Northernheckler's Blog

A Yorkshireman's adventures in the big Smoke

So snow causes a few problems – stop whingeing about it.

snow

Every so often there is some snow in the UK.

Not very often.

Actually it would be probably better to say – about once a year, but actually not even as often as that, about twice every two years – but sometimes we go three or four years in between – we get some snow in the UK

And it usually causes a few problems – we get traffic snarl ups, road closures, public transport problems, and sporting fixtures postponed, Oh and we get schools closed and people sent home from school.

And every time that happens we get something else – people who whinge about how the snow causes so much difficulty when we have so little of it.

Predictable lines are as follows :

How is it that [ Canada / Russia / Germany / Norway / insert country that gets more snow than us ] can have [ 12 feet /  18 feet / insert improbably large depth ] of snow EVERY DAY for three years, and the trains aren’t even 5 minutes late once  – but when we get [ a few centimetres / millimetres / a light dusting / insert improbably slight amount ] of snow everything GRINDS TO A HALT

Back in 1963, our school never closed  – we used to walk to school through 100 foot high snowdrifts and if we were 2 minutes late our teacher used to hit us with a big stick and we’d say thankyou; but nowadays they close every school at the drop of a hat.

When Stanley Matthews wor a lad, they used to play football even when the snow was up to their necks; and the balls were made of pigs bladders filled with concrete; and the crowds were 80,000 strong, and sometimes it was so cold that they couldn’t move from the terraces because their feet had frozen to the spot; but they clapped every goal and then walked home forty miles in a blizzard; nowadays they call off every game at the merest hint of a snow flake.

You get the picture ?

Well the fight back starts here.

You want to know why snow causes problems ? Want to know why we don’t all have snow chains for our cars ? Want to know why we don’t grit the roads three or four times every night between September and May ?

Easy – it’s because it hardly ever happens, and when it does it rarely lasts longer than a day or so.

Want to save a bit of your car maintenance budget ? – Easy ! -  don’t get winter tyres or snow chains – I’ve never had any in my whole life – because I’ve never really needed them

Want to keep council spending down ? Easy ! – don’t waste it all on salt and grit that usually gets washed away before the snow lands, and tends to make everyone’s cars rust a bit quicker.

Want to keep your costs down in your football stadium ? Well postpone  a game or two every couple of years – and don’t switch that expensive under soil heating on.

Snow tends to give us all a bit of excitement once every blue moon, something we can tell our kids about in years to come. It really doesn’t inconvenience us much though in the long run.

So to answer the points above -

How come those countries can carry on when they have loads of snow ?  Easy – it’s because they invest a lot of time and effort in doing so – because it makes economic sense because they get loads of snow. We don’t – because it doesn’t and we don’t.

How come the schools stayed open in 1963 and they all close now ? Well lots of schools did close in 1963 – but many of them didn’t because most of their pupils lived within walking distance – which they had to because most people did not have cars. Today pupils can travel several miles to a school – and staff often travel far further due to the mobility – both geographical and social  – that the car has given us. The big problem in a school is ending up in a situation where you have children who can not be supervised properly because staff have been unable to get to work.. There is also a great deal of pressure on schools to let parents know a school is closed as soon as possible  – and schools do sometimes have to close on a probable threat of further snow rather than waiting for it to happen. My kids are now in the 6th form – I think this has happened maybe four times since they started school when they were 5. Hardly  a massive inconvenience – they loved every one of those “snow days”.

“Snow days” by the way is one of those expressions we’ve borrowed from the big snow countries – where extra days are built into the school year because they know that they’ll probably  have to close several times.

Snow Football

And what about the sport ? How did they they manage to keep going back then ? Well – they didn’t !

In the much talked about winter of 62/63 there was barely any Football, Rugby League, or Rugby Union played in England or Scotland between late December and February – some FA Cup ties were re-arranged more than 10 times.

In the UK only one Horse racing meeting took place in Scotland, with none at all in the other nations, between 23rd December and 7th March – with 97 race meetings cancelled.Today in 2013 on the day after the most significant snow falls of the year throughout the country, not a single Premier League or Championship match has been postponed – and fans have been able to travel throughout the country to watch those games, on motorways that have been open throughout the day.

So we do pretty well actually – we could do a lot better – but it’s really not worth it – it doesn’t happen often and it’s rarely around for long.

Now excuse me I’m off to build a snowman before it all melts

Stop Whingeing and enjoy the snow !

Stop Whingeing and enjoy the snow !

