Why I’m voting to Leave the EU

Greetings, fellow humans!  I haven’t blogged in a while, but I’ve something to get off my chest.  What follows is the result of some considerable pondering.  I’ll try and be succinct.

I’m an internationalist.  Or at least, I’ve always thought of myself as one.  It’s my opinion that humans are at their best when they’re working together to achieve some mutually pleasing end – whether it’s trade, collaboration, or simply resisting the urge to maim one another.

I’m also a democrat.  Democracies are superior to autocracies.  They’re morally superior, for the simple reason that power is better than powerlessness.  But they also produce favourable results.  They’re more prosperous.  Their citizens are happier.  They don’t war with one another – though quite a few wars have been fought in order to establish and defend them.

In case you hadn’t noticed, there’s a referendum approaching on our membership of the European Union.  I thought I’d make a point of researching the topic a little before deciding how to cast my vote.  I don’t expend much thought towards the EU, really.  It’s not something I’m often consulted on.

And that, it turns out, is precisely the point. This fledgling superstate is structured in order to minimise democracy.  Its mechanisms are as shielded from public scrutiny as it’s possible to be.  Look at this Wikipedia article on the European Commission and ask yourself whether you seriously think this is a good way of doing things.  The twenty-eight heads of state vote for a president.  This president helps to select a commission (usually comprising a handful of politicians who are tired of having to appease voters, and happy to appease other politicians).  This commission then wields legislative and executive power over five-hundred million people.

I’ve read Dan Hannan’s book, ‘Why Vote Leave’ recently, which makes this case far more eloquently, and in far greater detail than I ever could.  I also read Hugo Dixon’s ‘The In/Out Question’, which makes the case for a reformed EU, and, as you might have gathered, wasn’t anywhere near as persuasive.  At first my suspicion was that Hannan is simply a better writer than Dixon – but really he had the easier job.  The case isn’t a difficult one to make.  It’s not a left/right issue.  It doesn’t matter where you sit on the political spectrum.  Democracy is good; the EU is not designed with democracy in mind.

At the rear of Hannan’s book is a collection of quotes from prominent Eurocrats.  And this section is revealing indeed.  Anyone who thinks this organisation is about mutual co-operation between like-minded nations and not empire-building should examine the sort of people it promotes to high office.

“What is driving us is not to be re-elected,” reveals Dimitris Avramopoulos, the commissioner in charge of fucking up the migrant crisis and creating an enormous fucking mess.  “That’s why for us the political cost means nothing.”

Well, good for you, Dimitris.  Or should I say Emperor Palpatine.  “We need a political federation with the Commission as government,” says Vivianne Reding, another high-ranking sith. Well, maybe you should make that case to your electorate, Vivianne.

Are these the sorts of people we’d like to represent the interests of the continent? Darth Junker puts it in the plainest possible terms, “when it becomes serious you have to lie.”

Right you are then.  You might think that, in context, these quotes (and there are a lot of them) aren’t so bad.  You’re wrong.  They’re worse.  But they’re not a source of outrage for some.  Bizarrely, the sorts people who regard Westminster with hawkish suspicion seem to regard Brussels (and Strasbourg) with a sort of passive acceptance – or even reverence.  Lord knows why this is – perhaps it’s a sort of masochism which assumes that everything foreign must be benevolent.  Perhaps its idealism.  Or perhaps it’s because they perceive the Brussels to be more closely in tune with their personal politics than the current elected government in Westminster, and therefore likely to take the edge off the latter.

If you’re the sort of person who gets angry at the thought of the House of Lords being appointed, or who can’t contemplate the unfairness of a FPTP voting system without seeing spots, then I can’t imagine the moral and logical contortions you’d have to perform in order to defend this unholy freak show.  Even the most cursory examination reveals that it is predicated upon a contempt for democratic process.  Necessarily so, really; if the EU paused for a moment to consider what the people of Europe thought of it, it would probably collapse like a manatee stricken by existential doubt.  This organisation is immune to popular opinion, and is accountable to no-one.  Is it any real surprise that it behaves as it does?

In this interview, Yannis Varafakis describes the loan agreement he wouldn’t sign, which obliged the elected Greek government to agree to whatever the EU might in future impose upon it, and forbade them from passing any legislation without the EU’s permission.  I suppose I should take Greek willingness to remain within the EU as evidence of Stockholm syndrome.

