Jesurgislac’s Journal

May 26, 2010

Pro-life is what they call themselves…?

In parts 4/4.5 of this occasional series, I discussed the case at an American hospital, St Josephs in Arizona – a case which we know must have been repeated out of sight of the world media over and over again, with more tragic conclusions: of a woman who arrived at the emergency department of a Catholic hospital deathly ill from her pregnancy. (Pulmonary hypertension, in this specific instance, but there are many things that can kill a woman when her pregnancy goes wrong.)

There was a simple, obvious, and awful way to save the woman’s life: perform an abortion on a wanted pregnancy. (She was 11 weeks pregnant and there is a health center that provides abortions in Phoenix Arizona: it seems reasonable to conclude that she wanted the baby, who would have been her fifth.) The woman was told that to save her life the pregnancy would need to be terminated. She agreed to the operation. (In the first trimester, aspiration is the normal method – it’s non-surgical, can be performed with only a local anaesthetic, and would have put minimal stress on her over-taxed heart.) The operation was performed: she lived. Had the doctors refrained from performing the abortion – or had they even moved her to an operating theater – she would have died. Of course, when she died, the fetus would have died too.

My guess is that people who’ve read me on Why pro-choice is the ony moral option are surprised that I say it was an awful way to save the woman’s life. But it was: losing a wanted baby is a tragedy. To have to decide to terminate a wanted pregnancy in order to live is a very dreadful choice to have to make, and a pregnant woman has the right to choose not to have an abortion, even though the doctors tell her she would die otherwise. It’s everyone’s right to decide to die rather than receive treatment that goes against their conscience. But no one has a right to make that decision for other people. And a doctor’s overriding ethical obligation, unless they know their patient has other wishes, is to preserve good health and life.
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May 24, 2010

ConDem: More privacy for rapists

Three years ago David Cameron, now Prime Minister, called for tougher sentences for rapists, saying too many men “think they can get away with it”. (BBC)

Now he’s Prime Minister, he seems to have decided that the important thing is to preserve the privacy of rapists.

It’s generally agreed by crime statistics compilers that the percentage of false accusations in rape is no greater than the percentage of false accusations of any other crime (around 4%) – and the police are pretty good (some would say overly good) at weeding out the false accusations before the case is given to the criminal justice system and they decide whether or not to prosecute.

It’s also confirmed that most rapes – more than half – go unreported, because the victim either can’t believe herself (or himself – men are even less likely to report rape than women) that she was raped, or is sure she won’t be believed.

Once a case of rape gets to court, slightly over half the cases win a conviction.

Anyone accused of a crime has the right in a court of law to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

But we don’t generally have a problem with the idea that even though Fred Bloggs was found innocent in court of stealing the lead from the local church, still everyone local is pretty damn sure Bloggs did it, given the locally known circumstancial evidence of missing lead from the roof, Bloggs seen around the church at the right time, and Bloggs suddenly acquiring some inexplicable money from somewhere unknown. And it’s perfectly okay to report all of this in the local paper, once the trial’s done and Bloggs has been acquitted.

Fred Bloggs also has a habit of picking up young women, taking them out to dinner, going on a second date in which he gets her drunk, offers to “drive her home”, drives her instead to an out-of-the-way place to rape her, an then drives her home, pointing out to her on the way that if she talks, he’ll just say it was consensual, and there’ll be no evidence. Eventually one of them reports to the police, who arrest Bloggs, who maintains the young woman was “gagging for it”, and as she was drunk and admits herself that she went out on a date with Bloggs before he raped her, the jury decides “insufficient evidence” and acquits. And to protect Bloggs’ good name, the local paper is not allowed to report that Fred Bloggs does this – or any identifying details which might help anyone realise that the man acquitted is good old Fred Bloggs, last seen at the Slug and Lettuce courteously helping his drunken date into his car for a drive home.

Why all the concern for the men accused and acquitted – most of whom did actually commit rape, even if they couldn’t be convicted – while no concern whatsoever for the victims, whose rape can’t “unhappen” just because the rapist walked free?

May 23, 2010

Pro-life is what they call themselves, part 4.5

In response to a comment on Feministe, which asserted: I don’t think any of the Catholics in question really, truly believe that if a pregnant woman’s life is in danger because of her pregnancy, she then deserves to die. That’s really kind of a ridiculous thing to say.

