elections

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Push the Big Blue Button again for DWCA 2022 AGM

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 04/07/2022 - 8:10pm in

Tags 

Events, elections

DATE: Sunday 21 August 2022 TIME: 4pm VENUE: 2nd Floor Club Burwood, 97 Burwood Road, Burwood NSW AGENDA: President’s Report; Treasurer’s Report; and Election of Office Bearers. Once again we’ll be offering people an online attendance option conferencing software Big Blue Button, which has a neat built-in poll function for taking votes. An email with the invite code will be sent out to members the day before (Saturday August 20). Any candidate standing for election as an Office Bearer (President, Vice President, Secretary or Treasurer) must be a current DWCA member who has held membership for a minimum period of… Continue reading

Burned on the 4th of July

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 04/07/2022 - 6:22am in

Congress refused to certify the Electoral College victory by the Democrat who had also won the popular vote — so the GOP loser was inaugurated as President.

You think it can’t happen here? But it did. The year was 1876.

Dr. Deaton of the Georgia Historical Society set the scene... READ MORE

Boris Johnson’s ‘Culture War’ Runs Into the Ground in Tiverton and Wakefield

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 24/06/2022 - 3:57pm in

The Prime Minister's focus on 'wedge issues' is turning voters away from the Conservative Party as it suffers two heavy by-election defeats, reports Adam Bienkov

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Boris Johnson’s election strategist David Canzini told ministerial aides earlier this year that they should “find the wedge issues in your department and hammer them".

They certainly heeded his advice.

In recent months, the Prime Minister and his media supporters have hammered away on a whole series of such issues – from deporting refugees to Rwanda, to taking on trade unions, tackling ‘left-wing lawyers’ and the question of whether women can have penises.

Canzini, who is a protégé of Johnson’s campaigns guru Lynton Crosby, assumed that such 'culture war' issues would succeed in cleaving voters away from his political opponents. They didn’t.

Last night the Conservatives suffered two huge by-election defeats in Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton, on what was one of the worst nights for the party in decades.

In Wakefield, Labour won back the former 'Red Wall' seat on a substantial 12% swing, which would be enough for Keir Starmer’s party to win an overall majority, if repeated at a general election.

In Tiverton, the picture was far worse, with the Liberal Democrats seizing one of the safest Conservative seats in the country. The scale of the defeat is hard to overstate. There are just 40 other Conservative seats with larger majorities across the country and Conservative MPs have represented Tiverton for almost 100 years. 

On the ground, the Lib Dems reported that the Conservatives appeared to be “bereft of a message”, with the party having nothing to say about the big issues that most voters care about.

In advance of the result, one senior Lib Dem figure told Byline Times that the Prime Minister’s focus on 'wedge' – or culture war – issues appeared to be backfiring for his party.

“People don’t think much about these issues and fundamentally just want to be nice and decent human beings to each other,” they said. “And if you’re really concerned about the state of the NHS, as people are here, then hearing the PM going to town about trans women in sports events actually sounds as elite, metropolitan, and out-of-touch as the people he’s attacking.”

In different times, the Prime Minister’s focus on such “elite” issues may have had some traction. But, with inflation soaring and with even Conservative voters dissatisfied with his Government’s handling of the economy, this relentless focus on culture war issues has only helped to emphasise how out-of-touch the party has become.

This week, pollsters Ipsos published the latest findings from their regular survey of the top issues concerning voters.

Ipsos Issues Index: June 2022

Right at the top of the list was inflation, cost of living and, for the first time ever, “lack of faith in politicians".

Nowhere to be seen on the list was any of the issues Boris Johnson and his Government have been 'hammering' away at in recent months.

Johnson's Culture War is Failing

Asked about the upcoming by-elections at this week's Prime Minister's Questions, Johnson predicted that voters would stick with his party, saying "I have absolutely no doubt that the people of this country, and the people of Wakefield and of Tiverton and Honiton, would much rather vote for a solid Conservative Government".

Two days later and his prediction was badly disproved.

In the aftermath of the results, the Conservative Party Co-Chairman Oliver Dowden resigned, with an incredibly pointed letter, saying "somebody must take responsibility" for the defeats.

That somebody won't be Johnson. Asked in advance of the result whether defeat in both by-elections would trigger his resignation, the Prime Minister described the idea as "crazy", suggesting he was determined to remain in Downing Street come what may.

