Posts Tagged ‘Alex Hilton’

All men are potential rapists

20/05/2011, 05:45:33 PM

by Alex Hilton

There has been a huge fuss over Ken Clarke’s suggestion that there are different levels of seriousness of rape. In calling for the justice secretary’s resignation over the issue, Ed Miliband was telling us that his interest in headline chasing came above getting to the root of rape.

Whether we like it or not, and the justice system recognised this in sentencing and in parole criteria throughout the last government, there are different levels of seriousness of rape. There are also different levels of seriousness in murder, manslaughter, burglary and a range of crimes.

To say this is not the same as suggesting that the “less” serious form of rape isn’t serious at all; simply that a crime that is serious can be made worse depending on the level of brutality.

Our society’s approach to rape is one of the clearest indications of the extent to which we still live in a patriarchy. Estimates of the number of women raped each year range from 47,000 to 85,000 but we have only a 6% conviction rate of those reported.

The media interest in false allegations of rape so excessively outweighs rape itself that there is a real movement to protect the anonymity of those accused. Yet in trial, despite reforms in recent years, there is no other crime where the victim’s victimhood is so comprehensively scrutinised and tested.


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The sad and soporific history of electoral reform

30/04/2011, 10:30:43 AM

by Alex Hilton

The debate on electoral reform has collapsed under the weight of its own tepid irrelevance. A dishonest and lowbrow No campaign has bested an insipid and directionless Yes effort and we will be left where we started – with a system of government that remains happily unaccountable. This is a missed moment in history and blame can be variously attributed.

To start, Tony Blair reneged on his 1997 promises of electoral reform as his weighty majorities were too good to lose. By the third term, when the old “progressive majority” arguments might have made some headway, Blair didn’t seem terribly interested in the future and may no longer have had the political capital to achieve reform had he tried.

The next opportunity came with the expenses scandal. The electoral reform society at that time could have harnessed a wave of public anger powerful enough to bring down the government and to force any new government into accepting the system had to change. But ERS was coaxed by the Labour factions, Compass and Progress, into  a “behind the scenes” negotiation which, after a number of months, delivered a manifesto commitment from Gordon Brown to hold a referendum on the alternative vote – a system ERS didn’t want – if he won the general election, which seemed clear wasn’t going to happen.

By that time, the anger over the expenses scandal had turned partly to boredom, the public becoming desensitised to the crookedness and low level criminality of their legislators. The Conservatives very much approached the general election as an opportunity for catharsis. Their subtext was that it was in some way the government’s fault and that by punishing the governing party, the public would have achieved closure on the issue. That would have been the end of the matter had they achieved a majority in 2010.

The prospect of coalition revived hopes for electoral reform and the Lib Dems were offered AV without plebiscite by Brown and a binding referendum on AV by Cameron. Though it wasn’t even an electoral system they wanted, they felt that coalition with the Conservatives was the only viable option and that if they pushed for a preferred system, the single transferrable vote, for example, they would be accused of using the upheaval for their own self interest. In short, they took a knife to a gunfight and left the negotiations with very little worth having, seemingly grateful just to have been invited.

The various groups pushing for reform then had to unify to campaign for a system they didn’t want, but while they were doing so, Labour was spending five months tortuously electing a new leader.

During the Labour leadership campaign, all the contenders backed the AV system, some more enthusiastically than others. Confused as it was with the on-going election post mortem, the issue was already in train in Parliament and government before anyone was prepared to show anything like leadership on the issue. Any one of the aspiring leaders, or indeed Harriet Harman as acting leader, could have pressed for the referendum to include a further, better, option, perhaps that of STV; but none of them was prepared to do so, not least because going to the Parliamentary Labour party offering a system that would really end safe seats would reduce MP support in the leadership election itself.

As 2011 began and the referendum campaign developed, the people of Britain were faced with the option of voting for a system so compromised that even its supporters were ambivalent. Our entire political system, left, right and centre, through cowardice or through calculation, ensured that the only reform available was one that has only very little to offer.

