Wednesday, May 12, 2010
A fairer voting system for Britain
Britain has long used a primitive voting system that delivers very unjust results. A party (such as the Liberals) can get around 25% of the vote but only a tiny handful of seats in Parliament. The new Conservative- led government has undertaken to hold a referendun to change the system to "Alternative voting" (AV), which is fairer. The referendum will almost certainly be carried with all parties supporting it.
Such a system is already well established in Australia and Ireland. It is however nothing like the European system of proportional representation, which is also primitive in its way. An outline of how AV works generally is given below.
How it will work in Britain is an interesting speculation. The most likely outcome as I see it is that most BNP and UKIP votes will be delivered to the Tories and Liberal votes could be delivered to Labour.
As there are a lot of Liberal voters but not many BNP and UKIP voters, that would be a huge win for Labour, which is why the Labour party will support the change. The Liberal party, however, hopes it will go the other way and deliver Labour votes to them, which is why they support it. Since they have nothing to lose they no doubt see that as a worthwhile gamble and are insisting on it as the price for joining the Conservatives in government
Australia has used alternative voting – or preferential voting as it is known here – longer than any other country.
Under this system, each voter ranks the list of candidates in order of preference. If, when the ballots are counted, one candidate holds a majority — i.e. 50 per cent of the vote — that candidate can be declared the winner.
Otherwise the candidate who holds the fewest first preferences is eliminated, the ballots assigned to that candidate are recounted and the second preference of each voter is used to reassign their vote to one of the remaining candidates.
This goes on until one candidate wins a majority of votes and is declared the winner.
The system was introduced in Australia in 1918, when the rise of the Conservative Country party, (now known as the Nationals) which represented small farmers, split the Conservative vote in two.
The then Conservative government of Billy Hughes introduced preferential voting to prevent Labor gaining seats from the conservative split as they would have done in a first past the post system.
It meant that, under preferential voting, the two Conservative parties would be able to compete without putting their seats at risk as the second preference of each party would go to the other.
The system has continued to work for the Conservative Liberal/ National coalition and has been gradually extended not only to both upper and lower houses, but to the state and territory legislatures.
Traditionally, preferential voting has been seen as favouring the Conservatives because it allowed Liberal and National voters to swop preferences. But the rise of the left-leaning Green party in the 1990s has swung the balance back in favour of Labor.
While the nature of the third party can be crucial to the vote, and has allowed candidates to win seats despite coming second in the vote it has not dramatically changed the result in any federal election. However in 1990 National Party leader Charles Blunt famously lost his seat after the anti-nuclear campaigner Dr Helen Caldicott stood against him, gaining the third share of the vote.
Although Mr Blunt had a 10,000 vote lead over his nearest rival, Labor candidate Neville Newell, when Dr Caldicott’s votes were reassigned the vast majority went to Mr Newell, who went on to win the seat despite having originally polled only 27 percent of the vote.
A similar result was seen in the Irish Presidential elections in 1990 when Mary Robinson won, despite having come second to Brian Lenihan of Fianna Fail. Ireland also uses preferential voting and while Mr Lenihan had the largest share of the vote, he did not have the majority needed to win outright. When the votes of the third candidate, Austin Currie, were recounted, Ms Robinson, being the second preference of a majority of his supporters, got 80 percent of Mr Currie’s votes and overtook Mr Lenihan to become the seventh President of Ireland.
The agreed policies of Britain's new government
Generally fairly satisfactory for conservatives but a long way from the radical reform that is really needed, Still, incremental reform is the conservative way. Failure to eliminate the death tax is disappointing but Britons are long used to "fiddling" that one anyway. The main gain is there there will no longer be far-Left madmen in charge of the various ministries
David Cameron has agreed major concessions on the length for which a Parliament sits and tax policy to strike a coalition deal with the Liberal Democrats, it emerged last night.
The new Government will legislate for fixed term Parliaments - meaning that Mr Cameron gives up his historic right to choose when he goes to the polls. Senior Government sources revealed that the two parties have agreed that they hope the next General Election will be held on May 7, 2015.
That move will alarm Tory MPs who assumed Mr Cameron might try to 'cut and run' and call a snap election at which the party would hope to win an overall majority, enabling it to ditch the Lib Dems.
In the biggest concession, Chancellor George Osborne has agreed to make the Lib Dem policy of lifting the income tax threshold to £10,000 a major priority. From April next year, the parties have agreed to make the first step with a 'significant' increase in the tax-free allowance. The move will benefit millions of low and middle income families.