Well, yes, it is kind of a ridiculous thing to say – it’s both absurd and evil.

But it’s true – and not just of Catholics. There is a strand of thinking, and many of them have been arguing publicly over the last couple of days about this, that if a woman is going to die if she doesn’t have an abortion, she should die. They really, truly believe that a pregnant woman with the choice of abortion or death deserves death.

The discussion here on What’s wrong with the world illustrates this, with both Catholics and Protestants defending as a general good that idea that death is better for a pregnant woman.

But I think the reason they argue this way, positively in favor of death for the women and against life-saving abortions, is because for them death isn’t quite real – or the women who are dying.

Sister McBride probably believes quite strongly that abortion is wrong. Were we to discuss this issue in any normal circumstance, we’d probably have a massive argument. But she works in a hospital: she belongs to an order who care for the sick. For her, the decision to provide an abortion wasn’t, as it is to these religious people arguing that she should have let the woman die, a matter of airy theoretical bloodless law, but a real woman who was really dying. And faced with that reality, Sister McBride chose life.

I am absolutely certain that neither Gerard Nadal nor Bishop Olmsted has ever in his life been faced with a decision of such moral magnitude. For him, the death of a woman in pregnancy is something unreal and distant, a halo and an odor of sanctity.

“Must then a Christ die in every generation to save those that have no imagination?” Shaw asked, and the answer always seems to be, horribly, yes. But worse than that: for Nadal and his ilk, Christ must die in childbirth in front of them, before they can see they’re hammering in the nails.
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May 21, 2010

Pro-life is what they call themselves, part 4

This is why pro-lifers shouldn’t be allowed near hospital administration:

Last November, a 27-year-old woman was admitted to St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. She was 11 weeks pregnant with her fifth child, and she was gravely ill. According to a hospital document, she had “right heart failure,” and her doctors told her that if she continued with the pregnancy, her risk of mortality was “close to 100 percent.”

The patient, who was too ill to be moved to the operating room much less another hospital, agreed to an abortion. NPR

This isn’t an “ethical dilemma” even on the level of my last Pro-life is what they call themselves post: this wasn’t a situation where the pregnant woman might have been kept alive for long enough as a hosting mechanism so that the fetus could survive.

According to a professor of theology at Boston College the official church position mandates that the pregnant woman is allowed to die with her fetus, because “the Catholic perspective” is that performing an abortion is evil, and “you can’t do evil to bring about good. The end does not justify the means”.

John Ehrich, who is the medical ethics director for the Diocese of Phoenix (he now has a front-page letter on his St Thomas the Apostle parish website, from which I’m quoting), says “It is not better for a woman to have to live the rest of her existence knowing that she had her child killed because her pregnancy was high risk. When we try to control every possible situation in life, we end up playing the role of God. As people of faith we know that our lives are always in God’s hands. In these situations the reality of our dependence upon Him becomes ever more clear and pronounced.”

In short: a woman who is dying, who will live if she has an abortion, should be let die. Along with the fetus she is carrying, of course – no 11-week fetus will survive if the pregnant woman dies.

That’s pro-life theology: two deaths are better than one. That’s why no hospital should ever permit medical decisions to be made by people who will put their religious beliefs ahead of the patient.

Sister Margaret McBride is a nun of the Sisters of Mercy, founded in Ireland, “vowed to serve people who suffer from poverty, sickness and lack of education with a special concern for women and children”. Canon law mandated automatic excommunication: whether an excommunicated nun is then expelled from her Order is up to the leadership of the Order.

Sister McBride acted in the spirit of her Order’s mission:

Mercy saves lives, lifting people everywhere out of desperation and sorrow, out of hunger, impoverishment and illness.

Mercy enriches souls, bringing spirit, laughter and hope to those who thought they were lost.

Can you imagine how the family and friends of that woman whose life was saved would have felt – a friend, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, taken to hospital gravely ill – and then the hospital simply puts her to bed and lets her die, even though they could have saved her?

As a matter of contrast, though acting to save a woman’s life by performing an abortion got “automatic excommunication”, ordained priests in Arizona who are known to have sexually abused children were never excommunicated.

For Michael Teta and Robert C. Trupia: the Vatican took years to examine their cases and finally have them laicized: but a 2004 report names 44 priests who served in Arizona who are credibly accused of molesting children. (YumaSun) Some may have been laicized. None were excommunicated.

