Friday, 12 August 2016

Progress is glacial in tackling electoral wrongs

Some years ago I reported on the available evidence that demonstrated that UK electoral standards had slumped to a place below that of many third world nations, and of standards so low as to be unknown in any other advanced Western democracy. Michael Pinto Duschinsky had the figures; 3m on the electoral roll who should not be, and 3m missing from the roll who should be there, electoral quotients of third world standards, way beyond an OSCE basis of +/-5% and ridiculously far away from the +/-3% that advanced democracies such as New Zealand enforce, and voting fraud and personation off the scale as a direct consequence of Blair's seedy and crooked intervention to 'game' the system.

Slowly and very carefully the Tory governments from 2010 on took notice, but without the support of Labour, who continued to put party interests before the probity of our national electoral system. The roll-out of individual voter registration has rid the cities of multiple registrations, and the change of constituency boundaries due in 2017 will bring us somewhere close to +/-5%.

However, as Eric Pickles reports, electoral fraud and personation, particularly amongst Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, is as bad as ever. This is not unrelated to Islamism, and to the low standards of truth, probity and decent behaviour inherent in Moslem religious belief that many believe permits lying and deceit under certain circumstances, including UK elections. 

Pickles suggests indelible finger-dye at polling stations; I think this goes too far. We are not yet Dhaka or Karachi. Such measures are fine for foreign natives, but an insult to an English native. No. Other measures for the 2020 elections, including proactive policing, mandatory prison time for voting fraud, ID checks at polling stations and a police presence to prevent tribal or Islamist intimidation should make the point; all voters respect our electoral system or do jail time.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Crooked fat-cats grassed up to SFO by their own bosses?

The people at the very top of a global corporate with substantial assets in the UK face a quandry. They are happy to agree to any level of corrupt practice, any level of underhand crooked dealing, bribes, blackmail, fraud and deceit in order to maintain sales and fatten the bottom line, but new legislation including the Bribery Act puts them personally in the frame and exposes the firm to unlimited fines. What to do?

Well, the firm gets off Scot-free if it reports itself for fraud. So what bosses must do is motivate a second-tier of fat cat executives to do all the dirty work - sell a £70m piece of mobile engineering to a dodgy third-world dictator, for example, on the understanding that they will welsh on the deal and the firm can make false claims under what used to be called Export Credit Guarantees, meaning the taxpayer funds a new piece of mobile engineering for the President of Bongo-Bongo land and his wives - and when things get too hot, the bosses grass the executives up to the Serious Fraud Office saying 'We knew nothing, officer, we are shocked and outraged by their awful deeds'. 

Just random speculation, there, not referring to any global corporate in particular, mind.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Parliament needs an effective opposition

I shed no tears for the imminent demise of both the Labour and Conservative parties. Long predicted, the time has come when their abandonment of actual members in favour of big donors and their becoming  brands rather than mass-membership movements means they are no longer sustainable in their current forms. UKIP remains critically important as guardians of Brexit - any resiling from the vote, and the next election will be won by an overwhelming majority of Brexit MPs. But right now, there's only one UKIP MP.

However, whilst all this is going on, there is no effective opposition to government in Parliament, no effective scrutiny and a much diminished rein on wayward ministers. PMs these days bribe their own parliamentary parties by handing out junior ministerial posts like Mr Cameron hands out MBEs - and those not yet appointed will be on their best behaviour with hopes for a future government job as junior Farmed Fish minister at DEFRA or some such. 

When we last had the option of changing our electoral process, I came out on balance for retaining FPTP for reasons that made good sense at the time - and taking the long view rather than reacting to short-term electoral injustice. If we had some form of PR now, I suspect UKIP and Corbyn-Left radicals would be elected in equal numbers, together with the existing 'soft' centre left and right parties, a handful of greens  and a much reduced number of Scot Nats. It would be I think the end of one-party government and the beginning of permanent coalition.  

I can't really object to moving to unstable governments, compromise policy and the vulnerability of ministers to Parliamentary approval because it means keeping government in check. A conservative government with no parliamentary opposition to keep it in check may threaten me less than a Labour alternative, but I still don't like it. And as I don't think either Labour or the Tories can heal their internal divisions without schism, I now support looking at PR again.