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Monthly Archives: May 2010

Ignorance of the Law

During the writing of my previous post on respecting the beliefs of others, I had cause to go and investigate two Acts of Parliament relating to human rights and equality laws. While reading them, the well known legal principle that “ignorance of the law is no defense” came to mind. While reading, I came to the conclusion that it is next to impossible for a layman like myself to understand all the complexities, nuances and technicalities of either of those Acts, and yet my lack of understanding counts for nothing in defence. The problem is discussed in a Times article here, which makes for interesting reading.

If you ask me, ignorance of the law might be no defence, but it sure as hell is understandable….

Respect for the Beliefs of Others

Note (02/06/2010) : This post has been edited subsequent to its original posting to better explain my thinking. I should also note that I have no legal qualifications, and my understanding of the laws quoted is my best guess. 

I’m fairly sure this post will offend some people who read it, and I’m fairly certain that many will disagree with what I write, and yet I’m going to write it anyway. Not because I actively want to cause offense or arguments, but because this is my little area of the web where I let my thoughts and views run free. If you do find this article offensive, or you simply disagree with it, that’s OK, I don’t mind. In fact I’d go so far as to say that if you start to get offended you probably should stop reading, and go somewhere else. There are plenty of other web pages available, and no one is forcing you to read this one. Well I’m not, and if someone else is, that’s between you and them.

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HTC Desire Review

I’ve now had my HTC Desire for almost a month, and as the ‘new shiney’ feeling wears off I’ve had a chance to gather some more objective thoughts on the device and how it works for me at least.

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Feeling Faintly Uneasy

Late yesterday the news filtered out that the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats had reached agreement to form a coalition government, the first in our country for 70 years according to the BBC. I should be quite pleased – after all, isn’t this what I wanted before the election? I’ve posted several times recently about the importance of having a government that represents the majority of voters, and in theory this government represents almost 60% of the electorate. So why is it I feel faintly uneasy?

Perhaps it is because we really have no idea how this is going to work out. Perhaps it is because I seem to have a fundamental distrust of Conservative politics – growing up under a party who is happy to put the provision of mans most basic natural resource, water, into the hands of a private company whose sole motivation is making money tends to influence my thinking. Perhaps it’s because the agreement for a referendum on the Alternative Vote System doesn’t quite go far enough for me. Let’s face it, if you are going to allow the electorate to choose if they want a different electoral system, why not include one of the most widely used systems in the world? Why restrict the options the electorate can choose in that way? It can only be because the Conservatives do not want to provide an opportunity for the electorate to choose a system which they fundamentally disagree with, even if that is the will of the people. That atttitude is extremely worrying.

Time will tell how this government will work. In many ways I’d quite like it to work, I’d quite like for it to show that 2 parties of differeing views can work together and get things done, because that would only make the case for PR stronger. If this government fails to produce, or simply fails, it would be suggested that this is why PR is a bad idea, that it doesn’t work, that one party needs overall control. That would be wrong – PR clearly does work as other countries have proven – it would be our politicians that have failed us, and that isn’t the message that will be sent….

Fed up with FUD

I think it’s a shame that with all the political uncertainty floating around at the moment, politicians still feel the need to make statements which are nothing more than an attempt to inject more FUD into an already murky situation. If you haven’t heard the expression before, FUD is short for “Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt” and is a great descriptive term for the things that are said to make the public (or consumers) worry about the possible negative implications of choosing the competitor over you.

For example, if you wanted to suggest to the electorate that the Lib Dems forming a government with Labour would be a ‘bad thing’ in some way, you could say something like if that happened, it would mean “a second unelected prime minister in a row”. Scary stuff – having a Prime Minister that isn’t elected? An ‘unelected’ Prime Minister wouldn’t be democratic would it, so what would we have voted for? It would be bad wouldn’t it, especially right after an election where we should have elected a proper Prime Minister.

Except it’s not, because, as a country we don’t elect a Prime Minister, ever. As a country, our voting system only allows us to vote for a local candidate. If David Cameron became Prime Minister, he would be just as ‘unelected’ as Gordon Brown, in the sense that the vast majority of voters, Conservative or otherwise, didn’t even have the option of voting for him. In fact the only people who could be considered to have elected him were the people of Witney, and only then to represent them in Parliament, not as Prime Minister.

So why say something like that, as William Hague did yesterday? The only reason is propaganda – to make people think that an alternative is bad in some way. It’s frankly tiresome and dishonourable. At the end of the day it doesn’t help move discussions on, it doesn’t help the electorate figure out what is ‘right’ for them. It’s basically just a dirty trick, and I’m fed up with it. I want our elected representatives to actually behave like adults, and work with each other to do whats best for the whole country, not just the less than 40% who voted one way or another.

