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March 16th, 2003

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03:01 am - Party on, dude
addedentry, being a witty bloke, included the fine line "I hate parties (except political parties)" in his personal web page. He'd better skip over the first part of this, then.

The Circle Line Party page has been updated and claims to have been an incredible success. I think that you can read between the lines and interpret that it was a victim of its own success. "At 19:45 Friday 14 March 2003 a gigantic troupe of folks made their way to Liverpool St and boarded the first available Circle Line train"... "might've been something to do with 600 people down waiting for the rear carriages". 600 people is way too large for something to be spontaneous and underground. Now while "It was great, no-one, police, LT, ever f*cked with us", "The party was in full swing for nearly two full circuits, finally stopping at Moorgate, one stop before our starting point" and "We spoke to police officers at Moorgate, and they were amazed. The organisers had laid on a full clean-up crew". Accordingly, I think we can interpret that the Old Bill (a) knew about this in advance - after all, if I knew about it, it was hardly secret - and (b) it took them over an hour and a half to work out whether it might have been at risk of being a minor public order offence and co-ordinate sufficient forces to deal with hundreds of (theoretically, but not necessarily) good-natured partygoers.

All told, I reckon it's already probably become too mainstream to be repeatable in exactly the same form and any Circle Line Party III will probably be by invitation only. I also reckon it's more likely than not that London Underground will rip the idea off and do something very similar themselves at some point in the next ten years. There's also the tacit assumption that the description isn't lying - it could have been a scam, after all. I'll only know for sure one way or the other when I get a description from someone sufficiently close on the web of trust. (Actually, these piccies are pretty convincing.)

A new political party launched in the UK yesterday called the "People's Alliance". As usual, the BBC News article about the launch is quite interesting, especially taken in co-operation with the official party web site. So what will this new party offer? The major unique selling point is "direct democracy": (a) all new laws decided by referendum once they have passed through parliament, with safeguarding twists; (b) the people can propose laws - enough signatures on the petition means they must go to referendum. Sounds reasonable to me.

However, the BBC then comment "But surely use of plebiscites is exactly the kind of policy used by dictators to manipulate public opinion?" and this is where I get confused. Please could someone with a proper political background explain this to me? The only time I've heard of anything like this being seriously proposed was in Canada about two or three years ago. At the same time as this was proposed, there was a strong movement to make the first proposal to go to referendum under this new scheme that the politician who proposed it should have to change his name by deed poll to something embarrassing.

There are a few other changes to the organisational struture: MPs to spend two days a week in Westminster and two days a week in national assemblies. No mention of regional assemblies within England, no mention of other electoral reform and an implicit commitment to First Past The Post. Economically, they suggest a universal benefit to be paid to every citizen without means-testing, which I've seen before in the Green Party manifesto. (Has any government in the world ever actually made this work in practice?) That said, the People's Alliance then go on to suggest that all other benefits would be abolished and there would be a single rate of tax to be paid on all earnings thereafter, which sounds considerably less familiar.

Other things: electronic voting, people to decide which powers are to be devolved from Europe or the UK to local level, minimum voting age of 16 and a citizen enabling card which also acts as a store of demerits for petty crime; enough black marks and you'll get some of your universal benefit withheld. This latter one sounds a bit Orwellian even for a statist like me. Oh, and reform to health spending, education and the reduction of false asylum seekers, all of which sound like a given for any new political party to me. I note an absence of positions, let alone commitments, on transport and environmental issues.

Fair enough so far, but not very much listed of substance yet - no hard numbers, unfortunately. Looking further through their site, I found somewhere that they said that they intended to occupy the "centre-right" of British politics. This seems to have gone, though their party principles make it clear that they are pro property ownership and pro small government, which sounds pretty right wing to me. Who's to say that their minimum guaranteed income and single tax levels wouldn't turn out to be pretty low, too? Wouldn't quite go as far as calling them "fascist and undemocratic" like the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, but then again, I suppose that he'd be failing in his job if he didn't. :-)

Does this new party stand a chance? I do like the party name (apart from the apostrophe! Tricky things, apostrophes, especially when you have to worry about whether to embed them in URLs or not) but it sounds like it ought to be from way over at the far left of the spectrum rather than the already pretty crowded centre-right. Another uphill struggle they face is that they won't be standing in the local elections in England in May; all told, I'd say that they'd be doing well if they rated a mention outside the "Other" category in opinion polls next October.

