy. It's almost impossible to make these systems secure as it is, punching any hole through that encryption will open it wide up to other (nefarious) groups too. It would be functionally the same as banning cryptography altogether. Which is just not possible in reality, as Cory Doctorow lays out in beautiful detail.

It would be like having tried to prevent WW2 spies from sending home secret messages by banning any and all use of envelopes, and writing that looks coded. And as this ArsTechnica article says, they'd have more chance of preventing attacks by banning cars, than legislating crypto; the 2015 Paris attackers, for example, just used one-off 'burner' prepaid mobiles. Even most 'radicalisation' occurs offline (Wired - "Blaming the Internet For Terrorism Misses The Point").

What's scary is that the UK government already acquired some of the most sweeping digital surveillance laws in the world, with the singing in of the much contested Investigatory Powers Act (AKA 'Snoopers Charter') in 2016. Which mandates all ISP and mobile phone companies to log the entire website history of all users, then making this available to government authorities from GCHQ to the Food Standards Agency! It also granted the home secretary the power of using a "Technical Capability Notice" to secretly compel any communications/internet companies to do hacking and mass data collection for the government. So, in theory, Rudd already has the power to demand (WhatsApp) encryption be circumvented (while simultaneously making it illegal to tip anyone else off that it's happening). So what ends is she really pushing for...?

Theresa May then used her Priministerial platform, during the suspension of campaigning, following the second Westminster terror attack, to push the scariest pledges at the back of the Tory manifesto. This is pushing towards a complete overhaul of how our internet works, with social media and search engines being forced to become part of state control of what people are shown online: for example, directing users away from pornography, regulating what news is posted and helping in schemes like the controversial Prevent strategy, which is promoting counter-extremist narratives. Again, much of this is already being put in place with the Digital Economy Act, pass earlier this year, which is already set to cause it's own list of major issues, with censorship, copyright enforcement and mass surveillance to en extent and scale not yet seen in any Western nation.

Not satisfied with putting the authoritarian boot to cyberspace, May used the opportunity in this election to promise she will rip up human rights! Which is, of course as ludicrous as it is scary - Keir Starmer (ex Crown Prosecution Service): "I have prosecuted terrorists – and know human rights laws make us safer", helping achieve convictions and  not prevent[]ing capture of terrorists.

Attacking our human rights laws seems to have been a major objective for the hardliner Brexiteers who engineered our 'leave' vote. These EU laws (instigated by UK proposals) protect citizens from terrible working conditions and such. It's said that dropping the convention on these right would require there to be a state of emergency declared. Which, to me, is sounding increasingly ominous, given how May has presided over police (and security) cuts long known to increase the risk of successful terrorist attacks. And who knows what else she's been sat on with the secret services. Just like the Tories know that NHS cuts will cause it to fail, paving the way get away with ever bigger privatisations, it's worryingly in the interest of May's political goals to have more terror attacks.

In her home office role, May already consolidated government power by bringing the previously independent boarder control agency into direct control. She aims to do the same with the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), incorporating it into the National Crime Agency (NCA) that she set up in 2013. Presumably bringing it under ministerial control, in a way that would make it vulnerable to politicisation and weaken it's ability to investigate corrupt government minsters.

With all the measures and threats/promises above, the UK will be on the perpetually on the brink of being turned into an authoritarian dictatorship overnight. By some future, out of control Trump-lisk populist tyrant, if not before; I find May's blithe penchant for quietly getting stuff done really terrifying, given the directions she's consistently pushing in and (unlike Trump) that the she's totally flying under the public's radar on this.

WHY CORBYN WON'T WIN:

We've languished in political wastelands for years, with Lib Dem's rating flat-lined and Labour's in free fall, despite opposing an unpopular government (Greens still barely breaking green shoots through and the devolved parties with hard limited to their size). So the glimmer of hope, from Labour's rapid rise in the in the polls has re-ignited a surge of hopefulness.

But it's easy to get overly optimistic, so strong is the desire for relief from the stress of hopelessness. This could well turn out to be as naive as the short lived escapism I felt in 2010, when Nick Clegg broke through, and a Lib Dem government almost seemed possible...


➤ Not enough time!:

This snap election has given a crushingly short span of time to prepare, let alone rally the grass routes support and momentum needed. UK campaign periods are short anyway, with "The election is held 17 working days after the date of the Proclamation,..". May's surprise announcement came on April the 18th, setting the date as June 8th.