January 19, 2013 Posted by | Football, idle banter, news | , , , | Leave a comment

Facebook stories on Delhi Murdered Woman are not all they seem

A lot has been put on line already about the horrendous gang rape, and murder of  an Indian student in Delhi.

Many of you will have come across variations of this post which is pretty much “viral” on Facebook :

Screen Shot 2013-01-03 at 21.20.35

The post shows what appears to be, pictures of the Indian student – on the left lying in bed seriously ill after her assault, and on the right, wearing modern indian style clothing, and looking very attractive.

The accompanying text includes a graphic account of  the most violent rape imaginable – it’s all over the internet if you want to read it – I’m not going to repeat it again here.

Naturally many thousands – if not millions – of Facebook users, have shared this, and shared their disgust at violence against women in general, and this despicable crime in particular. It’s hard really to think of a reason why you wouldn’t want to share that.

Except … this is a woman who’s name has not been released. Which does make me wonder whether they would release a picture of her – which would make it pretty pointless concealing her name.

After a bit of scouting around on Google – I discovered very quickly that the picture on the left, really is a picture of the victim of a serious assault. It’s one Christo van Eeden a South African MAN – who was beaten by his mother’s ex partner in August 2010  Woman’s ex attacks her son

The picture on the right is interesting too. Indian Minister of State for Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor has been relatively quick to point out that it’s not the girl in question. He claims that it’s a picture of an Engineering Student from Kerala Delhi gang-rape: Victim’s purported photo is of Kerala student, claims Tharoor .

 This may well be true – but what he doesn’t flag up is where the originators of the Facebook picture are likely to have found this picture. Well they could have found it in any one of hundreds of websites such as this one Desi Indian Aunties which feature the picture. (Scroll down to the bottom it’s the last picture in the October section)

The terms “Desi” and “Auntie” – appear to be a name for a particular brand of mildly pornographic pictures of Asian women, dressed in indian dress. This particular web site cites its purpose as follows  :

“This Blog is specially for aunty lovers and contains hot indian actress, celebrity, models, sexy babe, Real Life Photos of Desi Indian Girls and Aunties downloaded from internet posted by some one else. We are just helping to save your time and avoid searching everywhere.”

It is by western standards very mild pornography. Some of the sites which contain the picture are a little more explicit.

But let’s remember the Facebook posting  says :

“And oh yeah
SHE WAS A GIRL

But don’t worry
She wasn’t your sister
She wasn’t your daughter
But she could be. The brutality has to stop right here guys

Is this how we treat our women?”

And yet – the people who have faked this picture have gone to the trouble of downloading a picture from a website which promises “Hot Masala navel” and carries links to user submitted pictures like this one :

indian woman

It carries with it the following caption

(He wishes !)

(He wishes !)

It struck me having discovered this about the photographs that the graphic account of the rape was quite possibly ripped off from somewhere else too. I couldn’t find any evidence of that – but if it is accurate it begs the issue of where has it come from. Has it been made up ? Or is it based on police accounts of the incident.

If it’s based on police accounts then immediately it makes me wonder what on earth the police are playing at releasing such graphic descriptions in to the public domain before the alleged perpetrators are brought to trial. One Indian newspaper, the Daily Bhaskar is already attributing to the police, stories relating to the youngest of the six accused who is reported to be a juvenile :Delhi gang-rape: Juvenile raped victim twice; was most brutal among 6 men

“He might walk free in three months but he was the most brutal among six men who gang-raped the 23-year-old medical student in South Delhi on December 16.”
“According to the Delhi Police, the juvenile raped the student twice. Once she was unconscious, he extracted her intestine with his hands and suggested she be thrown off the moving bus sans her clothes, says the chargesheet that the police are supposed to file in court today.”

The police have released this information ? Really ? I do wonder – because extracting her intestine with his hands – even by the callous extremes of this crime – seems to a little far fetched.

All of which leads me to believe that chances of the people accused of this hideous crime getting a fair trial must be pretty close to zero. The world has already judged them guilty using trial by Facebook, after consideration of not very well fabricated evidence. If they were to be released in Delhi tonight there is every likelihood that they would be lynched.

And how would that kind of justice serve the dead woman, or those close to her ?

Even assuming that they really are guilty ?

The world is being found wanting over this case.

< Would you believe the first pingback i had on this was from a site which just lifted the text quoted from the ‘Aunty Lovers’ site. I despair sometimes >
< And several days later I find that today – 7th Jan – More than 9 people came to this site by searching for ‘Hot Indian Aunties lying naked on bed pics’ – sheesh ! >

January 3, 2013 Posted by | news, women | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

We’re all in this together

I spotted two news articles today, which were reasonably interesting in themselves, but didn’t have me salivating with rage or frothing with indignation. Taking them both together though, they threw up a couple of interesting numbers.

