Sunday, 31 August 2008

Faithful turn against faith schools

. Melanie McDonagh, writing in the Independent on Sunday, writes an engaging piece on the launch of Accord. Accord is a campaign group seeking to end the religious discrimination practised by faith schools and seeks to open them up to all. Now it is not a normal one by any standards; it is not staffed and supported by the usual suspects who you would expect to be against faith schools like the National Secular Society but has substantial support from progressive religious figures. A progressive Rabbi, Dr Jonathan Romain, is the chairman and it has support from the Christian think-tank Ekklesia.

It is worth quoting at length from Accord's 'Declaration of aims';

"In a pluralist, multi-cultural society, the state should promote tolerance and recognition of different values and beliefs. Given the dangers of segregation and the importance of community cohesion we need schools that welcome all and are committed to non-discrimination. Schools should promote a culture of questioning, of knowledge, of respect and of exploration of values, where students develop their own identities and sense of place in the world. We believe all state-funded schools should:

1. Operate admissions policies that take no account of pupils’ – or their parents’ – religion or beliefs.

2. Operate recruitment and employment policies that do not discriminate on the grounds of religion or belief.

3. Follow an objective, fair and balanced syllabus for education about religious and non-religious beliefs – whether determined by their local authority or by any future national syllabus or curriculum for RE.

4. Be made accountable under a single inspection regime for RE, Personal, Social & Health Education (PSHE) and Citizenship.

5. Provide their pupils with inclusive, inspiring and stimulating assemblies in place of compulsory acts of worship.

And we commit to work with each other locally and nationally to turn public support for inclusive education into a campaign for reform that the government cannot ignore."

All good stuff and something that a committed atheist as well as a devout believer can sign-up too. The unifying potential of secularism as a political and, dare I say it democratic, principle can be seen here; it is simply not true that opponents of faith schools are the ones sowing social division and creating a segregationist society.

McDonagh argues the point rather brilliantly herself;

"But it's precisely the fact that they are discriminatory that makes them Catholic, or Anglican, or Jewish, or Muslim."

At least she admits they are discriminatory and seems perfectly willing to celebrate that fact;

"A Catholic school in which the children are drawn impartially from all religious groups and none, in which the staff, from the head down, are no more likely to be Catholic than agnostic, is simply not going to be a Catholic school , period. It will simply be a school which happens to have a funny religious name and which has a distant historical connection with the Catholic church, by virtue of having been established by an order of nuns or whatever.

It will be impossible for such a school to have what is fashionably called a Christian ethos – because, believe it or not, such an ethos is not some sort of free-floating quality which happens to attach itself to a church school."

So, not only are these schools cradles of religious discrimination and crucibles of inherent prejudice but they are not even any good as representatives of the values they are supposed to instill. Her comparison with Labour university societies and working men's clubs is invalidated by precisely the point that she makes; namely the exclusionary status of these bodies is not enshrined in or protected by law. Rather they are self-selecting, no Conservative in his right mind would join a Labour society and affluent business men prefer fashionable wine bars. Her argument that if Conservatives wanted to join a Labour society they would "change it's character radically" is, being blunt, stupid. As pointed out above they wouldn't want too they choose not too but they do have that choice; the same can't be said of hapless pupils and parents faced with the great walls put up around faith schools. They are denied the choice.

I find it ironic that she can write so blithely about faith schools not "skimming the cream" in a newspaper which in the past has produced stories which show a wealth of evidence that they do indiscriminately. Even she shows the take-up of free school meals is some 5% lower than across the wider state sector and then goes onto vaguely say this "does not prove anything." She then goes onto say 'Church schools work' so why get rid of them?? Surely she has already answered that question in admitting their discriminatory nature and it follows that discrimination fosters prejudice so for her to say "Accord is a simple recipe for discord" is to show how well-grounded proponents of faith schools are in a pig-headed ability to stare facts in the face.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Sanity?? Shurley some mistake???

. Good post by Dave Osler over on Liberal Conspiracy on the Israel-Palestine issue. He opens by bemoaning the general quality of the debate on the issue which frankly he is right to do; left-wingers especially get into a tangle over it. I think the main reason for this is the nagging desire to create some perfect solution from afar which accommodates both sides and, of course, both peoples claim the tag of oppressed people with gusto.