But this came after fervent denials that she would call an early election, and arguably there was no real case for one, given that the Conservative government still had it's majority. Despite what May has said since, it also hadn't *actually* had any difficulty passing policies, with Labour MPs whipped by Corbyn to back triggering Article 50 (after May had fought multiple high court decisions to force any ratification vote by MPs at all).

Supposedly, most of the cabinet were also kept in the dark, and surprised by the announcement, although I strongly suspect May will have already consulted with their campaign manger Lynton Crosby. Also, the bumper £5.46M received by the Tory party in the 3 months directly before the announcement is an awfully convent co-incidence (of large donations from a network of super-rich supporters, and party members).

There has been a huge swing towards Labour, as reported in the polls: "...seven, eight, nine million people flipped in the last 10 days or so." But this seems unrealistic, or misleading, in the face of how slowly political opinions change, historically. Given how far behind they were 6 weeks ago, it seems mechanically impossible to have slewed that many people in that time. Expect post-election talk of what might have been, given an extra month, or even week, of run-up time.


➤ Biased press (the right wing legacy filter bubble):

The initial voting intention gulf of 25 percentage points between the Tories and Labour might be pinned primarily on lengthy Labour in-fighting (with the Conservative party's successful assimilation of key UKIP policies gaining them support too). But it's undeniable that the right wing bias of our national press has greatly amplified any perceived shortcomings on the Labour side.

The press has come down against the socialist side for decades, with coverage of the 2015 election clearly stacked toward the Tories, and the BBC following suit (rather than being liberal biased, as perversely claimed by Conservatives). But unlike Blaire's New Labour, that went economically neo-liberal to gain powerful support, Corbyn has an unapologetic, anti-fat-cat agenda, contrary to the interests of the media barons who own and control our newspapers.

Hence he has been persistently dogged with character assassinating personal attacks, while failing to quote him accurately, or genuinely present his view points at all, for the most part: "...75% of press coverage misrepresents Jeremy Corbyn... maybe we do not need an attack dog that kills off anyone who challenges the status quo" - Independent, July 2016.
Figure from LSE report analysing UK papers from Sept-Nov 2015.
The BBC's political editor, Laura Kuenssberg has long bee reviled by the Canary, a ridiculously pro-Corbyn online outlet, who's newfound reach goes some way to counterbalancing the legacy press (that's my justification anyway). The BBC itself even ruled that she unfairly misrepresented Corbyn, effectively generating fake news about him saying something he hadn't.

With the election campaigning in progress, there's been ridiculous smears, like: "BBC cameraman 'run over by Jeremy Corbyn's car'" which was headline news across all the press and radio news, including the (supposedly) leftist Guardian. Making the leader sound like some demented villain, breaking under siege of a valiant press, when it was a totally non-news worth case of a pushy cameraman pushing in too close to the window of a police driven escort car, turning in, that Corbyn happened to be chauffeured in.

The flip side of the bias being a free pass, or mitigating circumstances, on would-be negative stories about May and the government. Even the BBC's failure to critique being comedically bad.

And then there's the chummy closeness between top politicians and press bosses like Cameron with decrepit mogul, Rupert Murdoch, and May's private meeting with long time Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre. It's unclear whether the paper(s) are supporting the government, or more that the Prime Ministers have been directly in thrall to the real powers at the papers, as well as following where they shape public opinion. There's too much to cover here, so moving on...


➤ Memetics:

For those who understand humans as 'meme machines', it is obvious how big of a problem widespread media bias is. Ideas are almost exclusively transferred from brain to brain (through speech, writing, etc) and all even original thoughts are recombination of, and constructions from, those existing, smaller concepts. So the ecosystem of idea society is immersed in has a hugely formative influence on the direction it will take.

Another aspect of memetics (of many) is a predilection for shortcuts and concise concepts, easy to convey (and remember) accurately. For this reason, the media have seized upon numerical blunders by Diane Abbott (forgetting, then incorrectly guess the costings for their policing funding pledge), because they are undeniable mistakes that can be conveyed in a short, cringe inducing video clip. Many interviewers seem to have actively pursued similar gotcha moments, even though their meaning is very superficial.

Also, media bias is massively more potent than the bare figures suggest, because little gotcha snippets, like these, are far more likely to resonate (and be remembered) by people primed to expect them by a deluge of personal attacks, even if they don't really take those attacks to heart. By contrast, May's insane claim that the huge, unprecedented drop in value of our £ sterling had nothing to do with Brexit will have gone largely unreported. Because it's error is more nebulous than one verifiable number and takes a whole article to critique.

