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Messages - Will Cooling

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General / Re: Guardian Graphic Novel of the Month
« on: 22 November, 2016, 10:32:20 PM »
In over six years they've never recommended a 2000AD or related collection. You'd think some of the more political releases might have interested them

General / Guardian Graphic Novel of the Month
« on: 22 November, 2016, 11:42:19 AM »

Anyone notice anything strange about this list of the graphic novels that the Guardian recommends each month?

 :( :-[ ::) :'(

Off Topic / Re: The Political Thread
« on: 02 October, 2016, 09:51:02 PM »
The way you whining lefty ninnies lot go on, you'd almost think commies were building a nuclear bomb inside our borders or something - you need to stop panicking and cheer up: we have our country back, the NHS is 350 million pounds a week better off, and no more immigrants will be moving in next door.

As someone who works in a university, I can heartily say that she certainly didn't do nothing.

Off Topic / Re: The Political Thread
« on: 30 September, 2016, 06:51:45 PM »
The point for the Corbynites is they don't need to worry about Scotland. The SNP would actually be happier to make Corbyn PM than the old Scottish Labour contingent because they know Jezza's hard-left politics would ultimately drive the English doolay.

The polls show it wouldn't make much difference because it wouldn't - on the final round. But the logical conclusion is that people would use the first round to register a protest vote (either to the right or left). The reality is that it would actually make wild cards marginal less likely because centrist Tory/Labour/LibDem voters would gang up on any UKIP or Green who manage to make it to the final round. 

The LibDems are an interesting party. Despite their opposition to FPTP they only exist because of it. As Paddy Ashdown said (way before the Coalition) if PR ever happened then the LibDems would loose much of their support to rival parties who suddenly became competitive. And indeed the LibDems have always done remarkably badly in European Elections.

I would exactly suggest a direct-election for Prime Minister. The General Election would basically be to a) elect the Prime Minister and b) elect an independent Parliament. There's nothing ridiculous about a Tory Prime Minister being held accountable by a left-wing majority Parliament if that's what the people want.

The LibDem politicians may overlap with Labour but the voters don't. Look at what happened in 2015 - what caused their devastation was tory-leaning voters across Southern England freaking out about the possibility of Labour coming into power. And now its liberal conservatives migrating back due  to Brexit that is causing the parties revival.

I disagree that predicting a General Election outcome has become tough - look at how well the Exit Polls have done. The issue is with making sure the polls don't capture too many enthusiastic young Labourites.

Off Topic / Re: The Political Thread
« on: 30 September, 2016, 03:06:46 PM »
Mind you, plenty of Corbynites I know also think that, because, apparently, all polling is some kind of anti-left conspiracy.

When Yougov did a survey whose findings suggested Corbyn was more popular than previously believed, they wrote lengthy qualifications to their own polling data explaining how and why the results were probably wrong, while the Guardian ran three separate articles by academics explaining why the polling was misleading - two of whom were Yougov employees - and all of this was within months of the disastrous 2015 polling fiasco, so you can't really blame lefties for the current distrust of polling.  Polling companies got themselves into that mess.

True but they got themselves into that mess by massively overestimating Labour's share of the vote. So you can forgive them for being a bit nervous about any pro-Labour outliers.

Off Topic / Re: The Political Thread
« on: 30 September, 2016, 03:05:14 PM »
I think Labour's pretty united on being anti-PR, in the sense that all wings of the party hate the idea of compromise. The only difference is the so-called moderate wing still seems to labour under the misapprehension that the party can actually get a majority in the Commons. Mind you, plenty of Corbynites I know also think that, because, apparently, all polling is some kind of anti-left conspiracy.

Where I wonder, Will, is in your figures. If you rattle through elections over the past few decades, you very regularly find parties securing an absolute majority with about 40% of the vote, which then dips post-2005 to the mid-30s. We find ourselves in a weird situation where we could feasibly find the Conservatives with a huge majority on a third of the vote, which feels inherently undemocratic. And although the threat of UKIP does mean a Con/UKIP pact of some kind might push everything over 50%, there have been plenty of times where Lab/Lib could have formed a coalition under PR to oust the Conservatives.