One of the problems they face is their image - their logo and colouring. (Only possibly daweaver will get this reference, but doesn't the logo look exactly like the overhead view of the "Bit Of A Wasted Journey" round at the start of Fluke?) Image-making in British party politics is sadly all about colour.

You know where you are with the Conservative Party, who are true blue, and the Labour Party, proudly red. (Rather less faithful to the red flag - or even The Red Flag - than they were, but still red all the same.) The Liberal Democrats, who I most frequently vote for, are a sort of wishy-washy gold/orange/yellow shade of amber, and the Scottish National Party have settled on an ever-so-slightly-brighter-if-you-squint shade of yellow. (The graphics boys at the BBC are going to have their work cut out to distinguish between the two on election coverage night.) The Green party own green, though the Welsh Nationalists borrow bits of it. Nobody uses brown. Nobody uses black. Nobody uses white, except Martin Bell and other Independents. Nobody uses pink. Nobody uses purple. I think the TV companies are secretly pleased about the latter, because it gives them a nice safe neutral colour to use for election coverage in general without it looking like they're biased.

So with all these single shade primary and secondary colours out of the way (the LibDems' orange is a tertiary colour, I'll grant you) we're down to the scurf who go two-tone. Plaid Cymru, the Welsh Nationalists, merge green with red for an Y Ddraig Goch-inspired logo, and just about get away with it. The UK Independence party use purple and orange and it looks quite, quite vile. The biggest mistake to avoid is thinking "the British flag is red, white and blue - our logo should be red, white and blue too"; this is the tactic used by the far-right British National Party and so taints every other party thinking the same way by association. (In earlier years, it was used by the SDP - look how well they turned out.) What colours do the People's Alliance use? Red, white and blue. Oh dear.

I'm curious to know whether other countries are quite so particular about the colours of their political parties. A search for "social democratic party" leads me to excellent English-language info about the Swedish Parliament, where their Social Democrats seem to be centre-left; happily, they too use red. (A slightly pinker shade than the Left Party, who used to be the Swedish Communists up to 1967.) Sweeping further right and probably getting the order completely wrong, you have the Green Party (less green than you'd expect and more yellow), the Liberal Party (snazzy two-tone blue), the Centre Party (green), the Moderate Party (effectively their conservatives; they have a blue logo surrounded by yellow and red borders, but it's butt-ugly) and the Christian Democrats (who have a nice innocuous flower as a logo). Needlessly confusingly achromatic, I should say.

These days I'm convinced party lines are becoming less and less relevant: both Labour and Conservative parties were heavily divided over the issue of Europe five years ago, both Labour and Conservative parties are heavily divided over the issue of Iraq today. (I'm sure the LibDems would be just as split if they were big enough for a split to be worth a damn.) Broad churches are useful, but perhaps there's just less cohesion than either party would like. Might both parties usefully split on the issue, forming ad-hoc coalitions on the topic of international relations but reverting to the traditional party lines on other subjects? Well, that would be scope for political fanfic.

