Thursday, 8 June 2017

General election 8 June 2017: the verdict

Time to vote.  The constituency offers me a choice of six candidates.

I think that none of them represent me, or represent the constituency at large for national levels, or have sufficient grasp of national issues (public sector debt, in particular) to contribute beneficially to Parliament.

None of them come across as technically adept enough to handle the legislative issues facing the Parliament of 2017-2022.  I see the major issues of the next Parliament being i) Brexit; ii) public sector debt; iii) re-implementing a sustainable (and useful) monetary policy; and iv) energy policy.  Until these four issues are properly and competently resolved, there is no point in having any other policy.  None of the candidates - especially the ones who represent a party more than their own electorate - propose appropriate policies, and what they do say tends to underestimate (or simply deny!) the importance of Brexit, public sector debt and monetary policy.

I have received three flyers from the LibDems, one from the Christian People’s Alliance and one from the Conservatives.  The latter was notable for deploying Project Fear about this election, pointing to two electoral “shocks” (the referendum 23Jun2016 and the election of President Trump, then interpolating those “shocks” to “What if Tory apathy results in a Labour win” type of thing), a timely reminder that the Tory candidate Afolami has walked in OsBo’s footsteps (if I remember his short-lived LinkedIn page correctly).

I can easily dispense with:
  • The Labour Party.  I perceive Labour as economically- and financially-illiterate, better for the Sheriff of Nottingham than for Robin Hood, and very good at covering up that inconvenient tendency.  It blatantly bribes the electorate with somebody else’s money, and wins elections when it successfully bribes higher-rate taxpayers with taxpayers’ own money.  I perceive the consequences of its policy choices 1997-2010 (monetary policy and nationalising “bad” banks in particular) still haunt us today.  I cannot afford to believe a single word that the Red Mafia has to say.  I couldn’t care less who leads the Red Mafia: the whole movement is just plain toxic.
  • The Liberal Democrat Party: I perceive the LibDems as economically- and financially-illiterate, with an added zeal for inconsistencies and contradictions within policy choices and, worse, policy assumptions.  There is no joined-up thinking behind the policy portfolio.
  • The Green Party: I perceive the Greens as economically- , financially-, environmentally- and scientifically-illiterate.  See also this blog, which still applies to their manifesto EN110.  As energy policy is strategically fundamental to enabling any other part of the party’s manifesto (whatever those details might be), the energy policy has to stack up.  If it doesn’t, then it’s a non-starter.
  • The Christian Peoples Alliance: I cannot see the relevance of Christianity - or any other faith - in technical policy matters.  A policy works because it is designed correctly and is sound, not because we pray for it to work.

That leaves:
  • The Conservative Party.
  • An independent (Mr Ray Blake of Hitchin).

Both are fundamentally unknown quantities.
  • The Conservative manifesto is of some interest, but its stratospheric aspirations bear little resemblance to the nitty-gritty details that suddenly convert a pleasant policy portfolio into a shipwreck.
    • I have huge doubts about the competence of the senior leadership team of the Party, both in their roles as Party leaders and as members of the Cabinet.  If they can’t be bothered to read the EU treaties, then they have no idea how to strategise their negotiations to enable Brexit.  Then again, maybe such ignorance is their negotiating tool… which is even worse.  The manifesto wants fair, orderly negotiations, minimising disruption and giving as much certainty as possible – so both sides benefit”, but continues to adopt the stance of UKGov 17Jan2017 and its related white paper, meaning that what the manifesto wants is politically impossible.
    • The word “monetary” appears zero times in the manifesto.  The nearest to a monetary policy is a vague promise about “sound public finances”, with zero detail about what the measurable objective of “sound” is, and how to achieve that metric.  To the extent that the Conservatives are implying expenditure, there are no useful/meaningful numbers (let alone funding, or even comparatives).
    • It’s candidate for this constituency saw fit to hide his whole LinkedIn profile since the Party confirmed his candidacy, and he’s never - not once - mentioned his internship (or something) for George Osborne, or his following (and unfollowing?) on Twitter of the Evening Standard at the of OsBo’s appointment as editor.  He has mentioned his job as a banker.  He has referred to his family background to explain how his family arrived to the UK, but he has failed to explain what sacrifices they made (if any!) to send him to Bishopsgate, Eton and Oxford.
  • The independent is a financial advisor who wants to get involved in managing education funds (apparently) and has an opinion on other matters.  He wants a second referendum on Brexit, but otherwise has apparently little else to say.  Monetary policy is an unknown.  Debt policy is an unknown.  His public posts and comments on Facebook suggest a centre-left outlook.  He appears to support, whose campaign includes an open letter regarding what Brexit says about democratic dissent.  His LinkedIn is still live!  But he says little that others have recorded elsewhere (understandable given the timescale of this election).  And he appears to have no constituency support infrastructure in place (or even a plan for it, in the unlikely event he’d be elected).

