2017 General Election Diary Day 34: U-turns, caps and Libertines

Seems I picked the wrong weekend of the campaign to take a break from politics and blogging, as everything appears to have been turned upside down over the last few days. ‘Dementia tax’ went from being the sort of thing you don’t even write on the flipchart when someone suggests it to a Google search term both the Tories and Labour were bidding to advertise on, and meanwhile Donald Trump touched a mysterious glowing orb as part of a ceremony, and Jeremy Corbyn made a surprise appearance at a Libertines gig where he was greeted with acclaim by the thousands of people there.

Yes, I feel like I’ve fallen into a parallel universe too. Apparently we’re in a version of 2017 where not only are the Libertines still a thing, they can also get massive crowds of people along to watch them.

As everyone is fond of pointing out, election wobbles happen to every party in every campaign. Everything up to then has been smooth sailing and easy going, then something comes out of left field – who knew they were going to care that much about one manifesto promise? – and suddenly you’re under pressure, the polls are looking a lot closer than you thought and campaign HQ is inundated with reports of candidates and canvassers being chased down driveways by people saying they’ll never vote for you again. Now, there’s a lot of suggestion that this is essentially meaningless, that campaigns change nothing and elections are decided on fundamental impressions and perceptions decided long before. All campaigns – even Blair in 1997 – have wobbles, they say, and then go on to win and look back at them with a happy nostalgia at their naivety, but we forget that there are an awful lots of campaigns that went on to lose who have similar tales without the rosy tint. If there’s one thing we should have learned from recent years, it’s that politics and public perception can change very very quickly. We don’t know how many hammer blows it takes to knock down a strong and stable wall, but it’s probably not as many as you might think if the first few gentle taps reveal that it’s actually pretty weak and wobbly.

(At present, that final sentence is my entry in the Most Tortured And Painful Metaphor category of this year’s election blogging awards)

And for a question now that may turn out to be oddly prescient in the next Parliament. The Salisbury Convention says that the Lords won’t block any policy that’s in the new Government’s manifesto. What happens if the Government disowned part of that manifesto during the election campaign in favour of something else? (The best answer to that so far involves the Lords killing a cat, and I don’t really wish to find out if there is an official ceremony for doing that somewhere in the bowels of the great uncodified British constitution)

Also from the weekend, here’s the Foreign Secretary being caught out in a lie on national TV:

But don’t worry because the interviewer decides it’s all a bit of laugh and doesn’t go on to press him over it. Maybe if people stopped referring to him by the middle name he only uses for political purposes and went for ‘Mr Johnson’ or ‘Foreign Secretary’ instead, this would stop seeming like a fun little silly game with a comedy character, and serious politics with a man in a position of real power and influence?

For all those who claim that referendums are the settled ‘will of the people’ and can’t be turned over by a mere election manifesto, would you care to explain why the Tories are talking about changing the way the London Mayor and Assembly are elected? They’re actually talking about switching all Mayor and PCC elections to single member plurality systems (the system some refer to as ‘first past the post’ despite it lacking anything that even resembles a winning post), but London’s was agreed as part of the referendum that approved the Mayor and Assembly and overturning the will of the people on Mayoral referendums…is something the Tories have form on, so why are we surprised?

And with things hotting up on the election trail, we now have a decent selection of candidates for Election Leaflet Of The Day, though the winner has to be this one from Lee McCall, independent candidate for Sittingbourne and Sheppey, who has stumbled on an unintentionally creepy slogan. ‘I’m not running for office, I’m running for you!’ he promises his electorate, bringing up the image of him chasing them all over the Isle of Sheppey. It could also work as the closing line of a political-themed rom-com, where the protagonist suddenly realises what’s important in their life and tells them so.

Maybe we all just need to hope in a happy ending. Eighteen days till we find out if we’re getting one…

We have a terrible electoral system, but it’s not gerrymandered

In the same way that the guest facilities of the Watergate Hotel are not much remembered, neither is the political career of Elbridge Gerry, 9th Governor of Massachusetts and 5th Vice-President of the United States. Both have managed to have their names remembered down the years by having them attached to a particular form of scandal. Thus, every account of potential political wrongdoing and cover-up finds itself with ‘-gate’ stuck on the end of it, and any complaint about changing electoral boundaries is almost certain to call it a Gerrymander. (The original ‘Gerry-mander’ was a constituency for the Massachusetts State Senate, said to resemble a salamander, and drawn in order to bolster the chances of Gerry’s supporters being elected)

‘Gerrymander’ is being thrown around a lot today as the Boundary Commission for England have announced their proposed boundaries for new constituencies in England. As these reflect new rules on the total numbers of MPs (down from 650 to 600) and the way in which constituencies are made up, there are plenty of major changes on the electoral map. Many existing constituency names disappear, others merge and mutate into new ones, and wholly new entities are formed. Compounded to this is the general and ongoing effect of population movement and change in the UK, which means that every boundary review leads to a reduction in ‘Labour constituencies’ and an increase in ‘Conservative constituencies’.

