Voting Reform

Voting Reform has been in the news of late.

Various Labour and Conservative ‘Big Beasts’ have united to oppose any change in our current system of electing the House of Commons. I find it interesting to note that the Senior Politicians who have come out against electoral reform are all, well, senior in years, Margaret Beckett, Ken Clarke, David Blunkett, John Prescott to name some of the more prominent members of the group. They hardly represent the coming generation of politicians.

This has raised a few questions that I need to try to answer for myself

So these are my questions to answer.

  • Is the AV system worth fighting for?
  • Should we be looking at other – more radical systems
  • Are the Tory proposals to cut the number of MPs by 50 anti-democratic?
  • Shouldn’t we be doing something about the House of Lords as well?

I’ll make a series of posts trying to answer these questions.

Let us take them one at a time – AV first.

It is an improvement on the current system, in that it allows the voter the opportunity to cast their primary vote positively for their party of choice rather than negatively, voting against a particular party. As such it may help a few Green and UKIP candidates keep their deposits. It also means thy by the time an M.P. is actually elected, at least 50% of the people who actually cast their votes will have expressed some sort of preference for him or her. This compares with the current parliament where I believe only 3 M.P.s even managed 40% of the vote in their constituencies.

We can see from the Electoral Reform Society that had AV been in use at the last election it would have resulted in a few more LibDems a few less Tories and about the same number of Labour. Essentially It would have made no real difference.

Whilst can’t get all that enthusiastic about AV, it would for the first time allow me to cast my vote positively for the party I actually support rather than negatively, to prevent a Tory being elected. (I have somehow or other contrived to live my entire life in areas that are LibDem/Tory marginals.) It is also the only thing on offer so I will be voting for it come the referendum in May.

There are other and I think better systems that I think we should consider which I will get round to discussing in another post.

To list the ones that I think are worth considering :


Art in public spaces

I am a great proponent of art in public spaces. While not every work achieves the iconic status of “The Angel of the North”, I think that public art serves to increase the happiness and well-being of the people who come into contact with it and as such is generally worth the outlay.

It is easy to criticise public art as a waste of money, and is a reliable space filler for certain newspapers. While I do agree that there are a few works that should never have been allowed to escape the artists subconscious, let alone their studio, but they tend to be far fewer than the Daily Mail would have you believe.

During the past few days I have been doing some work in The Chelsea and Westminster Hospital , which has quite a lot of art in its public spaces. The art works at the Chelsea and Westminster tend in the main to be abstract sculptures and paintings. Although it is the sculpture that catches the eye first. They are brightly coloured and essentially serve to make the main atrium and hence the hospital itself a place a place that welcomes you. They perform that function very well. I don’t think anyone would claim that they individually or collectively are great art, but I would argue that as an ensemble they work. It is good art.

On piece of work that I didn’t see is thisBarbara Hepworth Sun Opus 418 piece by Barbara Hepworth whose work I love. But she probably needs another post(at the minimum).

Royal Weddings

Or Why can’t they just disappear of to Vegas and get married by an Elvis impersonator?

I’m sure that the Daily Mail would give me thirty thousand reasons as to why this is not a good idea, but I can’t think of one.

For the next six to nine months this is what we are in for people so brace yourselves:

  • We will really need to know that they are 23rd cousins twice removed, because some past royal had a one night stand with Kate Middleton’s 6xgreat grand-mother. I haven’t actually seen this as yet, but believe me every newspaper, with the possible exceptions of the Guardian and the Independent, is doing the research.
  • We will need to see endless photos of Kate Middleton in various stages of undress taken in an earlier more carefree life.
  • Likewise we will need to hear the remembrances of someone who was her third best friend in nursery class?
  • We need an avalanche of Kate’n’Wills© tat – it is probably the only boost the economy is going to get this year

I think it is mainly the prurience that I am objecting to, but it may be my republican sympathies coming out.

I don’t have a problem with two people who are in love getting married, but outside of family and friends should anyone really be concerned about a wedding? Unless of course you make the argument, which I reject completely, that we, as citizens of the United Kingdom, are, in some magical way, the children of Elizabeth Windsor.

Something else occurs to me, mainly about the timing of this. Our ConDem government is going to be attracting a lot of negative attention in the coming months as tax increases and spending cuts start to bite. I am not a conspiracy theorist, but might just make an exception in this case. This is going to soak up front page headlines for the next six to nine months, and probably a fair while after that. A good year to bury bad news?