But the Tories will pay for it with a significant tax rise - an increase in capital gains tax for non-business assets, such as someone's second home, so that the rate is close to the level of income tax.
The Tories have also agreed to kick their plan to raise the inheritance tax threshold, which the Lib Dems bitterly opposed, into the long grass. 'Inheritance tax has had to be sacrificed as a priority,' said a senior Tory source.
But Mr Cameron has insisted on attempting to press ahead with his plan to offer to a £150-a-year tax break for married couples, despite the fierce opposition of the Liberal Democrats. Lib Dem MPs have agreed to abstain on the proposal when it comes to the Commons, meaning it should be passed into law despite Labour opposition.
A pledge to reduce Britain's eye-watering deficit is at the heart of the deal struck between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.
Government sources confirmed that the new coalition would 'significantly' accelerate the reduction of the deficit through slashing public spending rather than tax rises. Over the course of the next year, the new Government will cut non-frontline public services by £6billion.
On electoral reform, the Conservatives have agreed to hold a referendum on an alternative voting system and to pursue plans for a partly or wholly elected House of Lords.
They have also reached 'easy' agreement on what senior Government sources described as a 'Great Repeal Bill' to reverse Labour's Big Brother state. It will scrap ID cards, the new generation of biometric passports and protect trial by jury in a 'Freedom Bill'.
The Lib Dems have abandoned their controversial proposal for an amnesty for illegal immigrants. Extraordinarily, they have instead agreed to the flagship Tory commitment to impose an annual cap on non-EU migrants.
Tory plans for a benefit crackdown, which will see claimants who refuse to work denied handouts, will go ahead.
And Mr Cameron's flagship 'free schools' programme, which will smash the state monopoly on education and allow charities, groups of parents and businesses to run state schools, will proceed as planned. The two parties have also struck a deal on a new 'pupil premium' which will mean schools getting extra funding for deprived schoolchildren.
The coalition government will remain committed to the Trident nuclear deterrent, though the Lib Dems will be free to campaign for alternatives.
The Lib Dem proposal for a 1 per cent mansion tax on properties worth £2million or more has been ditched.
The two parties have agreed to break up Britain's banks so that 'casino' investment arms are separated from old-fashioned retail banks. An independent commission will be established to draw up legislation.
The capital gains tax rise - bringing rates closer to those for income tax - will mean a big increase in tax rates on second homes, shares and other assets. Currently it is levied at 18 per cent.
The Government will introduce a new banking levy, even without international agreement, Government sources said, as well as new measures to curb City bonuses. The Tories and the Lib Dems have also found common ground on moves to create an 'ecofriendly', low-carbon economy.
Muslim acid attacker jailed for 30 years in for avenging family's 'dishonour'
Is the Teflon coating wearing off Muslims in Britain?
An acid attacker who left a 25-year-old man severely disfigured in a horrific plot to avenge his family’s “dishonour” was jailed for 30 years today.
Mohammed Vakas, 26, of Walthamstow, northeast London, was found guilty by an Old Bailey jury of conspiring with his sister Sadia Khatoon and her husband to murder Awais Akram.
The victim was targeted because of his intimate relationship with Ms Khatoon, 24, a married businesswoman he had met on Facebook, the court heard. When her husband, Shakeel Abassi, and Vakas, her brother, found out about it, they made her lure Mr Akram out of his flat to the scene of the attack.
There the victim was beaten and stabbed before Vakas poured concentrated sulphuric acid over his head, leaving him with 47 per cent burns and fighting for his life. Mr Akram survived but continues to undergo treatment for his injuries. He told the court that the attack was so painful he had wanted to die.
Fellow attackers Mohammed Adeel, 20, also of Walthamstow, and a 17-year-old youth, who can now be named as Fabion Kuci, of Harlesden, northwest London, were convicted of conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm. Adeel was jailed for 14 years and the youth was locked up for eight years.
Judge Brian Barker, the Common Serjeant of London, said that the horrifying case involved a “remorseless and heartless” plan.
“It was to punish and kill Mr Akram in the most cruel and sadistic way,” said Judge Barker. “This was a terrible crime and all right-thinking citizens reject the premise on which it was done. There is no honour, and plots and actions such as this have no place in our society.”