Tory's MPs are just as fallible, but generally seems far more image conscious, well advised on such matters, and rabidly defended from any little things that might make them look too human. Like press interviewers being banned (by personal security guards) from taking any photos of Cameron drinking, let alone eating, during the 2015 campaign.

They love alliteration, and sing out meaningless but reassuring sound bites repeatedly ("Strong and stable.", "Brexit means Brexit.") because they're given to understand how things stick in people's brains. Just how obscenely simple and catchy they need to be to truly penetrate.

I would say that where Blaire won with PR spin doctors, who intuitively know the mind of the mob from experience, the Torys may now have personnel closer to memetic engineers. In addition to focus groups and telephone surveys, they may be turning money into successful results an a reliable basis, via big data analytic tools. Able to experimentally verify what exact messages work best by actually trying myriad possibilities on social media, plucking out the winners.


➤ Thought free:

Tory promises and sound bites are carefully crafted to be reassuring and devoid of troublesome details. Perfect for the majority who justifiably hate the stress (and boredom) of politics. May is the perfect head-in-the-sand Prime Minister, in so far as she's fairly good at presenting a smooth veneer of vagueness, covering the cracks. Resorting to yawningly empty replies to difficulty questions, derailing any desire to pursue further.


➤ Personal appearances:

A study showed that 70% of (US senate) election winners could be predicted by which candidate looked most trust worthy to voters, at first glance. Pretty shocking, but initial appearances go a long way towards 'gut feeling' biasing whether positive or negative evidence resonates and is remembered later.

Pretty much all prime ministers and presidents put on a good show of having a stable family life, with wife/husband, preferably kids too (although the Mays are childless). So Corbyn's probably at a disadvantage here, separated from wife, and obviously not wanting his son to be embroiled in the media shooting gallery he finds himself. (Ironically, it seems his failed marriage(s) come down to excessive devotion to his political career.) Although, some do acknowledge that he comes across as being an actual human (compared to robot May).

Innocuously boring Philip and Thersa May, cosy on the BBC 'One Show' sofa, verses shifty loaner Jezza. 
With the UK's first couple, the inane discussion on prime time BBC1 (above) was largely about clothing preferences and division of household chores. They are portrayed as ultra-boring, upper-middle class oldies, who like to go on walking holidays. No real mention of Philip's career in city finance which will net them more income than Theresa's combined salaries of over £200K (almost certainly, we don't know since it's not declared). Let alone any probing questions about the conflict of interest elephant in the room, with him working as a hedge fund and 'investment relationship' manager at Capital International, which controls £1.4 Trillion of investments, including large chunks of several massive, tax avoiding corporations. That would be improper, while exposing the details of Corbyn's past lovers is obviously in the national interest. 

Never mind that she's been in control of the country during the most major movements in it's currency valuation, keeping the cards close to her chest, with announcements surprising even cabinet members. I'm sure we can trust her not to accidentally give hints about such things to her husband, and him not to pass any inside knowledge on to his company. I'm sure the Cabinet Office investigation rightly found no problems.

Anyway. Certainly the Tories expend substantial effort on maintaining a slick appearance and various spin doctoring tricks to gain any little advantage. Generally these go unremarked, unless something really goes wrong:
Tory 'power stances' were a thing, back in 2015.

➤ Lies and dirty tricks:

Diametrically opposed to Corbyn's gentler politics and restraint on personal attacks, and not content with the massive distortion of Corbyn and Labour's views being peddled by most of our press, the Conservative leadership themselves have been weighing in with un-truths, name calling and some frankly libellous comments. A small spread of examples:
He resorted to childishly insulting Corbyn as a "mutton-headed old mugwump". The media tend to just laugh and lap up his tomfoolery, such that he totally got away with stealing and reading his interviewers notes before a show. Which is not really ok, when he's foreign secretary and when his acting up is potent politic cover.
  • Boris Johnson: "I genuinely think it is important people know Corbyn claimed in recent days he never met the IRA. You cannot trust this man!" - Twitter.
The picture of him with Martin McGuinness (others with Gerry Adams), are falsely claiming to catch Corbyn out. The conceit, the smear, is that Corbyn sympathises with terrorist acts of violence, because he has previously shared a platform with a couple of prominent figures in the Northern Ireland peace process, who represented factions who had used terrorism to further their political aims.