Moreover, the assumption in such guesswork is always that people would vote the same way under PR, when that's unlikely to be the case. If you know your vote counts, tactical voting becomes broadly meaningless. I suspect we'd probably unfortunately see quite a few UKIP MPs under a PR system, but we'd also see a smattering of Greens and, for the first time in recent history, Liberal Democrats getting an actually representative number of MPs. In Scotland, MP numbers would be more representative too, rather than the absurd situation of the SNP claiming almost every seat on half of the vote.

So I'd like to see some change. I'm open to arguments about which system, being it AV+, STV or AMS, but what we have now is ridiculous. But the Conservatives and Labour also know that without FPTP, the chances of either party every securing a majority again is slim. What they don't factor in is that if voting trends continue, we will probably increasingly see hugely unpredictable swings that cannot be planned for nor controlled.

I'm not arguing against PR - just the idea it would help the left. And again - you can't count all LibDems as left-wing voters. Throughout the 20th Century the Liberals have been just as much an anti-socialist party as a anti-Tory one. Indeed whereas we have many occassions of Liberals and Tories sharing power without Labour, we've yet to see any Liberal MPs enter a Labour Government.

And actually my gut is that we've entered the opposite to wild swings. You listen to political scientists and the big problem is geographical polarisation, with Labour and Tory parties both overwhelmingly strong in their heartlands but weak outside. This has been made worse by the implosion of the Liberal Democrats who by default had been the natural party of opposition all over England. Unless Corbyn really tanks Labour's numbers (which is should be stressed hasn't happened yet - they're bad but they've been bad for much of the past seven years) its likely that even a snap election would only see the Tories gain a handful of seats.

Off Topic / Re: The Political Thread
« on: 30 September, 2016, 03:00:17 PM »
In terms of AV - it's both not that big a change and huge change at the same time. As someone who once run Students' Union elections that use AV, I can say from personal experience that it really is extremely rare that the person who is top on the first round doesn't ultimately win in the end. That has certainly been true of the London Mayoral Elections.

The Mayoral elections where despite clear guidance, lots of people didn't know how the system worked. The major argument to me is as simple as removing the idea that votes can be wasted. And once we've made the most minor improvement we might be able to get people more engaged with politics, when they don't just have to choose the best of two bad options - they can choose the best choice for them without effectively handing a vote to the worst option. And then we can maybe cross the bridge of getting politicians to grow up a bit and stop depending solely on the party whip.

Anything would be better than FPTP in terms of engaging people with politics. Your proposed system has a lot of benefits. I am dubious about electing a head of government directly but personality politics seem to be more important to most people than details or facts.

(And not to knock your point but Student Politics differ greatly in every way from a general or even local election for a lot of obvious reasons :P )

I really don't think AV will engage more people in politics. AV allows people to go through the charade of voting for a minor party but makes it no more likely for that vote to mean anything. Because the minor parties are still unpopular they will be eliminated before the climatic round of voting. So those annoyed that Greens and UKIP can't get into parliament will still be annoyed - although there will probably be more of them. The only possible benefit is that it would make it even harder for extreme candidates to come through a divided field with a low share of the vote (although anti-Farage tactical voting shows that probably already happens) - but that would actually increase hard-right/hard-left disillusion.

Again AV is only useful in terms of political reform as a staging post for PR. It would do that by inflating the minor party vote and breaking (this ludicrous, untrue) notion that the electoral system is this ancient system that has served the country well since 1066. Reality is that elections were very different before 1918 (lots of multi-member seats) and was still fairly different until 1950 (some surviving multi-member seats plus the various fancy franchises).

On directly the Head of Government - I just think its something that's going to have to happen if we're to stop devolved Government cannablising the country or done by second-rate politicians. When you think about it - its kind of absurd that the Mayor of London has less right to stand to be Prime Minister than some random backbencher. A directly elected PM would allow a broader range of people to stand for parliament. It would then empower parliament to hold the executive to account without the Government MPs being worried they were hurting their own chances of re-election.

Off Topic / Re: The Political Thread
« on: 29 September, 2016, 09:53:01 PM »
With you entirely on that Indigo - the electoral system is badly broken. I can't believe that people campaigned against that referendum because 'it wasn't enough'. Some positive change is better than no positive change... and Labour really messed it up there. I get why the Tories will resist that forever but FPTP is an incredibly limiting system which makes voting an even more frustrating exercise than it would inherently be.

I am very happy that the London mayoral election uses SV and that small difference would still go a long way to improving our democracy. It would at least be an end to 'If you vote X you are wasting your vote", the explicit acknowledgement that the system is ****ed.

