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.