FUD has no place in politics, and probably anywhere else in the civilised world. If a politician starts resorting to FUD, you know it’s because they want to draw attention away from their own shortcomings, and make someone else look worse. We should move past that, and focus on the positives. If politicians can’t do that, perhaps next time we vote we should make sure they don’t get elected.

Spot the Difference?

I received an e-mail yesterday that I thought was worth posting. Spot the difference below!

Data
Lieutenant, Starship Enterprise
Functioning within Parameters

David Cameron
Leader, Conservative Party
Unsure of Parameters

 

I know which one I’d prefer as Prime Minister 😉

(Kudos to Princess Penguin for the comparison)

Final Score

Well, the bulk of the results for the General Election are in and it promises to be a somewhat interesting and curious few days. The Conservatives, quite rightly, are saying that the results show that Labour simply does not have a right to govern, the problem is they never had one to start with. The Liberal Democrat vote is up nearly 1%, which doesn’t seem to matter seeing as they lost (at time of writing) 10.5% of their seats. It is simply ludicrous that we call this type of score keeping a ‘democracy’. As it happens the candidate I voted for was not elected. Therefore I’m ‘represented’ by someone who doesn’t share my view on many key issues. In fact the new MP doesn’t even represent the majority of voters in his constituency either.

According to the BBC the current results are as follows:

Party Seats Gain Loss Change Votes % Votes % Change
Conservative 291 95 3 +92 10,152,097 36.1 +3.9
Labour 247 2 87 -85 8,211,677 29.2 -6.3
Liberal Democrat 51 7 13 -6 6,426,742 22.9 +1.0

 

 

 

I’ve already posted a similar table below, and today I want to draw attention to something else about it which makes no sense.

If you divide the number of votes by the number of seats, you see a strange phenomenon. Those 291 Conservative seats correspond to the 10 million votes they won,  which means each seat ‘cost’ 34886 votes. Labour seats ‘cost’ 33245 votes, and a Lib Dem seat ‘costs’ a whopping 126014 votes. Again, lets look at this a different way. The 268024 people who voted Green have 1 person representing them in parliament, and the 539841 BNP voters don’t have any effective representation. Regardless of what we think about any one parties policies and views, the whole point of a democratically elected government is to reflect the views of the people who elected them. That clearly doesn’t happen in the UK.

We are still waiting for the full results, 34 seats still have to declare, and it seems certain that the Conservatives will be hard pushed to form a working government (as it should be with only 36% of the vote), and yet a Lab/Lib coalition would be in pretty much the same position with roughly the same number of seats (and a 52.1% share of the vote).

I think the question we’re all thinking is, how the hell will this play out?

E-Day! A tricky choice.

So, today is the day. General Election 2010. This time tomorrow we’ll have some idea of the outcome, and whether we’ll be stuck with the same old government, a majority government representing a minority of voters, or perhaps a chance for something new.

Over the last few days I’ve been looking at various policies from all the major parties, trying to figure out who should get my vote today. To be fair I had a pretty good idea before I started, but something very key struck me while I was reading through manifestos and election promises. It’s something that strikes to the very heart of democracy and demonstrates why a fairer system is required.

What I discovered was that I didn’t actually want to vote for any one party. There was no one party where I was even close to saying I agree with pretty much all of their policies. My ‘perfect’ party is a mix of policies from pretty much all the major parties, and some of the minor ones too. The problem I have is if I vote for one party on the basis of one or two key things which are most important to me, I have effectively compromised my views on other policies I might also think are important, but perhaps are secondary to those one or two crucial one that swayed my choice. It really does come down to working out which are the most important things to me and accepting that the price of voting for those is that I accept that other important items must be sacrificed, assuming my party of choice gets elected.

What do you choose? Is education more important than health? Is electoral reform more important than the environment? Do we lower base taxation or keep nuclear weapons? The first past the post system means that if you choose a party based on education policy, you have to accept their healthcare policy, their defence policy and so on. Do we really think that one party will have all the right answers in every area of policy making? It’s possible I guess, and based on manifestos I’ve looked at, none of them have all the right answers.

I still think that a system that actively encourages our elected representatives, who have different backgrounds, ideas and skills, to work together to come up with government policies which better reflect a wider range of views will be a huge step forward on the system we have now. No system is perfect, but some surely are better than others.

 

 

PR Explained

As you might be able to tell from a previous post or two, I’m not a huge fan of the current electoral system. Regardless of which policies I believe in, and which candidates I would trust to deliver them, I firmly believe that any democratic country should be able to elect a government that is truely representative of the people who voted, and that our current system does not even come close to that.

Proportional Representation is a viable option, and is dismissed by its detracters for several reasons, none of which I think makes sense based on the evidence of other countries experience. Many years ago (at some point just after the 1983 election), John Cleese made a video explaining PR and how it works. It’s well worth a watch:

 

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSUKMa1cYHk

Link courtesy of http://www.stephenfry.com/2010/05/04/how-i-will-vote/