The Plastic Hippo

April 28, 2011

Does one want fries with that?

Filed under: Uncategorized — theplastichippo @ 8:44 am


The bunting is hung across the street. The cakes are baked and the cucumber sandwiches prepared. Glass bottles with marble stoppers are filled with lashings of ginger beer and the Union Jacks distributed to every child. Tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1981.

Thirty years ago, David Cameron, then aged 15, slept rough on the Mall in the hope of catching a glimpse of a princess. A few days earlier, a disabled man was killed by a police van in what became known as the Toxteth Riots. As thousands huddled in sleeping bags through choice rather than necessity in central London, the then Chief Constable of Merseyside Police, Kenneth Oxford, stated that he and his officers would not be responsible for the fate of anyone on the streets of Liverpool after dark. CS gas canisters and rubber baton rounds were used for the first time on the British mainland. Kenneth was later knighted.

Now, the Metropolitan police officer in charge of security for the royal wedding, Assistant Commissioner Lynne Owens, has stated that any “criminals” wishing to disrupt or even protest against the imminent nuptials will be dealt with “robustly”. Any veteran of a Scouse wedding will know that there is usually a fight at the reception and we do not want to see uninvited nutters from Muslims Against Crusades and the English Defence League lobbing vol-au-vent at each other or, even worse, the few remaining dissident republican dinosaurs from across the water planting bags of fertiliser around Westminster Abbey. Of course, the safety and security of the happy couple, the monarch and the visiting dignitaries is of paramount importance, but to class dissenting voices who question the cost of this match made in heaven as “criminal” is a worrying development. It would seem that the Met are now integral to the PR hype being peddled by government, the press and the palace to make sure that we celebrate the union of prince and wife and join in with the right royal knees-up. Enjoyment and loyalty to the crown is now compulsory, as is the bill for the wedding.

As the coalition cuts begin to bite, those facing redundancy and those already laid off will certainly enjoy the extra bank holiday and the opportunity to express their joy at a fairy-tale marriage. Street party tables in the middle of the road will not hinder emergency services attempting to attend the sick, elderly and dying because those emergency services are being withdrawn as a “saving”. One can only hope that the dashing groom does not worry too much that his job as a search and rescue helicopter pilot is under threat due to defence cuts. We are all in this together, but most of us will not receive Cornwall and Wales as wedding presents.

Given the hard times of old England, the royal family and the coalition have missed the chance of a lifetime to make “efficiency savings” to offset the cost of staging the spectacular. Clearly such an important couple deserve more than a Registry Office and a few pork pies in the upstairs room of a working mens club so flogging tickets to the Abbey to wealthy social climbers would rake in enough to save the NHS. The rights to the wedding snaps sold to Hello magazine would fund the rebuilding of every school in the land and television companies would fight tooth and nail to produce a new reality show called My Big, Fat Windsor Wedding together with a Bridesmaids Got Talent spin-off. MacDonald’s could do the catering and distribute a nutritious happy meal to every child in the nation instead of a boring mug.

As the big day approaches, this humble blog wishes the young newly-weds a long and happy life together and hopes that the struggle to find and keep employment, a mortgage, being close to a decent hospital and finding a decent school for any future little princes and princesses proves not to be too traumatic. Wishing to avoid the fawning “gawd bless yer, Wills and Kate and gawd bless yer, ma’am” nonsense currently obsessing the media, the hippo intends to spend the day at the bottom of a disused mine shaft with a bottle of Glenmorangie.

Risking lèse majesté, the bottle might need to be super-sized.

April 23, 2011

Time and tide

Filed under: Uncategorized — theplastichippo @ 10:14 pm


After a full and reasonably debauched life, there is little left that can provoke an audible gasp from the author of this humble blog. But as dawn broke over Cardigan Bay, a gasp was followed by a few tiny tears of joy.

Camping is always a mixed pleasure. The connection to Gaia via a sleeping bag and a ground sheet is a penitence of dubious value and discovering rabbit droppings in your flip flops is not the best start to a day. However, lower back pain and a stiff neck are inconsequential when compared to the benefits of communing with nature.