Hopefully, most people understand that there are difficult nuances here, where the Tory line is now as broad and indiscriminate at painting hate and fear as UKIP's (or BNP's). It's getting closer to the point where any nuance at all, anything that isn't full-on advocating reactive hyper-violence (with a side order of Union Jack waving) is to be cast as treasonous and sick.

The Tory campaign had a big viral hit with a collection of Corbyn video quotes, all taken out of context, cobbled together to misconstrue his (and Labours) real, reasonable position. It is essentially fake news, in the unpalatable style of the worst kind of US election attack ads. Corbyn has taken pains to preface all his terrorism related speeches (following the terrible attacks during the campaign) with genuine condemnation for violence and support for all actions of our armed services. Yet still the media and political attacks pursue this angle. With interviewers repeatedly raking over it, forcing a ridiculously unwinnable position of denials and affirmations. To take one of his cut-down quote in full:
No, I think what you have to say is all bombing has to be condemned and you have to bring about a peace process. Listen, in the 1980s Britain was looking for a military solution, it clearly was never going to work. Ask anyone in the British army at the time … I condemn all the bombing by the loyalists and the IRA.
The point is that, to actually achieve cessation of violence, we need to build bridges with the peaceful, rational parts (of radicalised organisations), even while fighting the violent hate filled parts. As with Northern Ireland, military force did not defeat the problem. So too the situation that got out of control in the middle-east, creating and fuelling ISIS (and the Taliban before that); being ultra-right wing, all attack, sending in terrifying bombing raids into (and over) weaken countries, is (alone) about as effective as trying to get a wound to heal by continuously gouging out the scabbed tissue. Alienating the entire, domestic Muslim population with ramped up rhetoric and suspicion.

It's should be easy to understand that Corbyn is more of a (genuine) patriot, in being willing to confront Donald Trump (e.g. over remarks denigrating the London major), confront Saudi Arabia (over terrorism funding, rather than selling them weapons), properly emergency (and probably even conventional armed) forces, etc. Rather than May's empty platitudes followed by actions that produce produce the opposite results.
This trying to distract on theday of May's 'dementia tax' U-Turn. The Conservatives are desperate to perpetuate the misconception that Labour plans to raise taxes for 'middle class' workers (to pay poor and unemployed), in fitting with outdated stereotypes of them being socialist (AKA communists). Despite a very clear manifesto promise not to raise taxes for 95% of people, with nothing more on income below £80k.

Tory's also need the majority to keep believing their big macro-economics lie about government book balancing, since seeing through it would end them and leave (even more) people very angry about counterproductive spending cuts.
  • May: "Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party want uncontrolled migration." - Telegraph
Contrary to the Labour manifest and what Corbyn has stressed (in debates). They want controlled migration, potentially with new systems to ensure fair entry and enough workers, to aiming to cut numbers arbitrarily, impossibly low (as appears to be May defining goal). Ironically (yet again), it was May who, (arguably) lost control of border counts when, after a scandal in 2011grabbed direct control of the UK Border Agency in 2013, then cut stuff numbers (as elsewhere).

Here's a great clip (at 1m12s) where Krishnan Guru-Murthy lampoons David Davis (Brexit Secretary) over May's outright lies and this practice bringing politic into disrepute:

I'm most worried that they will pull some sensational last minute stunt, when there will be no time for response and fact checking. Then after the election practically no one cares, as it's too late then, so it's gotten away with, like so much else. The Tory machine dog-earring our democracy until, by a hundred little affronts, it's disappeared into a crumpled ball (OK, too flowery, sorry).


➤ Censorship:

The media is undoubtedly biased in frequently failing to report, or focus on, major stories that cast the Government (and specifically the Conservatives) in a bad light. But going beyond that, the BBC banning the 'Lair Lair' protest song from being played on any of it's stations, despite it reaching number 1 in charts, can certainly be considered self-censorship.

An arguable interpretation of impartiality guidelines; basically the Beeb are afraid of clashing with the government, from previous encounters, and various instances of thinly veiled intimidation from ministers. Hence a supposedly independent broadcaster ends up acting sometimes like a state controlled puppet of less well regarded nations. Although it is an increasingly tough line to tread, especially with loud calls of anti-Conservative, anti-Brexit bias, for instance the recent open letter from 70 MPs and cabinet members. As with environmental coverage, which has had false balance by giving excessive, equal air time to climate change deniers, the danger is that the topic will be avoided all together (with very little talk or questions about it this election, despite being more pressing than ever).