The first article was this 37 Tory donors with a combined fortune of £10,258,000,000, have gifted the Tory party with £2,891,436 in the last 13 weeks. on Eoin Clarke’s blog “The Green Benches”  .

I’ll be honest, although I’m fairly left wing, I don’t hold that it’s immoral to earn money, or indeed to amass wealth, and if you’re wealthy, why not donate some to your favourite political party ? Seems reasonable.

I noticed on the list a couple -  Carol & Eddy Haley, – who have an estimated wealth of one and a half  billion pounds. An astonishingly large amount of money. I’m not going to speculate on whether they deserve it  – I’ve no particular reason to doubt that they do. I do know that they suffered a particularly nasty violent robbery some years back – for which they have my sympathy. They donated a large amount to the Conservative Party in the last three months – as they are entitled to I believe.

Elsewhere in the news we have the spectacular story of Annunziatino Attanasio Cardiff waterslide woman jailed for £20,000 benefit con who’s own home video of her lapping up a luxury holiday, and sliding down a water slide, when she was claiming the highest rate of Disability Living Allowance helped to land her in big trouble. She has been found guilty of fraud and has received a prison sentence. I could speculate about the fairness of this – but let’s not. I’m not going to second guess the court – she pleaded guilty and is therefore deesrving of the punishment meted out. She has after all diddled “the taxpayer” out of almost £20,000 over 5 years.

Hang on though – that number – almost £20,000 – actually it was £19,374 – and she was claiming the top rate of disability living allowance for 5 years ?

So forget what she’s done for a minute – that’s the amount that a disabled person – on FULL benefits, can expect to receive over FIVE years !

That’s right : £3,874 per year – £74.51 each week to live on.

£10.65 per day

Meanwhile, Carol & Eddy could if they so choose, place all their money in a savings account. Times are not great for savers, but they’d easily get an account that GUARANTEED them a return of 1.75% until 2015  Top Savings Accounts (They’d probably get a lot more, but let’s choose a low interest example for now).Then they could go to sleep, loaf around, slide down waterslides or do whatever takes their fancy – secure in the knowledge that their savings would  net them £26.25 million per year – or if you like, £504,807 per week

£72,115.38 per day

Now I know these figures are misleading a little – they’re liable to tax on all that for a start, and if they liquidised all their assets, which presumably make up that total, then the assets themselves would probably fall in value because of the very fact that they were cashing in.

However – the difference here is stark. The difficulty we have is not that the Haley’s are doing anything wrong. Nor that it’s wrong to prosecute those who defraud the benefits system.

But when a severely disabled person is only able to receive crumbs from the table – some   0.174%  of the income that a donor to the Governing party can receive  by doing nothing except put his money in the bank, then there is something wrong somewhere. The pretence that we’re all in this together is offensive, and the Government’s determination to villify and demonise disabled people is so very very wrong.

December 5, 2011 Posted by | Disability, news, politics | , , | 1 Comment

Burying bad news ? Theresa May needs to be grateful to Ken Clarke

Home Secretary, Theresa May

Home Secretary Theresa May was given an extremely tough time by the Police Federation

I arrived home this evening having heard the radio (BBC 5 Live) spouting almost non stop about Ken Clarke’s comments regarding rape and sentencing this morning, and also about the Queen’s state visit to Ireland. There was it seemed very little other news – even the prospect of justice regarding the murder of Stephen Lawrence seemed to be a minor issue.

However on arriving home I found the television tuned to Sky News – airing a story which I hadn’t known about at all up to now. It was showing footage of  Home Secretary Theresa May at the Police Federation conference, and unflinchingly gave us vivid coverage of her getting what can best be described as “a proper mauling” – delegate after delegate queued up to offer difficult and critical questions, all of which were supported from the platform. The chair introduced a clip from the officer blinded by Raoul Moat, who asked “Am I worth £35,000 ?”, and was asked before she took the podium “Home secretary, can you sleep at night ?”

As she stepped up there was no applause, there was nothing, just a deafening silence, which continued throughout the speech, and after it.

This was huge news, well covered by Sky News.

Coming to the computer a few hours later though it seems that Sky have removed the story almost entirely from their headlines,  and the story when it is covered now only contains video of  Theresa May’s speech  Govt Police Cuts Are ‘Revenge’, Not Reform – the report does contain some description of the anger on display – but it lacks the stark reality which was presented on the earlier broadcast clip.