To some, all this represents a gerrymandering of constituencies. To which I say no, this is a gerrymander:
(you might need to click on it to see it in its full ridiculous detail)
That’s how the thirteen congressional districts in North Carolina are allocated. The fourth, ninth and twelfth are all classic examples of the art of gerrymandering, meandering ribbon-like constituencies with only tenuous connections between the various parts of them, but the whole state has been divided up in bizarre and unusual ways to create a certain end result. North Carolina’s not the only state that looks like that – it’s a common feature across the USA, where most states have their boundaries drawn in an explicitly political process run by the state government, not an arms-length boundary commission.

(One point worth making here is that the aim of a successful gerrymander is not to create ‘safe’ seats for the party seeking to benefit from it. If a population is divided 50-50 between Party A and Party B, 50% of the seats where party A wins 90%-10% and 50% seats where Party B wins by the same just gives us a deadlock. However, if Party A can make 75% of the seats ones it’s sure of winning 60-40, Party B can have the remaining 25% of the seats to win 80-20, but will have no chance of winning overall power, despite both parties having the same number of votes.)

The Boundary Commission works within the rules its set by the government (which are flawed) but the constituency boundaries themselves are not gerrymandered. Yes, there are some odd boundaries in there, but that’s almost always going to happen when trying to make natural communities fit within artificially imposed boundaries. The population of the country doesn’t live in a bunch of obvious communities that are all within the electoral quota needed to make a Parliamentary constituency, so boundaries are going to end up doing odd things.

The problem comes from the boundary review being part of a system that’s fundamentally broken at the national level. Claims from the Tories and Labour that the review might under or over-represent them as a result miss a fundamental point: our electoral system massively over-represents both of them. On the present – supposedly unfair to the Tories – boundaries, 37% of the vote got them 51% of the seats, while Labour got 35% of the seats in Parliament with just 30% of the votes and the SNP managed 9% of the seats on just 5% of the vote.

Complaining about gerrymandering in constituency boundaries is truly missing the wood for the trees (or the zoo for the salamander, if we’re trying to keep our metaphors straight). Why bother gerrymandering individual seats, when you’ve already got a system that’s massively biased in favour of you? If you want to reform the process, you need to remember that odd constituency boundaries and reviews like this are a necessary feature of our electoral system, not a bug. If you want a system that truly represents people, don’t get distracted complaining about non-existent gerrymanders, work instead to get us a better electoral system.

Canada: why electoral reform will be hard to win

Coming soon to a Canadian billboard
Coming soon to a Canadian billboard
In one of last year’s few political highlights, Justin Trudeau led the Liberal Party to victory in Canada’s general election, and one of their manifesto pledges was to change Canada’s electoral system from first past the post.

The Liberals won a majority of the seats in Canada’s Parliament, and reforming the electoral system is also backed by the New Democratic and Green parties, meaning that a substantial majority of the electorate backed parties that want change. So, that’s an electoral majority, a Parliamentary majority and a clear manifesto pledge all backing change.

As you might expect, that’s not enough for the Conservatives, who are now insisting that there needs to be a referendum as well, or they’ll use their strength in the (unelected) Senate to block any change. This fits in with how the Conservatives ran the country in the Harper era, when all controversial decisions went to national referendums… oh no, they didn’t do that, did they?

Just as happened here in Britain a few years ago, the vested interests whose chance of power would be most threatened by electoral reform are getting ready to do whatever it takes to stop it from happening. Those of you who miss reading ill-informed columnists spouting badly-argued talking points about why a country doesn’t need electoral reform will enjoy the Canadian press right now. This article manages to hit almost all the bases of objection from ‘there are more important things to worry about’ through a reference to a misunderstood Arrow’s Theorem and right to ‘it’s all too complicated for people to understand’. (Anyone Danish reading this might be somewhat surprised to learn that they don’t know how their electoral system works) It does a great job of undermining its own arguments with this line:

As flawed as our system is, it has its virtues. The greatest one is clarity. Any party that wins a majority has the chance to fully implement its agenda, for better or for worse.