There are those that enjoy the extreme “survivalist” style of camping and there have been times, long ago now, when the hippo resorted to the woods armed only with a ball of string, Oxo cubes, a frighteningly long knife and a squirrel cook book. Those days are, mercifully, long gone but the skills required to fashion a temporary shelter from bracken remain. The Winnebago experience has also been tried but 99 channels of TV rubbish and a freezer full of vichyssoise and lobster thermidore was more luxurious than the family abode and hardly a green education for the younger hippos. A compromise between hardship and convenience had to be found for a short and spontaneous family get-away.

So, off we trekked to the Welsh coast to pitch our camp on a commercial campsite that promised stunning views and excellent facilities. Approached by a causeway which is covered by the tide twice a day, the views are indeed stunning. A simple and efficient reception process highlighted the excellent facilities and we raised our flag as far away from the snack bar and games arcade as possible. Perched atop a low cliff at the very edge of Gwynedd, we gazed out across a shimmering Bae Ceredigion with Parc Cenedlaethol Eryri at our backs and Harlech Castle to the north. To the south were huge sand dunes and a flat, golden beach. Stunning was not an exaggeration.

Our settlement was established as Great Backed Black Gulls and Common Tern patrolled the shoreline, Sandpipers and Curlews cried, finches bustled in the almost blooming wild roses and marsh orchids. Skylarks ascended above our encampment. They were joined overhead by Hawk fast jet training aircraft from RAF Valley on Anglesey. They came in fast and low over the sea to practice strafing runs on the decommissioned airfield just across the estuary that separated the island from the mainland. Ironically, the airfield was last used to test Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, the drones currently being deployed over Libya, and was operated by Serco. Small world.

The Royal Air Force, however, were not the only ones to break this pastoral idyll with loud noise. Our decision to pitch far away from the excellent facilities in the hope of securing peace and quiet seemed to be rendered futile by the arrival of two car loads of potential neighbours, their radios blaring what sounded like an industrial jack hammer accompanied by an air raid siren and an imbecile shouting at the top of his voice. They stopped briefly to swear at each other, throw some recently emptied Special Brew cans out of the cars and allow two Staffordshire Bull attack dogs to crap close to our tents. The hippo growled and they thankfully moved on.

Having regained control of the prairie, the hippo nation consolidated the reservation with an essential clothes drying line, a raised fire and cooking tripod and, unusually, a structure to provide shade from a gloriously hot sun rather than from the wind and the rain. Sun block administered, the afternoon was spent foraging for Doritos and hunter-gathering the wherewithal for a passable corned beef hash from the campsite mini-mart. A trip to the excellent facilities introduced us to the fellow travellers we were destined to share the island with.

Sweet Jesus, Holy Mother Mary and all the Angels, some of these people were fat. So fat that walking was a problem. Some had to take a breather holding onto a wall before taking the next drag of their cigarette. Cans of beer seemed tiny as they lay cradled in gargantuan fists. A child so vast that he deserves a dedicated flag on Google Earth, became breathless from the effort of lifting a burger to his face. His parents, equally immense, could find meaningful employment as flood defences. On the beach, Greenpeace inflatables were trying to drag some of them back into the sea.

A newspaper, picked up from next to the out of date Fanta and BOGOF Jaffa Cake offers, reported the slim thoughts of our slim leader David Cameron. Apparently, he does not wish to pay his taxes to support the obese, the addicted and the alcoholic through Incapacity Benefit. Perhaps he should first encourage his party donors and his Chancellor to pay their taxes before pontificating about government support for the vulnerable. With complete disregard to actual facts, Cameron has again attacked those without a voice to respond. First it was people with disabilities, then immigrants, now it’s everybody else. Cameron may not have the charisma of Hitler or the dress sense of Mussolini, but the message is the same. Identify and isolate the weakest and then turn on them by inciting first distrust and then hatred. The abrogation of compassion and basic humanity is high on the agenda of this bastard coalition government. Maybe “call me Dave” had this statement from Mussolini in mind:

“Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.”

As for the corpulent society with their addictions and garish tattoos, if you can’t run you can’t fight and that’s exactly where this bunch want you. And the trainee RAF pilots pretending to take out Welsh airfields and facing redundancy? Their time would be better spent practising bombing raids on Whitehall, Downing Street, the Department of Education and the Department of Health. Cameron, Clegg, Osborne, Gove and Lansley are the enemies of the people.