There's plenty of good reasons why Labour don't support PR:

Labour is an incredibly tribal party. I went from right to left whilst at university and I was amazed at how much more passionately committed to the party even moderate Labourites were. So many people don't want PR because they want a single-party Labour Government rather than having to compromise with other parties...especially the Liberal Democrats!

There's then the traditional Bennite argument against PR. That's basically that's its almost impossible to get 50% of the country to vote for a radical platform but its more than feasible that a radical majority could be elected on 35%-42%. So the hard-left support FPTP, even though it makes an independent hard-left party impossible, to keep alive the dream of securing a majority that would push through their programme.

Perhaps the more important argument is that it would probably hurt the centre-left. The idea that PR helps the 'left' is wrong. Let's remember in the last election the Tories and UKIP actually got 51%. If you look across Europe, without the protection of PR it's likely that Labour would lose even more of its working class base to UKIP. It's worth pointing out that without the European Elections moving to PR in 1999, UKIP would probably never have broken through as a major party.

So for all these reasons it does make sense for Labour to oppose PR.

In terms of AV - it's both not that big a change and huge change at the same time. As someone who once run Students' Union elections that use AV, I can say from personal experience that it really is extremely rare that the person who is top on the first round doesn't ultimately win in the end. That has certainly been true of the London Mayoral Elections.

Where AV would be a huge change is that it would encourage people to vote for minor parties, safe in the knowledge they could vote for their preferred major party. That would mean the votes of parties such as the Greens and UKIP would be inflated without their chances of winning MPs actually increasing. That would strengthen the argument for PR. 

Personally, I would like to see a directly elected Prime Minister. That gives you the benefit of PR (every vote counts) and the benefit of FPTP (clear decision on who forms the Government guided by voters). I would then personally use STV to elect the parliament but I'm not too precious about that point.


Off Topic / Re: The Political Thread
« on: 27 September, 2016, 12:38:07 PM »
The LibDems could have put their money where their mouths were and attempted a broad coalition of parties of the center and left
How realistic would that have been? Political figures from the time have said Labour itself was deeply divided and during talks couldn't nail down key elements of its own policy, let alone how it would work in coalition. And Lab/Lib combined would have been 11 seats short of a Commons majority. So who fills those spaces, and how much effort would have been required to get any policy through the Commons? How much misery would backbenchers have caused?

This was, note, nonetheless my preferred route at the time, and I was gutted when it didn't happen. Yet even on the day of the results, you had Labour capitulation, with MPs suggesting people had had enough of Labour and that it was time to let someone else have a go. (Surely, any MP should want their party to always be in power, to do good things!)

I also suspect people hadn't realised quite how far the Lib Dems had shifted. Under Ashdown and especially Kennedy, they had shifted into a somewhat socialist position, and certainly a fairly libertarian one. By 2010, they had lurched rightwards and also become more authoritarian, which was even more evident by 2015. (Oddly, their manifesto, at least, seemed true to the party's roots and ideals, but their actions did not.) So perhaps people didn't realise we had a soft-right/authoritarian-right coalition, rather than something more centrist in nature.

On Brexit, I do think it's a pity even despite everything the Lib Dems did or didn't do, many people are unwilling to do anything other than dismiss Clegg. He's in it for the money, apparently, or to get some kind of cushy EU job if we somehow stay in. Or, you know, he actually has loads of experience in this and is for the most part talking and writing sense.

Gay Marriage would never have become law if the Tory Government hadn't support it. So whilst you note/criticise the Tory party for having a large proportion of homophobes...Cameron's Government clearly deserves credit for supporting the measure (i.e. drafting bill, championing the cause, allotting parliamentary time and allocating resources to implementation).
The problem is more that they took all of the credit, despite this all being a legal requirement from the coalition agreement. In other words, the Conservatives had no choice to do all those things, otherwise the government would have fallen. I think Cameron deserves some praise – it's one of the few things he got right, despite not having the support of the majority of his part – but the Conservatives as a whole? Not really. And them whitewashing this being Lib Dem policy was pretty distasteful, but then that also showcases the naivety of the Liberal Democrats – as Clegg as mulled since, they simply didn't realise how ferociously the Conservatives would gobble up every piece of good news and frame it as their own, rather than the coalition (and certainly never the coalition partners).