So, on balance, none of the above.

Monday, 5 June 2017

General election 8 June 2017: hustings at Hitchin & Harpenden constituency

In my constituency, there are six candidates:
  • For the Conservative Party, Bim Afolami (his address in Kettering);
  • For the Liberal Democrat Party, Hugh Annand (his address in Belgium);
  • For the Green Party, Richard Cano.
  • For the Christian People’s Alliance, Sid Cordle.
  • For the Labour Party, John Hayes.
  • One independent, Ray Blake.

I didn’t know about the hustings meeting, but wouldn’t have attended even if I knew about it (I had other things to do with on Fri 02Jun2017).

Fortunately, the Comet newspaper recorded it, presumably on a smartphone mounted on a tripod.  The sound quality was poor, but just about audible.  The journalist’s furious typing on his laptop (complete with mouse clicks) was more audible than the voices of the speakers!  The format was similar to BBC Question Time.

The largest applause for the opening speeches was for the Labour candidate.  The second largest was for the Green candidate.  This reaction of the audience was the common pattern to the whole hustings, so clearly strongly partisan/tribal.  The seat has been considered a “safe” Conservative seat for years, so the audience’s reactions probably should not be considered representative of the whole constituency.

It is great to see an independent on the ballot paper!  His motivation to stand as a national candidate was prompted by the funding of schools, and intended to stand as a single-issue candidate.  He is a financial adviser.  His introductory speech touched upon cases where funds are available (“There’s plenty of money to fund our schools, our NHS…”), but questions how they might be (mis-)used, then goes onto criticise the government’s current mantra of austerity.  For question 3, he said, “Let’s take money from rich pensioners, and give it to the schools instead.”

Hustings questions (paraphrased):
  1. Why hold this election? (@ 33m)
  2. Should 16-17 year-olds be allowed to vote? (@ 36m)
  3. How would the candidates’ parties ensure schools can be funded appropriately, to avoid deficit-financing? (@ 40m)
  4. How will you fund an even better health service? (@ 51m)
  5. What would you do to ensure that young families are forced to leave the area because of unaffordable housing? (@ 1h 2m)
  6. What will you do reverse the national disgrace that the 5th-largest economy in the world has people going to foodbanks? (@ 1h 11m)
  7. What are your views on climate change, and what solutions do you propose? (@ 1h 21m)
  8. How do you propose to protect the rights of EU citizens [sic] in this constituency during the uncertainty of the Brexit negotiations? (@ 1h 31m)
  9. If you support the Trident missile system, under what circumstances would you be prepared to use the Trident missile system? (@ 1h 40m)
  10. Local issue: what is the point of a national policy on the Green Belt when local representatives recommend building on the Green Belt? (@ 1h 49m)
  11. Local issue: if elected, how proactive would you be to ensure better management of the Hitchin town hall & museum project (context: North Herts District Council has allowed a £2.35m project to balloon to ~£6m project, and is flawed in other ways).  (@ 1h 57m)

The list of questions is typical of that of a “normal” general election, even if the audience might have been gamed-up to reflect a particular perspective.

For question 8:
  • Afolami: this is the number one issue for Brexit negotiations, similarly for UK citizens’ rights in the EU (to muted audience response).
  • Cordle: an immediate guarantee (to muted audience response).
  • Annand: mumbled something and got huge applause for his mumble.  The EU will reciprocate if the UK offers.  More concerning is the disgraceful “computer say no” letters sent to some people telling them effectively to leave (to warm applause).
  • Cano: (regurgitated manifesto, didn’t answer question) (muted applause).
  • Hayes: referred to the six tests in the Labour manifesto, didn’t name them for lack of time.
  • Blake: an immediate guarantee followed by the same question of the EU re UK citizens in the EU.