Undeterred I turned to BBC News where once again I find that the story has slipped down out of the headlines altogether. A quick search found the clip – which was again reduced to only the Home Secretary’s speech. After some exploring I eventually found this – which does cover the story in greater detail Home secretary refuses to back down on police cuts . I think it’s fair to say though that the casual reader would not be likely to find this clip easily.

I have to say that I find it very worrying that the two major television news outlets in the country choose not to report this as a major news item – and in Sky’s case appear to be back pedalling rather quickly.

For a great many years the Conservative party have been seen, and have tried to encourage the view of themselves, as the “party of law and order” – The Police Federation, similarly has been more or less unique in being a Conservative supporting trades union.

That the NUT should pass votes of no confidence in Education Secretary Michael Gove, is newsworthy – but is true to form – one wouldn’t particularly expect anything else (and yes I’m an NUT member) – but for the Police Federation to put Theresa May through the mincer like they did today, is not far short of Hell freezing over.

It’s a highly significant story which should in all usual circumstances be dominating the headlines.

However Ken Clarke has been shooting his daft gob off, and the Queen’s down the brewery knocking back the Guinness.

There is a more nuanced report of the activities at the Police Federation conference here in the Guardian : Police greet Theresa May’s speech with complete silence  – I confess that I’d feel more comfortable had this article been in the Telegraph – who could only manage a clip of her speech – complete with the usual rubbish about “the mess that Labour left us” Theresa May: police cuts have to be made . Hopefully they’ll add to this as time passes. Print though does not have the impact of TV pictures – and the ones earlier on Sky really were quite remarkable. Such a shame I can’t find them any more.

So Theresa May comes away relatively unscathed.

I guess it’s an ill wind indeed that blows no good at all for this Government.

May 18, 2011 Posted by | news, politics | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Should it be “big society” or “big government” that ensures emergency services in major incidents ?

air ambulance 07

Can the Big Society run the Air Ambulance service ? Or will a ride in a volunteer's van be nearly as good ?

Last week the inquest for the victims of the 7/7 London bombings completed its deliberations and published its report.

Nine recommendations were made – the final one of which concerned the air ambulance service which was so vital on the day of the attacks. The coroner called for a review of the level of cover the London Air Ambulance is able to provide and its funding.  She went on to note the reliance of the service on volunteers    (source Guardian : July 7 inquest: coroner’s recommendations )

“I am concerned that London, a major global capital, host to the Olympics in 2012 and a prime terrorist target, should find itself dependent upon corporate funding and charitable donations, and upon professional volunteers giving up their limited free time in order to provide life-saving emergency medical care. It is equally concerning that the capability to provide such care is limited.”

It’s difficult to disagree with the implications of that observation – and I feel sure that the London authorities and the national Government, will ensure that the recommendation is addressed.

The reason I point this out though is because it offers in very stark terms, the problems with David Cameron’sBig Society” idea.

I’m certainly not being facetious when I say that I feel that it’s very laudable that Mr Cameron should seek to promote community empowerment, and the notion of people working together – freely and voluntarily – to promote the common good of their local neighbourhoods. Volunteers are a powerful force, and the act of volunteering is one which can provide enormous benefit for the individual as well.

What I disagree with is the underlying Conservative philosophy that the big society is needed because big Government is not. The notion that Government is not and should not be involved in the minutiae of daily life, because our society should be big enough and strong enough to let people run their own communities and lives.

It sounds very noble – in fact it sounds almost socialist – but be under no illusions – what it really means is starving essential services like the London Air Ambulance of public money, and public accountability – and leaving them to the vagaries of charitable donations, and voluntary help.

I feel that the terrible events of 7/7/2005 tell us so many things.

One of them is that some services are so important that they can not be left to chance – they require a Government that is strong enough and big enough to ensure that they are provided effectively.

May 10, 2011 Posted by | news, politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Public Sector workers better off ? Pull the other one !

This morning saw the publication of a paper “Public and private sector terms, conditions and the issue of fairness” by right wing think tank Policy Exchange.

The sound byte from this paper is essentially that Public Sector pay is now significantly outstripping that in the private sector to the point where it is becoming unfair and reaches the conclusion that “significant reforms will need to be made to limit job losses in the public sector and to achieve equity and fairness in the labour market.”

