Monday, May 07, 2007

And Scotland?

Just a few thoughts on the Scottish results.

Apart from all the difficulties over the voting process (which has probably killed PR for UK elections) I have a few thoughts.

Firstly I think we shouldn't exaggerate the result. All this doom and gloom about the imminent demise of the Union ( see for instance this rather insulting peice in the Independent and this gloomy scenario in the Times), which I actually find to be in rude health.

I don't think we can realistically expect Scotland to elect the same Government in perpetuity - it needs to be able to throw out the current lot in favour of someone else - at some point that is going to happen and that's what democracy is all about and that party couldn't be the Lib Dems (they're a coalition partner and part of the Government with Labour) and can't be the Conservatives who have not been able to rebuild after being wiped out in the 1990's and are still seen as tainted as well as being traditionally anti-devolution.

So here we are with the SNP with a 1 seat advantage. The majority of parties and voters are against having a referendum on independence, so that's not likely to come close to rearing its head. They're not likely to get a bill through any of its Parliamentary stages.

Yes, Alex Salmond can posture and gesture against a London based Government. It will be an irritant, but the other parties can pull the rug on him when it suits them - as any minority Government is always vulnerable to a confidence vote or to a defeat on the budget.

Also - yes, there is the SNP as the biggest party. Yes, the Executive is likely to have no majority of its own. But that's not so bad. It means the budget gets passed and all other laws are voted on by their merits - including private members bills. Its not unlike the situation in the US where Congress doesn't necessarily pass the laws proposed by the President. They seem to get by reasonably well and if voters are unhappy they can vote differently in another election. Democracy - and voter choice - in action (well for those whose vote actually got counted).

Also not a bad idea for a precedent to be set in favour of having a minority administration - all this obsession with forming coalitions is a little unhealthy and means that the smallest parties have inordinate power over the biggest.

So overall I've decised to be relaxed about all of this. It's democracy in action and we should welcome it. There'll be no referendum, unless there is a majority in the Scottish Parliament for that, which I don't foresee happening anytime soon.

So let's all relax and just let them get on with it - and be proud of the fact it was a Labour Government which delievered devolution in the first place and be pleased that voters are making it work for them.

To use a fabled term from the past (with not entirely positive resonances I admit) "Crisis? What Crisis?".

Sunday, May 06, 2007

ECHR ruling on freedom of assembly

A unanimous ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in favour of the organisers of Warsaw Pride event, upholding the right to the freedom of assembly.

The link can be found on the ILGA website. The ruling is not too long and is well worth a read.

It s a very interesting and forthright ruling and has made a ruling that has applicability for all countries of the Council of Europe (including EU countries such as Latvia and countries such as Russia) as well as strengthening an already impressive ECHR case law on issues of sexual orientation. I also anticipate it will have an impact on the law regarding peaceful assembly and freedom of expression in general, which Governments will have to adhere to.

On a similar note ILGA -Europe has launched a campaign on freedom of assembly, seeking wxpressions of support from , amongst others, mayors and leaders of councils.

Also on the ILGA website, news and links about recent European Resolutions on Homophobia in Europe.

Finally, this may be of some interest. Here is the website for 'GenderDoc-M', the LGBT organisation in Moldova where permission for a Pride event has been denied, in spite of a ruling from the Moldova Supreme Court. Also contains a link to an expression of support from Ken Livingstone.

Elections, elections, elections.....

First of all, good news from Nottingham where Labour won the election, gaining all 3 seats in my own ward (taking one from the Tories) and with a net gain of 4 seats overall.

That island of good news (as well as Labour retaking Leicester Council and gaining seats in York) was somewhat overcast by results elsewhere, especially in Scotland, Wales and the rest of England.


Well it certainly is true that Governments in power lose local elections. It happened under the Conservatives and under previous Labour administrations (including spectacular losses in the 60's and 70's - the BBC has a good page of recent local election reversals, which is quite instructive). A bad performance in local elections doesn't always mean losing the next General Election.

The Labour Party won in Nottingham for a number of reasons - first of all recognising that we would lose the election if we didn't do something radically different. Secondly by pulling out all the stops in the campaign. The Lib Dems complained that Labour won because of union support (I can't see it did much good any where else). The truth is that there was a well run campaign which started just after the 2005 election and a number of individuals putting in a phenomenal amount of work as well as a lot of people working hard on the day.

So I do not think that the next election is lost, but it will be a hard fight. The Scottish vote is very portentious of new developments and I will blog about that at some later point.

And to add to the general depression, tonight the French look likely to elect Sarkozy - if all of the opinion polls are correct (and I do mean all .... there will be some seriousl explaining to do if Segolene Royal wins, though I earnestly hope she does).