Pope Benedict XVI said “Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. There may be legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”

So there may be “legitimate diversity of opinion” about whether or not it’s okay to rape a child. But saving a woman’s life when her pregnancy is killing her? That’s always wrong.

The Pope says so. Bishop Olmsted of Phoenix says so. The “medical ethics” priest of Phoenix says so. Raping a child.. legitimate diversity! Performing an abortion so that one life is lost instead of two:

If a Catholic formally cooperates in the procurement of an abortion, they are automatically excommunicated by that action. The Catholic Church will continue to defend life and proclaim the evil of abortion without compromise, and must act to correct even her own members if they fail in this duty.

“Defending life”, of course, in the strange Catholic sense meaning “Let the pregnant woman die”.

I have no problem with the Pope and the bishops and the priests of the Catholic Church arguing as a theological principle that it’s wrong to perform abortions. I do have a problem when their religious beliefs are allowed to make pro-life decisions in hospitals where pro-life reasoning has no place: pro-lifers may feel that two deaths are better than one, but no doctor or nurse or any other health professional ought to let that theological reasoning override their professional standards of care for their patient.


Update: Just in case anyone was in doubt about the correct Catholic position on saving a woman’s life, there’s a post by Elizabeth Scalia, who also blogs as The Anchoress, all about how when a woman is dying and an abortion will save her life, the Catholic thing for her doctors to do is let her die – after all, if God wants her to live, God will save her. (In this kind of thinking, Catholics really don’t need to run hospitals, because if someone’s broken their leg or their appendix has burst, well, if they’re meant to live, God will save them: if they die because the leg wasn’t set or because the appendix wasn’t removed, well, God obviously wanted them dead.)

Michael Liccone’s post on the same site is almost a sideline (since the main issue for most people is the publicity about the substandard care that a Catholic hospital is required to provide by the Church’s ethical code): he points out that Bishop Olmsted sidestepped a pastoral disagreement by declaring that Sister McBride had excommnicated herself – which meant the bishop did not have to engage with the nun or pay attention to any medical evidence which would have justified the abortion according to a Catholic directive that was thought to imply that it was OK to perform an abortion if it was to save the woman’s life. (This is substandard, because it may well mean the woman will be literally at the point of death before the hospital can elect to save her: a Catholic hospital is required to be indifferent to a pregnant woman’s health and wellbeing, regardless of what long-term damage may be caused, which a secular hospital is not.)

The comments thread to the post (and to the echoed post) however makes clear that to many ardent Catholics, Bishop Olmsted’s position is the moral high ground: Catholics stand for letting pregnant woman die rather than performing an abortion. I’d say that was disturbing, but it’s also not uncommon: it’s just pro-life to let women die.

Plus this frankly amusing post by a Catholic who appears to feel that the real problem isn’t that the woman’s life was saved, but that the woman’s life was saved by a Catholic hospital – if she’d known she might die, she should obviously have gone to some other hospital where they have no moral objection to saving pregnant woman’s lives. (I agree with that, but this guy’s post is just so NIMBYish about it: why must these pesky pregnant women behave as if they thought the hospital should just act to save their lives?) (I felt slightly sorry for mocking because Nadal was very polite when I joined a discussion here, but he did acknowledge in the course of the discussion that there was a NIMBYish element to his opposition: and he presents here in detailed response to a doctor’s comments, his own settled belief that the Catholic Church’s position is that the pregnant woman should have been left to die: it was morally wrong to save her life.)

May 12, 2010

Wednesday Recipe Blogging: ConDem Cocktail

Ingredients:

    306 Conservative MPs
    57 Liberal Democrat MPs
    A shot of ambition
    A double-shot of lust for power

Mix in tall jug of disbelieving horror

Pour into House of Commons

Add two public schoolboys

Scream and refuse to drink it.