It is remarkable how quickly one adjusts to life under canvas on an island. The sun and the tides dictate the day rather than the appointment diary, the internet or the work of fiction that is the train timetable between Walsall and Birmingham. Up and about at dawn and in bed an hour after nightfall after some rough cider harks back to a time before the human race became domesticated.

One morning, up before God was awake, a fat hippo addicted to cigarettes and alcohol stood facing the sea as the sun roared up from behind Snowdon. As the sun warmed the bay, a sleek shape broke the surface. About 30 metres off-shore, a dolphin was looking for breakfast.

It seemed that we were the only creatures alive at that hour. It was a sight that deserved an audible gasp and, given the state of our nation, a few bitter tears.

April 18, 2011

PC Plodcast

Filed under: Law,Media,Rights,Walsall — theplastichippo @ 11:34 am

Although the authorship and publication date of “The Nine Principles of Good Policing” remain unknown, it is likely that the foundations of present day law enforcement in the UK were laid down in 1829 by Charles Rowan and Richard Mayne, first joint Commissioners of the Metropolitan Police. Following a bad couple of weeks for the Met, those principles are worth revisiting.

The inquest into the death of Ian Tomlinson during the G20 protests, the ongoing prosecution of the peaceful protesters who occupied Fortnum and Mason and the rather questionable conduct of officers investigating the News of the World phone hacking scandal have not engendered public confidence in the police service. Back in 1829, the nine principles were enshrined in the “General Instructions” issued to every officer in the newly formed Met. Based on co-operation, respect, approval and even affection, the principles are:

One
To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.

Two
To recognise always that the power of the police to fulfil their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.

Three
To recognise always that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing co-operation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.

Four
To recognise always that the extent to which the co-operation of the public can be secured diminishes proportionately the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion for achieving police objectives.

Five
To seek and preserve public favour, not by pandering to public opinion; but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws, by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humour; and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.

Six
To use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public co-operation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.

Seven
To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

Eight
To recognise always the need for strict adherence to police-executive functions, and to refrain from even seeming to usurp the powers of the judiciary of avenging individuals or the State, and of authoritatively judging guilt and punishing the guilty.

Nine
To recognise always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.

182 years later, the Association of Chief Police Officers might like to consider re-issuing these “General Instructions” to the people charged with protecting what the late John Mortimer QC described as Laura Norder. Perhaps if the officers in attendance at Hillsborough in 1989 and those involved with Blair Peach, Stephen Lawrence, Jean Charles de Menezes and, indeed, Ian Tomlinson had this code in the breast pocket of the tunic, events might have taken a different turn.

Because of these nine principles, the British police force is unique in its approach and relationship with the public. The seventh principle, “that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police”, ensures that Laura is not in the hands of the State, the Crown or any transient government. The people are the police and the police are the people. Chief Constables should therefore think twice before deploying officers to break strikes or kettle legal and legitimate demonstrations because those decisions are politically motivated. It seems ironic that public order offences are being committed by the very citizens that are employed to prevent such disorder.

The Metropolitan Police would do well to look to the West Midlands to learn how to engage with fellow citizens. Smithy the police search dog is on Twitter, much to the chagrin of the Tax Payers Alliance and the Daily Mail. That has to be a good thing. Life at the sharp end of policing in Walsall is reported by the excellent PC Richard Stanley on Twitter and on his informative and entertaining blog. Even the police helicopter is now on Twitter. Similarly, Superintendent Mark Payne gives a view from the top of the West Midlands Police and has incurred the wrath of none other than Sir Alex Ferguson and the national press for correctly suggesting that if the loutish behaviour displayed by a Mr Wayne Rooney had taken place on the streets of Wolverhampton, the result would have been an arrest and charges relating to a public order offence. Should Wolves survive relegation, the Superintendent might wish to take a breathalyser to Molineux and have a quiet word with the United manager.

These forays into social media will never replace the rose-tinted and quaint notion of the friendly neighbourhood Bobby on the beat, but they do give a human, and canine, face to the police service. Reduced funding for the police will result in the loss of front line officers and a reduction in levels of service and the imposition of elected Police Commissioners will politicise the constabulary and tear up the nine principles. Open, honest and factual communication does a lot to strengthen the trust between the police and the public.

