Did Canada UKIPed before the UK? #UKIP #RochesterandStood

UKIP had finally won their first by-election in Clacton. Bob Spink was the first sitting UKIP MP, but Douglas Carswell was the first MP elected in the UK banner. On the same day, UKIP was also close in the old Labour stronghold of Heywood and Middleton where a few hundreds vote would have  »sealed » the deal for UKIP in beating Labour in this shock result. Mark Reckless had also won his seat in Kent for UKIP after defeating from the Conservatives to UKIP.

In the land of British Politics, we are entering a Terra incognita. Like when Columbus went into the open sea in 1492, nobody know how this support will translate itself in term of seats in the next general election in May 2015.

But however, those similar events are awfully similar to what had happened in Canada during the 1990′s.

In the 1980′s, the Progressive Conservatives in Canada under Brian Mulroney had a transformation like the Conservative Party since David Cameron became leader of the party in 2005. The party ditched some hard line policies (such as reinstating the death penalty) and became supportive of higher immigration quotas and the Liberals multicultural policy. It also was very keen on building in base among French Canadians who traditionally voted Liberal – just like Scotland voted Labour for decades, and this strategy paid out very well in 1984 and 1988.

The Mulroney government also had some very unpopular policies, especially in their second mandate, like the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax, along with two failed initiatives for constitutional reform.

Then came the Reform Party of Canada, which was broadly like UKIP in term of policies and even in term of political timespace. Even if the party was founded in 1987 and was in the wilderness for a few years having a lacklustre performance in the 1988 general election, it became close to the official opposition in the 1993 general election a few years after winning a by-election in March 1989. In fact, on paper, this 1993 election had changed so many things that the official opposition was the Bloc Québécois with the Tories reduced to only two seats. This is exactly like if the SNP was the official opposition in the British House of Commons.

The Reform Party was a populist party and it was initially very reluctant to be associated with conservatism. It was based originally in Western Canada but it had sizable support almost everywhere in the country except in Quebec and the Eastern Atlantic provinces.

Like UKIP, the Canadian Reform Party attracted many people not usually into politics in the sense that it was an house for those sick of  »old » parties. It was critical of state multiculturalism and was for lower immigration quotas.

The Reform Party of Canada was able to do much better with working class Canadians than the Progressive Conservatives, and especially in Western Canada, the party had found a niche among new Canadians. Some MP of the party were of South Asian or East Asian origin. The first federal MP of Muslim faith in Canada was elected in 1997 from the Reform Party.

But what is interesting is that even if the Reform Party was founded by some ex-Tories, the party did very well in constituencies which were traditionally voting for socialist parties – especially outside of metropolitan areas, exactly like UKIP is doing right now in some Labour seats in Northern England. In many ways, they were seeing the mainstream left as equal to the aspirations of people of metropolitan areas as opposed to their aspirations, just like the British Labour Party is seen right now.

So how this division went out between the Canadian right? Well, for a decade in Canadian politics, there was a massive civil war among two parties who were considered on the right of the centrist Liberals. The Liberals won by default, even if they took some Reform Party policies when they reduced the size of the federal government during the mid-1990′s.

The first past the post electoral system also made it possible in some regions that a party wins 98% of seats with only half of the popular vote, as the right was divided between two parties of equal footing in term of popular vote. In a region like Ontario which had about 100 seats at the time, the Liberals won almost every seat in this province.

This civil war ended in 2003, when the Progressive Conservatives and the Canadian Alliance (the Reform Party new brand) merged together. Stephen Harper, who was a former Reform Party MP, became leader of this party.

Three years after, the Conservatives were in power in a minority government, and there are still in power in 2014. Unity – rather than division, seems to have been the key for electoral success when it counts.

It’s understandable that British and Canadian politics have some differences, but there are too many similarities to consider this historical case something more meaningful than a simple anecdote.

Indeed, perhaps the most important rule to remember, is that under a FPTP system (unlike AV or STV) not having a efficient voting base in marginal constituencies could hurt you a lot and let your opponent win by default – all this with a paltry overall popular vote.

But there is no doubt, that next May, Britain could wake up a Friday morning of May by having the same situation as in the February 1974 general election. The swigometer could go in any way all this with very unpredictable swings all over the UK with regionalism in full swing – exactly like in Canadian politics.

White van in Rochester

Rochester

Seems that the Labour MP for Islington South had tweeted this.

One Nation Labour, eh, when an average housing block in the street in Kent is seen as something exotic. A sort of anthropological zoo where kale is far, far, away and where people read the Daily Mail more than the Guardian. And the people in this house had done the crime of displaying a St. George flag? Quelle horreur. Will this be a crime when Labour will be back in power?