Anyway, the campaign’s officially underway now.  So we can look forward to the procession of career politicians and EU-funded NGOs, all offering their entirely impartial endorsement of the EU. Soon even the President of the United States will pay these shores a visit, and – doubtless without a hint of irony – warn against any future declaration of independence.

That’s my best guess, anyway.  Don’t forget to vote.

WHILE YOU CAN.

Thoughts on Paris

Short one, because other, far more qualified and clever people have penned far more exhaustive and worthwhile comment on this subject than I ever could.  That said, you’re here now, so you might as well read what I have to say.

Even if you’re not in the habit of critiquing the world’s most peaceful monotheism, or of drawing images of its prophet, I should think that it’s no longer possible to believe that you’re safe from being targeted by its most bloody-minded practitioners. But then there have been hundreds of occasions over the past fifteen years where this epiphany should have been reached, and so if you’re not convinced by now, you probably never will be.

Something about Friday night’s appalling events did feel somehow different to those that have come before. The intended targets of this attack were not just fans of football, French cuisine and the Eagles of Death Metal. If you’ve ever been to a sports event, concert, or restaurant then you were among the intended targets of Friday’s display of insanity. Any of the people reading this could have been among those lined up and slaughtered like cattle. I read several status updates on Friday night that began: “Just got back from the gig and seen what happened…”

It just so happened that these people were attending a different venue to the one where the massacre took place. This time.

A terrifying thought. I suppose that’s the point of terrorism. So terrifying that many of us might now choose to avoid live music, restaurants and football matches in future, just as we’ve agreed to avoid drawing forbidden pictures and expressing forbidden thoughts about you-know-what. If our current trajectory plays out, perhaps in the future we’ll be so terrified that we avoid breathing, sleeping, and moving.

This terror manifests itself in other ways. Intellectual and moral cowardice are, as they always are after an atrocity like this one, in abundant evidence. This cowardice has many symptoms. You might have seen people approvingly (and selectively) quote 5:32 as proof of the benignity of Islamic teaching, but few such people then proceed to quote 5:33. Suffice to say, dishonesty about the tenets of the faith, or outright unabashed ignorance of them, is unlikely to help anyone. Least of all Muslims.

Others might prefer to pontificate about the inherent racism of border control, or of criticising scriptural barbarism, or of western foreign policy, or of stringed musical instruments. This preference, it seems to me, is driven almost entirely by cowardice. It’s easy to condemn racism. It’s easy to feel good about it. It’s easy to change your profile picture on Facebook, tweet a hashtag and sign an e-petition. This is not to say that easy things are not worthwhile, but they should not become a substitute for substantive soul-searching and discussion of the problem.

A whole barrel-load of questions must be pondered frankly and openly, without mudslinging, smears or silencing tactics. Among these are: Is ISIS’s interpretation of Islamic scripture a plausible one? What is it that draws people to join this anti-human, anti-fun organisation? Might allowing vast swathes of people carte-blanche entry into the Schengen area result in a few of them turning out to be religious terrorists – and do we have any way of distinguishing genuine refugees, economic migrants and undercover jihadists apart from one another?

These are not popular questions. They are unpopular because they are difficult. They require nuance, admissions of uncertainty, and expertise. They also are inherently likely to be divisive – which in one sense is precisely the opposite of what’s now required.

There are other questions which are less difficult, and yet still seem to be avoided anyway. For example: should people be allowed to say, think, draw, watch, eat and listen to whatever the fuck they want? I would suggest the answer is yes, and that this affirmation needs to be made far more widely and unapologetically.

My grandmother’s generation, having been on the receiving end of the Luftwaffe, understood the importance of solidarity in the face of enemy attack. And we must now reach the same understanding. To put it briefly: we need to stand up for our fucking values, and affirm our right to live freely, and not beneath the fascist boot of an insane theocracy. No-one else will do it for us.

Right, now it’s time to get on with actual work. Ciao.

Doubts about the time of contempt

The present state of politics gives me reason to be worried. Let me share with you all my doubts.

I write this at a time when a significant chunk of the political left seems to have adopted a form of Manicheanism.  Its adherents are defined by their fervent loathing of all things Tory. In such circles, conservatism has been branded a sort of disease, whose practitioners are worthy of ostracism and revulsion.