What's most depressing about this is it knocked back electoral reform yet again. The choices in the referendum were ridiculous (FPTP vs AV), and then the broadly disliked coalition put loads of people off of the general idea, further cementing the reactionary and partisan nature of British politics. I fully believe we would be a better country politically with more coalitions, with smaller parties that could then join together to form government. In Iceland, for example, you have two parties that broadly map with the UK Conservatives, and they sometimes form coalitions. But they each have their own identities and policies to fight with. (And, most importantly, that country as PR voting, so every vote actually matters.)

Er, but off topic there, but, hey, it's the politics thread…

A few things.

100% true people hadn't realise the change in the Lib Dems. It makes sense really, if counter-intuitively. Ashdown, Kennedy, Campbell and Cable are all centre-left politicians who joined the Liberal Democrats because of how left-wing Labour was in the 1970s and 1980s. Whereas the likes of Clegg and Laws are centrists or even centre-right politicians who joined the Liberal Democrats because of how right-wing the Tory Party was in the 1990s and 2000s.

Reason the manifesto was significantly to the left of the leadership is that Liberal Democrat members through conference still have significant control over writing it. Indeed, one of the issues with tuition fees, is that Clegg and Cable had been fighting to water it down since they took control of the party, but activists kept rejecting their proposals. Significantly they did leave it out of the pledge card the leadership issued as their key red lines. Alas for them the NUS brilliantly seduced them into making a much bigger deal of the policy.

Anyone who says the LibDems could have avoided going into Coalition with the Tories is insane. A Lib-Lab pact would have had no majority without the nationalists and the Brownite approach to politics just didn't overlap with Clegg's.

As several issues proved, the Coalition Agreement had no legal force. In any case Gay Marriage wasn't included in the original Coalition Agreement.

The Coalition massively set back the cause of electoral reform by enshrining the idea that even a pretty miserable change such as switching to AV needed to be approved by referendum. Sadly, a referendum on AV+ would never have escaped the Commons (Milliband struggled to stop rebels on the AV Referendum, and some Tories would surely want to kill it) and in any case with Labour supporter sore about the Coalition it would have lost similarly badly.

Off Topic / Re: The Political Thread
« on: 27 September, 2016, 12:23:47 PM »
The Lib Dems did actually manage to get a large amount of their manifesto into policy, along with derailing a fair chunk of bad Conservative stuff, such as the IP bill. The problem is they screwed themselves with that daft pledge on tuition fees (which people on my Twitter timeline still bang on about whenever the Lib Dems are mentioned), forever ruining their credibility as something different. That the reality of coalition means you have no choice but to compromise is irrelevant – although the party should have stood fast against any rise in fees, because that made them all look ridiculous.

For my money, they made three bigger mess-ups: Clegg should have had as a red-line one major position of state (ideally him as Foreign Sec.); the referendum on voting reform should have been AV+, as per the recommendation (although I suspect it would still have lost); and the Health Bill should have been killed in the Lords (rather than Lib Dems helping it through). 2015 would still have seen the party get a serious kicking (not least due to the Lib Dems being inept from a press standpoint and the Conservatives taking all the credit for everything the Lib Dems did, not least, brazenly, gay marriage), but not quite to the extent we saw.

I think the coalition exposed two much broader problems for the Lib Dems. Firstly there's no avoiding the fact that the party is divided between Tory and Labour leaning voters, with only a hardcore that genuinely has no preference for which major party leads a Government. Throughout their history as a third party, the result of a hung parliament or coalition arrangement has always been to hurt them (1924, 1931, 1974, 1979) because the act of choosing offends a significant part of their support base. In 1924, Tory-leaning Liberals were outraged they let Labour into power, in 2010, Labour-leaning Liberals were outraged they let the Tories into power.

However they made this natural dynamic much worse by mismanaging the coalition. Rather than spread themselves across the entire Government, they should have concentrated their ministers in key departments. They should then have used these ministries to protect their supporters from the worst of Tory Rule. This is why going along with the rise in tuition fees, Gove education reforms and NHS reorganisation was so toxic - if the LibDems had a base of support it was the type of middle class centrist that predominates the public sector. Being the protectors of Health and Education would have also given them a much greater sense of positive identity.

Off Topic / Re: The Political Thread
« on: 27 September, 2016, 12:14:45 PM »
Tories taking the credit for the gay marriage bill* and avoiding any blame for Iraq** is the reason we can't have nice things.