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Following the result, he told reporters in Rwanda that he would "listen to voters" but "keep going".

Yet, unless something major changes, Johnson is leading his party towards likely defeat at the next general election.

Like the Russian tank battalion slowly ground into the dust on the road to Kyiv, Johnson's culture war forces are failing to make the advances either he, or his election strategists, so confidently predicted.

And if Conservative MPs now come to the same conclusion, then the biggest loser of the culture war could soon be the Prime Minister himself.

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Are Voters About to Hand Boris Johnson the Defeats of his Life in Tiverton and Wakefield?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 22/06/2022 - 9:00pm in

The Prime Minister is turning off traditional Conservative voters on the doorstep as he faces a potentially historic by-election defeat in Tiverton, reports Adam Bienkov

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On paper, the Liberal Democrats should not have a hope of winning the Tiverton and Honiton by-election on Thursday.

A pro-Brexit rural area that has stuck with the Conservatives for almost a century, Tiverton was held again by Boris Johnson’s party in 2019 with a stonking 24,000 vote majority.

Yet 'Partygate', Johnson's collapsing ratings and the growing cost of living crisis have all combined to give the Lib Dems a real shot of pulling off what would be a truly historic victory.

“The Conservative majority here is absurdly large,” one senior Liberal Democrat figure told Byline Times. “There’s never been a majority of this size overturned in a by-election ever. It’s slightly absurd that we should even be in with a chance."

For this reason, few are placing huge sums on the Lib Dems winning the seat. Sources in both parties say that it is still very close, but after weeks in which it looked like the Conservatives were set for a huge upset, both sides believe the Tories could now just cling on.

“Some of our people who I know down there are starting to think we may just hold on,” one Conservative MP and critic of the Prime Minister told Byline Times. “And these are not usually vocal supporters of the Government so I wonder whether maybe our majority there is just too big a barrier for the Liberal Democrats.”

Despite this, the central assumption among most Conservative MPs is that the party will be defeated in Tiverton.

“There's a bit of a feeling that it may be getting a bit tighter and maybe the Tories might just hold on, but I wouldn't put too much on that,” the MP said. “I mean, we've seen the ability for the Lib Dems to be the receptacle for protest votes, particularly among stay-at-home Tories and soft Tories, and lots of these have moved away from us because of what's been happening over recent months.”

The Lib Dems are cautiously optimistic about their chances, in part because of the poor performance of the Conservative campaign.

“Neither their candidate, their message or the behaviour of the Government is going down well with voters on the doorstep,” one Lib Dem who has been campaigning in the seat explained to this newspaper.

Both sides put the recent decline of the Conservative vote in the area down to Johnson’s shift towards seeking votes in the so-called 'Red Wall' seats of the north of England, rather than in the Tories' traditional southern heartlands.

“If you’re a pro-Brexit Conservative voter in the Red Wall then I can see what they might offer you,” one Lib Dem campaigner said. “But in seats like Tiverton and Chesham they're just really bereft of a message.”

In the run-up to this week's by-elections, the Prime Minister and his party have focused on picking fights over 'culture war' issues such as immigration, trans rights and train strikes. However, the Lib Dems believe that such issues are really second or third order concerns for most voters in Tiverton.

Much of the build-up to the election has coincided with Johnson's failed attempts to put his plans to deport refugees to Rwanda into action. However, while public concerns about immigration were key to the result in the Brexit referendum, national opinion polls show that it has significantly declined as an issue for most voters in recent years.

“What we’re finding is that people now don’t view that immigration is a problem for public services in the way that they perhaps did in the past,” the source said. “Rwanda is a polarising issue but people can see how stretched public services are and they seem to be more worried about the fact that their neighbour can’t get an ambulance because the NHS is short-staffed, than they are about immigration.”

Johnson’s focus on issues like trans sportspeople also seems to be out of touch with what most voters are concerned about, the Lib Dems believe.

“People don’t think much about these issues and fundamentally just want to be nice and decent human beings to each other," said the source. “And if you’re really concerned about the state of the NHS, as people are here, then hearing the PM going to town about trans women in sports events actually sounds as elite, metropolitan, and out-of-touch as the people he’s attacking."

A ‘Red Wall’ Rebellion?