Disgust is a feeling which craves re-enforcement, which is why the disgusted seek out collaborators. This force will manifest later today in the centre of Manchester, as like-minded folk congregate to cheer denunciations of austerity.

Outliers of this process have used their time constructively, bellowing slogans like ‘tory scum’, holding aloft placards declaring ‘kill the rich’, and indiscriminately throwing eggs and spitting and conservative party delegates – whether they be journalists, Labour party members or even Labour party councillors. A man wearing an expensive crevette is worthy of an egg in the face, and a female attendee of any sort is worthy of the label ‘Tory whore’ (the fact that the woman in question here was there to defend women’s reproductive rights is by the by). And of course, there’s always a bit of rape-threatening.

Some will retort that, while these are all objectionable behaviours, they’re not quite as objectionable as the policies of the Conservative party. Which is a bit like me justifying my flatulence on the grounds that it isn’t as bad as sectarian violence – the former, for all its abundance, has yet to diminish the latter. And what about all the people who didn’t spit on anyone? Aren’t they deserving of a pat on the back?

One such idiot is the reliable Laurie Penny, who earlier in the year defended another idiot’s decision to bravely scrawl the words ‘fuck Tory scum’ across a war memorial. Penny’s attitude is typical: provided that the target is a Tory, all bets are off.

By the way, I can’t abide by such wonton use of the word ‘scum’. Scum is, by definition, disgusting. It’s a mass noun, like gravel, vermin, garbage, and faeces, which can’t be described according to its constituent individual parts. There is no individual Tory scum, there is only a gelatinous, malevolent whole – to be wiped away, lest it befoul the nation.

Whilst it’s true that every party has its fringe lunatics, I don’t recall any of this sort of thing being perpetrated by Tory activists in the build-up to Labour’s conference last week. You might think that the shrill whining of a few maladjusted pillocks is nothing to get agitated about. They’ll eventually get jobs working in a local branch of Lloyds TSB, start paying income tax and start voting Conservative. And yet still I worry.

Now, I voted Conservative last time. What can I say, I just despise disabled people and adore social stratification. The Labour party has yet to make a real attempt to dissuade me of these views. Indeed, they’ve seemed reticent to even make the attempt. Perhaps I, too, am irredeemable scum.

The Labour party has a problem reaching out. Let’s consider immigration. If vast swathes of the populace count immigration as one of their most pressing concerns, then a pressing concern it must be for any party that seeks to become elected. But no. The topic is a little bit too icky. Better instead to brand those concerned about immigration as somehow morally compromised. The sanctity of their minds has been cruelly impinged upon by the bigoted right-wing press (who must be regulated). Mention of the word ‘immigration’ in any sense but that of an economic and cultural boon has therefore been expunged from party rhetoric. UKIP, being the chief beneficiaries of this approach, are surely delighted.

Meanwhile George Osbourne used his speech to appeal to people who voted Labour last time. Osbourne is undoubtedly full of shit, but at least he’s attempting to appeal to people who don’t agree with him.

Just take a look at this:

“Do you know what the supporters of the new Labour leadership now call anyone who believes in strong national defence, a market economy, and the country living within its means?

“They call them Tories. Well, it’s our job to make sure they’re absolutely right.”

As the NS’s George Eaton notes, this should terrify the living shit out of the Labour faithful – and the fact that it doesn’t speaks volumes.

Corbyn himself seems especially not-terrified. He’s taken a privately-financed train up to Manchester, where he’ll attend a meeting full of people who already agree with him. Which is a hobby of his. Frankie Boyle and Billy Brag will probably be there, spouting inane pieties to the converted, and revelling in their shared disgust at the Conservative party message.

Disgust can be a powerful moral intuition. And a quite useful one, too. It’s perfectly natural, for example, to be disgusted by an ever-expanding gulf between rich and poor – or with an economic policy which immiserates thousands. But it’s also perfectly natural to be disgusted by skin colour, sexual wantonness, or a disinclination to sing the national anthem. Clearly, disgust alone provides a pretty unreliable moral guideline.  Which is why any political movement which is wholly and unapologetically driven by moralised disgust is a very dangerous thing indeed.

