Nine signs that suggest you’re about to lose an election

The pattern for modern elections has now been set. Whether it be the 2012 presidential race, the recent Scottish referendum or the forthcoming UK general election, social media has turned erstwhile casual voters into hardened campaigners… sort of.

There are, however, indicators that suggest that your side might not do so well on polling day. To give you a better chance of winning, here are 9 definitive signs that your party is about to lose the election. If any of these sound familiar, prepare for disappointment:

  • Six weeks before polling day, you decide that this election is the seminal moment of your life. You will mark this historic epiphany by changing your Twitter profile and/or Facebook picture to reflect your vote.
  • You set about carefully educating yourself on the key issues of the election by watching the most inflammatory, ill-informed and reactionary YouTube clips that endorse your position.
  • You will attack any unfavourable polling published in newspapers, demanding to know the “sample size” even though it’s clearly written at the bottom of every article. You will then skillfully discredit the data by posting comments such as: “Well they didn’t ask me.”
  • You convince yourself that “biased media” is lying to voters. You post comments on the Facebook walls of the “prejudiced cabal”, decrying their duplicity before vowing never to return. Ten minutes later you return to post another series of comments.
  • You find yourself using the sentence, “I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but…” before detailing a nefarious plot incorporating the secret service, Rupert Murdoch and the Bilderberg group – all of whom are in cahoots to rob you of your vote.
  • You decide that voters and politicians opposing your position are mentally ill, and it’s your duty to combat their falsehoods through attacks on Twitter. Anyone posting facts is to be exposed as a traitor and agent of the state.
  • Despite being weary from a hard-fought election campaign in which you haven’t knocked on a single door or made a single phone call, you pull yourself away from your computer to go and get pissed while the results roll in.
  • The day after defeat you console yourself with the knowledge that the fight isn’t over. “The campaign begins again in earnest,” you say, defiantly. You are now on the front line, a relentless activist for a better future.
  • You then join a Facebook group investigating election fraud and sign a petition demanding the “rigged” vote is rerun.

This article first appeared in The Huffington Post. The original article can be found here.

5 reasons why many Scots will vote for independence

Thursday’s referendum on Scottish independence could mark the end of the United Kingdom, a 307-year-old sovereign state made up of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. Recent polls show the vote will likely be close, and a “yes” vote would have huge consequences not just for Scotland, but for the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe.

Why do so many Scots say they plan to vote for independence, despite economists warning against fragmentation? The WorldPost has compiled a list of five reasons below explaining why Scots may want to break away from the U.K.

They want to see the Labour Party get elected.

Voters in Scotland have traditionally been left-leaning, and the country typically returns a huge majority for the Labour Party. The center-right Conservatives, meanwhile, usually fare poorly in Scotland — out of the 59 seats contested in the 2010 general election, Labour won 41 while the Conservatives won just a single seat (the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party took the rest).

England, conversely, is far more likely to vote for the Conservative Party, which is currently in power. So despite voting overwhelmingly for Labour, Scotland often finds itself under the rule of the Conservatives. If Scotland becomes independent, so the argument goes, Scots will finally get a government of their choosing.

They want to get rid of the Conservative Party for good.

Thursday’s vote is not just about independence. For many Scots, it’s also about making sure the Conservatives never again govern Scotland.

Since the 2008 financial crash, the British government has been married to a series of draconian austerity policies, including cuts to public sector jobs and a squeeze on welfare benefits. Low-income families in Scotland have been acutely affected by these policies. According to a June 2014 report by UNISON Scotland, the country’s budget has been cut by 6 billion pounds and 50,000 public service jobs have already been slashed.

They view autonomy as a symbol of national pride.

Although many economists have argued that it is in Scotland’s best interest to remain part of the U.K., there is a clear emotional pull toward voting for self-rule. As The Economist notes, “the referendum will turn not on calculations of taxes and oil revenue, but on identity and power. The idea that Scots can shape their own destiny, both at the referendum and afterwards, is exhilarating.”

In 1999, Scotland created its first parliament, giving the country a degree of autonomy on matters ranging from education to health. However, this has only fueled nationalist desires to control every aspect of governing the country. It has also been made clear that this is likely a one-off referendum. If Scots pass up the chance to vote for independence on Thursday, they may not get another chance for generations.

They believe having autonomy would improve the economy.

The camp in favor of independence has argued that an autonomous Scotland will be better at managing its economy, particularly when it comes to taxes and the oil reserves sitting off the Scottish coast. There is also widespread opposition in Scotland to nuclear weapons, and the “yes” campaign has promised to remove the weaponsentirely from the country.

Polls also suggest that the majority of Scots want to remain part of the European Union. Even if the U.K. leaves the EU in the next few years, an independent Scotland could vote to keep its EU membership.