There’s a fairly comprehensive debunking of the paper on the Guardian’s Comment is Free blog by Richard Seymour* “Public sector pay – the myths exposed”, but for myself I’m not even going to bother checking the methodology of the research, or fisking the report.

No – as someone who has spent most of his life working in the public sector, there are some truths which I hold to be self evident :

I’ve been a highly qualified teacher for some time – on occasion I’ve been also a highly paid one. I’ve never been paid what could really be considered a low salary since I qualified with first class honours in 1989.

I have however found that on several occasions friends and acquaintances with similar qualifications working in the private sector have earned considerably more than me – not just a thousand or two a year – but sometimes double or three times the salary that I earned. Almost all of them have suffered periods when their salary has dropped – not just frozen – but drastically reduced – because most have suffered unemployment on one or more occasions.

It’s become clear to me that the cycle of “boom and bust” is something which affects the private sector more than the public. When times are good, the rewards are great, and the hardworking and the successful reap the rewards in fistfuls. Meanwhile, the public sector plod along with below inflation rises – without bonuses and with seemingly uncompetitive salaries.

When the lean times come though the public sector still plod along, they get low pay increases, sometimes pay freezes but they are far more likely to keep their jobs, far less likely to actually suffer a loss of salary, and generally are protected from the ravages of the storm. The private sector meanwhile get pay cuts, lost bonuses and lost jobs – fairly quickly.

So over a cycle of several years it all tends to even out. For those brave enough to take the risks it more than evens out for the private sector big wheels – as they can make enough in the years of plenty to enable them to “buy low” in the lean years.

What Policy Exchange are asking for then is “an end to boom and bust” – which surprised me a little.

Perhaps they should employ Gordon Brown as chancellor

Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown wanted an end to boom and bust - Do Policy Exchange want the same ?

( There is a flip side to this however – during the past 12 months I’ve gone from earning c. £79k per year, to struggling to gain a permanent contract on around half that – I’d say that this is generally the exception rather than the rule – but does prove that public sector workers are certainly not immune to economic tribulation )

*Some of the more diligent of my readers may well have noticed that the Richard Seymour who did the blog isn’t the same one which WordPress has automatically linked to – thought I’d leave it anyway as it’s mildly amusing !

May 9, 2011 Posted by | idle banter, news, politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Calm down dear, or why I don’t like PMQs

Angela Eagle

Angela Eagle MP

To say I’m interested in politics is something of an understatement, yet I’m not someone who necessarily enjoys some of the more high profile political rituals we have.

Prime Minister’s Questions for example.

It drives me up the wall. Petty point scoring on both sides which leaves key issues completely unexplored, and commentators saying who “won” and who “lost”

To me that’s not politics. True political debates takes more than a few soundbites and glib put-downs to make an argument, and the strength of an argument, lies in just that – the strength of the argument – and not the smart arsed manner in which a party leader can make a joke at his or her opposite number’s expense.

Yesterday was a case in point.

I jumped in my car hurriedly trying to find somewhere to buy a sandwich for lunch before heading back to work. Along the way I chanced to hear on BBC 5 Live, a fair bit of Prime Minister’s Questions. On this occasion it was Ed Milliband‘s turn to have David Cameron on the ropes, belligerently grilling him on lack of economic growth, and rising hospital waiting times – among other issuess. To which David Cameron responds, by resorting to the time honoured tactic of not answering the question about the particular statistic he has been questioned about, but picking another more sympathetic statistic to present so that he can claim that the leader of the opposition is talking rubbish.

It irritates me. In a sensible discussion all of the different indicators could be discussed in an adult manner which attempted to shed some light on the issues at hand. Instead there are merely attempts to embarrass each other – which in David Cameron’s case are increasingly turning into opportunities to act like a smug condescending upper class former public schoolboy. Which I fear is what he actually is.

This was very apparent in the ‘headline’ incident of the session – when the Prime Minister told Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Angela Eagle, to “Calm down dear”.

I could scarcely believe what I was hearing, the ill mannered smugness and contempt with which he delivered this put down came across very unpleasantly indeed. He realised straight away what he’d said, and tried to pretend he’d been talking to Ed Balls – on the radio it seemed is if he could well have been – but on television it’s clear that he was not : David Cameron tells MP Angela Eagle: ‘Calm down, dear’ .

To me the remark was evidence of his deluded sense of superiority to the opposition members, and to female members in particular, and to women and people who do not share his priveleged upper class male background. It casts him in the role of the all knowing father speaking down to a naughty child. It’s a rude and obnoxious way to respond to an opponent, and if you’re asking whether it’s sexist, my answer is – of course it is !

