Voices from the Collective: Lesser Evilism

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This recent email thread started with David Hawkes -- a long time and frequent contributor to the Bad List -- being welcomed back to the discussion after his trip to England.

Issue #28, October 1996


This recent email thread started with David Hawkes — a long time and frequent contributor to the Bad List — being welcomed back to the discussion after his trip to England. His description of the "televisual cavortings" of Tony Blair's "New Labour" Party inspired the following repsonses from people around the world, with participants drawing on various olitical elections happening in Australia, New Zealand, England and the United States. As always, the posts are printed unedited, as they appeared on the list.


Date: Sun, 6 Oct 1996 01:30:19 +0100 (BST)
From: Julian Thomas <julian.thomas@dial.pipex.com>
Reply-To: bad@eserver.org
To: Multiple recipients of <bad@eserver.org>
Subject: Re: Lesser Evilism

At 19:40 05/10/96 -0400, you wrote:

> I hope he never does. I'd rather see the
> Tories get in again. Why? Because I believe
> that the greatest danger facing humanity is the
> reduction of political discourse to the
> manipulation of *Image*, and Blair is a lot
> farther down the road to commercialization and
> commodification than Major.

Seems like that old postmod problem again! I agree with everything you've said BUT... We have a one party system in the UK. It is vital to re- establish the notion of choice. Thatcher set out to destroy socialism and she has, even the labour party is not socialist. But until people understand that there is a choice of party, nothing will change.

Julian

Julian Thomas.
julian.thomas@dial.pipex.com
Cambridge UK

Date: Mon, 7 Oct 1996 02:57:20 +1300 (NZDT)
From: fever records <teapot@sans.vuw.ac.nz>
Reply-To: bad@eserver.org
To: Multiple recipients of <bad@eserver.org>
Subject: Re: Lesser Evilism

The New Zealand day of Lesser Evils is this Saturday. There are at the moment no less than 7 Evils who are likely to get into parliament. Some of them are a quite a bit lesser than the others. There are some interesting things happening:

Evil #1, the National Party (ie: torys) are currently in power. They're perceived as losing votes the whole time on account of their leader being a complete fool and their policies being bad for people's health. They were campaigning on the basis that they'll do absolutely nothing, but now that things have got worse for them, they're going on about how global capital will be frightened away if they lose and everyone will be poor. Global Capital (in the form of Standard and Poors, the ANZ bank & the various market worms) has said that it is not at all concerned. The likely coalition of the Three Lesser Evils is clearly no threat, even though two of them are campaigning to reduce foreign investment, and one says it will increase tarriffs. It was nice, though, to see the Prime Minister trying to explain that these corporations didn't know what they were talking about.

The new electoral system, MMP, is a system of proportional representation with some of the MPs representing electorates and some enlisted into parliament to make each parties share of seats proportional with it's share of votes — unless they get less than 5%, in which case they get no seats...<hoping this all makes sense> unless someone from that party gets an electorate seat, in which case the party also gets seats proportional to it's vote. It's a system we stole from the West Germans who invented it specifically to prevent a small extremist party from getting into parliament and wielding the balance of power — something to do with their history. (& anyone speculating on parallels with Nazi Germany might do well to consider the electoral system that got them into parliament to begin with. I don't know enough to know if it was important, but they certainly thought so in 1945).

Anyway, so you get two votes, one for the party, and one for the electorate representative. There are about 26 parties. According to the polls only 7 of them are at all close to 5% threshold. But according to the newspaper, only one quarter of people rung up in polls are answering the questions, and a great number of them say don't-know/undecided. This isn't a sign of apathy — people here love voting (even sworn anarchists will be sneaking into the polling booths to punish the National party) — it is simple monolithic slyness. With MMP, everything is tactical. In my electorate, for example, there are apparently 3 leading candidates — one from Labour, one from National, and one from ACT ("association of consumers and taxpayers"). Act are polling at 4% nationwide. If they don't win this seat, they won't be in parliament, but if they do, they'll automatically get 5 MPs (4% of 120). If they get in they will form a coalition with National, who might then stay in power. The National party is therefore keener for the Act candidate to win here than their own one, while people who would otherwise be voting for the Alliance (the least of the 7 main evils) are considering voting for the National candidate to try to keep the Act man out. Of course they can then vote Alliance with the party vote. In an opinion poll, however, if enough Alliance/Labour/NZ First people say they're going to vote Act to put Act over the 5% threshold, it will no longer seem imperative to both Act and National supporters to make sure that the Act candidate wins this seat. National people will vote national, and Act will lose out, and so then will the National Government. (Act is a big business no tax eat grass insurance insurance party).