This is why Labour is done with the working classes. As with François Hollande, they see working class people as toothless, as hicks, as hillbillies, as inferior people who are good to bring votes to the party.

And then they wonder why a party like UKIP is doing so well in places like Rochester…

One Wednesday in October #OttawaShootings

I was born in Ottawa. I grew up in Ottawa. I studied in Ottawa. I work in Ottawa. Ottawa is in my DNA, as over a million other people in this northern capital.

A random Wednesday in October, a group of armed men have decided to go with an attack like in Mumbai, India, in 2008, in my town, a few hundred metres from my workplace. This is unheard of in Ottawa and it is indeed an event that is going round the world in this usually quiet G7 Capital.

Whatever the motives of these people, what drove these people to kill a reservist guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is an act of extreme cowardice. It’s a wimpy move. Whatever their motive, only small-minded people could do something like that.

Yet it is precisely in events like these, in great adversity that we see who are our real champions. Our real champions are the people who living, working or who are visiting the nation’s capital during these events on a Wednesday in October. They kept their cool, some were able to help those in need and the police, firefighters and paramedics were able to be professional while keeping their calm and following their game plan – all this in a position where there is a lot of unknowns.

It is not terror and fear following these events that will stop people regardless of language, origin or creed in Ottawa to continue living their everyday lives in our diverse community. Rather, it’s in events like that that people in Ottawa will become stronger, more united and more fraternal to each other.

Why Labour mansion tax is not progressive at all, while being anti-London

One policy that the Labour Party made clear for the 2015 election manifesto during their last conference before the 2015 general election is that a mansion tax will be added for housing in the UK which is worth more than 2 million pounds.

The reason is even more strange. The purpose of this tax is not even to fund the funding to build new cities, or to make existent council housing better, as it is it to supposedly fund the NHS.

It’s a bad policy for many reasons. Considering the high value of housing in London and how even modest properties had taken an exponential amount of value in recent years, the vast majority of people targeted with this tax will be in London. And yet, for a London pensioner who had bought his house decades ago, it’s not extraordinary to think that the housing value had went so up in recent decades that someone could have a house worth 2 million pounds today which was bought at only a fraction of the cost.

This tax also bring another problem. Let’s say you are a senior on a fixed income who own a property bought decades ago in Central London, and this same house is your main source of collateral, how will you pay the tax? Unlike a very rich person, you don’t have in this case a playing room for disposable income, so the only option would be to sell your home even if you were a smart investor while you bought this home and lived in it when it took a lot of value with time.

This is why this policy is not progressive at all. It will rather have the opposite effect, it will create hermetic classes of housing and throw away people who were old residents .

In a place like London, this could well means that the only people who would have enough disposable income to pay this same tax would be very rich people from the UK or aboard who use their London housing as a sort of investment and/or as a sort of pied à terre.

The irony is that policy which is supposedly ‘progressive » is that it will create two classes of housing. And there is little doubt that this tax is a sort of magic formula is order to pay for numerous things. As fairy tales don’t always finish in a good way, this  »mansion » tax could be one of them, a tax with high hopes and expectations to fill miscellaneous expenses, but which turned out to be a disaster especially for those it was supposed to help at the first place. Like the SNP and UKIP, Labour also seems to play London versus rest of the UK by their choice of tax.

Perhaps this is a sign that the  »One Nation » Labour brand is dead and buried once for all? And it seems like it.

Back to the future: #UKIP edition

UKIP had finally won their first by-election in Clacton. Bob Spink was the first sitting UKIP MP, but Douglas Carswell was the first MP elected in the UK banner. On the same day, UKIP was also close in the old Labour stronghold of Heywood and Middleton where a few hundreds vote would have  »sealed » the deal for UKIP in beating Labour in this shock result.

In the land of British Politics, we are entering a Terra incognita. Like when Columbus went into the open sea in 1492, nobody know how this support will translate itself in term of seats in the next general election in May 2015.

But however, those similar events are awfully similar to what had happened in Canada during the 1990′s. Yes, Canada, the land of Tim Hortons and of where ice hockey is so popular that there is play by play in Punjabi.

In the 1980′s, the Progressive Conservatives in Canada under Brian Mulroney had a transformation like the Conservative Party since David Cameron became leader of the party in 2005. The party ditched some hard line policies (such as reinstating the death penalty) and became supportive of higher immigration quotas and the Liberals multicultural policy. It also was very keen on building in base among French Canadians who traditionally voted Liberal, and this strategy paid out very well in 1984 and 1988.

The Mulroney government also had some very unpopular policies, especially in their second mandate, like the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax, along with two failed initiatives for constitutional reform.