As a rotten government continues to attack its people, the police have a clear choice. If the police service allow themselves to be forced into becoming a political instrument of the state instead of remaining part of the public, trust and approval will be eroded.

West Midlands Police are leading the way in community engagement using social media. PC Richard Stanley is hosting an on line session on Twitter when the public can ask questions regarding the policing of Walsall. It takes place on Wednesday April 20 between 7pm and 8pm at http://www.twitter.com/walsallpolice

Tell him Laura sent you.

April 17, 2011

1973

Filed under: History,Politics,World — theplastichippo @ 12:28 pm

1973 looks like ancient history now. With only three TV stations still showing some programmes in black and white, no internet, no mobile phones, no pizza delivery and no Jamie Oliver, life was almost medieval.

The year started with the UK joining the EEC and ended with the introduction of the three day week. Edward Heath was Prime Minister and Margaret Thatcher was in charge of education. The Vietnam War ended and the Yom Kippur War began. How remote these events seem in our current, stable society.

It is now almost beyond credulity that America was gripped by the Watergate scandal involving break-ins, phone tapping and cover-ups. That the TUC should organise a day of action to protest against the government. That an oil crisis should send the cost of fuel through the roof and that a civilian Libyan airliner would be shot down by Israeli F4 Phantoms enforcing a no-fly zone. Stranger still the regime change that brought about the “suicide” of democratically elected President Allende of Chile witnessed by CIA special forces and hundreds of heavily armed soldiers loyal to a right wing dictator who just happened to be surrounding him. Thank goodness these shocking events belong firmly in another age.

What seems even more incredible is that Dark Side of the Moon and Tubular Bells were released in 1973.

UN Resolution 1973 demanded a cease fire in Libya and the imposition of a no-fly zone to protect civilians from air attack. It authorised “all necessary means” short of a “foreign occupation force” to stop Gaddafi killing his own people. Within hours, the military might of Britain, France and the US set about destroying the Libyan defence assets supplied by, without any trace of irony, the British, French and American arms industries. First blood went to the French but RAF Tornado in the air over the Maghreb have now been joined by Typhoon Euro-fighters in a ground attack role that they are not designed to perform. A Trafalgar Class Royal Navy submarine along with an undisclosed number of American submarines, are launching Tomahawk cruise missiles intending, proceeding and succeeding, in blowing up some stuff.

All over by teatime, one might have thought. Sadly not. It was not long before civilian causalities resulted from that most insulting oxymoron, “friendly fire” and the ultimate cop out, “collateral damage”. The stated aim of protecting civilians from air strikes is being achieved by striking them from the air and from below the water.

This rapid intervention clearly saved Benghazi from the blood curdling threat of annihilation issued by the mad man in Tripoli and the members of the alliance are to be congratulated on their masterly use of diplomatic logic by managing to include the “all necessary means” clause into UN Resolution 1973. Prior to the resolution being passed, the emphasis was on protecting the population by policing a no-fly zone. Once the hands were raised in favour in New York, it was chocks away, target acquired, weapons locked and loaded. Military logic dictates that flying in a no-fly zone means taking out any air defences and, for good measure, creating a bloody big hole in Muammar`s patio.

This sudden outpouring of humanitarian concern for the good people of Libya and the willingness to bomb them to freedom has, of course, absolutely nothing to do with Libya’s oil reserves and production. The second ship into Benghazi did not carry food and medicine and was, in fact, empty. It departed full of oil. The first ship in was HMS Cumberland, currently berthed in a breakers yard being melted down to make royal wedding souvenirs. Her last task was to evacuate the British nationals and other non-Libyans who made their living digging up oil.

Protecting innocent Libyan civilians is still the focus of a British government removing support from the elderly and people with disabilities, a French government that has made wearing a burqa a criminal offence and an American government with no stomach for another Iraq, Afghanistan or Vietnam. After ejecting Louisiana fishermen from its AGM, British Petroleum are more than capable of handling this latest unpleasantness.

It is reassuring to know that at times of national and international crisis, the best minds in British intelligence, military, government and civil defence gather to formulate a response to dire and volatile circumstances. The very name of this committee inspires confidence and conjures up images of the good guys from “The Man from UNCLE” outwitting the bad guys from THRUSH or a laconic 007 being briefed on the latest dastardly plot by SMERSH.

