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 282010

So this lunchtime, Gordon Brown was being interrogated by an ordinary voter. Fair enough. But later after getting into his car without checking his microphone was off, was heard calling her a “bigoted woman”. He has already apologised, but the damage has allegedly been done.

It is certainly the kind of mistake no politician would like to make – an easy boost to all the others.

It has been seized on as an example of how Gordon Brown has no sympathy with the interests of common people. Possibly.

But it could also be his way of dealing with stress – to insult someone in “private” (and he thought it was in private) is a way of letting off stream. Anyone who has worked in IT will undoubtedly be familiar with the strategy. And a politician meeting with a member of the public who is asking aggressive and unscripted questions is likely to get a little stressed.

And who is to say he is unique in this ? Gordon Brown has been caught out by making two mistakes – expressing his feelings out loud, and not making sure he was really in private. Other politicians have so far in this election have not been caught out, but who is to say that they do not do exactly the same ?

Looking back a day later, and what now ? I would say that nobody is really interested in Brown’s “disastrous” mistake – despite all the fuss in the media. Is his mistake more an opportunity for the media to make a fuss ? The subject hasn’t come up in conversation and nobody has encountered this page through a search. Perhaps to the ordinary voters out there, there are other factors far more interesting than whether Gordon Brown sometimes is a little less than diplomatic in private (or what he thought was private) ?

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!

Nov 062009

If I were close to someone who had been killed in action in Afghanistan, which would I rather receive ? A handwritten letter in poor handwriting and numerous misspellings ? Or a carefully worded letter, computer printed with a signature at the bottom.

Obviously I would rather receive neither – I would rather than someone close to me were still alive. But given the choice between the two letters, I would rather receive the handwritten one with misspellings and poor handwriting. A properly crafted letter that is computer printed is far less personal, and the wording is likely to be very bland. It would also feel like it was a form letter sent to everyone.

As for the poor handwriting and misspellings, a sensible person would not draw attention to that. There are often reasons why someone has poor spelling – for instance dyslexia. And someone with poor eyesight who probably relatively rarely writes by hand is likely to have poor handwriting.

Jun 292007

Well the answer to that question is not very … we elect representatives who make the necessary decisions on our behalf. Of course we’re a lot more democratic than some other places, and less that some others. For the record we’re probably more democratic than the ancient historical source of the idea of democracy … Athens. The Athens city state was only democratic if you were rich and male.

We happened to have had two examples of exactly how undemocratic the UK is this week … the resignation of Tony Blair and his replacement as Prime Minister by Gordon Brown, and the defection of Quentin Davies from the Conservative party to the Labour party.

The constituents of Grantham & Stamford are probably somewhat taken aback at finding themselves represented by a Labour MP; after all they were under the impression that they had voted for a Conservative MP. Well, no they hadn’t really … they really voted for Quentin Davies through thick and thin, and officially the party he belongs to is irrelevant. Of course his constituents might disagree, but their only avenue of complaint is when he tries to get re-elected.

Similarly nobody voted for Gordon Brown as Prime Minister. We all knew he was going to get into the hot seat of course … unlike Mr Grey’s (John Major) coup d’état where he replaced Margaret Thatcher. We didn’t have any say in the matter … the largest party’s leader is always (by convention) asked by the Monarch to become the Prime Minister. We may think that we are electing a Prime Minister (and the politicians encourage this), but really we ave no say in the matter except in having some influence on what party becomes the largest.

Does this need reforming ? Well perhaps, although there is always a danger in reform that we make things less stable. I think at the very least MPs who leave their party should resign their seat because we really are not living in a time where each MP acts more or less independantly.

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