More worrying than this, have been moves towards government directly censoring the internet. David Cameron set in place a system whereby ISP must have a default-on 'porn filter'. Of course it's far from perfect, censoring sex-ed and other legitimate material, while also taking aim at 'extremism', however that might be defined (and introducing security vulnerabilities by monitoring all users content requests).

Then there was the investigatory powers act, which has given many branches of government access to everyone's browsing history, and the authority to break encryption of secure messaging platforms. Now, even more scary talk in the back of the Conservative manifesto [page 82], about internet "regulation", explicitly including controlling what news content is posted online, and who gets paid for it (as blatantly lobbied for by the media moguls with falling newspaper revenues). Coupled with frequent references to the issue of 'fake news' (particularly shared on social media) distorting political opinion and election outcomes, it's become worrying easy to imagine our government slipping into self-serving direct censorship of critical content.


➤ Gagging:

Lobbying transparency laws introduced in 2014 (AKA 'gagging laws') are, perversely, stiffing charities and other public interest action groups (like 38 degrees), because of the terribly vague wording of the legislation. Ostensibly introduced to regulate an unfettered government lobbying industry, plagued by scandals (where the rich and vested interests have bought influence). However, it almost entirely failed to do that, with the vast majority of actual lobbyists and other closely involve private figures excluded (like Tory party election strategist and lobbying company owner, Lynton Crosby).

Worst, the laws can kick in retrospectively (in the case of a snap election) and, with the prohibitive documentation requirements, most notable charities are simply avoiding making any public comment. A chilling effect; they are too scared that statements might cost them dearly, if construed as political criticism of government.

So the public miss out on much needed, impartial context in debates. This compounds the hollowing out political coverage from existing media bias, giving a false sense of everything being nominal; business as usual.


➤ Gerrymandering:

The Conservative government, in 2016, announced planned changes to the UK's parliamentary electoral boundaries (after the sixth review commissioned in 2011 failed to be voted in in 2013). The intention (both times) was to literally cut the size of government (except that Cameron alsostuffed the House of Lords with an additional 260 members!), bringing the total number of MPs down from 650 to 600.

Of course Labour claimed that it would disproportionately affect them, especially as it used number of registered voters to equalise constituencies (rather than total population) and data from before the EU referendum (which spurred 2M new voters to register).

Votes are far from equal.
It was literally going to remove Corbyn's seat, as leader of the opposition, that he had represented since 1983 (the year of my birth!). Combining it with the constituencies of his cabinet members: Diane Abbott and Emily Thornberry. Pretty spectacular as a stunt, although, to be fair, Islington North is the smallest constituency in the UK, by area (but middle of the pack by number of electors).

Of course, plenty of other Tory MP's were to be affected. And there were genuine imbalances with the legacy boundaries, due to population migration to the suburbs and such. But that was more of a consideration before the SNP stole the whole of Scotland, which were predominently Labour safe seats.

And in terms of voter efficiency, each Labour seat (at the 2015 election) cost more, at 40K, to Conservative's 34K. See graph, right. Though nothing compared to the injustice of our FPTP (first past the post) system on the smaller nation parties: 300K per Lib Dem MP, 1.16M per Green, 3.88M per UKIP!

Anyway, this whole section is somewhat moot, since the snap election jumped in before any changes could have been made! 


➤ Voter suppression:

Government changes in 2015 (aimed at tackling fraud) did, however, conveniently happen to de-register (and disenfranchise) the young, poor and minorities (who overwhelmingly support the opposition). An estimated 800K people were kicked off the register when the system was change to force individual voter registration (in place of per family and university block registration). At least one friend of mine turned up to vote (at a local election) to be told, to his surprise, that he couldn't.

A Tory manifesto proposal aims to require formal ID at voting stations. This despite us having no ID card system (one was proposed and later scrapped by May, as too expensive). So it would impact those who don't go on foreign holidays or drive (passport or licence), also making it hell for transgender individuals.



➤ Non-voters (in general):

'Apathy' reigns supreme. Or perhaps more disillusionment with politics in general; negative campaigning ensures the opposition looks just as dirty and/or useless, so why bother? Those who feel they have no stake in society, those most neglected, with the lowest social status, will either avoid having an opinion, or feel they don't have the right to assert one.

Also, some of the best educated and informed may be paralysed by uncertainty and, ironically, those most directly affected by cuts to public services might feel it inappropriate to have a say, like it would be rude to pick one's own bosses, or something...