Another reason why I don’t like PMQ’s

There are more reasons though – the follow up to this incident was all too predictable – the inevitable phone-ins on the radio – Was he being sexist ?, or can’t the Labour MPs take a joke ? The predictable comments – it’s PC gone mad ! etc etc ad nauseam.

On the BBC’s own website, comments seemed to give the impression that Ms Eagle got what she deserved since she had had the temerity to interrupt the PM : ‘Calm down dear’ Conservatives accused of sexism

and then today in the Guardian we have the former MP, and current GP Howard Stoate, who Mr Cameron was discussing at the time, weighing in with his claim that he was misrepresented Calm down, David Cameron – and get your facts right at PMQs and that “The prime minister distorted my views. He should stop using the health service as a political football”  – An article which has quickly been linked around the twittersphere to allow we Labour types to thumb our noses at the Tories.

In true PMQ fashion though we get scant dissection of the meat of the issues involved.

Mr Cameron chose to highlight Mr Stoate by referring to comments he had made earlier which he claimed supported the Tory plans to involve GP’s more in the commissioning and running of NHS provision. In his statement he said that Mr Stoate had ceased to be an MP because he had been defeated by a Tory candidate. Angela Eagle’s interjection was simply to state that this was blatantly untrue. He was NOT defeated in any election – he stood down as an MP – which in the context of the Prime Minister’s statement, was highly misleading. The Prime Minister knew why she was interjecting, he knew that she was telling the truth – but refused to correct the “error” – if that’s what it was, instead telling her to “Calm down dear”.

Mr Stoate for his part, seems unperturbed by the assertion that he was defeated – but more so by his feeling that the Prime Minister said that he had become a GP after he stood down. It’s very debatable whether the PM said this – certainly it’s not what I took from his statement, I think most people assumed that he’d been a GP all along. Which is the case.

Mr Stoate also is annoyed that he’s been misrepresented by the Prime Minister. Well that would fit the tabloid cycle of claim and counter-claim very well. Tit for Tat as it were. Except, read the article ! :

GPs do not fear the chance to reshape NHS services, they welcome it

As far as I can see Howard Stoate is saying precisely what the Prime Minister said, and it does make exactly the point that the Prime Minister wished to highlight.

Of course if  Howard Stoate had been defeated in the election as David Cameron said, than Labour could claim that this was in part due to his maverick ideas. He wasn’t though – which you’d think would work in David Cameron’s favour.

All in all, a fairly unsavoury and ultimately pointless crock of the proverbial.

So what is the point of PMQs ?

I’d like to see a political procedure which gives our politicians the chance to prove that they’re NOT pompous, ill mannered and sexist, rather than a routine event to reinforce the idea that they are

April 28, 2011 Posted by | Election 2010, news, politics, women | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sayeeda Warsi does have a point about AV

Vote for me

Does AV give more say to minority parties ?

I read today two related articles published earlier last week. One in The Sun by Baroness Sayeeda WarsiWhy a vote for AV is a vote for BNP and a response to that on Left Foot ForwardWarsi makes hypocritical claim on BNP pandering

The first featuring said Sayeeda Warsi having her statements misrepresented by The Sun – she doesn’t say that a vote for AV is a vote for the BNP at all – no, she says that under AV, there is a side effect that minority parties, such as the BNP, are more likely to have their lower preferences recounted if no outright winner is elected, and this situation is likely to lead to candidates ‘pandering’ to the BNP vote in order to pick up second preference votes. Warsi concludes from this that it’s better to stick with the tried and tested approach of ‘first past the post’

I disagree with the reasoning which she uses to reach her conclusions – flaws in AV do not excuse the flaws in FPTP – which are many.

She does make an important point though – one which Will Straw’s article on Left Forward doesn’t seem to have grasped. Will appears to assume that Sayeeda is repeating the oft quoted myth which says that minority parties are more likely to win under AV than FPTP – Will’s right to challenge this – it’s spurious at best, and probably inaccurate – but it’s not what she’s saying.

Dewsbury Market

I also feel that highlighting her courting of the potential BNP vote in her previous campaign in Dewsbury, using what he tags  as “dog whistle”  literature, further misses the point. It also fails to contextualise her tactic – I know Dewsbury very well, and my feeling is that a female Asian candidate in Dewsbury, speaking directly to people planning to vote BNP, and telling them not to, is a brave strategy indeed – I don’t support her, but I do respect her for that.