They have been swayed by a brilliant campaigner.

Alex Salmond, the first minister of Scotland and the leader of the “yes” campaign, has proved to be a hugely effective campaigner, rallying Scots (particularly the younger generation) around the push for independence. In an August poll of 505 voters conducted by the polling company ICM for The Guardian, about 71 percent of decided voters said they supported Salmond, compared to 29 percent who said they backed his counterpart for the “no” campaign, Alistair Darling. It is a testament to Salmond’s leadership (and the lackluster “no” campaign) that the vote is too close to call with only two days left.

This article first appeared in The Huffington Post. The original article can be found here.

Here’s what to expect after Scotland’s independence vote

The campaign pushing for Scottish independence has gathered considerable momentum in recent weeks, with the result of Thursday’s referendum likely to be close. Should Scottish voters choose to leave the United Kingdom, the decision will have far-reaching consequences for the people of Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales. Even if Scotland remains part of the U.K., the small island off Europe’s coast will be inexorably changed forever.

Here’s what to expect after the result comes in.

There will likely be another 18 months of debate.

If the Scots vote in favor of independence, untangling more than three centuries of a political and economic union will not be easy, especially given the rancorous nature of the campaign. One of the most contentious issues to be addressed in the 18 monthsbetween Scotland voting for independence and becoming autonomous would be the country’s currency.

Alex Salmond, Scotland’s first minister and the leader of the “yes” campaign, has argued that an independent Scotland should be allowed to continue using the pound. But Westminster has said this is not a possibility, questioning why the U.K. should agree to a currency union with a country that votes to leave.

In response, Salmond has threatened to renege on the offer that Scotland would take on a share of the U.K.’s national debt if it votes “yes” on independence. If Westminster still rejects a currency union, Scotland would have to use the pound unofficially (similar to the way Ecuador and El Salvador use the dollar) and eventually move toward the euro. However, as Paul Krugman points out in The New York Times, “the risks are huge.”

“Everything that has happened in Europe since 2009 or so has demonstrated that sharing a currency without sharing a government is very dangerous,” he writes.

The National Institute for Economic and Social Research warned this week that Scotland could fail “within a year” if it uses the pound informally and refuses to take on a share of the national debt.

The vote could galvanize independence movements around the globe.

The Scottish independence debate has captured the world’s attention, with many governments concerned that a “yes” vote could inspire independence movements closer to home.

As the BBC notes, a recent editorial in the Hungarian economic news site Portfolio warned that “Europe will in all likelihood be infected by Scottish independence … Catalonia, the Basque Country, Flanders and even Venice are keeping a close eye on developments, which may once and for all justify their own aspirations of autonomy.”

Further afield, separatist movements from Quebec to Okinawa could be influenced by a Scottish vote for independence.

The United Kingdom may need a new prime minister.

If Scotland becomes independent, Prime Minister David Cameron may be forced to resign. His government is already unpopular thanks to austerity measures, and Cameron faces criticism from many members of his own center-right party over his stance on gay marriage and Britain’s continued membership of the European Union.

Even if Cameron survives until the next election in 2015, he will likely be punished at the polls for the breakup. Either way, the prime minister’s political career could be riding on the outcome of Thursday’s vote.

Even a “no” vote could spark huge political change.

After realizing that public sentiment in Scotland was shifting toward a “yes” vote on independence, the government in Westminster quickly backed a series of measuresthat would give Scotland more control over finance, welfare and taxation — almost all matters apart from defense and foreign affairs.

Even if Scotland votes against independence, England, Wales and Northern Ireland will likely demand a similar set of measures. Some politicians are even calling for an English-only parliament to match the regional bodies in the rest of the U.K.

This article first appeared in The Huffington Post. The original article can be found here.

Boris Johnson to hold a referendum on becoming an independent country

Boris Johnson has launched an audacious bid to break away from the United Kingdom and declare himself an independent country.

The London Mayor and prospective parliamentary candidate for Ruislip announced on Monday that after 50 years as a citizen of the Union, he had decided to hold a referendum on whether to leave the UK and become an independent state.

Johnson told reporters that he had mentally scheduled the vote to take place on February 25, 2017, and would likely decide on this “important point of national self-determination” whilst cycling across Chelsea Bridge.

Comparing his future independent self with the “Athenian democracy of Pericles”, Johnson quipped that he was expecting a “high voter turnout – 100%”.

When quizzed on why he would break away, Johnson said that he had come to resent being ruled by a Westminster government 6 miles away from his Islington home, and that he should be able to control his “own monetary policy” and “determine his own future as a proud, independent nation”.

“I already comply with EU laws and regulations,” said Boris, “so reapplying for membership should I leave the UK will be a formality”.

