How do people decide how to vote in an election?

November 15th, 2019 by Roger Darlington

The calling of a snap General Election in the UK was hardly a surprise: Boris Johnson was planning one from the day he became Prime Minister and, after failing to get his Brexit deal through Parliament, he decided to seek the majority he needs to get his deal “over the line”.

The result may not be a surprise either. All the polls are currently suggesting a clear win for the Conservatives – although they were wrong in 2017.

But, how does the individual voter make up his or her mind how to vote? I put the factors as ‘the three Ps’.

Personality: Some voters decide on the basis of their local candidate, judging the calibre or reputation of that candidate or voting tactically because they want a particular party to win the seat or not win the seat. Many voters decide on the basis of the leader of the political parties, especially making a judgement as to who would be the best Prime Minister. In the current General Election, both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn are very popular with some and loathed by others.

Policies: Some voters look at what the various parties have to say on policies that matter to them. These might be general issues, most notably in this election the question of Brexit or more usually subjects like levels of taxation and public expenditure or the state of the National Health Services or schools. Or these might be specific issues such as a third runway at Heathrow or closure of a local hospital or even free superfast broadband .

Principle: More so in the past than today, voters may decide in terms of the type of society they want to see. Do they want an economy dominated by market forces and individual choice or one where the state has a more interventionist role through regulation and taxation? Do they want a state where the rich and powerful are enabled to become richer and more powerful in a ‘free’ society or do they believe that a fairer distribution of power and wealth is better for all sectors of society even if it involves an active state?

I have always made my decision on the basis of principle which essentially means that, from election to election, I have nothing to decide.  In 53 years of having the vote, I have never not voted and I have never voted anything but Labour. I shall do so again, even though I have never supported Corbyn’s leadership and fear that the Party is over-bidding. If there is a Labour Government, I hope that we will have a second referendum on Brexit when I will again vote ‘remain’.

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Once upon a time, Britain actually had a revolution …

November 14th, 2019 by Roger Darlington

… but it was a very British revolution.

I’m doing a six-week evening class at London’s City Literary Institute entitled: “The Making Of The United Kingdom 1603-1801: Restoration, Revolution, and Political Unions”. This week’s session – the third – was all about the 1688-90 Revolution.

It is known as the Glorious Revolution or the Bloodless Revolution and certainly, in the first instance, nobody died.

The Protestant William of Orange was actually invited – by the Immortal Seven noblemen – to take over the British monarchy from the Catholic James II. Initially delayed by storms, William was lucky enough to avoid interception by the English fleet and landed at Torbay with some 20,000 troops. James decided not to deploy his troops and eventually fled the country. A Convention Parliament was elected to work out the terms of the Revolution Settlement.

So far, so British. In fact, subsequently there was armed opposition in Scotland and Ireland and from the French. But this was not as bloody a period as the French Revolution or the American Revolution. Instead it was more like the revolutions of 1989 in Central and Eastern Europe.

Some historians have contrasted the conservatism of the Glorious Revolution with the greater radicalism of the mid-17th century. but other historians have argued that the Revolution itself and subsequent reshaping of English government – especially the emphasis on the supremacy of Parliament – marked a watershed in British political development.

The peculiar British political system has evolved gradually over centuries and even our revolutions are evolutionary.

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How green is your energy tariff?

November 12th, 2019 by Roger Darlington

A recent examination of the UK energy sector by the independent consumer body Which? commented as follows:

“A third of customers believe that if an energy tariff is marked ‘green’ or ‘renewable’ then they expect to get 100% renewable electricity supplied to their home. Another 11% expect that the supplier generates some of the renewable electricity it sells, and 8% expect that it generates all of it.

But it’s not technically possible for renewable power to be directed to your home unless you have a direct line to a generator (solar panels on your roof, for example). The electricity you use at home to power your appliances is the same as your neighbour’s, regardless of the tariff you’re on, if it’s delivered from the grid.

It’s not possible to direct ‘renewable’ electrons to some homes and ‘non-renewable’ electrons to others. Electricity is generated from a variety of different sources, including 39.5% from renewables . But it’s all mixed together in the National Grid, which is the distribution system for electricity.”

So how do you choose an energy supplier if you want to be a genuinely green consumer? You can find the Which? rating of different companies here.

I am a customer of Good Energy which has the highest green rating. You might want to think of switching.

Posted in Consumer matters, Environment | Comments (0)

Five things to know about the artist Bridget Riley

November 11th, 2019 by Roger Darlington

This weekend, I went to the Hayward Gallery on London’s South Bank to see an excellent exhibition of the British artist Bridget Riley. The gallery’s web site has a short article highlighting five facts about Riley:

  • Her abstract paintings explore perception and the way in which we see.
  • Much of her work is inspired by the natural world.
  • Since the late 1960s, her work has explored colour relationships and the way that colours interact.
  • Drawing is hugely important to Riley: she calls it “an exercise in looking”.
  • She has been influenced by the work of other artists – among them the French painter Georges Seurat.

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A review of “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood

November 10th, 2019 by Roger Darlington

“The Handmaid’s Tale” was published in 1985 and I eventually read it in 1994. When the sequel “The Testaments” was published in 2019, I was keen to read it, but I wanted to reread the original work first. The first book is a record made by a Handmaid called Offred who serves a senior Commander in what used to be the city of Bangor, Maine, USA before, in the near future and after a violent insurrection, the country became the closed, totalitarian state of Gilead in which the role of women is subjugated entirely to the aim of restoring a declining birthrate caused by a variety of environmental disasters. As Offred explains: “We are two-legged wombs, that’s all: sacred vessels, ambulatory chalices”.