It all makes a change from discussing party name gimmicks. Labour did well by rebranding themselves "New Labour" for a while and the Conservatives have really been on the back foot ever since. In an attempt to appeal to a younger audience, I think they should rename themselves the "Extreme Conservatives". Then they could go from having (Iain Duncan Smith lookalike) Tony Hawks as leader to having Tony Hawk as leader. I would then see him installing a cabinet including Dennis McCoy as Chancellor of the Half-Pipe with Bob Burnquist being Secretary of State for the Vert Ramp. Shaun Palmer might charitably be appointed Minister for Super-Stoked Burly Big Air Transfers, but Biker Sherlock would definitely be sent to take up the Chiltern Hundreds.
Current Mood: still contemplating self-doubt
Current Music: "The Sign", Ace of Base - c/o songmonk, played for gspchrisl

(8 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:March 15th, 2003 11:21 pm (UTC)


...and I liked this quote from the BBC article:

There would be safeguards to ensure minority groups' human rights were infringed, he says.
[User Picture]
Date:March 16th, 2003 05:22 pm (UTC)

Re: Interesting...


I guess everyone saw safeguards, minority groups' human rights and infringed and forgot to look at the rest of the sentence. Certainly a very unfortunate point to lose a n't - and a remarkable statement that it hasn't been corrected yet. Wouldn't a newspaper have to print a retraction and an apology for this sort of mistake?

Wonder if that's worth wider media attention, like a submission to NTK or something? You spotted it, so you deserve to have the (only sadly nominal) glory if you want it.
[User Picture]
Date:March 15th, 2003 11:47 pm (UTC)
the worry i have about plebiscites is directly related to the many problems (as well as some successes) we've had with ballot initiatives in the states. Sometimes, they work right, and allow a group of citizens to bring a great new law into being. Many times, they allow one person with enough money to publicize a law and advertize for it and even pay people to get signatures to allow it on the ballot. This has meant lots of laws going on the ballot, being worded misleadingly, and people voting for them. also laws that are not very well thought out. Like ending income tax altogether, without any provision for alternate revenue, or ending a program that serves minorities, etc. And once it's law, it's law. No debate in the elected bodies, and public debate not being real debate as it's controlled by the media, which is controlled by access to money.
[User Picture]
Date:March 16th, 2003 05:38 pm (UTC)
Part of the problem is that I'm not completely sure what a plebiscite is. :-) What's the difference between a plebiscite and a referendum? A quick Google suggests this answer, though I'm not sure to what extent the distinction is generic or whether it's specific to Ontario.

A businessman called Brian Souter, one of the principals of a transport company with much-reviled business practices called Stagecoach, paid for and organised a public poll in Scotland about "Section 28", a piece of legislation concerning "the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship". I now see this was a plebiscite rather than a referendum.
[User Picture]
Date:March 17th, 2003 06:58 am (UTC)

Excellent segue!

My concern about the People's Alliance would be that they're using the device of popular consultation as an excuse not to take any controversial positions. Turning Britain into a giant game of Nomic would be entertaining, but would probably produce massively conflicting legislation.

It would be folly to compete in May's local elections in the midst of World War III. On the other hand, given FPTP in Westminster, minor parties are forced to accumulate support at local and regional levels.

Colours for parties: insightful comment about the neutrality of purple. You may compare the search for an unused colour with the problem of showing a new line on the Tube map.

Red is the colour of socialism across the world; as the gruesome verse from Old Labour's anthem has it, to the tune of 'Tannenbaum': 'The people's flag is deepest red / It shrouded oft our martyred dead / And ere their limbs grew stiff and cold / Their hearts' blood dyed its every fold.' Red and black are the colours of anarchism. Turkey's ruling party is called Avrupa Konseyi (Justice & Development); 'ak' means 'white' in Turkish.

Recently party symbols have been permitted on ballot papers for UK elections, as well as the description (usually along the lines of 'The Labour Party Candidate'). The impetus for this was the Literal Democrat scam, as symbols can be trademarked to deter passing off, but it does offer another option for branding as well as colour.
[User Picture]
Date:March 17th, 2003 07:47 am (UTC)

Not as excellent as Segway HT

Turning Britain into a giant game of Nomic would be entertaining, but would probably produce massively conflicting legislation.

I say "Sounds fun enough to be worth a try". (Not very seriously, though.)

It would be folly to compete in May's local elections in the midst of World War III.