Which is exactly what the Canadian Liberals are doing. It is a strange situation when a government comes to power with a commitment to change the system that delivered it a majority, but that (amongst other things, which they’re also doing because Governments can multi-task) is what they were elected to do. The Canadian campaign against electoral reform is only just beginning to pick itself up and organise its arguments, so it’s not quite at the ridiculous hyperbole of ‘electoral reform kills babies and soldiers’ yet, but it’s going to come. Even when a Government is elected with an overwhelming argument for change, those that fear it will do all they can to stop it, and I hope Trudeau and his government have the strength to see them off.

Electoral pacts won’t bring electoral reform

proprIn ‘all of this has happened before and will happen again’ (British politics edition) we’ve already got people suggesting – apparently seriously – that the way to get a better electoral system is through an electoral pact. It’s one of those ideas that sounds good when you first come up with it, but then falls apart if given any sort of serious analysis, and time spent trying to make it happen is time that could be used much more productively doing just about any other form of campaigning for electoral reform. Trying to put together an electoral pact would require huge amounts of politics as we understand it to go missing, and in the unlikely event such a pact was formed, why would anyone vote for it?

First, agreeing any sort of electoral pact for electoral reform is going to require the agreement of multiple parties with wildly different policies. Even putting aside that just about the only point of agreement between the parties in the pact would be ‘we want electoral reform’, there’s little agreement even amongst committed reformers about what non-FPTP system is best for the UK. The Pro-PR Pact website has one of the most handwaving dismissals of this problem I’ve read:

Which system of proportional representation should the Pact back?

The Electoral Reform Society and the Liberal Democrats support the introduction of the single transferable vote for general elections.

However, as it would be crucial to have Labour in the pact, it might be decided to agree on the system that that party prefers if it demands an alternative choice.

Because I’m sure no one in the Lib Dems, Greens, UKIP, SNP, Plaid Cymru or any of the other parties involved in this pact would have any objection to having the one policy of it dictated by Labour Party fiat, would they?

The proposal is for a pact on a scale not seen in British politics for nearly a hundred years and unlike any National Government or Coalition Coupon election would be formed by an opposition over a single policy that’s not of high interest to most voters. Consider the problems the SDP=Liberal Alliance faced in agreeing the details of policy and who would be standing where, and that was between two parties in broad(ish) agreement. Now imagine that you’re the person who has to tell a Labour candidate they have to stand down in favour of UKIP because of the PR pact.

But, for the purposes of argument, let’s suppose all these and many other problems are somehow overcome and the 2020 election comes around with a clear choice in most constituencies between a Conservative and the local pro-PR candidate. You’re a keen electoral reform campaigner, eager to get your pro-PR candidate elected, even if they are a member of a party you despise. You go out to campaign for them, knock on someone’s door and give them your spiel about how electoral reform is important.

“That’s great.” They reply. “I think we need a new voting system, and I support that. Now, what are you going to do about the local hospital?”

What’s your reply?

Is it “Well, I’d like to do X, but the candidate I’m campaigning for wants to do the exact opposite of that and some of the people they’d be elected with would have completely different views.”? Or maybe “we’re not going to do anything because we believe changing the voting system is more important than any other issue.”? Or perhaps a “ask me that again in six months time when I come back to campaign against the person I just got elected in our first PR election, which we’ve managed to pass through Parliament (including the Lords) remarkably quickly and there’ve been no crises that have required a political response from the Government in that time.”?

Electoral reform is an important issue, but not in the minds of the voters. Any pact for electoral reform would be giving the voters nothing to vote for on what they think are the most important issues. Unless you’ve got evidence (and that’s evidence, not wishful thinking) of how electoral reform is going to be the most salient concern for voters in 2020 any pro-PR pact is going to go down to the same ignominious defeat experienced by every other single issue party in British politics. If you want electoral reform, then you have to campaign for it like any other policy and get a Government elected that wants to achieve it along with other policies, not believe that you can get every other political dispute to willingly suspend itself to allow you to get your favoured policy through.