Jokes on Twitter about ConDem compromises: (tag: #torylibdempolicies)

1. Gay people to be allowed to have a bed but not breakfast at Christian B&Bs.
2. The UK will remain in Europe, but strictly in the geographical sense.
3. Terminally ill patients will have the right to die… but only if they can’t afford to pay for their care.
4. Proportional representation Rupert Murdoch style – the more money you have, the more votes you get.
5. A cap on immigrants, but only for immigrants who arrive not wearing a cap.
6. Split Easter Bunny from Santa Claus so they can operate as 2 different organisations. Sell 49% of shares in Santa and reinvest in the Tooth Fairy.
7. Red tape to be cut… into little strips about 6 inches long and used to tie Diploma Certificates into bundles – to burn (Alternatively: Red tape to be replaced with muddy green tape.)
8. More funding to help under-privileged kids, through a series of new “workhouses”. Sure start scheme for chimney sweeps.
9. Immigrants to be rounded up and killed but their heirs made exempt from inheritance tax.
10. All bribes to be taken in Euros.
11. Bankers to be allowed hedge funds if they stick to privet.
12. Massive wall to be built across English Channel. With a door.
13. Gay partnerships allowed Wed to Fri only. Winter fuel allowance cut except for Old Etonians. Sure Start on Thursdays.
14. Public schoolboys’ fags to receive minimum wage.
15. Gay married couples to get a £150 tax break… towards a one way air fare to anywhere outside the British empire.
16. An open and free, unbiased media. Owned by Rupert Murdoch.
17. Full support for Europe, but refer to the ‘The British Empire’ within ear-shot of any euro-sceptics.
18. Massive cuts to public services, spread proportionately across the north, Scotland and Wales.
19. William the Hague to form stable whilst Nick the Clegg mucks out. Horses surprised.
20. A penny on income tax for schools, no sorry a penny OFF income tax paid for by schools.
21. Proportional representation in LibDem seats – forever.
22. All domestic staff to be given Right To Buy Own Aga and to receive a Golden Retriever Allowance.
23. Proportional representation, but only for the House of Lords
24. Fair taxes for all foreigners living abroad.
25. Reduce the deficit slowly, to allow for tax cuts to the rich.
26. New businesses needn’t pay their first ten employees, particularly if they are gay or immigrants.
27. British Summer Time scrapped in favour of Proportional Daylight Savings. Scottish kids to start school at 3am.
28. London Marathon reformed to abolish first past the post wins.
29. Trident to be scrapped and replaced by Lord Ashdown, the only peer trained to kill with his bare hands.
30. Compulsory moats round all homes to increase water storage.

May 9, 2010

Personal opinions on electoral reform and the Lib Dem position

With the help of the 38 Degrees website, I sent this letter to 30+ “senior Lib Dems”. The subject line I chose was; Labour and LibDems have 52% of the vote & 315 seats in Parliament . I wrote:

I was surprised to find when I did Votematch on the Telegraph website that I actually supported more LibDem policies than I did Labour – though my highest match was Green. I’ve always thought of myself as a Labour voter who votes Green in my Scottish Parliament list vote.

In my constituency, the Lib Dem candidate (I gave their name) was the only one who stood a chance of beating Labour.

I wanted a Hung Parliament – exactly the situation we’re now in – because I wanted the LibDems to have the power to tell Labour, that the next five years of left-wing/liberal government depend on Labour agreeing to change the First Past the Post system of election.

There’s been a list vote and a region vote in Scotland and the result has been ten years of progressive leftwing liberal rule: unquestionably good for our country within the United Kingdon. It’s been tried, it’s worked, and we need it to happen in the UK.

It will not happen if the LibDem ally with the Tory party. I’m hearing on the news as I type that Nick Clegg will meet with David Cameron tonight and talk to his MPs tomorrow. (This was Friday.)

I tell you now, what I told the LibDem candidate earlier today: Labour said before the election that a vote for the LibDems was the same as a vote for the Tories. If Nick Clegg proves Labour correct by allying with David Cameron and giving us another right-wing government, taking us back to Tory Britain even though over half the electorate voted against that, I will never vote LibDem again. And that, in the First Past the Post system that David Cameron will keep in place in order to keep the Tories in power, will matter: I will advocate to any shaky or uncertain voter that if they want to keep the Tories out, they must vote Labour: under no circumstances must they risk voting crypto-Tory by voting LibDem.

Nick Clegg’s talk of respecting the will of the electorate, is meaningless if he is prepared to disregard the will of a 52% majority in order to get himself and his cronies seats in the Cabinet of a Conservative government.
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The Sensible Thing To Do

As discussed in previous post, The Arithmetic of Democracy, the next government of the UK – and the future of electoral reform – depends on the deal Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, makes over the next couple of days.

