Saturday, 9 May 2015

The Tories Have Won But We're Not Giving Up

Members of the Pirate Party at sea in a boat, ready to fight
On the assumption that you've been away from the internet and all media, I've got some bad news to break: the Tories have won the general election and will be forming the next government without the need to resort to a coalition with another party. So... what does that mean for Britain and the people who live here... and the Pirate Party?

I'll leave it to the Telegraph to explain what happened. It was a flippin' whitewash as the Tories won a decisive victory, trouncing the Liberal Democrats and UKIP. Labour came a close second and now find themselves looking for a new leader — and a new direction.

For the love of God, why?

It was going so well, we were getting good responses from people while out and about and Loz was reporting a surge in interest towards the end, so why, for the love of all decency, did Britain vote the Conservative party into government?

Proportional representation graph
Click to enlarge
Well, the first consideration is our electoral system. I used to oppose the idea of proportional representation on the grounds that we'd end up with more politicians and less getting done due to caucusing and compromise.

We need electoral reform, stat

Here's the thing, though; look at all the good the lone Pirate Julia Reda is accomplishing in the European Parliament. One woman, big changes. We Pirates are good at getting on with other people and getting them on board. A recent discussion with a fellow Pirate over here (who used Reda as an example) won me over with this simple truth: one person can make a difference — depending on the person. Imagine Loz Kaye in Westminster. He'd take Theresa "Snooper's Charter" May apart each time she tried to defend that monstrosity. As it is, David Davies might be able to help but he's one of the few internet-literate people in Parliament at the moment.

Tactical voting undermines democracy

Members of the Pirate Party outside the counting centreThis is the main reason we're stuck with a two-party system: people are afraid to vote because we need at least 20,000 votes to win a seat in Parliament and the smaller parties are lucky to win a few hundred. It doesn't help that they don't have the big money backers that the bigger parties have so it's hard to get the word out about them. That said, even when people do hear about them they tend to vote for the party they deem most likely to win. Tactical voting is the enemy of small parties. Proportional representation puts an end to that by giving smaller parties a better chance of winning a seat because seat allocation is based on the percentage of the overall vote. With PR we would have got more votes because people would have been less likely to see a vote for the Pirates as a waste. In our current First Past The Post system, we need thousands of votes and they're hard enough to come by. So, until we can persuade many thousands of people to vote for us, we've got very little chance of winning a seat in Parliament.

We're not engaging enough

The Pirate Party is primarily seen as an internet party: the Monster Raving Loonies, Internet Edition. I get a fair amount of ribbing at work over this, despite my many efforts to convince them that we're more about society than one part of it. We don't help ourselves in the following areas:
1. We primarily campaign on the internet
2. Some of us blithely dismiss genuine concerns instead of addressing them
3. Some of us get caught in the left/right dichotomy
4. Some of us get caught up in ideological arguments (guilty!)
5. We're not doing enough to make ourselves known in our constituencies
6. We're not making the most of our resources
7. We need to present a professional image
8. We don't get enough press coverage
That the surveillance-loving Tories have won is upsetting but if they hadn't we'd be dealing with the surveillance-loving Labour party instead, like it or not. We've got five years to make a bigger impact and get more people voting for us. I've got a few ideas, mostly along the lines of campaigning for change with civil rights organisations.

We need to make a difference NOW

It's one thing to say you're in solidarity with the disabled but it's really quite another to protest against cuts to the services they require. It's one thing to say you're in favour of ring-fencing funding for the NHS but it's another to protest in favour of protecting it. I say if we want to be taken seriously on our manifesto then we have to live and breathe it, making the most of every opportunity to promote those platform planks on which we stood. Don't just make promises, keep them. We can't stop campaigning just because the election is over. Indeed, now that the Tories have convinced themselves that they've got a mandate from the people of Britain, we're going to have to work harder than ever to get the things we want on the table. When the people see us not just talking, but getting stuff done, that's when they will take us more seriously and we'll get their votes.