➤ Party funding:

It's no secret that the Tory party attracts more big donations, from the super rich and businesses. In one week in May of this election campaign they raised almost £4M, 10 times more than Labour (in donations over £7500). Apparently recovering from the relative dip in funding from pro-EU donors, after Brexit and Cameron's departure.
Official party donation figures for Q1 2017 (before election),
from The Electoral Commision website.

But then the Labour party's been doing unusually well, currently, following the surge in membership with the election of Corbyn as party leader (and grassroots donations). The Lib Dems, however, seem to be hurting badly for cash, from the look of their repeated mailshots and begging e-mails (to me, as a legacy party member), despite doing well initially, directly after the election announcement.

I'd still expect the Conservatives to get closer to the £19.5M national spending limit than any other party, this year. Their last fortnight spending in 2015 was £15.6M to Labour's £12.6M.

Thankfully our party expenditure remains capped, unlike in the US, where, at peak, Obama's campaigns spent $750M(!), and the candidate spending the most tends to win. Although Trump utterly bucked that trend, with just over half of what Clinton spent (in the official figures, at least), paying his own companies handsomely in the process.

The £30'000 local election spending limit is of course far more restrictive (when adhered to), but then targeted internet adverts aren't included in that remit, with our now outdated rules.


➤ Dark money:

An extension of the problems with inequality, there's such concentration of wealth, high up, that there is a huge industry surrounding the assets of the super-rich and corporation, paying clever people to find ways to protect that wealth and keep it, and it's owners free from scrutiny.

George Monbiot writes on the corruption of politics, either side of the Atlantic, by inscrutable lobbying via 'dark money' networks. That the most influential 'think tanks', secretly funded by big money, are being used as a front to anonymously push their agendas. The small circles of personnel involved, like Tory MP Liam Fox, who's linked directly into the Trump administration. (He was the worst offender in the 2009 parliamentary expenses scandal, then jumped before being pushed from being Defence Secretary under allegations of providing inappropriate access to a lobbyist friend, but is now back in charge of securing our international trade deals.) How Brexit is being used to escape the EU's 'intolerable' restrictions on corporate freedom, that protect the people.

It seems that the Leave.EU campaign (which succeeded in delivering the surprise, slender, Brexit result) received a disproportionate amount of cash via the DUP, almost certainly because election contributions can be made anonymously in Northern Ireland, so it's a convenient 'back door' to UK campaign funding.

As potent as dark money, are favours from super-rich buddies who control valuable assets:
"Robert Mercer, a hedge-fund billionaire, who helped to finance the Trump campaign [,..] one of the owners of the rightwing Breitbart News Network, is a long-time friend of Nigel Farage. He directed his data analytics firm [Cambridge Analytica] to provide expert advice to the Leave campaign on how to target swing voters via Facebook – a donation of services that was not declared to the electoral commission."

➤ Dark ads and big data (I.e. the Facebook factor):

I think history will see that new, more potent techniques for targeting citizen's minds were decisive in tipping the fine balance towards Brexit and Trump. Individual level physiological modelling beating out demographic data. With a decisive analytical/tactical advantage looking a lot like fixed ballots, but instead it's the electorate that has been hacked. (Making 'internet of things' botnets look very quaint.)

Knowing more precisely where and how to apply pressure to effect votes, somewhat like the Tory's very carefully targeted local elections over-spend (that was big-data analysis coordinating foot soldiers). Except when entirely online, via targeted ads, it's scarily discrete; those who would never vote for you need never even know you're busy convincing others (let alone what you're saying to them).

It's seems to be a pretty deterministic science, now. Thousands of message variants can be run simultaneously, with closed loop feedback to find the ones that generate impressions/clicks, for wider use. And thanks to polling data, you only ever need create just enough of a swing, in a few key marginal states (or constituencies). Potentially very cost efficient.

" “Leave.EU,” supported by Nigel Farage, announced that it had commissioned a Big Data company to support its online campaign: Cambridge Analytica. The company’s core strength: innovative political marketing—microtargeting—by measuring people's personality from their digital footprints"
" “Pretty much every message that Trump put out was data-driven," says Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix
"These “dark posts”—sponsored Facebook posts that can only be seen by users with specific profiles—included videos aimed at African-Americans in which Hillary Clinton refers to black men as predators, for example.
"On the day of the third presidential debate between Trump and Clinton, Trump’s team tested 175,000 different ad variations for his arguments, in order to find the right versions above all via Facebook."
Above - Cambridge Analytica blow their own trumpet.