The problem is that disgust feels good.  Disgust normally takes the form of a surge of righteous adrenalin. Perhaps you’ll slam your fist against the table as you bellow out a denunciation. It might not win hearts and minds, but dammit, being disgusted feels fucking fantastic. Of course, when the rant doesn’t persuade the disgusting people of their error, then, well – that’s just further proof of their despicableness.

There is one slight sliver of hope, here; I expect this whole movement to devour itself sometime before we’re all lined against a wall and shot in the head. Perhaps by then the Conservative party will find it in their hearts not to veer off to the right and establish the sort of Randian dystopia that the Labour party faithful imagine to already be in place. We can but hope.

Until next time

Fuck these stupid images

I’m getting a little bit pissed off with these wanky little images which currently infest social media. You know the sort. Here’s an example, courtesy of popular Facebook page The Anti-Media:

This one is typical in that it doesn’t bother with full sentences. I can see why. To write an idea down fully is to expose it to scrutiny. The sort which might reveal these particular ideas to be at best trivial and at worst ball-bustingly cretinous. The description attached to this image is even more concise.  It simply declares: ‘Hypocrisy.’

Look, I’m all for economy of words – but only in order to heighten clarity, not to reduce it. You’ll notice that in this case the subject has been omitted:

x colonises the whole world

x complains about immigrants

Solve for x (20 marks)

The reader can supply whatever ‘x’ they like, but I’m guessing we’re supposed to be clued-in by the Union Jack and a map of the world describing the historical extent of the British Empire. By writing in this way, everyone can be an erudite political thinker, with whom right-thinking people overwhelmingly agree. After all, if we just leave out the parts of an equivalence which prove it to be false, then there’s no reason to suppose it isn’t true. This is the internet equivalent of saying “women, eh?” and sipping your pale ale with an air of affected sagacity.

Who or what, pray, is guilty of both colonising half the world and complaining about immigrants? Is it “Britain”? Is it “The British Empire”? Is it “the British people”? Is it Dave Smith, a 34-year old plumber from High Wycombe, who thinks that immigration levels are just too damn high? How exactly do you square that with the time you partitioned India, Dave, you callous bastard?

What troubles me is the way this image invites us to lump vast swathes of people into one indivisible block. A human temptation, and an idiotic one. If you’d like an example of exactly why it’s idiotic, then you might consider the matter of trifle. Some British people like trifle; others detest it. Does that make British people guilty of hypocrisy on the matter of trifle? Do we like fucking trifle or don’t we?

My knowledge of history isn’t spectacular, but I see that this map was drawn prior to the American war for independence in the late eighteenth century. So not only are we supposed to reach concordance with one another, but with ancestors who have been dead for more than two-hundred years. Presumably this also makes us all giant hypocrites on the matter of slavery, gladiatorial combat and the shape of the fucking planet Earth.

I can think of one people who might be able to reach such a consensus, by the way – the fucking Borg. Say what you like about them – they aren’t hypocrites.

Until the next time,

Beef

Some thoughts on big gay cakes and #Ashers

The cake design

If you were to ask me what my two favourite things in the world are, I’d probably say freedom of expression, and delicious cake. This story brings the two subjects together so scrumptiously that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to yammer on about it.

First, some background. Some gay bloke approached a baker in Northern Ireland and asked him whether he’d bake a cake, bearing a picture of Bert and Ernie, along with a slogan promoting gay marriage.

The baker agreed, only – after some consideration, to change his mind. He said that it was against his religion, or some bullshit. Who cares why? All that matters is that he said he wasn’t going to bake the cake. Today, a judge in Northern Ireland decreed his decision to be unlawful.

Let’s leave the legal wrangling to those better qualified to wrangle about legalities, and concern ourselves with whether this decision was right or wrong. I think it’s wrong. Here’s why.

Let me first pin my colours to the mast. As most of you are doubtless aware, I am an atheist, and one who believes that gays should be allowed to marry one another. Moreover, I believe that Christianity is very silly indeed, and worthy of ridicule. Like every religion.

However.

However fervently I might support gay marriage, I am not about to impose this belief on anyone else. Least of all some baker in Northern Ireland. That would be somewhat illiberal of me, I think.

Here are a few sentences containing the word ‘should’.

People should be able to write, draw and say whatever they like. Conversely, they should also be free to not write, draw and say whatever they like. They should be able to do so in whatever medium they choose – including delightful frosted icing.