We need more effective tactics

Of course, this means getting our candidates front and centre campaigning for the things that matter the most in their local communities. People will vote for the chap who saved the hospital from closing, etc. We don't have the cachet to get ourselves elected on our name alone and simply raising awareness isn't enough. In five years we haven't managed to attract enough votes to get a sniff at a seat. This needs to change. It's great that more people are starting to like us but this needs to translate into a seat in the council or in Parliament sooner or later. I suggest we make a plan to make that happen and put it into effect as soon as possible. It's great that more people know about the party and its policies but unless that's going to result in one or more of us taking office at some point it's ultimately futile. There, I said it.

What now?

We need a long term economic plan to build a Northern powerhouse. I'm actually serious. As a party built around the internet we keep forgetting that while we understand what the issues are, other people don't. This actually came up at work yesterday: "The Pirate Party are all about copyright," declared my colleague Billy.

"Do you actually understand how much copyright affects you?" I countered. "It's in your mobile phone, on your PC here at work and at home, it's on your telly..."

He lost interest. This is the problem; people are not educated AND they're not willing to sit down, be lectured, and ask questions so they can learn more from the sage, savvy Pirates. Billy voted Labour because he hates them less than the Tories. This, he believes, is the most effective way to get business done. We've got to reach people where they're at, they won't come to us. As it is, he wants to raise cash so he can get a mortgage and put some money aside so he's taking a second job. So... under the Tories, the long term economic plan is to force you to work more in the hope of acquiring a property asset that may or may not become a financial ball and chain for you later on.

Implement a Pirate plan

A Pirate plan would be to force up the minimum wage so he wouldn't have to work long hours and could actually have a life. Creating affordable housing would give him more disposable income to spend in the economy since he wouldn't be spending his money on a spiraling mortgage, worrying about ending up in negative equity if fracking went ahead near where he lives. Meanwhile, reducing copyright terms and keeping patents off software would help to reduce the costs of the things he buys, giving him more options and giving retailers the ability to lower their prices as stock would cost less to buy in. Getting patents off medicines would increase the number of available drugs and treatments on the NHS, which he might need if he falls ill.

There is NO REASON on the earth why we can't start campaigning right now to get as many of the items on our manifesto as possible implemented by this government.

We've got the Snooper's Charter to contend with too; focusing on the financial cost would get people riled up enough to join us — we need as many people on board with this as we can get.,

Let go of ideology

See these tweets about Nick Clegg. That's what went wrong for him. He's too stuck on liberalism to get to the roots of the problems and deal with them. An ideological approach will always be the wrong one. He's weak and spineless; a whingeing little git who blames other people for his shortcomings instead of taking responsibility for dealing with things, that's why he got clobbered in the election. People would have forgiven him the tuition fees debacle if he'd stood up to Cameron more but he didn't. Cameron won more because the others were worse than he is than because he's better than them.

Miliband and Farage went down for the same reasons; they're not interested in us or putting the world we live in to rights, they're interested in gaining and keeping power. But yes, it was good to see 'Im wiv the face like a constipated pug get his comeuppance. And that Tory Lite faux socialist Miliband. If we're to learn from their mistakes the smart thing to do is to work out how to avoid doing what they did. That's easy, work out what the problems are and implement solutions. Forget ideology, it gets in the way. A policy either works or it doesn't. If you want a thing to happen, set a goal, create a pathway, and push till you get there, don't just talk about it. And for the love of all goodness if a policy doesn't work, abandon ship.

Ally with friendly groups

Pirates are very good at this, we're brilliant at building alliances. We've also got a growing media presence in which Loz is appearing more often in the press. This needs to happen. Now we've got to do more of it so it's not just Loz but the other candidates making a name for themselves in the best possibly ways. If Joe Public can only name one Pirate ('Im 'oo looks a bit like Jor-El from the Eighties Superman films if you squint really hard and he's rocking that front curl), that's the problem. People need to see us as a unified group of capable, talented individuals. We need to become famous, people! It would certainly help to get more involved in local causes and to get into the habit of having sound bites and talking points available for people who ask questions. But most of all we need to work on manoeuvring ourselves into a position in which we're the go-to people for discussing tech, culture, education, and medicine for the friendly groups we work with. I honestly believe that the more influential we are, the more we can achieve.

Well, these are but a few of the things I want to discuss more fully with the other party members. Meanwhile I urge you all to join the Pirate Party and help us to campaign to create the society and economy we want. I highly doubt that David "don't give a damn" Cameron is going to do that for us.

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