Any result is possible. Nevertheless, the polls say National 34%, Labour 24%, Alliance 15%, NZ First 15%, Act 3.8%, Christian Coalition 3.8%. That points to a left-wing coalition of Labour, Alliance, and NZ First, unless NZ First betrays everyone and goes with National, or both Act and the Christians get over the 5% line and coalesce with the Nats.

It was also good to see (tho by my own reasoning I ought not believe it) that the Christian Coalition are the second most hated party, even tho their policies are mild by international "Christian" standards. They are just new, and hopefully will be soon gone. The most hated party of all is the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party, who I have worked for, but will not vote for.

This election is exciting. I am thinking about it to an extent that is hugely out of proportion to it's actual importance, and so are most people I talk too. I sometimes even imagine that the whole underclass has become infused with a bit of enthusiasm. We have a party (the Alliance) that is on our side, and it will probably be in government. It is hard to remain properly churlish about it. In any case, if the hope is as widespread as I like to think, and the electoral results are as disappointing as usual, then there will likely be a resurgence of insurgence when people get really pissed off. But I will not speculate any more — next sunday I'll tell you what's happened.

I thoroughly recommend MMP to anyone bored with first past the post electoral politics.

On Sat, 5 Oct 1996, David Hawkes wrote:

> I hope he never does. I'd rather see the
> Tories get in again. Why? Because I believe
> that the greatest danger facing humanity is the
> reduction of political discourse to the
> manipulation of Image, and Blair is a lot
> farther down the road to commercialization and
> commodification than Major. See how he steals
> the buzzwords of ADVERTIZING: "New" Labour,
> indeed!

Strangely, that is the name that a bunch of socialists gave themselves when they abandoned the old NZ Labour party about 8 years ago. Eventually they got rid of the name by joining with 4 other parties to form the Alliance. (Our politicians will commonly change parties 4 or 5 times within a 3 year term.)

> Wot a wanker. I was a member of the Labour
> Party for 10 years; I went to conferences, >served on committees, canvassed for votes etc.
> How distressing, to witness the present
> condition of my former comrades!

you sound like my mother did in 1988.

> One friend, a councillor in the once-feared
> Brent ward in London (constituency of Ken "Red
> Ken" Livingstone, and ten years ago among the
> most radical local governments in Europe) told
> to

this is where it ended for me, Dave. I take it this anecdote had an ending?

douglas.

Date: Tue, 08 Oct 1996 09:47:14 +0930
From: Ben Moretti <bmorettb@arts.adelaide.edu.au>
Reply-To: bad@eserver.org
To: Multiple recipients of <bad@eserver.org>
Subject: Re: Lesser Evilism

At 07:40 PM 10/5/96 -0400, David Hawkes wrote about Tony Blair and the New Labour Party:

> Most horrible, to witness the televisual
> cavortings of Tony Blair and his cohorts of the
> "New Labour" party. He really is an apalling
> fellow. His latest wheeze is to drop the word
> "socialism" from all of his party's
> communiques, and — it would seem — to sever
> Labour's ties to the trades unions as soon as
> he gets into power.

This is very interesting, as it is exactly what the Hawke/Keating led Australian Labor Party did for 13 years of power. Addmittedly in a more underhand and treacherous way, but all the same. the ALP succesfully moved to the middle ground, becoming the party of the middle classes. The socialist/labourist agenda was for all intents dropped, although the rhetoric was a thick as ever, comrade. The Liberal/National Party Coalition was driven further to the right by an internal conservative vs freemarket battle won by the "dries". The ALP, in a first for a "leftist" party forged strong ties with BIG BUSINESS along the lines of Murdoch, Packer, Bond, etc. The media, unions, business, environment lobby, et al were kept "sweet" by deals with the government. Everyone was happy, or so they thought.

