Don’t slide to the right, cha cha real smooth

Warning: article has nothing to do with novelty hip-hop from the late 90s.

The number of think-pieces floating around saying that Labour (and other liberal or left-leaning parties) should get tough on immigration is getting a bit silly. They all seem to be missing something important.

Despite their intricate policy differences, Labour, the Lib Dems, the Greens, Plaid Cymru and the SNP all share a common attachment to liberal values. They don’t see immigration as the main threat to British society, which it isn’t, and they don’t want to abandon their principles in pursuit of socially conservative voters, which is commendable.

The latest polls suggest that these 5 parties combined are sitting on about 45% of the popular vote. Now I’m not daft, I know that’s not a “winning” score, but it’s a massive chunk of the population who clearly have liberal values. To abandon this solid voter-base in the hopes of scooping up a few floating voters would show incredible strategic ineptitude.

Trying to out-UKIP UKIP or out-Tory the Tories is never going to work. Why would significant numbers of UKIP and Tory voters defect to UKIP-lite or Tory-lite when they can have the real deal? And, in the process, you stand to lose liberal voters for whom anti-immigration rhetoric is a red-line issue.

There is a decent chunk of the population who have no fixed ideology and can be persuaded to vote for pretty much any party as long as they are offered genuine solutions to their problems. There is still a massive chunk of the population who do not vote at all. If there is a path to electoral victory, to turning 45% in the opinion polls into more than 50% in a general election, it surely lies with the non-voters and the great undecided. We need to find messages, and maybe even activities, that engage and inspire those voters – and keep our principles in tact at the same time.

So please, if you’re a journalist with an article in your drafts titled “the left must get tough on immigration”, have a good think about the consequences and maybe just move it quietly to the recycle bin.

Time for Kingswood to speak up for foxes

For a long time now I’ve been trying to discover the position of Kingswood MP, Chris Skidmore, on fox hunting. Several pro- and anti-hunt websites identify him on their list of pro-hunt MPs but I did not have much luck finding a concrete position until now. Finally, Chris has confirmed that if there is a free vote in Parliament on the Hunting Act he will vote to repeal it and, by extension, bring back fox hunting.

This position is extremely disappointing, although not entirely surprising, and flies in the face of public opinion on the issue. The Attitudes to Hunting 2016 poll released by Ipsos Mori revealed that 84% of the public support a ban on fox hunting. This attitude has been consistent since the Hunting Act was introduced and in fact support for the ban seems to be ever increasing. Research by YouGov in 2015 found that every single region in the UK, including the Avon and Somerset area, supports the ban.

Mr. Skidmore’s response to my question appears below:

Chris Skidmore Part 1 Chris Skidmore Part 2

Chris attempts several times throughout the response to frame his views as more compassionate, more scientific, and more popular than they really are. Anyone who has witnessed a fox hunt or a legal “trail” hunt understands that this practice has nothing whatsoever to do with compassionate wildlife management. It is, after all, still legal to manage foxes using other methods. I don’t personally approve of killing foxes at all, I am more in favour of tighter security measures at farms to prevent contact with livestock in the first place, but nonetheless it is clear that farmers are perfectly able to protect their land from foxes in other ways.

Chris also cites a variety of complexities and contradictions in the act which make it hard to properly understand and enforce. He blames this on “political wrangling”, which is code for “lobbying by hunting groups”. To claim that the act is not fit for purpose, while simultaneously siding with those who are to blame for weakening the act in the first place, strikes me as a desperate hand-wringing exercise to justify his own position. I agree that the act is not entirely fit for purpose, but it should be strengthened and made clearer, not thrown out entirely.

Hunting mammals with dogs is not a necessary component of effective wildlife management or farm maintenance, but rather an outdated and barbaric sport only enjoyed by a “privileged” few. I urge Chris to rethink his position on fox hunting and side with the vast majority of compassionate voters in Kingswood and the UK in general who want the Hunting Act to remain in place. If you agree, please write to Chris using WriteToThem or contact him on Facebook and Twitter. Please remember to be polite and considerate in your correspondence with your MP. It devalues our cause to behave in a way that could be considered rude or threatening.

Junior Doctors Strike: 4 Things You Should Realise

An all-out five day strike is going to be awful, there’s no doubt about it. Nobody wants this strike to happen. Patients don’t, the government doesn’t, and the BMA and the junior doctors certainly don’t. The big, Conservative-friendly news outlets (Sun, Daily Mail, Telegraph) will no doubt be hard at work this week pumping out scathing attacks on the Junior Doctors for their decision to take such drastic action, but don’t get caught up in the media frenzy. Here are four things you should realise about the upcoming strike:

1. Industrial action is the only tool the doctors have left.

Hunt1Doctors have very publicly voiced their concerns about the new contract, they’ve voted against it, and a majority of people in the UK were on the junior doctors’ side when they walked out earlier this year.

The government hasn’t listened and insists on imposing the contract anyway. Short of leaving the profession altogether (or emigrating), the only way the junior doctors can oppose the imposition of new contracts is by striking. We can all agree that a massive brain-drain from our NHS would be even worse than strike action.
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