16 January 2010

Safe Seats Disenfranchise Voters

One of the outcomes of a first-past-the-post electoral system is that it creates safe seats. These are seats where one party has such a large lead over their opponents in their constituency that the chances of being overturned is slim.

It seems obvious that people in these seats will be less minded to go out and use their vote. The statistics back this up.

This graph compares the size of the majority (the scale of the win) in the 2001 general election to the size of the turnout in 2005 in each constituency.
(Excludes Northern Ireland)

There is a significant trend (PMCC -0.71). As the majority at the last election gets bigger, the turnout tends to goes down.

If we are to get people voting again, there needs to be an end to the first-past-the-post electoral system that gives MPs unassailable majorities.

UPDATE 26/01/2010: Timothy asked if the scatter plot could be colour-coded by party. Happy to oblige. Each dot is colour-coded by the winning party in 2001.
So it does seem that the seats with the big Labour majorities 2001 subsequently had low turnouts in 2005. I'm not sure this shows much, since the Tories had no heavily safe seat in 2001. I'll definitely remake this plot after the next general election to see if the same pattern occurs.

Nadine Dorries on Expenses

Every blogger's favourite MP is being formally investigated over her expenses claims for her second home.

Dorries famously called the expenses scandal a “McCarthyite witch hunt”, but I would also like to draw your attention to what Nadine said about her expenses on Radio 4's Any Questions, 23rd October 2009:

You know can I just say before I begin cos I feel I need to say this always now. My name's Nadine Dorries. I'm an MP. I've never claimed for mortgage on my expenses. Therefore I have never flipped. I have never benefited in any way. I've never claimed for a cleaner or a gardener, a duck house, a moat or anything. I don't own a company that I pay funds into. I've never claimed for petty cash or for food ... And I feel I need to say that now to every person that I meet. And my expenses were poured over by the scrutiny and I do not have to pay a penny back in misclaimed expenses. [APPLAUSE]

Irony overload.

13 January 2010

On The Horizon 12/01/2010

Jack Pickard: Alibhai-Brown: A Dangerous Moderate? shows how seemingly moderate proposals are damaging to civil liberty.

David Keen: UK Border Agency: Invasion of the Baby-Snatchers on another terrifying case of sinister, inhumane behaviour by the UKBA.

End Child Detention Now: Persecution Begins at Home shows how the UK now has a more authoritarian regime towards immigration than Silvio Berlusconi's Italy.

Mark Wadworth: Trees points out how local councils can act against the interests of residents.

...and finally Robert Popper has found evidence that white people can play reggae:

11 January 2010

What Nick Clegg Actually Said About Tuition Fees

Lots of spinning going on over the Lib Dems commitment to phase out tuition fees. Labourite tweets from the likes of @2pallas tried to suggest that the Lib Dems had scrapped the tuition fees pledge. Conservative blogger Declan Lyons suggested that the policy was all over the place:
the policy was dropped as they couldn't afford it. Then they picked it up again. Now, it has just been extended to be done over more time.
All not true.

The policy was never dropped at Conference. What Clegg said was
Ending tuition fees would cost billions of pounds every year - we need to be certain we can afford it before we make any promises.
So he said that given the state of the country's finances, the policy's affordability needed to be checked.

Then, the new policy of phasing out tuition fees over 6 years was announced last month. This made the long standing commitment affordable.

Today, Clegg has simply restated this pledge as part of a wider message about only promising what could be afforded. On the Today programme, he said:
We will not be able to deliver our pledge on scrapping tuition fees - something we are determined to do - on the timetable we have once envisaged.
So the same policy as announced earlier this month.

Nick Clegg has been totally consistent over tuition fees. Any suggestion otherwise is desperate spin from the opposition.

6 January 2010

Tories Would Recognise Crutons in the Tax System to Fight Obesity

The Conservatives will today announce a new tax policy to tackle the growing waistlines of British plebs.

The plan, put forward by Iain Smith MP, would give cruton munchers £20 a week off their cumbersome taxable income.