He makes many worthy points about the double-edged nature of the conflict but rather spoils by slipping in at the end that only a "democratic secular state" will work which of course implies a singular such entity. Of course, conditions may arise which make that acceptable to both parties but it is reasonably unlikely because it would challenge the whole foundations of the Israeli state structure. It would require Israeli's to radically rethink their national identity as being defined by Jewishness and that is unlikely to happen any time soon.

Osler is on safer ground when he argues that;

"Any solution has to be hacked out round a negotiating table. As I observed above, 7.2m people now live in Israel. They will resist any attempt at conquest, and if push comes to shove, they’ve got nukes. The only circumstance in which they will agree to be driven to the sea is when they happen to fancy a daytrip to the beach and go by taxi."

This directly contradicts his later assertion that only a "democratic secular state will work" for the reasons outlined above. His assertion that "all proposals for a two state solution essentially amount to calls for the establishment of one or more bantustans" is a little facillious to say the least. Maybe it isn't an ideal solution but the whole situation is far from ideal. Two-states is the only viable starting point given the situation on the ground and the heavy entrenchment of the two peoples in their own nationalism's. An Israeli and Palestinian state would always have a symbiotic relationship; each dependant on the other for numerous reasons. It is through that experience of co-dependency that they will most likely grow together and overcome the aforementioned antagonisms. Two-states is not an ideal solution but it is a starting point on the road to lasting peace between the two peoples and thus really is the only solution.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Leading us all over the edge of a cliff

. Tim Montgomerie's new site, America in the World has attracted a fair bit of attention and comment; not least from Neil Robertson on Liberal Conspiracy. The site seems to be Montgomerie's effort to see what he sees as a growing tide of 'anti-Americanism'. Robertson is right that the site is aesthetically decent and it's arguments are well-grounded but that doesn't make them any more correct.

In reply to the question posed by Robertson's title I am quite clear in what regard I am 'anti-American'. I am opposed to the governmental policy of the United States; furthermore I am opposed to the way that government and indeed previous ones have exercised their power on the world stage. This in no way means hostility to Americans as independent people or as individual citizens. As my title implies I believe the laughable 'leadership' of America as a nation on the world stage ideologically, economically and militarily is leading the self-styled West over the edge of a precipice.

Robertson rightly riles against the classification of 'liberal idealists' and 'social justice campaigners' alongside 'jihadists' and 'anti-Semites'. However, this should hardly be surprising. Montgomerie is prominent on Conservative Home which gives the site a rather vested interest in the first place. The right, unable to deal with the intellectual arguments in hand, always smears in this way; it is a similar story with any criticism of Israel except it usually throws in a bit of Holocaust-inspired emotional blackmail into the mix. The first response to Robertson's post said;

"To be fair I don’t think Tim or any of those involved in the site would deny the distinctions you make."

I doubt very much that would be the case and it is absolutely the case that the right would lump all things together. However, as we all know some of the most prescient and scathing attacks on American power and it's execution are made by individual Americans themselves eg, Michael Moore. A strong strain of anti-Americanism exists on the left as a hangover from the Cold War; a war in which America nor the West can hardly be said to have a 'morally clean slate' nor even the high-ground at all times.

Robertson is right to say that;

"the key distinction between the anti-Americanism exhibited on the left and that which is most violently spewed by Jihadists and Jew-haters is that caring about human rights, social justice and the environment does not make you anti-American, and nor does criticising an administration for its failures in these areas. It’s only when your criticisms involve such desperate flailing that they turn into attacks on the American people that you become a certified anti-American".

He says it 'seems' like a right-wing ploy "to inoculate the country from criticism by casting all those critics as potential ‘haters’". I am quite happy to go a little further and say that is exactly what it is; a new world order won't be built by relying on the failed policies of an ailing administration and a nation whose government has lost all sense of it's proper place in the world. Fostering co-operation between nations and the development of powerful cross-national institutions which can powerfully resolve problems is the way forward.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Getting something off my chest....

. Apologies in advance for this because instead of the normally (well, mostly normally) well rounded argument you find here this is going to be rant. Please don't hit that back button! Ok, so I smoke, my gf smokes and we both feel that the prejudice against smokers and smoking is irrational and wrong. Of course, it has it's rational kernel in the health implications which all smokers are totally aware of but let's stop and think for a second about other 'bad habits' that incur similar risks and as a point of fact do just as much damage to other people.