There is not a lot of plot, since not that much happens over the short period of the story and the ending is inconclusive, but there is a great deal of exposition as Offred constantly recalls and records the creation and organisation of Gilead in all its macabre, ritualistic detail. This is a terrible world of typecasting through colour of clothing, such as Handmaids themselves in red, Wives in blue, Marthas in green, and Commanders in black. It is a nightmare vision with places like The Red Centre, The Wall, and Soul Scrolls and horrific events called Prayvaganzas, Salvagings, and Particicutions. 

At the black heart of it all is The Ceremony when the Handmaid has to have sex with her Commander while the Commander’s Wife holds the Handmaid in place. Births themselves are semi-public affairs and less than perfect babies simply disappear. Offred slowly strikes up forbidden relationships with key actors, but will this lead to her escape and freedom? Canadian author Atwood presents a compelling story that seems sadly prescient now that we have a United States in which women’s rights, especially in relation to their own bodies, are under such challenge.

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A review of the latest Ken Loach film “Sorry We Missed You”

November 10th, 2019 by Roger Darlington

Nobody produces screen work like British television and film director Ken Loach. Now in his 80s, ever since the 1960s – with “Cathy Come Home” and “Poor Cow” – through to “I, Daniel Blake”, he has created a series of trenchant pieces of social commentary that dissect the causes of the darkness faced by so much of the working class.

This time, he critiques the insecurities and unfairness of the gig economy through the story of Ricky (Kris Hitchen), who has just started working for a parcel delivery company, and his wife Abbie (Debbie Honeywood), who is a social worker, struggling to pay the bills and bring up two children in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Ricky’s fictional company is called PDF, but it is a thinly disguised metaphor for the real-life DPD, which, in February 2018, faced widespread criticism due to the treatment of Don Lane, one of its couriers who was fined by the company for attending a medical appointment to treat his diabetes and ultimately collapsed and died of the condition.

Like some earlier works from Loach – including the hard-hitting “I, Daniel Blake” – “Sorry We Missed You” was written by Paul Laverty and stars an unknown cast which, plus research with courier drivers who did not wanted to be named, gives the film powerful verisimilitude. 

This is not an easy film to watch, presenting a grim tale in uncompromising fashion with an inconclusive ending, but it has an important political message and, at its heart, represents the resilience of a loving family.

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A war to end no wars

November 9th, 2019 by Roger Darlington

This evening, I was returning home in the dark when an elderly couple asked me for directions to a location on London’s South Bank and I took them to the place they were seeking to link up with their son.

The husband told me that a short animation had been made about his wife’s grandfather – a veteran of the First World War – by their daughter. I looked it up on YouTube and wanted to share it with you:

If you would like to know why and how the animation was made, check out this short television news item:

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How did Britain’s two-party system come about?

November 7th, 2019 by Roger Darlington

I’m doing a six-week evening class at London’s City Literary Institute entitled: “The Making Of The United Kingdom 1603-1801: Restoration, Revolution, and Political Unions”. This week’s session – the second – was all about the reign of King Charles II, a period which saw the emergence of the two-party system of politics in Britain.

The political division in Parliament came about as a result of the Exclusion Crisis of 1679-1681. This saw an attempt – ultimately unsuccessful – to prevent the Catholic James VIII of Scotland and James II of England from coming to the British throne following the imposition of Protestantism in Britain and Ireland.

Those who supported the exclusion were called Whigs. Originally they went by the fuller name ‘whiggamore’, a term applied to the Scots Covenantators who wanted to keep Catholics out of the monarchy. Key values of the Whigs were civil and political liberty.

Those who opposed the exclusion were called Tories. The nomenclature comes from the Irish word for bandit, outlaw or cattle thief and was originally intended as a term of abuse against those who were content to see a Catholic on the throne. Subsequently the name was applied to those whose main loyalties were to ‘Church and King’. Hence they were the party of the Establishment.

By the end of the 1850s, the Whigs had been replaced by the Liberals. Then, in turn. in 1922, the Labour Party overtook the Liberals in the number of seats held in the House of Commons.

Meanwhile we still have the Tories and the Conservative Party is widely held to be the most successful in the democratic world in terms of winning national elections. They think that they’re heading for another victory in the current General Election. Let’s see …

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Enjoying the different versions of “His Dark Materials”

November 4th, 2019 by Roger Darlington

It’s great that at the weekend BBC One began broadcasting an eight-part television adaptation of the first novel in the brilliant “His Dark Materials” trilogy by Philip Pullman.

I really admired the books:

  • “Northern Lights” – my review here
  • ‘The Subtle Knife” -my review here
  • “The Amber Spyglass” – my review here

The first novel was turned into a film called “The Golden Compass” [my review here], but it did not have critical success and the other two books were never filmed.

Also I saw the two-part stage production at London’s National Theatre.

The BBC adaptation gives eight hours rather than the two in the movie to a portrayal of “Northern Lights” (or “The Golden Compass”, as it is known in the US), it maintains the anti-clerical stance of the novel which was rather lost in the film, and it makes a point of using some black actors.

Today’s “Guardian” newspaper has a review headlined:  “a riveting realisation of Philip Pullman’s magic”.

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Did you know that the Italians bombed Britain in the Second World War?

November 3rd, 2019 by Roger Darlington

I didn’t – even though I know a fair bit about World War Two and my mother was Italian.

Check out this short video:

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