Tories show why skipping democratic reform was New Labour’s big mistake

Today’s Observer has articles from Peter Hyman and Andrew Rawnsley that possess an interesting joint theme, even if one of them is unaware of it. Hyman’s critique of Corbyn’s Labour through defence of New Labour and Rawnsley’s warning about the Tory attempts to stictch up democracy help to expose where New Labour went wrong. By failing to reform the way our democracry works, New Labour missed the opportunity to lock in a permanent change to the system, leaving all its work open to removal by a Tory government.

Much of Hyman’s article is a long list of New Labour policy achievements under Tony Blair and an admonishment of the party for failing to continue that process. However, what he failed to acknowledge was these were all policy changes, and that New Labour did very little to change the way in which the political system works. New Labour came into office with a great zeal for reform, and those first two years in office did deliver some lasting changes: the Scottish and Welsh Parliaments, the Freedom of Information Act, removal of hereditary peers from the Lords, and the Human Rights Act amongst them. However, after that initial flurry, the drive for change came to a rapid halt. The Jenkins Commission on the electoral system reported and went nowhere, further Lords reform was allowed to fester in Parliament, local government reform stalled after mayors and cabinets were introduced, and regional devolution was being backed away from even before the North East referendum happened.

The problem was that the two landslide victories of 1997 and 2001 had convinced Blair and the heart of New Labour that there was no need for any widespread reform of Britain’s democratic system because it worked well enough to give them two convincing majorities. An anti-Tory majority in the country, willing to vote tactically between the Lib Dems and Labour to keep the Tories out, proved to some minds that our electoral system could be made to work. Failing to account for a time when Tory fortunes would rise and Labour’s fall, Blair brushed aside any idea that there should be more checks on the power of his Government, failing to take the long view and understand that there’d come a time when the Tories would come back to power.

This is where Rawnsley’s article is important as it explains how the Tories are doing what New Labour failed to do and using their current time in power to fix the system in their favour and ensure they keep everyone else out of power for as long as possible. They’re removing checks to executive power in the House of Lords, introducing boundary reviews that will drastically reduce the number of potential Labour seats, bringing in trade union reforms that will drastically cut Labour’s funding (on top of Osborne’s cuts to Short Money), and gradually squeezing the accountability from local government and making it dance to the Treasury’s tune. It’s a comprehensive effort to tilt the electoral playing field in their favour, while proposed reforms to the Human Rights Act and Freedom of Information Act will drastically shift power away from the individual and towards the already powerful.

Prioritising short-term policy victories over kong-term systemic reform wasn’t unique to New Labour, as it’s the same problem Nick Clegg had in the coalition, trumpeting tax credits and the Pupil Premium as major achievements while failing to deliver any deeper change to the democratic system. In both instances, it’s a case of a badly missed opportunity to deliver a fundamental change, and the Tories are now showing that while the centre and the left might miss those opportunities when they come up, they don’t.

Another First Past The Post system bites the dust

unfairFrom the newly elected Canadian Liberal election platform:

We will make every vote count.

We are committed to ensuring that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system.

We will convene an all-party Parliamentary committee to review a wide variety of reforms, such as ranked ballots, proportional representation, mandatory voting, and online voting.

This committee will deliver its recommendations to Parliament. Within 18 months of forming government, we will introduce legislation to enact electoral reform.

Let the wrangling over the ideal replacement system begin!

Obviously, it’ll be sad to lose a good example of strategic and tactical voting in operation, but that’ll be more than outweighed by the benefits of having an electoral system that actually represents the diversity and multi-party nature of Canadian politics.

How the Tories pushing city Mayors has re-opened the door to electoral reform

Yesterday saw an expected yet still disappointing response from the Government to the various post-election electoral reform petitions. Expected, because we all know that there’s no way this Government is going to concede electoral reform, yet disappointing because it reveals that the minister for constitutional reform may have absolutely no idea what he’s talking about.

In response to petitions demanding a properly proportional electoral system, his response was that ‘we had a referendum on it in 2011’. The 2011 referendum was lost, and lost badly, but it was definitely not a referendum on adopting a proportional system. The question was, if you forget:

At present, the UK uses the “first past the post” system to elect MPs to the House of Commons. Should the “alternative vote” system be used instead?

You’ll notice, of course, that there’s no mention there of any proportional electoral system, merely a question about whether one majoritarian system should be used in place of another. Also note that it doesn’t ask for any affirmation of the current system above all others: the question was not ‘do you agree that “first past the post” is great and should never ever be changed?’