I moderate and write for a well-known relationships advice site and can say without hesitation that drinking causes so much pain to others it is untrue; especially what people do while under the influence. If you don't believe me then shall we tot-up how many Alcoholics Anonymous there are in Britain alone?? Or how about how many relationships breakdown after an ill-advised drunken fumble; how many instances of domestic violence start with drink? How about how many suicides or instances of self-harm follow binge drinking?? You can start to see my point.

Unprotected sex with numerous partners is no doubt practised by far more people than smoke; with just as ruinous consequences but do any of these people get the hammering smokers do?? No they don't; smokers are increasingly social pariahs and the judgements are encouraged by government legislation that has turned away from prevention of health problems in non-smokers to active persecution of smokers. Prejudice on the grounds of habit is no better than prejudice on the grounds or race or sexuality yet it seems to me that the liberal left is more than willing to entertain and encourage the former while being rightly disgusted by the latter. I am a big fan of consistency and especially in politics and it has rightly been said of liberalism in the past that it isn't consistent; that it vacillates. Isn't it time to get our house in order over this and make a stand for everybodies liberty where it is attacked???

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Re-branding Labour

. Coffee House reports that the Labour government is considering a major 're-branding' exercise;

"Labour might drop its “new Labour for Britain” slogan and replace it with “Your Labour, Your Britain”. The thinking is that this would emphasise the ‘on your side’ fairness agenda that will underpin Brown’s attempt at an autumn fight-back. It also suggests that Labour is planning a more populist strategy in an attempt to try and stoke up its base which as recent elections have shown is thoroughly disillusioned with the party.

Dropping the ‘new Labour’ tag that Blair introduced would attract considerable comment. But Labour must be betting that it has got all it can out of the new Labour brand. Indeed, it has survived for long than most people expected. Back in 1997 in Blair’s 100 Days, Derek Draper—who is now back in Downing Street—was suggesting that new Labour would at some point re-brand itself as ‘Classic Labour.’"

Since this government is increasingly looking like the last turkey in the shop would my readers like to contribute any helpful suggestions??? The prize for the winner is permanent incarceration in Millbank Towers and a signed copy of 'I can make the world spin like your favourite CD baby' authored by the late and unlamented Peter Mandleson.

Is social conservatism having a 'mini-revival'?

. Interesting piece in The Economist looking at the Conservatives recent attempts to re-brand themselves. It points to recent "unmistakable stirrings of social conservatism from the Tories" and asks whether this is a decisive shift and whether they will be able to chime with a largely still liberal electorate. This blog and others have often highlighted the contradiction between what has been said by the Conservative leadership and what is done either by it or most of it's MP's in the division lobbies especially. I think very much this is a case of 'true colours shining through' and more needs to be done to expose the contrast and there needs to be less googly-eyed admiration of the Tories and Mr Cameron himself in particular.

In the article The Economist cites crime as "a growing concern among voters"and speculates "there may be demand for tougher punishments." Here we see what is essentially the genesis of social conservatism; it feeds off fear of harm to oneself or of change in general. The more relaxed and secure people are the more permissive they tend to be willing to be because in general most people are inclined that way. Peoples level of toleration is also determined by individual experience.

This explains why somebody who is tolerant of, for example, homosexuality might be rabidly in favour of further curbs on civil liberties or hostile to immigration. Anti-terror laws are popular because people watch the news and being blown to bits scares people. However, few people form their views into a coherent narrative except those people who are politically active in some way. Most people 'float' and pick and choose their stances based on individual experience and individual fears that they may have; thus they are harder to pin down but easier to win by a politically opportunist party, something that Cameron's Conservatives no doubt are.

The Economist feels that this time might be more successful than they were during the farcical 'Back-to-Basics' Major days. It quite rightly says there is a real danger of being exposed and convicted on charges of hypocrisy but ultimately feels "the Tories’ flirtation with righteousness will not end badly this time". Apparently; "theirs is not a heavy-handed approach. It generally rejects compulsion in favour of exhortation". The reason for this should be obvious to anybody able to think; the Tories' are in opposition, not government so they are in no position to be 'heavy-handed' in the first place. A Conservative government will be a very different beast indeed and we need to be making that point; constantly hammering it home until the voters are positively bored of hearing it and want to scream WE GET IT.