I have seen this controversy framed as one in which we liberals must make a compromise between the rights of the individual to free expression, and protecting minority groups from discrimination.

I fail to see any evidence that discrimination has occurred, here. No-one’s rights have been infringed. There is no such thing as the right to have a cake baked for you. If there is any party has been discriminated against, it is the bakery.

Of course, if the message on the cake had been slightly different, then this conversation would be different.* For example:

Now, it seems to me that there are some political messages so controversial that a baker should be entitled not to bake them onto a cake. Which poses a question.  Exactly who should arbitrate what constitutes a controversial political message? Is there anyone worthier of this job than the person baking the cake?

We can all think of political messages which we do not agree with. We can all – I would hope – think of some which we disagree with so strongly that we would never bake them into a cake. If someone were to ask me to write an article arguing that gay people should not be allowed to marry, I’d refuse (unless the money was really, really good). That such a decision should result in a lawsuit is laughable.  And terrifying.

Here’s the thing.  No-one is going to be persuaded of the merits of gay marriage using this sort of authoritarian bullying tactic. Simply decreeing certain opinions to be outside of some greater moral good, and therefore worthy of punishment, sounds quite like the worst sort of religious ‘persuasion’ to me.

*I am obviously not comparing gay marriage with Nazism or the Islamic State. I use them only to illustrate that there are things which most of us would refuse to bake into a cake – even if we had previously agreed to do so.

A few super-quick thoughts on the election

Okay, right, a few quick thoughts. The first being: that was a bit fucking brutal. I suppose the Labour Party now know how Brazil’s national football team felt last summer.  Actually, it was more like that bit in Game of Thrones where a viper violently disagrees with a mountain.

According to many leftists, the appropriate reaction to this incredible failure is for Labour to be more left wing. That seems quite insane, at least by Einstein’s definition. Of course, the mark of the true zealot is to have a worldview so entrenched that confounding evidence only re-enforces it. Aspiring Guardian columnists are already penning a million wanky columns explaining how best to win over the 2020 electorate – basically it involves not listening to a word they have to say.

When the electorate delivers the wrong result, the first instinct is to blame them for it. If only we could just remove them from the equation, our democracy would be a lot more sensible.  And if there’s another thing worse than the electorate, it’s the right-wing press. If only we could just bring THEM under control, eh?  If only.

Can I just pre-empt the inevitable moaning about Murdoch et al’s influence? That a crappy newspaper puts forward terrible reasons to support a particular party is not an argument against that party. It’s an argument against buying crappy newspapers. That Rupert Murdoch prefers one party over another does not necessarily follow that it is the wrong one. If Rupert Murdoch were to express a liking for strawberry ice cream, would you automatically stop eating strawberry ice cream? Of course not.   Strawberry is the best fucking flavor.

Most of the people who hoped, like me, for electoral reform, will end up disappointed. That won’t stop them from laughing at UKIP, though – who, despite having the third-highest share of the vote, have ended up with only one seat. But that’s alright, because they’re UKIP – a fringe party whose concerns can be glibly dismissed, because they’re all just so horrible.

Attempting to paint your political opponents as monsters – when they quite manifestly are not – wins no-one over. You will instead find them changing the subject. And then later voting Tory. Because people who vote Tory tend not to come out and pontificate about it. Especially, it seems, not to pollsters.

Another Bloody Election

I remember when I was working at the petrol station, not so long ago, and Wagner came to visit. I’m talking about the bloke from the X-factor, not the long-dead German opera guy. I informed him of my regret at his then-recent exit from the annual freak show, and he responded by shaking my hand and reminding me of the famous quotation by Josef Stalin:

“Those who vote decide nothing. Those who count the vote decide everything.”

I mention this because, as you may have noticed, another election is imminent. It is said to be a very unpredictable election. That said, there are a few things we can be reasonably certain of. The first is that the outcome, whatever it may be, will disappoint at least half of us. Probably more.

Another certain thing is that the last few weeks will be sickening. How could they be otherwise? Years of masturbatory faux-argumentation will soon approach the inevitable crescendo; whereupon the nation will finally spasm out a revolting climax. It is during these last few moments that we are forced to endure the basest, most depraved, most revolting un-politics imaginable. Politics that nauseates. Politics that makes you want to puke. Politics that gets published in a manifesto.