Then came the Reform Party of Canada, which was broadly like UKIP in term of policies and even in term of political timespace. Even if the party was founded in 1987 and was in the wilderness for a few years having a lacklustre performance in the 1988 general election, it became close to the official opposition in the 1993 general election a few years after winning a by-election in March 1989. In fact, on paper, this 1993 election had changed so many things that the official opposition was the Bloc Québécois with the Tories reduced to only two seats. This is exactly like if the SNP was the official opposition in the British House of Commons.

The Reform Party was a populist party and it was initially very reluctant to be associated with conservatism. It was based originally in Western Canada but it had sizable support almost everywhere in the country except in Quebec.

Like UKIP, the Canadian Reform Party attracted many people not usually into politics in the sense that it was an house for those sick of  »old » parties. It was critical of state multiculturalism and was for lower immigration quotas.

The Reform Party of Canada was able to do much better with working class Canadians than the Progressive Conservatives, and especially in Western Canada, the party had found a niche among new Canadians. Some MP of the party were of South Asian or East Asian origin. The first federal MP of Muslim faith in Canada was elected in 1997 from the Reform Party.

But what is interesting is that even if the Reform Party was founded by some ex-Tories, the party did very well in constituencies which were traditionally voting for socialist parties – especially outside of metropolitan areas, exactly like UKIP is doing right now in some Labour seats in Northern England. In many ways, they were seeing the mainstream left as equal to the aspirations of people of metropolitan areas as opposed to their aspirations, just like the British Labour Party is seen right now.

So how this division went out between the Canadian right? Well, for a decade in Canadian politics, there was a massive civil war among two parties who were considered on the right of the centrist Liberals. The Liberals won by default, even if they took some Reform Party policies when they reduced the size of the federal government during the mid-1990′s.

The first past the post electoral system also made it possible in some regions that a party wins 98% of seats with only half of the popular vote, as the right was divided between two parties of equal footing in term of popular vote.

This civil war ended in 2003, when the Progressive Conservatives and the Canadian Alliance (the Reform Party new brand) merged together. Stephen Harper, who was a former Reform Party MP, became leader of this party.

Three years after, the Conservatives were in power in a minority government, and there are still in power in 2014. Unity – rather than division, seems to have been the key for electoral success when it counts.

It’s understandable that British and Canadian politics have some differences, but there are too many similarities to consider this historical case something more meaningful than a simple anecdote.

Indeed, perhaps the most important rule to remember, is that under a FPTP system (unlike AV or STV) not having a efficient voting base in marginal constituencies could hurt you a lot and let your opponent win by default – all this with a paltry overall popular vote.

But there is no doubt, that next May, Britain could wake up a Friday morning of May by having the same situation as in the February 1974 general election. The swigometer could go in any way all this with very unpredictable swings all over the UK with regionalism in full swing – exactly like in Canadian politics.

I am disabled and I agree with Lord #Freud. Why you should too.

Some people were offended by Lord Freud comments saying that disabled people should perhaps in some cases work for less than the minimum wage. Perhaps this seems offensive at first glance, but in the context in which Lord Freud was talking about, he raises an important point, which is how benefits are still too unflexible. They make part time work look unattractive for people who have disabilities, even if it gives them some dignity. The universal credit is interesting because it could probably make informal part-time work attractive rather than working in the black market and being paid  »under the table » with all the stress and anxiety involved. Many disabled people can work a few hours a week but they are scared to declare it because they fear losing their benefits.

As someone who have a life-long handicap and who is in the labour market, Freud is right about one important point, the benefits system still have difficulty to be flexible enough to value part time work, or work in an informal setting. For some people who have an handicap, they could only work for a few hours a week. Sometimes in some jobs, their salary in principally composed of tips, but they are reluctant to take out these jobs because the system is done in a way which they are scared to lose their benefits.

This is why than rather to bash Lord Freud for what he said, there should be a debate on how the benefit system for handicaped people should be reformed to help people and make it attractive for people with disabilities to have  »mini-jobs » and to have benefits at the same time. Rather than to have these jobs working against the benefit system, they should be valued. This is what Freud was saying that  »mini-jobs » should not be something to be afraid for, but rather something which should be valued.

Rather than bashing the messenger, should people rather look at ways on how to make the life of disabled people better? Should we have a real debate on benefits and not just a Punch and Judy blame game?

In praise of @JeremyBrowneMP

It’s such a shame that Jeremy Browne is stepping down as an MP.

Why? Because he is a true Liberal, one who believe in peace, tolerance, prosperity and sound money.

One who is the not afraid of the Liberal heritage as being of the party of William Gladstone and Richard Cobden when the party was one of the many and not of the few.

We need more people like him, but sadly, in the Lib Dems of today there is less and less like him.