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Apr 222017
 

May continue to cut public sector salaries year on year.

May continue to pillage the public services we all use to pay for the bankers mistakes.

May continue to make tax cuts for the rich.

May continue to cut welfare payments to the poorest families in our society causing a huge increase in child poverty.

May continue to stumble and fumble around during the Brexit negotiations in all likelihood resulting in a poor deal for Britain.

May continue to antagonise the non-English countries of the union increasing the likelihood of a break-up.

May continue to add powers to the secret policemen until we’re living in a police state (hint: it’s not that far off).

Time to look past May to June and choosing anyone other than May.

Feb 052013
 

So we’ve seen in the last few minutes that as expected a whole bunch of Tories have voted against the proposal to legalise gay marriage. Frankly nobody expected the “hang ’em high and whip ’em” branch of the Tories to vote for gay marriage.

Of course the media and the anti-Tories are gleefully announcing that the Tories are split down the middle and that this might just be the beginning of the end. Of what I’m not sure.

Much as I would like to see the Tories self-destruct, it is very unlikely to happen. This was a free vote – where MPs were encouraged to vote with the conscience rather than according to the party whip. Whilst it is entirely possible that a party who wants to get something through that will be unpopular with their own members, will resort to a free vote, it is a move to be encouraged.

After all, it would be nice to see MPs always voting with their conscience!

Nov 062012
 

Today came the news that Nadine Dorries (a Tory MP) is being suspended as a Tory (not an MP) for appearing on the reality TV show called “I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here”.

Now I’m hardly the most ardent Tory supporter in the country – in fact I can’t stand them, and a quick look indicates that I’m even less likely to like Nadine’s favourite hobby horses. But I believe all this fuss is a little over the top, and perhaps there is a certain amount of snobbishness getting involved here. To a certain extent this is understandable, as the reality show in question is hardly in the calibre of “Question Time” or some other serious current affairs programme.

And there is the concern of who will do her job, when she’s off in Australia getting filmed doing ridiculous stuff on camera.

But we do not know that Nadine hasn’t already or plans to make suitable arrangements to ensure that any urgent demands by her constituents are met in some way or another. And what about all the other part-time MPs? Is Nadine the only MP who has ever taken time off from her duties to do something else? Let’s not have double standards here.

And similarly, there have been plenty of MPs on TV shows of one kind or another. Is it just the type of show that is of concern here? Are other politicians concerned that an MP appearing on this show will bring politicians into disrepute?

If so, I have news for those other politicians – politicians have such a poor reputation that this appearance on a reality show is likely to improve their reputation. And I’m not a fan of the show in question.

Nov 042012
 

Those sneaky Tories have announced plans to limit child related benefits so that families with large numbers of children would only get benefits for the first two. With this, they have implied that “out there” is a large population of benefit scroungers who make tons of cash by simply breeding like rabbits.

And of course when you put it that way, it sounds like a great idea. Why should those in work pay for the comfort of those too lazy to do anything other than breed like rabbits?

Except those benefits are for the children involved. It is always worth remembering that any benefit cuts in this area will have a negative effect on the children involved. Or do the Tories plan to take into care any “surplus” children by force?

And even if there were a large number of benefit scroungers benefiting from the “generous” child related benefits, they are almost certainly far outnumbered by those who are not scroungers, but need benefits for genuine reasons.

What about the carpenter who whilst he earns a reasonable wage to support himself, his wife, and a single child, suddenly finds himself the father of sextuplets ?

What about the house husband whose wife previously earned big money as a hot-shot barrister, had 6 children over a number of years and who suddenly finds himself along with those six children after his wife is killed in a road accident ?

Or the single mother who works hard at a cleaning job, but finds it hard looking after her three children that her feckless husband left her with ?

The Tories have come up with a scheme to punish the poor, and yet have sold it in such a way as to get those poor to support it. What you could call a masterpiece of Machiavellian politics.

 

Jun 022012
 

Apparently the government has announced plans to stop charging council tax for those who live in so-called “granny annexes”. The opposition has quite rightly pointed out that this is an interesting position to take as there has long been a council tax exemption for those living in granny annexes who are over 65, or who are impaired in various other ways.