Jaffna House Café Tooting High Street

I’ve been eating fairly regularly at the Jaffna House in Tooting since being introduced to it by Mrs Johnm55’s Sri Lankan friend. We have just had lunch there (with the aforementioned Sri Lankan friend) an I feel that it is time to announce what a fine and wallet friendly place it is.

I am talking about the café / takeaway part on Tooting High Street rather than the licensed restaurant, the entrance to which is round the corner on Coverton Road. The restaurant I am sure also serves excellent food and will also be very good value for money, but I have never eaten in it so I can’t comment. The café however is in my opinion brilliant.

My starter was quite simple, just two Masala Vadai, served with red and green coconut chutneys, they were nicely crisp on the outside, but the spiced potato filling was moist and soft. The chutneys had, for me, just the right amount of chilli kick, the red being a bit more fiery than the green. I pinched a bit of Mrs johnm55’s Chana Chundal (chick peas) and they were excellent as well. The SL friend originally wasn’t going to have a starter, but changed her mind and came back with a couple of what looked like miniature deep-fried Cornish Pasties, she did say what they were, but as you get older the short-term memory goes a bit.

My main was Oothappam which is probably best described as a thick pancake with peppers, tomatoes, chillies and other veggies mixed into the batter and served with a vegetable curry and a coconut sambar. The softness, almost but not quite stodginess of the pancake batter was sharpened by the heat of the chillies. The vegetable curry added more flavour and lubrication (after I had picked out the okra – I don’t like the texture) and the sambar gave a bit more heat, if needed. I was just what was needed on a grey rainy November day.

Mrs johnm55 had a Masala Dosai as she normally does, and pronounced it as being up to the normal standard. The SL friend had three Idaly. I’m not quite sure what they are, but as she often orders them, I’ll take it on trust that they are good. I might even try them the next time I eat there. The fourth member of the party, a Canadian, had the Sunday special, Jaffna House Special Noodles, which are noodles with mixed veg, mutton, egg and prawns, which she said were rather good, just don’t turn up on Tuesday expecting them to be on the menu

If you decide to eat there remember it is a café, Sometimes all the plates do not arrive at the same time, but they do arrive within a few minutes of each other. The café is also unlicensed so no Cobra.

There were four of us, we each had starters, main courses and (soft) drinks. We all enjoyed our meal.The total bill was just under £16.00. I consider that pretty good value for money.

The Release of Aung San Suu Kyi

The release of Aung San Suu Kyi is one of the more welcome developments of the past few weeks. unfortunately I don’t think that it is as significant in the process of change in Burma as Nelson Mandela’s release was in South Africa’s.

When Mandela was released everyone knew that this showed that the apartheid regime in South Africa had bowed to the inevitable and that this was the start of a process that would lead to full democracy in South Africa. What Aung San Su Kyi’s release signifies in the process of Burma’s progress on the path to democracy and freedom I am so sure.

The military are still in (apparent) full control. The retain their capacity to suppress any form of protest violently and presumably would be able to re-arrest her at a moments notice. Perhaps the Generals are more mindful of international opinion than they used to be, placing her back in detention would inevitably provoke an international outcry, but I fear beyond that there would be no significant action taken. In fact I’m not all that sure that there is any significant action that the West could take. China, of course will take no action what so ever.

“I am so glad to see so many people here and so happy to be free,”
“There is a time to be quiet and a time to talk. People must work in unison. Only then can we achieve our goal.”

These were her words to her supporters who greeted her outside the gates of what is now her house which was until yesterday he prison. She is not going to be leading a violent revolution, she is going to follow the non-violent principles of Gahndi and Martin Luther King and help the people of Burma chip away at the foundations of the whole rotten edifice, then let it collapse under its own weight.

Hello world!

Well this is my first post on this blog.

There is a bit about who I am on my about page.

The blog will feature my random ramblings, but you will probably find that there are three main topics.

  1. Politics – you will find that my views are generally left of centre
  2. Cycling – I enjoy riding my bike, but I am also a fan of cycle sport in general and road racing in particular.
  3. Art – I paint, not very well, but I enjoy it, I also have views on other artists work.

There are other bloggers out there, as you probably already know, but this guy Fred Clark, who goes by the name Slacktivist is worth following.

Random thoughts, ramblings and rants

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