*134 against vs 126 for, vs Labour's 217/22 and Lib's 44/4. So really I'd say it's taking credit for what Labour did.
**146 for and 3 against, though in this case it's simply that Labour couldn't have done it without them tho.

I liked the Lib Dems enough to vote for them in 2010. Compromise would have been one thing but the Dems rolled and surrendered where they didn't actively assist.

But that's not how politics works - oppositions can't push laws through, only Governments can. Gay Marriage would never have become law if the Tory Government hadn't support it. So whilst you note/criticise the Tory party for having a large proportion of homophobes...Cameron's Government clearly deserves credit for supporting the measure (i.e. drafting bill, championing the cause, allotting parliamentary time and allocating resources to implementation).

Likewise on Iraq. You can attack IDS as a blithering idiot who failed to hold Blair to account (unlike Milliband over Syria), but no matter how much the Tories supported the war, it would never have been considered if Blair hadn't have wanted British involvement. 

Off Topic / Re: The Political Thread
« on: 26 September, 2016, 09:51:36 PM »
I don't think anyone - even Owen Smith himself - seriously expected him to win.  I think he was essentially a stalking horse, standing and taking  a bullet for the party (as he would see it) in order to see how much support there was out there for a Not Corbyn candidate.  And now he and the people behind him have their answer - 38%.

As I've said elsewhere, I suspect cold, hard eyes are looking at the numbers and figuring how much of the anti-Corbyn section of the party - most of the MPs and more than a third of the membership - might follow them the pastures new.

Peace is not about to break out in the Labour Party, now that the leadership contest is over.

I think they hoped to force Corbyn to quit. When that failed they hoped to keep him off the ballot paper. When that failed they were stuck with challenging him. While stalking Horse isn't the right metaphor* I imagine Smith knew he couldn't win once Corbyn was on the ballot. He probably hoped to do well enough that he'd become the leader of the moderates and would have the credibility to stand again in eighteen months time. That obviously didn't happen (not just the result but also the fact that he ran a gaffe-prone, uninspiring campaign).

*A stalking horse is a diversionary tactic to cover an advance. In elections it made sense to describe an ideological challenger under the old Tory election rules because the winner needed to get more than 50% to prevent a second round and there was no bar on additional candidates joining in later rounds. Therefore a hopeless candidate could stand in the first round to bloody the leader in the hope of inspiring more credible candidates to enter the next round (this was Redwood's strategy). Doesn't really work with the Labour rules because the effort involved in getting onto the ballot means its not practical to run hopeless challengers.

Off Topic / Re: The Political Thread
« on: 26 September, 2016, 09:40:54 PM »
. The architects of the project wanted this from day one. 

Any chance of a citation for this claim? A fairly solid and credible one if possible?

Try googling European Political Community and European Defence Community. Both were advanced by Jean Monnet as the logical development of the European Steel and Coal Community but were scrapped after De Gaulle led a nationalist backlash. The European Economic Community was a retreat back to economics after this setback.

As to why pro-European mocking of Eurosceptic 'scare stories' are not taken seriously it's worth looking at is the Roy Jenkins vs. Tony Benn debate in the 1975 Referendum. Jenkins mocked Benn's talk of the Commission wanting a Single Currency, saying it would never happen in his lifetime. The first attempt of currency harmonisation was made within five years (the 'snake' protype for ERM) and within sixteen years agreement had been made to proceed with full EMU.

Prog / Re: *** Prog 2000 ***
« on: 26 September, 2016, 07:52:35 PM »
I enjoyed Origins, but a lot of it consisted of trying to make published Dredd stories fit in with a non-canonical timeline a fan sent to Tharg in about 1984 which somehow got published in an annual under the heading "An Unofficial Judge Dredd Timeline." Which was unnecessary. But it was still alright so I let it go.*

(* Apart from the fact that Rico Dredd's badge had his first name instead of his surname, which made no sense. I still can't quite get over that.)

See I always thought that made perfect sense - an expression of Rico's individualism and refusal to conform.

General / Re: Mega City Book Club - a new podcast about 2000AD books
« on: 10 September, 2016, 07:35:55 PM »

Yeah I've spoke to Steve MacManus - just waiting for it to go up on the website.

Hope everybody enjoyed the episode - I had a great time talking to Eamonn and the book is a very enjoyable read.

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