For those not familiar with granny annexes – and this may come as a surprise to many Tories, but not everyone is familiar with the concept – if you have a large enough house, it is possible to set aside part of it as a separate dwelling. Usually to give some member of the family some level of independent living – traditionally used for a live-in grandparent. Thus the term “granny annex”.

It may come as a bit of a surprise to many Tories, but most ordinary hard-working families live in homes where space is at a premium. Indeed having the spare space to create an annex could be a definition of “wealthy”. Or in other words, Tories have come up with a nifty way of giving a tax cut to the wealthy whilst trying (and failing) to sound like they are helping ordinary people.

Or to put it another way, why are we giving council tax exceptions to grannies and disabled people? If someone over the age of 65 lives in their own flat they have to pay council tax, but if they live in an annex in their family’s home, they don’t. I’m not against the idea that those who are somewhat constrained in their income should get some sort of discount on their council tax, but getting a discount because you have rich relatives?

May 092010
 

There are those who say that the election result is a clear defeat for Labour and Gordon Brown should immediately go. Actually that would be unethical and irresponsible. Gordon Brown is obliged to remain the Prime Minister until such time as a new Prime Minister emerges from the confusion of the current discussions on whether a coalition is possible.

Formally, the Prime Minister stays in power until the first parliament after an election takes place at which opportunity parliament can express its’ new views by voting down the old government’s Queens Speech. At which point the old Prime Minister is effectively forced to resign. In modern years, it is common when there is a clear result for the old Prime Minister to ask the Queen to appoint the new Prime Minister.

The whole point of the process is to avoid leaving the UK without a government for anything more than an hour. As such, Gordon Brown cannot resign in favour of the next Prime Minister because nobody has emerged who will take his place. If he were to resign, the current Labour deputy prime minister would take over.

Apr 262010
 

Under our current voting system, voting for the candidate who represents the party you wan in government is not necessarily a smart way to vote. In some cases, choosing the party you want in government is throwing you vote away on a party that is very unlikely to win in your constituency. For instance in the constituency that I live in – Portsmouth South – anyone who votes Labour is pretty much throwing their vote away. The effective choices are between Liberal, or Conservative candidates.

With a transferable vote system (which of course we do not have), a Labour supporter (which isn’t me!) may well vote Labour as their first choice, and Liberal as their second choice to reduce the possibility that the Conservative candidate would win. Similarly, a Tory supporter in Scotland may choose Liberal as their second choice to reduce the chance of a Labour candidate winning.

Under our current system, it is probably better to choose between the two (or rarely three) leading candidates, picking the one that you least dislike the least. Whilst it may go against the grain to vote for somebody other than your preferred candidate, it does mean that your vote against the candidate you dislike the least is more effective.

Smart tactical voting is more complex than this of course – it involves checking the details of your constituency (you may also want to check the Voting Power details for your constituency, and the relevant Wikipedia article), and working out from the previous election results which two (or three if the third is within about 5% of the second placed candidate) and working out which one you would least dislike.

The Tories are warning that a vote for the Liberal party is voting to keep Gordon Brown in power – which is effectively saying that smart voting can accomplish something, but obviously slanted towards favouring voting Tory wherever you are. Whilst no party will encourage tactical voting, it can be for the benefit of whatever party you would prefer.

Vote tactically – it’s the smart thing to do!

Feb 092010
 

Gordon Brown has announced plans to reform the electoral system in the UK after the election – if Labour is elected, and they do not change their minds. Of course they look likely to give us one choice of reform – choose Labour’s preferred option or no reform. What kind of choice is that ?

We should be telling Parliament what kind of electoral reform we want and not just calmly expect what suits the government of the day. If you look at what Gordon Brown is proposing, it probably represents the minimum possible change to our present system. The Alternative Vote (what GB is suggesting) consists of people voting by listing their preferred candidates in order of preference; if there is no overall majority, the candidate with the fewest votes is excluded and the votes of those who voted for him or her are shared out amongst the other candidates according to their second preference.