Our other challenge is to develop a coherent narrative that combats this drift which finds itself resonating with the voters whose gut instincts are inclined in our favour.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Georgia - Russia, A plague on both your houses

. An argument between bullies is never pleasant. This is how I view the recent dispute between Georgia and Russia. While there is no doubt that that Russia has shown it's usual sneering, crass and chauvinistic side in it's response there is also little doubt that the intervention of Georgia into South Osseita was heavy-handed and could have potentially resulted in allot of civilian deaths. No doubt it was designed to deter any willing South Osseitians from exercising their democratic right to determine their own future.

It may be speculated that the Georgian's, had they been allowed free rein in Tskhinvali would have collectively punished the citizenry for their impudence. Tskhinvali was shelled; this is not the hallmark of a surgical military operation aimed at militias, it is the hallmark of a military operation which at the very best can be said to be heedless of collateral damage. At worst it is the hallmark of a military operation that has as it's aim collective punishment. This is the primary reason Georgia cannot be supported in this conflict, it took a clear aggressive action that was willing to kill innocent civilians and may even had that as it's aim. Let's take an example, most would decry any claims by Hamas to be only targeting Israeli military precisely because it indiscriminately shells Israeli cities. Also, much has rightly been made of the timing; if Georgia has nothing to hide then why did this action start when it knew the world's eyes would be elsewhere; on the opening of the Olympic Games??

However, that is not to exonerate or even whitewash the Russian response. Vladmir Putin is a 'Great Russian' chauvinist following in a long established line which includes the Tsar's and such luminaries as Joseph Stalin, ironically a Georgian. His successor is no better and it is clear that Russia had as it's aim the bullying of Georgia into accepting a punitive peace. Self-determination for South Osseita is a convenient peg for Russia to hang it's expansionist ambitions on; the citizens of Grozny will attest to the unwillingness of Russia to let the nations of the Caucuses and Eastern Europe go their own way.

One other thing can be drawn from the conflict; the West is totally impotent. Much like Rome in her last days it no longer shapes the world it exists in militarily, economically or ideologically but is instead shaped by it; these are the last days of real Western power. Even the US is in the same situation; it threatened 'dire consequences' but realistically they amount to little more than stern words. Russia has showed that the balance of world power is shifting away from the West to, potentially, a new Chinese-Russian power bloc. Of course this will not make the world a safer place but instead a more fractured and unstable one.

Irrational bliss??

. Interesting piece on Liberal Conspiracy by Chris Dillow. He suggests that in fighting for/attaining freedom irrationality has it's place alongside rationality. This is, of course, true; to be irrational sometimes is human nature and it has played a progressive role too in humanities development. This is especially true when it comes to challenging established orthodoxies. Often any challenges to the established order are dubbed 'irrational' and even 'insane'.

However, for some the freedom to be irrational is part of the essence of freedom itself; others need a structure around which to build their lives so naturally they baulk against this suggestion. In Dillow's article he says that; "religious belief is correlated with greater happiness, more law-abiding behaviour and support (pdf) for markets." Obviously this is the case because these people favour the structured approach. Irrational believers are less likely to be sure of their happiness and freedom and maybe this reflects in any survey results.

Rationality can become just as 'God-like' as anything that spews forth from various religious texts. Making this so is just as dangerous as the often irrational prejudice generated by irrational religious beliefs. It can generate prejudice itself and often leads to some politically very dark places. Ideologies by their very nature often mix the two things; especially extremist ones. If you look at Nazism especially there is clear evidence of pseudo-science being mixed with outlandish beliefs in paranormal phenomena. Stalinist Communism provides numerous examples of god-building; the 'cult of Lenin' being one that springs to mind.

Dillow draws a line between two forms of rationality; belief rationality and instrumental rationality. I would draw a line between forms of irrationality; between those who believe in out-and-out chaos for it's own sake and those who believe that the way to advance freedom is to constantly challenge and push it's horizons forward through that challenge. A blurring of the lines between the different forms can occur as with the different forms of rational belief. I would count myself in the latter group of 'irrational believers'.

I think Dillow is wrong to see the counter-position as being between different kinds of rationality. The real question is how the two blend and intermix to allow us to be constantly 'champing at the bit'; pushing freedom forward.