It seems likely the country will vote no, if it votes at all. And then those who rule us can go back to ruling, and the rest of us can go back to sleep. Maybe we’re the ones to blame.

Alex Hilton is a former councillor and Parliamentary candidate and was the original Labour blogger.

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Yes, MPs work hard. But who for? Themselves.

19/04/2011, 02:00:23 PM

by Alex Hilton

It’s truly challenging to express incandescent rage in the form of dry, political writing but let me have a go. I am stomach-wrenchingly sick of MPs defending the nobility of MPs in the process of backing the first past the post electoral system.

I’m sorry, Jim Murphy, but I’m talking about you.

Murphy is one of the better MPs. By all accounts he’s intelligent, hard working, serious and responsive to his constituents. But because he is good, does that really mean the rest of them are?

He is the latest in a long list of MPs telling us how hard-working and selfless MPs are. Please listen to me: this is utter tripe. Many MPs really are hard working, some are even obsessive and monomaniacal. But you have to ask who they are hard working for, and it’s usually themselves. It’s not their fault, it’s just how the systems works. (more…)

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Hey, Eds, let some other people write on your blank sheet of paper.

24/02/2011, 02:00:04 PM

by Alex Hilton

I saw something on the BBC this week that looked so silly I had to check it wasn’t yet April 1. It seems that Ed Miliband and Ed Balls are insisting that shadow ministers submit forms for approval before announcing any policies. Policy forms are a simple solution to the complex problem that we want to have policies, but we don’t want to be held to them.

But this solution will create more problems than it solves. Mostly, it will drive innovation into the hands of the two Eds, a centralisation of thought that exceeds even the worst paranoia-tinged years of government.

This approach has no resonance in a world where people expect a better quality of communication than can be achieved through a simple broadcasting of opinion from important people. And in an era when people are rightly mistrustful of pre-election promises, reassuring the public of our general values will become an essential factor in securing their confidence.

This can’t be achieved through a turgid conveyor belt mechanically analysing policies one by one and reducing them to their lowest common denominator. We can instead develop a more fecund environment for innovating in policy by reducing restrictions rather than reducing the pool of available talent contributing to their inception. (more…)

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The week Uncut

22/01/2011, 02:00:45 PM

In case you missed them, these were the best read pieces on Uncut in the last seven days:

Uncut brings you the Johnson resignation and Balls promotion

Alan Johnson for the life and for the leaving of it – bravo!

Alex Hilton claims only electoral reform can save democracy in his Uncut debut

Dan Hodges thinks the NHS reforms are Cameron’s operation Barbarossa

Tom Harris’ frank open letter to the boss (Ed not Bruce)

Tory MP and all round comedy character Chris Kelly hits back at Cry baby jibes

John Spellar wants Labour to worry about the real middle

The Uncut editorial: neither Cameron nor Coulson are the real story

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Only electoral reform can rescue democracy from MPs

19/01/2011, 04:34:02 PM

by Alex Hilton

The referendum debate is getting a little personal, with yes and no campaigners bickering and name calling. Which does Labour little good, because we’re the only party split on the issue. So I will write in the spirit of comradeship. No calling of names like “analogue” or “swivel eyed”. No abuse.

Except of MPs of course. They deserve everything they get.

Remember, that’s where this all came from, the expenses scandal. In the days of the Jenkins review, the electoral reform debate was entirely about fairness. And that didn’t get very far. But the expenses scandal highlighted the other really big problem of FPTP. That of accountability – and that’s an issue that isn’t going away.

MPs are desperately trying to forget the expenses scandal. They want you to believe – they want to believe themselves – that it was a few rotten apples who are now facing the courts or who have resigned in disgrace. But if the sum total of politicians who face trial reaches even twenty, that won’t include any of the MPs who stuck to the rules (that they made to suit themselves) in their over claiming – like the capital gains tax flippers. Nor any of those who weren’t greedy but who turned a blind eye to their colleagues’ behaviour. Which adds up to nearly all of those in Parliament at the time.

I do still have a lot of respect for some of those people, particularly those who achieved most and who represented people best. It’s just a lot less respect than it used to be. (more…)

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