To explain Sayeeda Warsi’s point, which I feel illustrates a fundamental failing of the Alternative Vote system, consider this :-

Suppose there was an election under AV which had 4 candidates – Labour,  Conservative, Liberal Democrat and BNP.

Let’s suppose for the sake of argument, that the first choice results were : Lab 21,000; Con 16,000, Lib Dem 7,000, and BNP, 4,000

After the first round of voting the BNP are eliminated – no change for them : under  First Past the Post – they wouldn’t win, and they certainly don’t win now.

So on to second preferences – but whose second preferences count ?

Most of the Labour and Conservative second preferences would be likely to be for the Lib-Dems – and most Lib Dems’ second preferences would presumably be for Conservative or Labour.

Only their second preferences don’t count – they haven’t been eliminated – so don’t get redistributed !

No !  The only second preferences cast at this point would be the BNP votes – and they have it within their power to either see Labour home and dry, or to force a third count, and the uncertainty of a redistribution of Lib-Dem votes.

So the party that comes last – the party that fewer people want to win than any other – is effectively the party whose voters get to decide the outcome of the election – which in the run up to the election, means that politicians will feel under pressure to appease minority parties to pick up second preferences.

Surely this is unfair ?

How can the least popular party be given the first opportunity to select their second choice ?

Please explain it to me – have I made a mistake with my interpretation of AV ?

I really hope I have – let me know.

So far in this campaign issues like this seem to be left un-addressed by either side. I’ve no fondness for FPTP – but from where I stand AV appears to be just as deeply flawed – I really don’t know how to vote. It’s like heads you lose, tails you don’t win.

Point me to the persuasive arguments please – not the four legs good-two legs bad bickering.

PS : Interesting how WordPress applied automatic links to Lib Dems, but not Labour, Conservative or BNP – You know where to look for them !

April 3, 2011 Posted by | news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Our union makes us strong

Time to decide...the future!

Image by Scootzsx via Flickr

Within seconds of the election of Ed Miliband as Labour leader being announced this afternoon, media outlets and the twittersphere began to complain that Ed had been elected not by grassroots Labour supporters but by the “Unions” – hinting at some terribly un-democratic process which somehow these terrible militant organisations had managed to wield over the Labour Party. (  David Cameron punches air as unions hand Labour leadership to Ed Miliband (guardian.co.uk) )

Well let’s get a bit of perspective on that …

First of all the only Unions that get to have a say in the Labour leadership election are those formally affiliated to the party – and there aren’t that many of them. My own union – the National Union of Teachers is not one of them.

Next – members of affiliated organisations know about their union’s affiliation before they join it – there’s no such thing as a closed shop any more – and can opt out of paying the ‘political fund’ part of the membership fee (although that would also lose them their vote in the leadership election).

There’s also no such thing as a block vote – every vote in an affiliated organisation is worth the same – whether you’re one of the 83 members eligible to vote in the Labour Party Irish Society or one of the 1,055,074 eligible members of Unite the Union – the largest affiliated organisation. Every individual vote counts the same – and goes to make up 1/3 of the electoral college.

1/3 of the college is made up of Labour MP’s

1/3 is made up of Labour Party Members.

This means that different votes have different values in each section. Effectively an MP’s vote is worth 0.12 per cent of the total electorate, a party member’s vote is worth 0.0002 per cent and an affiliated member’s vote is worth 0.00000943 per cent. ( see this Next Left blog for details Next Left: What Labour leadership votes are worth when they are counted) (This assumes 100% turnout btw – which is far from the case)

It’s all very clear – a little involved, but does manage to capture every aspect not just of the Labour Party, but of the wider Labour movement – which allows Labour supporters in affiliated groups to have a say even if they are not formally party members.

Note also that the party, and many affiliated organisations have been very open about giving new members a vote – in this way opening up the election to the general public should they take the plunge and join even up to a few days before voting closed.

The full results Votes by round | The Labour Party show that indeed sections 1 and 2 of the ballot, the MPs and the Party Members, placed David Miliband first, whilst section 3 – the affiliated organisations – of which the unions are the biggest part, plumped for Ed Miliband.

Just have a look at the numbers though – 211,234 returned votes from affiliated members, as opposed to just 126,874 from full members of the party.

Undemocratic ? Not in my book it’s not.

Compare it with the way that the Conservatives choose their leader Conservative Party (UK) leadership election, 2005 – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia – in the Tory system, the rank and file party members don’t even get to vote until the MP’s have selected the last two candidates for them.  Even then they have to have been a fully paid up member for at least 3 months to get a vote. A distinctly less democratic approach in my own humble opinion.