There were other referendums during the last Parliament, of course, with several cities being told that they had to have votes on whether they wanted an elected Mayor to run their Council. Bristol and Salford voted yes but a whole host of England’s largest cities – Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle and others – voted No.

Despite this, the Government is pushing forward with plans to give these cities – and ‘city regions’ – their own mayors whether they want them or not. Manchester’s ‘interim Mayor’ has already been agreed and selected by ten people without any consultation with the electorate, and other areas are going to find that George Osborne will be imposing one upon them if they want to have any new powers, with ‘devolution’ being used as an excuse for even more centralisation. In this case, despite the people voting against it more recently than 2011, the Government’s going to go ahead and do what it wants.

‘But Nick!’ you cry, desperate to defend George Osborne. ‘These are different to the Mayors they rejected. These are Metro Mayors and regional Mayors, covering wider areas than those that voted in the referendums, so it’s a completely different thing!’ And you may well be right, but if you’re going to make that argument, you can’t also claim that any electoral reform is off the agenda because of the AV referendum as that was merely vote on a tweak to the current majoritarian system, not a change to a proportional one. I’m happy to concede that the referendum rejected AV, but had nothing to say about other electoral systems and if a future Parliament chooses to change the system it can do so – as long as it’s not to AV.

Unfortunately, we have a government where the minister for constitutional reform doesn’t seem to understand even the basics of what’s happened before, so we can expect lots more confusion over the Parliament. If that wasn’t a five year period in which some important constitutional questions are going to be discussed heavily, it’d almost be funny.

If Labour truly want to challenge the Tories, they need to embrace electoral reform

Officials count ballot papers in WitneyHaving a small masochistic streak in me, I watched some of Andrew Marr’s show this morning, so got to see Yvette Cooper saying that maybe adopting the Tory manifesto for their next set of policies wasn’t the best approach for the Labour Party. It’s the sort of thing that should be obvious, but in the rather bizarre world of the mainstream political commentariat it’s almost heresy. After all, Labour was comprehensively defeated in the election while the Tories stormed to a resounding victory, which proves that the country has swung decisively to the right in its attitudes and everyone should just agree with them.

It’s an interesting argument, except for the fact that it rests on a foundation of utter bollocks. Labour’s share of the vote went up by more than the Tories did, David Cameron got fewer votes than Neil Kinnock did in 1992 and all the evidence suggests that the public mood is actually moving leftwards and will continue to do so during the Parliament. Five years ago, Labour let the consensus mediamacro opinion that they were somehow solely responsible for the global financial crisis form while they were busy with their leadership contest, but this time they actually appear to be using their contest to support the formation of a new consensus that the 2015 election was some epochal rejection of the Labour Party, not just a defeat.

As Andrew Rawnsley points out in the Observer today, the only reason we have this narrative is because of our thoroughly broken electoral system that allows a party with 37% of the vote to pretend it has a huge mandate, while one with 31% has been thumpingly rejected. Instead of talking about how one party is mildly more popular than the other, we instead have to act out a bizarre farce where the ‘winners’ of the election are treated as though they have the majority of the population enthusiastically backing them, not just the largest plurality.

The problem for Labour is that their commitment to the current electoral system – in the hope that it will deliver them a similar majority from a plurality if the pendulum swings back to them – means they have to act like the Tories are an actual majority, not just the representatives of 37% of the voters. That’s why they end up pushed into a narrative of having to show their agreement with the Tory manifesto because it’s assumed that they have to take votes from them to win next time, ignoring the large chunk of voters that didn’t vote for either of them, and the even larger chunk of the electorate that didn’t vote at all. Cooper’s right to point out that the way forward for Labour isn’t swallowing the Tory manifesto, but to make that argument stick she’ll have to point out that one big reason the Tories are in a majority is because of the effect of the electoral system. While she’s stuck in pretending that a Parliamentary majority means something more than just a quirk of electoral mathematics, she can’t respond by pointing out that there are other paths Labour can take.

(Incidentally, it’s why I think Mark Thompson’s belief that Liz Kendall could call for electoral reform is wrong. Her pitch for the leadership is bound up tightly in pretending that the Tories are a real majority, so Labour must be more like them, and the arguments she’d need to make for electoral reform would severely weaken her pitch.)