The Tory's natural voter demographic aren't so into social media, being primarily older, more Conservative, so their main use of targeted internet ads has been to persecute their negative campaigning, pursuing relative gains in marginal seats by dissuading would-be Labour voters from voting at all. Never using social media to encourage voter registration (unlike the big push from Labour, Liberals, etc).

Pretty dismaying, since to maintain a functional nation where everyone has a stake in it's prosperity, we really need to be promoting the democratic process to youngsters, not sneakily elbowing them out. I suspect that this strategy already accounted for a last minute negative down-turn in Labour votes in 2015, and almost certainly in the Leave vote and US elections.

The BBC, and others, have tried to crowd source examples of ads people have been shown. 'Who targets me?' has browser plug-ins to automatically collect data on these targeted adverts. A type of tool that's going to be a very necessary, in future, to fight for democratic balance (for now, just to get any handle on what's going on). It seems that Facebook is pretty straight up mercantile, treating political campaign advertisers as any others, providing their own staff to assist in direct proportion to expenditure.

The electoral commission has pretty much thrown it's hands up in the air, lacking the resources to monitor campaign's day to day use of social media platforms. Meaning that they will be unable to act until after the election campaign is done and dusted, with only paltry fines within their remit, that could easily be costed into a wealthy campaign budget. Insanely, there doesn't seem to be any rules preventing a national campaign from spending dozens of times the local limit on locally targeted online ads.

This is perhaps the scariest prospect for failure, this election (and going forwards, with AI that understand each viewer progressively better). That a swathe of young voters will be very cleverly put off (each via various different messages that speak powerfully to them), then the narrative will just be: bah, lazy/apathetic millennials, they don't anything if they can't be bothered to even vote.

Probably best not to heap all the credit/blame on Facebook though, since there has been plenty of use of YouTube and Google adverts. E.g. the top (sponsored) result whenever searching for Lib Dems or Jeremy Corbyn gives a link to a discrete Tory web page, the latter with 9 bullet points smearing/undermining Corbyn.

Also, in a damage control manoeuvre after the disastrous Conservative manifesto release, their campaign bought up the top Google search results for "dementia tax" in an apparent attempt to cover up the controversy, guiding users towards their own explanation. May tried to row back on her massive mis-step (I think having inserted this policy herself, without consulting her cabinet), making a dramatic U-turn by saying there would be a cap, while insisting "Nothing has changed!", repeatedly.


➤ Polls:

"Lies, damned lies and statistics" - the Brexit, UK 2015 and US 2016 election polls all wrongly predicted narrow wins for the liberal, left wing sides which miraculously turned into right wing wins at the polling booth.

Presumably the polls themselves influenced their results, in a massive scale metaphor for the quantum uncertainty, engendering complacency amongst more liberal voters. All contemporary polls are well aware of (and try to compensate for) the tendency of interviewees wanting to avoid looking like nasty right-wingers. At worst, these could be seen as string of high profile anomalies, from private polling companies (or direct electoral hacking of automated counting machines, in the US). Although, I suspect that social hacking, via a massive, last minute online advertise push would be more likely.


➤ Committed to the big lie:

Reducing the deficit, or 'balancing the national credit card bill', as it was misleadingly referred to by Cameron's Conservatives, winning the leading role in the 2010 government. It matters not that Osborne put Austerity on the back burner after 2012, or that the Tory's have counterbalanced mass cuts to finance tax breaks for the richest. No government will ever want to actually eliminate state borrowing: the bond market needs to be kept functional, for future emergencies, and debt repayments are a staple for private pension funds and other, richer investors.

But having sold the this lie so well, a vast number of voters are now committed to it, unable to accept the plausibility of Labour's augmented spending plans. Too much cognitive dissonance. Hence the turkeys voting for Christmas (or foxes voting for Torys), like the desperate or ignorant who put their faith in a witch-doctor who only hurts and humiliates them, but even realising this, it could not be admitted, as too painful, embarrassing. The natural reaction is to double-down, try to convince other of the lie, even.


➤ Terrorism:

The cruel irony is that, although these dreadful events should be a political disaster for the Tories, they may well have aided their election campaign overall. (Though far from being the only area where they've reaped rewards for problems they themselves created.)

Peter Brookes cartoon for the Times.
The opposition parties have lost out on several days of national campaigning, in an increasingly close race that is already too-short. While boosting a climate of fear will naturally re-enforce the Tory campaign, which is mostly negative, scaremongering over Brexit and Corbyn.