COBRA, dangerous, deadly, cunning and lightening-quick is protecting us. One would hope that COBRA stood for something like Command Operational Battle Ready Assets, but it doesn’t. Ancient Whitehall retainers know that something is up when their morning chitty requires them to furnish tea and biscuits and fill the inkwells in Cabinet Office Briefing Room A. Geddit? COBRA. Do pay attention Bond.

COBRA met to approve armed intervention in Libya as UN Resolution 1973 came into force and prior to David Cameron addressing the commons. There are some MPs, including Conservatives, who are now demanding the recall of parliament as the “war” escalates and boots on the ground seem inevitable. The French Foreign Minister, Alain Juppe has suggested that the forceful removal of Gaddafi and his loathsome sons would be legitimised using the “all necessary means” justification. 1973 was passed on the understanding that regime change was not the motivation. His predecessor, Ms Michele Alliot-Marie, was sacked by Sarkozy after it emerged that she had spent Christmas with her pal President Ben Ali in Tunisia and offered that tyrant some French assistance to quell his uprising. One wonders if there are chairs reserved for BP and Total SA in Cabinet Office Briefing Room A.

COBRA is chaired by Foreign Secretary William Hague, the former host of Have I Got News For You and the man who told the world that Gaddafi had fled to Venezuela a few days after the start of the Libyan revolution. Hague also explained that the heavily armed SAS men dropped by helicopter in the dead of night on a remote Libyan farm and then captured by a bunch of farm hands, were actually businessmen looking for an hotel. One hopes that his former “special adviser”, Christopher Myers, was not one of the businessmen involved. Sharing an occasional hotel room with a burly SAS operative is quite different to sharing a room with a cabinet minister.

If only COBRA had James Bond to sort this mess out.

“Commander Bond, you will be taken to Tripoli by submarine and you will make contact with Agent Sienna Miller. She will be at the Casbah wearing a silver lame bikini. In order not to compromise her cover, she will be wearing a yashmak to conceal her identity. She will lead you to the target and you will neutralise him. Here are your Easyjet tickets back to Luton.”

The oil-thirsty western powers have underestimated Gaddafi and have decided to ignore the fact that many of his people still support the crack-pot. He may be barking mad but he is as sly as a desert fox and as cunning as a mongoose. Rather than defeating Riki Tiki Tavi, COBRA may be coiling themselves around a Riki Tiki Timebomb. Arming the rebels might be a quick fix intended to open up the oil terminals but let us not forget the results of arming al-Qaeda to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan.

The government may wish to accept the loss of PC Yvonne Fletcher and the Lockerbie bombing as part of the price we have to pay for oil. But they should remember that April 4, 1973 saw the official opening of the World Trade Center in New York. That lasted 28 years. Gaddafi came to power in 1969. And he is still standing.

April 14, 2011

AV some of that

Filed under: Politics,Rights — theplastichippo @ 1:56 pm


Of all the deceptions, broken promises and downright lies uttered by Nick Clegg prior to the general election, the howler haunting him this week is his description of the alternative vote as “a miserable little compromise”. Now fully supporting the Yes to AV vote, the Deputy Prime Minister is likely to have “a miserable little compromise” carved just under his name on his political tombstone.

When it comes to change for changes sake, the hippo tends to be conservative and believes that tinkering with democracy should be a carefully considered process. The Liberal Democrats, although possessing the morals of a whore, are not stupid and realise that after decades of obscurity and 11 months of betrayal, AV is their only hope of survival. Tinkering is not enough and so we now have this headlong rush into a fundamental change in the voting system cobbled together in the desperate viper’s nest of the coalition agreement. Given the decline in popularity for the two main parties, Proportional Representation was the holy grail for Clegg, but offered a nice badge and some security men, he settled for the AV bowl of scraps.

Both the Yes and No campaigns agree that AV is flawed and, for once, Clegg was correct to call it a compromise. However, the utter nonsense spouted in favour and against is bedwettingly puerile. The no campaign claims that voters are too stupid to understand AV and if approved, will result in shambolic coalitions. Interestingly, the referendum was the brain child of a shambolic coalition that threw in constituency boundary changes that favours the “senior partner” for good measure. In a charmless and patronising broadcast, the no campaign compared AV to a horse race when the third place nag wins and Cameron had earlier evoked the Grand National with the same message; third comes first.