Defeat in Tiverton would spell serious trouble for Boris Johnson’s party, if replicated across its many other seats in the south of England. However, when it comes to the Prime Minister's own chances of remaining Conservative leader, then heavy defeat in Wakefield could prove to be more serious.

Two recent polls in Wakefield suggest that Labour are on course for a thumping victory in the seat that Johnson’s party took from them in 2019.

Not everyone is convinced by this, with one senior Labour figure telling Byline Times that it was “ludicrous” to believe it could win back the seat with such a large majority after losing it only three years ago.

However, if the polls are broadly accurate, then it could pose serious problems for the Prime Minister.

During the recent confidence vote, Johnson was able to cling on in large part to the fact that he retains support from most of the Conservative MPs in Red Wall seats who were elected under his leadership in 2019. If Labour wins back Wakefield with a large majority, their calculation about the benefits of keeping him in power could change.

“I still think that the Wakefield by-election is more significant because colleagues in the south and south-east have been picking up the fact that the Government appears to be out of tune with our core vote for quite a while, so defeat in Tiverton wouldn’t be such a surprise," one Conservative MP told Byline Times.

“Wakefield is different and would get a whole other chunk of the parliamentary party starting to look over their shoulders."

Whatever the margin of victory in Wakefield, it still looks overwhelmingly likely that Labour will win it, whereas the result in Tiverton still looks very much in doubt.

Internal canvassing returns put out by the Liberal Democrats this week suggest that the race is neck-and-neck, although it is difficult to know whether these numbers are merely expectation management from a party that privately expects to win.

“It’s looking very promising,” one senior Lib Dem MP admitted. “We think we’re in with a good shot of winning it. We really shouldn’t be, but we are.”

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Proud Boys indicted for Seditious Conspiracy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 08/06/2022 - 2:34am in

Five members of the leadership of the violent Proud Boys hate gang, which helped plan the January 6th insurrection in 2021, have now been indicted for seditious conspiracy by a federal grand jury. Members of the extremist armed militia group, the Oath Keepers, who co-planned events on January 6th, are already facing ... READ MORE

It’s Jim Crow 2.0, gone to a crazy extreme!Palast reports from the frontlines of the Georgia Primary Election

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 25/05/2022 - 10:04pm in

[May 24, 2022: Atlanta, GA] Voting day in Georgia, and this pizza is evidence of a crime. If I walked 10 feet closer to the polling station and handed this slice of pizza to a hungry voter, who’s been waiting in line for hours, I'd get handcuffed and sent to prison under a new Georgia law, which says ... READ MORE

Pennsylvania Portents

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 20/05/2022 - 10:59pm in

Insurgents smash Pennsylvania’s Democratic old guard.

GOP frontrunners — from Jan 6 Riot to Governor’s Mansion?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 18/05/2022 - 7:06am in

State Senator Doug Mastriano, Donald Trump’s pick in the Republican Primary for Governor, spent thousands to lead a busload of protesters to the January 6 “protest” at the Capitol in ... READ MORE

British Politics is Now Awash with Money and Social Media – Do We Care?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 17/05/2022 - 8:08pm in

Former Labour MP Ian Lucas explores how digital campaigning and Big Tech has driven a coach and horses through the UK’s historically robust electoral rules

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This month’s local elections revealed mixed results. Despite losing almost 500 seats, with a backdrop of repeated scandals in Downing Street, the Conservatives maintained residual support sufficient to keep Boris Johnson as Prime Minister. Though opposition parties made progress, it was by no means sufficient to ensure that the Conservatives will lose the next general election. What explains the Tory resilience?

To me, a spectre is haunting British politics – the spectre of money. 

Unseen and undiscussed, money has, in the past decade, driven our politics down a new path – undiscovered even by most who work in politics. I was one of them. 

For 18 years, I was a Labour MP, a minister, an opposition spokesman and, from 2015, a member of Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee which a landmark report on disinformation and fake news – uncovering the new, dark world of social media, its political uses and the money involved. It was only in that final role that the transformation of our politics in the last decade was, piece by piece, revealed to me.

Of course, money has always played a role. The Conservatives have always had more money than other parties but, to some extent, the impact of political spending was mitigated by rules. Our politics has, historically, been governed by strict rules – some of the most important of them related to money.