Also, much as a US Presidents at war tends to get re-elected to a second term in office. May monopolised on her national announcements as PM to push her party's pledges, in a strident speech (during suspension of campaigning).

The suspension of campaigning, with the second London Bridge attacks, meant Corbyn had to cancel his visit to my home town, too, sadly (although I doubt I'd have made it, personally).


➤ Rained off:

Humans are emotional animals, mood and behaviour greatly modulated by the weather outside. The impetus for positive change will almost certainly be blown off course and drowned out if it's throwing it down. Socialist/Liberal voters demographically less likely to have the cover of a car to drive to their polling station too. Things aren't looking great there:
Uk Met Office forecast for Thursday (election day).
➤ Not mentioned, but not overlooked:

  • Divided and conquered - Failure for Labour, Lib Dems and Greens to create a formal alliance. I felt it was over straight off the bat, after Corbyn and Farron point blank refused to form any alliances (or coalitions). From the state of Labour in the polls, I thought it the only way to avoid being buried under a fat Tory majority for 5 long years. I think maybe that was the right choice for Labour, on balance, to avoid showing desperation that the Tory press would hammer them for. But I really do wish they'd get over clinging to the FPTP system and help usher in some kind of proportional representation (PR), before they get decimated adn we loose another few paliaments reforming a center-left replacement party.
  • Labour is over - the Dutch elections spelled the total annihilation for their Labour party (a pretty bad portent for us, given our very close cultures). But this was also constructive, since they have a PR system, with the Green party actually able to do well, and number of other more progressive parties shutting out the far right offering (which our right-wing press here was super-focused on).
  • Empathy gap / political polarisation / online echo chamber - inability of liberal types to grasp that conservatives tend to be moved by very different fundamental moral motivations. Angry outbursts at them for failing to be equally outraged particular type of human suffering just pushes them away.  The 'shy tory' factor, with conservatives generally keeping their head down, and opinions close, to avoid hassle. It is potentially possible to re-frame arguments to beter understand and connect perspectives: "How Conservatives Can Sway Liberals, and Vice Versa."
  • Zombie vote - majority of voters will just vote for the same party name as they always have. Identity politics. However outdated, regardless of any of the stuff above, whatever the reality of the parties now...
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT (SPECULATION)

➤ Tory majority:

  • Much sadness, thousands of suicides and some unbearably smug Government faces.
  • Blairites resurface to call for Corbyn to step down again, but seems unlikely it'll stick, with improvement over Milliband, far more than ever seemed to be expected of him. A bad loss might mean the end for labour, with the new membership hopelessly at odds with a resurgent old guard. New parties need to be formed (who gets the name for the legacy voters though?).
  • May pushes government further towards dictatorship, with further concentration of powers to her, via re-organised institutions, more surveillance, few human rights, etc.
  • NHS crisis proper, mass privatisation is now blatant. 
  • Big anti-government protest marches (oh but why could we not have had these *before* the vote?!). Again marred by a little bit of peripheral violence, dominating coverage. Or will the spectre of terrorism prevent legal protest, making things more chaotic and dangerous?
  • Further cuts, austerity, and terrible consequences of Brexit starve the economy, increasing the national debt. UK continues to perform worst than all other European countries. Currency slides further.


➤ Hung parliament:

  • Tory crisis - May soon looses leadership for being hoisted on her own petard, like Cameron. Hardline Brexiteer takes the reins (e.g. Boris), potentially worst for country overall, if they still manage to form a minority government, or squeak something with the DUP.
  • Labour coalition?! - Even the most optimistic polls make this seem virtually impossible, requiring every last SNP and Lib Dem and still likely being shy of absolute majority. They'd take a vitriolic hammering from the press continuously.
    • Was this planned all along by Conservatives? Unlikely, but regardless, Labour now stuck with the bomb of Brexit and is unable to implement most of it's policies, much like the Clinton administration (that ended up having to be very fiscally conservative).
    • Possible change of getting another PR referendum or move in that direction, that could pave the way to fixing up out electoral system.
    • SNP uses leverage for second independence vote (but would of got one later with Brexit anyway).
  • Brexit negotiations delayed (but no biggie, with German's election in the offing anyway). 
  • If it's a really perfectly borked mix of MPs, could we see another election?! Party funding would then be a major issue for those smaller parties and grass-roots funding, while Conservatives call in the big donors (or have they upset too many with Brexit, incompetence, etc?).

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