Understood, but it does seem to be happening in Scotland and Wales. This does raise the question of whether, stated or unstated, this is really England's war rather than Britain's war. I was wondering whether the Scottish and Welsh assemblies could refuse permission for the Scottish and Welsh troops to fight. Presumably not, but it's interesting to try to work out under what circumstances one day they might.

You may compare the search for an unused colour with the problem of showing a new line on the Tube map.

Ooh, pet subject, pet subject!

If you'd asked me this time last year, I'd have thought that Crossrail was going to be marked with a line of crosses and that Chelsea-Hackney could well merit gold. A related question to this is "what would these new lines be called?" and I must admit that it was the suggestion that the current favourite name for Chelsea-Hackney might be the King's Line (possibly Kings' Line?) that put me in mind for something golden. On a topic related to that, what happens if the current queen survives another 15-ish years - might this ever be called the Queen's Line or the Elizabeth line? Our current HRH is currently ascending the chart of Best British Monarchs Ever and probably deserves a line named after at some point - a line, a train station, an airport, an era.

It's really got to be gold or beige, else you're starting to get into weird solutions like the Diana Light Railway's two-thin-stripes or the Croydon Tramlink's blobby mess. That's another can of worms: it seems very likely that at least the Cross River Transit and the other popular tram scheme are going to become realised before Crossrail, so quite possibly we'll end up with green blobs, yellow blobs and red blobs on the big all-routes map of London even before we start putting "Under Construction" lines for Crossrail, Chelney and so forth up. I may be getting ahead of myself, though.

Given that Chelsea-Hackney is now effectively being regarded as Crossrail 2 and the two are being worked on together, it may be useful to compare with France's practices concerning the Metro and the RER. I understand that the two schemes both use some colours, but that the RER lines are simply a lot fatter than the Metro lines on the map.

Henceforth I shall refer to Turkey's ruling party as "Avada Kedavra".

I like our parties' symbols. Donkeys and elephants are both stupid. *dons flameproof jacket*
[User Picture]
Date:March 17th, 2003 02:18 pm (UTC)

Re: Not as excellent as Segway HT

Facing the last page of the main text in Mr Beck's Underground Map is a '1994 Journey Planner adapted to incorporate all known projected extensions'. Chelsea-Hackney is light green. Crossrail, not part of LUL, is represented similarly to overground lines, just as you fear: two parallel blue lines. Gold would conflict with the East London Line, especially with the extensions now under construction.

The Victoria line was originally going to be called the Fleet line after the underground river which flows past Fleet Street (nowhere near the stations) but as delays pushed its opening towards the 1977 Silver Jubilee someone saw an opportunity for patriotism. It's quite possible that a Chelsea-Hackney line won't be completed before the Queen dies, making a similar timely renaming plausible. Certainly it would be a more pleasant memorial than the southbound Dartford Crossing.
[User Picture]
Date:March 17th, 2003 03:41 pm (UTC)

Re: Not as excellent as Segway HT

A scan of said map would be of considerable interest. :-)

I'm only partially convinced about this conflict. TPFTLA hasn't been updated for over a year, alas, but I still think it's about the best guide out there and John Rowland still lists it in his sig. It seems likely that the two routes would be likely to interchange at Wimbledon and/or Clapham Junction and probably Dalston, so maybe gold wouldn't work. (Then again, Metropolitan purple and Bakerloo brown are pretty close and the lines are pretty close to each other, so perhaps it isn't that big an issue.) Beige probably would, though. I wonder if there have been studies performed into the usability of the LU map for the colour-blind?

The other Crossrail possibility is that Crossrail wouldn't be represented as a line on the map at all and there would merely be icons at some stations to represent Crossrail, much as for National Rail, riverboats, airports and Tramlink. This would work well for Crossrail (1) which would only have to identify a relatively small number of stations, though less well for Crossrail 2 / Chelney and very much less well for the Cross River Transit tram scheme where there would be very many stations so indicated indeed.

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