The first past the post analogy is a good one as politics is just like a horse race. The diminutive light weights in red, blue and yellow racing silks are carried over the winning line by beasts of burden as speculative onlookers scream encouragement in the hope of making a fast buck. Those jockeys fortunate enough to reach the winners enclosure at Aintree dare not look back at the carnage at Becher`s Brook as the screens are put around the corpses of the electorate. The exhausted winning gee-gees receive an apple and a scrub down with a wire brush as the jockeys and owners quaff the bubbly and the punters pick up their winnings.

The yes campaign claims that MPs will have to work harder and that democracy will flourish. Under AV, votes cast for parties, policies and candidates rejected by the majority of the electorate will not be “wasted” votes. In a charmless and patronising broadcast, the yes campaign gave us a war hero who, having voted in every election since the end of the Second World War, wanted his vote to count. His courageous fight for democracy ensured that he, and the rest of us who owe him and his comrades so much, had the right to vote. But no amount of medals and saccharine piano sound tracks and celebrity endorsement gives anyone the right to win.

If the no people see democracy as a horse race, then perhaps the yes people see it as a football match. After a dire one-nil clogging contest on a foggy Saturday afternoon, the manager of Loser United is interviewed in the tunnel:
“It’s a disgrace. Our two players should not have been sent off for that challenge. They both went for the ball. Our condolences to the opposing player’s family, by the way. After that, we were a man down. There were more of them so we should have been given a goal to make it fair. Plus, we got more corners and they committed more fouls. It’s scandalous. We won.”

Both sides in this increasingly nasty argument simultaneously agree and disagree that yes and no will see the ascendency of tiny, crazy and dangerous parties. It is really rather wonderful that everyone is wrong and right at the same time. Under AV, if the “winning” candidate receives less than 50 per cent of the vote, second, third, fourth and consequent “preferences” are counted again. So, if a life-long Tory voter in a Tory seat puts one against the Conservative candidate, two against UKIP and three against the BNP, without a 50 per cent majority, the election descends into a dance-off. Similarly, in a Labour seat, fringe parties have the advantage. Given their track record in government, we can dismiss the Liberal Democrats from the equation.

There is, though, one salient issue that both campaigns have ignored and that is the choice of the electorate. There is nothing to stop an individual voter placing one against his or her preferred candidate and ignore the also rans. There are those in this nation who would disembowel themselves rather than give any possible vote to the likes of the BNP. For others, that bunch might be their first and only choice.

The referendum campaign has resulted in some strange bedfellows. Cameron is opposed to AV but deputy Clegg is in favour, in spite of it being “a miserable little compromise”. Ed Miliband is also in favour but 200 of his MPs and peers are against including our own Valerie Vaz. Her stance is not to do with electoral reform but is about seeing her constituency disappear. Curiously, the BNP are against AV. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, with low turn outs the BNP can possibly take seats under first past the post. Secondly, asking their supporters to write down the numbers one to five or six rather than placing a cross would result in electoral catastrophe.

On reflection, the hippo rather likes the first past the post system. The current basket case coalition can be seen as an anomaly in the electoral process given the unpopularity of politicians in general. AV would make this shambles the norm. But given those opposed to the compromise AV, Cameron, the BNP, the odious Tax Payers Alliance and even the irritating Ed Miliband, a vote in favour of AV is the only option. How’s that for a compromise?

By the time Margaret Thatcher was in her second term, she had acquired the nickname “Tina”. This stood for “There Is No Alternative”, apparently a phrase she used with the regularity now associated with “inherited budget deficit”. She, along with her successors, are wrong. There is always an alternative.

To combat voter apathy, low turns outs and under representation, this humble blog suggests that compulsory voting by all who hold the right is introduced. This would be enforced under legislation similar to that currently being used to ensure an accurate census.

To preserve our hard fought democracy, a final option should be offered to the electorate at the bottom of the ballot paper. A box where we can place our mark that states: “None of the above.”

After all, that’s what we did in May 2010.

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