The sensible thing to do is to make a coalition agreement with the Conservatives. A ConLib (or as they’re calling it on Twitter, a ConDem) coalition government has a sufficient majority over the Labour party (and a solid overall majority) that it might well last four or five years if an agreement can be forged to suit both parties. It would mean abandoning PR for the lifetime of this Parliament; it would lend weight to Labour’s campaigning that a vote for the LibDems is a vote for the Conservatives. But it would be sensible, and John Rentoul explains why in the Independent.

Or Nick Clegg can help form a rainbow coalition – Labour, LibDem, SNP, Plaid Cymru, and Green – which can stand against the Conservatives. This rainbow coalition has many disadvantages and only two advantages.

A disadvantage: this rainbow coalition couldn’t hope to stay together for four or five years. It barely achieves a majority in Parliament. SNP and Plaid Cymru MPs seldom spend much time in Westminister: this coalition could fall if five MPs had the flu, four were stuck abroad due to volcanic ash, one was in Lerwick for the weekend and the tenth MP slept in. When the government fell, it would be back to the General Election madness – and while the Conservatives could afford a fullscale campaign with rich donors to back them, no other party could so quickly after the last. Nor would the public in general be happy with having this disruption occur again.

Further: there might be (and there certainly would be a media narrative to that effect) a feeling that by siding with the rainbow coalition, Nick Clegg was joining (in Janet Daley’s charming phrase) a coalition of the losers – never mind that as a group, this bunch of progressive lefties got the larger share of the vote and have more seats in Parliament. More people voted against the Tories than voted for them. But this won’t be the media narrative.

And the key disadvantage: Rupert Murdoch owns 40% of the British media. He wants a Tory government in place to gut the BBC, which competes with his properties. If Nick Clegg does not lie down with the Tories and accept what they choose to give him, the vilification he experienced during the pre-election campaign will be nothing compared to the vilification that will be piled on him post-election. A rainbow coalition government and its constituent parties would be subject to unceasing media attack.

The objective would be, if the rainbow coalition were determined to stay in government until they had got a PR system of election in place and then to call a General Election using PR, to bring down this coalition and to force a General Election by FPTP, with mass media talking up the Tories. So if Nick Clegg goes rainbow, and loses, the next General Election could well have the Tories in place with a big enough majority to form a government without partners – and every incentive to bury PR, perhaps by instituting their own “parliamentary reform”. (David Cameron came up with some cool gerrymandering ideas of “standardised constituencies” that would tend to reduce the number of Labour and SNP seats in Parliament.)

The advantages are only two, but they’re big ones.

One: If the rainbow coalition can work together (and refrain from taking holidays or falling seriously ill) then PR can be delivered. There needs to be a referendum promised in the Queen’s Speech, with a yes vote promising PR for the next General Election: there needs to be some serious work done on which form of PR the UK should adopt: and there needs to be a committment from all partners to oppose the Tories and support the Labour and LibDem policies. The LibDems have been a tail-of-the-dog third party in UK politics for decades, even though they muster 25-30% of the vote: PR should change that permanently. And it’s what a majority of the British people want. 62%, a clear majority, favour a change from FPTP. cite That won’t affect the Tories – their whole opposition to PR is that they want to be in government even though a majority oppose them – but it ought to affect the other parties.

Two: A dealbreaker. I very nearly voted LibDem this time. (I didn’t, because I did some complicated vote-calculations and concluded that the Green party needed my vote more.) I have voted LibDem in past elections, where the candidate seemed like the right person and had a better chance of winning than the Labour candidate. (It’s usually that choice.) But if Nick Clegg demonstrates that voting for the LibDems is pretty much what Labour always says it is – a vote for the Tories – then I’m certainly never voting LibDem again. If Nick Clegg gives up on PR in order to do the sensible thing and get into government, then the UK needs to have a two-party system, Labour v Conservative: we can’t afford to have the LibDems kicking around wasting votes any more.

I’ve been following 38Degrees for a while. On Friday, I e-mailed the senior LibDems via their site, letting them know how I felt. Yesterday, I went to a rally they and other organisations put together. Today, I donated to their campaign to fund full-page newspaper ads to tell Nick Clegg: Don’t sell out on PR. Fair Votes Now!

They began this fundraising campaign just over three hours ago – about 2pm. Their goal was to raise £5000. In three hours they’ve received £14,307 from 925 people. [Update: it's now 15,235, donated by 976 people, so 50 people donated an average of 18.56 in the past hour and a half. The earlier average was £15.46 per donor, so it looks like donations may be getting bigger as the total goes up... and 4 people just donated an average of £20 each in the last 4 minutes, so, yes.]

