Bye Bye Binnie Boy

Almost as joyful to see as the death of Bin Laden is the clear annoyance of the conspiracy theorists and the apologists of anti-western doctrines, as the falling away of Al Qaeda’s support continues, thanks to three main factors:-

Firstly, the Arab Spring, which has been spurred on through increasing Arab rejection of Al Qaeda violence (which has now hit most Arab countries). The Arab Spring movement has achieved more through peaceful means in the last few months to promote the interests of the man/woman in the Arab ‘street’ than Al Qaeda’s agenda has achieved in more than a decade.

Secondly, through the Internet, and the Arab world’s realisation through open media channels (rather than the traditional closed, anti-western agenda of mad, ranting, Mullahs) that, contrary to the extremists and their apologists in the West, we in the West really aren’t interested in crusades against the Muslim world. Following the peaceful revolution in Egypt, it was a joy to see an ordinary Egyptian citizen, clearly full of elation proclaiming ‘thank you, Facebook!’

Finally, the introduction of democracy to Iraq following what had been perceived in the Arab world as imperialist behaviour by the Western allies (a perception which was given credence thanks to disillusioned and anti-establishment rants here) was observed from several other nations in the Middle East. It is now widely reported that the standard response of the Arab world to the introduction of democracy to Iraq and the withdrawal of western forces has been one of quiet envy. They have seen a country which, contrary to the claims of Islamists, has not become a western colony, but a new and fully independent democracy, with equal rights for all citizens. And if it’s good enough for the new Iraq, it’s understandable that citizens in other countries in the neighbourhood want to enjoy the same rights that Iraqi citizens now enjoy.

For all the propaganda of Al Qaeda and its apologists, the real situation on the ground has steadily improved. It has been clear to ordinary Arabs that the suffering and violence in Afganistan since the ousting of the Taleban, and in Iraq since the fall of Saddam, has not been instigated by western forces, but by sectarian groups and those with Islamist agendas. They have seen this first hand or have heard the direct experiences from those whom they trust.

We are not out of the woods yet, but, in the face of changes through civil direct action in the Arab world, and the changes which such action has achieved through non-violent means, it is becoming clear that Al Qaeda and its associates are indeed losing the hearts and minds of ordinary Muslims, who, for the main part, are ordinary people like us, and quite rightly, just want to enjoy the sane rights and privileges as we do.

We can but hope that Bin Laden’s death will be another nail in the coffin of extremism. There will still be those who act in the name of his warped agenda, but the pickings are becoming fewer the more that life improves for the average man, woman, and child in the Arab world and the more they learn about what we in the West are like in reality, thanks to the Internet and mobile devices, as opposed to how the Islamist propaganda paints us.

It’s been a bad decade, and thousands of innocents (mainly Muslims) have lost their lives, but perhaps in light of the Arab Spring and the demise of Bin Laden, there is room for cautious optimism.

AV is not PR

The No To AV campaign has been making the erroneous claim that AV will lead to more coalitions.

The deciding factor in coalitions is the number of parties gaining widespread support. If you have more than two parties gaining significant electoral support, you are likely to end up having coalitions. This has nothing to do with a non-proportional voting system (AV is not PR). The current coalition is born out of a First-Past-The-Post voting system.

However, taking the current coalition as a model, much has been made of its breaking of manifesto pledges. Well, two things are worth pointing out here:

  1. The coalition didn’t make any manifesto pledges. Manifesto pledges are made by individual parties and are applicable in the case of one individual party forming the government on its own. If you get coalition governments, manifesto pledges go out of the window. Direct accountability to one party is one of the disadvantages of coalition governments.
  2. Manifesto pledges have always been broken by previous governments. I know, because I voted in 1997 based on a key manifesto pledge on the introduction of PR. In the event, that pledge was broken by a single party in power.

Unless manifestos are legally binding (and they can’t be – they are statements of intent), all the electorate can do is vote differently in the next election to punish the party or parties which broke their pledge(s). I write as someone who supports PR and coalitions in principle.

Previous governments comprising single parties have broken manifesto pledges, when they had absolutely no case for doing so.

Given the current AV debate, there is much confusion over the issues over government accountability. I just wanted to make it clear that this has absolutely nothing to do with the choice between a FPTP and AV voting system, both of which retain the link between voter and constituency alone. There is no greater element of PR or ‘risk’ of coalition involved with AV, despite the No to AV campaign’s assertions in its campaign.