Findings by the Justice for Social Centres policy group, which Smith chairs, showed that eating crutons promote healthy lifestyles by 11 to 87 per cent.

Speaking via his mouth, Smith said "so I put two graphs next to each other, and the lines seemed to sort of follow each other a bit, so then I thought 'Hey, this conforms to my pre-existing personal prejudice, I'll present this as evidence', and here we are today, on the brink of my idea becoming policy.

"I thought I'd had it politically, you know", he added.

Conversely, using the same technique, Smith also showed that gherkins encouraged obesity, despite the fruit's low cholestorol and high vitamin content.

Critics who had stopped and thought about it for a few seconds said, "correlation does not imply causation, you stupid fucking imbecile".

Findings that the new Tory diet tax break would benefit the richest 13 times more than the poorest were universally ignored by the press.

5 January 2010

Lib Dems are the Most Effective Spenders

The graphic should explain all. I showed my working and everything :)

4 January 2010

Why Did Iain Dale Single Out Kerry McCarthy?

On December 18th 2009, Iain Dale wrote a blogpost promoting the removal of Kerry McCarthy MP at the next general election. To achieve this he encouraged his billions of readers to donate to her Tory rival in Bristol East, Adeela Shafi. The campaign took off moderately well, particularly on Twitter with the #KerryOut hashtag, and has raised £1,300 for the Tory PPC.

Sadly, there does seem to be a distinct nastiness towards this campaign. I am no fan of Kerry McCarthy, but she seems to me to be just another insignificant Labour backbencher. Other than her prolific Twitter use, I can't see why she deserves to be singled out more than any other Labour drone. I asked this question directly to Iain Dale on Twitter. His reply was that this is not a singling out campaign; each week for the next 12 weeks he will be picking a Labour MP that in his eyes ought to be kicked out.

Well, more than 2 weeks have now passed, and none of Iain's subsequent 89 blogposts are anything to do with ousting any other Labour MPs.

So it turns out Iain Dale did single out Kerry McCarthy. So I repeat my question: why her?

There may be a good explanation, but I am yet to hear it, and he seems coy about providing it. Conspiracy theories welcomed in the comments.

2009's New Year's Resolution

I haven't made a New Year's Resolution this year, but I did last year. I vowed to buy and listen to an album for every week of the year. Here's what I bought:

Boxcutter - Glyphic
Trentemoller - The Last Resort
Justice - Cross
Flying Lotus - Los Angeles
De La Soul - Buhloone Mindstate
Benga - Diary of an Afro Warrior
Azaxx - The Exotic Delight Bay
Royksopp - Junior
Mistabishi - Drop
DJ Hidden - The Later After
Mutt - Treading Water
Various - Balmer Loosies vol 3
Stonephace - Stonephace
Hint - Driven From Distraction
Natural Self - The Art of Vibration
Various - Shapes 09:01
Domu - One Offs, Remixes and B-Sides
Fat Freddy's Drop - Dr Boondigga & The Big Bw
Bop - Clear Your Mind
Various - Sick Music
Mulatu Astatke and the Heliocentrics - Inspiration Information, Vol. 3
Orbital - In Sides
Q-Tip - Kamaal the Abstract
Q-Tip - Amplified
Karl Hector & The Malcouns - Sahara Swing
Various - Tru Thoughts 10 Year Anniversary
D'Angelo - Voodoo
Alix Perez - 1984
Burial - Burial
Four Tet - Ringer EP
Various - Electro Swing
Pablo - Turntable Technology
Various - Black Feeling
Various - Modern Funk
The Apples - Buzzin' About
Breakestra - Duck til Dawn
Coldcut - Let Us Replay
Coldcut - Journeys by DJ: 70 Minutes of Madness
Mr Scruff - Bonus Bait
Echaskech - Shatterproof
Boys Noize - Power
The Field - Yesterday and Today
The Prodigy - Invaders Must Die



(I have a niggling suspicion that I've missed a purchase from an HMV store, but I can't think what.)