We’ll talk about it the election. My God, we’ll talk about it. Dinner tables across the land will again recount, for the benefit of elderly attendees, every commonality between Nigel Farage and Adolf Hitler – from dog-ownership to tie-wearing. Furious debates will be waged while we wait for our late-April barbeque grills to arrive at the correct temperature: On one side shall be those that think around 4% of the NHS should be run privately, on the other shall be those that absolutely believe 6% of it should be. A third party may also interject passionately on the matter, but this person will ultimately end up disappointed.

These conversations will change little; most people have already arrived at a decision about who they’d like to run things. And so the political animal must compete for the affections of the remaining few who have yet to make a decision either way. These few are difficult to please. They are adrift on a gently undulating sea of blissful thoughtlessness, whose tides carry them between the five or six different parties with pronounceable names and a nebulous memory of a savoury snack once lost down the back of the sofa.

It is these people who presumably see great significance in:

  • The number of kitchens Ed Miliband has.
  • David Cameron’s ability to bottle-feed a new-born lamb.
  • Whether Nicola Sturgeon secretly admires David Cameron’s ability to bottle-feed a new-born lamb, and, in her darkest moments, doubts Ed Milliband’s ability to do so.
  • Whether or not Ed Miliband’s ability to ‘stab his brother in the back’ by successfully running against him in a leadership election is a good predictor of his ability to renege on a promise not to disarm trident.

I look forward to the weeks that follow, when we might see George Osbourne affix a set of brightly-coloured tassels to his testes, and oscillate them wildly for the edification of these brain-damaged few, upon whose judgement the fate of the nation rests.

Oh Lord, make it stop.  Please.  Lamma sabacthani, indeed.

Voting, to be sure, is a tricky business. You might think that you’ve already decided who to vote for. You might think that you’ve examined the policies, rhetoric and character of the various parties competing for your affection, and intend to vote for the one whose views most closely resemble your own. You might, for example, agree with all of the Green party’s policies, and therefore intend to vote Green.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a particularly effective strategy. To boldly vote for whichever party you think best is naïve, bordering on idiotic. Let’s take Wyre Forest, the constituency to which I have recently moved. If you live here and intend to vote for the Greens or the Lib Dems (parties whose policies, I would submit, reflect the ideals of the electorate better than their representation in parliament might suggest) then you’re basically throwing your vote away. You might as well wipe your ballot-paper across a bodily orifice, you depraved lunatic. You loathsome deviant.

We’ll explore your stupidity shortly, but first let’s take a look at this constituency. Wyre Forest is a Tory seat, but this has not always been the case. Independent do-gooder Dr Richard Taylor won it in 2001, after a campaign which sought to prevent the hospital’s A+E ward from being done away with. He then retained it in 2005, and probably would have done so again in 2010, had the Liberal Democrats not fielded a candidate. But they did, and thereby deprived Taylor of the necessary 2,643 votes required to prevent the Tories gaining control of the seat.

Of course, as soon as the Conservative Mark Garnier did get in, he immediately set about ushering in an age of darkness, under whose shadow we now reside, cowering – hearts hardened against the strife of ever-winter, eyes numbed against the now-routine sight of recently-birthed peasants being flayed alive by ravening packs of Thatcherite ogres. “Trickle-down economics!” they cackle, by way of explanation. You know, like Tories do.

Ahem. Anyway, this time, the Greens have stuck someone up, thereby diluting the sanctimonious, Guardian-reading, exclusively-herbivorous vote still further.

This is the sort of constituency which is interesting only to politics nerds.   The weather is mild, the high streets are mostly derelict, and the skin of the locals is pasty-white and wrinkled. It’s the sort which UKIP, if they have the slightest bit of sense, should be targeting.

UKIP evidently agree; they’ve spent actual money getting leaflets printed and shoved through doors. Farage gurns from billboards across the town centre. Each image now has its forehead emblazoned with a swastika, while each upper lip shews an obligatory toothbrush moustache.  For good measure, words to the effect of ‘I am a racist shit’ issue from the mouth. The headquarters of their MEP, James Carver, have also been on the receiving end of a good bit of vandalism, doubtless perpetrated by some friend of democracy.