> I hope he never does. I'd rather see the
> Tories get in again. Why? Because I believe
> that the greatest danger facing humanity is the
> reduction of political discourse to the
> manipulation of Image, and Blair is a lot
> farther down the road to commercialization and
> commodification than Major. See how he steals
> the buzzwords of ADVERTIZING: "New" Labour,
> indeed

New Improved Labour. But you are missing the most important thing Dave, Labour are so desperate to get power they have sold their soul to the devil. AFAIK, Blair is a good mate of our ex PM Paul Keating. In fact Blair was born here, no? But anyway, I know that Blair has recieved expert tuition in how to get a percieved unpopular once leftist party into power by Keating. He is Keating/Hawke in another guise. Beware him, he has no soul.

b

Date: Tue, 08 Oct 1996 09:53:31 +0930
Date: Tue, 08 Oct 1996 23:26:46 +0200
From: Raewyn Whyte <whyter@iprolink.co.nz>
Reply-To: bad@eserver.org
To: Multiple recipients of <bad@eserver.org>
Subject: Re: Lesser Evilism/Proportional representation

to continue a thread on elections from ben et al who suggested

> make it exciting by adopting a proportional
> representation voting system and turn it into a
> televised sport, like sheepdog trials.

New Zealand's general election is right now, this week voting is on Saturday and it's our first elections under proportional representation — a system known as Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) in place of a First Past the Post system with Government and Opposition parties voters get two votes — one for the party and one for an electorate representative parties are assigned seats on the basis of the proportion of party votes received (less than 5% of the vote and there are no party seats won); the electorate representative who receives the most votes for that electorate wins a seat outright the current Government (National Party - centre/right, conservative) is rapidly dropping in the polls, now down to 37%, which means they could only retain power via a centre right coalition — and their likely coalitionees are far right (ACT), and/or right of centre but representing themesleves as centre left (NZ First) plus the odd individual from United (1 will get an individual seat for sure, maybe 2, but no party seats as polling at leass than 2%) or the Christian Coalition (only 3.6% so no party seats, and no leading individuals in any electorates) the predictions are for a centre left coalition of current Opposition parties, (Labour, Alliance, maybe also NZ First, who seem destined to hold the balance of power) led by Labour, under Helen Clark, as the first woman Prime Minister..... not an exciting election, but it sure will be followed with considerable interest as results unfold both on television and on the WWW with a 5 second refresh rate

— Raewyn (in an electorate where the two leading candidates are women, both of whom will be elected through the party list system, regardless of individual results, and who is wondering about tactical voting ie who to give her party vote to, and who notes that she has been known in the past to make a protest vote for McGillicuddy Serious who will not get any seats this time either)

Raewyn Whyte — raewyn@url.co.nz — http://url.co.nz/ — @URL Internet Consultants internet education + web architecture + infomongering + cgi solutions

Date: Wed, 9 Oct 1996 11:06:07 +1000 (EST)
From: Catherine Driscoll <s_cad1@eduserv.its.unimelb.EDU.AU>
Reply-To: bad@eserver.org
To: Multiple recipients of <bad@eserver.org>
Subject: Re: Lesser Evilism

On Tue, 8 Oct 1996, Ben Moretti wrote:

> New Improved Labour. But you are missing the
> most important thing Dave,Labour are so
> desperate to get power they have sold their
> soul to the devil. AFAIK, Blair is a good mate
> of our ex PM Paul Keating. In fact Blair was
> born here, no? But anyway, I know that Blair
> has recieved expert tuition in how to get a
> percieved unpopular once leftist party into
> power by Keating. He is Keating/Hawke in
> another guise. Beware him, he has no soul.

The problem with this is that you seem to be suggesting that Australia was not better off with Keating than with the current Howard govt. Whatever betrayals they accomplished they still don't measure up to the opn destruction now underway. Pauline Hanson: say no more — Howard's distancing statement today is about as convincing as the pen in Bob Dole's hand.

Catherine


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