On matters of defence, Boris said he hoped to remain a member of Nato, though he was not prepared to have Trident missiles siloed in his garden shed.

“This piffle will all be sorted out in the 18 months between me voting for my own independence and the day I actually become independent,” said Johnson.

On the question of currency, Johnson said an independent Boris would sign a formal union with Britain allowing him to keep the pound.

When pushed on a backup plan should the Chancellor rule against a currency union, Johnson ignored the question and said he would sign a formal union with Britain allowing him to keep the pound

“I’ve appeared seven times on ‘Have I Got News For You’, I can probably run my own country,” said the Mayor, before reminding reporters that an independent Boris would be the 14th richest nation in the OECD.

“My first policy as a country would be a 3% reduction in corporation tax,” he said, before belittled suggestions that the ageing population of an independent Boris would struggle with a budget deficit. “I have considerable oil reserves,” he said.

This article first appeared in The Huffington Post. The original article can be found here.

Mi5 conspiracy theories rife in Scottish referendum debate

As the Scottish referendum has drawn closer, so the battle lines over narrative have become ever more acute. Truth, rationality and reason have occasionally been abandoned in favour of hyperbole and spin, while online message boards creak under the weight of conspiracy theories.

As now seems standard for world events, the internet becomes a repository for alternative theories and conjecture as keyboard polemicists search for meaning in a world often far beyond their control. The divisive nature of the forthcoming vote has provided fertile ground for those convinced shadowy forces are at work, with the media a familiar target (this article will no doubt be decried as establishment propaganda).

As highlighted in the Sydney Morning Herald, one of the more interesting online conspiracy theories focuses on the announcement of the second Royal baby.

Even the most paranoid keyboard tapper would baulk at the idea of Downing Street forcing the couple to conceive so that the news would fall just before the vote. But did Cameron, struggling in the polls, ask Buckingham Palace to push the news out early to bolster nationalistic fervor?

Of course, this is all good fodder for Facebook, but that doesn’t mean that belief in some form of conspiracy isn’t widespread. A YouGov poll commission by Buzzfeed earlier this week found that 26% of Scots think Mi5 is actively working to stop Scotland voting for independence – that’s one in four. A further 20% said that they didn’t know if the secret service was deliberately interfering in the democratic process. The BuzzFeed research also found that 19% of Scots believe the vote will be rigged.

Yet it’s not just bedroom activists tapping away at midnight who are indulging in possible paranoia – official figures have spoken similarly, with many trumpeting the belief that Britain’s domestic secret service is at work in Scotland on behalf of the Union.

The BuzzFeed poll was commissioned following an interview Jim Sillars gave The Independent in which the former SNP deputy leader said he was aware that at least one secret agent that had arrived in Glasgow, seemingly bent on influencing the course of the election.

“Are you so naive, that you never think that perhaps MI5 and special branch are taking a role in this campaign?” he told the newspaper. “As their function is protection of the British State, they would not be doing their jobs if they were not. There was, and probably still is, a section in MI5 that dealt with the Scottish national movement, headed by Stella Rimington, who became Director General in 1992, and is now Dame Stella.”

Then there’s JK Rowling, the Harry Potter author, who in June spoke out against independence, donating £1 million to the Better Together campaign. It was an intervention that led to an unsurprising raft of abuse via social media. Nothing new there, however outrage over the abuse was dismissed by SNP politician Christina McKelvie who subtly suggested that the vitriol was not the work pro-independence supporters but of “secret service plants”.

“The attacks on JK Rowling for her donation to Better Together were, in fact, down to a very few people whose accounts no one could trace back to having anything to do with the Yes campaign,” she said, adding: “Whoever made them – there are interesting conspiracy theorists who think it might all have been down to secret service plants – should be totally condemned. I have no time for this kind of small-minded viciousness.”

McKelvie isn’t alone. Margo MacDonald, the former deputy leader of the SNP, who died earlier this year, said that she was convinced MI5 were up to no good north of Hadrian’s Wall, penning a letter to the service’s Director General Andrew Parker last June demanding answer.

“I will be obliged if you can give me an assurance that UK Security Services will not be used in any respect in the lead-up to the Scottish referendum on sovereignty, unless, of course, the Scottish police have sufficient evidence to justify normal responses to potentially overtly criminal acts,” she wrote.

Who knows if Mi5 agents are in Scotland, special branch is tweeting abuse at JK Rowling or if Alistair Darling is an alien (the last one is actually quite credible). Conspiracies do and have happened. But should Scotland vote ‘no’ next week, expect recriminations to include plot, subterfuge and cover-ups… and, of course, complicity of the “London-centric media” in the pocket of Cameron and his Westminster cohorts.

This article first appeared in The Huffington Post. The original article can be found here.