Taylor is running again, this time beneath the banner of a new party he’s invented, called NHA. But I’ve yet to encounter anyone who speaks enthusiastically about them. Moreover, I’ve yet to encounter anyone who speaks about them at all. I have received no leaflet. There exists no billboard. Do any of you know what NHA actually stands for? Is it ‘Nice Hospitable Antelope’? Is it ‘No Homo, Asshole’? Even if you knew that NHA stands for ‘National Health Action’, you would be hard-pressed to know exactly what said action would consist of, unless you were to the sort of person who goes looking for these things, out of some masochistic desire to bore yourself stupid. Clearly, NHA’s resources are meagre. As will, I suspect, be their vote.

This is all very important and worth considering. You see, in order to vote effectively, you must form not only an idea of the candidate you’d like to win, but an idea of the candidates other people are likely to vote for. After all, if your preferred candidate is not going to win, then there’s very little point in voting for them. And if a candidate you’d very much prefer not to win stands a chance of success, then it stands to reason that you should vote for the candidate most likely to defeat them.

How would we figure all this out? Well, the short answer is: with great difficulty.  If this Ashcroft poll is in the slightest bit indicative of the overall election result, then Taylor’s goose is well and truly cooked. Perhaps a better barometer comes in the form of the bookies, who put the Tories as slight favourites over the ‘kippers.

My guess, for what it’s worth, is that the Tories will come first, that UKIP will come second, and that Labour will come third. NHA, the Lib Dems and the Greens will come in some way behind that. A guess. An educated guess, to be sure, but a guess all the same. It might be that the Labour vote is a great deal stronger than I imagine; it might be that UKIP is not quite as threatening as I imagine it to be.

We can say nothing with certainty but one thing. You may have noticed it: our voting system is not very good. It is, in fact, very bad.

For most of the country, it doesn’t matter who you vote for. This is true of safe seats, but it’s also true of a lot of marginal seats, too. If you live, for example, in Bromsgrove, your vote will change nothing. You can vote Tory, you can vote Labour, or you can vote Green. Sajid Javid will be your MP. This is true of almost every constituency in the land. If you live in Wyre Forest, on the other hand, your vote may well change something, but it might have the opposite effect to the one you intended.

Let’s imagine a car. In this car, standing on the brake pedal causes it accelerate. Conversely, standing on the throttle causes the vehicle to shriek to a halt. Depressing the clutch will cycle randomly through the gears; just do it once every five years and within a quarter of a century you’ll get the one you desire. I suspect that any of these problems should warrant a visit to the mechanic, because the car is clearly unsafe to drive.

What is the function of a democracy? To place power into the hands of the people. First past the Post – the electoral system which we use, at present – is in this sense democratic. It does indeed deliver power into the hands of the people. But, to continue the analogy, it also requires that the people also be wearing those novelty oversize foam hands that the Americans are so fond of wearing at their silly ‘sports’ stadia. The people, so encumbered, are unable to effectively wield the power, and so it is spilled all over the floor. FPTP is atrociously awful, terrible and double-plus ungood.

If it isn’t entirely clear to you why FPTP is so abominable, then I strongly strongly STRONGLY recommend that you watch this series of videos by the excellent CGP Grey.

This is a system through which UKIP, who (whatever you think of them) command the support of around a fifth of the nation, will in all likelihood end up with around a twentieth of its parliamentary seats. The Scottish nationalists, on the other hand, look set to seize a far larger chunk of power with a proportionally piddling number of votes.

The one supposed virtue of our current pseudodemocratic arrangement is that it delivers  clear results – can this really be argued if, as seems likely, it delivers the second hung parliament in as many elections?

The electoral system, then, is broken. And, to be clear, I don’t mean that in the vague, meaningless dribbling way which most people take the phrase to imply. I’m not advocating standing in parliament square with a Guy Fawkes mask on, like an irredeemable ballbag. I’m talking specifically about the way in which the vote is tallied, the most popular candidate decided, and the will of the people thereby enacted.

So why aren’t more people worked up about this? The answer, I suspect, is a simple one. The problem with electoral reform is that it’s boring. And it is difficult, if not impossible, to be simultaneously outraged and bored.