Describing the harrowing evidence given by Mr Akram in the trial, he said: “Few of us will have seen anything like that before and we must all hope we don’t see anything like that again.”
Mr Akram has had “innumerable” operations and has suffered permanent scarring as well as being “deeply affected psychologically”, the judge said. He continued to suffer from a fear which be believes “will be there for the rest of his life”, he added.
“He did not die but his suffering then and since is almost impossible to imagine and he is left in a living nightmare.”
Vakas was a “major and crucial part of the conspiracy” and was expecting the victim to suffer “an agonising death”, the judge said, while Khatoon and her husband “were central to this plan and should have been in the dock”.
One witness said the victim looked like a “cross between a zombie from a horror movie and the Incredible Hulk” after the attack in Leytonstone, East London.
Mr Akram did not know his attackers but realised what it was about after he heard the name “Sadia”. He told how the attack began after he heard footsteps behind him.
“Somebody hit me on my leg first from behind and then I fell on the ground and then two, three or four people surrounded me and then they all started to assault me by beating, then they threw acid before they left.
“At that time I did not know that this was acid, when they were trying to push it into my mouth, but I knew that there was something very dangerous that they were trying to force into my mouth. This is why I tried to cover my mouth, but he did throw it on me.”
Mr Akram described the excruciating pain as the sulphuric acid — a drain clearer — was poured over his head and body.
“When I started feeling this, I did not know how to understand it. I started burning, my whole body started to burn. At that point I just felt that I would be dead. Death was, I felt, a better solution than to be burning like this...
“At that time I wasn’t conscious enough to understand but whenever I think of it now I really start shaking and shivering, and I can’t believe that someone can do this to another person.”
During the plot, the men received instructions from Khatoon’s husband, Abassi, who was in a hotel room near Heathrow with his wife. She was on the phone to the unsuspecting victim who was telling her his whereabouts.
Khatoon and her 32-year-old husband have disappeared in Pakistan and detectives say they now fear for her safety.
Police hailed Mr Akram’s bravery in coming forward to give evidence against his attackers despite being deeply traumatised by what happened. One officer described him as an “incredible young man”.
Useless British police again
Hero students leap into river to save drowning woman - after police REFUSE to rescue her. The cowardly police concerned should be castrated, if there is anything there to castrate
Three students risked their lives by jumping into a river to save a drowning woman - after police refused to rescue her as it was not their 'responsibility'. The 18-year-olds took action after spotting the victim shouting for help and struggling to keep her head above the water level.
Police were at the scene, but said it was up to the Fire and Rescue Service to save the 37-year-old. Instead, officers held back the crowd from the edge of the River Clyde's bank - lifebelts were being thrown into the water, but they were out of the woman's reach.
Graham McGrath, Rosie Lucey and Reece Black, who were walking along the Clyde towards Glasgow Green, jumped into the river near Albert Bridge after it became apparent the officers were not going to.
After dragging the unconscious woman to the bank, Miss Lucey carried out CPR on the victim - whose lips were blue. They were told the woman was close to death and that they had saved her life.
Mr McGrath said: 'There was a woman in the water shouting for help. There was somebody throwing lifebelts to her, but she couldn't get to them. ‘The police were holding people back from the edge of the bridge. It became apparent nobody was doing anything else. She was getting lower and lower in the water.' Miss Lucey said: 'We realised we were watching someone drown.'
Mr McGrath and Miss Lucey jumped in and pulled her to the bank. Mr Black then waded in and dragged all three ashore. The trio, who are all first-year students at Glasgow University, yesterday recalled the rescue, which happened at around 1.30pm on Saturday.
Mr Black said: ‘She was gone. She’d been under the water for two minutes. Her lips were blue and her tongue was white. She was frothing at the mouth. ‘We couldn’t find a pulse anywhere but we kept on going. She eventually started gurgling and a lot of water came out her mouth. ‘I’m still shaken up. We were told she would have almost definitely died but we gave her a 50/50 chance.’
A police spokesman said: ‘A 37-year old woman jumped into the Clyde and was rescued by a member of the public prior to the arrival of the emergency services. ‘As a matter of procedure it’s not the responsibility of the police to go in the water, it’s the Fire and Rescue service.’
George Parsonage of Glasgow Humane Society described the efforts of the students as ‘wonderful’. He told the Scottish Herald: ‘It was heroic. It was really remarkable for three youngsters to do that. I thought it was wonderful.’
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
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