Democracy is always flawed to some extent, but is an attempt to reach a difficult consensus, in the fairest way possible. I think the approach used in the Labour leadership election is probably the fairest that could have been achieved. I say that having voted David Miliband as first choice – yes I’d have preferred him to win – but Ed Miliband has been elected fair and square by hundreds of thousands of Labour members and members of affiliated trades unions and organisations. I have no complaints – and will support him as best I can.

If Labour were to look at difficulties in the electoral college by the way, they might want to consider the anomaly that a low turnout in any of the 3 sections means that individual votes in that section are given relatively more weight as part of the whole college as a result. Just a thought – maybe next time ?

In the meantime congratulations to Ed Miliband – please leave a comment if you happen to read this !

Ed Milliband MP speaking at the Labour Party c...

Image via Wikipedia

September 25, 2010 Posted by | news, politics | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Perfect Day for a silly story !

Britains Got Talent Runner up Susan Boyle

Su-Bo on Britain's got talent

Former Velvet undeground star Lou Reed

Lou Reed - the writer of Perfect Day

Half way through the afternoon today I suddenly spot links on Twitter to a breaking news story relating to that darling of the media – our very own SuBo – AKA former Britain’s Got Talent runner-up Susan Boyle.

It would seem at first glance that she’s been the victim of some rather caddish behaviour from legendary former Velvet Underground frontman Lou Reed.

Within what seems like moments this story is all over the net. With many outlets – such has the Mail On-Line claiming  America’s Got Talent 2010: Susan Boyle banned by Lou Reed from singing his song (also here at Ace Showbiz Susan Boyle Cries After Banned by Lou Reed From Singing His Song ) with other sources seemingly suggesting that Lou Reed has somehow banned Su-Bo from taking part in the America’s Got Talent 2010 show – for instance the Hello Magazine website Susan Boyle pulls out of US show over Lou Reed song and also The Metro Susan Boyle ‘in tears’ after Lou Reed pulls the plug on her America’s Got Talent performance

What all of the sources (and many many others) report is that Susan was due to sing a cover of Lou Reed’s song “Perfect Day” on the enormously successful America’s Got Talent – the counterpart to the Britain’s Got Talent show that shot her to fame. It would seem that permission from the copyright owner of the song is needed for her to perform the song on television, and that Lou Reed, the writer of this song, has denied permission – only two hours before the performance, and the only reason given that he’s not a fan of Susan Boyle.

Hmmm.

Sounds a bit mean.

Or does it ?

What I’d have liked some of these intrepid reporters to have done was to dig a little deeper.

This is a major television show – it’s as big as they come. I wonder why no one has asked why the issues concerned with copyright weren’t sorted out – BEFORE the day of the performance ?

I wonder why no one has asked why the production company didn’t have another song lined up ? She is after all a fairly prolific recording artist now – it would not have been difficult to have had a reserve song up her sleeve – particularly if they were having difficulty chasing up permission to perform the original song.

I wonder why no one’s got a statement from Lou Reed’s team ? or Lou himself  ?  Because, while I’m sure he’s not a fan of Susan Boyle’s, I can’t imagine he was a fan either of many of the people who covered the song for Children in Need a few years back – although he did describe the recording as the best cover ever of his song.

Could it be perhaps that the sheer number of people involved in that recording, and the charitable nature of the recording, complicate the copyright issue ?

Is it not feasible that someone working for Lou, faced with a request for permission to perform a song, given just a few hours notice, and unable to contact the man himself, knew all of that, and erred on the side of caution by not giving permission. It’s possible in fact that Lou Reed was never even consulted.

Of course it’s also possible that he’s being unreasonably difficult, and nasty to Susan Boyle – but let’s be absolutely clear – if he owns the copyright (do we know that he does ?) – then he has every legal right to deny her permission to perform it. The issue is also not raised of how much they were willing to pay in order to perform it – remember that although this song was made popular by Lou Reed among his own fans, it was made immensely more popular among the general public by the BBC recorded cover which raised many many thousands of pounds for charity.

So America’s Got Talent are rather piggy backing on that success in performing the song, and such a lucrative show should presumably not get this song free of charge. Would it be morally right though for Lou Reed to take a whacking great sum ? These are interesting things to ponder over – and I’d suggest that the pondering would take longer than a couple of hours.

So I’ll be interested to see if any of these news outlets investigate further and give us the full story.

I’m not holding my breath though.

September 9, 2010 Posted by | idle banter, news | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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