Another problem, closely related to boringness, is abstractness. We can at least muster some sort of interest in the NHS, because we know what it is. It’s a concrete thing we can grasp, swallow, and, if need be, anally administer. If we speak in terms of numbers of doctors, nurses and beds, then we all know what’s being discussed, since we all have had to deal at some point with the NHS.

This is something which the big banks understand well. If I were to start populating my sentences with jargon like “sub-prime mortgage” “collateralised debt obligation” and “quantitative easing”, I would probably bore you. And then you’d stop paying attention because – hey, that’s what happens when you’re bored. This would become a sub-prime blog.

If, on the other hand, I say “shitty mortgage”, “a bunch of shitty mortgages chopped up and blended together”, “printing a bunch of money to compensate for the shitty mess created by all the shitty mortgages”, you might have at least an inkling of what I’m talking about.

Just look at our media’s choice of topic. War, immigration and celebrity paedophilia make for marketable material; they amply provide the gruesomeness we all crave, along with bounteous opportunity for sanctimony.  These things are exciting.  Electoral reform offers neither of those things. It’s like a maths lesson.

It is easy to become worked up – hysterical, even – over food banks, immigration, welfare spending, the European Union, banking regulation, trident and taxation. Throughout the land, there exist many people for whom these issues are enormously pressing. There exist few who can summon outrage over the machinery through which these things can be influenced – ie. Democracy.

If we (the people) have any influence over how the country is run, then it is through poorly-understood, obscure, arcane means. One might expect such a system to produce apathy, disillusionment and anger. One might expect the populace to come to think that politicians have little in common with the people who elect them, and that voting changes little. That they are democracy’s passive observers rather than her active participants.

It is often claimed that the public is disillusioned with politics. That people do not feel represented by the politicians they elect. Can anyone seriously be blamed for feeling this way? Is it any wonder that so many people feel incredibly pissed off? Is it any wonder that our political discourse is so execrable?

Another symptom of this particular malady is that politicians begin to say rather peculiar things. For example, after Douglas Carswell last year defected to UKIP, David Cameron was concerned.

“…if you vote UKIP, you’re in danger of getting a Labour government with Ed Miliband as Prime Minister, Ed Balls as Chancellor.”

And when Ed Balls was wooing Scottish voters the other week, he was similarly concerned.

“…a vote for the SNP means it is more likely David Cameron stays in Downing Street. Every vote in this election that might allow the Tories to be the largest party is a vote for Tory austerity to continue.”

Note that neither of these men is advocating their own party. Nor, really, are they denigrating one another. They are simply pointing out that voting for a third party – even one with whom you happen to strongly agree – is idiotic, because ‘the machine’ is broken.

In doing this, by the way, neither seeks to imply that ‘the machine’ is in need of fixing; only that voters must consider its brokenness when visiting the ballot box. A vote for UKIP is a vote for Ed Milliband, or a vote for Labour is a vote for Alex Salmond, or a vote for anyone but Labour is a vote for David Cameron. And that’s just the way it is. A vote for purple is a vote for red and a vote for green is a vote for blue and a vote for yellow is a vote for whatever random colour offers yellows an attractive deal when the seemingly-inevitable hung-parliament is finally delivered.

When apparently rational people begin suddenly to make insane statements, it’s usually evidence that some sort of game is taking place. For example, it’s perfectly acceptable to jovially inform a friend that they’ve inadvertently sunk a fifteen-thousand ton warship, or that their dog has clocked up a £2000 hotel bill.  But only if you happen to be playing Battleships or Monopoly. In any other context, these statements would be very peculiar indeed.

Politics, too, is a game – and one which necessitates that its players occasionally utter absurdities. Bad, on occasion, must equal good; fair should equal unfair; right should equal wrong; cats and dogs should live together. ‘Spending’ should be labelled ‘investment’, while ‘cuts’ should instead be called ‘savings’.

It seems clear to me that the rules of this particular game are in dire need of revision.

Anyway. I’ve banged on about this for far too long now. I’m sure George Orwell has discussed these things better than I ever could. I wish he were alive to think these things over on my behalf. But he isn’t. So let’s bring this to a conclusion. Let’s conclude by finally acknowledging the elephant in the room. We can all think of one instance during this parliament where Britain was really, truly democratic, and that’s the one through which a proposal to introduce an Alternative Vote system was soundly defeated in 2011.  So what does that prove?

It proves that I hate elections, that’s what it proves.