During meetings with US politicians over the years, I learned that they were astonished by how little UK politicians spent on elections. I explained to them that we had spending limits within our constituencies and that, in the half a dozen elections in which I had been a parliamentary candidate, I spent, usually, about £6,000. The most I ever spent was £12,000 in the hotly contested 2017 General Election.

Those US politicians were astounded. They said they usually spent a full day a week on the telephone, asking people for political donations, and needed hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for TV advertising – an essential weapon in the US political campaign race. In the UK, I told them, TV political advertising was banned and this was a big reason why I, someone with working-class parents brought up in a council house without political patronage, could be a UK Member of Parliament.

I fear that those days are gone.

The rules governing elections in the UK now, effectively, no longer apply. The limits on spending that were an intrinsic part of our system are gone. Elections are now being fought in a new way. The traditional methods of canvassing – door-knocking, telephoning, leafletting – have been superseded. The most influential campaigning now takes place online. And, for the most part, online is an ungoverned space.

Campaigning on social media has huge advantages for politicians. Information on voters, their personal preferences, what motivates them and what does not, is now available from online platforms that survey voters’ internet use and use that information to target them with individualised, targeted political messaging.

While targeted political messages have always been delivered, it usually depended on information collected by political parties themselves, explicitly for that purpose or perhaps based on demographic or economic information. It was limited in the numbers of voters reached and the parties’ capacity to individualise its content.

Many social media companies now use surveillance information for targeted messaging, reaching thousands, even millions, of voters daily. They make no distinction between political and any other sort of advertising. This is entirely alien to the political tradition in the UK. We have always treated political advertising differently – that is why we made the decision decades ago to ban TV political advertising. 

Online, however, electoral law has not applied in elections since 2015.

Our historic prohibition on political advertising on TV has been bypassed by political advertising online, with filmed political adverts now used daily on social media platforms; ads that must be paid for. Basic requirements such as imprints to identify the source of messages, for instance, have also not been legally required and are only now being introduced.

Extraordinarily, there are also only very limited restrictions on elections spending, with limits only applying for what the Electoral Commission calls “the regulated period” – the specified few weeks before an election takes place. Outside of this, political spending is unlimited by law. Even within that period, there is confusion about to whom spending limits apply. Does a generic, paid for social media advert from a political party count as a local election expense?

Political campaigning online is now constant. It is delivered inside and outside of electoral periods and Boris Johnson is never happier than when he is campaigning; projecting images of a Prime Minister in a hi-viz jacket, out and about among the voters. Those are the images delivered in films and photos daily on social media platforms; individually targeted at voters chosen as receptive to them, based on their past internet use. The result of bought social media use of this kind has been an explosion of political campaign spending. And it is very clear that enormous amounts of money are now being spent on social media advertising by political candidates. 

In the period since August 2018, for example, the Conservatives have nationally donated more than £700,000 for advertising to the West Midland Midlands Conservative Mayor Andy Street, according to the Electoral Commission. Since November 2018, Street has spent more than £104,000 on Facebook advertising alone. Though not a national politician, Street is a strategically important political figure for the Conservatives, one of only two regional mayors and his 2021 re-election was hotly contested. The other Conservative regional Mayor is Teesside’s Ben Houchen who, according to Facebook, bought more than £69,000 of advertising from it in the period from November 2018.

We have limited knowledge of where the donations to individual candidates to pay for these adverts are sourced.

At the Electoral Commission, the source of donations to Andy Street is, unhelpfully, recorded as “the Conservative Party”. This is problematic when considering transparency of those in senior political roles. If we do not know the ultimate source of donations, how do we consider questions such as undue influence? In this way, it is very difficult to get to the bottom of where big donations come from and why they are made.

Spending on social media advertising is a new, significant expense which requires a new income stream for political parties.

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Recent press reports, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, have highlighted Russian-linked donations to the Conservative Party.

Jane Bradley of The New York Times reported this month on a donation of $630,225 by former Conservative Party Treasurer, Ehud Sheleg. Her article states that the donation “originated in a Russian account of Mr Sheleg’s father-in-law, Sergei Kopytov, who was once a senior politician in the previous pro-Kremlin Government of Ukraine. He now owns real estate and hotel businesses in Crimea and Russia”. According to a suspicious activity alert by Barclays Bank to the UK National Crime Agency, $2.5 million was transferred from Kopytov’s bank account in Russia in January 2018. The alert reads: “Kopytov can be said with considerable certainty to have been the true source of the donation.” Sheleg’s lawyers say that the $2.5 million was a gift.