We can’t afford to let Nick Clegg do the sensible thing.

The arithmetic of democracy

Formally, any party in the UK Parliament needs at least 326 MPs in order to have the right to form a government.

Current composition of Parliament: Conservatives, 306 seats (will be 307, when the Thirsk and Malton seat can hold its general election – they went emphatically Tory in 2005). Labour, 258 seats. Liberal Democrat, 57 seats.

The Conservatives have the largest single bloc of seats and can therefore claim the right to form a minority government – but Labour and the LibDems can outvote them (315 seats) any time both parties agree they’d rather defeat the Tories.

There’s now one Green MP, and as the Green party has never had an MP at Westminister before, they’ve got no tradition of which party to ally with: but she’s much more likely to vote with Labour or LibDem than with the Tories.

The mainland nationalist parties, Plaid Cymru (3 seats) and the Scottish National Party (SNP, 6 seats) have an informal alliance at Westminster, and are again more likely to vote with Labour or LibDem than with the Tories.

A Labour-LibDem coalition government, that could count on the support of the Plaid Cymru and the SNP and the Green MP, would have 325 seats, an effective majority, and could function against Tory opposition – for a while. This kind of government would be terribly vulnerable to challenges and obstruction, but they might be able to get one or two things done before another General Election had to be called. And what the LibDems very much want to get done, is Proportional Representation – an end to the First Past the Post system in UK government.

Whereas if the Tories get the formal support of the LibDems in full-on coalition, the ConDem coalition government would have 364 seats and be able to function as a government – though it’s really unknown what they could do, since the agreements that the Tories and the LibDems have on policy are relatively trivial, and their disagreements are profound.

The Northern Irish parties (18 MPs) add this to the mix (correction: I added up the NI MPs, made it 17, and thought to myself “didn’t they have 18?” but then thought that they might have been nipped of one MP in the past 5 years as has happened to Scotland and Wales. No: for some reason the BBC omitted the Ulster Unionist MP for North Down.)

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP, 8 seats) traditionally support the Conservatives. They have 8 seats, and the Tories can likely count on them at least to preserve them as a government, if it comes to that: so the Tories can really count on 315 seats.

The Social Democratic & Labour Party (SDLP, 3 seats) are the Irish nationalists: they’re the DUP’s natural opposition, so in effect they whittle the effect of the DUP’s support down to 5 seats, providing they care one way or another.

Sinn Fein, the IRA’s party (5 seats), are the Irish nationalists who won’t swear the oath of allegience that would allow them to take their 5 seats in Parliament, so in this situation the main thing about them is that the Westminister parliament is effectively 645 seats – any party that can muster a vote of at least 323 MPs can defeat a vote of no confidence. (Unless, of course, the Sinn Fein take a look at the potential power this hands them, and decide to find a way to take the oath in order to be able to offer their 5 votes to one mainland-UK party or another.)

The Alliance party have never sent an MP to Westminister before [correction: not since the early 1970s], and whether she’ll vote with the SDLP or abstain or even vote with the DUP, is really an unknown.

Plus one Ulster Unionist MP whom I’d completely overlooked!
Demo for Democracy 8th May 2010

May 6, 2010

Voting for democracy

The first election for which I had the right to vote was in 1987. I voted Labour. The incumbent was Conservative. The Labour candidate got in, and held the seat till this year, though (thanks to the expenses scandal – he was one of the embarrassing claims rather than one of the shocking ones) he won’t be standing this year.

Since then I’ve never missed voting in any election I had a right to vote in: UK Parliament, European Parliament, local council, or Scottish Parliament. My great-aunt turned 21 in 1929, the first year in the UK that women had the vote on the same terms as men: her first General Election would have been 30 May 1929, and I expect she voted Conservative, but Labour got in. Still, though she was quite aware that neither myself nor my sister nor her niece, our mother, would be voting the same way she was (lefties all of us) she was adamant that we should vote.

This year is the first year since goodness knows how long that none of the pundits or the bookies have really been sure who would be in government in Westminster the next day. (Seriously. 1992, it had to be either Labour or Conservative, and it ended up being Conservative: 1974, Labour formed a minority government: but mostly, really, you know.) But now?
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