UN - Labour limiting freedoms.

. According to The Guardian, the United Nations has recognised something we have all known for a long time; that this government is severely curtailing everybodies freedom. The report of it's human rights committee calls for the reform of libel laws and controls on the application of anti-terror legislation.

The UN says that the:

· Terrorism Act 2006 provisions covering encouragement of terrorism are too broad and vague, and should be amended so that their application does not lead to "a disproportionate interference with freedom of expression".

· Libel laws should be reformed to end so-called "libel tourism", whereby wealthy foreigners have gone to the high court to sue over articles that would not warrant action in their own country.

· Powers under the Official Secrets Act have been "exercised to frustrate former employees of the crown from bringing into the public domain issues of genuine public interest, and can be exercised to prevent the media from publishing such matters".

Obviously these are issues that we are all concerned about. However, we have to recognise that a culture of fear politics creates the climate for the government to either win active support or at least passive acceptance of these measures. This is especially true with regard to anti-terror legislation. So, we need to win the argument in public first before we can win the political one.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Was it THAT Tom Watson???

. I have just been reading Iain Dale's Diary. Iain has been featuring guest posts and he reports a comment that he received;

"Labour Minister Tom Watson has just left this comment on the latest Guest Blog (well, I assume it is THAT Tom Watson...)...

"Iain, These guest posts aren't great are they. They are too long and too dull. I come to Iain Dale's diary for comment by Iain Dale. If I wanted to read these other chaps I'd go to their lame blogs. I don't. I know I can just scroll past their useless writing, but do I have to. Please stop po$sting these."

Now, given that the comment links back to Tommy Hilfiger it possibly isn't but then I read on Tom's website that he was;

"the UK’s first Parliamentary blogger."

So obviously he takes a keen interest in the blogsphere. If it was the Tom Watson and he happens by chance to be reading this then I only have this to say;


That is all.

Democracies fickle friends

. I am currently involved in something of a debate on Liberal Democrat Voice. It was all started by Norman Baker's proposals to scrap the oath of allegiance. Let's be perfectly clear; MP's allegiance is and always should be to the people that elect them, to represent them and their interests. It should never be to an unelected head of state who only represents the interests of one tawdry, over-mighty and over-endowed with wealth and power, family.

It is a total misconception to see the monarchy as 'purely ceremonial'. Powers undemocratically reserved to the monarch are either held in reserve in case of the establishment needing to protect itself or are undemocratically exercised by the government of the day through the privy council. What is more it is the source from which the entire form of government flows; including things like the electoral system which we as a party are committed to the radical overhaul of; so supporting this form of state and our stance on other questions are totally incompatible and a model of inconsistent democracy.

Jennie Rigg contends that "democracy is a means to an end". This is a fundamentally flawed approach. The question that begs itself is what end?? I am happy to say democracy is an end in itself; the end being the empowerment and liberation of the people. She raises the canard of the majority being in favour of the restriction of civil liberties. Because the House of Lords have a better stance on the Commons majority (not a big majority) this is seen as proof positive that the current system needs to be in place. It can only be said that these kinds of arguments are made by people who feel that their argument is so weak that the people can never be won around. As such it is a counsel of utter despair and desperation.

Historically speaking liberalism springs from that radical milieu that pushed the frontiers of democracy forward. This should always be it's guiding spirit. We need to challenge not just the trappings of a fundamentally flawed democracy but it's entire structure. Such an approach would have many positive spin-offs not least the beginnings of a reinvigoration of peoples interest and participation in politics as a whole. It would challenge a culture in which people are prepared to accept the erosion of civil liberties and roll back those restrictions. In short what we need is a programme that rediscovers that radical spirit and once again pushes democracy and Britain forward.

£55 million for what???

. Today's Daily Telegraph carries quite a staggering report. It claims that in the last year the government has spent £55 million on polls and surveys. It seems that the Department of Transport is a huge culprit, two of the most expensive polls were conducted by it. One, looking at the feasibility of charging motorists for every mile they drive, cost Ruth Kelly's department £566,111. A second, asking the public about their attitudes to climate change, cost £411,500.

Ipsos-MORI, have been paid at least £31m over the last two years are big beneficiaries of government largess. Defending the outlay, a Cabinet Office spokesman said;

"First class policy making means finding ways to ensure the voices and demands of ordinary people are heard and acted upon by Government, maximising opportunities for people to have an impact on decisions that affect their lives."