The idea is that no MP is elected without representing the majority view of his or her constituency. Ok, sounds better than the current system, but is it as good as one of the following :-

Or even the zillions of other possibilities out there – Wikipedia has a good selection.

There are certain advantages to Gordon Brown’s preferred system – it is a relatively small change and does make things a bit fairer. I would myself prefer a more radical change, but I am quite willing to let the people decide and not have our choice restricted to a simple yes or no to choose some politician’s choice. After all, how sure are we that this is actually best for us and not best for the Labour party ?

Of course as you might expect, the Tories are against any form of electoral reform, and the Liberals are in favour (although this isn’t their preferred system).

What I would like to see is a referendum giving us a proper choice amongst a range of options. That would be complicated to difficult to do properly and would be more complex for us people to decide – we would have to spend some time thinking about what we want. We would need a neutral group reviewing possible systems and keeping the list of options down to sensible numbers. We would also need a neutral group coming up with a list of advantages and disadvantages for each, and ideally stop the politicians from making recommendations (asking a politician to keep quiet is wildly unrealistic I know).

The key thing is that we should be making the choice and not the politicians.

Feb 042010
 

It always good to see statisticians give a good hard kick to those who put the word “lies” into the saying “lies, damm lies, and statistics” … the politicians. In this particular case the Conservative Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling has been making comparisons between violent crime statistics from the 1990s and the year 2008/9 using the police recorded crimes statistics. The UK Statistics Authority has said (unfortunately it is a PDF document) something more or less along the lines of “you can’t do that” (in an astonished and shocked tone of voice).

According to the UK Statistics Authority, the method for recording crime statistics in police stations was standardised in 2002/3 leading to a marked increase in recorded crime that year due to the change. Indeed they point out that all published statistics on police recorded crime clearly emphasise the fact that the figures cannot be naively compared with values before 2002/3. The statisticians claim that crime figures should be obtained from the British Crime Survey.

The UK Statistics Authority is worried about politicians using statistics to mislead the public and discredit official statistics.

How does Chris respond ? Basically by saying that he doesn’t believe the BCS and that the increase in reported crimes are too big to be explained away by changes in the recording method.

Who would I rather believe ? Who would you rather believe ? A politician ? Or a statistician ? No contest really; statisticians may not have the best reputation, but at least they do not inspire the same level of disgust as a paedophile like politicians do.

The interesting thing is that people believe that violent crime has gotten worse over the last decade. As to why they believe this I don’t know, because from personal experience I can tell you that violent crime has decreased dramatically over the last decade. Back in the day, I used to be off down town most Saturday nights (and often Fridays too), and almost every night out there would be some sort of fracas varying from a bit of a scuffle in a pub, to an all out street brawl with police helmets flying. These days ? I tend to stay home a great deal more, and there is almost no violence that I can see around.

The whole reason for statistical surveys is to go beyond personal experience and belief, to get much closer to the truth. And when you have that statistical survey you do not throw it away because you do not like the results. You have to change your beliefs. Ordinary people can be forgiven for not doing so, but a politician in the position of Shadow Home Secretary has a responsibility to do his or her best for the country.

Let us examine the “lie” accusation a little closer. Using statistical data in an inappropriate manner such as comparing reported crime figures whose recording methodology was different, is just as much a lie as a school child yelling out “You smell”. It also helps to discredit statistics as a whole, because the public is given the impression that one set of statistics says one thing and another says another – which is not the case at all.

Hard for a Tory whose lies are told in the undoubtedly unselfish goal of removing the present Labour government.

Oct 132009
 

So an interim report on the expenses scandal is out and it is suggested that many MPs will have to pay back some of the expenses they have claimed over the last 5 years. And of course we have MPs claiming that it is not fair that they have to pay back expenses that were legitimately claimed under the rules that were set at the time.

No it isn’t fair.

It isn’t fair that MPs had such a lax expenses system that they could claim such ridiculous amounts on ridiculous items.

Complaining about paying back some of the excess is foolish in the extreme – whilst it may not be fair, everyone other than an MP is going to see this as just typical corrupt politician behaviour. Still it should make the next election interesting – we may not have a majority of Labour or Conservative MPs. There will be too many independents 🙂

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