Tag: Britain

ENDORSEMENT: “Leave” for United Kingdom European Union referendum

I proudly endorse the Brexit campaign in the upcoming European Union referendum in the United Kingdom, in which British voters will be asked whether the UK should remain part of the EU or leave the EU altogether. Therefore, I am asking British voters to vote “Leave” in the June 23 EU referendum in the UK.

The EU has played a significant role in destroying the Greek economy by imposing austerity demands on Greece. If the UK were to vote to remain in the EU, the EU will, at some point in time, impose the same austerity demands on the UK that they placed on Greece. If the UK were to remain a part of the EU, the UK will, at some point, be forced to replace the Pound sterling with the Euro, meaning higher prices on goods and services for Britons.

Furthermore, the entire concept of the EU is rooted in a German imperialist mindset straight out of the 1930’s and 1940’s. The only differences is that Britain isn’t being bombed and a full-blown fascist isn’t Germany’s leader. People should learn from history, not repeat it.

Last, but not least, remaining in the EU would further threaten the sovereignty of the UK, which is vested in the British monarchy. Britain’s national anthem isn’t “God Save Europe”, it’s “God Save The Queen”!

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We celebrate our independence from the British monarchy, not our own government, on July 4

We celebrate our independence from the British monarchy (Queen Elizabeth II pictured at top), not our own government (U.S. Congress depicted at bottom)
We celebrate our independence from the British monarchy (Queen Elizabeth II pictured at top), not our own government (U.S. Capitol pictured at bottom)

On July 4 of every year, we, the people of the United States of America, officially celebrate Independence Day, our national holiday. While people usually associate the Fourth of July with fireworks, barbecue cookouts, and NASCAR racing at Daytona International Speedway, there is an official reason why we celebrate the Fourth of July that far too many people don’t understand, including certain elected officials in this country.

One of those elected officials is Scott Walker, the Republican Governor of Wisconsin and one of many candidates running for the Republican presidential nomination. Walker has repeatedly claimed that we celebrate Independence Day as a day commemorating how we somehow gained our independence from our own government, and he took to Twitter earlier today to make that claim once again:

I don’t remember winning our independence from the federal government, and that’s because…we never did. Long before any of us who currently live in the United States were born, we won our independence from the British monarchy, not our own government. In the mid-to-late 18th Century, King George III of the United Kingdom and the British Parliament, which, at the time, controlled the American colonies that became the first 13 states in our Union, began imposing taxes on the colonies, despite the fact that the American colonies had no voting representation in the British Parliament. That led to the American Revolutionary War, which was fought between those who sought American independence and the British and began in April of 1775. On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress, a temporary national government established during the Revolutionary War, which had been ongoing for over a year at the time, officially voted to secede from Britain. Two days later, on July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence, which formally proclaimed the United States of America, was officially ratified and ordered to be published. So, the Fourth of July is a holiday commemorating the ratification and publication of the Declaration of Independence, not a holiday commemorating the American people winning independence from its own government.

If it weren’t for the American Revolution, we would still be under the control of the British Sovereign, currently Queen Elizabeth II, and the British Government, currently led by Prime Minister David Cameron of the British Conservative Party, without any representation in the British Parliament. Because of the American Revolution, we have our own government, our own president, our own Congress, and our own court system, regardless of whether or not we like the people in positions of power in this country.

Many on the far-right in this country, including Scott Walker, incorrectly believe that the Fourth of July is a holiday commemorating American freedom from taxation imposed by our own government. That’s simply not true. The Fourth of July is a holiday commemorating American freedom from taxation imposed by the British government without representation in the British parliament (i.e., taxation without representation), not non-existent American freedom from taxation imposed by our own government. For Walker and others on the far-right to claim that the Fourth of July commemorates American independence from our own government is absolutely false and pure revisionist history.

My two pence about the British elections

In the 2015 United Kingdom elections for seats in the 650-member British House of Commons, which holds nearly all of the governing power at the national level in the UK, were held yesterday. Here’s my two pence (in the UK, the British pound, the national currency, is divided into 100 pence) about what transpired last night across the pond from my home country of the United States.

First-past-the-post elections are ridiculously unfair

If there was ever a┬átextbook example of how first-past-the-post elections can result in wildly disproportional results, the 2015 British elections would be it. The Conservatives, led by right-wing Prime Minister David Cameron, won an outright majority of seats in Parliament with only about 37% of the national popular vote. Another party that benefited greatly from first-past-the-post is the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP), a left-wing Scottish separatist party. Despite winning less than 5% of the national popular vote, the SNP won all but three of Scotland’s 59 seats in Parliament, or 56 seats, 8.6% of all seats, entirely because they only contested the Scottish seats for obvious reasons. Even though the left-leaning Labour, led by Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband going into last night’s election, collapsed in this election for reasons I’ll explain below, Labour won 232 seats, or not quite 36% of the seats in Parliament, with only slightly over 30% of the national popular vote, thus not collapsing quite as much as their popular vote total would suggest. Three parties that were screwed over by the first-past-the-post system were the far-right UK Independence Party (UKIP), the left-wing Green Party of England and Wales (Greens), and the Liberal Democrats (Lib Dems), who partnered with the Tories in the previous governing coalition. The UKIP received 12.6% of the national popular vote, the Greens received 3.8% of the total vote, and the Lib Dems received 7.9% of the total vote. Despite that, the UKIP and Greens won a single seat each, and the Lib Dems won eight seats, or 1.2% of all seats. To give you a general idea of how disproportional this is, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), a right-wing unionist party in Northern Ireland that contested 16 of the 18 Northern Irish seats, will have the same number of MPs as the Lib Dems despite the Lib Dems getting over 2.2 million votes more than the DUP, and the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), a party which contested 15 Northern Irish seats and is similar to, and in an electoral pact with, the DUP, will have the same number of seats as the UKIP and the Greens combined, despite the fact that the UKIP and the Greens combined received over 16% of the total vote and the UUP received less than 0.5% of the total vote.