Another Conservative Party donor, Alexander Temerko – described by Catherine Belton in her book Putin’s People as “the ultimate lobbyist” – has, individually and through companies, given more than £1 million to the Conservative Party since 2012. Temerko has been very active in making donations to north-east England Tory MPs but is not recorded as having made donations to Houchen’s campaign. 

Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats are now spending more on social media advertising – they have little option if they want to effectively compete at the next general election. Meanwhile, the Conservatives have signalled their intention to largely maintain the status quo by, incredibly, passing an Elections Act which largely fails to address the issues relating to online campaigning and its financing. 

The electoral spending race is working for the Conservatives. The question for opposition parties is whether this is the type of politics we want. And, if not, what will they do about it if they have the opportunity?

Ian Lucas’ book, ‘Digital Gangsters: The Inside Story of How Greed, Lies and Technology Broke Democracy’, is published by Byline Books

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What to keep in mind this election

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 17/05/2022 - 5:00pm in

EFA’s policy positions don’t change from election to election, as we prefer to take a longer view, grounded in human rights. However, this election, we’d like to highlight a couple of issues we think are particularly important.

Surveillance is not safety

There is a prevailing attitude among many policy makers that greater surveillance is a prerequisite for greater safety. This is fundamentally untrue. In fact, surveillance is dangerous.

When the authorities want it to, the law can be changed very quickly. Activities that were once legal can suddenly become illegal — and then all of the surveillance data collected about our behaviour suddenly makes us an easily located target. We’re seeing that now in the United States with the threats to Roe v Wade and related legislation.

If you’re thinking that it couldn’t happen here in Australia, remember that abortion only became fully decriminalised in South Australia in 2021 — and 15 months later, those laws have yet to be put into action. Same-sex marriage only became legal in 2017. We’ve seen recent attempts to provide exemptions to laws on religious grounds. We’ve seen attempts to hunt down whistleblowers and those who speak truth to power. We’ve seen how defamation law is used as a cudgel, not a shield.

Unlike in decades past, those with power now have access to a lot of data about our everyday activities. They don’t need to expend resources to create it. It already exists. It’s sitting in innumerable databases both public and private.

Waiting.

Your phone app data is logging your health because you want to track your fitness or be able to predict when you’ll get your next period. Your kid plays Pokemon Go and their school collects and stores attendance data electronically. Your phone uses algorithms to sort your photos into categories. These are all legitimate use cases — and private information.

Until it’s not.

If a government, corporation, or religious organisation decides it wants to use your data against you, there is very little to stop them.

EFA thinks that needs to change.

Make privacy a priority

Australians have been asking for better privacy protections for decades. This election, consider who you can trust to give you the power to protect yourself, rather than to amass yet more power for themselves.

We don’t need another regulator; we don’t need more police. We don’t need to give more power to the authorities we already have. We need fundamental protections that every one of us can access so that we can all, together, resist those who want to use our private information against us.

The Privacy Act is currently under review. Unlike the raft of legislation that has been rushed through with bipartisan support, increasing privacy protections is a policy that has languished through multiple terms of government.

It is time to act.

POSIWID

The purpose of a system is what it does.

We’re asking you to remember that intent doesn’t matter that much. Outcomes do. Focus on what has actually happened, not what people said they wanted to happen, expected to happen, or claimed would happen. What the law says can and can’t happen doesn’t usually reflect what actually goes on in real life.

We’re asking you to remember to pay attention to the margins, and listen to the people who are trying to warn you. Listen to those whose warnings proved correct, not those who have arrogantly dismissed these warnings while being regularly, and consistently wrong.

We’re asking you to remember that the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour.

People who have broken their promises before can’t be trusted to keep them in future; and all we have to protect our data right now is promises.

We need a government that will pass robust privacy legislation that puts power into people’s hands so we can take individual and collective action to protect our privacy, both as individuals and as a society.

What will change?

The composition of the Australian Parliament determines not only who will govern, but what changes will occur.

Laws will change. The nature of those changes will depend on who we give the power to make those changes.

If you value autonomy, privacy, and information security, who do you trust to make changes that will help you, not hurt you?

Choose wisely.

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