Labour has been in this position before, and there were tentative moves towards adopting electoral reform before 1997, that ended up being quietly shelved once they realised that they could get the electoral system to make them look absurdly dominant. However, now they face a situation where the electoral system is looking very skewed against them, and they’ve got an uphill battle to get a plurality of Commons seats, let alone a majority. By admitting the reality of the electoral situation, Labour can give themselves a strong argument to both challenge the Tories and build co-operation between the opposition parties, all of whom except Labour are committed to some version of electoral reform. Sure, it won’t be popular with every part of the Labour Party, but I’m not detecting a huge wave of enthusiasm within the party for becoming the Tory Reserves either. If any of the leadership candidates want to push Labour away from capitulation to the Tory agenda, they have to challenge the narrative that’s presenting them as hegemonic, and challenging the electoral system is an important part of that. Do any of their candidates have the desire to make that challenge, or will they just be crossing their fingers and hoping for the best in 2020?

Labour’s political reform proposals: some good ideas, but where’s the detail?

labourreformLabour have launched their plans for political reform (there’s a PDF with more detail here) and at a first look, they’re not that bad. Not perfect, but definitely steps in the right direction and with a bit more coherence to them than the rather random nature of the combined authorities/city regions plans currently being scattered across the country.

The good news is that Labour remain committed to having a Constitutional Convention and are looking at how devolution within England works as a whole, not on a piecemeal basis. There’s no detail on how the convention will be made up, though, and I’d be concerned that it could turn into another top-down attempt at reform where a convention of the great and the good tour the country for some set piece events rather than a proper convention where a wider range of people get to take part.

They also commit to replacing the House of Lords with a Senate, and I’m not going to rehash old arguments about that, but would point out that they only mention removing hereditary peers from the Lords, which makes me wonder if the current appointees will be allowed to remain in place. Like with the constitutional convention, the commitment is good, but the devil is in the detail.

The promise to change the way the Commons work is interesting, especially wanting to “discourage off putting and aggressive behaviour in the Chamber”. However, that is something they’ve got the power to at least partly deliver now. Indeed, if Ed Miliband really wanted to do something dramatic at Prime Minister’s Questions, he would instruct his MPs to sit quietly throughout it, and perhaps do something really transgressive himself like asking David Cameron a question that’s a test of his knowledge, rather than his spinning skills.

Introducing a ‘public evidence stage’ for bills going through the Commons is an interesting idea, but like any public consultation it risks becoming a gimmick and a box-ticking exercise rather than a meaningful input into the process. What measures will be put in place to ensure that the public’s input gets properly considered rather than included in a report that no one pays any real attention to? Also, will the public evidence stage be limited to those who can get to Westminster, or something encouraging wider participation?

We also have a promise that “Labour will reform elections so everyone has their say”, which sounds promising, but is mostly tweaks in administration of elections (votes at 16, changes to registration and trials of online voting) and doesn’t include any commitment to electoral reform. If they truly want a system that gives everyone their say, then they can’t get that with the current electoral system. However, turkeys don’t vote for Christmas, and the many Labour MPs in safe seats would be up in arms if the party started campaigning for them to have a harder time of it.

It’s good to see Labour putting forward proposals on political reform, but as we’ve seen before from Governments of all stripes, good intentions in this field don’t always lead to good outcomes. There’s more detail needed on all the proposals to make them more than just positive soundbites, and they need to be something that makes a real difference, not just a bit of PR that’ll make no real difference to the way things work. Are Labour serious about changing the way power works in this country? These proposals suggest they might be, but they need to demonstrate that commitment not just mouth a few platitudes.

Worth Reading 151: Odd fellows

Cis People Know Best, They Tell Us – How the New Statesman used the death of Leelah Alcorn for a spot of anti-trans concern trolling.
Will the UK voting system survive 2015? – “It’s actually quite clear which way people are going to vote; what is unpredictable is a voting system that is so poorly suited to its purpose that the numbers that it chews out could go anywhere. That this doesn’t lead more people than it does to declare that it is time to pick another system is a sad testament of how badly let down our media and politicians are letting us down.”
Worse than a defeat – James Meek on the many errors that we’re made in Britain’s most recent foray into Afghanistan.
Who bears risk? – “The idea that capitalists are brave entrepreneurs who deserve big rewards for taking risk is just rubbish.”
Are You Really Talking About Rehabilitation For Ched Evans? – What rehabilitation of offenders actually involves, and why Ched Evans’ behaviour doesn’t show he’s rehabilitated at all. (Warning: post discusses rape and related issues)