My first reaction when I read this was WHY and HOW?? Of course, the amount spent is obscene and speaks rather eloquently of a rudderless government. However, I couldn't help wondering how this much could be spent especially in the internet age. The means to consult people without spending such large sums of money on it are clearly there so why are they not being used?? Could there be a better example of how useless this government really is??

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Moments campaign - No to Thatcher funeral

. I have to decided to give this blog a more campaigning edge especially after the Davis fiasco...(am I allowed to say TOLD YOU SO twice??) ...and so petitions and gradually other features will be worked that spirit this months is aimed at stopping the farce of a state funeral for Margaret Thatcher; something that, as I pointed out yesterday, is not only deeply offensive to those people and communities that she wrecked but a total abuse of the state funeral without further ado PLEASE SIGN....

We the undersigned note the recent proposals that Lady Thatcher be given a
state funeral upon her death. We feel that the legacy of this individual can, at
best, be regarded as divisive and as such a state funeral is not appropriate. It
should not be forgotten that as a direct result of her policies whole
communities were destroyed. Regardless of individual feelings about her policies
we do not feel a state funeral is appropriate to mark the passing of politicians
whose legacy by definition is divisive. We therefore call on the government to
not allow these plans to go ahead and for a statement to be issued to that
effect immediately.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

NOOOO to a state funeral for Thatcher

. If any of my readers have seen the BBC's rather excellent House of Cards series then they will know that it features in the final installment, The Final Cut, a state funeral for Margaret Thatcher. Is this fiction about to become an unpleasant reality?? Apparently Harriet Harmen is undecided, maybe she is distracted by the ongoing state funeral for the Labour government but in the spirit of fraternity let this blog make the decision for her; NOOOOOO, never ever.

As a republican I feel it is bad enough we have to endure the rigmarole for an unelected head of state who lives at the taxpayers expense and whose only constitutional function is to undemocratically reserve powers to frustrate the will of the people or else cut ribbons and open buildings. You may think that as somebody who is hostile to Thatcher and her legacy of wanton destruction on whole communities this is a natural reaction from myself but there are wider issues. What sort of precedent does a state funeral for Thatcher set?? Will Tony Blair be the next recipient of such an event??

A state funeral for Thatcher would be an insult to those communities she destroyed and would hardly be a unifying event that 'could bring the nation together'. Political leaders by their very nature will always be divisive and should definatly not be the subject of formal national mourning. If she is granted a state funeral it would set a dangerous and divisive precedant which I rather fear would discredit and cheapen politics even further.

Breaking the boom and bust cycle...

. I was reading Charlotte Gore's latest musings on another week of Labour back-biting and a thought occurred to me. Charlotte asked if it was wrong to be enjoying this spectacle and I suppose from a partisan point of view the distress of the opposing team is always a cause for semi-secret joy. Speaking personally there is a slight tinge of sadness/bitterness as well because as many of you know I was actually a Labour activist in 97. I suppose then the writing was already on the wall; we should have known things could only get worse when Blair started slyly junking things like electoral reform.

However, a good reason not to enjoy the current dogfight is that it is emblematic of a Boom and Bust cycle of politics which can only contribute to things like rising apathy and disaffection with politics in general. In this cycle a government enters office riding high on the expectations of a weary population and, crucially, with a thumping majority which realistically guarantees a three-term minimum. They govern and invariably assume an aura of invincibility as victory follows victory. However, once the leader of the charge disappears a weak and tepid government follows which turns in on itself as people invariably do when their livelihoods are threatened and that feeling of certainty dissipates.

David Cameron's Conservatives may well benefit from this next time around if the current polls and general feeling in the country are anything to go by; something which regardless of your view of them is bad for politics in general. In the first phase of the cycle the government pretty much does as it pleases, confident it can get away with pretty much anything no matter how unpopular it is; in the second the government is powerless to do anything and is blown off course by the slightest of breezes.

One party dominance is thus bad for democracy all round. In the first phase the governing party dominates the debate stifling dissenting voices and in the second it is completely clueless. I think we should be making more of this and building momentum for the changes to the electoral system we all want to see; rather than crowing at Labour's distress we should be using it to build momentum for real and lasting torture a cliche we should make it happen.