This is mostly due to three factors: First, in many constituencies, no candidate received a majority of the vote. When that happens in a British parliamentary constituency, the candidate with a plurality of votes is elected to the Commons. Second, the UKIP and the Greens received a significant minority of the popular vote nationwide, but, because their votes were largely spread out over the constituencies they contested, they only won a single seat each because they only got the most votes in a single constituency. Third, the SNP, the Northern Irish parties, and the left-wing Welsh separatist party Plaid Cymru only contested seats in one of the four British constituent countries and received a significant share of the vote in the constituent country they contested seats in.

There are several ways that Britain can make its electoral system more representative of the British populace. One idea would be to maintain first-past-the-post as a core system of election, but, if the first-past-the-post result is not proportional, a variable amount of leveling seats would be added to Parliament, so that parties end up having a number of seats that are proportional to their national popular vote share. How this system would work is, if the first-past the post result for 650 seats is not proportional, a calculation for a 651-seat House of Commons, with all seats not won by an independent candidate being allocated to each political party in proportion to their national vote share, is conducted. Should the 651-seat Commons calculation yield a result in which one or more parties end up with fewer seats than the number of seats they won under first-past-the-post, similar calculations are done for a 652-seat Commons, a 653-seat Commons, a 654-seat Commons, and so on, until each political party has at least as many seats as they won by first-past-the-post, and each political party has a number of seats that is proportional to their national vote share. Another idea would be to implement instant-runoff voting, in which voters are allowed to give multiple preferences for who they want to represent them in the Commons, but maintain constituencies electing a single member to Parliament. Yet another idea would be to implement single non-transferable vote, where voters would have only a single vote as they currently do, but Members of Parliament (MPs) would be elected from multi-member constituencies, with the top n candidates, in which n is the number of seats to be filled in each constituency, winning seats in the Commons. Other ideas involving multi-member constituencies include multi-member instant-runoff voting (basically a combination of instant-runoff voting and multi-member constituencies), single-transferable vote (a preferential system that is used in some multi-member constituency systems around the world), and the party-list system (where voters are given a single vote in a multi-member constituency, and seats are allocated to political parties in proportion to the number of votes each party receives in a constituency).

One thing I do like about Britain’s parliamentary elections is that each constituency reports all of its votes at once, and the candidates in each constituency are standing on the same stage as the results are announced. This is vastly different than how American and Canadian election results are announced, in which each polling place usually reports results individually, with media outlets making projections in election night coverage based on the polling place results and final results being officially reported weeks, if not months, after the date of the election, with candidates not being present for the announcement of official results.

Labour’s anti-Scotland rhetoric cost them any chance of forming a government

During the campaign, Labour, which will, once again, be the main opposition party in the Commons, spent most of their campaign railing against Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP, and Scotland as a whole. This cost Labour a large number of constituencies in Scotland that, prior to yesterday’s elections, were longtime Labour strongholds, and probably helped to give the Greens gain a sizable share of the popular vote that may have helped the Tories win some seats in England. Had Labour ran on increased devolution to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, they might have held on to a lot of their seats in Scotland and may have prevented the Tories from getting a majority by themselves. Instead, the Tories have an outright majority in the Commons, and Nicola Sturegon is effectively the voice of the Scottish people in Parliament.

For Labour to go back to Tony Blair-type centrist leadership would likely put Labour in an even worse position politically than they currently are for three reasons: One, they’d gain virtually nothing in Scotland, unless the SNP alienates some voters who supported them last night. Two, they’d give the Greens a even larger base of support among current left-wing Labour supporters who would be alienated by another Blair-type leader at the helm of Labour. Three, they wouldn’t gain enough from the Tories, who benefit heavily due to right-wing media bias from both the public media and the corporate media in the UK, the SNP, and possibly other parties to make up for any losses to the Greens and possibly other parties.

For Labour to at least have a chance at getting back in power, they would need to win back their former Scottish strongholds that went SNP last night by supporting increased devolution to Scotland, and they would need to win over voters they lost to the Greens by adopting and supporting a progressive, isolationist platform.

ENDORSEMENT: YES for Scottish independence

I’m an American who lives in a small town in the east central part of the U.S. state of Illinois, so I have no vested interest whatsoever in the politics of the United Kingdom, but I’ve been inspired by the social media-driven Yes campaign for Scottish independence, and my endorsement of Scottish independence is more of a way of expressing my admiration of Scottish independence supporters than anything else.

In order to circumvent the British press, the Yes campaign in Scotland has developed an extensive social media network, and I’ve seen it in action. Recently, rock musician Sir Bob Geldof, who was born in the Republic of Ireland (which fought a war against the UK for independence and won), gave a speech opposing Scottish independence from London, which is the single worst place one could pick to give a speech opposing Scottish independence. Because of the Twitter presence of Scottish independence supporters, several topics related to Geldof’s speech, such as “Bob Geldof” and “Trafalgar Square”, are trending on Twitter as I type this blog post. The pro-Scottish independence campaign’s network of supporters on social media reminds me a lot of the social media presence that progressive activists in the U.S. state of Wisconsin built up during the 2011 protests against the busting of labor unions there.

Besides, what does Scotland get with its 307-year-old union with England and Wales? Nothing but a ton of bloviating Westminster politicians and the British press fawning over the Duchess of Cambridge at every opportunity. Worst of all, the No campaign against Scottish independence has resorted to the kind of right-wing fearmongering that is normally seen from Republican politicians here in the United States.

I encourage Scottish voters to vote Yes on the Scottish independence referendum on Thursday.